27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

The Liturgy of the Readings for this Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time begins with a reading from the Prophet Habakkuk. This reading causes us to ask why, why, why? Why don’t you listen to me, Lord, when I cry out to you? Why is there violence in the world? Why do you let me see ruin? Why must I look at misery? Why is there strife and clamorous discord around me? And the second reading from the Letter to Timothy gives rise to another why: Why should we bear hardship for the Gospel?

And we ourselves can come up with many whys that seek answers: Why are there scandals in the Church? Why do I have heart problems? Lung problems? Cancer? Why do children die in the blossom of youth? Why doesn’t the war and killing in Iraq stop? Lots of whys! Where do we find the answers? The reading from Habakkuk closes with the answer: the just one, because of his/her faith, shall live. The just one because of faith shall know the answers to the perplexing problems of life. Faith is the answer to many, if not to all, of our whys.

The Apostles said to Christ at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, “Increase our faith.” That strikes me as a good prayer for all of us. Faith indeed is the answer for many of our whys because most of our whys concern problems we are powerless over. And when we face powerlessness, there is only one answer: We come to believe in a power greater than ourselves who can restore us to sanity. That answer is Step 2 of the Twelve Steps of recovery.

Years ago I heard a story — it was an old, old story then — from which I coined my own definition of faith. You have probably heard this story too. Old stories usually contain a lot of wisdom. That’s why they are told and retold after many years. That is why they are old stories. The story I am referring to is the story of a man walking along the edge of a cliff enjoying the view. The drop from the top of the cliff to the level ground below is 2000 feet. While enjoying the view, the man is not paying attention to where he is walking and falls off the cliff. As he is falling to almost certain death, he instinctively reaches out with both hands and, lo and behold, he latches on to a tree root growing out of the face of the cliff. And there he hangs. Finally, he decides all he can do is pray and he hollers out, “Lord, help me!” After a while, the Lord answers, “Let go with your left hand.” The man does so. Then he prays again, “Lord, help me!” And the Lord replied, “Let go with your right hand.” The man thinks about this for a moment and then shouts out, “Is there anyone else up there?”

All of us get pretty good at letting go with one hand while continuing to hang on to control with the other hand. To me, Faith is letting go with both hands. This is the surrender that is spoken of in the 3rd Step of the Twelve Steps: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.

I have been successful at doing this some of the time in my life and I can assure you it works. My humanness, I guess, keeps me from doing it all the time and continuing to take control of things. But it does work when we do it. The next time you have something you are powerless over, butt out of it and turn it over to the care of the Lord. Let go with both hands. And then get out of the way as the Lord goes to work.

Lord, increase our faith.!

Fr. Howard

MONDAY of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel selection gives us Luke’s treatment of the Great Commandment. All three of the Synoptic Gospels treat this matter, but only Luke tells us how to love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. The how of the first part of the Great Commandment is contained in the story of Martha and Mary (10: 38-42) and how to love our neighbor we find in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (10: 29-37).

Our parable today has a Samaritan helping a Jew who was beaten, robbed, and left to die in a ditch. Remember, the Samaritans and Jews were enemies and didn’t like each other at all. This made no difference to the Samaritan in the parable. He did what he could do to help the beaten man. The parable shows us that anyone, anyone at all, who is in need is our neighbor and, like the Good Samaritan, we are to do what we can to help them, to alleviate their suffering and pain. Let us “go and do likewise,” when the opportunity presents itself.

Fr. Howard

TUESDAY of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Today’s Gospel selection tells the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary in Bethesda. This story completes the homily of yesterday on the Great Commandment. Today we learn how to love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind. How do we love God in this seemingly exhaustive way? What do we have to do? “Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.” There is the answer in a nutshell. Mary listened intently to what Jesus was saying with nothing interfering and nothing disturbing her.

Listening, when you come right down to it, is a way of loving anyone. It is rude of me not to listen when someone is speaking to me. In doing so, we are sending the message that what the other person is saying is not important. This could never be so with God when he is speaking. I dare say God’s word is always important and he speaks to us often in many different ways. To be effective, growing disciples of Jesus, we must also choose the better part chosen by Mary.

Lord, open my heart and mind to truly listen to your words.

Fr. Howard

WEDNESDAY of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel selection gives us Luke’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Basically, it is the same as Matthew’s version (Mt. 6: 9-15). Matthew’s form of the “Our Father,” follows the liturgical tradition of his church. Luke’s less developed form also represents the liturgical tradition known to him, but it is probably closer than Matthew’s to the original words of Jesus.

I am reminded, when the topic of prayer comes up, of the 11th Step of the Twelve Steps: “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, seeking only a knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” Isn’t this, really, the purpose of any prayer? When we speak to God, we need to be in conscious contact with him and, one way or another, we are seeking his will for us and strength and determination to accept it and carry it out.

How many times a day, a week, a year, do we say the “Our Father?” Are we unconsciously mouthing words or is saying this prayer having an effect in our lives? A good question for us to ask ourselves and to reflect upon.

Fr. Howard

THURSDAY of the 27th Week of Ordinary Time

“How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?
… Ask and you shall receive.”

These two quotes from the Scriptures are appropriate to consider following the treatment of prayer in yesterday’s homily. Our Gospel selection for today is the parable of a man being awakened in the middle of the night by a friend asking him for three loaves of bread. At first, the sleepy man told his begging friend to go jump in the lake, which would probably be the response of most of us in the same situation. But the begging friend persisted in asking for the bread and finally the sleepy man got up and gave him what he wanted. If this is how a friend would act when we persist in seeking something from him, how much more will our heavenly Father respond to such persistence. The Gospel seems to guarantee the attention of our Father in our petitions.

We have written before in these homilies about every prayer being answered in some way. No one goes unheard when they are appealing to the Father. I believe that. The very act of praying brings serenity, less fear, less anger, more tolerance and courage into our lives plus many other advantages.

Father, I know you care about me. Please listen to me as I humbly approach you in prayer.

Fr. Howard

FRIDAY of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus had just driven a demon out of a man and caused the man to be able to speak again. The demon had rendered him mute. What a wonderful thing! And yet some of the crowd remarked, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” One would think that no one in their right mind could find fault with what Jesus did for the man — but some of the crowd did! Jesus did a good deed and was criticized for it.

Has this ever happened to you? I would imagine so. It happens to all of us. Sometimes this causes resentments to spring up in us. We must learn that there are some people who can find fault with anything we do and we must not let this bother us or keep us from pursuing the good for people. Nor should we be surprised when this happens. It happened to Jesus and he told us it would also happen to us.

Jesus, please give us the strength to continue to follow you even when we meet with the opposition of others.

Fr. Howard

SATURDAY of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

The point of today’s Gospel selection reminds me of the old saying: It is not enough to talk the talk. We must also learn to walk the walk. It is easy to see and brag about the goodness in something difficult to do as long as we don’t have to do it. It would be like extolling the goodness of watching my diet and then wolfing down a couple of cream puffs. Who is going to pay any attention to me?

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we have to walk the walk, we have to follow in his footsteps. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” It has happened to all of us that we agree with the wisdom of what Jesus says and then go our own merry way when it comes to observing it. This, in my mind, is being phony. It reminds me, too, of the words of Scripture: If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and stop the conning and rationalizing that sometimes goes on.

Fr. Howard

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