Reflections for the 34th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 34th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
The Solemnity of Our Lord Christ the King
November 20, Matthew 25: 31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.”
Today’s Gospel selection for this Solemnity of Christ the King begins with Jesus, the Son of Man, coming in his glory, seated on a majestic throne with all the peoples of creation before him. Sounds very regal and kingly. And then, in the same Gospel, he identifies himself with the least of humanity. Jesus identifies himself as hungry, thirsty, as a stranger, naked, as one in prison. And he tells his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.” Jesus, the glorious King who comes to judge the nations and is surrounded by his legions of angels, counts himself among the very least of the world.
I have mentioned before in these homilies the unique image of God in the mind of St. Francis of Assisi. Our image of God, Jesus, is important to us, for our image of God becomes our mirror in which we look to know ourselves and in which we are eventually healed and affirmed. Francis maintained that our God is a humble God. This almost sounds like a complete contradiction and it certainly turns the common image of God up-side-down. Francis would have none of the image that has God sitting on a golden throne in splendor and majesty. He pictured his humble Lord as one born in a stable and placed in a manger for a crib because there was no room for the King of Kings in the local inn. Francis further pictured Jesus as a wandering preacher with no money, no home, and quite literally, no where to lay his head to rest and sleep. He added to this Jesus hanging on the cross on Calvary, crowned with a crown of thorns, hanging between two criminals, two thieves, and dying burdened with the sins of all humankind. It was this image of God that he wrote about in his Letter to the Entire Order when he wrote the following lines:
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The God of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
So humbles himself
That for our salvation
He hides himself
Under an ordinary piece of bread!
Brothers and Sisters, look at the humility of God,
And pour out your hearts before Him!
That you may be exalted by Him.
This was Francis’ God – the same God revealed to us in today’s Gospel. We are further told in the Scriptures (Philippians 2:3) that, “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Our greatness as disciples of Jesus lies in our ability to identify with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, those in prison. Thus we see the truth of one of the great paradoxes of Scripture: Those who humble themselves shall be exalted. May it be so with us.
Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 21, Luke 21: 1-4
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today’s Gospel story is that of the poor widow who went into the Temple and put two small coins into the treasury. The two coins were all she had and despite the wealthy putting large amounts in the treasure, Jesus commented concerning the widow, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered he whole livelihood.” She literally gave herself.
Many people interpret this story as encouraging us to give from our necessity and not from that which is superfluous. But there is another interpretation given by some of the Scripture Scholars: Earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus was angry with the revenues that came from the Temple worship and they see that anger continuing here. Jesus is angry at seeing the poor widow thinking that God would have her become destitute so others could become rich. This would be like robbing the poor and giving the money to the rich.
Do we in any way take advantage of minorities for our own benefit or profit? Do we complain when the poor do not contribute to the Parish coffers and speak ill of them for that? Worse yet, do we then neglect them spiritually when they are seeming to neglect the parish financially or materially? Indeed, this would cause Jesus to be angry.
Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 22, Luke 21: 5-11
Feast of St. Cecilia
St. Cecilia was a martyr of the very early Church. Her remains are now located in the Church of St. Cecilia in the Transtevere (across the Tiber River) section of Rome. What we know about her is mostly legend and is available on the web. She is honored as the patron saint of musicians. There is a beautiful statue of her martyred body in, I believe, the catacomb of St. Callistus in Rome.
I was born on the feast of St. Cecilia, Nov. 22, 1930. I am so grateful to God for his long gift of life. The feast of St. Cecilia is special in my life also for another reason. I was ordained a Priest in Rome, Italy, on July 14, 1957. My Mom and Dad came to Rome for the ordination of their son to the priesthood and it was one of the most memorable occasions of my entire life. I had not seen them for three years and the reunion was just great, as you might expect. It was customary for those ordained in Rome to choose a favorite church or shrine at which to say their first few Masses after ordination. I said my third Mass on the altar above the statue of the martyred St. Cecilia in the catacombs. The floor of the catacombs consisted of damp dirt, not quite damp enough to be called mud, but close enough. My dear Dad wanted to serve that Mass. He was an impeccable dresser and I can still see him kneeling, in that damp earth of the catacombs, in his finest trousers and getting them full of dirt. All to serve the Mass offered by his son. That was and will always be a special moment in my life.
St. Cecilia, pray for us.
Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 23, Luke 21: 12-19
In our Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus urges the crowd (and this includes us) to persevere in our faith even when things get a bit out of control from the way we would have them be. Jesus tells us that it is through our perseverance in these times that we will be saved.
This is a good Gospel to reflect on in the wake of the financial crisis which has hit our country. I have met people who have turned their backs on the Lord because of these circumstances. Instead of running away from the Lord, they should be running toward him and asking for his help. Here is our friend surrender again. Jesus assures us that if we do this, if we persevere. If we hang in there with him, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” This is often the situation with any crisis that comes into our lives, not only the one dealing with finances.
If we get pulled into any of this, let us pray that we remember which way to run.
Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 24, THANKSGIVING DAY
Today we pause for a time to give thanks to God for all his blessings over the past years. How good God is to all of us! As a Gospel reading for today, I would suggest Luke 19: 11-28, a Gospel we read in the Liturgy not too long ago. This is the parable of a nobleman (Jesus) who went off to a distant country (planet earth) to obtain a kingship for himself. Before he left on his journey, he called 10 servants to come to him and gave them all 10 gold coins to take and invest while he was gone. When he returned, he called them to himself again to see how they all fared with their investments. Two reported they had doubled the value of the 10 coins. One, however, reported that he had taken the 10 gold coins and hid them so nothing would happen to them. He had made no investment — nothing. He didn’t fare too well when the nobleman found this out.
We have spoken previously of the study of numbers used in the Bible and their particular meaning. I remember saying one could spend a long time in this study. The number 10 used several times in the cited parable is one of the so-called perfect numbers signifying the perfection of the divine order. Ten also has a sense of wholeness in the Scriptures. For example, there were ten virgins in another parable waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. The number 10 here denotes the whole of Israel. Our parable has 10 servants each being given 10 gold coins. The number 10 here denotes all God’s people being given these gifts of the divine order. Each of us has indeed been given many gifts and talents by our Creator to use for our fellow human beings.
We are to know them, use them, not hide them. They are given to us for the benefit of the whole world. These are tremendous gifts of God’s grace to all. Do we know what they are? Are we really using them? Have we hidden some of them away? And most importantly, have we thanked God daily for these gifts?
It would seem to me a good practice as you all sit down for the Thanksgiving feast for all the members of the family to tell some of their particular gifts and talents to the other members of the family and to thank God publicly for them. Perhaps you can suggest this to your family. It can be a great moment for affirmation of each other and remind us all how important these gifts are. Don’t let Jesus end up wondering why we didn’t thank him on this Thanksgiving Day.
Friday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 25, Luke 21: 29-33
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is near; in the same way when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”
Winter really hasn’t gotten a good start yet here in Minnesota and already you hear some people looking forward to spring and the budding of the trees and then the return of summer and warm weather. We are all able to see this transformation and predict that summer is near.
What are these things happening mentioned in today’s Gospel by which we will know that the Kingdom of God is near? These things are of the same order as the things John’s disciples heard from Jesus when John sent them to see if Jesus was the one who was to come. He told them to go and tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Marvelous signs!
The same answer is true today regarding these things. When we see people loving other people and sharing their gifts and talents for one another, when we see people forgiving each other in times of hurt, when we see selfishness disappear, when it is all about us and not all about me, when we are able to take the time to pray and show our need for God, when we profess Him to be our way, truth and life, when spiritual grace means more than material goods, when we share the plenty of the earth with all and there is no greed, when we show respect and understanding toward all people, when hatred and prejudices cease to exist — then the Kingdom of God will be in our midst.
Let us pray, as we prepare to enter the Advent season and welcome the new-born King, that we are able to do what we can do to bring all this to be.
Saturday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Nov. 26, Luke 21: 34-36
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are immanent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
This is a beautiful Gospel with which to close another Liturgical Year. I don’t know if the words of Jesus are meant to be advice or suggestions. Word has it that you never give advice to other people. They don’t really want it and won’t listen to it anyway. It is better to suggestthey do this or that. That way they just might at least listen to what you have to say. Whether they will do it is another matter. So, just to be on the safe side, let us say that Jesus is suggesting to us that as we close this year and begin another we try to do these three things:
First, we are to be vigilant. Watch what we do, think before we act, make good ethical choices for the good of others.
Second, pray. Let’s take the time for daily prayer to our Lord and Savior. If we are going to truly be his disciples, we must be a people of prayer.
Thirdly, let us be able to stand before the Son of Man. As we stand before him, let us tell him how proud and happy we are to serve him and our neighbor, how proud we are of our Church and parish, how proud to be able to see the goodness in others, and how proud we are of ourselves for being good people and followers of Jesus.
Jesus, please continue to help us now and aways.