SUNDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
I believe that the point or theme of the Gospel for this Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year is the virtue of perseverance. To persevere means to hang in there, to never give up, to never quit trying. Perseverance is an admirable virtue, one that keeps us going through the many frustrations that life has to offer.
We might name the Gospel for today as the parable of the persistent widow. The widow in the parable wanted a decision in some important matter and the corrupt judge she went to for the judgment couldn’t have cared less. “For a long time the judge was unwilling” to render a verdict, but this didn’t detour the little widow. Even though she was defenseless against the judge, she kept after him until he feared that she was going to punch his lights out! and then he delivered a just decision. My mind also turns to St. Monica who refused to give into her frustration over the actions of her son, Augustine, and kept praying for fourteen years for his conversion. She didn’t give up! And the whole book of Job in the Bible is an example of perseverance. Job never doubted the goodness of the Lord despite all the bad things that happened to him in his lifetime. He persisted in faith and love of God and was justly rewarded with the restoration of all his goods plus. Perseverance, it would seem, eventually pays off.
Yet, some of us, when the trials of life come along, act as though we never heard of perseverance. Instead of hanging in there with faith, trust and prayer, we tell God to go jump and run the other way, away from him. My bout with the disease of alcoholism finally led me into the terrible feeling of hopelessness. I had tried and tried to stop drinking alone, but could not. Finally I decided it was useless to keep on trying and was ready to give up even trying or wanting to stop when the bottom fell out of things and I entered treatment. This came just at the right time. I began to ask God for help, as I was told to do, and I ran toward him, rather than away from him, and the miracle of recovery happened. Out of it all, I eventually learned the value of not giving up, but turning toward the Lord and seeking perseverance in the trials of life.
Each of us, hopefully, possesses a faith that fills us with hope, a hope that enables us to persevere no matter how much we are tested in life’s various trials. Let us ask the Lord today, as we ponder this Gospel, for the grace of perseverance. He will not disappoint us.
“Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?”
MONDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Every now and then the thought comes to me of just how uncertain our possessions and even our very lives are. The rich man in the Gospel for today thought he had it made for many years to come. And I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” Ah, yes, the uncertainty of it all.
Not too long ago, people were driving their cars over a bridge on Interstate 35W that crossed the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Many of them were probably on their way home, looking forward to joining their families, having supper, and a nice evening. All of the sudden, the bridge they were on collapsed! Who ever heard of such a thing? Who would have imagined that that bridge that had carried millions of cars over the river for so long would collapse? Unbelievable! Yet it did happen. Many were killed and/or injured. The uncertainty of life!
As the Scriptures tell us elsewhere, we know not the day nor the hour. Let us ask ourselves how we deal with these uncertainties that we come across in our lives.
TUESDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel gives us a suggestion to the puzzle that ended yesterday’s homily: how do we handle all the uncertainties of life? Today’s Gospel starts off with the answer: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning and be like men/women who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.”
Preparedness through virtuous living seems to be the answer to uncertainty. Keep on doing what you should be doing. Be consistent in life. We can’t be like the guy shown so often in comic strips who is always walking around carrying a placard that says: The world is going to end today. That would get us nowhere. Hopefully, our daily actions and work are pleasing to the Lord. And we are to do them day in and day out as though nothing could ever happen to disturb things. And when the end finally does come, I have the hope that God will be pleased with what I have been doing right to the end.
Our lives will end. We know that. The secret to the uncertainty as to when it will end is to keep doing God’s will until it does.
WEDNESDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
The theme of preparedness for God’s final coming continues in the Gospel chosen to be read for today. I guess I kind of anticipated today’s Gospel solution to the uncertainty of life in yesterday’s homily. I should have looked ahead. But it gives the solution in a clearer way in today’s Gospel than I did yesterday.
Jesus gives the answer to life’s uncertainty in a parable in today’s Gospel. The parable speaks of a faithful and prudent steward whom the master has put in charge of distributing the food allowance to people at the proper time. Jesus says, “Blessed is the servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” The prudent and faithful steward was doing what he was supposed to be doing; doing the master’s will, when the master returned. That is our answer to handling the uncertainties of life.
The word “prudent,” is a good word to describe the steward in today’s Gospel. Prudence, as we have seen many times before, is the right way of doing things, the right way of acting. And that is just what the steward was doing. The master was pleased on his arrival. Are we doing anything that would displease him if he came for us right now?
THURSDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel is regarded by many as being a bit on the harsh side. There isn’t a warm fuzzy in sight. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing ….. Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus is telling us, in a word, that the challenge of his Gospel must purify us and separate us before it unites us and brings the peace and happiness we are seeking. Jesus makes it clear by these words that there can be no indifference or neutrality to his words. You are either for Jesus or against him. There is no in-between.
These seemingly harsh words of Jesus demand a choice on our part. Do we seek to be purified by the fire of the Gospel or do we reject this idea of being cleansed and raised up from our material, evil inclinations? In other words, we repeat it again, are we for Jesus or against him? This is the choice we all have to make many times during our lives.
It seems to get easier to make the choice for Jesus as I get older. By this time I have seen the happiness and peace that always comes from choosing the way, truth, and life of Jesus. How about you?
FRIDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
How good are you at reading danger signs? I hope the answer is at least “pretty good.” We need that ability to stay out of harm’s way. We have learned from experience what to do and not do to avoid accidents and other undesirable consequences. I remember, for example, being stationed at our parish of St. Anthony in Lorain, Ohio. The parish sits literally on the shore of Lake Erie, one of the majestic Great Lakes. We had a boat and spent many hours out on the lake in the summer time. And we got really good at knowing when a storm was coming or the waves were too high for safety.
We are aware, too, of the many dangers that present themselves to us every day that place us in moral danger, the cause and effects that lead to sin and unhappiness. Most of us are well aware of what these things are. We know the difference between God’s way and evil’s way. But we can’t always make the right choice alone. But we can always make the right choice between good and evil by whispering a little prayer: Jesus help me. That little prayer guarantees the right choice.
Jesus, help me to make the right choices, to recognize the moral danger signs of our times, and to call on you for help.
SATURDAY of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Yesterday we spoke of recognizing the signs that threaten our moral lives and avoiding them lest we stumble into the darkness of sin. Unfortunately, we do not always avoid them. Sometimes, in the fickleness of our human nature, we even desire them! And we fail and fall.
Today’s Gospel closes with a parable. I guess we could call it the parable of the barren fig tree. A man planted a fig tree in his orchard and after three years time came looking for the fruit the tree was supposed to provide. But, there was no fruit! He said to his gardener, “Cut it down. Why let it clutter up the orchard?” But the gardener asked the man to let the tree stand for another year, during which time he would nurture it and care for it in a special way. Then, if it still bore no fruit, cut it down. Jesus is the gardener, I believe, in this parable. We are the barren fig tree. Because we have chosen the darkness of sin, we bear no fruit and deserve to be cut down and thrown into the fire.
But Jesus, the Gardener, intervenes and asks the Father for more time to nurture us with his tender loving care and grace and then perhaps we will bear the desired fruit. Maybe we should change the name given the parable above to the parable of the Second Chance.
Thank you Jesus for the many second chances and for your mercy and compassion.