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Let Us Pray

This afternoon I got a voice mail from the local paper asking for my comment on the Pope’s statement that has angered Muslims. I’m so not going there. I liked what Cafeteria Catholic said to do. So let us pray…

Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to Your shepherd, the Pope, a spirit of courage and right judgement, a spirit of knowledge and love.

By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer from Catholic Culture

Homilies Liturgy The Church Year

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

One of the things I have always enjoyed is reading a good mystery novel. My mother was a big fan of mysteries, especially Agatha Christie, and she passed the love for that on to me as I was growing up. I still love to read mysteries today, and when I’m not reading them, I’m usually watching shows like Law & Order or CSI – I enjoy these because of the mysteries that unfold just watching them. I remember in high school, the theater club was staging Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and they checked the books out of the libraries around town so nobody would read ahead and find out who did it! I had already read the book, of course, but it was great fun to see it on stage. I think what I love about mysteries is the opportunity to keep guessing at the solution right up to the very end, and the process of learning new things about the characters all along the way. If you like mysteries too, then you know a really good mystery is one that isn’t solved all in the first six pages.

Today’s readings are a wonderful source of the mystery that still is part of our Church. In the first reading, the figure speaking is commonly referred to as “the Suffering Servant,” a figure that is later identified with Jesus. Whoever the figure is, he or she has incredible faith. One might expect that faith to be rewarded, but it’s not. Instead, his back is beaten, his beard is plucked, and his face is buffeted and spat upon. Yet, he continues to have faith, setting his face, knowing that he will not be put to shame. Maybe you have met a person who has gone through incredible trials like unemployment, family strife, or serious illness, and has remained faithful. If you know a person like that, don’t you just sense a little bit of Jesus working in that person?

In the second reading, St. James tells us that our faith must be living, or it is not faith at all. He has seen far too many people who will say nice things to people and claim to have faith, but refuse to help alleviate anyone’s real needs. “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well” are nice-sounding words, but are actually meaningless when spoken to people who have personal problems, no place to live and keep warm, and little if anything to eat. James’s faith is one that sees the great mystery of Christ’s presence in those who are in need. We have the same challenges today, of course. There are many who are needy among us, and we disciples are called to a living faith that reaches out to those in need. Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to work at a soup kitchen or a shelter, or go on a mission trip. If you’ve done that, maybe you have seen the face of Christ in those you’ve served.

The Gospel continues the theme of mystery by asking the question point-blank: “who do you say that I am?” The people of Jesus’ time, the disciples included, were constantly trying to figure him out. Peter seems to have figured out one of the clues: Jesus is the Messiah. But he totally misses the boat on what kind of Messiah Jesus is to be. When Jesus talks about the necessity of his suffering and death, Peter just can’t wrap his mind around it. Jesus’ response to Peter is that to really know who Jesus is, Peter needs to think like God, not like a human being. The strangeness of this mystery is so great that it applies not just to Jesus, but also to anyone who would want to follow him. Disciples like us must take up our cross: if we wish to save our lives, we must give them away. This is a very great mystery indeed.

We Catholics believe that the mystery all started with the Incarnation: with Jesus’ coming into the world. The mystery continued with his death, resurrection and ascension. We all know the situation well. Throughout history, our ancestors turned away from God time and time again. As a result, there was a great chasm of sin and death that separated us from God, and we had no hope. But then Jesus was born among us. He did not come with great fanfare and splendor, but as a poor little baby, born to an everyday couple. He grew up and walked among us; he lived our life and experienced all of our joys and sorrows, all of our happiness and pains. He eventually died our death, but that was not to be the end of the story. He rose from the dead and appeared to many believers. Finally, he ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us in his kingdom, where sadness, death, and pain are forever banished. We call all of this the “Paschal Mystery.”

But here’s what makes this even more mysterious. We don’t just believe that this happened at one time, two thousand years ago. We believe that it happened and is happening in all time: the Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus are happening throughout all time, for all of us. And every single celebration of the Eucharist does not just remember that great mystery that happened once upon a time, every single celebration of the Eucharist makes that great event present once again, right here among us. That’s why it is so important to gather every week for Mass, and not just when we have time to work it in. What could possibly be more important than celebrating the Eucharist, which makes the presence of Christ and his Paschal Mystery present in our lives?

The Church teaches that, when we gather for Mass, Christ is present in four ways. First, he is present in the gathered community. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that “wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, I am there among you.” We are the face of Christ for one another. We bring his presence to one another by greeting one another, by worshipping together, and by serving with and for one another. Second, Jesus is present in the Word proclaimed. Literally. The words we hear are not just words about Jesus, those words are Jesus. When the community gathers and retells the story of our salvation, Christ is present. Third, Jesus is present in the minister. The priest stands in persona Christi Capitas: that is, in the person of Christ the Head. The priest makes Christ present by administering the sacraments and proclaiming the Gospel. Also, whenever any of us takes on a ministry and serves others, that person makes Christ present to others in some way. Fourth, Jesus is present in the sacraments, but most especially in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ our Savior, body and blood, soul and divinity. When we come forward to receive the Bread of Life and Cup of Life, we receive our God who is life itself. The mystery of the Incarnation, of the presence of Christ, is experienced every time the community gathers, proclaims the word, ministers to one another, and receives the Eucharist.

This presence of Christ among us is a true mystery, but also a great gift. It is the presence of Christ in us and around us that enables us to embrace suffering. Children embrace suffering every time they refuse to join in making fun of another child, or when they reach out to another person who’s having a bad day, or when they share with those who don’t have the things they do. Teens embrace suffering when they choose not to take part in a gathering where there will be alcohol or drugs, even when their friends are all going. Adults embrace suffering when they give up a promotion in favor of spending more time with their family. Seniors embrace suffering when they sit at the bedside of a spouse or friend in the last days of their lives together. Our lives are filled with all kinds of suffering, and suffering is not good in and of itself. It is only when we choose to go through it with faith, a faith rooted in the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery of Christ, a faith that comes from Christ being in us and around us, it is only then that suffering is redemptive. Because it is only God who can give us the grace to make it through the suffering, and only God that can help us to find life in the death of our pain.

The psalmist sums it all up for us today. Yes, the suffering in our lives leads us to experience the cords of death that encompass us. We often fall into distress and sorrow. But when we embrace that suffering and call on the Lord, we will find ourselves freed of death and able to walk before the Lord in the land of the living. We who have embraced and remembered and celebrated the mystery of Christ’s presence in our lives, in our Church and in our world can approach suffering with great faith. There’s a contemporary Christian song that says “sometimes he calms the storm, and other times he calms his child.” God won’t always make our tears and pain go away. But he does promise that we will never go through them alone. We will probably never completely figure Christ out this side of the Kingdom. The disciples didn’t and we won’t either. But when we enter into the mystery, we can keep turning the pages and finding more and more clues. When we enter the mystery, we can look forward to the great unveiling of the solution when we enter our heavenly reward.

Homilies Liturgy Saints The Church Year

Saints Cornelius and Cyprian

Today's readings

I remember building sand castles as a kid. There was always a price to pay for laying the foundation of it too near the water. It might go well for a while, but one good wave, and all my hard work would be washed away. The same is true for our spiritual lives, as we are told in the Gospel. Perhaps for a while we are offering our prayers on the run, not really taking time to be with the Lord. That might work okay for a while, but all it takes is the wave of one good trial or crisis, and everything we think we've built up is gone. We find ourselves lost, scattered by the disarray of our spiritual lives. Building that firm foundation is extremely important, and it's something we can never fake.

St. Cornelius knew that well. He was elected pope after a 14 month vacancy in the office, because of all the infighting in the Church at the time. He had to mediate many crises, most especially the heresy of Novationism, which denied that anyone who sinned could be reconciled. Because of his stand, his detractors elected the first anti-pope, and had Cornelius exiled to Civitavecchia, where he died as a result of his exile. His friend, St. Cyprian, a bishop, was also involved in the Novation controversy. He too was exiled in the persecution of Valerian, and martyred on September 14, 258.

We honor Saints Cornelius and Cyprian today, two men who built their faith on solid foundation. With that foundation, they were able to withstand heresies, persecution, exile and martyrdom, and come at last to the heavenly kingdom. May we, like them, build our spiritual lives on firm foundation so that we may withstand whatever persecutions life may bring our way.

Homilies Liturgy Saints Seminary

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today’s Feast | Today’s Readings

ourladyofsorrowsIn the very early morning hours of September 15th last year, I got a page on my fire department pager. I looked at the page, which told me that they were responding to a vehicle accident, but they were asking for fire-medics and not a chaplain. So I deleted the page and went back to bed. At 7:00am, I went to the chapel for Mass, at which time I found out the details of that page I got earlier in the morning. Four seminarians had been returning from off campus, and were involved in an accident on our property, across the lake from the school. The rector announced that one of the students, Matty Molnar, had been killed in the accident, and that another, Jared Cheek, was critically injured. Jared died the following day.

You can imagine the shock to our relatively small community. The details of the incident unfolded in the days and weeks following the accident, but information alone did not make us feel any better. The significance of the accident happening on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was not lost on us, and the celebrant’s homily, a homily he prepared the day before the accident, could not have been more fitting if it had been planned that way. There were few, if any, dry eyes in the chapel that day, which is really striking when you consider it was a room full of mostly men who don’t often show that kind of emotion.

Today, we offer a mass of memorial for Matty and Jared. We might also remember the many loved ones from each of our families who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. Mary reaches out to us in our sorrow today, she who knew well the sorrows that life could bring. Just as Jesus reached out to her from the Cross, entrusting her to the care of his beloved disciple, so he reaches out to us in our own sorrows, entrusting us to the care of those among us who are his beloved disciples. Mary is our intercessor in the sorrows of this life, and our leader into the joys of the life to come.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

Homilies Liturgy The Church Year

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today’s feast | Today’s readings

Theologian Bob Barron tells about an interreligious dialogue between Catholics and Buddhists. At one point, one of the Buddhists said to him, “Why is that obscene image on every wall in your buildings?” He was, of course, referring to the Cross. The Buddhist explained that it would be considered a mockery in his religion to venerate the very thing that killed their leader. The truth is, of course, that it is obscene. It is strange, and Barron wrote a whole book about it called The Strangest Way .

sandamianocrossAnd we all must have thought about this at one time or another. Why is it that God could only accomplish the salvation of the world through the horrible, brutal, and lonely death of his Son? That question goes right to the root of our faith. We know that we had been alienated from God, separated by a vast chasm of sin and death. Jesus becomes incarnate, is born right into the midst of all that sin and death. He walks among us, and goes through all of the sorrows and pains of life and death right with along with us. If sin and death have been the obscenities that have kept us from God, then God was going to use those very things to bring us back. Jesus comes into our world and dies our death because God wants us to know that there is no place we can go, no experience we can have that is outside of God’s reach.

Today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also called the Triumph of the Cross, was celebrated very early in the Church’s history. In the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration.

About this great feast, St. Andrew of Crete wrote: “Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.”

Because of the Cross, all of our sadness has been overcome. Disease, pain, death, and sin – none of these have ultimate power over us. Just as Jesus suffered on that Cross, so we too may have to suffer in the trials that this life brings us. But Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us, a place where there will be no more sadness, death or pain, a place where we can live in the radiant light of God for all eternity. Because of the Cross, we have hope, a hope that can never be taken away.

The Cross is indeed a very strange way to save the world, but the triumph that came into the world through the One who suffered on the cross is immeasurable. As our Gospel reminds us today, all of this happened because God so loved the world.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Homiletic Technique Homilies Liturgy Saints Scripture

St. John Chrysostom

Today's Readings

John Chrysostom was a desert monk, living a harshly ascetical life, but a life that was fulfilling for him.  After twelve years of service as a priest in Syria, he was brought to Constantinople in an imperial ruse to make him bishop.  Even though the beginnings of his episcopal service were thus clouded in intrigue, his service as a bishop in one of the most important sees of the Eastern Church was incredible.  He quickly made efforts to clean up the Church, deposing bishops who had bribed their way into office, and refusing to become beholden to any political authorities.  His preaching was the hallmark of his service.  He was called "golden-mouthed" and his sermons were steeped in great knowledge of the Scriptures and spiritual insight.  Some of his sermons were over two hours!  (But, don't worry, I'll try to keep this one under an hour or so…)  He tended to be aloof, but energetic and outspoken, especially in the pulpit.  Soon he began to draw ire from the politically powerful, and was falsely accused of heresy.  The Empress Eudoxia finally had him exiled, and he died in exile in the year 407.

John Chrysostom was a great preacher of today's Gospel reading.  Against the politically powerful and those who bought their place in society, he preached "woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are filled now, woe to you who laugh."  Against religious leaders who were beholden to the politically powerful, he preached "woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way."  Far more significant, though, is that he lived the beatitudes, and lived as one who was truly blessed when "people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil."  He knew that the most important judge of his ministry did not sit on an earthly throne, but rather had Kingship in heaven.  And he knew that even death in exile was not too great a price to receive the heavenly reward.

Our task is to live those beatitudes well.  We are blessed when we are poor, because the riches of God are incomparable.  We are truly blessed when we hunger, because only God can really fill us.  We are blessed when we grieve, because God can comfort us and give us true peace.  We are blessed when people hate us, because God's love is beyond all price.  There is a price to pay for all this blessedness, of course.  We may, like John Chrysostom, suffer the ill thoughts of others.  We may not have everything we hunger for in this life.  But we must be confident that living the Beatitudes will lead us to the rejoicing and leaping for joy of which Jesus speaks today.

Homilies Justice and Peace Liturgy News Items

Anniversary of 9/11 Memorial Mass

Readings: James 4:1-10 | Psalm 23 | Matthew 5:2-24

911iconTragedy has a way of freezing time for us, of creating a kind of horrible snapshot that we’ll never forget, no matter how hard we try. Growing up, people always used to say that they’d always remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot. Since I was still in the womb, that’s not something I could identify with! But I’ll always remember where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. And, like all of you, I’ll never forget the day the twin towers crashed to the ground.

I was in my third week of seminary, and getting ready to start my day. The first class of the day was one I had taken back in my college days, so I got to start my day a little later. I went to my computer to read the news headlines and saw something like “Plane crashes into World Trade Center.” I tried to click on the link to read the story, but the internet was clogged and I couldn’t get to it. So I turned on the news and saw the whole horrible thing. I watched in horror and grief as the second tower crashed to the ground, and then I caught up with my classmates who were getting ready for the second class and told them what I’d seen. Needless to say, we didn’t have that second class either.

But the snapshot I’ll always remember was going home that weekend and attending a prayer service at my home parish. It was a Friday evening, and the church was packed, and I mean packed . We sat before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed for peace and strength and comfort. It was a whole church full of people seeking to make sense of it all. And my home parish was not alone, of course. Attendance at churches all over America was off the charts in those days following the nightmare.

But five years have gone by and things have changed. The nightmare isn’t so fresh in our minds any more. If we didn’t know anybody killed in the twin towers, we may have moved on, content to leave the clean up to the city of New York and the working out of the consequences to the government. If one of our children or relatives is not overseas fighting the war on terrorism, this whole event may not be on our radar screen from day to day. We’re sympathetic to those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, but unless we have to get on an airplane and travel somewhere, the issue is not all that real to us, I fear.

Yet, as today’s scriptures tell us, the issue is right there in front of us. Each of us is on the front lines of the war against terrorism, war and hate right in our own hearts. We don’t have to travel abroad to seek out the enemy, because the enemy of enemies confronts us every day. Saint James makes it perfectly clear that the war is inside us when he says:

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and you wage war.

The Church teaches us that the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is first of all violated when we hate and bear grudges. This teaching comes from what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel:

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa’
will be answerable to the Sandedrin,
and whoever says ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

Anger and name-calling are indeed slippery slopes that can send us crashing right down into murder and war, or at least inciting that in others. For the Christian disciple, taking up the cross means leaving behind our grudges, jealousies, and bitterness so that we can embrace every person God puts in our midst with the love he has for that person. No other attitude is acceptable in any way, and may indeed be sinful.

Purple is the color of reconciliation, and it’s for that reason that we have purple vestments today. What we need to hear from today’s scriptures is that we must put the events of 9/11 back on our radar screen. We need to do that by looking at what can be the darkest and scariest place of all, right into the depths of our own hearts. When we do this, we receive the promise that James writes about, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” God longs to help us root out the war that rages in our own hearts. He deeply desires that his people should experience the peace that only he can give. With great abandon, he wants to embrace us all and help us to come to healing, peace and grace.

Too much blood has been shed in the days around and since 9/11, brothers and sisters in Christ. Thousands died in the towers, including many rescue workers. Many have become sick and died since from the affects of cleaning up the mess that was left. Hundreds have died on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq since that day. We cannot dishonor their memories by letting the snapshot of 9/11 fade into distant memory. We owe them more than the selfishness of letting them and their comrades work to protect us.

What can we do? We have to start with us. We have to heed these words of Scripture calling us to repentance, because peace is built one heart at a time. We have to pray for peace in every place, because we are all interconnected, and strife in one area of the world affects us all in some way eventually. And we have to remember those who died and who have since given their lives, because they are part of our communion of faithful departed. Above all, if we have come to the altar today with something against one of our brothers or sisters, we need to leave our gift here, and go out and be reconciled to them. As Jesus tells us today, only then can we offer our gift. And only then can we receive the great gift of God’s peace and comfort and healing. If we could all do that in some way, we have to believe that the snapshot that would be created – one free of horror and death and pain – would be a snapshot that was truly worth remembering.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Homilies Liturgy The Church Year

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Ephatha!

Today’s readings

A shortened homily today because of a witness talk being given by our teens, on behalf of those preparing for Confirmation.

To those of us with good hearing and the ability to speak clearly, today’s Gospel seems like just a nice story. Jesus takes the deaf man who had a speech impediment, and touches him and cures him. The first word the man ever hears is the miraculous word, Ephatha, or “be opened.” This opens a whole new world to this man who had been shut out because he could not hear or speak. And even though Jesus urges everyone to be silent about the miracle, there is no way to stop the cured man from singing praise and telling the whole story.

But, as my teachers used to say when I was little, there are two kinds of deafness. There’s the kind we just heard about in the Gospel, and then there is the deafness of those who refuse to hear. If we’re honest, there’s probably a little of that kind of deafness in all of us. There are all sorts of things we refuse to hear, or just don’t want to hear about. We may refuse to hear the needs of those closest to us, preferring to remain in the deafness of our own selfishness. Or we may choose not to hear the voices of those who are poor, those who are victims of wars and all kinds of injustice, those who are unjustly deprived of their freedoms. In this case, we prefer to remain in the deafness of our own self-righteousness.

Just as there are two kinds of deafness, so there are also two kinds of muteness. Some may be like the man in the Gospel, who have difficulties with everyday speech. Or perhaps we live in our own kind of muteness: a muteness that will not speak to teach the faith our children, preferring to leave that to the professionals. Or maybe it’s a muteness that will not speak out on behalf of those suffering from all kinds of injustice, preferring to leave that to the government.

An honest look at ourselves can reveal all kinds of deafness and muteness in us. To all of that, may we hear the words of Christ speak clearly to us today: Ephatha – be opened! May the deafness of our selfishness and self-righteousness be turned into the joy of hearing everything with clarity. May the muteness of our fear be turned into the freedom to speak out so that all might know the Gospel. That Ephatha word of healing was intended for us every bit as much as the man in today’s Gospel reading. May we today hear that word and be healed by it.

Homilies Prayer Saints The Church Year

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings [Mass for the school children:]

In a town called Nazareth in Galilee, a long time ago, Mary lived with her parents, Joachim and Ann. Mary was only a young girl, maybe 14 years old. She came from a quiet little area of the world, and just looking at them, you’d have to say nothing about her family was very special. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, because that was when people got married in those days, but she wasn’t married yet.

She was busy doing her chores one day, when she was surprised by the appearance of an angel named Gabriel. She was frightened, but Gabriel reassured her and told her that the Lord was with her. He told her not to be afraid, because God wanted her to be the mother of his Son Jesus. Jesus would become great and would rule over the kingdom of Israel forever. Mary was confused how she could have a baby, because she was not married, but the angel reassured her that all things are possible with God. She was amazed, but she had faith, and said to the angel, “Let it happen as you have said.”

Mary sang a hymn proclaiming how great God was, and went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also going to have a baby, even though she was old. When she got there, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy, and Elizabeth said, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary helped Elizabeth for three months and returned home.

Joseph, the man Mary was engaged to, heard from the angel too. He came to be with her and took her into the city of David for the census, so that they could be counted. On the way, Mary gave birth to her baby, and had Jesus in a manger where the animals stayed. Many people came to visit Mary and Joseph and Jesus, and gave the baby gifts and said wonderful things about him, things Mary would never forget. She kept all of this very close to her in her heart.

Mary and Joseph raised Jesus and watched him become a strong, healthy, and smart young man. One time, when the family went to Jerusalem for a visit to the holy temple, Jesus got lost. They were on the way home when they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them or any of their friends or family. Returning to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, talking about their faith, with all of the rabbis and teachers. He was only twelve years old!

Eventually Joseph died, and Mary stayed near Jesus. She watched him start his ministry, the whole reason God had sent him to earth in the first place. He called his disciples and taught all the people. He cured the sick and fed many hungry people. He worked many miracles and always talked about how good God was, and how much God loved people, and how they should all turn back to God and turn away from the bad things they had been doing. Mary watched as he did all these wonderful things, and she saw how faithful he was to God’s work.

But Mary also began to see that Jesus wasn’t making everybody happy. She saw that when he cured people on the day of rest, the leaders of the temple became angry. She saw that when Jesus told them to take care of the poor and the hungry and the homeless instead of worrying about what day it was, the religious leaders wanted to kill him. Mary watched as eventually they did take hold of Jesus, carried him off for a trial before Pilate the governor, and nailed him to the cross.

At the foot of the cross, Mary stood sorrowful, knowing what a wonderful gift she and the whole world had been given in Jesus. But Jesus took care of Mary even then, and entrusted her to the care of his friend John. After Jesus died on the cross, Mary along with some of the other women in the group were the first ones to see that Jesus rose from the dead! Mary stayed with the other disciples and prayed with them that the whole world would come to know the message of Jesus. Her sorrow turned to joy as she watched the community grow and live the things Jesus had taught them.

Those disciples were the ones who passed the faith on to us. Because of the courage of the disciples and especially of Mary, we today can believe in Jesus and receive the gift of everlasting life from him. Because of the faith of Mary, we can live forever with God and never have to be afraid of death or be mastered by sin. All of this happened because Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.”

It is good for us to hear this story about Mary at the beginning of our new school year. As we listen to this story, we can see that faith changes everything. When we have faith that God will save us, we can grow as disciples in faith, hope and love.

We can grow in faith by coming to Mass ready to hear the Word of the Lord and ready to pray and, for those of you who are old enough, ready to receive the body of Jesus. We can grow in faith by praying every day and remembering the needs of everyone who has asked us to pray for them. We can grow in faith by remembering that even though there may be some scary things ahead of us in the new school year, God will take care of them and make this year a time of wonder.

We can grow in hope by refusing to be caught up in the things that can drag us down. We will grow in hope by doing our schoolwork well, by studying hard, by being good citizens, and by helping other students who need it. We will grow in hope when we refuse to join others who are picking on a person and stand up for them. All of this makes our school and our world a more hopeful place.

We can grow in love when we reach out to the poor and needy. Maybe as a class we will do some service project to show God’s love to the world. We can grow in love by taking the time to tell our families the wonderful things we have learned at the end of the day, and to thank them and God for the opportunity to attend such a wonderful school.

It’s very important that we all hear that just as God sent an angel to Mary, he sends angels to us all the time. Those angels tell us, too, that we should not be afraid because God loves us and cares for us and wants to do great things with us, just like he did with Mary. All he needs for us to do is to say, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.”

Discernment Homilies The Church Year

Thursday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Wisdom is a relative thing when it comes to our relationship with God. Just when we think we have God figured out, we realize that God is out of our grasp. Wisdom, when it comes to our relationship with God, is to realize that we will never understand. In fact, St. Augustine said, “If you think you understand, it’s not God.” So that is how we should understand St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” Those who think they are clever when it comes to God will never really know him at all.

Maybe that’s a glimpse of Peter’s whole relationship with Jesus. It begins here in the story we just heard from the Gospel. Jesus tells him to put out the nets. Peter knows they have been hard at it all night long and was probably thinking “yeah, right.” But he had just heard Jesus speaking, and maybe it was something in what he said that led Peter to take a chance and put out those nets … the same nets that had been filled with nothing but seaweed all night long. And then Jesus does something amazing. Something Jesus just loves to do. He takes a tiny little display of faith – in this case, Peter’s begrudging agreement to put out the nets – and rewards it a billion fold! The nets were filled to the breaking point. Peter did something that, as an accomplished fisherman, he would not have thought wise. And Jesus turned it around to become the best catch Peter ever had. At the end of the story, the fishermen leave everything, everything, and follow Jesus.

Jesus longs to do that with every one of us. Where is it that Jesus has been calling you to cast out your nets? What step of faith has the Spirit been tugging at your heart to take? It might be crazy. There’s no way you could possibly do it. But expect your tiny leap of faith to pay of a billion fold! Know that God longs to work an incredible miracle in your life so that you’ll leave everything, everything behind and follow him. All you have to do is be wise enough to do the thing you may think is the most foolish.