Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 17, Luke 18:1-8
Last week our theme from the Sunday Gospel was “do it God’s way and not our way.” Today’s Gospel adds the element of “priorities” to it. In other words, I have to do it God’s way over and over and over. And a good way to do this is through persistent prayer. Persistence in prayer reminds me of my ever-continuing dependence on God. I am dependent upon Him for the next breath I take and a million and one other things in between. Persistence in prayer also let’s God know that we need him. We have to keep that edge of dependence on God. Once we lose it we are just like the pro golfer who quits practicing. Before long he is just another duffer.
The parable of the judge who granted the persistent widow his decision against her adversary shows us God’s special care for widows and orphans. And if they have to be persistent in their prayer, how much more do we. The first reading for today’s Liturgy shows the persistence of Moses keeping his hands raised up, even with the help of others, to assure victory in the battle with Amalek.
Another word for persistence is perseverance, not giving up. When I hear the words “never give up” they remind me of Jimmy Valvano, the great basketball coach of North Carolina State University whose career was cut short by cancer in 1993. He fought the cancer to the very end and continues to fight the disease even after his death through the Cancer Foundation he established. His motto was: Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. Someday, the fight over cancer will be successful. In the meantime, we keep praying, keep fighting, never giving up.
We have to face some of our spiritual and physical crises in life in the same way. Scrupulosity is a good example. I know from trying to help people with this problem that it is difficult to overcome, but it can be done if one seeks help, listens to the advice that is given, trusts it, works it, and does not give up.
It was the same thing with my physical and spiritual addiction to alcohol. It took 20 years of drinking to “hit bottom” and even then there was a lot of “hanging in there” to really get into a successful, lasting, long term recovery. And all along the way I was reminded not to give up going to meetings, listening to the AA group I was in, letting them help me, and not to stop praying for sobriety one day at a time. And because of this persistence, my perseverance in the AA program, I have been able, with God’s help and the help of thousands of AA friends through the years, to achieve a quality and lasting sobriety. I never gave up and it was indeed worth the sometime struggle.
How about you? Where have you achieved a goal or healing, or whatever you prayed for, needed, because you kept at it? Put it all together, and it should show us the value of persistence and perseverance, of never giving up.
Monday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 18, Feast of St. Luke
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist whose Gospel we are now reading in the daily Liturgies. And, as usual, we don’t know a whole lot about him. He has been identified with St. Paul’s “Luke, the beloved physician” in the Letter to the Colossians 4: 14. Tradition tells us he was born a Greek and was a Gentile. Later he became a follower of St. Paul. When Paul was in prison in Rome c. 61, it was Luke who stayed with him. After everyone else deserted Paul in his final stay in prison, Luke still stuck by him. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy: “Only Luke is with me.”
St. Luke is unique in many ways. Many of our favorite stories appear only in Luke’s Gospel, e.g., the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, special happenings in the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and so on. The final details of his life are scarce. Some say he was martyred; others say he went on to live a long life. Some maintain he preached in Greece or France. Early tradition says he died at the age of 84. St. Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.
St. Luke, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 19, Sts. Isaac Jogues and Companions
Today the Church honors St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and their companions, the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. Between the years 1642 and 1649, eight members of the Society of Jesus were martyred in the north-east United States. They were working among the Huron and Iriquois Tribes of Native Americans. Much has been written about the various ways they were tortured before they died trying to spread the Gospel of Jesus. There are many stories available in many books and online for those who wish to study these Holy Martyrs. St. Isaac Jogues died on Oct. 18, 1646 and St. John de Bregeuf died on March 16, 1649.
Holy Jesuit Martyrs, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 20, Luke 12: 39-48
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person with more.”
The Gospel reading for today’s Liturgy demands, I believe, that one be in touch with the gifts and talents given them by the Lord Jesus. These are gifts. They are grace. I didn’t earn the gifts I have nor do I deserve them. They are pure gifts from God. These gifts make us what we are. We are all unique. There will never be another me or you. We all have gifts that are different from each other. And all of the gifts we have are to be used for others. When I am unable to do what you are gifted to do, you help me. When you require what I am gifted to do and you are not, I will help you. This is what makes the world go round.
Everyone uses their gifts to help others. This, I sincerely believe, is God’s plan for us. Selfishness must go. It is not all about me. It is all about us. Where we see this actually happening in our world, things are going well. Where it is not happening, things are going awry.
Lord, help me to know the gifts and talents you have given me and help me use them for others.
Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 21, Luke 12: 49-53
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”
In our Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus tells us he has come to start a fire on the earth. Jesus identifies himself with fire. Fire is a symbol and let us remember that symbols, unlike signs, cause what they symbolize. Signs do not cause what they signify, e.g., smoke and fire. Symbols are richer than signs.
The symbol of fire is about destruction and cleansing — and change. If you want to change something, I mean really change it, set it on fire! Fire is an apt image for Jesus. Jesus changes things, too, in a radical way. He tells us in the Gospel: I have made all things new. The way of Jesus invites us to change our ways. When our ways are in sync with Jesus’ ways, we are on the right road to growth, wholeness and holiness. And then his fire is burning in the world.
Fire is also a symbol of light, and again, Jesus causes light. He is the light of the world. Fire also causes heat and warmth and it purifies. Fire does a lot of things. It symbolizes destruction, change, purification, light, heat and warmth. I dare say the world needs all these things.
Jesus, let your fire burn in our hearts as we try to serve you and bring your word to others.
Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 22, Luke 12:54-59
“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Jesus is after the phonies, the hypocrites, in today’s Gospel selection. We understand well how to interpret the weather for today. We look at the sky and if we see dark clouds, feel the wind picking up, see lightening in the distance and hear thunder, we know it is going to rain and we will need our umbrella when we go outside.
When we pause and look at our world today and its many situations, what do we see needed to remedy it, to make it a better world in which to live? In order to answer that question, I am sure we will go immediately to the values of Jesus. We look at our world and see violence, wars, distrust, greediness, lust to the extreme, selfishness, resentments, revenge, criticism, negativity, and on and on. And if we interpret these things as the problems of the world, we find the solution in the values of the Lord Jesus: love, service to others, justice, equality, peace, kindness, humility, openness, honesty, forgiveness and understanding. Let us pray for the strength to implement these things more and more in our little corner of the world.
Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 23, Luke 13: 1-9
Today’s Gospel reading contains the parable of the Barren Fig Tree. A man went to look for fruit on his fig tree and finding none he was going to chop it down to make room for one that would bear fruit. His servant, who was with him, suggested that he leave the tree stand for another year and allow him to cultivate it and fertilize it to see if he could bring it back to life. If not, then cut it down.
Presumably, the owner of the tree agreed and gave the tree another year. I use this parable to name Jesus the Lord of Second Chances. It would be rather easy, I imagine, for Jesus to look at me along with all the gifts and talents he has given me and arrive at the conclusion that I have done very little with them, born little fruit, and that I should be eliminated to give someone else a chance. But Jesus doesn’t work that way. He just keeps on giving me more and more graces and more love to help me succeed. And if I fall again, he gives again. Jesus is indeed the Lord of second chances, and third, fourth, fifth, sixth chances and ad infinitum chances.
Lord, how good and understanding you are towards all of us. Thank you.