Reflections for the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009.
Sunday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 7, 2012, Mark 10:2-16
Scenes of the Lord Jesus embracing and extolling children keep coming up in Mark’s Gospel. We have now entered chapter 10 of this Gospel and at the end of today’s Gospel selection for this Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see this idea again. “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” This also came up in the previous chapter where Jesus says: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”
My biblical commentary takes a new twist with regard to the analogy Jesus makes from the child. It remarks that Jesus is teaching his disciples the value of powerlessness in their lives. Powerlessness is definitely a quality of a child. They are weak and helpless in many areas.
Powerlessness is another of those spiritual principles that we speak of in these homilies every now and then. It is the first spiritual principle to appear in the 12 Steps of Spirituality. This first Step states: We admitted we were powerless over ______ – that our lives had become unmanageable. The alcoholic, for whom these Steps were first written, puts the word alcohol in the blank space. But there are many other words that may be inserted in this space depending upon where the problem lies. Any of the addictions, for example, such as gambling, sexuality, food, drugs, can be inserted in the slot. One could also put spouse, children, people in general, into the slot, admitting that we are powerless over other people and cannot change them. There are so many things we are powerless over in our lives and if we try and gain power over them, our lives will then become unmanageable with frustration, misery, fear, grief and worry. Definitely not the way to go. Powerlessness in life, as we can easily see, is a problem.
The solution to this problem in the First Step is found in the Second Step: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The solution for powerlessness is God, who is all-powerful. And the only way back to sanity (wholeness, health, holiness) from our unmanageability is to ask God’s help, to make God a part of our lives. “Without me, you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us in the parable of the vine and the branches. And he isn’t just mouthing words! Jesus, God, is the answer to our powerlessness no matter what the problem might be.
And how do we get God, our Higher Power, involved in this? The Third Step gives us this answer: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Surrender, turning the problem over to the control of God, is the answer. And, as we have said many times before, this is where we find our happiness, joy and peace. If God is running the show, what do I have to fear or worry about?
These first three Steps of the 12 Steps are the essence of spirituality and admitting to my powerlessness starts the ball rolling.
Lord, I am powerless over so many things; I cannot do it alone. Please help me!
Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 8, 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 Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 9, Luke 10: 38-42
In yesterday’s homily we saw how the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us how to love our neighbor. Today we see the story of Martha and Mary that teaches us how to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind. The wording in this first part of the Great Commandment is rather exhaustive. We are to literally love God with everything we have – and how do we do that? The story of Martha and Mary tells us how. Mary has chosen the better part in the story and is the one we are to imitate. She sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him. She didn’t just hear him, she listened to him.
The word listen in the Scriptures means to listen carefully, to pay heed to, to pay attention to, to listen with a hearing that leads to conversion, to comprehend, to understand fully. There is something very thorough – giving one’s all – about true listening. It means giving someone your total, undivided attention. For example, if you are sitting alone in a room watching TV and someone comes into the room and asks you something, do you shut off the TV? If you do not, you are not listening to that person. The TV is a huge distraction to what is being said. To listen to the word of the Lord with all our heart, being, strength and mind is to block out all other distractions and give the Word our full and complete attention.
How often in our busy lives do we manage to do this type of listening? Not very often! And this is precisely why we need a personal period of time alone every day for prayer and meditation, for talking to God and listening to him. Sometimes one has to work to get this kind of time, but it is possible. Give it a try.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 10, 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 seem 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 Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 11, 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 Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 12, 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 Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
October 13, Luke 11: 27-28
“Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Last Tuesday in our homily we talked 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 Alcoholics Anonymous. 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.