Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Fourth Week in Ordinary Time 2011
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 30, Mt. 5: 1-12
The Gospel selected to be read on this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time is Matthew’s presentation of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Some say Matthew gives us eight Beatitudes, others say nine, making “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” the ninth. The word “Rejoice” here is in the second person plural and that is the reason for the separate numbering. The scene of Matthew’s Sermon is on the mountain. Luke also gives us Beatitudes in his Gospel, dividing them into four blessings and four “woes”, and they are given on the Plain. Together they sum up all that it takes to be a Christian. Today, let’s just focus on the First Beatitude in Matthew’s listing: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Years ago I heard a Hindu story that caught my attention. While a little on the strange side, I thought it cleverly makes a good point. I used to use it in a marriage homily but it also fits here with the first Beatitude. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time, there were two very close friends: one was a mud pie and the other was a dry leaf. You may think this is a strange combination for friendship, but so it happened. One day they decided to make pilgrimage together to a holy shrine that was some distance away. They realized that if they went, they would have to take certain precautions, have a plan for their protection from dangers, if you will. They decided that they had two main things to watch out for: the wind and the rain. If the wind blew, it would blow the dry leaf away. And if the rain fell, it would wash the mudpie away to nothing. So they came up with a plan: if the wind blew, the mudpie would sit on top of the dry leaf and keep it from blowing away; if the rain fell, the dry leaf would sit on top of the mudpie so the rain could not wash it away to nothing. Their plan worked fine — until one day the worst thing that could have happened, happened: the wind blew and the rain fell at the same time. The mudpie was washed away to nothing and the dry leaf blew away never to be seen again. End of story!
The moral: We can’t do it alone. There will be times in life when not even our best friend can help us. We will need God. This is what it means to be “poor in spirit” and you can also see how this applies to marriage. Let us remember always Jesus’ words in the parable of the Vine and the Branches: Without me, you can do nothing.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Jan. 31, Mark 5: 1-20
The Gospel message for today reminds us of the fact that we are all responsible for the spreading of the Good News of Jesus. Baptism calls us to this. We have spoken of this many times before.
The man Jesus healed in today’s Gospel went to his family “and announced to them all what the Lord in his pity had done for him.” We meet people like this, people God has helped in some miraculous way. We meet them every day if only we listen to their story. God truly cares for his people and assists them in so many wonderful ways.
What has God caused to happen to you that you need to share with others to show how much God loves us? Run and do it today! Don’t just think about it. Don’t keep the Good News to yourself!
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Feb. 1, Mark 5: 21-4
St. Mark plays literary games with us in this Gospel selected to be read today. He does this to get our attention. The Gospel begins with the telling of one miracle story, is interrupted with the telling of another miracle story, and then comes back to finish the first story.
My Commentary points out that these two stories are intertwined in meaning. Each one is meant to change some of our common attitudes toward death. Death is looked upon by many as an occasion of sadness and fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what happens after death. If we believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we will not feel sad or afraid at the mention of death. These feelings are OK because one who was loved is seemingly lost forever. But in view of the resurrection we see death as a time of celebration and joy. Some also see death as final and I often used to talk about the finality of death at funerals. But death is final only in regard to this temporal life we are leading. We too will rise again on the last day, as Jesus tells us often in the Scriptures. Death is temporary, as is shown in the Gospel today in Jesus calling the little girl back to life. He will also call us back to life in the life to come.
Jesus often wondered why our faith was so “little.”
I must admit I wonder the same thing about myself.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Feb. 2, The Presentation of the Lord and Candlemas Day
The Feast of the Presentation, also called Candlemas Day, commemorates the purification of Mary, Mother of God, which took place 40 days after the birth of Christ as required by Jewish Law. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every first born child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also sacrificed a pair of turtle doves to show they were poor. Once in the Temple, Jesus is prayed over by Simeon in the presence of Anna the Prophetess. We are all familiar with this story.
The name Candlemas Day comes from the blessing of candles associated with this feast. All the candles to be used in the Liturgies, etc., of the coming year will be blessed today. Blessed candles are sometimes distributed to the people to take into their homes. My Mom always reminded me to bring some blessed candles home on this day. She would burn them in our home during thunder and wind storms throughout the year.
In some cultures, Candlemas Day also predicted weather patterns. There is an old English song that goes:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.
All of this led to the folklore behind “Groundhog Day,” which falls on Candlemas Day.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Feb. 3, Mark 6: 7-1
In today’s Gospel we are reminded of our mission to preach repentance and conversion to the values of Jesus. The best way to do this is not to drag an orange crate out to stand on, place it on a busy street corner, and begin to shout the Gospel. You may laugh at our putting it this way, but that is not too far fetched from the way things were at one time.
I think it is a better idea to preach to those around us by our example, by not reacting with anger at the time of an affront, by not being greedy and selfish, by being the servant to those in need and compassionate to those who need understanding in a bad situation.
Have you had an opportunity to preach by your example lately?
Friday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Feb. 4, Mark 6: 14-29
Today’s Gospel is the story of John the Baptist’s death at the hands of Herod for standing up for what he knew was right. John was not about to enable Herod as being virtuous in his marriage to Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother, Philip. John stood up for the good against the evil and suffered terrible consequences for doing so.
John could have easily said, “It’s OK, Herod. Don’t worry about legalities here.” He could have enabled Herod and saved his own life. Is there any of this going on in our lives where we just let unethical behavior slide by without any confrontation? This is not the way to preach the Gospel by our good example we just spoke of yesterday.
Let’s check ourselves for any enabling we may be mixed up in in our relationships.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time
Feb. 5, Mark 6: 30-34
Have you asked yourself the question lately: Why is everyone in such a big hurry? Where is everyone going so fast? Man, I do. Sometimes I think I’m being passed by everyone in the world. In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus tells his disciples to stop running and working for a while, come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile. Put some silent, restful time in your day!
I sometimes watch the first half of the Oprah Winfrey Show on TV in the afternoon before I switch to Jeopardy at 4:30. The other day, Oprah asked her audience to press a button if they deliberately sought out quiet, silent time in their daily lives. I forget the exact percentage that pressed the button indicating they did, but I believe it was over 40%. I think the number surprised Oprah. She wasn’t expecting it to be so high. In my present situation of old age and not too good health, I have plenty of time for silence in my life. I guess this is one of the good things about being older and in poor health.
How about you? Do you enjoy silent time every day in your busy schedules?
Remember the old adage: Make haste slowly.