Reflections for the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
Sunday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 11, 2012 1 Kings 17:10-16, Mark 12: 38-44
“As the Lord, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die”
“For they have contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
The two quotes cited above are taken from the First Reading for today’s Liturgy and from the Gospel chosen to be read on this Sunday. Each reading, as is evident from the quotes, is about the spiritual principle of surrender to God. We have spoken of this principle often, but it is of such importance to our spiritual lives that it is good to be reminded of it often.
In the First Reading from the Book of Kings 17: 10-16, Elijah the prophet went to Zaraphath where he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her for a drink of water. As she was going to get it, he called after her, “Please bring along a bit of bread.” She responded with the words given above in the opening quote. Elijah then told her not to be afraid, but to do as he asked, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said and both she and her son were able to eat for a year; the flour and the oil did not go empty or run dry. The widow woman surrendered all she had to the Lord’s purpose and the Lord rewarded her trust by caring for her and her son.
The woman in the Gospel, also a widow, contributed to the temple treasury “all she had, her whole livelihood.” She gave to God the last of what she possessed for her future security. She literally gave herself to God. She too surrendered.
In both instances, these widows placed all their trust in God. They trusted that he would take care of them if they turned their lives over to him. This is surrender pure and simple. And, of course, we are to follow their example. I first became really aware of this principle when I became acquainted with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the first thing I discovered is that it is very difficult to do this surrender thing when you are used to being in control. And the only way to do it is to do it and prove to yourself that it works. I did this when I finally surrendered my mentally handicapped brother to the Lord and then sat back and witnessed the miraculous things God did to take care of him. I couldn’t believe it; but then I knew that this surrender idea is for real!
If we let go and let God, God will be there for us. It is the letting go, the getting out of the way, the letting go of trying to control our own affairs, that is difficult. How do I know God will do it? But it does work! Our Liturgy for this Sunday reminds us to keep trying if we haven’t already succeeded in letting go and letting God.
Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2012 Luke 17:1-6
“And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
In the Gospel chosen for today’s Liturgy the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, and that could well be our own prayer for every minute of the day. Faith is believing in something we cannot understand. Faith seeks understanding. Faith has nothing to do with the five senses. I am believing something I cannot smell, feel, hear, see or taste. Faith is a giant leap into space with nothing to hang on to but God. We all need to increase our faith. And we wonder just how we go about doing this. I believe we begin by realizing our need and dependence on God. He tells us in the parable of the vine and the branches: Without me you can do nothing. And this includes believing. We must first of all be open to and desire God’s grace and help.
For me, this involves the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps of Spirituality. Once again, this 3rd Step reads: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. Faith and surrender go hand in hand. It is difficult to say I have faith in God if I am still in charge of things. When I surrender, I am putting God in control of my life, turning things entirely over to him.
The word “decision” comes from the Latin “decidere” and it means to cut out or cut away whatever is preventing me from doing what I want to do. To make a decision to believe is to do away with the obstacles that are preventing my believing. When we tell someone else to“cut it out” when they are bugging us, we are telling them to get rid of the nonsense and choose another way to act. Some of these obstacles to belief, for example, might be: choosing my way of doing things over God’s way, bad attitudes, pride, envy and so on.
Faith is also another one of those action words. Faith demands deeds or good works. In theLetter of James 2: 26 we read that faith without works is dead, nothing. So getting into trustful action is also a way of increasing our faith.
Lord, we pray, please increase our faith.
Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2012 Luke 17: 7-10
The Gospel chosen to be read for our Liturgy on this day really is dealing with the relationship between masters and their slaves. Slaves should not expect praise and rewards from the master for doing something they are obligated to do under their circumstances. We also see here the squelching of any idea that we can gain salvation all by ourselves strictly on human merit with no help from God’s grace. The Gospel informs us that we are unprofitable servants and, that being the case, we are dependent on divine intervention and grace for our salvation. Our salvation comes from God and not from anything we have done.
This Gospel, therefore, is against our carrying pride to the extreme that we are God. There are some people who think the sun rises and sets because of them. Sorry about that, Charlie Brown, it ain’t so.
Wednesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 14, 2012 Luke 17: 11-19
Our Gospel for today is about the 10 lepers who met Jesus as he was traveling through Samaria and Galilee. They asked Jesus to have pity on them and he healed them as they were on their way to show themselves to the priests. Only one of them subsequently returned to thank Jesus for curing him. The chances are pretty good that you will hear this Gospel again on Thanksgiving Day. The Gospel choice for the Thanksgiving Day Liturgy is optional and more often than not this Gospel from St. Luke is chosen.
Recovering alcoholics are reminded often that they are not the primary cause of the gift of sobriety they now possess. It is a gift of God who alone is responsible for the change, as the 12 Steps inform us. The recovering alcoholic is encouraged to develop an attitude of gratitude for the gift he has received. All of us are “lepers” in the sense that we need God’s healing power in our lives. Let’s not forget to thank him when we are indeed healed.
Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 15, 2012 Luke 17: 20-25
St. Luke in his Gospel now begins to speak to us of the coming of the Kingdom and the Son of Man. Many have waited for the second coming of Jesus, but up until now it hasn’t happened. Just when it will happen is known to God alone.
In the meantime, Christians are to do their best to do the will of God, and we find that will of God particularly in the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel. We are to love God and our neighbor, take particular care of the poor and needy and forgive whose who hurt us in any way. We are to serve one another with our particular gifts and talents and love and pray even for our enemies. Resentments should be far removed from the disciples of Jesus. We should more or less forget about the future and focus on being the best we can be one day at a time.
In short, the will of God for us lies in the values Jesus taught us. It is good for us to honestly reflect from time to time on how well we are accomplishing this in our lives.
Friday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 16, 2012 Luke 17: 26-37
Our Gospel chosen to be read today continues on about the Kingdom of God and asks this question: When will God’s Kingdom reach its completion?
The Kingdom of God within us is something that progresses as we go along. I believe we can compare this progress of the Kingdom to our own growth. We have all been growing (sometimes in the wrong places) since the day we were born. We started out as little children eating Wheaties every morning so we would grow tall and strong like Jack Armstrong. And through the years we have grown, we have matured physically, mentally and spiritually. But through it all we have not yet reached full growth and maturity. This will happen, most probably, when we finally see our Lord Jesus face to face. In the meantime, we continue to grow and make progress in the virtues that show that the Kingdom of God is definitely within us.
Do I honestly see myself making progress towards mature adulthood in the Kingdom? In which areas of my life is this taking place right now?
Saturday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2012 Luke 18: 1-8
This parable of the persistent widow appears only in the Gospel of St. Luke. Its purpose is to show us the necessity and efficacy of constant prayer. Constant prayer is calling on the Lord day and night. It is like carrying on a constant conversation with God. We need not wait until our night prayers to thank him for our day and its many blessings. We can be talking to him and thanking him as the blessings happen – or the trials or sufferings or the grief and the sorrow occur.
We thank God for whatever comes and we talk it over with him. We tell God how we feel; we ask his help often during the day. Things always seem to work out better when we ask the Lord to be present and help us. Praying constantly is not praying to an extreme. We do all the things we need to do during the day, but we keep Jesus aware of what we are doing and focus on his being present to us all during our day.
Lord, what would I do, where would I be, without you?