All Souls Day
November 2, John 6: 37-40
This year, 2008, the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time cedes to the Feast of All Souls on this November 2. Today we pause to remember all those who have gone before us to eternal life with the Father of us all. Many of these people have had a direct part in my life helping me to arrive where I am right now, happy, joyful and at peace with God and those around me. Some of them are still living; others have passed on in death to the other side. Many of the latter I don’t think of much anymore. And that is why All Souls Day is a good idea. It gives me and all of you the opportunity to pause for a moment or two and remember those who have gone before us in death.
This feast of All Souls always reminds me of a rather simple happening in my life that I have never forgotten. That means that even though it was simple, it was important to me. It happened on my first day in the minor seminary at Mt. St. Francis Seminary in the hills of southern Indiana. I believe it was September 17, 1945. I am sure about the year but not so sure about the actual date. We were being given a tour of our new home by one of the Senior classmen. We saw the gym, the classrooms, study hall, dormitories and finally, the dining room. On the wall of the dining room hung a picture frame without a picture inside it. Instead of a picture it contained a list of about 15 names. When I asked our illustrious guide what it was, he replied, “That’s the necrology.” My reply was, “Fine – but what is that?” He informed me it was a list of the Friars buried in the Province Cemetery just down the road. When I looked at it again, I saw an inscription in Latin running around the edge of the frame. It read: Memento me, Memento me, saltem vos amici mei. Our guide translated it for us: Remember me, remember me, at least you my friends.
Suddenly I realized how sad that inscription was, that I could possibly forget those who had had such an important part in my life! How could I do that? But, I did, and unfortunately I still do. That is why I am happy to have this day commemorating All the Souls of the Faithful Departed. Won’t you join me today in setting aside a period of time just to sit and remember those who were so important in our lives and gave us so very much? It is good for us to do so.
Monday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 3, 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
Nov. 4, Luke 14: 15-24
The Gospel chosen to be read today follows yesterday’s Gospel in the Scriptures and is similar to it in theme in a more practical way. It is about making excuses when the opportunity to help someone appears in our lives. Boy, are we good at this! At least I know I am. I can think up a million reasons for not doing something that demands a little sacrifice or going out of my way for someone. Excuses usually begin with the phrase, “Yeah, but…” It’s kind of funny sometimes. People will come to me with a problem of some sort seeking a solution. And every solution I offer is followed by a “Yeah, but” by the one seeking the help. After a while, I shout out, “No more Yeah buts!” There is an old cliché we hear often in AA that applies here: Do it, dammit! Don’t just think about it and invent excuses in the process. Do it!
What are some of my favorite excuses for not helping other people when they need help? What are some of my favorite excuses for not doing what the Lord is asking me to do?
Wednesday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 5, Luke 14: 25-33
Today’s Gospel selection again follows the theme we seem to have settled in on for this week: Helping others in need. Today’s Gospel reminds me of what we spoke of on the 29thSunday in Ordinary Time. Our homily on that day was about the Great Commandment, of loving God and our neighbor, and looking at the various “blocks” we put up in our lives to prevent us from doing a better job of loving God and neighbor. This Gospel for today invites us to sit down and reflect on this. Sometimes it demands sacrifice and service to get rid of these blocks. That’s what “carrying our cross” is all about. Usually the excuses we make not to do this have something to do with not having the time to do it. “My time” is the block that gets in the way. I often wonder why everyone, including myself a lot of the time, is in such a big hurry today. Where are we going so fast? Ann Landers (I’m showing my age) used to remind her readers to take the time to smell the roses. And smelling the roses might well be helping our neighbor out when they need it.
Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 6, Luke 15: 1-10
Today’s Gospel reading reminds us to help others in a different way. It is about the joy we feel when we find something we have lost or misplaced. This happens to all of us all too often. Especially as we, shall we say, grow a little older? The old mind doesn’t always remember where we put things any more. I say more prayers to St. Anthony now to help me find things that I have lost than I ever did before. The other day I left my cell phone in the car and spent a lot of time looking for it all over the house. The next time I used the car, there it was. And I felt happy to find it again until the next time I lose it. Come to think of it, I don’t know where it is right now.
These are small matters, yet even when insignificant things are lost it brings joy when we find them. Imagine the joy when we lose something that is really important and then find it again! For example, the Lord Jesus. I lost him once in my life and I assure you I was overjoyed when I finally found him again and let him back into my life. Have any of you lost Jesus and found him again? Or do you know someone else that has lost him and that you may be able to help find him again? If so, give yourself or someone else the gift of great joy!
Friday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 7, Luke 16: 1-8
The Lord has given us all many gifts and talents. We have spoken of this many times before. He has given them to us to use for others and to fulfill the plan God has for his creation. We are not to treat these gifts lightly or misuse them or not use them at all. Yesterday’s Gospel was from Luke 15: 1-10. Today’s is from Luke 16: 1-8. That means that between yesterday’s and today’s Gospels, there are a lot of skipped verses, among them the very beautiful Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15: 11-32. This parable is a parable of forgiveness and love for us on the part of God. It also gives meaning to today’s Gospel on wasting or not using God’s gifts. Just because God is a forgiving Father, this doesn’t give us the license to misuse the gifts he has given us or not to use them at all knowing that he will forgive us anyway. When we do that we pay the price of our happiness and satisfaction.
There are few things that make us happier than using our gifts to benefit someone else. Let’s not deprive ourselves of this great joy by misusing what God has given us and bringing sadness and a feeling of failure into our lives.
Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 8, Luke 16: 9-15
This Gospel selected to be read today kind of sums up what the Gospel theme has been for this whole week: We are not to use the gifts and talents given to us by God for our own well-being and security, but for the good and security of others. In other words, let’s keep selfishness out of our lives. Our material possessions, gifts and talents are to be used mainly for others. Service to others is one of the major values of Jesus promoted in the Scriptures. We must remember that we are working here on earth for an eternal life of happiness and joy in the Kingdom of God. We prepare for this and share it even now by fulfilling as best we can that Great Commandment of loving God and our neighbor. Life is not all about us as the Gospels have been telling us all this past week.