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Homilies Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The injunction for wives to be submissive to their husbands, given in our first reading, certainly offends our modern ears.  That’s just not the kind of thing we say in this society, at least not in these days.  Yet this was the norm in the society in which Saint Paul ministered.  So that command would hardly have raised an eyebrow.  What would have been shocking in Saint Paul’s time was the reciprocal injunction to husbands to love their wives as they loved their own bodies.  Indeed, Saint Paul’s point was not to rile either husbands or wives, but more to promote the living of harmonious family relationships.

So how would it look now?  Today, I think Saint Paul would insist that husbands and wives would live as equal partners, showing mutual respect, and living the love of Christ in their relationship.  Saint Paul would certainly say that men and women should work together to foster families in which God’s love could be shown and made manifest in the world through them.  

The real point of this reading, we must remember, is that the love of husband and wife echoes the love between Christ and the Church.  He says this in the second-to-last line of the reading: “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”  The marriage of man and woman is intended to be an icon, a reflection, a window where all can see the marriage of God to the Church and to the world.  It’s a challenge and a decision that married couples must make every day, as well as those of us wed to the Church through Holy Orders.

May we all love one another as Christ loves his bride, the Church.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Mike was one of my favorite people in the world.  He owned the service station where my family had, and still has, our cars repaired and maintained ever since we first moved out to the suburbs, almost forty years ago now.  Dad used to joke that with all the cars we brought in there over the years, we probably had ownership in at least the driveway by now.  Mike was the kind of guy who, if you brought your car in for a tune-up, would call you and say, “your car doesn’t really need a tune-up yet, so I’ll just change the oil and a couple of the spark plugs and you’ll be fine.”  He was honest and did great work, and it seemed like everyone knew him.  He taught that to a kid who came to work for him when he was just sixteen.  When Mike retired five years or so ago, Ted took over for him and runs the business just the way Mike taught him.

Mike was a regular at the 7am Mass on Sunday, and after his retirement was a pretty regular daily Mass-goer.  The church would sometimes ask him to help a person in need with car repairs.  This he did gladly; he was always ready to serve.  A couple of years ago, when Mike died, I took Mom to his wake.  It took us an hour and a half to get in to see him and his family, and it was like that all night long.  His funeral packed the parish church, and eight of us priests concelebrated the Mass.  Mike left his mark on our community in incredible ways, and nobody ever forgot it.  Mike truly understood the kind of love that Jesus calls us to have in today’s Gospel.

Today’s gospel reading speaks to us about what may be the hallmark of Christian life: love of God and love of neighbor.  This two-pronged approach to loving is what life is all about for us, it is, in fact, the way we are all called to live the Gospel.  The scholar of the law is testing Jesus to see if he can come up with a way to discredit him.  But Jesus’ answer is one that the scholar can’t take issue with.  He boils all of the law and the prophets down to just two basic commandments: love the Lord your God with everything that you are, and then also love your neighbor as yourself.  There were over six hundred major and minor precepts in the Jewish law, and the scholars argued about them all the time.  But they can’t really take issue with what Jesus said.  In fact, the first of the laws that Jesus quoted, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind and soul…” was once that so many students of the law had memorized from the time they were little children.  In fact, many Jews did and do post that particular quote of the law on their doorposts and reverence those words when they enter the home, so this was not new ground for them.  What was new was putting the love of neighbor parallel to that law.  And when you think about it, this is so common-sense.  If we love God and neighbor, there won’t be any room for sin or crime or anything like that.  It’s so simple.  And yet so hard to do.

But it shouldn’t be that way: it shouldn’t have been hard for the Pharisees and it shouldn’t be hard for us either.  The Pharisees made up the strongest part of the religious establishment of the time.  They were so concerned about getting the law right, that they often missed the whole point of the law in the first place.  Jesus was always taking them to task for that.  The law came from none other than God himself, and he gave it for the good of the people, but the Pharisees used it to keep people under their thumb, which was what they were trying to do to Jesus here.

And, to be clear, God is all about justice.  So if that’s how he wanted it, the law would indeed be very rigid.  But as we see from the small sample of the law we have in our first reading, God wanted justice to be tempered with mercy.  Sure, go ahead and take your neighbor’s cloak as collateral on a loan.  But you better give it back to him before sundown, because that’s all he has to keep him warm in the night.  Justice in the eyes of God, is completely useless without the application of compassion.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to those of us who have learned, as early as we can remember, that God is love.  God is love itself, and God cannot not love.  That’s what God does and who God is: he loves us into existence, loves us in repentance, loves us with mercy, and loves us to eternity.  God is love in the purest of all senses: that love which wills the good of the other as other.

So when Jesus boils the whole Judaic law down to two commandments, it’s not like he’s made it easy.  As I said; it is simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy.  It means giving the person who just cut you off in traffic a break, because you don’t know what’s really going on in their life.  It means showing kindness to your family after a long day, even when they’re testing your patience.  It means finding ways to be charitable and help those less fortunate.  And it means cutting yourself some slack when you mess up, even when you’ve just committed the sin you’ve been trying to stamp out of your life forever.  You have to love yourself if you are going to do what Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s one that people miss all the time.

The whole law and the prophets depends on love.  The way we live our lives needs to show that we depend on love too.

So let’s pray with that right now.  Closing your eyes for a moment, take some quiet time to think about someone who has wronged you in some way.  Or, if it’s closer to your heart, think about a sin or cycle of sin that you’ve been struggling with. (…)  Take a moment now to place that person, or yourself, in Jesus’ presence.  Give him the offense the person has committed against you, or give him the sin you’ve been struggling with personally. (…)  Give him the feelings you have around this right now. (…)  Let Jesus tell you how much he loves you right now.  (…)  Tell Jesus about the love you have for him. (…)  Ask for his help to love the other person, or yourself, in the same way that he loves you. (…)

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us.  Thank you for giving us the example of your love on the cross.  Thank you for laying down your own life out of love for us.  Thank you for never not loving me, no matter where I have gone or what I have done.  Help me to love as you love.  Help me to love you, love others, and love myself in the same way that you love me.  I love you, Lord, my strength.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

People often don’t really get who Jesus was and what he came to do.  So many people think it’s the “kumbaya” kind of love and harmony.  They would assert that Jesus was all about being peaceful and accepting.  But saying that is really misunderstanding Jesus and who he was and what he came to accomplish. Because peace wasn’t necessarily his primary interest, at least not peace in the way that we would probably define it.

Because sometimes I think we misread what peace is supposed to be. We might sell peace short and settle for the absence of conflict. Or even worse, we may settle for peace at any price, swallowing our disagreements and never coming close to true healing in our relationships. There are families in which never a harsh word would be said, but the underlying hostility is palpable. There are workplaces in which there are never any arguments, but there is also never any cooperative work done. Sometimes there are relationships where fear replaces love and respect.

And this is not the kind of peace that Jesus would bring us today. Frankly, this isn’t the kind of peace he even came to bring us: that kind of peace isn’t worthy of dying on a cross, is it?  No, our Jesus is the One who came to set the earth on fire, and his methods for bringing us to peace might well cause division in the here and now. But there is never any resurrection if we don’t have the cross. Just so, there will never be any peace if we don’t confront what’s really happening. The fire may need to be red hot and blazing if there is ever to be any regrowth.

And so today we have to stop settling for a peace that really isn’t so peaceful. We may just have to have that hard conversation we’ve been trying to avoid. Of course, we do it with love for our brothers and sisters, but out of love we also don’t avoid it. We have to work for true healing in all of our relationships. May all of our divisions lead to real peace!

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Homilies Saints

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, & Companions, Martyrs

Ministry in a culture that is hostile to the faith seems to be a theme of every age and place.  It takes different forms in different places and times, but there is always some hostility to the faith that needs to be fought.  We certainly see this in our own day, when the mere mention of the Catholic faith can bring out accusations that we are hateful and intolerant, despite our offering the grace of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  The culture was different in the seventeenth century, but the hatred of the faith was still there.

Saint Isaac Jogues and Saint John de Brébeuf were among eight missionaries who worked among the Huron and Iroquois Indians in the New World in those days. They were devoted to their work and were accomplishing many conversions. The conversions, though, were not welcomed by the indigenous tribes, and eventually Saint Isaac was captured and imprisoned by the Iroquois for months. He was moved from village to village and was tortured and beaten all along the way. Eventually he was able to escape and return to France. But amazingly, zeal for his mission compelled him to return, and to resume his work among the tribes when a peace treaty was signed in 1646. His belief that the peace treaty would be observed turned out to be false hope, and he was captured by a Mohawk war party and beheaded.

Saint John worked among the Iroquois and ministered to them amid a smallpox epidemic. As a scholastic Jesuit, he was able to compose a catechism and write a dictionary in the Huron language, which made possible many conversions. He was eventually captured, tortured and killed by the Iroquois.

Saint Isaac, Saint John, and their companions inspire us to take up the mission: to make Christ known, relying on the treasure of grace he brings us and promises us, and accepting that this world’s glory is not worth our aspirations. This will not be easy, of course, in a culture that largely rejects the promises of heaven in its pursuit of instant gratification. But perhaps the witness of these French Jesuits would help us to bravely witness to the Truth with the same zeal for the mission that they had. Our mission may not be to a culture so different to us as the Indian cultures were to these men, but that mission is none the less vital to the salvation of the world.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Homecoming Mass for Benedictine University

Today’s readings

Well, I would like to welcome all of you home to Benedictine University for Homecoming 2020.  Except, of course, that we aren’t at our “home”: we are celebrating this Mass at my parish, Saint Mary Immaculate in Plainfield, Illinois, a little over twenty miles south and west of the Lisle campus of Benedictine.  And, most of you aren’t even here; hopefully some of you are watching the livestream.  So this is a very weird homecoming indeed!

My name is Father Pat Mulcahy, and I myself am an alum of Benedictine.  I was part of the class of 1986, when the institution was called Illinois Benedictine College.  My major was Religious Studies, with a minor in Philosophy.  Probably my most notable accomplishment for Benedictine was that I was erroneously reported as deceased in an edition of Benedictine Voices, back in 2007.  The actual deceased Pat Mulcahy was my father; reports of my death were, as Mark Twain famously quipped, greatly exaggerated.

I’ve maintained a connection to Benedictine University and the Benedictines over the years, which has been a great blessing to me.  Saint Procopius Abbey was the place where I had my canonical retreat before my ordination to the priesthood in 2006, and I’ve spent a few days there now and again for times of reflection and rest.  I keep in contact with many of the monks.  I’ve been privileged as well to celebrate Mass for the sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery occasionally over the years, which helped me to remember my time in college working in campus ministry and being blessed to meet many of the sisters there.

In my time at IBC, now BU, I would say that in addition to all of the academic work, there was definitely formation which encouraged us to become good citizens of the world, but also people who had a relationship with God and expressed that relationship in terms of service and worship.  I think that’s the whole idea behind today’s readings.

When a couple comes to me to prepare for their upcoming marriage, one of the things I have them do is to write me letters, individually, asking to be married. I ask them to reflect on their relationship and to say something about their faith. Over the years I’ve received a lot of letters and some are very deep, some are very emotional, some are kind of surface-level. I usually find something in every letter to quote in my wedding homily. A while ago, I celebrated the wedding of a couple that was very faith-filled. They had been raised by strong Catholic families, had gone to Catholic schools, and faith was and continued to be a big part of their lives. One of the most quotable lines in their letters came from the groom. He said, “Many people want to think of God only in times of trouble or sadness; (my fiancé) and I want to think of God all the time.”

I think he got at what our Liturgy of the Word is teaching us today. In the Gospel, the Pharisees are at it again: they want to trap Jesus in speech so that they’ll be able to bring him to justice. And so they decide to ask him if it’s lawful to pay the census tax or not. It was a no-win argument: if he said it was not lawful, then he’s a revolutionary and should be put to death; if he said it was lawful, then he’s an idolater – putting the government over God – and should be put to death. But, as usual, Jesus answers their question with a question. “Whose image is this (on the coin) and whose inscription?” Since it was Caesar’s, his instruction is to give Caesar his due, but then, to give God what he is due.

This then becomes a reflection on the first commandment of the Decalogue: “I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.” This is echoed by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading: “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.”

There’s a reason that this is the first commandment: it is foundational to all the others. If we get the first commandment right, the others should follow pretty easily. If we know and live that God is in charge, that God is God and we are not, then we will easily live the other nine commandments dealing with love of God and love of neighbor. The trouble is, even though it’s easy to say, it’s difficult to do.

Modern life does everything it can to distract us. It’s hard to get to Mass because the kids have sports or dance or studies or whatever. And as wonderful as those things are, they don’t lead the children to God, so they can’t take precedence over Mass. It’s hard to take time for prayer because we are busy – we have studies and work, and we have family commitments and we have things we want to do in the community. And as great as all that is, it doesn’t lead us to God, so they can’t take precedence over our prayer. It’s hard to be of service because we’re busy people, and that’s a shame because service – stemming from a love of neighbor – leads us to love of God, and we’ve said no to it again. Just like those Pharisees, we have too often allowed ourselves to be distracted from what’s really important, we’ve said no to a relationship with our God, and we have put him out of our lives and our families’ lives time and time again.

Giving to God what belongs to God is foundational. Failure to do that leads to all other kinds of sin. Today, we have in our Scriptures an examination of conscience. Have we been zealous to give to God what belongs to God? Have we taken time for prayer? Have we been of service to our brothers and sisters in need? Have we made teaching the faith to our children our primary priority? Have we been vigilant to prevent anything from getting in the way of celebrating Mass as a family? If we have fallen short in any of those ways, this is the time to reverse the course and get it right. Caesar gets what’s his one way or the other. We have to be the ones who are on fire to give to God what belongs to God.

The whole point of our life on this earth is to travel through it and become perfected so that we can go to heaven. A huge first step in that is putting God first, giving to God what belongs to God. And he wants all of us: our hearts, our souls, our lives. As Saint Benedict wrote in his Rule, “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10)…  Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”  Is there something that we have been preferring to Christ?  What are we called to turn from so that we can turn to him?  What step do we need to make to give to God what belongs to God this week?

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Saint Teresa of Avila (Saint Teresa of Jesus), Virgin, Mystic, Doctor of the Church

Today’s readings: Romans 8:22-27 | Psalm 19:8-11 | John 15:1-8

Today we have the joyful memorial of Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus (but not to be confused with Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Liseaux, whose memorial was earlier this month!).  Saint Teresa was a virgin, mystic, nun, reformer of the Carmelite order, and, with Saint John of the  Cross, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites. When she was a girl, her father sent her for a time to live in an Augustinian convent, until she became ill about a year or so later.  During her illness, she began to contemplate the prospect of living a religious life, and eventually decided to join a convent of Carmelite nuns, which her father strongly opposed.  After she turned twenty-one, she did join, and her father gave up opposition to it.  She was known to be a woman of prudence, charity and personal charm, and so many people came to be devoted to her charism.

Teresa struggled, though, with personal prayer until her early forties.  Persevering in prayer, she found that she more and more enjoyed being in the presence of the Lord, and really began to grow in friendship with him.  This is the message of today’s Gospel: “Remain in me,” Jesus says to us.  The way that we do that is by persevering in prayer, whether it is difficult or easy.  The saints all tell us that staying with prayer, even in the hard times, is the key to a fulfilling spiritual life.  Sometimes it may feel dry or unfruitful, but the Spirit continues to work in us as we continue to pray.  It’s okay if we struggle with prayer, as long as we keep up the struggle.  When we give up and forget about prayer, that’s when things go wrong.  Saint Teresa’s struggle with prayer led her to a deep, mystical friendship with God.

Saint Paul tells the Romans the same thing today: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  So today we trust that, just like for Saint Teresa, the prayer of our hearts would find expression in whatever way God wants for us, and that we might always remain in Christ.  And for those struggling in their prayer lives, may Saint Teresa intercede for us and lead us to deep relationship with our Lord.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”

I love that there were short verses for the psalm today, and we got to repeat this refrain from the Psalmist over and over.  If you think about it, and if you really enter into it, it becomes a kind of mantra, a way to center ourselves and open ourselves up to the Lord in this Eucharistic celebration.

“Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”

Because we are all in need of the Lord’s mercy, aren’t we?  Whether it is sinfulness, addiction, illness or infirmity, anxiety, worry about a family member, uncertainty about a job or the economy as a whole, frustration over politics, frustration over the pandemic, frustration over racism and civil unrest, frustration that this year nothing is normal.  We all have to realize that so much of the time we are in desperate need of the Lord’s love and mercy.  Certainly this year has had to underscore that for us.

“Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”

And we come to the point that we know that the only thing that can help us is the Lord’s mercy.  We may have tried so many times on our own to cure ourselves or make the pain go away or focus on the positive or not cause waves, we know that of ourselves, ultimately, we are unable to fix the things that really vex us.  Sin takes hold, circumstances beyond our control confound us, powerlessness causes frustration.  And then, all of a sudden, we remember the God we were trying to hide from, the God we didn’t want to bother with our little troubles.  But in the face of our own powerlessness, we must turn to the God whose power can overcome all.

“Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”

And so that powerlessness eventually, inevitably intersects with the loving power of our merciful God, who desires so much more for us than we would settle for.  And then we really do let God’s mercy come to us.  Because it was always there in the first place; never withheld.  We had just to let it come to us, had to be open to it, had to be in the place where we could receive it and come to the point where we could acknowledge our need for it and our gratitude for receiving it.  And when we at last arrive there, and that mercy comes to us, how overwhelmed with joy we can be, how transformed, how loved we can feel, how cared for.  God’s mercy is always there, we have just to let it come to us.

“Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.”

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

If this isn’t a difficult Gospel passage to understand, I don’t think there is one!  What are we to make of such a convoluted story?  Surely we are not supposed to think that the king is God, are we?  I mean, why would Scripture portray God in such a terrible manner?  Do we want to believe in a God who would seemingly-arbitrarily destroy a whole city because people wouldn’t come to a banquet, and then throw someone out of the banquet who did come, because he wasn’t appropriately dressed?  These are good questions, and when we have so many urgent, nagging questions, we know that the Gospel is trying to teach us something.  So let’s get at it.

First of all, it’s important to know that this parable isn’t intended to be taken literally, of course.  We don’t want to draw a direct analogy here.  Don’t read it as saying, “If you don’t behave, God is going to put you to an ugly death, burn your city, and leave you to the place where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Obviously, Jesus is using hyperbole here – he likes to employ literary devices to get our attention, and that’s exactly what it happening.  So even though we shouldn’t draw a direct analogy, we should sit up and take notice – that’s the whole point.

Let’s imagine the story happening in our day.  Suppose you were to receive an invitation from the President of the United States to attend the wedding of one of his children.  Regardless of how you may feel about the President, you’re probably somewhat unlikely to turn down the invitation.  You might have respect for the office, or a curiosity of how opulent an affair this would be, and you’re unlikely to get a better dinner offer.  Well that’s how the people in the story should have reacted to the invitation from the king, but they didn’t.  Instead they found all sorts of lame excuses, and some of them even went so far as to murder the messengers!

Jesus is speaking rather directly to the Jews, and especially to their leaders.  He is saying that they were the first to be invited.  But they had all sorts of excuses for not showing up to the banquet.  They couldn’t be bothered to turn away from the distractions of their lives to accept the invitation that was theirs by right.  Not only that, but along the way, some of them went so far as to murder the prophets who were the messengers of the invitation, so that they wouldn’t have to bear their reproach.  There could be no bigger affront to our King than to turn away so completely.  Therefore, Jesus says, the invitation goes out to all the world.

So what is this all about for us, then?  Well, here’s the message.  The marriage that is intended is the marriage of God to the world.  He longs for us to become one flesh with him, so that we can inherit the eternity of grace for which we were created.  And the banquet is, of course, the Eucharist, which celebrates that marriage and nourishes us to live the Gospel and carry the Cross and make our way to heaven, our true home.  That is the feast of rich food and choice wines that we hear of in today’s first reading. That invitation has been put out to all of us, wandering along wherever we might be on our life’s journey, and we have been told that the feast is ready for all of us, bad and good alike.  It means that no matter how far we have wandered, if we accept the invitation, we can join the banquet.

But at that glorious banquet, only certain attire is suitable.  That’s the whole meaning of the man who got bounced out of the banquet because he didn’t have on a wedding garment.  That garment, friends, is a genuine and rich relationship with God.  That wedding garment is a committed acceptance of relationship with Christ.  That wedding garment is firm purpose of amendment for our sins.  That wedding garment is a real acceptance of grace and allowing it to work in our lives.  We can’t be putting on the ugliness of the world: sin and immorality and self-concern.  If we love our sins more than we love our Jesus, we will be allowed to let that be our eternity, with all its wailing and grinding of teeth.  God forbid!

Instead, we must clothe ourselves with the wedding garment that is Christ Jesus.  None of our own garments are going to get us to heaven, but only the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose urgent desire is to make us one with our God.  We all know very well that it would have been just for our God to leave us off the invitation list entirely, distracted from him as we are, loving our sins as we do, unwilling to repent as we are sometimes.  But our God will do no such thing: instead he clothes us in our Lord at our Baptism, gives us feast of rich food and choice wines in the Eucharist, and invites us to become one with him in a wedding covenant that takes us to our eternal home.  Why on earth would we ever refuse that invitation?  How could we ever show up unadorned with the beauty of Christ?

And so in preparation for today’s Eucharist, maybe we can take some time in the offering to accept the invitation of our Lord and to put on Christ Jesus so that we might worthily partake of the Banquet.  Let’s pray with that right now.  Close your eyes and pray with me in your heart.

Loving God, we are so grateful that, despite our unworthiness and our unloveliness, you still have called us to your wedding banquet.  There is no way we could ever be deserving of such great love, but you freely offer it anyway, because you are love itself.  We are grateful that you desire to be wed with us and the world so that we can be forever with you.  The banquet feast of heaven is where we want to go, to spend eternity, and to live in you.  We confess that, sometimes, we have cast off our wedding garment, that garment of relationship with you that we received in Holy Baptism, in favor of putting on the filthy rags of this world.  We confess that, more often than we can bear to acknowledge, we have treasured our sins more than we have treasured your invitation.  We pray that you would not cast us out in the darkness, but instead that you would keep us in the light of your presence.  We pray that you would, by your ever-present grace and through your unfailing mercy, help us to don that perfect garment that is our relationship with you, and forever to cast aside our sins and the tattered ugliness of the world.  Forbid in your mercy that we would ever have to wail and grind our teeth in the darkness, and bring us back to perfect union with you in the bright glory of your kingdom.  For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus has just been given a great complement and he responds to it kind of brusquely, or at least it seems that way.  Earlier in this eleventh chapter of Luke, Jesus has taught the disciples to pray, teaching them what has become known as the Lord’s prayer.  Then there is the discourse on the need for persistence in prayer that we heard on Thursday.  Then a teaching on demons.  And now this.  From this point on in the chapter, Jesus will turn up the heat on the people’s prayer life.  Nothing less is effective.  Nothing else is acceptable.

And so we hear the same invitation: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  We have been taught how to pray.  We have been given tools in Scripture and in the Church.  So the question is, have we observed that teaching?  Has our prayer become persistent?  Is it the life blood of our relationships with God and others?  Does prayer sustain us in bad times and give us joy in good times?

Observing the word of God takes many forms.  Most likely, we think of the service we are called upon to help bring about a Godly kingdom on earth.  And that is important, make no mistake about it.  But that same word calls us to a vital relationship with our God, a relationship that raises the bar for all of our other relationships.  That relationship with God can be a blessing to us and to our world.  But we can only get there by prayer.  We have to make time for the one who always makes time for us.

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Listen again to those words of hope from the Gospel I just read:

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The Divine Liturgist today is inviting us to find our hope in God, and inviting us to turn over our lives to God in hopeful anticipation that God will take care of our needs.  Sometimes I wonder how willing I am to actually do that.  It’s almost like I want to pray to God just in case I can’t fix things on my own or work out my needs by myself.  Kind of like a divine insurance policy.  Maybe your prayer is like that too.

But that can’t be the way that the Christian disciple prays.  We have to trust that God will give us what we really need.  He certainly won’t be giving us everything we really want.  And he probably won’t be answering our prayers in exactly the way we’d like him to.  And we will certainly find out that he will answer the prayers of our heart in his own time.  But he will answer.  He will give to the one who asks.  He will be present to the one who seeks.  And he will open the door to the one who knocks.

The Christian disciple must be willing to accept God’s answer in God’s time on God’s terms. When we do that we might even find that when God gives us what we really need, instead of what we really want, our lives are so much more blessed than we could ever have imagined. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.