Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 18
Mark 10: 35-45
“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life in ransom for many.”
Jesus came to serve. A simple statement of why the Son of Man was made flesh. A simple statement of God’s love for his people. This is the greatest paradox I can think of : God, the Almighty Creator of all things, serves us. We see this purpose for Jesus’ coming on every page of the Gospels. It would be interesting to count just how many places in the Gospels show Jesus in the position of servant. And if we choose to be his followers, we too will be servants of God’s people, our fellow human beings. This is what his words: “Follow me”mean: I too choose to be a servant to others.
The word servant comes from the Latin word servus or serva, depending on the gender of the one being talked about, and means slave. My on-line dictionary defines a slave as one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence. Christians voluntarily become slaves of others, do for others, give themselves in service to others.
We have said often in these homilies that virtue stands in the middle and I still see that axiom as being true in this case of serving others. Self-concern is not selfish as long as I am also concerned about and serving others. An example of this would be the AA Program of which I am a long-time member. AA is often referred to by its members as a “selfish program.” I guard my own sobriety daily; it is one of my greatest concerns because without that I am nothing at all. So it is a selfish program in this regard. But I am also concerned about the sobriety of others and will go out of my way to help them for their quest of sobriety. So AA is not selfish to the extreme. It is a balanced program.
And I believe this is how our serving others as Christian people should be. Life is not all about me. It is not all about you. It is all about us. I work at achieving my own holiness while at the same time I help those around me find theirs. A balanced life is a good life.
Monday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 19
St. Isaac Jogues and Companions
On this day, October 19, the Church commemorates the Memorial of Sts. Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf and their six other companions who were the first martyrs of the North American continent. Isaac Jogues was born in Orleans, France, in 1607, and later entered the Jesuit Order, the Society of Jesus. After his ordination to the priesthood, he was sent as a missionary to Canada to work among the Huron Indians. The Hurons were frequently attacked by the Iriquois tribe and it was during one of these attacks that Isaac Jogues and his companions were captured.
The Iriquois were a savage bunch and treated their captives with great cruelty. Isaac was eventually tomahawked and beheaded in 1646. The others suffered a similar fate. These martyrs were men of great faith and courage and many stories are told about them which are too numerous to be included in this short synopsis of their lives. They brought the teachings of Jesus to 17th century America and in so doing gave their very lives.
St. Isaac Jogues and the other Holy American Martyrs, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 20
Luke 12: 35-38
Today’s Gospel reminds me of an old story of the new, young Associate Pastor running as fast as he could go to the Pastor’s room in the rectory and shouting: “I just saw the Lord Jesus standing in the sanctuary of the church. What should we do?” And the wise, old Pastor calmly replied, “Look busy! Look busy!”
St. Luke’s Gospel, toward the end of the 12th chapter, has several metaphors regarding constant vigilance on our part and all of them make the same point: The Lord will come for us when we least expect it – so we should be ready for his coming at all times. The Lord will arrive unbeknownst to us like a nighttime thief breaking into a house.
The moral of this story of being prepared seems to be keeping Jesus and his way, truth and life as our number one priority at all times. Don’t let up. Don’t dilly dally around with worldly pleasures to the exclusion of the Lord. We are to stay in the “surrender mode” right to the end. This again reminds me of the old ejaculation we were reminded to say daily in grade school: All for Thee, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 21
Luke 12: 39-48
The Gospel selected to be read for our Liturgy today follows pretty much what we said yesterday about being prepared for Jesus’ coming. There is a beautiful Sanskrit Prayer that appears in the front of a daily meditation book I use often that could well be a daily prayer for all of us. I believe I have printed this before but I would like to share it with you again with this idea of being prepared, keeping busy, in mind. It goes like this:
Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lies all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power —
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 22
Luke 12: 49-53
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”
At first glance, these words from today’s Gospel selection are rather frightening. All of us read all too often of the horrendous forest fires in California. We read of the thousands of acres of land ravaged by the flames and the many homes destroyed and of the human lives claimed by these infernos. And we pray for the people involved in these terrible catastrophes of nature. Occasionally we experience forest fires in the northern forests of Minnesota and see pictures of the total devastation they bring along with them. I have never experienced any of this firsthand so I really have no idea of all the pain and misery involved.
Fire, to take another view of it, is also a cleansing agent as well as a destructive force. A fire prepares the way for future growth. The American Indians used to burn the forests periodically to get rid of all the undesired undergrowth and brush and make way for the new. This, I think, is the meaning of the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “I have come to set the earth on fire.”
The words and values of Jesus are meant to cleanse humanity of the briars and brambles of false gods and introduce a new path to happiness and peace and joy in the world. In this sense, we should all “wish it were already blazing” and by our example show this “fire of the word of God” to all.
Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 23
Luke 12: 54-59
Today’s Gospel deals with the signs of the time. In Biblical Jewish times, these signs were the Roman occupation of the land and political unrest, to mention a couple. In our own times we see the signs of terrorism, mistrust, hatred, violence, war, and all that these entail, useless killings and on and on.
The signs of Jesus’ Kingdom always remain the same: Peace, love, compassion, justice, equality, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, serving our brothers and sisters, and the many other values of Jesus. Christians have a new standard of consciousness that make us different from the rest. We have something to offer the world that will make a difference. The disciples of Jesus are to do all they can to promote and spread these values, this message, as signs for others to follow.
Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 24
Luke 13: 1-9
The second part of today’s Gospel selection gives us the comforting message that even the sinner is of great value to Jesus. This is GOOD NEWS to yours truly. Just because we sin doesn’t mean Jesus crosses us off his list of those he loves. Every time I read this parable, I see Jesus as the Lord of second chances ….. and of third, fourth, fifth, and ad infinitum chances for us to repent and change our ways. His grace is always available to each of us for that U turn of repentance or conversion. All we have to do is accept it and respond to it positively.
Reading my Scripture Commentary on this parable, I learned something about fig trees I never knew or even heard before. Not that I am thinking of going into the fig tree business, but I found it kind of interesting and I’ll share it with you.
The author of this particular section of the book, Michael Patella, O.S.B., points out that there are two kinds of figs: inedible and edible. They look exactly alike (it doesn’t say how you tell them apart!!), The edible figs can be pollinated only by the female fig wasp which carries the pollen from the inedible fig and burrows into the buds of the edible one. So both kinds of trees are required for this process. The author says that this operation can confuse even the expert fig growers and a great deal of patience is necessary to harvest the precious fruit itself. I don’t know how this exactly applies to us, but perhaps when God looks at the dumb things I sometimes do even He is confused and it takes a lot of patience on his part to stay with me.
The real lesson for us from the parable of the fig tree is that God will not give up on us even if we go our own way a lot of the time. God is like Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. I have experienced this myself. No matter what we get ourselves into, God will always be after us and willing to take us back if we so choose. Our God is truly a precious gem!