Reflections for the 29th 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 29th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
October 16, Matthew 22: 15-21
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
I have written before in these homilies about what I believe is the initial selfishness of the human being. I believe we all start out this way, very selfish individuals, even though we may not recognize it as such at times. When we are very young, we just do what comes naturally and part of that, I believe, is selfishness. It’s all about me. You have witnessed the following scenario millions of times and probably were part of it at one time yourself: The mother and her young child are in the grocery store. The child spots something on a shelf that he/she wants. Mom says no. Then the tantrum starts, crying, screaming, whatever, till Mom finally capitulates and gives the child what he/she wants. Yes, it’s all about me when I am a child.
Somewhere along the line this has to go. We are social creatures and this social part of us does not mix too well with selfishness. It must be overcome. In overcoming my selfishness, I sense a progression, an inclination, a bent, towards gratitude. Deep in our hearts we have a need to repay others for what they do for us. I sense a desire to give in return and not only to take. I sense the need to reciprocate. I can’t always be taking, taking, taking. I feel an obligation within me to repay, to give back.
I see a lot of this in AA and the other self-help programs. Why do people, for example, with 35 or 40 years of sobriety continue to go to meetings? One answer is that they would wish to continue in their sobriety until they die and so they keep doing what will cause this to happen. But another answer is the gratitude they feel toward God and AA for the gift of sobriety that has truly made life worth living. That is my own feeling. And along with it I feel the necessity of giving back something to AA, namely, my presence at meetings so a new-comer can look around and see that what he or she is getting into really does work.
And so it is with my relationship with God. God always seems to be the Giver and we, the recipients. And I feel an obligation to “repay” God, to reciprocate, for all he has done for me. I realize I am not causing God to “feel better” or whatever. But I am causing myself to “feel better” through my gratitude to God. The inclination in my heart to repay for gifts given is salved. I hope you all understand what I am trying to say here because it makes the words of Jesus about giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s make sense to me.
Thank you God for all you have done for me. How can I possibly ever repay you?
Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 17, Luke 12: 13-21
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
I believe the goods of this world are sufficient for all. If this is true, why then are there poor people, hungry people, homeless people all around us? The only answer seems to be that some people have more of the world’s goods than is necessary. The goods of this world are meant for all peoples. We all have a right, I believe, to enough money for the necessities of life, enough food to eat, clothes to wear, homes in which to live. Greed fouls this all up. I see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. This is not right.
Greed does not know the meaning of enough. There is really nothing wrong, per se, with being rich. But those who are rich have an obligation to share their wealth with others; again, the goods of the earth are meant for all. The Gospel for today tells us that “one’s life does not consist of possessions.” One’s life consists, rather, in loving God and in loving our neighbors as ourselves. If we fulfill this Great Commandment, then there is no place for greed in God’s plan.
Tuesday of the 29th Week in 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.
Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 19, 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 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 20, 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 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 21, 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 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 22, 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.