October 14, 2018

October 15-20 Weekday homilies

Oct 15-20: Oct 15 Monday (St. Theresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church): Lk 11:29-32: 29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The context: Since there had been many false prophets and false messiahs in the past, and since their pride and prejudice did not permit them to see the Messiah in a carpenter from Nazareth turned wandering preacher, the Jewish religious leaders demanded that Jesus show some “Messianic” signs and miracles taken from their list.  They would not accept that Jesus’ numerous miraculous healings were the Messianic signs foretold by the prophets.

Jesus’ negative response: Calling them an apostate generation who refused to believe in their own prophets and denied the hand of God in the miracles he worked, Jesus warned these religious leaders that they would be condemned on the Day of Judgment by the people of Nineveh and by the Queen of Sheba from the South.  This is one of the instances in which Jesus held up Gentiles as models of Faith and goodness (other examples: the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, the centurion in Luke 7, the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10; etc.).  The pagan Ninevites heard the voice of the Lord God in the prophet Jonah, repented, and were spared. The Queen of Sheba recognized God’s Wisdom in King Solomon and traveled to Israel to receive more of it.  Nevertheless, Jesus gave the religious leaders challenging him, “the sign of Jonah.” It was the undeniable Messianic sign of his own Resurrection from the tomb on the third day after his death, just as Jonah had spent three days in the belly of the giant fish before finally going to Nineveh to accomplish the mission God had originally given him.

 Life messages: We need to recognize God-given signs in our lives: 1) Let us examine our conscience and see if we are able to see God’s presence in ourselves and in others, His hands behind the small and big events of our lives and His provident care in our lives. 2) Let us open our ears to hear God’s message given to us by others and by nature.  3) Let us read God’s message in the Bible and adjust our lives accordingly. 4) Let us try our best to be open to God and receptive to His Spirit through our active participation in the liturgy instead of looking for signs in weeping Madonnas, bleeding crucifixes and visionaries.  (Fr. Tony) L/18 

Oct 16 Tuesday (St. Hedwig, Religious; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin): Lk 11:37-41: 37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him; so he went in and sat at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness.  40 You fools!  Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?  41 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.

 The context: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy. Jesus was invited by a Pharisee for a dinner at which Jesus violated the ceremonial law by purposely omitting the ritual washing of hands before the meals and between the courses.  Pious Jews were expected on each occasion to wash their hands by pouring two ounces of water from finger tips to wrist and in the reverse order, and then to cleanse each palm by rubbing the fist of the other hand. Water was stored in big stone jars for this washing ceremony.  Omitting the ceremony was considered a sin and that is why Jesus’ host was astonished.

Jesus teaches the essence of religion: Jesus tells his host that the essence of religion is offering to God a clean heart filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.  Mere external observance of rituals without a cleansing of the heart is hypocrisy, which God hates.  Jesus uses the occasion to accuse the Pharisees of harboring evil thoughts like greed, pride, bitterness, envy and arrogance in their hearts.  Jesus concludes by suggesting that one method of expressing real love of God and neighbor originating from a compassionate heart and making one pure and clean is giving alms to the poor.  Almsgiving in the proper sense means realizing the needs of others and letting them share in one’s own goods, especially by way of spiritual help, financial and emotional support, consolation, fraternity and love.  St. John of the Cross explains this passage, remarking that in the evening of our lives we will be judged on our love expressed by works of charity.

Life messages: 1) In order to have interior cleanliness, let us do some charitable acts which externally express our loving relationship with God and our eagerness to do His will. Since we are offering our hearts and lives on the altar, let us expel everything evil from our hearts by true repentance 2) Love is what we have to give others – love with understanding, mercy, respect for their freedom, and deep concern for their spiritual and material welfare. (Fr. Tony) L/18

Oct 17 Wednesday (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop, Martyr): Lk 11:42-46: 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. 44 Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.” 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of  your fingers.”

 The context: In today’s text, taken from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus expresses his moral indignation and sorrow at the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees who have put obstacles between the common people and God by overburdening them with unnecessary, impractical and limitless interpretations of Mosaic laws. In today’s text, Jesus leveled three accusations:

1) They had misinterpreted the spirit of the Law, making the Law a heavy burden for the God-fearing common people. Jesus gave the Law of tithing as an example. God intended tithing for His people as an expression of their gratitude to a providing God (Dt 14:22; Lv 27:30). The scribes instructed the people to pay tithes on insignificant things, such as kitchen-garden plants, with great mathematical accuracy, but they themselves neglected justice and love of God in their private lives. 2) The second accusation was that the scribes and the Pharisees were notorious for their status-seeking. They demanded that the common people give them special honors because of their expertise in Mosaic Law and faithful religious observance. As a mark of respect, they were to be given front seats in the synagogue and public greeting in the streets. 3) Jesus compared the scribes and Pharisees to the tombs on the sides of the road leading to Jerusalem. In preparation for the three major Jewish feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, the scribes and Pharisees used to have the tombs whitewashed, so that the pilgrims would not be ritually defiled by unknowingly walking over one.  Jesus accused the Pharisees of moral filth, of hiding injustice and immorality inside themselves and of covering the corruption with pretensions of piety and religious fervor.  Thus, they contaminated others with their rotten and dangerous ideas of God’s demands.

Life messages: 1) The essence of religion is to love God, discovering Him in everyone.  2) The basic principles of the Ten Commandments are respect and reverence based on love of God and neighbor. When we learn to reverence God, His holy Name and His holy Day and to respect our parents, elders and all others, their goods and their good name, we practice true religion without hypocrisy or selfish interests. 3) True love is sacrificial, encouraging us to help lift the burdens of others.  (Fr. Tony) L/18

Oct 18 Thursday St. Luke, the Evangelist): Lk 10:1-9: 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

  Resume: St. Luke was a Syrian by race, born in Antioch as a Gentile. He became a Christian and follower of St. Paul.   He had a Greek background and education. He knew Greek, spoke Aramaic in Antioch and became a scholar in Hebrew. He was a physician by profession (Col 4:14), and was considered an artist, probably from his graphic descriptions of the nativity scenes with shepherds and magi, from the parable of the lost sheep and from a sixth century copy of the portrait of Mary (kept at Maria Maggiore Church in Rome), the original of which was believed to have been drawn by Luke.

A prolific writer: Luke could read and understand the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the Hebrew originals. He is the only non-Jewish Evangelist. He wrote the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, between 70 and 85 AD. They were originally one book, and, when taken together, are longer than the fourteen epistles of St. Paul. Luke is represented in art by an ox or calf, for he saw Jesus as a sacrifice for all mankind and began his Gospel describing Zechariah and the Temple worship. It is believed that Luke wrote the Gospel when he was 74 and died at Boeotia when he was 84 years old. Luke presents Jesus as giving importance and recognition to women and the Gentiles. Contacts: Luke had close contacts with Mary and all the Apostles, and he would have been able to interview all of them to collect details for his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He was a constant companion and doctor of St. Paul during Paul’s Jerusalem and Malta mission trips and during Paul’s imprisonment, first in Caesarea, then in Rome. Probably he was with Paul till Paul’s martyrdom.

Life messages: 1) We are to be apostles of prayer: Luke presents Jesus as a man of prayer spending much of his time in listening to God his Father in order to learn His will and in talking to Him in solitude. 2)  We are to be merciful and compassionate, becoming the voice of the voiceless: Luke describes Jesus siding with the poor and marginalized in the society (option for the poor) and trying to give a special status to women and Gentiles. (Fr. Tony) L/18

 Oct 19 Friday (Ss John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests and companions, Martyrs): Lk 12:1-7: 1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

The context: Jesus continues his condemnation of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and the Pharisees, comparing it to leaven or yeast.  The Jews considered yeast as something evil, corrupting the dough during the process of fermentation.  That is why the Law given through Moses prescribes unleavened bread for offering to God.  Jesus reminded the common people that the Pharisees were hypocrites who pretended to be holy, and that they would corrupt people as the yeast corrupts the dough.  The teaching and example of the scribes and the Pharisees influenced the crowd in a disastrous way, especially when the teachers failed to practice what they preached. Jesus also warned that their sins would be brought to light at the Last Judgment (CCC #678).

Hearing in secret and announcing in public: According to the Navarre Bible Commentary, most Palestinian houses had a roof in the form of a terrace.  There people would meet to chat and while away their time in the hottest part of the day.  Jesus pointed out to his disciples that in these get-togethers, things said in private became matters of public discussion.  In the same way, despite the Pharisees’ and scribes’ efforts to hide their vices and defects under the veil of piety, these would become a matter of common knowledge. A reverential fear of God:  Since nothing — not even the most insignificant thing — escapes God, no one should fear that any suffering or persecution he experiences in following Christ will remain unrewarded in eternity.  But our fear of God should not be servile (based on fear of punishment).  It should be a filial fear (the fear of a son or daughter who loves, and so does not want to displease, his or her father), a reverent awe nourished by our trust in Divine Providence. Life messages: 1) In contrast to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the followers of Jesus must display transparency in their Christian lives by practicing what they profess.  2) They should also maintain a reverential fear of God, adjusting their actions in such a way that they may not displease a loving heavenly Father. (Fr. Tony) L/18  

Oct 20 Saturday (St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (U. S. A.): Lk 12:8-12: 8 “And I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

The context: The scribes and Pharisees attributed Jesus’ miracles of driving demons out of possessed people to the work of the devil rather than to God. Pride in their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and prejudice against Jesus, the wandering preacher, prompted them to attribute Jesus’ exorcisms to the devil’s power and Jesus’ collaboration with the devil.  The first part of today’s Gospel is Jesus’ reply to their false accusation.

Unpardonable sin: The Jews did not have any idea of a Triune God.  For them the Spirit of God was God Himself.  It was this Divine Spirit who spoke through Moses and the prophets and Who enabled men and women to understand the Sacred Scriptures.  So Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that they were refusing to believe in the Spirit of God and in the Messianic prophecies given by Him when they attributed Jesus’ miracles to the devil.  Hence, theirs was a sin of blasphemy against the Spirit of God.  Since they remained unrepentant, thus refusing God’s mercy and forgiveness, their sin against the Holy Spirit of God was unforgivable.  In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit as a Teacher and an Attorney who would help defend his disciples when they were brought to trial before the Jewish synagogues and Roman authorities because of their Faith in Jesus as God and Savior.

Life messages: 1) Let us have the generosity and good will not to close our eyes to God or to shut our ears to His voice, thus refusing the chances given us by our merciful God to repent of our sins and renew our lives.  2) Let us ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our fight against temptations and let us pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Fr. Tony) L/18