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Homilies Saints

Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate a feast of great importance to our Church.  Saint Peter, the apostle to the Jews, and St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, come together to show how the Church is truly universal, that is, truly catholic.  There are similarities between the two men.  Simon’s name is changed to Peter after he professes belief in the Lord Jesus, and Saul’s name is changed to Paul after he is converted.  Both men started out as failures as far as living the Christian life goes.  Peter denied his Lord by the fire and swore that he didn’t even know the man who was his friend.  Paul’s early life was taken up with persecuting Christians and participating in their murder.  And both men were given second chances, which they received with great enthusiasm, and lived a life of faith that has given birth to our Church.

In today’s Gospel, Peter and the others are asked “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  Both Peter and Paul were committed to the truth about who Christ was.  They had too much at stake.  Having both failed on this early on, they knew the danger of falling into the trap.  So for them Jesus could never be just a brother, friend or role model – that was inadequate.  And both of them proclaimed with all of their life straight through to their death that Jesus Christ is Lord.  We too on this day must repent of the mediocrity we sometimes settle for in our relationship with Christ.  He has to be Lord of our lives and we must proclaim him to be that Lord to our dying breath.

Both Peter and Paul kept the faith, as Paul says in today’s second reading.  If they hadn’t, it’s quite possible we would never have had the faith today – although that was certainly not God’s plan.  But because they kept the faith, we have it today, and we must be careful to keep the faith ourselves.  Too many competing voices in our world today would have us bracket faith in favor of reason, or tolerance, or success, or being nice, or whatever.  But we can never allow that, we can never break faith with Saints Peter and Paul, who preserved that faith at considerable personal cost.

Perhaps Saints Peter and Paul can inspire our own apostolic zeal.  In this time of pandemic, our apostolic zeal can be to heal the sick: by wearing a mask, and being careful in hygiene, and keeping social distance, so that we can stop the spread of the disease until a cure can be found.  In this time of social unrest, our apostolic zeal can be to embrace the marginalized: to reflect on any traces of racism in our own lives and root them out, and to stand with our brothers and sisters of color, not just in this moment, but from now on, so that they will never be marginalized again.  Our apostolic zeal is similar to that of Saints Peter and Paul: it comes about because Jesus is Lord, and that truth is forever important.

Then, as we bear witness to the fact that Jesus is Lord of our lives and of all the earth, we can bring a banal world to relevance.  Perhaps in our renewed apostolic zeal we can bring justice to the oppressed, right judgment to the wayward, love to the forgotten and the lonely, and faith to a world that has lost sight of anything worth believing in.  To paraphrase Cardinal Francis George, of blessed memory, the apostolic mission still has a Church, and it’s time for the Church to be released from its chains and burst forth to give witness in the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

The Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

There’s a little Christian Science church in the town where I grew up, on Main Street, just north of the downtown area.  They don’t anymore, but they used to list their upcoming sermon topic, followed by the line “All are welcome.”  Imagine my surprise when one day, the topic was going to be eternal punishment.  So the sign read: “Eternal Punishment.  All are welcome.”  Yeah, I had to drive around the block to make sure I read that right!

But that sign came to mind this week as I was reflecting on the readings for today.  There is a strong theme of welcoming, of hospitality, in today’s Liturgy of the Word.  But it’s not just a matter of saying to someone who’s new, “Hey, how are you?  Welcome here!”  The hospitality that we’re being called to in the readings today is a welcome of the Word of God.  And that sounds much easier than it actually is, so hang on to that, because we will come back to it.

In our first reading from the second book of Kings, Elisha the prophet is extended hospitality by the Shunemite woman.  Beginning by giving him food, eventually she builds a little room on the roof of her house so that Elisha could stay there whenever he was travelling through town.  We don’t know if she was a believer or not, but she recognizes that Elisha is a holy man and uses her influence and means to see that his prophetic ministry could flourish.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of those who would welcome the apostles as they went about their preaching mission.  “Whoever receives you receives me,” he tells them.  When someone accepts the messenger – and, importantly, the message that he or she brings – one receives the giver of the message.  This is the basis of our Catholic teaching that Christ is present in the word of God proclaimed in church.

The true prophet, of which Elisha was one, always brings the Word of God.  The Shunemite woman reacted to the Word of God by making it welcome, in the person of Elisha.  She is a model for us of the hospitality and welcome of the Word that we are asked to consider this day.  So we too have to feed the Word and make a home for the Word.  We can feed the Word by exposing ourselves to the Scriptures in prayer and reflection.  I had a professor in seminary who used to beg us to read the Bible every day – even just a few verses.  He would say, “Then, brothers, when you close your eyes in death, you will open them in heaven and recognize where you are!”  When we feed the Word, we are able to grow in our faith and the Word will bring life to our souls.

From feeding the Word, we then have to build a little room for it, on the roof of our spiritual houses.  It’s instructive that Elisha’s room was build on the roof, because then the Word of God was over everything in the Shunemite woman’s life.  The Word of God was the head of her house and the guiding principle of her family life.  When we build that room, figuratively in our own lives, it must take top precedence for us too.  Jesus makes that a commandment in today’s Gospel.

And so we feed the Word and give it a home in our lives, and then it becomes the guiding principle of our own lives, as it should be.  But here’s the thing about that, and maybe this is why so many people don’t want to do this.  Because there is a cost to welcoming the Word of God.  Remember that the prophets were not always as welcome as Elisha was in the Shunemite woman’s house.  The prophets were often berated, ridiculed, even imprisoned, beaten and murdered, because the Word of God isn’t always welcome.  Jesus says in the Gospel reading today, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”  We have to be clear about the fact that we fully expect that reward to be in heaven, because it’s tough to be a prophet in the world, in any age.

Because the Word of God calls us to live a certain way.  The Word of God wants us to be open to change, the Word of God actually usually demands that we change.  The Word of God wants us to be Christ to others, because Christ is the Word of God.  And so we must be forgiving of those who harm us, loving to those who test us, reaching out to those who need us (even when it’s inconvenient, or they’re not the people we want to be around), welcoming of those who are different than us.  Welcoming the Word of God means that we have to take up our cross and follow our Lord, meaning that there will be death involved and we might have to give up a whole lot.

In today’s world, the Word of God calls us to be Christ in the midst of a pandemic and a time of social unrest.  We have to be people who stand for what is right and not just wait for the whole racial thing to “blow over.”  We have to demand that our society gets this right once and for all, so that no one will ever be marginalized because of their race, not ever again.  And we have to be people who, in the midst of a pandemic that is demanding a lot of us, give as much as we are called to.  We have to wear our masks out in public because we could be protecting someone else.  We have to social distance when it’s hard to do that, because we have to stop the spread.

We may have to die to what we think is important, die to our own self-interests and desires, die to what makes us feel comfortable.  That’s what giving up one’s family meant in Jesus’ day: being cast out of the family was a form of death.  So not loving mother and father and son or daughter more than Christ meant dying to life in this world.  And dying to life in this world is exactly what welcoming the Word of God will cost us.  That’s the message of the Gospel today.

But giving up our lives will not be without its reward.  The Shunemite woman was rewarded with a child, even though her husband was advanced in years.  Jesus says the same.  Giving the Word of God even just a cup of water to nourish it and let it grow will be rewarded in ways we cannot even imagine.

So welcoming the Word of God will definitely cost us something, but it will also change everything.  Are you willing to embrace the cost and build a home in your life for the Word of God?

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Some people say all you need to do is make a one-time decision to accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you’re saved. If salvation were something magical that came about as the result of just saying a simple prayer, once and for all, then why wouldn’t everyone do that? The fact is, salvation is hard work. It was purchased at an incredible price by Jesus on the cross. And for us to make it relevant in our lives, we have work to do too. Not the kind of work that earns salvation, because salvation is not earned, but the kind of work that appropriates it into our lives.

People who are saved behave in a specific way. They are people who take the Gospel seriously and live it every day. They are people of integrity that stand up for what’s right in every situation, no matter what it personally costs. They are people of justice who will not tolerate the sexist or racist joke, let alone tolerate a lack of concern for the poor and the oppressed. They are people of deep prayer, whose lives are wrapped up in the Eucharist and the sacraments, people who confront their own sinfulness by examination of conscience and sacramental Penance.  They are people who sacrifice their own personal comfort for others, like wearing a mask when they go out in public so that others might remain well.  They are people who live lightly in this world, not getting caught up in its excess and distraction, knowing they are citizens of a heaven where such things have no permanence. Saved people live in a way that is often hard, but always joyful.

Not everyone who claims Jesus as a personal Savior, not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s what Jesus tells us today. We have to build our spiritual houses on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, living as he lived, following his commandments, and clinging to him in prayer and sacrament as if our very life depended on it. Because it does. It does.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

On March 4th, in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as the thirty-second President of the United States, for the first of four terms.  As he began his presidency, the country was in economic crisis, mired as it was in the Great Depression.  There were all kinds of concerns in the country at that time, with the economy going into some frighteningly uncharted waters.  In his Inaugural Address, he addressed those concerns head-on:

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  That one phrase – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – became the watch phrase of his presidency and has been quoted in many terrifying situations ever since.

Sixty years later, in 1993, for the occasion of his fifteenth anniversary of elevation to the Papacy, Pope Saint John Paul II did a series of interviews with Italian Radio that were collected into the wonderful little book Crossing the Threshold of Hope.  The first interview concerned his acceptance of the papacy in his own life.  His Holiness was asked if he ever hesitated in his acceptance of Jesus Christ and God’s will in his life.  He responded, in part:

“I state right from the outset: ‘Be not afraid!’ This is the same exhortation that resounded at the beginning of my ministry in the See of Saint Peter.  Christ addressed this invitation many times to those He met. The angel said to Mary: ‘Be not afraid!’  (cf. Lk 1:30). The same was said to Joseph: ‘Be not afraid!’ (cf. Mt 1:20). Christ said the same to the apostles, to Peter, in various circumstances, and especially after His Resurrection. He kept telling them: ‘Be not afraid!’ He sensed, in fact, that they were afraid. They were not sure if who they saw was the same Christ they had known. They were afraid when He was arrested; they were even more afraid after his Resurrection.

“The words Christ uttered are repeated by the Church. And with the Church, they are repeated by the Pope. I have done so since the first homily I gave in St. Peter’s Square: ‘Be not afraid!’ These are not words said into a void. They are profoundly rooted in the Gospel. They are simply the words of Christ Himself.”  And these words – the simple three-word phrase – became the watchwords of his papacy: “Be not afraid!”

Both of these courageous men echoed the words of the Gospel that had formed them.  Roosevelt had been formed in an Episcopal boarding school whose headmaster preached the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate.  He had lived through polio.  Saint John Paul as Karol Wojtyla had lived through and beyond the Communist control of his country, buoyed as he was by his Catholic faith.  Both of them heard the same words we have in today’s Gospel, words that inspired and encouraged them, and words that they lived by:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

So, brothers and sisters, of what or of whom are you afraid?  Is it enemies, or at least broken relationships, like the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading and the mysterious enemies in today’s Gospel reading?  Is it the stain of sin or the finality of death, as Saint Paul related to the Roman Church in today’s second reading? 

We’ve seen some scary things this year.  A pandemic has put life on hold and required us to take precautions not to get infected or to infect the ones we love.  That same pandemic has had a profound economic impact on our world and forced many people out of work.  Social unrest has followed new incidents of police brutality and violence against people of color, putting fuel on the fires of racial injustice that frankly should have been extinguished long ago in a country like ours.  These days are uncertain at best: we live in scary times.  But honestly, people have always lived in scary times.  

But, if we listen to FDR and JPII, we know that fear is useless.  It doesn’t add a second to our lives – actually, it probably robs us of important moments.  Fear contributes to poor health, and worst of all, fear decimates our spiritual lives.  We are always and forever in need of hearing those important words: do not be afraid.

So, okay, Father Pat, that sounds great, but how exactly do we get to the point of not being afraid?  How do we make that important journey from fear to faith?

Well, I think that, for inspiration, we can look at Jeremiah’s journey in our first reading.  Because Jeremiah wasn’t telling a hypothetical story; he was relating his own experience.  Prophets always and forever are speaking God’s word to people who often don’t want to hear it.  He had been accusing the religious establishment of turning away from trusting God and turning instead toward making alliances with worldly powers.  Not a popular message for the religious establishment and not a popular message for the worldly powers.  So the priest Pashur had Jeremiah arrested and scourged to keep him quiet.

But after his release, Jeremiah didn’t keep silence.  He continued to prophesy that if the nation continued in that way, they would come to doom and destruction and exile.  At that point, even Jeremiah’s friends were waiting for him to fall, and just prior to the reading we have today, Jeremiah famously poured out his lament before God by saying, “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.”  It’s almost as if he was saying, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”

However, right in the middle of today’s reading is an important pivot in his outlook: “BUT the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion…”  Jeremiah is not going to be like the people he’s prophesying against:  he will not turn from trusting the Lord.  In the second half of this reading, he makes a strong act of faith that the Lord will be his champion, which is ultimately true.

Lots of people in today’s society talk about changing your attitude to change your situation.  “Believe and you can achieve” and all that nonsense.  But they’re getting close to the right place.  We do have to change our attitude if we want to move from fear to faith.  But we can’t shift to relying on ourselves or any other worldly power, because if we do we are so likely to fail.  We have to shift our attitude to make Jeremiah’s act of faith, remembering that our Lord has defeated sin and death.  If he could do that, he can shepherd us through our fear.  The Lord is our mighty champion!

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s going to wave a magic wand and make all our troubles go away, or even answer our prayers according to our pleasure.  He will answer prayer in his way, in his time, but he will be with us through it all.  

Because we are worth more than many sparrows.  Do not be afraid!

Categories
Homilies Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today’s readings

I remember when I was growing up, often visiting my dear grandmother.  I remember when we visited that she had a beautiful framed picture in the living room, given a spot of honor where everyone could see it, and that picture was of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Whenever I think of the Sacred Heart, I remember grandma, whose name was Margaret Mary, named after the saint who promoted veneration of the Sacred Heart in the first place.

And so, today we celebrate, with incredible gratitude, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Through his most Sacred Heart, the love of God is made manifest among us.  This love is a pervasive love that burns in our hearts and changes our lives and leads us back to the God who made us for himself.  This love is irresistible if we give ourselves over to it.  It is a love that pursues us and a love that can go far beyond whatever distance we have fallen from grace.  It is a love that, as Moses tells us in the first reading, does not come to us because we are great, but because God has chosen us, and, as Saint John tells us in the second reading, must continue to be poured out by us onto the world around us.  We who have been loved into existence must love others as we have been loved.  The love of God pours forth from the heart of Christ just as the water and blood poured forth from his side as he hung dead on the cross.  Death could not stop the outpouring of grace that he came to bring.

We don’t trust God as much as we should; we don’t let God love us as much as we should. We want to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, take care of number one all by ourselves. Pope Francis says that God never gets tired of showing us mercy, it’s we who get tired of asking. And that’s so wrong. We weren’t made for that. We were made to be cared for and to be loved so that we can take care of others and love them in the name of Christ.

God’s love is awesome. It doesn’t just cover our sins, it wipes them out, obliterates them so that they aren’t who we are any more. In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we find a love that is so pure and so powerful that it cannot be overshadowed by any kind of darkness, nor be snuffed out even by the grave.

But we absolutely have to let him love us, or we will miss it every time.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Sadly, the prayer that our Lord gave us to avoid multiplying words and babbling like the pagans can so much become for us an occasion to do that very thing.  We can rattle off the Lord’s Prayer so quickly and second-naturedly that we totally miss what we’re saying and miss the real grace of the Lord’s Prayer.  We really ought to pay more attention to it, because it serves so well as the model for all of our prayer.

First, it teaches us to pray in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This week, in our Office of Readings, we priests and deacons and religious have been reading from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by St. Cyprian.  On Monday, that treatise told us: “Above all, he who preaches peace and unity did not want us to pray by ourselves in private or for ourselves alone.  We do not say ‘My Father, who art in heaven,’ nor ‘Give me this day my daily bread.’  It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation, or to be delivered from evil.  Rather we pray in public as a community, and not for one individual but for all.  For the people of God are all one.”

Second, it acknowledges that God knows best how to provide for our needs.  We might want all the time to tell him what we want, or how to take care of us, but deep down we know that the only way our lives can work is when we surrender to God and let God do what he needs to do in us.  And so the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The whole point of creation is that the whole world will be happiest and at peace only when everything is returned to the One who made it all in the first place.  Until we surrender our lives too, we can never be happy or at peace.

Third, this wonderful prayer acknowledges that the real need in all of us is forgiveness.  Yes, we are all sinners and depend on God alone for forgiveness, because we can never make up for the disobedience of our lives.  But we also must forgive others as well, or we can never really receive forgiveness in our lives.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” might just be the boldest prayer we can utter on any given day.  Because if we have been negligent in our forgiving, is that really how we want God to forgive us?  When we take the Lord’s Prayer seriously, we can really transform our little corner of the world by giving those around us the grace we have been freely given.

And so when we pray these beautiful words today at Mass, or later in our Rosaries or other prayers, maybe we can pause a bit.  Slow down and really pray those words.  Let them transform us by joining us together with our brothers and sisters, surrendering to God for what we truly need, and really receiving the forgiveness of God so that we can forgive others.

Categories
Body & Blood of Christ Eucharist Homilies Ordinary Time

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today’s readings

If you’ve ever travelled abroad, to a country where English is not the spoken language, maybe you’ve had this experience.  I travelled to Mexico when I was in seminary to learn Spanish.  The first day I was there, we went to Mass at the local Cathedral.  Even though at that point my Spanish was pretty sketchy, you know, kind of like it is now, still I recognized the Mass.  That’s because we celebrate it in the same way, with the same words – albeit in a different language – everywhere on earth.  In the Eucharist, we are one.  “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”  That’s what St. Paul tells the Corinthians today, and we are meant to hear it as well.  We are called to unity with one another as we gather around the Altar to partake of the one Body of Christ.

We may express our unity in many ways in the Mass.  We all sing the same songs (although these days, we leave the singing to the cantor!).  We all stand or sit together.  We might all join hands at the Lord’s Prayer.  And those are all okay things, but they are not what unites us.  They put us on a somewhat equal footing, but that can happen in all kinds of gatherings.  The one thing that unites us at this gathering, the experience we have here that we don’t have in any other situation, is the Eucharist.  The Eucharist unites us in the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, where all division must necessarily cease.  The Eucharist is the celebration of our unity par excellence.

Having said that, there are obvious ways in which we can notice that we are not, in fact, one.  The Eucharist, which is the celebration of our unity, can often remind us in a very stark and disheartening way, of the ways that we remain divided with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The most obvious of these ways is the way that we Catholics remain divided with our Protestant brothers and sisters, and in fact, they with each other as well.  The proliferation of Christian denominations is something we can soft-petal as “different strokes for different folks,” but is in fact a rather sad reminder that the Church that Jesus founded and intended to be one is in fact fragmented in ways that it seems can only be overcome by a miracle.  In our Creed we profess a Church that is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”  By “catholic” here, we may indeed mean “universal” but that does not, of course, mean that we are in fact one.

Another thing that divides all of us from one another is sin.  Mortal sin separates us not only from God, not only from those we have wronged, but also from the Church and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we have sinned greatly, we are not permitted in good conscience to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, because we cannot dare to pretend to be one with those from whom we have separated ourselves, through mortal sin.

I think this point is very notable at this point in our human history.  We have seen in these past weeks the sadness of the division that is caused by the sin of racism.  Blatant disregard for our brothers and sisters of other races is a sin against unity, and therefore a sin against Christ in the Eucharist.  Jesus prayed on the last day of his life on earth that we would all be one, and yet, throughout history, and even to this very day, we continue to find occasions to separate ourselves from one another, to proliferate division through racist thoughts and actions.  We who receive the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity, need to be the catalysts for that very unity, to root out every vestige of racism in our own hearts, and stand with our brothers and sisters of color.  We can’t just stand by and say, well, I’m not racist so I don’t have to deal with that.  We have to be the ones who say it’s not okay, and seek reconciliation with every single person.  If we don’t, we’re mocking the Eucharist, and I think we all know that’s not okay.

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” Jesus says to us today.  When we remain in him, we also remain united to one another through Christ.  This is what God wants for his Church, so today we must recommit ourselves to unity, real unity.  So if you have not been to Confession in a while, make it a priority to do that in the next week or so that you can be one with us at the Table of the Lord.  And at Communion today, we must all make it our prayer that the many things that divide us might soon melt away so that we can all become one in the real way the Jesus meant for us.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

On this feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we pray that every person may one day come to share in the flesh of our Savior, given for the life of the world, and we pray that his great desire might come to pass: that we may be one.

Categories
Homilies Saints

Saint Barnabas, Apostle

Today’s readings

Saint Barnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, was not one of the original Twelve apostles, but is honored as an apostle because of his work of evangelization in the early Church.  He was closely associated with Saint Paul, with whom, as we heard in our first reading today, he was sent out on mission.  In this mission, Saint Barnabas served as a kind of mediator between Paul, formerly known as Saul, a persecutor of Christians, and the still understandably suspicious Jewish Christians.

When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold.  He and Paul taught in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.

We see in today’s first reading that Saints Paul and Barnabas had become accepted in the community as charismatic leaders who led many to convert to Christianity.  The Holy Spirit set them apart for Apostolic work and blessed their efforts with great success.

Above all, these men hungered and thirsted for righteousness, a righteousness not based on the law or any merely human precept, but instead on a right relationship with God.  Just as they led many people then to that kind of relationship with God through their words and actions, so their witness calls us to follow that same kind of right relationship today.

As we celebrate the Eucharist today, we might follow their call to righteousness by examining our lives and our own lived discipleship.  How willing are we to extend ourselves and reach out to others and not be bound by mere human precepts?  In other words, how willing are we to give of ourselves no matter how other people might interpret that?  How willing are we to do the unpopular thing and stand up for others?  In light of the sad events of the last couple of weeks, are we willing to take a stand against racism and demand that it come to an end?  How do we live our call as believers?  Blessed are we who live in right relationship with God and others.  Blessed are we who follow the example of St. Barnabas and blessed are we who benefit from his intercession.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Monday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Sometimes God’s blessings can be challenging.  For example, we might not think that those who are meek and those who mourn are blessed.  And we certainly wouldn’t celebrate the blessings of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, would we?  It’s even more challenging when we remember that the word “blessed” in Scripture could also be translated as “happy.”  Would we think of those people as happy?  Probably not, but God does.

Elijah the Tishbite might have picked different blessings also, I am sure.  He gets to be the bearer of tidings that there will be drought and resulting famine until he says otherwise.  He then is taken care of by the Lord only by drinking from a little stream, and eating food brought to him by birds as he fled for his life.  His work was important, and he was taken care of, but was it in the way he might like?  Probably not.

We have the same issue as we live out our Christian discipleship.  We very often have to be bearers of an unpopular message, and trust in God’s providence to deliver us.  We might speak up against abortion or, certainly, importantly in these days, against racism in every single one of its forms.  Not everyone will agree with us and there is a price to be paid for that, in terms of our popularity or even comfort level in our discussions with others.  But we disciples don’t get to pick the message we preach.  As we witness with our lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to preach the whole of it, or else our preaching is diminished.

So it’s important for us to remember, I think, that while God never promises to make our lives free and easy, he does promise to bless us.  He will bless us with whatever gifts we need to do the work he has called us to do, the work for which he formed us in our mother’s womb.  We may be reasonably happy in this life, but the true happiness must come later.  Our reward, which Jesus promises will be great, will surely be in heaven.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Truth is quite a topic these days. Mostly because people choose to define truth in any way that suits them.  Absolute truth is taken to be authoritarianism and it’s the real death of any kind of conversation that would lead to conversion. It’s the kind of thing that has some people valuing property over people, or pets over the unborn – so many things that if we really examined them, they don’t even make sense.  When we allow ourselves to accept moral relativism, then anything goes.  Yet it is absolute truth that is at the center of today’s Liturgy of the Word.

Saint Paul exhorts his friend Timothy to be scrupulously careful to teach and defend the truth – “without deviation,” as he says at the end of today’s first reading.  And we have to be that scrupulous in teaching truth, because the Truth is Christ.  If we persevere in the Truth, we shall reign with Christ, but if we deny him he will deny us.  Being denied by Christ our mediator and Savior is tantamount to eternal death.  That’s what comes from deviating from the Truth.  It’s not a good way to go, ever.

Jesus brings the Truth to life in the Gospel reading by presenting us with the basis of all Christian life: love of God and love of neighbor.  This is the Truth, it is the basis of the Gospel, it is the summation of all the law and the prophets, which is what the scribe was seeking of Jesus.  This is the Truth that we need in our world today.  This truth would have us defeat racism and indifference by loving our brothers and sisters and ultimately loving God.  This truth will change the world if we let it and if we proclaim it and live it.  If we accept this truth, we too will not be far from the Kingdom of God.