Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 3, Luke 17:5-10
In last Sunday’s homily we pointed out that love is an action word, that it does little good for me to sit around all day saying to someone: “I love you” without doing anything to show that love. We said this would be passivity and would accomplish nothing. The same thing is true of faith, which is our topic of discussion from this Gospel for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time. You must show me you have faith by your trustful actions; show me you believe in me by following my suggestions or advice even if you are apprehensive or fearful to do so. As they say, give me the benefit of the doubt. Let go and do as I say.
Faith in God, for me, is the same thing as surrender. Every time I think of faith, I think of the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps. That’s just the way I am pointed at this point in my life. That Step reads: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. And to do that is to surrender to God, to put him in control of my will and life, to let go and let God.
I have written about my own experience with this Step many times in these homilies and now I am going to repeat it again for myself and for those who read this. I need to remind myself often that this really works, that God will rule my life if I get out of the way and let him. And the results of doing this will be awesome, indeed miraculous.
I first became acquainted with the 12 Steps of Spirituality in 1974 when I went to Guest House to begin my recovery from the disease of alcoholism. I read the Third Step often and wondered about it. How did one accomplish this Step? What did I have to do, how did I have to act, to really make this happen? What did it take? I struggled with this Step until sometime in the year 1990, and I could never really say that I had butted out of making decisions in my life and letting God do it. It got kind of frustrating after a while and often the whole thing got put on the back burner. Out of sight, out of mind, you know.
Then in 1990, I kind of stumbled into really, truly surrendering to God. At that time I was working in Lorain, Ohio, as a hospital chaplain. I enjoyed my work and was happy. My Dad and Mom passed away in 1988 and 1989 and I became the legal guardian of my mentally handicapped brother, Bobby, who was well taken care of in a home for people with special needs. Then I got word from my Provincial Minister that he wanted me to go to the Province Retreat House in Prior Lake, MN, some 800 miles from Lorain. I decided Bobby had to make the move also. I didn’t want him 800 miles away from me.
To make a long story short, I flew up to Minnesota about 3 months before the move to try and find a place for Bobby to stay. I was there for a week and found nothing. Now I was really frustrated and the frustration turned to anger. After the week was up, I boarded a plane for the trip back to Lorain. I was really feeling angry that morning. I can still see myself walking down the center isle of the plane and plopping into an isle seat. I no sooner hit the seat than I said an angry prayer to God. I said something like: He belongs to you, you take care of him. I’m butting out of this whole thing. And I meant it. And, unknowingly, I had surrendered Bobby to God. I don’t think I realized that until about a month later when things finally started to really come together and I was comfortable bringing Bobby to Minnesota. God had found a place for him to stay in no time! That’s when I realized that all God wanted was for me to get out of the way and let Him do it. And the marvelous things continued in Bobby’s life until his death in 2005.
Since then I have surrendered often to God and given him control in my life, and it has always worked out well. And even though I now know that surrendering works, I still from time to time try and do things my way and that’s when things get goofed up. But I know that surrendering to God is the way to go. I really hope and pray that all of you are willing to trust and have faith enough in God to let go and let Him be in charge of things in your lives. It really does work and it brings along with it happiness, peace and joy.
Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 4, St. Francis of Assisi
Today Franciscans the world over and millions of the faithful pause to celebrate the Feast of Francis of Assisi, one of the best loved and best known of all the Saints. Instead of trying to cram the many happenings of his life into one brief homily, I am going to follow up yesterday’s homily on surrender with the story of St. Francis’ surrender to God.
Up until around the year 1205, Francis’ life was all about Francis. One of his goals was to become a knight and to do this he had to prove himself in battle. He had already failed earlier in the skirmish between Assisi and Perugia and now he had another chance in a skirmish going on in Apulia. He joined his knight friend Gautier de Brienne and off he rode. He got as far as Spoleto when he became ill and decided to rest over night. As he slept, the Lord appeared to him in his sleep and asked him, “Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?” “The Master,” Francis answered. “Then why do you leave the Master for the servant, the rich Lord for the poor man?” said the Lord. Suddenly, in a great flash that illuminated his soul, Francis understood who it was that had spoken to him and then Francis asked, “O Lord, what do you wish me to do?” And Jesus responded, “Return to your own place and you will be told what to do.”
All of the sudden, it wasn’t about Francis anymore. Francis’ words, “What do you wish me to do,” were words of surrender. It was no longer all about me, but all about what Jesus wanted Francis to do. Francis’ surrender lasted for the rest of his life.
“O Lord, what do you wish me to do?” Can we make these words of Francis our own words?
Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 5, Luke 10: 38-42
“Mary has chosen the better part.”
The above words of Jesus to Martha in the Gospel reading for today indicate to me the necessity of taking the time to listen to what Jesus is saying. The “better part” chosen by Mary was to sit at Jesus’ feet and attentively listen to his every word. Listening is also a rather necessary component of the spiritual principle of surrender we have been speaking about for the past two days. You can’t surrender intelligently to the Lord if you don’t know what he wants you to do. And to discover this it is necessary that we listen to the words of Jesus in the Scriptures and also as he speaks to us in various ways through family members, friends, the poor and sick, and even through strangers.
Some of us spend too much time talking. Let’s try and focus today on listening more and talking less.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 6, Luke 11: 1-4
Today’s Gospel reading and that for tomorrow are both about prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, and tomorrow he speaks of the efficaciousness in doing so.
It is good for us to pray. Prayer is an act of humility. It is one of the ways we come to know ourselves and come to know our limits and dependence upon God. I finally came to realize the truth of Jesus’ words: Without me, you can do nothing. And Step 11 of the 12 Steps of Spirituality indicates the necessity of prayer and meditation: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for a knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. Prayer, talking to God, and meditation, listening to God, bring me into the presence of God and allow me to find the knowledge of his will for me and to find the strength I need to put his will into action. Prayer and meditation are like food to my spiritual life; they keep me alive and well.
Lord, help me today to walk humbly with you in my time of prayer and meditation.
Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 7, Luke 11: 5-13
Today’s Gospel tells us that our prayers to the Lord will be answered. Jesus tells us, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Here we have it; a guarantee of results to our prayer and meditation. I am guaranteed that what I ask for and the will of God will be made known to me and I will receive the strength to carry that will out. Can’t beat that!
Some people read the words of Jesus and doubt them. They have prayed for this or that and have not received it. They have knocked and the door remained closed. They may not have received the particular thing they asked for and maybe the door still seems closed — but what else has been granted and opened? Open your heart, eyes and ears to what has been granted, what has opened. Maybe you received an increase of grace or God’s will for you is not what you had in mind. We cannot hope to always understand God’s ways, so far different from ours. The secret to it all? Persistence. Just because you think God doesn’t hear you, don’t stop praying, don’t give up. He may just grant you a sneak preview of his way.
Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 8, Luke 11: 15-26
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus expels a demon from a man who is mute and the man begins to speak. I believe that could be called a good deed, indeed a miracle. Jesus did something good for the afflicted man. And yet he was criticized for doing it. I guess some people can find fault in just about anything, particularly if they don’t care too much for the person in the first place.
Do we do the same thing with people we really don’t care about that much? We see them do some good deed for someone or hear of a good work they performed and still we find something wrong with them, we find words to run them down, to belittle them. It’s one of those “yeah, but” situations: Yeah, but did you hear what he did to another person? Instead of saying a word of praise, we find fault. This is really having a negative outlook on things and people. Do we find ourselves guilty of doing this from time to time? If so, it is something for us to work on it and see of we can’t just STOP IT!
Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 9, Luke 11: 27-28
The Scriptures, the Word of God, inspire us to faith and love. We have commented a couple of times just recently that both faith and love are action words. Today’s Gospel seconds that idea: “Blessed (happy) are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” I have heard it said many times: Even the devil can quote Scripture. That’s true. Anyone can quote the Bible and know what it says. But of itself, what good is this? It amounts to nothing at all.
Once again, action is the name of the game. Head trips are for the birds! What I know matters little. How I use and put into action what I know matters a lot. Are we guilty of hearing God’s words only and not doing anything about it?