The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
20th Sunday after Pentecost
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—(1962 Missal) Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
E MIGHT PRESUME a few things from today’s Gospel episode or incident. First of all, I would imagine that this ruler (or “royal official,” depending on how it’s translated) was probably an employee of the Romans—and therefore was a pagan. He probably did not believe in the one true God like the Jews did. And yet he may have been a good man: a good ruler of the local community. Obviously, he had heard about Jesus and some of the miracles He had worked. And so when his own son was sick, he too went to Jesus with his request. You know the rest of the story.
Our requests: I think we can learn something from this pagan official. Did you notice he did not try to bribe or make any deals with Jesus? Now I don’t want to be overly critical in what I am going to say, but I sometimes think that even good people can approach God with something I call a “Let’s make a deal” approach. In essence, a person who says: “God, if you grant me this favor or request, then I will do this or that.” Or, perhaps: “If I do this so many times, then You will certainly do this or grant me such-and-such a favor.”
Good things: Now I know we have practices in our Catholic devotional life as the Nine First Fridays or the Five First Saturdays and novenas. And I’m not saying that these things are bad; but we must be careful not to get hung up on these things. I’ll use what some of you might consider a ridiculous example: how happy would you be if the day came when you would have to be in some assisted living facility, and some friend or close relative said to you, “I’ll be sure to come and visit you for five weeks” ??
Recent disasters, and so forth: Whenever I hear of disasters—be they natural like hurricanes or floods or fires, or be they man-caused, like the terrible shootings in Las Vegas—generally two thoughts enter my mind. “Why this did happen?” …and “Why did it not happen to us?” I have to admit that I can’t answer either question. I’m certainly not going to say that the people in Puerto Rico are not living as good of lives as we, and therefore they had to suffer more because of the recent hurricane. And I would not say: “we are spared such calamities because we are leading such better lives than other people, therefore God spares us such disasters.”
Will of God: Implicit in all our prayers is our willingness to accept and follow the will of God. Even though we might not be able to see it, ultimately that is what’s best for us. God might not grant health to a child who is seriously sick, knowing that if the child recovered and became an adult, it might lose its soul by a sinful way of life as an adult. Now it is impossible for us to know that.
Prayer: Prayer is primarily our contact and time that we are willing to spend with God. We don’t have to bargain with Him, though. We don’t really have to tell Him what we need; He already knows! But if we want to tell Him—so as to have something to talk with God about—well, that is fine. But we need not worry that God isn’t going to be aware of something that we might need, because we forgot to tell Him. We could spend lots of time every day telling God what is wrong with the world, the Church, the United States, the political systems, the priests, the sisters, and so on. And if God had a German accent, He would say: “Ya, ya, I know.”
The Offertory verse: The Offertory verse with its Gregorian melody is taken from Psalm 136 which was written when the Jews were in exile in Babylon in the five hundreds B.C. Their temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed and most (if not all) of the people had been taken into exile into Babylonia. Those were certainly bleak days for the Jewish people. I don’t know why this verse of this psalm is chosen for this particular Sunday, but I’m sure it must describe how some of the people at least in Puerto Rico (and maybe also in California because of the fires) may now feel. God sent a savior to the Jews in the person of a pagan king of Persia, named Cyrus. Maybe there is some savior for us, just around the corner. We just don’t know yet who he is. He might not even be Catholic! +