Reflections for the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
Sunday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 28, 2012 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 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
October 29, 2012 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
October 30, 2012 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 Alcoholics Anonymous: 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
O October 31, 2012 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 that we spoke of not too long ago. 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 as regards our neighbor. All of these things block us from entering through the narrow door and demand the progress we spoke of the other day.
Lord, help us to free ourselves from these blockades.
Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
November 1, 2012 Solemnity of All Saints
Happy Feast Day to all of you! Today is our day to rejoice at where we find ourselves: in step with the Lord and very accepting of the fact that we are his daughters and sons, that we are indeed his Holy People, Saints of God. All of us are “in via,” on the way, in our pilgrimage back to our Creator. We are making progress toward our goal. We are pilgrims: we wander a bit here and there, sometimes getting off the straight and narrow path a bit, only to find it again and continue on our way.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus is talking to all of us from the holy mountain in chapter 5 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. He speaks the Beatitudes, our means to happiness, our way to becoming his Holy People. The Beatitudes map out for us our way and we all find ourselves somewhere in the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. We realize who and what we really are. We try and walk humbly with our God. We trust him with our wills and our lives and he in turn gives us the gift of his Kingdom, his happiness here on earth. We don’t deserve it; we don’t earn it. It is his gift to us because we choose to follow him and be his Saints.
Blessed are the sorrowing. The sorrowing are happy? Sounds like a contradiction to me! Yet, because we are poor in spirit, trust God, lean on him, we discover that the purpose of our occasional sorrow is to lead us to joy. We give ourselves permission to feel sorrow. If we want to cry, we cry. But while we are weeping we offer the sorrow to the Lord, and this brings joy that I have something to offer to God who has offered so much to me.
Blessed are the meek. This does not mean that we are weak. Meekness and weakness are not the same thing. Meekness is strength, the strength to remain calm, quiet, and gentle no matter what bothers us. A meek person is too strong to have to fight back. Meekness is freedom, freedom to be who we are and not what others might like us to be. Meek people are not angry.
Blessed are those who desire holiness. We have to desire holiness, be willing to be holy, be willing to enter through the narrow gate. Being a holy person is not easy. It means we are willing to go against the grain, to be different. I am reminded here of the fact that each of us has a God-shaped-hole within us that only God can fill. Only God is God-shaped and will fit the hole to fill it. And when he fills us we become whole and complete. We become a people of prayer, a people of God, and enjoy the peace and joy that comes with being that.
Blessed are they who show mercy. Mercy is good will toward others. My mentally handicapped brother was indeed a merciful person. He quite literally loved everyone and desired everyone to love him. He reached out to others and was always ready to forgive if necessary. Mercy accepts other people as they are.
Blessed are the single-hearted. The words “single-hearted” replace for some the words “pure of heart.” Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian philosopher said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” That meant for him to have one aim in life, to submit all to that simple priority. The words “single-hearted” express this idea well. And our priority is God himself. All we do, all we think, all we desire, is bounced off God. What would God have me do in this situation? This approaches having true wisdom, doing things the right way, the way God would do it.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peace here means that inner peace we all desire so much, that peace that does away with the worry and anxiety and tension that cause so much trouble and discomfort to those who have them. Peace here is tranquility, freedom from restlessness. This reminds me of the prayer of St. Augustine: Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you. When our hearts rest in God, then we become peacemakers for others.
This is the way to holiness given us by Jesus himself in his Sermon on the Mount. This is our way. We are all somewhere along this way. We are all Saints to a degree. So again, Happy Feast Day.
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
November 2, 2012 All Souls Day
John 6: 37-40
“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”
This Feast of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed always reminds me of my first day at the Minor Seminary long ago in 1945. I was being escorted on a tour of my new home by one of the senior students who was in his 4th year. I remember we started at the top and worked our way down. Finally, on the lower floor, we entered the refectory or dining room. As we were walking through it, I noticed a picture frame hanging on the wall with no picture in it. I noticed it contained a short list of about 15 names. I asked our guide what that was all about and he told me it was a necrology, a list of all the deceased Friars of the Province who were buried in the Province Cemetery just down the road a bit. As I took a closer look at it, I saw it contained a message written in Latin that went around the edge of the paper. It said: Memento me, memento me, saltem vos amici mei. Translated: Remember me, remember me, at least you my friends.
I remember yet how sad that made me feel; that those who had gone before and done so much had to practically beg to be remembered by the living. I have never forgotten this moment in my life. And I believe I promised then not to forget our deceased Friars. Every time I return to the Mount, where I went for Minor Seminary training, I make it a point to visit that cemetery that now has over a hundred graves. I try and go around to all of them, remembering the ones I knew and what they did.
It is good to remember those who have gone before us in death who we will someday join. May they all rest in eternal peace.
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
November 3, 2012 Luke 14: 1, 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 Alcoholics Anonymous. 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 people in Alcoholic Anonymous 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?