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5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

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Fr.Paul Weinberger

Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 199
Location: Greenville, Texas

PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:07 pm    Post subject: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009 Reply with quote

Homily by:
Father Paul Weinberger
Saint William the Confessor Catholic Church
Greenville, Texas
February 8, 2009

Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed. Simon and those who were with Him pursued Him and on finding Him said, “Everyone is looking for You.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit


At one time or another probably everyone here has come upon some movie late at night, a movie that is probably a classic because some of the movies today just aren’t worth even viewing. But you come across a classic and start to watch it and the time gets away from you and before you know it, it is very late or very early, but you are glad you stuck with it; you are glad you stayed up past your regular bed time to watch this certain movie even though you know you are going to pay for it later on.

When I was in high school my folks bought a mobile home down at Cedar Creek Lake and that is where we went on the weekends in place of a vacation. Every Saturday morning before the sun came up I would leave the mobile home and go down to the pier and begin fishing. An hour or two later my brother or my sisters would follow along. They would complain that the fish weren’t biting although they were, but my siblings just got there too late. By the way, I have already gotten all that fishing stuff out of my system. I don’t do that anymore but I did plenty of it as a teen and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like to eat the fish but I liked fishing.

The other days of the week when I had to go to school I didn’t like getting up early to go and it seemed rather unfair, but the first free day after the school week was finished, I could voluntarily get up and go to the lake to fish without anyone forcing me along. We are capable of staying up late or getting up early when it suits us. I think that is obvious and has been an experience of everyone here; when it is something we want we can do it.
Today we have the example of Christ rising very early, before dawn. He left and went off to a deserted place where he prayed.

If you look at the back page of your bulletin you see that there are directives on abstinence and fasting. At the top of the page is a very short version and down under is the longer version of abstinence. It states that,

ABSTINENCE is a specific sacrifice, which we make in NOT eating meat.

Yes, it is indeed a sacrifice for most of us to refrain from eating meat. This is a voluntary sacrifice, which we make in order to imitate Christ in a very small way.

Abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent are a way of imitating Christ.

I am holding up the book that the Holy Father released almost a year ago, “Jesus of Nazareth.” If you haven’t purchased this book, go online and get it. You can see that it is not a big phone book nor is it a pamphlet; it is a very excellent book. The second chapter deals with the temptations of Jesus in the desert. Turning to page twenty-nine, the Pope mentions this.

Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards He was hungry. Matthew 4, verse2

So, the Holy Father is bringing up the fact that Jesus fasted and abstained during those forty days and forty nights. He voluntarily went into the desert. February 25th will begin the desert of Lent. This is a time in which we should imitate Christ. Jesus tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter six, that you and I should be ready on day one to jump into prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor. Prayer is the first.

It is interesting that prayer is so difficult. In fact, most people find prayer difficult and leave it alone. I know that being a priest almost twenty years now, it is almost a universal truth. If I have a shovel in one hand and in the other a Rosary, and I approach most people on any given day and tell them to choose, most people will say, “Well, how big do you want the ditch.” Right? They are not talking about the Rosary. It is your choice, …shovel…Rosary? I mean... we could probably dig the Panama Canal many times over. We have canals all over the place from people avoiding prayer in that extreme.

On page twenty-eight of the Holy Father’s book, this could be the answer.

At the heart of all temptation is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive God as secondary if not actually superfluous and annoying in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives.

So that is really a temptation. In fact, that is the temptation of not praying and if we are honest that is what we are doing, we are pushing God aside, perceiving Him as secondary, annoying and superfluous. It is very insulting to God for someone to say that they have too much to do and have no time to pray.

We are about to start the 40 Days of Lent, and what we have to do is imitate Christ. If you do something other than imitate Christ it is at best a gimmick and at worst it is leading you away from Jesus. Here we have Jesus rising very early before dawn, leaving to go off into a deserted place where He prayed. Simon and the others pursued Him and when they found Him they told Him that everyone was looking for Him. No, they weren’t. When it says in the passage, “Simon and those who were with him”, that probably means Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. That is not everyone. What about all those people who were cured the night before when Jesus stayed up late? How about Simon’s mother-in-law? Was she there? No, it sounds like Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were the only ones. “Everyone is looking for You except they are not really looking for You; they are going to sneak up on You around midday sometime and then they are going to find You.” Right?

Isn’t it interesting about these four Apostles? Do you remember that they were the four closest friends of Jesus? After the Last Supper they went with Jesus up to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would pray. He beckoned them to come and pray with Him. He said those words that every priest should say just before he begins his homily. “Stay awake and pray that you may not be put to the test; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” You will also recall that the four apostles were not digging any ditches but they were sawing logs. Right? Jesus woke them up once and then He woke them up twice and the third time He told them to get in the car, they were going. Right? He’d had enough of that. These were His closest friends and look how they mistreated him. That is because they weren’t…well…like us…right? We would never abandon Jesus in such a way.

Everyone thinks that prayer is something the saints came to naturally like a fish to water. St. Teresa of Avila, who is also known as St. Teresa of Jesus and is a Doctor of the Church, in her autobiography tells us about her life. She and St. John of the Cross, an unlikely duo, were used to reform the Carmelite Order in Spain, in the 1500s, but also to help kick a reform into the Church as well. St Teresa of Avila writes about her time in the convent in Avila before she took a right turn.

Teresa of Jesus had been in that convent for about twenty years and she liked the convent and the sisters; she enjoyed being there. The sisters could go down to the parlor and visit with guests and could even leave the convent and go out in pairs into the city to visit relatives or friends of the convent. At the time the convent was also like a nursing home. If Aunt Mary became widowed and all her kids were grown, she could go into the convent and the family would give money to support her. It was kind of like a nursing home and a convent rolled into one. Even though St. Teresa liked all the nuns around her, it just wasn’t enough to keep her going. She’d given up her whole life for that?

One night Teresa stayed up and prayed very late into the night. She started doing this because she knew that something was missing. There was a statue in front of her of Jesus after He was scourged and His body was covered in wounds and blood. What she was doing with her prayer was keeping Jesus company. It was probably on a Thursday night, right? Everyone else was asleep as she was praying and late in the night or early in the morning the Holy Spirit touched her heart the way He had never touched her heart before and in a way she had never allowed Him to touch her heart before. Later she wrote,

“I no longer desire conversation with people, but rather conversation with angels.”

From that point, having been in the convent twenty years already, she took a very different turn.

On the surface you and I would think that all the priests, bishops, and nuns would be so happy to have St. Teresa reform the convents and the monasteries. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, about ten or fifteen years ago the Carmelites put out an anniversary movie about the life of Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. They made sure that it followed her autobiography perfectly. It is available on DVD and is in Spanish but there are excellent subtitles. It shows how early on that Teresa had been given the order by one of the bishops or religious superiors in Spain to go to a certain place and reform a convent of nuns. She started traveling in that direction, carrying with her a statue of St. Joseph and she and the nuns with her arrived at the place, where in front of this convent was a group of Carmelite Nuns. They were not happy. When they found out the nun was St. Teresa they started yelling and screaming; it looked like a catfight. In essence they were telling her to go away and reform some other convent and that they were fine just the way they were.

The priest, who was accompanying Teresa, talked to the priest who offered Mass for this convent in need of reform and the priest sent St. Teresa around the back to the entrance that he used to enter for Mass. By the time the nuns there had figured out what happened St. Teresa was already inside the convent. Inside it looked even worse than the catfight outside. It took her a long time to reform that convent because those sisters were in much opposition to reform. All their goodies in their religious life would be taken away and they were going to have to be faced with prayer on a daily basis.

I would say that it is something along the lines of what you see in the Gospel today. You know, when they brought to Jesus all who were ill or possessed by demons. He drove out many demons. Just because someone is a priest, bishop or a nun, doesn’t mean the other team can’t afflict him or her also, the other team being demons. You can’t attribute the behavior of those nuns at that convent as coming from God. No, in fact it comes from the other team.

People surround you and me, who are in need, people who beg us to pray for them. Maybe we say with an off the cuff remark, “I’ll pray for you.” You really shouldn’t say that unless you mean it. There are so many in need of prayer. Look at the Holy Father, who has such a great burden weighing down upon him; we should pray for the Pope as well as President Obama and all the national leaders. How about those leaders of other nations, who have their finger really close to the button, like the leaders in Iran? Our world is so close to destroying itself yet, we are not moved to prayer.

We have to imitate Christ and pray for the conversion of sinners. When St. Bernadette was 14 years old…she is the one on the cover of the bulletin, Our Lady appeared to her at Lourdes on February 11th. The first thing Bernadette and Our Lady did together was to pray the Rosary. I guess St. Bernadette had left her shovel at home. The beautiful Lady asked that they pray for the conversion of sinners. That was in 1858.

In 1917 when Our Lady appeared to the three children in Fatima she asked that they, as well as we, pray for the conversion of sinners. What do you think Jesus was doing when He rose very early before dawn and left going off to a deserted place when He prayed? He was praying for the conversion of sinners. In that second reading, St. Paul says that he preaches free of charge so that he might win over at least some. Our imitation of Christ has to be to pray and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.

I remember around the year 2000 Pope John Paul II, who was nearing the end of his life traveled to Cuba to preach to Castro. I remembered him getting off the plane and I know exactly where he wanted to be; he wanted to be back in Rome in a comfortable chair or probably in bed. In his lifetime people had tried running over him, shooting him and stabbing him in the back. That was just inside the Vatican. After a long life he ends up in Cuba and I remember Castro’s speech after the Pope arrived. He said these words, “Blah, blah, blah!” I don’t know how I can remember them; he just went on and on and that is what every communist always says no matter what language they speak in. So there sits the Pope, who’d seen communism roll over his dear beloved Poland and Eastern Europe.

As Castro went on, there was the Pope suffering many ailments along with Parkinson’s disease and when they took a close-up of him it caught him just as he drooling all over himself. He knew he was drooling but he couldn’t control it. Some may ask why he would do that and embarrass all Catholics, but he was praying and sacrificing for the conversion of sinners; that one on that island has yet to convert.

There is so much that needs our attention and we can’t stay up late or get up early; we are bound and determined to prove that we can’t pray and yet, praying is to imitate Christ. Those few words that are said throughout the Mass, “Let us pray” are the hardest words aren’t they? Most people would rather do manual labor than to pray and yet this Lent is set before us for a change. You and I have to change out attitudes to prayer. We cannot push God aside or claim that He is annoying and that we have other business that is more important than praying. To pray is to imitate Christ and anything else is a gimmick.

Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed. Simon and those who were with Him pursued Him and on finding Him said, “Everyone is looking for You.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

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