Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 25
Mark 10: 46-52
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you. He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.”
What a beautiful story is found in our Gospel for this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time! Bartimaeus obviously was sick and tired of his blindness; he wanted desperately to do something about it. He must have heard of Jesus, of the wonderful works he was doing, sought him out, and when he found him he kept screaming for his attention until he got it. When Jesus finally did hear him and called him to approach, Bartimaeus sprang up, I mean he moved! And he asked Jesus to cure his blindness. Bartimaeus finally encountered the only one who could help him and he made the most of it.
This story of Bartimaeus kind of reminds me of my own story. I’m glad it does because it is good to think of it occasionally, of the miracle that took place in my own life, and give God thanks again for its happening. It happened on September 14, 1974, at St. Anthony Church in Angola, Indiana. I’ll never forget the date or the place. I had a drinking problem and was in the early stages of admitting this to myself and getting rid of all the denial I was carrying around. I was getting sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time. My drinking was beginning to get in my way, beginning to be a burden. This became even more apparent on this particular Saturday evening when I tried to say a Parish Mass when I was in no shape to do so. It was a disaster! There were about 700 people in church that evening and I have no idea what they thought of what they were seeing. After it was all over and I walked to the back of the church to get rid of the vestments, a little old lady confronted me. She shook her finger at me and said, “Shame on you, shame on you.” She was exactly right. Who I was that evening was not OK. It wasn’t until months later that I thought of that little lady. I didn’t recall ever seeing her before that evening and, as it turned out, I never saw her again. Who was she? I finally came to the conclusion that she was Jesus speaking to me. I must have known that instinctively, but was unaware of it then. I sprang up at this encounter, called my Provincial Superior, and was in treatment the very next day. It seems the good Lord was tired of my blind blundering, decided to heal my blindness, and through his grace I have not had another drink since that moment.
We are all blind in many ways. Most of the time we are unaware of it, but others see it. When we do discover it, let us take it to the Lord for his healing. Just as he was there for Bartimaeus centuries ago, he will be there for us in our time of need.
Jesus, thank you so very much for helping me to see again.
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 26
Luke 13: 10-17
Once again, the subject of working on the Sabbath comes up in the ministry of Jesus. Our Gospel story for today tells us of a group of people in the synagogue looking to be healed by Jesus. The leader of the Synagogue tells them to come for healing on one of the other days of the week, not on the Sabbath. Healing was regarded as work and of course it was forbidden to work on the Sabbath day. Jesus again pointed out to them their hypocritical ways, because they too were guilty of performing works on the Sabbath when it was to their own advantage, like watering their stock.
Our modern-day observance of the Lord’s Day is not like it used to be when I was a kid in the 30’s. Far from it. But Sunday is still the Lord’s Day and should be honored in some special way. My own family, as we made this transition in our own lives years ago, tried to keep Sunday as a family day. It was the only day of the week for our family when we were all together for the whole day. It was a day for visiting relatives, going out to dinner as a family, and so on.
Take some time and a bit of discussion together to figure out how you and your family can make the Lord’s Day a special day of the week.
Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 27
Luke 13: 18-21
Since the time of Jesus, the Church that came into being out of his ministry and followers has grown from a small group of people into the Catholic Church, the largest denomination of Christians in the world. Jesus compares it to a mustard seed in today’s Gospel. It started out small, but soon it was so large that the birds of the air are able to dwell in its branches.
Today, that mustard seed of a Church continues to grow. It has not yet reached its full growth and perhaps never will here on this earth. It is made up of human beings who hopefully are making progress but will never be perfect or full grown. Many look and look for progress today in this Church, but find little, if any. If change can be called growth, then the Church is growing. It has certainly changed since I was in grade school. The Church then would be unrecognizable as the Church now. The pendulum of change is a funny thing. Some think it is swinging toward an apex while others think it has reached that and now is going backwards. Who is right? Who knows!
My faith tells me that Jesus is the Head of our Church. It is in his hands. If it is in his hands, what’s to worry about? I have discovered, I guess, that the best remedy in the world for fears and worries is the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps of AA: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. This is what I do when I begin to worry about the future of our Church. I think in a hundred years from now it would be unrecognizable to those living now. But it will still be Jesus’ Church then as it is now, and it will be just fine.
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 28
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude. It is very difficult to write about these two Saints of the very early Church simply because we do not know anything about them. St. Simon was surnamed the Zealot because of his rigid adherence to the Jewish Law. He was one of the original followers of Jesus. Tradition has us believe he went to Egypt to preach the Gospel and then to Persia with St. Jude with whom he was then martyred. St. Jude, also known in the Gospel as Thaddaeus, was one of the 12 Apostles and the brother of James the Less.
More than these skimpy details is not known about these two men. But both are honored as martyrs and died for their love of Christ and his way, truth and life. Let us pray each day of our lives that we may grow in the wisdom and grace of Jesus and truly come to love him above all things.
Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 29
Luke 13: 31-35
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many times I yearned to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, but you were unwilling.”
How many times do we see people straying off on a wrong path that we know will end in disaster for them? We warn them, beseech them to stop, but they pay no attention to us. This pretty much happens to all of us sometime during our lives. And it is hard to deal with – particularly when the person is close to us and dear to us. What to do?
Most of us learn the hard way, after much frustration, that we cannot change other people – that we are powerless over others, even over our own children. All of us are free and we make our own choices. Parents sometimes blame themselves for choices their grown children make and this is ridiculous. From the time a child is knee-high to a grasshopper and learns to say the word “no,” they are on their own. We can’t change them. About the best we can do is pray for them, place them in the Lord’s hands. That’s all we can do and that is plenty! St. Monica prayed for St. Augustine for something like 14 years before he changed himself. It finally worked! Hard? Yes. But isn’t that how all of us learned our way: By making mistakes and learning from them? Experience is still the best teacher, as the saying goes.
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 30
Luke 14: 1-6
“But they were unable to answer his questions.”
Did you ever notice in reading the Gospels how direct the Lord is in his answers to others’ questions? Jesus didn’t beat about the bush. He got right to the point. In Mt. 5: 37, he tells us, “Let your “Yes” mean “Yes,” and your “No” mean “No.” Anything more is from the evil one.” In this verse, Jesus demands truthfulness from his disciples. The “evil one” beats about the bush, hoping to deceive his victim. We never see the Pharisees giving Jesus a direct answer to his questions. By the way, I looked up the origin of the phrase I’ve been using: “Don’t beat about the bush.” This phrase dates back to the 16th century and comes from the custom for hunters to hire beaters to beat the bushes and arouse game birds for the hunter to shoot at. So the beater stirred up the action, but the hunter got to the point.
It is rather annoying to ask someone a question and get a “maybe” in response. The question has not been answered and the one who asked it is still in the dark. In view of this little discussion on directness with other people, let’s check on ourselves and our responses to others. Do we give direct answers to people who ask something of us or do we “beat about the bush?”
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 31
Luke 14: 7-11
“For anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Shakespeare in one of his plays tells us: To thine own self be true. What he is really saying here is for us to adopt the virtue of humility. The definition of humility that I like is: true self-knowledge. The humble person knows who he/she really is. A humble person does not exaggerate, is not boisterous, does not try to be other than he or she is. Humility and honesty go hand in hand. To be humble is to be honest and to be honest is to be humble. Both of these virtues are of the greatest importance in the 12 Step Program of AA. Under the influence of alcohol, we are used to exaggerating and blowing everything way out of proportion. In sobriety there can be no place for this. Shakespeare’s words quoted above appear on the yearly medallions carried by most AAs as a mark of their faithfulness to their new way of life.
To be a humble person is not to be dirt that everyone walks all over. That, incidentally, is the etymology of the word humble. It comes from the Latin word humus that means dirt.
Humility means we know what we can do, what our gifts and talents are and we also know what we cannot do, where we are lacking. The humble person does not try to be what they are not. The following piece of advice was given to me in the treatment center many years ago by my counselor and I have never forgotten it. He told me, “Howard, why don’t you start worrying about who you are and what you can do and forget about who you are not and what you cannot do.” I needed to hear that then and I still try and follow it now. What you see is what you get. How is it with you?