Reflections for the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
Sunday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 4, 2012 Mark 12: 28-34
In today’s Gospel from St. Mark a scribe came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” And Jesus replied with the Great Commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This answer of Jesus is the whole thing in a nutshell. If we fulfill this commandment, there is nothing more.
This is exactly how we love God in the way he wants to be loved: “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” We love him in this way by loving him with all we have and with all we are. We love him by listening to him with the greatest attention possible and then carrying out what we have heard.
Lord, I don’t really know if I ever love you in this fashion. Please help me come closer and closer to doing it.
Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
November 5, 2012 Luke 14: 12-14
Once in my lifetime I remember fulfilling the Gospel read for today’s Liturgy where Jesus tells us that when we hold a banquet we are not to invite just our friends but the poor, crippled and lame as well. I was stationed in Lorain, Ohio as a hospital chaplain, and one evening I stopped by the Friary to have supper with the other Friars who served in the parish. For some reason, none of them were home for supper and they hadn’t told the cook they would not be there. She had prepared a huge pan of lasagna for the meal, enough for ten people. As I sat down to eat one piece of this dish of food, the doorbell rang. It was a young man in his 20’s traveling through town. He had no money and was hoping to get some from me to buy a meal. I told him I wouldn’t give him any money but that if he wanted to he could come and join me for supper seeing as I had a mountain of lasagna. He accepted the invitation and resumed his trip with a full stomach.
I believe the point of today’s Gospel is really to urge us to help out not only our friends and relatives who are in need but also strangers we meet who need our help. This Gospel is really inviting us to be good Samaritans. We have this opportunity often in many different situations, if we wish to do it.
Let’s all try and do something for someone we don’t know today, even if it is just holding a door open for them to pass through.
Tuesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 6, 2012 Luke 14: 15-24
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.”
Our Gospel for today tells us that we will be happy if we can sit down and dine in the Kingdom of God. To me this is another way of saying we will be happy if we are one with the Lord, if we are his friend and walking with him as our companion. Usually we don’t sit down to eat with strangers. Dining with someone means we care for them and want to be with them. The people in today’s Gospel parable had all kinds of excuses for not joining Jesus at table. They chose not to dine with him and offered their flimsy excuses. Their daily affairs and doings were more important to them than the Kingdom of God. That is so sad!
Have we accepted the Lord’s invitation to come and dine with him, to be one with him, to acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior? Or do we, too, make flimsy excuses, alibis or rationalizations for continuing to go our own way with our own priorities? Once again, the choice is ours.
Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 7, 2012 Luke 14: 25-33
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Accepting the Lord’s invitation to dine in the Kingdom of God with him is also an invitation to discipleship. Today’s Gospel selection takes it another step forward with the duty to carry our own cross as we follow Christ. Discipleship requires a singleness of purpose; no earthly attachments be they person, place or thing, should keep us from following Jesus.
We have seen a number of times before in these homilies just what it means to carry our own cross daily. Once again, following the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we are to carry the burdens of others and particularly in forgiving those who have hurt us in any way. We do not carry resentments, but rather the faults and failings of those we resent. And they in turn are to carry our weaknesses. Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy, and we must acknowledge the fact that personal sacrifice must be part of it.
This section of Luke’s Gospel dealing with the requirements for discipleship ends with the metaphor that we are the salt of the earth. We cease to be salt if we ignore our duty to carry our cross daily and in so doing we also cease to be disciples of Christ.
Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 8, 2012 Luke 15: 1-10
Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke contains two parables: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Let’s focus on the parable of the lost sheep.
This parable tells the story of a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. He notices in his count that one of them is missing. So he leaves the 99 and goes in search of that one lost sheep. And when he finds it, he is so full of joy that he even invites his friends and neighbors to celebrate with him.
My Commentary on the Scriptures points out that this story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go in search of the one that is lost is absolutely beyond imagination and ridiculous. It points out that no shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 sheep to fend for themselves while he went looking for one stray. It is also unthinkable to invite his friends to celebrate with him the fact that he has found the one sheep. The Commentary then goes on to point out that its being ridiculous is exactly the point of the parable. God’s love for his creatures is so great that it even includes sinners, something the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes had a hard time understanding. The parable goes out of its way to emphasize the divine welcome given by God to the repentant sinner, ridiculous as this might seem to some.
Thank God for his infinite mercy.
Friday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 9, 2012 The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest of the four major basilicas of the city of Rome. It is the official seat of the Holy Father and the Pope resided there for centuries. The Lateran is called the mother church of Christendom and the purpose of this feast, of course, is to remind us of the unity of all Christians with the Chair of Peter. Unfortunately we are far from what most of us imagine by unity in the Catholic Church today. But this feast reminds us to pray for unity and for our Holy Father, the Pope. Personally, I don’t get too excited about some of the things that seem lacking in the Church with regard to unity today. It is Jesus’ Church and he has given us the care of it. But he is always there to help us.
I once heard a little saying and believe it to be true: There is nothing that is going to happen to me today that Jesus and I can’t handle together. I apply this same idea to the Church and its many problems. My job is to live the Gospel life and to pass it on to others in my little corner of this world. And let Jesus take care of the rest.
Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
November 10, 2012 Luke 16: 9-15
Today’s Gospel tells us just how little we actually know about our God despite what we find out in the Scriptures. We dare to think that God thinks the same way we do about things. But the Gospel for today tells us that the things we regard as being of the greatest importance amount to absolutely nothing in the sight of God.
This might be a good time to spend a little time in reflection asking ourselves what it is in life that is of the greatest importance to us – and then ask ourselves if these things could possibly really be of importance to Jesus from what we do know in the Gospels. We might just be very surprised at some of the things we consider to be so important.