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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.”

Categories
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

The Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Whenever I start to hear this Gospel reading, I usually think, “Oh yeah, I know this one, about the Prodigal Son…” and then the story unfolds and that’s not it at all.  But reflecting on the story, there are certainly similarities.  The prodigal son certainly wasn’t wanting to do his father’s will.  He ran off on his own and, when things turned sour, he realize the grave error of his ways and returned home.  The other son in that story stayed and did the father’s work, but when he was invited in to the celebration, he objected and turned away.  Which one of them did the father’s will?

It’s not a perfect parallel and so the metaphor doesn’t really quite work, but you get the idea.  Both of these stories are about repentance, both of them are about God’s mercy, and both of them challenge the religious establishment of the time because they were not doing the Father’s will.

As we get to these late summer-early fall Liturgies of the Word, you might have noticed that there is a strong theme of God’s mercy, which invites repentance.  Three weeks ago, we heard about the concept of fraternal correction: if your brother sins, go to him, then if he doesn’t repent bring a few witnesses, and if that doesn’t work go to the church, and if that doesn’t work, well treat him as a Gentile or a tax collector.  I made the point that week that Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors with mercy and love, so again, we are talking about mercy.

The following week found Saint Peter trying to establish the rule on forgiveness.  How many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  He thought seven times was pretty generous.  But Jesus took it a magnitude greater: not seven times, but seventy-seven times: in a word, forgive your brother all the time.  We disciples are called to great mercy.

Then last week, we had the parable of the day laborers, with those who worked just an hour getting paid as much as those who worked the whole day long.  The point was that God treats everyone the same: at whatever hour of one’s life a sinner returns to God, that sinner will find mercy, same as everyone else.

So here we are, with the sons called to go out into the vineyard to work.  One of them flat out says forget it, I have better things to do, but then later repents of his sloth and the horrible way he treated his father and went instead.  The other son who was eager to say he’d go, later found the prospect of work a little more than he could bear so he didn’t go at all.  Jesus parallels this story to, once again, tax collectors and prostitutes.  These horrible sinners are seeing the light and even though they rejected the message early on in their lives, they responded to God’s call, through Saint John the Baptist, and repented.  But the religious leaders did no such thing.  Despite their equal need for mercy, they refused it, and called to repentance just like the tax collectors and prostitutes, they continued on their merry way to perdition.

But we can’t be like them.  We disciples have heard the Word of God and we know better.  We have at our disposal many tools of grace: the Sacrament of Penance, the Holy Eucharist, counsel of the Church, and so much more.  We have to see our own need for mercy and respond.  What’s important for us to see here is this: God extends his mercy and forgiveness and grace and calling to us all the time. We may respond, I think, in one of four ways. First, we may say no, and never change, never become what God created us to be. This happens all the time because we as a people tend to love our sins and love our comfort more than we love God. We often think we can fix ourselves on our own, without need of God’s mercy.  Or we may even think that our lives are not important enough for God to be bothered with helping us, or that our sins are so big that there’s no way he’d want to.  And sometimes, we just plain would rather not be inconvenienced or challenged to grow.

A second response: we might also say no, but later be converted. That’s a little better. Let’s be clear: there is no time like the present, and we never know if we have tomorrow. But God’s grace doesn’t stop working on us until the very end. So we can have hope because God does not give up on us.  That was what the first son did in today’s Gospel reading.  That was somewhat like the action of the Prodigal Son as well.  Mercy and grace work on us all the time, and when we respond, it’s effective.

In a third response, we might say yes, with all good intentions of following God, being in relationship with him, and doing what he asks of us. But perhaps we get distracted by life, by work, by our sins, by relationships that are impure, or whatever. And then we never actually become what we’re supposed to be.  Maybe that was what happened with the second son in today’s reading.

Or, finally, we might actually say yes and actually do it, with God’s grace. We might be people who are always open to grace and work on our relationship with God. Then that grace can lead to a life of having become what God wanted of us.  When we say yes, whether it’s right away or after a change of heart like in today’s Gospel, the grace of that moemtn puts us on the path to sainthood, which is where we are all supposed to be.  The model for that, of course, would be the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was able to say “yes” to God’s plan for her and the world right away.  Saying “yes” to God might seem remote, particularly if you are struggling with habitual sin or addiction, but mercy holds the door open to sainthood all the time.  We just have to answer the door.

Today’s Gospel is a good occasion for a deep examination of conscience. Where are we on the spectrum?  Have we nurtured our relationship with God and said yes to his call, or are we somewhere else?  And if we’re somewhere else, what is it that we love more than God?  What do we have to do to get us on the right path?  We know the way of righteousness.  We know the path to heaven.  We just have to make up our minds and change our hearts so that we might follow Jesus Christ, our way to eternal life.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Simon the Pharisee had committed a grave error in hospitality, and a serious error in judgment. In those days, when a guest came to your home, you made sure to provide water for him or her to wash their feet, because the journey on foot was often long and hot and dirty, and it was pretty much always made on foot. But Simon had done no such thing for Jesus.

Simon’s intentions were not hospitable; rather he intended to confront Jesus on some minutiae of the Law so as to validate his opinion that Jesus was a charlatan. He judged the woman to be a sinner, and reckoned Jesus guilty of sin by association. But Jesus is about forgiveness. He didn’t care about the woman’s past; he just knew that, presently, she had need of mercy. Her act of love and hospitality, her posture of humility, her sorrow for her sin, all of these made it possible for Jesus to heal her.

But the one who doesn’t think he is in need of healing can never be healed. And so that’s our examination of conscience today. Are we aware of our need for healing, or have we been thinking we are without sin, without brokenness, without openness to God’s mercy? If so, our moments of reflection today need to guide us to honest and open acceptance of God’s mercy, and a pouring out of the best that we have in thanksgiving.  Like the repentant woman, we need to humble ourselves, and pour out our sorrow for our sins.

We are offered so much mercy and forgiveness for our many sins. Let us love much so that we might receive the great mercy our Lord wants to give us.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.”  So says the wisdom-writer Sirach in today’s first reading.  His words set up well the Gospel today, and the overall emphasis of forgiveness as a powerful tool for the disciple.  The disciple would do well to abandon wrath and anger, and hold fast to forgiveness: eagerly seeking it for himself, and freely giving it to others.  These readings come on the heels of what we heard last week, which was about the way the Christian disciple resolves conflict.  Forgiveness is the natural conclusion to that discussion.

But forgiveness, sadly, doesn’t seem to come as naturally to us as it does to our God.  Sinners though we are, we seem to always gravitate toward wrath and anger.  You can see it well in just about every corner of our world right now.  We don’t have interesting conversations about political issues any more: we have wrath and anger.  In an election year like this one, campaigns no longer provide us with convincing reasons to vote for a candidate; instead they numb us to everything so that the truth can hardly be found.  Even a pandemic, which should galvanize us and make us all want to seek the common good, has only been weaponized to divide us further.  All we see is wrath and anger, and I don’t know about you, but I’m sure weary of it.

Well, friends, the way that we move forward has to do with forgiveness.  Those who hug wrath and anger tight will never be at peace; peace only comes from forgiving and letting go of the poison.  So how do we forgive?

In the Gospel, Peter wants the Lord to spell out the rule of thumb: how often must we forgive another person who has wronged us?  Peter offers what he thinks is magnanimous: seven times.  Seven times is a lot of forgiveness.  Think about it, how exasperated do we get when someone wrongs us over and over?  Seven times was more than the law required, so Peter felt like he was catching on to what Jesus required in living the Gospel.  But that’s not what Jesus was going for: he wanted a much more forgiving heart from his disciples: not seven times, but seventy-seven times!  Even if we take that number literally, which we shouldn’t, that’s more forgiveness than we can begin to imagine.  But the number here is just to represent something bigger than ourselves: constant forgiveness.  The real answer to Peter’s question is that we don’t number forgiveness: just as our God forgives us as many times as we come to him in repentance, so we should forgive others who do that with us.

The parable that Jesus tells to illustrate the story is filled with interesting little details.  The servant in the story owes the master a huge amount of money.  Think of the biggest sum you can imagine someone owing another person and add a couple of zeroes to the end of it.  It’s that big.  He will never live long enough or earn enough money to repay the master, no matter what efforts he puts forth.  So the master would be just in having him and everything he owned and everyone he cared about sold.  It still wouldn’t repay the debt, but it would be more than he would otherwise get.  But the servant pleads for mercy, and the master gives it.  In fact, he does more than he’s asked to do: he doesn’t just give the servant more time to pay, he forgives the entire loan!  That’s incredible mercy!

On the way home, however, the servant forgets about who he is: a sinner who has just been forgiven a huge debt, and he encounters another servant who owes him a much smaller sum than he owed the master – for us it would be like ten or twenty dollars.  But the servant has not learned to forgive as he has been forgiven: he hands the fellow servant over to be put into debtor’s prison until he can repay the loan.  But that in itself is a humorous little detail.  In prison, how is he going to repay the loan?  He can’t work, right?  So basically the fellow servant is condemned for the rest of his life.  For twenty dollars.

We don’t have to do a lot of math or theological thinking to see the injustice here.  The servant has been forgiven something he could never repay, no matter how long he lived.  But he was unwilling to give that same forgiveness to his fellow servant; he was unwilling to give him even a little more time to repay the loan, which the other servant certainly could have done.  That kind of injustice is something that allows a person to condemn him or herself for the rest of eternity.  The disciple is expected to learn to forgive and is expected to forgive as he or she has been forgiven.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We can’t just say those words when we pray and then withhold mercy from our sisters and brothers; we actually have to forgive those who trespass against us.

This call to a kind of heroic forgiveness takes on a new meaning when we consider the state of our world today.  We still have conflicts all over the world.  In fact, I’ve read that as many as a third of the nations of the world are currently involved in some sort of conflict.  And we owe a great debt to those who are fighting to keep our nation safe.  But I don’t think we can stop with that.  We will never find the ultimate answer to terrorism and injustice in human endeavor.  We have to reach for something of more divine origin, and that something, I think, is the forgiveness that Jesus calls us to in today’s gospel.

And it starts with us.  We have been forgiven so much by God.  So how willing have we then been to forgive others?  Our reflection today might take us to the people or institutions that have wronged us in some way.  Can we forgive them?  Can we at least ask God for the grace to be forgiving?  I always tell people that forgiveness is a journey.  We might not be ready to forgive right now, but we can ask for the grace to be ready.  Jesus didn’t say it would be easy, did he?  But we have to stop sending people to debtor’s prison for the rest of their lives if we are going to honor the enormous freedom that God’s forgiveness has won for us.

Every time we forgive someone, every time we let go of an injustice that has been done to us, the world is that much more peaceful.  We may well always have war and the threat of terrorism with us.  But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.  That doesn’t mean we have to participate in it.  It certainly doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate it.  Real peace, real change, starts with us.  If we choose to forgive others, maybe our own corner of the world can be more just, more merciful.  And if we all did that, think of how our world could be significantly changed.

As the Psalmist sings today: “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”  So should the Lord’s disciples be.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today’s readings present us with two very interesting images.  The first is that of a potter working at the wheel.  When the object turned out badly, the potter re-created the object until it was right.  Jeremiah tells us that just so is Israel, in the hand of the Lord.  Not that God couldn’t get it right the first time.  This prophecy simply recognizes that through our own free will we go wrong all the time, sadly, and Israel’s wrong turns are legendary throughout the Old Testament.  Just as the potter can re-create a bowl or jug that was imperfect, so God can re-create his chosen people when they turn away from him.  God can replace their stony hearts with natural ones, and give them new life with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit.

The image in the Gospel is a fishing image.  The fisher throws a net into the sea, casting it far and wide, and gathers up all sorts of fish.  Some of the fish are good, and are kept; the others are cast back into the sea.  So will it be at the end of the age.  God will cast the nets far and wide, gathering up all of his children.  Those who have remained true to what God created them to be will be brought into the kingdom; those who have turned away will be cast aside, free to follow their own whims and ideas.  Turning away from God has a price however; following one’s own whims and ideas leads to nothing but the fiery furnace, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.

The message that comes to us through these images is one of renewal.  We who are God’s creatures, his chosen people, can often turn the wrong way, and we do!  But our God who made us does not will that we would end up in that fiery furnace; he gives us the chance to come back to him, and willingly re-creates us in his love.  Notice that all we have to be is willing; the potter—God—does the work.  We just have to be docile to his re-creating merciful love.  Those who become willing subjects on the potter’s wheel will have the joy of the Kingdom.  Those who turn away will have what they wish, but find it ultimately unsatisfying, ultimately sorrowful, ultimately without reward.

Today we pray that we would all be willing to be re-created on that potter’s wheel.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Amos and Jesus are prophetic voices that we hear in our Scriptures this morning.  Unfortunately, as is often the case with prophets, neither is a welcome voice.  Amos makes it clear that he is not speaking on his own, or even because he wanted to.  If it were up to him, he’d go back to being a simple shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees.  But he knows that the Lord was using him to speak to Amaziah, and he had no intention of backing down. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus could have cured the paralytic with one touch and without much fanfare.  But that wasn’t what he was there to do.  He was there to preach forgiveness of sins by the way he healed the paralyzed person.  Jesus used that simple situation of healing to be a prophetic voice in the world, saying to everyone present that real healing only comes about through the forgiveness of sins.

I think it’s important to note that being unwilling to accept prophetic witness has its price.  By refusing to hear the word of Amos, Azariah was doomed to destruction.  Not because our God is a capricious, spiteful deity, but because Azariah was unwilling to accept God’s mercy and protection.  On the other hand, the faith of the people who brought the paralytic to Jesus opened that man’s life to God’s healing and mercy.  Prophetic words are often hard, but they also bring healing.

That unnamed paralyzed person could be you or me today, or someone we’ll meet during this day. Who among us is not paralyzed by sin in some way? To whatever extent we are the ones in need of healing, may we all hear the prophetic voice of Jesus saying to us: “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

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Homilies Lent

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

I love the readings we have today!  Susanna’s story is one of the most eloquent in the Old Testament Scriptures: in it we see the wisdom of the prophet Daniel, as well as the mercy and justice of God.  This story is certainly echoed in our Gospel reading about the acquittal of the woman caught in adultery, although Susanna was actually innocent.  In the Gospel reading, we see the wisdom of Jesus, brought about as it is with the mercy and justice of God.  But sadly, we see in both stories also the fickleness of the human heart and the evil and treachery that makes up some of our darker moments.

To those who seek to pervert justice and to collude with others against some other person, these readings expose those evil thoughts and flood the darkness with the piercing light of God’s justice.  No one has a right to judge others, especially when their own intentions are not pure.  Only God can give real justice, just as only God brings ultimate mercy.

To those who are the victims of oppression, these readings give hope that God in his mercy will always walk with those who walk through the dark valley, and give to the downtrodden the salvation which they seek.  God is ultimately very interested in the kind of justice that is characterized by right relationships with one another and with Him.  It is the desire of God’s heart that this kind of justice would be tempered with mercy and would go out and lighten all the dark places of the earth.

Today we are called upon to right wrongs, to be completely honest and forthright in our dealings with others, to seek to purify our hearts of any wicked intent, and most of all to seek to restore right relationships with any person who has something against us, or against whom we have something.  Our prayer this day is that God’s mercy and justice would reign, and that God’s kingdom would come about in all its fullness.

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Baptism Homilies Lent

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

This feels like a little bit of deja-vu for me, because I just did a video lesson on holy water for the school kids yesterday.  Water is so important to us, and we see a lot of water in these readings.  Water refreshes us, sustains us, cleans us.  And people are saying that drinking water, if you get the COVID-19 virus can wash it into your stomach where it gets destroyed.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’m drinking plenty of water anyway!

But when the readings talk so much about water, what we are being led to is a reflection on baptism.  We ourselves are the sick and lame man who needed Jesus’ help to get into the waters of Bethesda.  The name “Bethesda” means “house of mercy” in Hebrew, and that, of course, is a symbol of the Church.  We see the Church also in the temple in the first reading, from which waters flow which refresh and nourish the surrounding countryside.  These, of course, again are the waters of baptism.  Lent calls us to renew ourselves in baptism.  We are called to renew ourselves in those waters that heal our bodies and our souls.  We are called to drink deep of the grace of God so that we can go forth and refresh the world.

But what really stands out in this Gospel is the mercy of Jesus.  I think it’s summed up in one statement that maybe we might not catch as merciful at first: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”  It’s hard to imagine being ill for thirty-eight years, I’m sure that would be a pretty bad thing.  It’s hard to imagine anything being worse.  But I’m also pretty sure missing out on the kingdom of God would be that one, much worse, thing.  There is mercy in being called to repentance, which renews us in our baptismal commitments and makes us fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sometimes parishes have removed the holy water from church during Lent in a kind of fasting.  This is exactly why you shouldn’t: Lent is all about baptism, all about God’s mercy, all about being renewed and refreshed and healed in God’s grace.  I can’t wait for this virus situation to be over so that we can once again fill up the holy water fonts, and the pews, and rejoice together in our baptism!  

So I encourage you all to not take holy water for granted.  Think about that the next time you put your hand into the font and stir up those waters of mercy.  Be healed and made new; go, and from now on, do not sin any more.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Our readings today pick up the sermon that Jesus was giving in last week’s gospel.  Last week, he used the formula: “You have heard that it was said…  But I say to you…” to raise the bar on living the fifth, sixth and eighth commandments. Merely refraining from actual murder no longer means that we have not murdered in our heart.  Never having had an extra-marital affair doesn’t any longer mean that we haven’t committed sexual sin.  And never having lied under oath doesn’t mean we haven’t stretched the truth in ways that are sinful.  Disciples, people who believe in Christ, are expected to live differently: our faith looks like something, and that something is radical lives of integrity that set out to witness to God’s love in the world.

This week we have a bit more of the same, but this time expressed in terms of positive behavior.  Christian disciples, he tells us, are not just to refrain from anything that would tear down another’s life, they are not just to refrain from seeing people as objects, nor are they just to refrain from lying.  They are to go beyond all that and give of themselves, even when it doesn’t seem like they would strictly be required to do so.  Disciples are to give of themselves even when they themselves have been wronged.  They are to do more than the law requires and offer no resistance to evil.  Disciples are even to love their enemies, for heaven’s sake!

So what we are seeing over these two weekends’ Scriptures are a completely new message for the people of Israel.  Hopefully the message is not a new one for us, but it is, we have to admit, one of which we need to be reminded from time to time.  Because it’s really easy to get caught up in our own entitlement, and looking out for number one, and doing what seems best for us.  But disciples are called to a different kind of life, one that leads ultimately to the kingdom of heaven.  If we’re ever going to attain that eternal reward, we have to bring everyone with us that we can.  And to do that, sometimes we’re going to have to let someone else win the argument, or see the good in someone who isn’t presenting a real good side right now.  We might even have to go so far as to love and pray for those who are working against us, and trust God to work it all out.

And the thing is, God is trustworthy to work it all out, but sometimes we don’t have faith enough to let him do that.  That’s something we have to work on every day.  Because if the only one we ever trust in is ourselves, we are destined for a pretty bad end.  Even the brightest and best of us have limited ability, and none of us can ever make up to God for the offenses of our sins.  So our ability to be okay in bad times goes only as far as we can manage, unless we trust in the Father’s care.

Today, we have a video from our bishop about the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal.  The diocese serves almost 700,000 Catholics in our seven-county area.  Some of the other ways the appeal helps us is by funding Young Adult and Youth Ministry programs, by nights of shelter and housing were provided to the homeless through Catholic Charities.  The Catholic Schools Office assists and gives direction to our own school and others, and is assisting us as we search for a new principal for our school, and the office of Faith Formation helps train and direct catechists.

I know you’re hearing about our capital campaign.  I appreciate all that you are doing to support that as well as our weekly offertory.  The diocese assists us in so many ways, and so many of the poor and needy depend on their work.  So I just ask you to be as generous as you can.  Our ushers will now pass out the pledge envelopes, and I ask you to please fill it out as we watch the video.  We will then collect them right after the video.  If you wish to take the envelope home and pray about it, you can return it next week.  Thank you for doing that.

Our Psalmist today reminds us that “The Lord is kind and merciful,” which is the theme of this year’s CMAA.  God is never outdone in generosity, and so when we extend ourselves to those in need, when we give above and beyond what is strictly required, when we love those who maybe don’t love us, and even pray for our enemies, we can trust that God will give us all that we need and bless us in ways that we may never have expected.  Trust in the Father’s care: that’s what our Scriptures and this year’s appeal ask us to do.  It’s sound advice, and I pray that we would all take note of it!