Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ord. Time
Oct. 5,  Mt. 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. Now, after telling them the Parable of the Two Sons (last Sunday’s Gospel), 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 that of last Sunday’s Gospel, 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.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 6, Luke 10: 25-37

Today’s Gospel offers us one of the most beautiful and well-known parables in all of Sacred Scripture: the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable is found only in the Gospel of St. Luke, a Gospel addressed primarily to the Gentiles. If the Gentiles were to follow Jesus, they too had to be like the Good Samaritan, they had to be good neighbors to everyone they met. And so do we who read this parable in 2008.

A neighbor, according to the parable, is one who shows compassion and mercy to all he/she meets. And in today’s world, perhaps any world, that can be a real chore, a real challenge. We all fail in this regard many times every day. Have you noticed lately that we live in a very volatile society today? It seems that people are so easily ticked off by the actions of other people. Maybe that is because there are more of us today and there seems to be less tolerance among us than ever before. If you drive a car, you know what I mean. Road rage is so common today and the worst part about it is that I can be just as volatile as the next person. When someone blows their horn at me or whatever, I can be just as nasty in return as they are. And personally, that bothers me. I am in the process now of trying to get into the habit of saying a short prayer for them instead of honking or hollering back with raised fist. I am making some progress but not a whole lot. Lord, I need your help!

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 7, Memorial of our Lady of the Rosary

Today we celebrate a Memorial dedicated to Mary the Mother of Jesus under the title “Our Lady of the Rosary.” It would be easy in a homily to urge you to say the Rosary every day like I do. But that would be fibbing on my part, and since I am basically an honest person, I will not say that to you. Fact is, I hardly ever say the Rosary. It only puts me to sleep and encourages distractions. I used to say a whole Rosary and not remember one thing I said! So I stopped what was a futile effort for me.

And that is OK. I do pray every day. I do not hate Mary. I do not hate the Rosary. It is just not my kind of prayer. On the contrary, I love the Blessed Virgin very much, I pray to her often, and I thank Jesus for the gift of his Mother. Without her, I would probably still be smoking those damnable cigarettes if they hadn’t killed me by now. But that’s another story.

Many people do love the Rosary and often say it every day. And that is wonderful. My Mom in her later years always had a Rosary in her hand and the fingers never stopped going over the beads and doubtless many of the prayers she said were for her crazy son (me) that she somehow managed to love. I thank her for those prayers. Today, on this Feast of the Holy Rosary, let us all take a moment to thank Mary for her positive part in our lives whether we pray the Rosary or not.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us all.

Fr. Howard

 


Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 8, Luke 11: 1-4

One of Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Prayer, according to the old Baltimore Catechism, is the raising of our minds and hearts to God. My mind is usually turned to the details of living, to my relationships and to the other things that matter or must be done in my daily life. To do this I kind of see myself looking ahead on a level line.

When I pray, I look up, my spirit is raised, and I raise my focus and attention to the God who is above all things. I am conscious of his elevating presence in my life as I go about my daily chores. The 11th Step of the 12 Steps puts it this way: “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, seeking only the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” Prayer is working for God and with God, seeking to implement his purpose for all creation. We do this by loving and serving him, by loving and serving my neighbor, and by being constantly aware of his presence in our lives. We focus on his way, his truth, and his life. We pray to follow his values and to lead others to be aware of them in their lives. We pray for God’s presence with us and his help to carry out this task. And we know that he will be with us. He told us so. “Knock and the door will be opened, seek and you shall find.” Let us pray.

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 9, Luke 11: 5-13

“For anyone who asks, receives.”

Prayer is an act of faith. The deeper my faith, the deeper my prayer. When my faith leaves, so does my prayer. The one depends on the other.

Sometimes when things go wrong and I wonder what in the world the Lord has in mind, my faith weakens and I cry out, “Lord, how could you allow this to happen to me?” And often in such times my faith and trust in God go out the window and so does my prayer life. Instead of running toward God in prayer, I run away from him in despair. It is at such times that I must take extra care to run toward God and not away from him. And I run toward him with prayer, my only access to him. As I have said before many times in these homilies, when I was at the lowest point of my alcoholism and couldn’t stop drinking alone, I ran away from God. Through the intervention of a little old lady, I ran and turned toward God and began to pray and ask for his help in getting rid of this thorn in my side. When I did this, things quickly turned around in my life and remain so today. No matter what happens, let’s not turn our backs on Jesus. For this we pray today.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 10, Luke 11: 15-26

Often times, when through prayer and God’s help, we change and something bad or wrong is removed from our lives, there is a void where the wrong used to be. For example, I have heard it said that it is not fair to take alcohol away from an alcoholic (or the addicting substance from any other addict) and not give him anything in return. A famous psychiatrist tells us that the alcoholic drinks to rise above the situations he sees in the world. The only trouble is that he chooses the wrong thing to help him rise and it continues to pull him back down lower and lower so he continues to drink more and more. And the vicious circle of addiction begins. When alcohol is taken away there is the void that keeps the person from rising. That’s where the gift of the 12 Steps comes in. Through these beautiful Steps to holiness the person is allowed to rise as high as he wants to go without fear of being pulled down again and again.

Many losses and changes make voids in our lives and need to be filled with positive alternatives. When my mentally handicapped brother died, for example, I found a big void of time in my life. What was I going to do in place of all the time I spent visiting and caring for him? At that time it was suggested to me that I begin using that time in writing a daily homily for the Franciscan Retreats web page. And that is exactly what happened. This alternative has been really good for me and I humbly hope it is good for you.

Have you experienced any voids in your life from losses or change? What have you put in its place?

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 11, Luke 11: 27-28

“Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

These words from today’s Gospel are just plain common sense for anyone aspiring to be a follower of Christ. What good is it to just hear the word of Jesus and then ignore it in practice? We have all heard the cliché about talking the talk and walking the walk. To just talk the talk is of no practical use at all. Our credo has to go from the head to the heart and not just remain in the head. I have met people in AA who know the program of sobriety practically by memory and are still drunk as skunks, as the saying goes.

Jesus came to give us new life, to make all things new. Following his words is a guarantee of the happiness and peace we seek in our lives. This is a good criterion to follow: If you profess to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, and find yourself miserable all the time, have no happiness and peace in life to speak of, then obviously something is wrong. This is an indication of talking the talk and not walking the walk, not allowing the message of Jesus to get into your heart where it belongs. We must remember that a chronically sad and unhappy Christian is a contradiction.

Fr. Howard

 

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