Sunday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the year could well be titled the Grateful Samaritan Leper. Usually sick people can find empathy and sympathy from most people, but this was not the case with those who had the feared disease of leprosy. This horrible disease is still common today in many countries worldwide. Approximately 100 cases are diagnosed every year in the United States. I read where it is not very contagious, but in Biblical times they thought it was. Lepers were excluded from communities, usually relegated to living outside the city limits.

The Gospel today has ten lepers approaching Jesus and crying out “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us.” Once again the compassionate Jesus could never have turned a deaf ear to their plea. But rather than cure them outright, he tested their faith and told them to go and show themselves to the priests. On their way, they were healed. Only one of them, a despised Samaritan, returned to thank Jesus. The others presumably ran off to celebrate their good fortune and forgot all about returning to thank Jesus. This Gospel is often included in liturgies on the holiday of Thanksgiving reminding us that we too often forget to thank God for his many blessings.

All of those “cured” from addictions come to realize that the diseases of alcoholism, gambling, over-eating, etc., were removed from them by God. They were not capable of doing it themselves. And usually these people are very grateful to God for the gift of recovery. They are all urged to develop an “attitude of gratitude,” a habit of saying thank you to God for all his blessings. Not a bad attitude for all of us to have.

I have referred to gratitude for years as the Queen of the Virtues. It is a very helpful virtue to have in our lives because gratitude is so positive. Many, if not all, of the things that cause us problems in life and that we want to get rid of are negative: being down in the dumps (my mother used to call it being out of sorts), being in a “bad mood,” feeling sorry for ourselves, feeling envious and jealous of others, illnesses; all of these things are negative. And a very simple way to get rid of all of them very quickly is to say three little words: Thank you, God.

Bill Wilson, the composer of the 12 Steps, wrote one time in an article that we must say thank you, thank you, thank you, over and over again, until we really mean it. Good advice for all of us.

Thank you, dear Lord, for all your love and blessings.

Fr. Howard

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila

Today the Church calendar celebrates the Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus or St. Teresa of Avila. She is a marvelous saint for us to follow even today. She led a rather fantastic life. As a read about her, I see a saint who is rather easy to identify with in our own lives.

Teresa was born in 1515 and died in 1582. As a teenager, she cared only about boys, clothes, flirting and being rebellious. What else is new? We were all that way as teens. When she was 16, her very strict father decided she was totally out of control and sent her to a convent. Amazingly, she grew to like the convent life and when it came time to choose the convent or marriage, she chose the convent.

Once in the Carmelite convent she began to learn and practice mental prayer. Eventually, however, she got involved in vanity, gossip and flattery and discovered convent life was not all she thought it would be. She contracted malaria and this gave her an excuse to stop praying altogether. The disease of alcoholism had the same affect upon me. Later, a priest convinced her to go back to prayer. She became overwhelmed with God’s presence in her life.

The convent life was deteriorating and at age 43, she founded a new convent and went back to the basics: a life of poverty and prayer. She thus became the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, later on to be blessed with St. Theresa the Little Flower, whose feast we just celebrated at the beginning of this month. Teresa was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 for her writings and teachings on prayer. St. Teresa is the patron saint of headache sufferers. She died when she was 67 years old.

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

In the Gospel selected to be read today, Jesus is trying to encourage the Pharisee with whom he is dining to clean up his act on the inside and pay a little less attention to all the external observances and rituals of Judaism. The Pharisee had washed his hands, etc., before eating and that is great. But how about also paying attention to such things as the greed, envy, pride, bitterness, and resentments that are part of his life? Jesus urges the Pharisee to give alms, to focus on the compassion, love and caring for others that goes along with almsgiving.

Lord, help me today to pay attention to the virtues befitting a disciple of yours and not pay so much attention to the externals, usually making mountains out of mole hills when I do.

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of a saint of the very early Church, St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist and it was St. Peter himself who appointed him Bishop of Antioch. He was to govern this See for 40 years. He finally died in a persecution of the Roman Emperor Domitian. At the present time his remains are venerated in Rome. During his lifetime, he wrote seven epistles to various congregations, testifying to the dogmatic character of the early Apostolic Christianity.

The Gospel selected to be read today carries yesterday’s Gospel just a step further. It is against hypocrisy. Jesus begins by being critical of the Pharisees for paying attention to all their little rules and rituals while paying no attention at all to God and his words. They appear outwardly to be saints, but inwardly they are zilch. A scholar of the law felt the heat of Jesus’ words and complained that Jesus was also criticizing them at the same time. And they got a woe to you too: “Woe to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens that are hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift a finger to touch them.”

It is so easy to fall into the fault of phoniness, seemingly without knowing it. We criticize others for not doing something that we do not do ourselves. What would Jesus say woe to us about were he to show up in our house today?

St. Ignatius, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist, whose Gospel we have been reading for some months now. Luke wrote the Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is called by St. Paul, “Luke, the beloved physician.” Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. His Gospel shows a special sensitivity to evangelizing the Gentiles. Only in his Gospel do we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the story of the one grateful leper who returned to thank Jesus for healing him. “And this man was a Gentile.”

Luke joined St. Paul around the year 51 and accompanied him on some of his journeys. He was the one who stayed with Paul when Paul was imprisoned in Rome in the year 61. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Only Luke is with me.” Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel of the poor. He also had a special connection with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Only in his Gospel do we hear many of the stories associated with Mary. He is often pictured with an ox or a calf, the symbol of sacrifice, the sacrifice Jesus made for us all. Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.

St. Luke, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

In our Gospel for today, Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. Jesus tells them that not even the sparrows have escaped the notice of God. If he watches over and cares for these little birds, how much more will he watch over and care for us?

This mention of sparrows reminds me of a beautiful old hymn that we sing often at our Sing Along at Franciscan Retreats in Prior Lake, MN. The name of the hymn is, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” The words to this hymn were written by Civilia Martin (1866-1948) and the music was written by Charles Gabriel (1856-1932). Early in 1905, Civilia Martin and her husband were visiting in Elmira, New York. There they made friends with a Mr. & Mrs. Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for 20 years; her husband was a crippled man in a wheelchair. Despite all their obvious troubles, this couple was happy and full of hope. When asked their secret for this, Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” This hymn was the outcome of that experience. I would like to share the words of the hymn with you.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path he leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw close to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

I have been a priest now for slightly over 50 years. During that time, I have been a teacher in the Major Seminary, a parish pastor and associate pastor, a hospital chaplain, a care giver, and in the retreat ministry at Franciscan Retreats in Prior Lake, MN for eleven years. All of this equals a lot of preaching homilies and conferences and classes. I believe we accomplish more by our actions than by preaching, but that is not to say our preaching bears no fruit. Through God’s power, preaching bears much fruit. Somewhere along the line, I came to realize I had nothing to do with the outcome of my preaching. That was up to God! I used to try and remember to say a little short prayer before preaching, something like: Lord, help me to say today what you want the people to hear, what they need to hear. I still say this prayer when I think of it. And, you know, it works. Sometimes powerful words and ideas come out of my mouth that I never said or heard before nor did I plan to say them when I was preparing the homily. Suddenly, those words are just there. And where did they come from?

I believe that God speaks through us more than we realize. Remember, he said in the Scriptures in the parable of the Vine and the Branches: “Without me, you can do nothing.” He is there, by golly, he is there! Parents, try that little prayer or something similar to it when you have something important to tell your children or in your answers to their sometimes perplexing questions. I know you will be surprised from time to time at what comes out of your mouth.

Fr. Howard

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