Reflections for the 27th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 27th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 2, Matthew 21: 33-43
“Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “Hear another parable.” “
Jesus, the Master Story-Teller, is at it again. After telling the chief priests and elders the Parable of the Two Sons, he tells them the Parable of the Tenants. These two parables are closely related; they are like twin brothers or sisters.
In the Parable of the Tenants God is the owner of the vineyard and he leased the property to the religious leaders of Israel. God sent many servants (the prophets) to the new tenants to obtain his share of the produce. The new tenants then proceeded to beat up the owner’s servants instead of giving them the just share of the grapes the owner had coming. They stoned some of the servants and others they killed outright. Finally, the owner sent his son (Jesus) thinking they would respect him and cooperate with him. But they killed the son too. The owner then responded (after great patience) by coming and destroying these tenants and leased the vineyard to other tenants (the Gentiles and the Church) who will bring forth an abundant harvest.
The point of this Parable of the Tenants is much like the Parable of the Two Sons, which it follows in the Gospel of Matthew. The point once again is that we have a choice. God gives his free, unmerited, unearned gift of grace, new life, to all of us equally. He has leased his Kingdom to all of us. We, with our free wills, are free to accept or reject God’s offer. God is the Giver. We are the recipients. Our part in all of this as tenants is to respond to God’s grace with our faith desire. We must want God’s grace, we must will an abundant harvest for ourselves and then the benefits of the grace, the harvest, happiness and peace, will be ours for the taking. The tenants in today’s Gospel blew their opportunity. God provided the vineyard, his grace, for them. All they had to do was desire it and work it for their own advantage and all would be fine. But they rejected the offer; they negated their faith desire. Hell has been described by some as missed opportunities: what might have been.
Sometimes God offers his grace to us in ways seemingly strange to us. He offered his grace to me in the form of the disease of alcoholism. I had the choice to turn with my faith desire toward his gift of recovery and new life or to reject it by keeping up the drinking behavior and dying to any life I had. Thank God, I chose the offer of new life. God’s grace was presented to St. Francis of Assisi in the form of a leper. Francis hated lepers and one day while riding his horse along a road a leper appeared standing in the middle of the road and would not move. Francis could have spurred his horse and ridden past the leper leaving him in a cloud of dust. Instead, he dismounted, put a gold coin in the emaciated hand of the leper and then brought the hand to his lips and kissed it. When he looked up again to see the face of the leper, the leper had disappeared. Francis had kissed the hand of Jesus and in doing so was converted to the right way of living.
Lord, help all of us to keep saying “yes” to your offers of grace no matter which forms they take.
Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 3, Luke 10: 25-37
The 10th chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel is priceless. It not only gives us the Greatest Commandment, but it tells us how to put it into practice. It does this with a parable and a story. How do I love my neighbor? Check out the parable of the Good Samaritan.
According to this parable, my neighbor whom I am to love is anyone who is in need. And that anyone includes a possible enemy or someone who may be the object of my resentment or prejudice; someone I don’t really give a hoot about. The parable shows this, since the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies. They didn’t get along with each other over religious differences. Yet in the parable we see the Samaritan helping a man, presumably a Jew, who fell victim to some robbers and was left beaten and half-dead. The Samaritan put aside the hatred that should have dictated his behavior toward the wounded Jew and helped him. He put the man on his own donkey, carried him to an inn, and paid the bill for his care.
Anyone in need, then, is our neighbor and worthy of our help. How do I measure up to this?
Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 4, Feast of 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 concentrate on 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?
Wednesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 5, Luke 11: 1-4
I think we are all aware that in the Scriptures there are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the subject of today’s Gospel from St. Luke. The other version, a little longer and better known, is found in the Gospel of St. Matthew. The title of the prayer, “Our Father,” comes from Matthew’s version. Matthew’s version was also said in the early Church and is found in the Didache, an early Christian writing. This version found in the Didache became the accepted form of the Our Father for centuries and also included the doxology that is still attached to it by many Christian Churches in their Liturgies: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory now and forever. Amen.”
Matthew’s version as found in the Didache is the same form used today in the official prayers of the Church: the Eucharistic Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours. The doxology is now in the Our Father as it is said at Mass although it was not part of the Tridentine Liturgy. It is still not found in the Morning and Evening Prayer as found in the Liturgy of the Hours.
I find it difficult to pray the Lord’s Prayer with the attention it really deserves. This is, after all, a prayer given to us by Jesus himself. But I have this same problem with all rote prayers, including the Liturgy of the Hours I try and recite every day. There just seems to be too many distractions and not enough attention in my rote prayers. This perhaps is true of many of us. I try and correct this occasionally but continue to fall woefully short.
Let us often repeat the words of the Apostles: Lord, teach us to pray!
Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 6, Luke 11: 5-13
Today’s Gospel follows yesterday’s in Luke’s Gospel. Yesterday Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father – to the disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray. In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches the disciples, and us, to be persistent in our prayers to him. The Gospel tells the story of a man who gets unexpected guests at his home and has no bread to feed them. He goes to a friend’s house at midnight seeking some bread. His friend tells him, understandably, to go away. But then Jesus says: “If he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”
I really think this persistence in our prayers is for our own benefit more than God’s. God already knows what we need before we ask and really doesn’t have to be reminded a dozen times by us. But we need to know how dependent we are on God for our needs and the more I ask the more I learn my dependence on God. And this is good. Whatever the reason for persistence in praying, it seems a sure way to have the Good Lord grant our requests for ourselves and others. God’s love knows no bounds.
Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 7, Luke 11: 15-26
In today’s Gospel St. Luke speaks of the evil spirit after it has been chased out: “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Every have this happen to you? Can’t think of any instance where it did? It really happens to all of us a lot and is so obvious we fail to see it. How about the many times we have gone on a diet of some sort. I may say that I am not going to eat any more candy. We are successful for three weeks and then one day a friend offers me a piece of candy and I take it. Then I start eating candy again and find that I am eating three times as much as I did before I went on the diet. The same thing can happen with cigarettes, booze, food, whatever. “The last condition is worse than the first.”
We fail here these many times because we tried to do it alone. I have spoken before of God being the Changer and we the changees. When we want to change something that is a habit or whatever, we had better get God in on the action or we will eventually fail. This takes us right back to the idea of surrender we spoke of earlier in the week.
Time again for our one word prayer: Help!
Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 8, Luke 11: 27-28
“Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
We have spoken before in these homilies about the quality of listening that we must have if we are to love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind. If you recall, we said we must listen carefully, pay attention to what is being said, comprehend and understand it, and listen with a hearing that leads to conversion. The conversion is where the true blessedness, spoken of in today’s Gospel, comes from.
True blessedness (happiness, joy, and peace) comes only from lasting conversion or change. We see this in the change that takes place in a person in AA. Someone who has had uninterrupted sobriety for twenty years is going to be happier and more joyful than someone who relapses every six months. “Head trips” and “trying” don’t produce lasting results very often, if ever. It is a true, thought-out commitment and decision that brings the lasting conversion. The latter is truly listening, the former is only hearing the message.
Lord, help me to truly listen to your word and keep it.