Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 11
Mark 10: 17-30
In our Gospel selected to be read on this Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus is holding up an ideal for us to follow. Jesus is putting forth the idea of us becoming detached from personal possessions. Detachment is what we are concerned about. The Gospel in another place remarks that the more possessions we have the more we worry about protecting them. And this worrying and concern gets in the way of our having a better relationship with our God. It is one of the blocks we spoke of not too long ago. God is to be first, number one, in our priorities, not our possessions. It is important to note that Jesus loved the rich man in today’s Gospel: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him ……” Not to fulfill the ideal that Jesus is asking of us does not necessarily take away Jesus’ love for us. Jesus’ ideals challenge us all through the Scriptures. They show us how to improve ourselves, how to make progress in his way, even though we are “good” and he loves us regardless.
In fact, the disciples wonder if this ideal Jesus is asking of us is even possible: “Then who can be saved?” And Jesus answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Jesus shows us, tells us, that we cannot put these ideals of his into practice without his grace accompanying them. In order to follow Jesus’ way to the utmost, we must be totally dependent on him. In other words, we must surrender to his way, truth and life. And surrender itself is an ideal.
We have spoken of this spiritual principle of surrender before in these homilies many times. The Third Step of the Twelve Steps puts it very simply, as we have seen before: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him. We give ourselves to God and we take ourselves back again time and time again. For human beings, all of this is indeed impossible. We must be willing to embrace the gifts of God’s grace always more and more.
My God, how great Thou art!!
Monday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 12
Luke 11: 29-32
As we recall, the original message of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, was “Repent!” Jesus later affirmed this saying, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1: 15). Repent means to change your ways and not keep doing the same old thing over and over again. Make some progress, for heaven’s sake. And yet, how many of us do make any progress? Our lives seem to fall into a rut and we keep making the same blunders over and over again.
What does it take to change? Probably a lot of things, if you want a thorough answer. But one thing it takes for sure is determination. Oftentimes we say to ourselves or someone else: I am really going to try and change this or that. I find that by the very fact that I use the word try, I fail or set myself up to fail. When the change doesn’t happen or I revert back to my old ways again, I say, “Well, I tried.” As if that makes it all OK. Determination says: I will ask God to help me change. Then hopefully something positive will happen.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 13
Luke 11: 37-41
Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees for always being concerned about insignificant things like washing before eating, clean dishes, and a lot of other little details that really make no difference at all in the long run. This reminds me of the old Latin expression: Quid ad aeternitatem? (What is this in the light of eternity?).
And aren’t we all guilty basically of falling into the same trap? We get all upset when someone spills a glass of milk, when someone doesn’t put something back where it belongs after they use it, when dirty clothes are thrown in a pile on the floor, when mud is tracked onto the kitchen floor. Quid ad aeternitatem? Let’s start paying attention to the significant things in life like going out of our way to love our neighbor more and forget about the insignificant things that really don’t matter anyway.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 14
Luke 11: 42-46
Today’s Gospel talks about more of what we spoke of yesterday. It shows the extent of this problem of getting all wrapped up in the little, insignificant things and ignoring what really matters. It isn’t only the Pharisees that are guilty in this regard, but the scholars of the law too, and all of us.
Why is it that we seem to demand more of others than we do of ourselves? This smacks of pride to me. I am OK and can afford to criticize others for minor faults and failings. We spoke before of not taking another’s inventory, of sitting around and detailing where they fail. How about ourselves?
Lord, help me to see the plank in my own eye before trying to remove the splinter from my neighbor’s eye.
Thursday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 15
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa, whose memorial we celebrate today, was born in Avila, France, in 1515 and died in 1582, at the age of 67. Her life is very detailed and complex and one cannot do it justice in the short space available here.
Just a couple of noteworthy things about her will have to suffice. She, along with St. Catherine of Siena, was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Teresa was a wise and practical woman, kind and charitable, and greatly gifted in her explanations of the highest degrees of prayer and union with God, and in the love of our neighbor.
St. Teresa is also referred to as a Doctor of Prayer and wrote much on this subject. She was also responsible for the renewal and reform of the Carmelites throughout Spain. She assures us in her writings that those who practice prayer faithfully will receive their requests beyond their greatest expectations.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us.
Friday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 16
Luke 12: 1-7
On the middle evening of each Retreat at Franciscan Retreats in Prior Lake, MN, where I live with three other Friars, we have a sing-along with those who wish to participate. Toward the end of the sing-along we sing some hymns before retiring for the evening. I am reminded of one of these hymns by some words in the Gospel for today. The name of the hymn is: His Eye Is On The Sparrow. The words were written by a woman named Civilla Martin (1866-1948) and the music by Charles Gabriel (1856-1932).
Early in 1905, Civilla and her husband were traveling in Elmira, New York, when they met a couple by the name of Mr. & Mrs. Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for 20 years and her husband was crippled and confined to a wheelchair. Yet, they lived a very happy Christian life. When asked the secret for their happiness despite their obvious problems, Mrs. Doolittle replied simply, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” Civilla then went home and wrote the hymn from these words.
The entire hymn is available to all on-line. I’ll print the first verse and the refrain here:
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.
Refrain: 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.
Saturday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 17
Luke 12: 8-12
The Gospel offered for our consideration today brings up the idea of the unforgivable sin. We all know that there are no limits to God’s forgiveness. So in order for one to get into an unforgivable state, one would have to completely close his heart to God and absolutely refuse to repent. I wonder if there ever has been such a person like this who was completely in possession of their faculties. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit would be to express words of hate toward God. I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind could do this either. I don’t think too many of us have to worry about this unforgivable sin thing.
Jesus, you came to save us all. You call us your friends. We love you, and because we love you we regret all we have ever done that is contrary to your way, truth and life. Help your values to be ours. Amen.