Reflections for the 28th 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 28th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
October 9, Matthew 22: 1-14
The Gospels selected to be read for the 26th, 27th, and 28th Sundays in Ordinary Time are all quite similar and carry the same message. They are all concerned with choices: our choosing for the goodness that God has offered us as free gift, or choosing to reject it and go our own way. Three weeks ago we had the Parable of the Two Sons who were asked by their father to go into his vineyard and work. The first said, “No,” he wouldn’t do it, but later he changed his mind and went into the vineyard to do the work. The second son said “Yes” to his father’s request, but then later chose not to go into the vineyard to work. Last Sunday, we had the Parable of the Tenants who leased a vineyard and then chose to beat and kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard who came for the owner’s share of the produce. Instead of choosing to give the owner his just due, they chose to kill his servants and his son and keep it all for themselves.
And in today’s Gospel, the invited guests to the banquet are given the choice to attend or not. All of them chose not to come and others were then invited in their stead. All three parables have to do with the choices we make. And the moral presented by all three is that we weigh our choices carefully that we may choose correctly and bear fruit at harvest time.
To tell you the truth, in reading this Gospel I have always felt a little bit sorry for the fellow who shows up at the wedding banquet without the required wedding garment. Presumably, he was out strolling the streets when he was invited to attend a wedding banquet and then he got into all kinds of trouble for not being properly dressed for the wedding he had not intended to attend at the beginning of the evening. But what we must remember here is that he was invited and knowingly accepted the invitation knowing he was not properly dressed.
We remarked in last week’s Sunday homily that God’s grace, which is what is being offered in all of these parables, is pure gift. We do not earn it in any way or deserve it. It is a gift. But we must have the faith desire to accept it, to be open to conversion, in order to get anywhere at all. It seems like God is the Giver and we are the recipients in all of this, and that is true for the most part. We do, however, have to be willing and have the desire to accept God’s grace. This is our part.
The 6th Step of the 12 Steps, one of the conversion Steps, brings our participation in all of this out very nicely. It reads: “We were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character”. In this Step we take no action; we simply are entirely ready and willing to have God remove our defects and we are willing to cooperate with him in doing so. This is the faith desire, the wedding garment that the man in today’s parable failed to “wear.” This wedding garment is the desire for conversion in heart and mind that is required to enter into the Kingdom, that is required for any change whatsoever.
The man who entered without the wedding garment tried to enter the wedding banquet without this willingness, and it didn’t work. How about us? Are we willing to accept God’s invitation into his Kingdom with open minds and to follow Jesus all the way? Or are we playing games with God by saying we will go into the vineyard, the Kingdom, and work and then end up not going? We must say what we mean and mean what we say. Then we will be properly dressed in accepting God’s invitation to the Kingdom.
Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 10, Luke 11: 29-32
One of the main themes running through the entire ministry of Jesus is repentance. It begins way back with John the Baptist: Repent, make the U turn, convert, change! As an example of this repentance, Jesus points out the story of Jonah going to the Ninnevites, whom Jonah greatly feared, and telling them to repent or else. And, as we know, by golly they listened to him for a change and repented. One of the few instances in the Scriptures when someone listened to a prophet! Jesus’ preaching to the Israelites and to us often does not have the same results. We want to do things our way and consequently the nonsense going on in our lives continues on and on.
What can I do today to show myself and my God that I am serious about repenting, about turning around certain areas of my life?
Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 11, Luke 11: 37-41
The theme of getting our priorities correctly ordered appears in today’s Gospel reading. First things first! This theme also ties in with the theme of this week’s readings to focus on doing things God’s way rather than our own way. Believe me, God’s way puts things in their proper perspective.
Jesus has nothing against the many and various rituals prescribed in the Jewish law of the times, but he does care about us keeping things in their proper priority. Don’t worry about washing hands and dishes and all these little things before you satisfy your obligation to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and give drink to the thirsty.
To find our priorities we call to mind once again the spiritual and temporal works of mercy as gleaned from the Gospels. To refresh our memories, the spiritual works of mercy are: to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offenses willingly, to comfort the afflicted, and to pray for the living and the dead. The temporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and those in prison, and to bury the dead.
Take a moment to read these spiritual and temporal works of mercy slowly and meditate on them. If we follow them, we will keep things in their proper priority in our lives.
Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 12, Luke 11: 42-46
We have been speaking off and on so far this week about doing things God’s way rather than our own way and of getting our actions into their proper perspective and priority. Both of these themes boil down to the same thing. The way of God equals the fruits of the Spirit, namely: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. On the contrary, the works of the flesh,our way, are: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissension, fractions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
Where in all of this does our treasure lie?
Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 13, Luke 11: 47-54
Rejecting God is another theme found in the Scriptures that ties in directly with doing things our own way and misconstruing our priorities that we have been talking about all this week. The rejection of God is nothing other than choosing our own way and setting our own priorities, what is important to me.
Rejection of God begins in the Scriptures with Adam and Eve doing their own thing, with the Israelites on their journey through the desert on the way to the promised land, with all the belittling of the prophets by the people of God, with the scribes and the Pharisees in the New Testament and with us in our own modern times. It just never ends.
Why do we find it so difficult to just throw our arms around Jesus and to follow him wherever he leads us?
Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
October 14, 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.
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 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 15, St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa, whose memorial we celebrate today, was born in Avila 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.