Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 26, Mt. 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 I am 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.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 27, Luke 13: 10-17

“He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.”

Today’s Gospel choice reminds us of the healing power of Jesus’ touch. I count five times in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus touched someone and healed them. And this power of touch is not relegated to Jesus alone. Human touch is a powerful tool for all of us to use.

When I was a hospital chaplain, I tried to touch each patient I visited either by holding their hand for a moment or by laying my hand on their shoulder. This was a powerful way to say: I am your friend, I really care about you and your well-being, I hope you will be healed quickly from what is ailing you. Hugs are also a form of touch and should be used often with our family members and with friends. This lets the other person know we are happy to have them with us, that we care about them and are there for them if needed. A hug can turn a “bad day” into a good one in the blink of an eye. And let’s not forget that Jesus’ healing touch is still there for all of us whenever we need it.

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 28, Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

Both St. Simon and St. Jude, whose feasts we commemorate today, were Apostles of the Lord. Simon was called the Zealot because of his rigid adherence to the law. Jude, also known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and a relative of Jesus. After the Ascension of the Lord, Simon preached the Gospel in Egypt and Persia. Jude is the author of a very short, one chapter Epistle or letter to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ,” that is, to all Christians. It is the second to last book in the Bible right before the Book of Revelation. Both of these Saints came together in ministry in Persia where they were martyred. Both share the same feast day, October 28. St. Jude is the patron Saint of desperate cases.

Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us.

Father Howard

 


Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 29, Luke 13: 22-30

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

I am reminded here of good, old Charley Brown, who in one episode was getting ready to go out skiing. By the time he was all set to go he had so many clothes on he couldn’t get through the door to go outside. And you can imagine his frustration.

Sometimes, it is the same thing with us trying to enter the Kingdom of God. Today’s Gospel tells us that the door to this Kingdom is narrow and that many who try and enter fail. Maybe on some day, we find ourselves carrying too much baggage to get through the door. It is like the retreatants here at the retreat house. Some of them have so many suitcases they can’t get through the door when they are coming or going. All of us occasionally pick up too much excess baggage in life, often made up of all our material possessions and our worrying about them. Because of all this clutter, we lose sight of God in our lives. Let’s ask ourselves today if we are carrying any superfluous baggage around that is preventing us from passing through the narrow door of the Kingdom.

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 30, Luke 13: 31-35

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling.”

One can hear the sorrow and pain in these words of Jesus in the Gospel chosen for today. He came to bring happiness and peace and his efforts were, for the most part, rejected by the people. We can take the quote cited above and put our own names in the place of the word Jerusalem. How many times Jesus has come to us and made his way, truth and life apparent to us, and we went our own way and did our own thing. We should be aware by this time that Jesus only desires what is good for us. How can we continue to be hot and cold to his words, sometimes listening and doing, and other times rejecting him? It is a puzzle to me. The only thing I can chalk all of this up to is the fickleness of my human nature.

Lord Jesus, help me to rise to a higher level and embrace your will, your way, instead of my own.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Oct. 31, Luke 14: 1-6

The Gospel chosen to be read in today’s Liturgy reminds me of one time when I was in Guest House in Lake Orion, MI, for the treatment of alcoholism, and my dear counselor, Lee Philips, said to me, “Howard, you are abnormal and immature.” What a great way to begin a weekly visit! But that is how Lee was. He didn’t waste words or time. He got right to the point. And, as usual, after he said this he proceeded to prove it by giving me the five criteria for a normal and mature person, none of which were present in yours truly.

One of the criteria applies to the Gospel today: a normal, mature person prefers people over things. The Pharisees had it the other way around: they preferred things over people. The “thing” here is the Sabbath. Things do not have to be material things. There are other things such as time, career, water skiing, golf, or whatever else we are preferring over people. Time used to be one of the things I preferred over people. I would work all day and then, in the evening when the football game was on TV, I didn’t want to be bothered with the phone or door bell ringing. That was my time! This was abnormal and immature behavior. Would Jesus (or Lee) find cause to say to you what he said to me?

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time 
Nov. 1, All Saints Day

Each year on November 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. In The Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Celebration of the Eucharist – 2008, this feast of All Saints is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the U.S.A.

This feast honoring All Saints is first mentioned in the 4th century Eastern feast of All Martyrs celebrated on May 13. In 609/610, the Roman Pantheon was dedicated on May 13 under the title of Santa Maria ad Martyres (Holy Mary of the Martyrs). Many see here the origin of All Saints Day. For some unknown reason, Pope Gregory IV (827-844) transferred this feast from May 13 to November 1, where we find it today.

For my own celebration of this Feast, I like to put the accent on the word All. In my mind, we are all Saints. One certainly need not be perfect to be a Saint. Saints, holy people, to me are people who are willing to try and do what God wants them to do and be what God wants them to be. My job here on earth at the present time is to try and be the best Franciscan Friar and Priest I can be under the existing circumstances. I am trying my best to do that and consequently I am a Saint. And so are all of you. All you have to do is try (and we can all at least try) to be the best Mom, Dad, Wife, Husband, Son, Daughter you can be. Try to be the best you can be in what God wants you to be today, and do what God wants you to do today. And you will be Saints.

Happy Feast Day to All of You!!

Fr. Howard

 

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