October 30, 2018

O. T. XXXI Sunday homily

One-page summary: OT XXXI [B] Sunday (Nov 4) Homily (Mark 12:28-34)

The central theme: The central message of today’s readings is the most fundamental principle of all religions, especially Christianity. It is to love God living in others. Scripture readings for today remind us that we are created to love God by loving others and to love others as an expression of our love for God. Our religious practices like prayers, Bible reading, Sacraments, acts of penance and self-control are meant to help us to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of God in our neighbors and to express our love for God by serving our neighbors with love and by sharing our blessings with them.

Scripture lessons: The first reading presents Moses explaining the Law to the Israelites after his return from Mount Sinai. He tries to make the people reverence and obey the Law given by God as something that will bring them dignity and purpose, stature and distinction and a unique place in history. He reminds us that keeping God’s commandments will give us God’s blessings of long life, prosperity and fruitful and peaceful lives. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 18) invites us to love God because He alone is our strength and our stronghold. The second reading tells us how Jesus, our High Priest demonstrated his love for God His Father by obeying His plan for liberating us from the bondage of sin by offering himself as a sacrifice on the cross.  In today’s Gospel a Scribe asks Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence. Jesus cites the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Then He adds its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Thus, Jesus says that true religion is loving God and loving our fellow human beings at the same time. It is by showing genuine, active love for our neighbors that we can demonstrate that we really love God.

Life Messages: #1: How do we love God? We must keep God’s commandments, and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition. We must also read and meditate on His word in the Holy Bible and actively participate in the Holy Mass and other liturgical functions. If I am going to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, then I am going to have to place His will ahead of mine, and so that I may have to say no to some things that I might want to do. I am also going to have to seek the Lord’s will and make it paramount in my         life.
#2: Loving our neighbor: This means that we have to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone, without discrimination based on color, race, gender, age wealth or social status. If I am going to love my neighbor as I love myself, or as Jesus loved me, it will cost me as well! I may have to seek forgiveness when I think I have done something wrong. I may have to sacrifice something I think I need, to meet a brother’s need. I may have to spend time in prayer for other people and reach out to them, helping, encouraging and supporting them in the name of the    Lord.

OT 31 [B] (Nov 4): Dt 6:2-6; Heb 7:23-28; Mk 12: 28b-34
Homily starter anecdotes:

#1: The Shema’s challenge to become “Iron Man” & “Iron Woman: Mark Allen, a six-time “Ironman” winner and holder of the title “The World’s Fittest Man,” is married to a retired “Iron woman” triathlete,  Julie Moss.   Ironman/Ironwoman competitions include a grueling triathlon of swimming, bicycling, and running, designed to push the capabilities of the human body to their limits. To compete as an Ironman/Ironwoman, one must be in superb, all-round, peak physical condition. Mark Allen has devised a 16-week program designed to get a person into a state of “ultimate fitness.” Allen also claims that if one follows this complete training regimen for as little as five hours a week, he/she can be transformed from chump into champ. Perhaps more startling is Allen’s description of his training regimen as a kind of “meditation” for the entire body. The training regimen includes four components: “heart training” for endurance; “mind training” for attitude; “nutritional training” for internal (what we might call “soul”) fitness; and “strength training” for muscle mass. Thus, Allen has physicalized the Shema mandate given in today’s Gospel, (Mark 12:29-30), into a program for shaping and transforming a human being in his/her entirety. When, in the Shema, the Lord God commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” He reminds Israel and us that a big part of human existence is sheerly physical. It takes a certain amount of brute strength just to get through each and every day. To deny God’s presence and love in the physical world would be to remove godliness from our existence. As Christian men and women, we have our own Iron Person to look to as a perfect example of “fitness.” Jesus Christ completely embodied the mandates of the Shema – loving His Father, God, with all His heart, mind, soul and strength, then reflecting God’s love for Him in loving all He met, His neighbors, the same way. May Jesus coach us as we train in godliness, loving God and neighbor with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

#2: SoSA practicing the two great commandments of God:  SoSA was given the first Hero of Food Recovery and Gleaning Award by the US Department of Agriculture.The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) is a grassroots, Faith-based, hunger-relief nonprofit working with all denominations to bridge the hunger gap between 96 billion pounds of food wasted every year in the United States and the nearly 40 million Americans who live in poverty. SoSA relies on support from donors, volunteers and farmers as they glean nutritious excess produce from farmers’ fields and orchards after harvest and deliver it to people in need across the United States. Gleaning is the Biblical practice of hand-gathering crops left in the fields after harvest. Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers come together across the country to glean food left in farmers’ fields and orchards so that it does not go to waste but instead goes to the tables of those in need. Since it began in 1979, the Society has collected more than 200-million pounds of fresh produce – perfectly nutritious food that might have some cosmetic deformity, making it unsaleable – and delivered it to soup kitchens, food banks, Salvation Army Centers, homeless shelters, and the like. 200-million pounds that otherwise would have rotted! Ken Horne, a United Methodist minister who is a co-founder of the group accepted the award and noted, “There is enough surplus food in this country to feed every hungry person…No one should ever have to go hungry.” Amen! Can you imagine that God does not mind if people go hungry, that God does not care that every day some 40,000 children around the globe die of malnutrition-related causes? Hardly. Then we who say we love God will demonstrate it in love for our hungry neighbor. All it takes is the commitment of God’s people, time-wise and money-wise, and the problem will be solved. No holding back. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_St._Andrew)

Introduction: The central message of today’s readings is the most fundamental principle of all religions, especially Christianity. We are to love God in loving others and to love others in loving God. The prayers, Sacraments, sacrifices and all other religious practices are meant to help us grow in this relationship of love.

The first reading reminds us to love God by keeping His commandments. It also describes the blessings reserved for those who obey the commandments. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 18) reminds us that God alone in our strength and our stronghold, and that He lives! The second reading tells us how Jesus, the eternal and holy High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to demonstrate God’s love for us. Today’s Gospel teaches us how we should return this love by loving others.

First reading, Deuteronomy 6:2-6, explained: Today’s Gospel, (Mark 12:28b-34), is the climax of a series of questions on controversial issues asked by the Scribes and the Pharisees in order to trap Jesus and to eliminate him from their midst. The last question they ask is about the Law, historically Israel’s most sacred institution, the foundation of every other institution. Hence, in the first reading, Moses is presented as explaining the Law to the Israelites after his return from Mount Sinai. He tries to make the people reverence and obey the Law as something that will bring them dignity and purpose, stature and distinction and a unique place in history. He promises them temporal rewards (“that your days may be prolonged, that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey”), if they remain loyal to Yahweh. They have to prove their loyalty to God by observing His commandments.

Second Reading, Hebrews 7:23-28,explained: Some Jewish converts to Christianity missed the comforting institutions they had enjoyed in Judaism. The author of Hebrews tries to explain to them how much greater are the benefits they receive as Christians. Today’s passage compares the older religion and priesthood to Jesus and his sacrifice. Paul affirms that Jesus, the new High Priest, is superior to the old High Priests for three reasons: a) He doesn’t die and so doesn’t need to be replaced generation after generation. b) He is sinless, so he need not offer sacrifices for his own sins. c) The Jewish priests were appointed according to the Law, but Jesus is appointed by the word of God.

Gospel exegesis: The context: A scribe, who believed in both the written Law and the oral tradition, was pleased to see how Jesus defeated the Sadducees who had tried to humiliate Him with the hypothetical case of a woman who had married seven husbands. Who, they had asked Jesus, would be her husband in the world to come? To the scribes, the Mosaic Law was the greatest, fullest and most perfect revelation of God’s will that could ever be given. However, in the Judaism of Jesus’ day there was a double tendency: to expand the Mosaic Law into hundreds of rules and regulations and to condense the 613 precepts of the Torah into a single sentence. David condensed them into 11 statements (Ps 15), Isaiah reduced them to six (Is 33:15) and later to two (Is 56:1), Micah condensed them into three (Mi 6:8), and Habakkuk reduced them all to one: “the righteous shall live by his Faith” (Hb 2:4). The famous Jewish rabbis and even some of the Fathers of the Church like St. Augustine also tried to condense these precepts. So it was natural for a scribe to ask Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence.

Jesus’ novel contribution: Jesus gave a straightforward answer, quoting directly from the Law itself and starling them with his profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose. He cited the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Then He added its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Leviticus 19:18). Jesus’ contribution combined the originally separate commandments and presented them as the essence of true religion. True religion, Jesus says, is loving God and loving our fellow human beings at the same time, which means the only way a person can demonstrate real love for God is by showing genuine, active love for neighbor. The “great commandment in the Law” is really threefold: We are commanded (1) to love God, (2) to love our neighbor, and (3) to love ourselves. We are to love God, for it is in loving Him that we are brought to the perfection of His image in us. We are to love our neighbor and ourselves as well, because both of us bear God’s image, and to honor God’s image is to honor Him who made it. We are to love our neighbor and our self as a way to love God: God gives us our neighbors to love so that we may learn to love Him.

The scribe was so impressed by Jesus’ grasp of the Law that he remarked: “Well said, teacher! You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than He.’ And ‘to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The comment by the scribe that the love of God and neighbor is “worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” carries special weight because he had probably come to the Temple to make his sacrifice, the usual way for the faithful of Israel to express worship and religious commitment.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself: The command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is a very demanding one. It was very hard for the Jews of Jesus’ time because only a fellow-Jew, obeying the Mosaic Law, was considered their neighbor. That is why, immediately after defining this important commandment, Jesus tells them the parable of the Good Samaritan, as reported in Luke’s Gospel. He wanted to teach His listeners that everyone in need is their neighbor. Love for our neighbor is a matter of deeds, not feelings. It means sharing with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. This is the love for neighbor that God commands in His law. Often preachers preach on loving self and cultivating self-esteem and self-respect as prerequisites to loving neighbor. But Jesus does not advocate self-love; he simply acknowledges our natural tendency to be on the lookout to be Number One, then asks us to extend that same kind of love to others. But when we come to put the greatest commandment into practice, we find that there is a flaw – and that flaw is not in the commandment, but in us. We quickly find that we cannot love God or our neighbor as we ought to. The solution lies in the “new commandment” that Jesus will give to his disciples as he enters into his Passion: “Love one another as I have loved you.” No longer is our self-love to be the measure of our love of neighbor: The standard is no longer to be subjective, but objective.  When we look at the extent of Jesus’ love, at the way He demonstrates His infinite charity,  we see the true  standard.

Be reconciled with neighbor as well as with God: We are asked to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all the strength, vitality, and human intelligence. Since God is present in all others, any sin against another person becomes a sin against God. Hence, it is not sufficient to be reconciled with God by repentance. We have to obtain forgiveness from, and reconciliation with, the person we have hurt. “If anyone says, I love God, but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (I John 4: 20.

“There is no other commandment greater than these.” This is because all the other commandments are explanations of these two. The Ten Commandments are based on the principle of reverence for God and respect for others. Hence, the first three Commandments instruct us to reverence God, His Holy Name and His Holy Day, and the remaining Commandments ask us to respect our parents and to respect the life, honor, property, and good name of others.

Life Messages: #1: How do we love God? There are several means by which we can express our love for God and gratitude to Him for His blessings, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. We must keep God’s commandments, and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise, contrition. and petition. We must also read and meditate on His word in the Bible and prayerfully attend Mass and other liturgical functions. If I am going to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, then I am going to have to place His will ahead of mine. This means that I may have to say no to some things that I might want to do. It also means that I am going to have to seek the Lord’s will and make it paramount in my life. Taken together, loving God means we open our hearts, give Him our will, develop our minds, direct our emotions, use our bodies and deploy our resources in ways that reveal our love for Him in active, loving service of everyone we encounter

#2: Loving our neighbor: Since every human being is the child of God and the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, we are actually giving expression to our love of God by loving our neighbor as Jesus loves him and us.  This means we have to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without discrimination based on color, race, gender, age wealth or social status. If I am going to love my neighbor as I love myself, it will cost me as well! I may have to seek forgiveness when I think I have done no wrong. I may have to sacrifice something I think I need to meet a brother’s need. I may have to give up time to help someone. I may have to spend time in prayer for people, go to them, and reach out to them in the name of the   Lord.

#3: Questions we should ask ourselves on a daily basis: Is my love for God all that it should be? Do I pray to Him as I should? Am I in His Word as I should be? Are there people or things that have crept in and taken over first place in my life? Is Jesus somewhere down the line after some person, some thing, or even myself? What about my love for others? Is it all it could be? How loving am I to the members of my family, to my neighbors, to the members of my parish community? The answer to all these questions will help us to measure the degree of our love of God.

JOKES OF THE WEEK #1: The child’s commandments:  A Sunday school teacher was talking to a class of five- and six-year-olds about the Ten Commandments. “Can you give me a Commandment with only four words?” she asked. “I know,” said a little girl: “Keep off the grass.” The discussion turned to family love and the teacher brought in the Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Then she asked, “What about a Commandment that tells us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” A little boy who had five brothers and sisters was quick to answer: “I know,” he said, “You shall not kill.” When the class ended, two of the boys began to poke each other. The teacher intervened saying, “Didn’t we just finish talking about the Golden Rule?” to which one of the little combatants replied, “Yes but he did it unto me first.”

#2: No God, no potatoes! A few years ago, on a routine visit to a Soviet collective farm, a Russian commissar demanded of one of the laborers in the fields: “How was the crop this  year?” “Oh, we had a fantastic harvest — many, many potatoes. So many potatoes, in fact, that if you piled them up to the sky, they would reach the foot of God!” The commissar scolded, “There is no God, comrade.” The laborer retorted, “There aren’t any potatoes either.” [Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, in Imprimis 20, (December 1991).]

#3: Faith in the one and only God and trust in several stars: Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby reports of Canadians, “Eighty-eight percent know their astrological signs, with half of the entire population reading their horoscopes at least once a month, outnumbering Bible readers by two to one.” [Reported in Martin E. Marty, Context (1 November 1993).] Wouldn’t it be great if 88% of the people were starting their day with the Word of God, not the alignment of the stars?

#4: Love your neighbor as you love yourself: Three men were sailing together in the Pacific Ocean. Their vessel was wrecked and they found themselves on an island. They had plenty of food, but their existence was in every way different from what their lives had been in the past. The men were walking by the seashore one day after they had been there for some months and found an ancient lantern. One man picked it up. As he began to rub it and clean it, a genie popped out and said, “Well, since you have been good enough to release me, I will give each of you one wish.” The first man said, “Oh, that’s perfectly marvelous. I’m a cattleman from Wyoming and I wish I were back on my ranch.” Poof! He was back on his ranch. The second man said, “Well, I’m a stockbroker from New York, and I wish that I were back in Manhattan.” Poof! He was back in Manhattan with his papers, his telephones, his clients and his computers. The third fellow was somewhat more relaxed about life and actually had rather enjoyed life there on the island. He said, “Well, I am quite happy here. I just wish my two friends were back.” Poof! Poof! (Everybody’s idea of a “great time” isn’t the same).

14-Additional anecdotes: 1) Love your neighbor by shaving your head:  An unusual story of neighborly love appeared in an Associated Press article a year or two ago. Feature writer, Barbara Yuill, told how Manuel Garcia was afraid that he would be conspicuous when he shaved his head to get rid of patches of hair left by chemotherapy. He did not want to be the only “baldy” on his block. He need not have worried, Ms. Yuill wrote. She found his neighborhood teeming with bald heads, all because of love and concern for Garcia, in his fight against stomach cancer. His brother, Julio, first had the idea of going bald. Soon, about fifty friends and relatives shaved their heads to cheer up Garcia. His five-year-old son was bald, and his two older boys had gotten shaves or partial shaves. His wife and daughter had gotten their hair cut short. Some of the fifty friends and relatives had gotten partial shaves, leaving a Mohawk-like strip of hair down the center of the head, or a ducktail. “I cut my hair because I’ve known him for about fifteen years,” said one 26-year-old. “I love him like a father. It made him feel better.” An excellent example of loving your neighbor as yourself, wouldn’t you say? Yes, but not good enough. To love your neighbor as yourself means that if you lived on Manuel Garcia’s block and had reason to despise the man, you would “put yourself in his shoes” and shave your head like the others.

2) He wanted Donna to have his heart when he died: Another newspaper story may provide a better one. It told of Donna, who was given only a few months to live after doctors discovered that she had a degenerative heart muscle. Her fifteen-year-old boyfriend had a premonition about his own death. He told his mother that, when he died, he wanted Donna to have his heart. Three weeks later he died from a burst blood vessel in his brain. His heart was implanted in Donna, just as he had wished. To love your neighbor as yourself means that if you were to choose to give your heart away when you die, you would do so with no strings attached. The recipient could be a sinner on skid row or death row, for all you care. He/she might

survive on your old heart long enough to allow God to redeem him/her.

3) Wouldn’t you like to live in a neighborhood like that? Less than a year after Richard and Judie Wheeler began building their dream house in Winona, Texas, Richard learned he had cancer. For the first time in months, the saws and hammers were silent around the Wheeler home. Then a member of the Wheelers’ church stopped by the house they were renting and asked Judie for the plans to the new dwelling. What happened next resembled an old-fashioned barn-raising. Members of the church started up where Richard had left off. Word spread through the community, and people began offering their services. Some knew a little about plumbing, while others could install wiring. A local restaurant fed volunteers all the chicken fried steaks and hamburgers they could eat. As the house neared completion, Richard Wheeler’s battle with cancer ended. He never saw the house finished. But Judie, who moved in with their daughters in October 1994, a month after Richard’s death, said it had been easier for him knowing that the compassionate neighbors of Winona were taking care of his family. [Kim McGuire in Tyler, Texas, Morning Telegraph. Cited in “Heroes for Today,” Readers Digest (May 1996), pp. 64-65.] Wouldn’t you like to live in a neighborhood like that? That is Jesus’ dream for the entire world: that people should care about other people.

4) Living In the Kingdom Of God: loving God living in his neighbors. Once, a village blacksmith had a vision. An angel came to him and said “The time has come for you to take your place in His kingdom.” “I thank God for thinking of me” said the blacksmith, “but as you know, the season of sowing the crops will soon be here. The people of the village will need their ploughs repaired, and their horses shod. I don’t wish to seem ungrateful, but do you think I might put off taking my place in the kingdom until I have finished?” The angel looked at him in a wise and loving way of angels. The blacksmith continued his work, and almost finished when he heard of a neighbor who fell ill in the middle of the planting season. The next time the blacksmith saw the angel he pointed out towards the barren fields, and pleaded with the angel. “Do you think eternity could hold of a little longer? If I don’t finish my job, my friend’s family will suffer.” Again the angel smiled and vanished. The blacksmith’s friend recovered, but another’s barn was burned down and a third was in deep sorrow at the death of his wife. And the fourth… and so on… Whenever the angel appeared, the blacksmith just spread out his hands in a gesture of resignation and compassion and drew the angel’s eyes to where the suffering was. One evening the blacksmith began to think of the angel and how he had put him off for such a long time. He felt very old and tired, and he prayed “Lord, if you would like to send your angel again, I would like to see him now.” He’d no sooner spoken than the

angel appeared before him. “If you still want me to take me,” said the blacksmith, “I am now ready to take my place in the kingdom of the Lord.” The angel looked at the blacksmith, and smiled, as he said “Where do you think you have been living all these years?” (Jack McArdle in “And That’s the Gospel Truth”).

5) “How do I know which religion is the right one?” Moses Mendelson tells the story of a woman who came to a great teacher and asked him: “Teacher, how do I know which religion is the right one?” The teacher replied with a story of a great and wise King with three sons. This King had a precious gift–a magic ring that gave him great compassion, generosity, and a spirit of kindness. As he was dying, each of his sons went to him and asked the father for the ring after his death. And he promised to each of the sons that he would give him the ring. Now how could he possibly do that for all three sons? Here’s what he did. Before he died he called in the finest jewelry maker of the land and asked him to make two identical copies of the ring. After his death each of his sons was presented with a ring. Well, it wasn’t long before each of the sons figured out that his brothers also had a ring and therefore two of them had to be fakes. Only one of them could be the genuine article. And so they went before a judge and asked the judge to help them determine which was the authentic ring. Then they could determine who the proper heir was. The judge, however, could not distinguish among the three rings. And so he said: “We shall watch and see which son behaves in the most gracious, generous, and kind manner. Then we will know which possesses the original ring.” And from that day on, each son lived as if he was the one with the magic ring, and no one could tell which was the most gracious, generous, and kind. Then the teacher, having told this story, said to the woman, “If you wish to know which religion is true, watch and see which reveals God’s love for the world.” (Daniel E. H. Bryant)

6) “He put his arms around me and just let me sob.” “Dear Ann Landers, I am a 46-year-old woman, divorced, with 3 grown children. After several months of chemotherapy following a mastectomy for breast cancer, I was starting to put my life back together when my doctor called with the results of my last checkup. They had found more cancer, and I was devastated. My relatives had not been supportive. I was the first person in the family to have cancer and they didn’t know how to behave toward me. They tried to be kind, but I had the feeling they were afraid it was contagious. They called on the phone to see how I was doing, but they kept their distance. That really hurt. Last Saturday I headed for the Laundromat. You see the same people there almost every week. We exchange greetings, and make small talk. So I pulled into the parking lot, determined not to look depressed, but my spirits were really low. While taking

my laundry out of the car, I looked up and saw a man, one of the regulars, leaving with his bundle. He smiled and said, ‘Good morning. How are you today?’ Suddenly I lost control of myself and blurted out, ‘This is the worst day of my life! I have more cancer!’ Then I began to cry. “He put his arms around me and just let me sob. Then he said, ‘I understand. My wife has been through it, too.’ After a few minutes I felt better, stammered out my thanks, and proceeded on with my laundry. About 15 minutes later, here he came back with his wife. Without saying a word, she walked over and hugged me. Then she said, ‘I’ve been there, too. Feel free to talk to me. I know what you’re going through.’ Ann, I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Here was this total stranger, taking her time to give me emotional support and courage to face the future at a time when I was ready to give up. Oh, I hope God gives me a chance to do for someone else what that wonderful woman and her husband did for me. Meanwhile, Ann, please let your readers know that even though there are a lot of hardhearted people in this world, there are some incredibly generous and loving ones, too.” (Dr. John Bardsley)

7) “Don’t do drugs and see what happens.” Michael Brennan was a homeless man who spent most of his nights sleeping in a cemetery near Harvard University. Brennan had used drugs since he was 13 and eventually became addicted to heroin. In 1990 after a detoxification program, he went to Boston determined to carve out a new life for himself. His motto was, “Don’t do drugs and see what happens.” He worked part-time moving furniture, but when he wasn’t working, like many homeless persons, he spent his time in the Boston public library where it was warm and hospitable. Unlike many of his kind, however, he began to take advantage of the library for more than a place to hang out. Knowing things had become the goal of his life, and knowing that he knew gave him a direction to pursue. From childhood, he had wanted to write. It was a passion with him. He found books about freelance journalism. “I didn’t even know where to put the address on a cover letter. I had to start with that,” he said. Brennan learned all he could from how-to books in the library and then started to write. One day he was in Cambridge wandering the campus of Harvard University. He came across a room full of computers and asked a student if could use one of them. The young man said, “sure,” and lent him some software. It was this act of kindness, this treatment that gave him some dignity, which Brennan says was crucial to his recovery. Treated with compassion instead of scorn, he used the Harvard computers. His first major article for a local newspaper netted him $1,000 which put a roof over his head. Since that time he has had articles published in Newsweek and other major magazines and papers as well as a book. (Dr. David Richardson). An unknown college student helped change this homeless

man’s life. Wouldn’t you like to make a difference in someone’s life like that? The word is love, Christ-like love. Love like the love that sent Christ to die on a cross for worthless folks like you and me.

8) Love your neighbor as you love yourself : When William Penn was given land in the New World by King Charles II, he was also granted power to make war on the Indians. But Penn refused to build forts or have soldiers in his province. Instead, he treated the Indians kindly and as equals. All disputes between the two races were settled by a meeting of six white men and six Indians. When Penn died, the Indians mourned him as a friend. After Penn’s death, other colonies were constantly under attack by the Indians. Pennsylvania was free from such attacks, however, as long as they refused to arm themselves. Many years later the Quakers were outvoted in the State, and the colony began building forts and training soldiers against possible aggression. You can guess what happened. They were immediately attacked. [Don M. Aycock, Walking Straight in a Crooked World (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987).] William Penn understood the key to all human relations is: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. How difficult can it be to love your neighbor?

9) You’ve got to be special to be in my class : John Q. Baucom, in his book Baby Steps to Happiness, tells about a teacher-training workshop he once conducted. He spoke to the teachers about the power of self-esteem. One of the teachers came up with an ingenious way of implementing it. At the beginning of the school year she would kneel and whisper in her first graders’ ears, “You’ve got to be special to be in my class. I only get the really smart students.” Each child reacted with pleasant surprise upon discovering they were “special.” She ended up having far less difficulty in her classroom than the other teachers. She also started receiving phone calls from parents telling her they were glad someone finally recognized their children were so smart! It turned out to be a win/win situation. Positive self-esteem raised the children’s performance [“What Goes Up Must Come Down,” Health/August 1996, (Kilsyth, Australia: Word Publishing, 1991), 102-103)], and we all need a degree of positive self-esteem. Please believe me when I say that I recognize the need for positive self-esteem. THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT IT WON’T HELP US LOVE AS JESUS LOVED.  Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, has come to the conclusion that too much self-esteem leads to bigger problems in society not smaller problems. Positive self-love can be a healthy thing. Christ does not intend for us to be doormats who let others walk all over us because we do not value ourselves. Healthy self-love leads to self-acceptance, improved performance in our work, and a feeling of peacefulness in life. BUT IT DOES NOT CAUSE US TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR — NOT WITH THE KIND OF LOVE JESUS INTENDS. HERE IS THE

TRUTH OF THE MATTER: YOU CAN’T TRULY LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR UNTIL YOU LOVE GOD. Why should I love my neighbor? Because I love God, and God has commanded me to love my neighbor.

10) Have any of you ever eaten coconut? Maybe you’ve had coconut sprinkled on a cake, or on some ice cream. The coconut is a very interesting food. Not only can the coconut be used for food, but every single part of the coconut can be used for something. The hard outer shell can be used for making bowls and cups. The oil inside the coconut can be used for cooking. Inside the coconut is also the flaky “meat” part, and a lot of coconut milk. These can be eaten and drunk. The wood of the coconut tree can be used for building things, like houses and tools. And the husk fibers of the coconut tree can be woven into baskets, ropes, rugs, and things like that. Every single part of the coconut tree can be used for something useful. Have you ever thought of yourself as a coconut? Well, that’s how I want you to think right now. You see, this morning we’re going to talk about how we can use every single part of ourselves. The Bible says that we should use every single part of ourselves when we love God. In our Bible story today, someone asks Jesus what the most important commandment of all is. And Jesus says the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. And He also says that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. So it sounds as though Jesus wants us use every single part of ourselves to love God. Our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength: that’s everything. And if we really love God, then we will love Him completely, with everything we’ve got.

11) Transformation of Joe Paterno: I remember being at West Virginia University in the early 1980’s.  Penn State had defeated WVU in football for about 25 years in a row.  And Joe Paterno had this reputation of being all grace, humility, and dignity in every one of the victories.  But then something unusual happened.  WVU won.  I was at that game.  I was one of the students that rushed the field to tear down the goalpost at the one end of the field that the police allowed it.  If I remember correctly, the end of the game went like this:  the outcome was decided, but there were 17 seconds left on the clock when the students rushed the field.  Paterno threw a fit.  He insisted on having the field cleared for one more play, which was insignificant.  Penn State could not win.   Coach Paterno told the officials that he was OK with letting the time run out. The officials said that that game needed to be completed. If the final 17 seconds were not played, then WVU would have been fined. Coach Paterno could have let that happen but he did not. Paterno took the loss hard and was no longer seen as a gracious gentleman, at least in my eyes.  You see, as long as he was winning, he appeared to be a gentleman, but when the outcome wasn’t what he desired,

his mean and disagreeable side took control. In the Scripture today, we have a story where the two parties are agreeable; where the scribe takes comfort that Jesus’ words line up with the scribe’s own words, beliefs, and teachings. Jesus does do something new by elevating the love of neighbor here.  He basically combined Dt 6:4 and part of Lv 19:18 into a summary of the law. (Rev. Scot Knowlton).

12) The whisper test: In her book, The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird shares a critical episode in her life. She was born with a cleft palate. When she started school her classmates let her know that she was different: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. If they asked what happened to her lip, she told them she fell and cut it on a piece of glass. For her, it felt more acceptable to say that she’d been injured rather than being born different. Along the way Mary Ann became convinced that no one outside her family could love her. However, when she got to 2nd grade she was assigned to a teacher, Mrs. Leonard, who was happy and sparkly, the kind of instructor all the kids loved. Every year in school the students were required to take hearing test. When the day came for Mary Ann to take hers, she was supposed to stand at a distance, cover one ear, and listen closely for something the teacher would whisper to her so she could repeat it back. Usually the teacher would say something like “The sky is blue,” or “What color are your shoes?, but that day Mrs. Leonard spoke seven words that changed a little girl’s life when she whispered, “I wish you were my little girl.” At that moment she knew she was loved just as she was, and her life was changed. Love can do that. When you know that someone loves you just as you are and demonstrates it in their words and actions, it can change, it can transform your life. (Rev. Ken Larson).

13) America’s Four Gods: How do you think Americans today see God? In 2006 Baylor University published a survey of attitudes toward religion and one of the topics was people’s view of God and how it affected their values, actions and attitudes. Two professors from Baylor took the data and wrote a book titled, America’s Four Gods. They found two key areas of belief among the respondents. First, some saw God as distant and uncaring while others saw him as engaged and active in people’s lives. Second, some thought He was only loving and never judgmental while others believe He does express His anger toward people and nations in this life. Within these two broad categories, the authors identified four basic attitudes toward God: 1) Authoritative – 31%. The Authoritative God is very involved in the world to help people and judges evil in this life. Still, he is loving, and is seen as a Father figure. 2) Benevolent – 24%. The Benevolent God is very involved in this world to help people, but does not feel anger toward wrongdoers and does not judge anyone. 3) Critical – 16%. The Critical God does not

involve himself in the affairs of this world or its people, but he does take careful note of how people live and judges them in the afterlife, holding them to account for evils done. 4) Distant – 24%. The Distant God is more a cosmic force or Higher Power than a person. This God created everything but is no longer engaged with the world and does not judge its inhabitants. Atheists comprise about 5% of the population. (P. Froese & C. Bader, America’s Four Gods, Oxford, 2010) If you examine those statistics they tell us that 70% of the people in our society either believe that God is out there somewhere, but detached and uninterested. Or he’s like the bellhop at a hotel who’s there to pick up the baggage of life that’s too heavy for us to hoist, but the rest of the time can be politely ignored if we feel we’ve got things well in hand. (Rev. Ken Larson).

14) Tim Tebow’s secret of success: Tim Tebow, one of our grandson’s heroes, is one of the most recognized names in sport. Do you know who his role model was? Danny Wuerffel, the University of Florida Quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy 11 years before Tebow. Wuerffel’s Faith was always important to him, and now that he has retired from professional football, he works for Desire Street Ministry, a Christian-based organization that revitalizes impoverished neighborhoods. About the time he retired, he was asked to write a book on how he had become so successful. He sent in his five tips on success and the publisher sent them right back saying, “These sound a lot like other people’s tips on success. We want tips that reflect on you, so go deep within yourself and tell us what makes you, Danny Wuerffel, successful.” After pondering it awhile, he realized that there is a voice inside of him. If he approaches a door, the voice says, “You’re going through that door. You’re so strong that even if it is bolted shut, you’ll knock it down.” And whenever he faced a test in school, the voice said, “You are so smart, you can ace this test.” And he was, in fact, a scholar as well as an athlete. And when he was on the field, the voice said, “Danny, you are so fast, you can run like the wind.” So, he thought to himself, “That’s it. Self-motivation. Make that voice speak. That’s the key to my success.” About that time, he and his wife had their first child, a little boy. His mother came over to their house and helped take care of him. One day she was upstairs in the baby’s room walking around cradling her grandson. Danny walked by the door, and he heard his mom’s voice say to his son, “You are so strong! You’re the strongest baby in the world. You are so smart. You’ll be such a wonderful student. And you are going to be so fast, as fast as the wind!” Suddenly Danny realized what made him who he is, was the voice of his mother. And coming through her voice was the whisper of God.4 These are the kind of things God whispers in our hearts. “You are strong; you are smart; you can run

like the wind.” And God whispers, “You are a beautiful person; you are worthy of love; you are a blessing to the world.” Regrettably, some people hear so many negative things about themselves that it deafens them to the whispers of God. They hear the destructive words of a wounded human, and they have trouble discerning the uplifting words of God. (Victor D. Pentz) L/ 18

         

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 60) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed or previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.