Reflections for the 30th 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 30th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
October 23, Matthew 22: 34-40
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus’ response to the above quote in this Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time presents to us the Great Commandment: Love God, love your neighbor. “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Everything in our spiritual life revolves around the Great Commandment and it should be constantly before our eyes. I believe the relational paradigm is the principle model for our spiritual progress in today’s Church and world. This consists in focusing on my relationship with God and with my neighbor. What else is there?
The way the Twelve Steps of Spirituality are constructed tells me the same thing. The first three Steps inform us that we are powerless over many things and when this is the case I must be aware that only God can help me remain sound and whole. If we try and solve these cases where we are powerless alone they will break us up into unmanageability. So we must let go and let God by surrendering our wills and lives to God’s control. God is absolutely necessary for a manageable and happy life.
The next four Steps: 4,5,6, and 7, are conversion Steps. If God is so necessary for having quality life it only stands to reason that the closer I am to him, the better life will be. Therefore I seek out the things in my life, my defects and shortcomings, that are blocking this relationship. What is standing between myself and my God, what is blocking my relationship with him? When I find this out, I own my defects and do not deny their presence in my life. And then I try and make progress, with God’s help, to remove these blocks. I do the same thing with regard to my neighbor and what is blocking my relationships with them. Then I make amends in Steps 8 and 9.
The Great Commandment works the same way in my life. The more I love God and my neighbor, the happier I will be. Therefore, what is it in my life that is blocking a more intimate relationship with God and my neighbor? Once I discover these blocks, I try and make progress in removing them with God’s help. My happiness, peace and joy, the things I am ultimately seeking in my life, depend on this Greatest of the Commandments. What is blocking my relationship with God? Lack of a prayer life? Trying to do everything alone? Rejecting his way, truth and life and doing it all my way? What is blocking my relationship with my neighbor? My judging them? My trying to change them? My constant nagging and complaining? Gossiping about them? Criticizing them?
Lord, help me to discover what it is in my life that is blocking my relationship with you and my neighbor and please help my progress in making these super-important relationships better.
Monday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 24, Luke 13: 10-17
We have spoken previously about getting our priorities in the right order, of trying to do things God’s way and not our own way. Again in today’s Gospel selection, we see the leader of the synagogue, probably a Pharisee, getting all bent out of shape because he has his priorities all goofed up. He has no mercy, no compassion whatsoever, for the poor lady who was all bent over and unable to stand up straight. Jesus’ heart went out to her and, Sabbath or no Sabbath, he cured her.
Jesus, as always, preferred people over things. That was his way and we should set our priorities accordingly. When we prefer things over people, we are out in left field, spiritually lost.
Lord, once again, help us to do it your way.
Tuesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 25, Luke 13: 18-21
Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote in chapter 5 of the Big Book that we are not about seeking spiritual perfection, but rather spiritual progress. Seeking perfection equals frustration, because as human beings we will never achieve it. Progress equals growth, and this is possible for us to achieve.
In the parable of today’s Gospel, the mustard seed has to grow before it becomes formidable and large enough for the birds of the sky to dwell in its branches. For us, we must grow, progress, to maturity and then we will be able to possess the values of Jesus so as to reveal them to others and be able to spread his Kingdom in our corner of the world.
Let us ask ourselves today where we need to progress to become better Christians and better followers of Christ and then ask Jesus for the strength to do it.
Wednesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 26, Luke 13: 22-30
Any restrictions that block us from entering into the Kingdom of God through the narrow gate are NOT placed in the way by God, but by ourselves. We block our own entrance through the narrow door by carrying too much excess baggage. We must keep our spiritual lives slim and streamlined to be able to enter through the narrow gate.
What are these self-made blocks? We have seen them all many times before. Certainly, doing things our own way to the exclusion of God’s way is a huge block. Selfishness is also a formidable block. Life cannot just be all about us. Not knowing or being concerned about our gifts and talents is another block. Without this knowledge we cannot be effective servants of others. Idol worship is another huge block, putting other things in between ourselves and God or neighbor, such as all the addictions where alcohol, drugs, work, gambling, food, etc., become gods to us, along with gossip and resentments towards our neighbor. All of these things block us from entering through the narrow door and demand the progress we have spoken of so many times before.
Lord, help us to free ourselves from these blockades.
Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 27, 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 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 28, Sts. Simon and Jude
Today our Liturgy celebrates the Feast of two Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude.
St. Simon is called the Zealot in the Gospel because of his strict observance of the Jewish Law. Tradition tells us he preached in Egypt and Persia after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. He was in Persia with St. Jude and both of them were martyred there. This is probably why they share this feast day together.
St. Jude is also known as Thaddaeus in the Gospel and was the brother of St. James the Less. Both were Apostles. Tradition has him preaching in Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and in Persia with Simon. We really know very little about either of these two men.
Sts. Simon and Jude, pray for us.
Saturday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 29, Luke 14: 1, 7-11
The week ends with the Gospel admonition, “When you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” This Gospel is urging us to stop getting involved with false pretenses in order to make ourselves look greater in the eyes of those around us. We don’t always have to be the center of attention and numero uno. Sometimes at a gathering it is just nice to sit back and relax and listen to what is going on and being said around you. You learn a lot doing this
It was a wise person who once said: Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a nitwit that it is to open it and prove it. Ah, yes!