June 14, 2019

June 30, 2019: O. T. XIII (C) Sunday Homily

O.T. XIII [C] Sunday (June 30) Homily (one-page summary) 

Introduction: Today’s readings are about God’s call and man’s commitment in answer to that call. They ask for total commitment in total freedom with the spirit of patient love, saying an unconditional “Yes” to Jesus and to the Christian life as a true disciple of Christ.

Scripture lessons: The first reading describes how Elisha committed himself whole-heartedly to answer God’s call to be a prophet, in spite of his initial hesitation when God called him through the prophet Elijah. The Responsorial Psalm, (Psalm 16), offers us the refrain, “You are my inheritance, O Lord.” This Psalm has traditionally been used to exemplify commitment to the ordained ministry or to religious profession. But it more accurately reflects the commitment made by all Christians in their Baptism. The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, reinforces the commitment message of the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm. Paul warns that true freedom is not meant to be a license for self-indulgence, but to be a way to show God, ourselves, and other human beings our commitment to God and to His service.

The first part of today’s Gospel records Jesus’ teaching on Christian tolerance, given after he had observed the angry response of two of his apostles. James and John were angry and asked if Jesus wanted them to bring down fire from Heaven to destroy the Samaritans who had refused to receive Jesus as a prophet and allow him to travel through their village because Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem. In the second part of today’s Gospel, Luke introduces three potential disciples who offered lame reasons that made Jesus’ call to ministry “impossible” for them to accept, after Jesus had told them plainly what the commitment required, and the cost involved. They were found unfit and unprepared to follow Jesus as his disciples. We too, are asked to follow Jesus, totally and immediately, without any reservations, both by giving priority to him and to his cause and by surrendering our lives to God in humble and dedicated service to others.

Life messages: As Christians, we should have the courage of our convictions and so honor our commitments: a) The marriage commitment. The spouses are expected to honor their marriage commitment, that is, to remain in mutual love and respect till their death and to raise their children to be zealous Christians. b) The priestly and religious commitment: Priests, Deacons and religious should honor the commitment they have made to obey their lawful superiors, to keep their vows and to spend their lives serving God’s people faithfully. c) The Christian commitment: As Christians, all of us should honor our Baptismal commitment: to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, to obey his law of love and to bear witness to him through ideal and transparent Christian lives.

OT XIII [C] (June 30): I Kgs 19:16b, 19-21; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9:51-62

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: The Cost of Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran theologian, wrote a series of reflections on the Sermon on the Mount entitled, The Cost of Discipleship, in which he maintained that discipleship requires that we make a fundamental decision to follow Jesus and to accept the consequences of that decision. His own religious convictions led him to stand up to the tyranny of Nazi Germany and to participate in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The plot was uncovered, Bonhoeffer was apprehended, and the ultimate “cost” of discipleship was exacted of him: he was hanged by the Nazis on April 9, 1945. While discipleship might force some people to decide between life and death, few of us will be asked to pay that ultimate price. But today’s Gospel challenges us to live in a certain way, imitating the prophetic vocation of Jesus (Dianne Bergant, C. S. A.).

# 2: The price of World-class Status: Some years ago, in an issue of Sports Illustrated, there was an article on Bela Karolyi, a Romanian coach. He was once the coach of the national Romanian team that produced the World Olympic champion gymnast Nadia Comaneci (https://youtu.be/Yi_5xbd5xdE). In 1981 Bela Karolyi defected to the United States with a suitcase, leaving everything else behind including his Mercedes. A few years later he was training more than 300 young people at his Sundance Athletic Club in Houston, Texas. To attain world class status in gymnastics the way Nadia did, an athlete must become a disciple of a master like Bela Karolyi. First, she must sacrifice her own comfort and follow a strenuous training program. Second, she must re-order her priorities, attach supreme importance to gymnastics and subordinate everything else to it. Third, she must make a single-minded commitment to persevere in spite of difficulties and disappointments. The same three elements of discipleship are required of followers in today’s Gospel: letting go of everything, re-ordering priorities and being single-minded. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

# 3: Commitment of Mormon missionaries: Many of us have seen Mormon missionaries riding their bicycles, wearing dark pants, white shirts and ties. Let me tell you more about their lifestyle. They do not see their families during the two years of their mission service. They are allowed to call home only on Christmas and Mother’s Day. Their day begins at 6:30 AM with an hour of Bible study and prayer. Then they work until 9:30 PM. They have about an hour to do laundry and study Scripture before lights out. This is their schedule six days per week. No TV or movies or dates for two years. We have seen young men with multi-million dollars pro-basketball contracts put all that on hold until they fulfill their mission obligation. Although I have some serious and fundamental theological differences with the Mormons, I can’t deny the commitment of their young missionaries. Perhaps that commitment is a key reason why their numbers are growing so rapidly in the United States. Today’s readings are about God’s call and the commitment expected from us to answer that call.

# 4: On Christian tolerance: The best commentary on the first part of today’s Gospel is a story about Abraham Lincoln, who was the finest and most spiritual of all the American presidents. During the Civil War, Lincoln was often criticized for not being severe enough on the soldiers of the South.  On one occasion after a battle, a general from the North asked him, “Why didn’t you destroy the enemy when you had the chance? President Lincoln answered with words adapted from the today’s Gospel passage: “Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?” That is exactly what Jesus tells   us in today’s Gospel: destroy our enemies by making them our friends. No doubt the feelings of anger and resentment run deep in many hearts today, and we wouldn’t mind if people who hurt us deeply were punished or suffered from bad luck. Jesus, however, says: “That is not my Spirit — let Me heal your heart.”

Introduction: Today’s readings are about God’s call and man’s answering that call with commitment. The first reading describes how Elisha committed himself whole-heartedly, answering God’s call to be a prophet, in spite of his initial hesitation when God called him through the prophet Elijah. The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 16), offers us the refrain, “You are my inheritance, O Lord.” The Psalm has traditionally been used to exemplify commitment to the ordained ministry or to religious profession. But it more accurately reflects the commitment made by all Christians in their Baptism. The second reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, reinforces the commitment message of the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm. In today’s Gospel, Luke introduces some potential disciples who offer a variety of reasons as to why Jesus’ call to ministry is “impossible” for them to accept. By analyzing their excuses and Jesus’ responses to them, each of us is challenged to examine to what extent the alibis we offer to escape responsible ministry in the Church have any merit. We, too, are asked to follow Jesus totally and immediately, without any reservation, by giving up everything we have and surrendering our lives to God in the service of others.

The first reading: I Kings 19:16b, 19-21, explained: Elijah was able to preach to kings and overcome the false prophets until Queen, Jezebel became angry with him (1 Kings 18-19.) Then he fled the kingdom and returned to the Lord to resign his commission. But God did not accept his resignation. Instead, He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor and co-worker. In the early history of salvation, the “mission” of being a Prophet was passed on from one prophet to another. Sometimes the prophet had a token or symbol of his ministry. In the case of Elijah, this was a cloak, which he threw over Elisha. [When he was being taken up in the fiery chariot, Elijah would pass that cloak on to Elisha.] Elisha’s response was, “Please, let my kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah replied, in effect, “Why are you giving me excuses? I’m not the One calling you!” Elisha accepted the rebuke, and to show his repentance and total commitment to God’s call, he slaughtered the twelve yoke of oxen he had been using for his plowing, cooked their flesh (using the yoke and harness as fuel), and gave the meat as a meal for those who depended upon him. Elisha then became Elijah’s successor. He left everything behind him and committed himself to his prophetic role. In the Church, the ministry of prophecy is not reserved to a few but is a commission for all those who are reborn into Christ. When at Baptism the priest anoints those to be baptized, he announces: “I anoint you as priest, prophet, and king.” This is to remind us that our prophetic mission consists in our becoming God’s voice in our community and in our society.    We are to be the conscience of the community. Where we see injustice in our community, in our society, in our families and especially in our own selves, we are compelled by our Baptism to change our own conduct, and if necessary, to raise our voice in God’s Name, so that God’s word may be made present at every moment.

The second reading: Gal 5:1, 13-18, explained: In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul reminds all ministers of the Good News that the criterion by which they are to measure themselves is the very Spirit of God. Paul also clarifies that true freedom consists in our being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ and in listening to the voice of God. Paul says: “Do not use your freedom, brothers and sisters, as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, use it to serve one another through love.” We begin to be free when we begin the process of commitment.  Our freedom is realized only when we give ourselves away in love. Instead of living a life of self-indulgence, one who follows Jesus accepts a ministry of service that is rooted in loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Christian freedom may be defined like this: “I am my commitment to God. I will live my commitment, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until I die.” Paul seems rather exasperated at having to remind his hearers of the obvious: living the new life of freedom in the Spirit means abandoning the old ways of sin. The “lust of the flesh” should be understood not only in a sexual sense, but as referring to all worldly impulses that are opposed to true love of neighbor.

Gospel exegesis: Rejection by the Samaritans: Today’s Gospel passage deals with the beginning of Jesus’ journey from the northern towns of Galilee to the southern city of Jerusalem through the land of Samaria. Jesus encountered obstacles both from prospective disciples, who wanted to postpone their commitment until a more convenient time, and from the Samaritans. The Jews and Samaritans shared a common origin in the twelve tribes of Israel. But they hated each other and refused to intermingle or intermarry because of a long-standing historic conflict between the two nations dating back to the eighth century BC, after the Assyrian conquest of the Jews. Even under Assyrian rule, the Samaritans claimed to have maintained proper worship in their land with Mount Gerizim as the center of their religious life.  They argued that the Jews were the ones who had compromised their religious beliefs during their Babylonian exile. The Jews, on the other hand, with the Temple of Jerusalem as the center of their religious life, accused Samaritans of having lost their religious and racial identity through intermarriage with their pagan neighbors.  They even considered Samaritans as heretical and false worshipers of the God of Israel and detested them far more than they detested the pagans. To get to Jerusalem, Galileans had either to go through Samaria or to take a longer, more difficult route east of the Jordan River.  Jesus chose the shortcut through Samaria. But the Samaritans both refused to honor Jesus as a prophet and violated the sacred duties of hospitality. This infuriated the apostles and two of them, James and John, asked Jesus if he wanted them to command fire to come down from Heaven and consume the Samaritans as Elijah had done in his day (II Kings 1:9-12).  Jesus rebuked them, however, because he was not a destroyer but a Savior with a message of mercy and love.

The call and excuses: The response of Jesus to the three would-be followers, described in the second part of today’s Gospel, (vv 57-62), exemplifies the wholehearted constancy and sacrificial ministry that the Christian mission requires. We are surprised at Jesus’ sharp response to the first man’s willing discipleship. Undoubtedly, Jesus saw more deeply into the man’s heart than we can. Jesus is simply honest about the demands and the cost of a commitment we might make too lightly and a journey we might undertake too easily. “Let the dead bury their dead”: This response may sound too harsh. But this man’s father was not dead or sick. He simply wished to stay with his father until his death. Jesus knew that later he would find another reason to delay the call. Jesus did not want another would-be follower to go home and bid farewell to his dear ones. Hence, Jesus rebukes him saying that the plowman must look ahead rather than back. Looking back while plowing causes crooked lines in the field. We see classical cases of initial reluctance and lame excuses in accepting God’s call from Moses (Exodus 3: 1, 4: 10), Gideon (Judges 6: 15), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 5). Hence, we should be slow to condemn those who offer excuses in the service of the Lord; we need to offer them proper motivation, support, and encouragement.

Life messages: 1) We need to honor our marriage commitment. As in the case of Elisha and the apostles, our commitment becomes our life. But today, more than ever, people make commitments too easily and then break them. This is the age of the lack of true commitment. The problem today is not that people are living together without being married; the problem is that they do not have the courage to make the commitment of marriage. In recent years, the age of marriage has increased by more than three years in the West, that is, more than 10%. Modern people find many excuses for delaying marriage: “Well, let’s get good jobs and financial security first.” Another familiar excuse is:  “I want to be free to come and go as I please!” Another excuse for delaying marriage is: “Let’s live together first. We’ll see if we’re compatible!” But the fact is that the longer unmarried couples live together, the more they experience their incompatibility!

2) We need to pray to solve the crisis in priestly commitment. We all know there is a tremendous shortage of priests and religious men because our young people are unwilling to make commitments to God by committing themselves to life-long celibacy, to a diocese or to the vowed life of a religious community. The argument, “I don’t want to make that commitment because I don’t want to give everything away,” shows an incorrect notion of Christian freedom. We begin to be free only when we start the process called commitment, and our freedom is realized only when we give ourselves away in love. Unfortunately, like those three would-be followers, a lot of our youngsters are still confused and ill-prepared for any kind of mission for their lives. As a result, they become adept at evading Christ’s call to discipleship.

3) We are invited to a Christian life of patient love. The first part of today’s Gospel gives us the greatest passage in the Bible concerning tolerance, which is really patient love, our “bearing with” one another. Quick anger over little incidents flares up all the time – between parents and children, in the workplaces between co-workers and in the neighborhood between neighbors. Very often the anger explodes over nothing. The Spirit of Jesus is opposed to such feelings. Although Elijah called down the fires of God from Heaven to wipe out the four hundred prophets of Baal, Jesus refused to have fire cast on the Samaritans who refused him entry. Hence, let us have this beautiful prayer in our hearts and on our lips: “Create in me a clean heart. O God and put a new and a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of loving.”

4) We need to pray for strength to honor all our commitments. We are here this morning because, in one way or another, we have said to Jesus, “I will follow you.” But the truth of the matter is that most of us don’t want to follow Jesus because we want him to follow us. Hence, we are only partially faithful to him. But the Good News is that we are following him as best we can. We will leave this hour of Eucharistic worship and return to the world with all sorts of tough choices and difficult demands. Hence, we need to pray for strength, we need to ask for forgiveness when we fail, and we need to renew our determination to walk with Jesus by being loyal to our spouse and family, earning our living honestly, and living not only peacefully, but lovingly, with our neighbors.

Image result for laughing jesus imagesJOKE OF THE WEEK Image result for laughing jesus images(Laughing Jesus)

(“Laughter is indeed God’s therapy. Let us then be thankful that, when the Gates of Heaven swing open, mixed with celestial music there is the unmistakable sound of celestial laughter.” (Malcom Muggeridge) Shortly after his election as pope, St. John XXIII was walking in the streets of Rome when a woman passed him and said to her friend, “My God, he’s so fat!” Overhearing her remark, he turned around and replied, “Madame, I trust you understand that the papal conclave is not exactly a beauty contest.”) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-saints-were-yes-funny_b_2057837 & https://medium.com/@CatholicExtension/the-saint-who-laughed-his-way-to-heaven-da5aaa205681

Committed to the spouse or to the Super Bowl? A young man was very excited because he just won a ticket to the Super Bowl. His excitement lessened as he realized his seat was in the back of the stadium. As he searched the rows ahead of him for a better seat, he saw an empty one right next to the field. He approached the man sitting next to the empty seat and asked if it was taken. The man replied, “No.” Amazed the young man asked, “How could someone pass up a seat like this?” The older gentleman responded, “That’s my wife’s seat. We’ve been to every Super Bowl together since the day we were married but she has passed away.” “Oh, how sad,” the man said. “I’m sorry to hear that, but couldn’t you find a friend or relative to come with you?”
“No,” the man said, “They’re all at the funeral.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

  1. Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
  2. Links to important Catholic websites: http://www.catholicmatters.com/links.htm
  3. New official Catholic documents & news: http://scripturecatholic.com/

Image result for Luke 9: 57-62 EEEB84B0 Image result for Let the dead bury the dead

21 Additional anecdotes

1): The commitment of a star-maker: Bill Haber, a famous movie producer, was one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.   For thirty years, his life consisted of making and breaking the careers of movie stars, and he did his job well. In 1995, when his two partners at Creative Artists Agency left him in order to run their own studios, Bill started a nonprofit organization called Save the Children, where he now supervises forty thousand employees in forty-one countries. He left behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for the day-in day-out realities of starving kids. Why would he make such a move? Simple, he says. “You only live once, and I felt God calling me to work with children.” He realized that wealth and power aren’t everything, and when confronted with the chance to make a lasting difference in people’s lives, he simply said, “I couldn’t afford to let the opportunity pass.”  Amazingly, Bill Haber says that nobody in Hollywood ever thought he was crazy for doing what he did. In fact, several have said to him, “I wish I could do that.” The truth is that anyone at any time can do what Bill Haber did. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us an invitation to abandon the building of our own individual kingdoms, and to join with him in building his eternal Kingdom, right here and right now, with total commitment.

2: Commitment of martyrs: In the early days of the Church, countless people lost their lives as martyrs for Christ. Rather than weakening the Christian community, however, the stories of these suffering believers drew multitudes of people to the faith. One of these early martyrs was a young mother named Vibia Perpetua. Perpetua, a native of North Africa, was just twenty years old when she was imprisoned for giving her life to Christ. Fortunately, Perpetua was imprisoned with five other Christians. This small band of believers continued to worship God and uplift one another throughout this ordeal. They all remained strong in their faith, confident that they were doing God’s will. The day before they were executed, this tiny band of Christians gathered together and had an agápe meal, an honored tradition in the early Church. Then, each of the believers was thrown in the arena with a wild animal. Most of the believers were gored to death, but the crowd protested at the sight of Perpetua’s body covered in bloody wounds, so she was removed from the arena and beheaded by a soldier. Somehow, they thought this was more humane than death at the mercy of an animal. We may think the story of Perpetua had a tragic, senseless ending, but it was examples of a steadfast faith like Perpetua’s that inspired generations of believers after her. [Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), 37.]

3) The movie Amazing Grace on William Wilberforce : In 2006 a movie came out called Amazing Grace. It was the story of William Wilberforce, who is credited with being primarily responsible for the 23 February 1807 vote in England to abolish the slave trade. The vote was 283-16. But that vote doesn’t tell the story. Wilberforce spent 20 years pushing abolition. Few people in history were as stubborn as Wilberforce, and few people in history were as criticized as Wilberforce. In the 1790s he was slandered in the press, physically assaulted, subjected to numerous death threats and once challenged to a duel. During certain periods he had to travel with a bodyguard. His spirit was almost broken many times. He suffered a nervous breakdown. But in spite of all the dirt thrown at Wilberforce, he kept stomping and moving. He handled criticism, not by turning back and engaging his critics, but by kicking down the dirt and moving on toward his goal. He set his face toward the abolition of slavery, and he didn’t look back. Wilberforce feared God more than he feared his critics. It kept him committed his goal of banishing slavery and liberating slaves in England. In today’s Gospel Jesus wants such commitment from his disciples.

4) “No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.” Here is a story about commitment. In 1904, William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy estate, graduated from a Chicago high school as a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia and the Middle East, Borden was given by God a burden for the world’s suffering people. Writing home, he said, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” When he made that decision, he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: “No reserves.” After graduating from Yale, he turned down numerous high-paying jobs and headed to the seminary. At that time, he entered two more words in his Bible: “No retreats.” After completing studies at Princeton Seminary, Borden sailed for China. On the way he stopped in Egypt for some additional training. While there he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month. Perhaps you are thinking what a waste! William Borden didn’t think so. Shortly before he died, he entered two more words in his Bible. Now the statement read: “No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.” Success for a Christian is to be able to say at the end of the line, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; and I have kept the Faith.”

5) The cost of discipleship: Albert Einstein, the German-born mathematician, slowly watched his homeland give in to Adolf Hitler’s Fascist dictatorship. Einstein wondered if any were going to stand up and oppose Hitler. He said, and I quote, “When Hitlerism came to Germany, I expected the Universities to oppose it. Instead they embraced it. I hoped for the press to denounce it, but instead they propagated its teachings. One by one the leaders and institutions which should have opposed the Nazi philosophy bowed meekly to its authority. Only one institution met it with vigorous opposition and that was the Christian Church.” Einstein confessed, “That which I once despised, I now love with a passion I cannot describe.” The commitment of the Church in standing against evil made a profound impression upon Einstein. Those individuals in the 1930’s understood the cost associated with their actions, and they did not back down. The Church today is challenged by Jesus to do the same in today’s Gospel.

6) A Methodist anecdote on ploughman not looking back: John Wesley, the great founder of the Methodist church wrote in his diary: Sunday a.m. May 5 – Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore. Sunday p.m. May 5 – Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said get out and stay out. Sunday a.m. May 12 – Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there either. Sunday a.m. May 19 – Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn’t return. Sunday p.m. – Preached on street. Kicked off the street. Sunday a.m. – Preached in meadow. Chased out of the meadow as bull was turned loose during service. Sunday a.m. – Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off highway. Sunday p.m. – June afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me. (Rev. Leonard Sweet).

7) Commitment to one’s swearing in the court:   “I know you’ve been sworn in, and I’ve read your complaint.” So, begins Judge Wapner as another case unfolds on the popular television series, People’s Court. The Judge’s repetition of the phrase before each case implies that the litigants have already placed their hands on the Bible and sworn to tell nothing “but the truth.” However, courtroom cases do not progress far until it becomes apparent that either the plaintiff or the defendant is lying. Immediately, the whole matter of swearing-in comes into question. What good did it really do if one, or both parties involved knew from the beginning that they would not hesitate to bend the facts around to fit their own purposes? Beneath the long look, it appears that the swearing-in has become nothing more than a formality to be hurdled in order to get on with the business at hand. Committing oneself to tell the truth, committing a meeting to the fulfillment of God’s will, or committing one’s behavior to the glory of God; all of these are noble and highly commendable. However, if all we are committed to is the formality of making the commitment, we are, as someone expressed it, “a bluster, a bluff, an empty show.”

8) Excuse-filled society: One of the most respected authors in America made this observation: Our culture has declared war on guilt…Perhaps the most prevalent means of escaping blame is by classifying every human failing as some kind of disease. Drunkards and drug addicts can check into clinics for treatment of their “chemical dependencies.” Children who habitually defy authority can escape condemnation by being labeled “hyper-active” or having ADD (Attention Deficiency Disorder). Gluttons are no longer blame-worthy; they suffer from an “eating disorder.” Even the man who throws away his family’s livelihood to pay for prostitutes is supposed to be an object of compassionate understanding; he is “addicted to sex” (John MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience, p. 23). Today’s Gospel, while describing Jesus’ call to discipleship explains how he handles lame excuses.

9) “An excuse is just the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” (Billy Sunday): The Toronto News published a listing of actual accident reports filed by those involved in accidents. 1) “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.” 2) “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.” 3) “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.” 4) “In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.” 5) “I told the police I was not injured, but on removing my hat I found that I had a fractured skull.” 6) “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him.” 7) “The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth” (Great Stories, April/June, 1994). Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus’ call to follow him met with such excuses.

10) Fix your priorities in life: They were 5,000 feet in the air in a two-seater Cessna when suddenly the pilot slumped over. It happened not so long-ago near Mount Hope, Indiana, to an 81-year-old passenger who was flying to Indianapolis for lunch. When his 52-year-old friend and pilot unexpectedly died, the elder passenger realized he knew nothing about flying and a lot less about landing! In the next twenty minutes you can bet he gave his total attention to the voices on the radio and the instructions given to him. Another pilot nearby coached him and gave him a “crash course” (pardon the pun) in flying a two-seat Cessna and most importantly in landing. He circled the airport three times and came in, bounced a few times, and landed in a soggy field. Incredibly, there was no damage except a bent propeller. If this happened to you or to me today, our number one priority would be determined very, very quickly! The main thing and the only thing would be to land that Cessna and not crash! Stephen Covey in his book, First Things First, a New York Times best seller for several years, says the issue for life is just that – first things first.

11) Cost of discipleship for Paul: Paul sounds like Jesus. He knew following Jesus meant danger on all sides: “Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys; in danger from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

12) It’s about living joyfully and freely in the present. September 1944–a U.S. bomber plane flying over the Pacific is hit by enemy fire. The three airmen on board must make a hasty parachute jump to safety. Only one of the three survives the terrifying ordeal. This lone survivor, George H. Bush, would later distinguish himself in business and in politics, and would go on to become our country’s 41st President. He is also the father, of course, of another President, George W. Bush. Yet 53 years after that terrible bail-out over the Pacific, former President George H. Bush decided that he needed to tackle that parachute jump again. According to a story in Life magazine, he wasn’t looking for glory or publicity; he simply wanted to face the awful memories and emotions associated with this wartime incident. So, at the age of 72, George H. Bush hired a plane to fly him out over the Arizona desert, where he made a successful jump. Now, after all those years, he could put that part of his past to rest. Sometimes you need to do something just about that radical to get rid of painful memories that are interfering with present happiness. Of course, that is what our Faith is about. It’s not about life in the past. It’s about living joyfully and freely in the present. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” [Life, (May 1997), p. 25.]

13) Commitment in marriage: One of the most popular songs in weddings today is Steven Curtis Chapman’s I Will Be Here.” The song is a simple declaration by Chapman that no matter what their marriage goes through, he will be there for his wife. Sadly, Chapman was inspired to write this song for his wife after he learned that his own parents were divorcing. As Chapman says, “Seeing the pain of my parents’ divorce caused Mary Beth and me to ask ourselves how we could prevent this in our marriage. We spent many hours together in prayer and through that process came to understand that to love and forgive unconditionally on a daily basis is the only way a marriage can last” [“Play It Again, Sam” by Joan Brasher, Aspire (June/July 1997), p. 34].

“Tomorrow mornin’
If you wake up
And the sun
Does not appear
I, I will be here
If in the dark
We lose sight of love
Hold my hand
And have no fear
‘Cause I, I will be here” (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/stevencurtischapman/iwillbehere.html)

14) “The Lord guides me.” Catherine Swift in her biography of Eric Liddell describes the faith-commitment of England’s fastest runner of 1924 and the gold medalist of 400-meter final at the Paris Olympics. On April 6, 1923, in a small-town hall in Armadale, Scotland, Eric Liddell spoke for the first time of his faith in Christ and of the strength he felt within himself from the sure knowledge of God’s love and support. News of Liddell’s talk was reported in every newspaper in Scotland the next morning. When asked how he knew where the finish line was located, he replied in his deliberate Scottish brogue, “The Lord guides me.” As word of his Faith in Christ spread through England, many wondered if he would display the same zeal on the track. Liddell silenced all skeptics in the AAA Championships in London in July 1923, by winning the 220-yard dash and the 100-yard dash. His time in the 100 stood as England’s best for thirty-five years. But he stunned his British sports fans by refusing to participate in the Paris Olympic heats for the 100 meters as the officials fixed it on a Sunday. He considered Sunday to be sacred, a day set apart for the Lord, and he would honor his convictions at the expense of fame. He was replaced by his teammate. But three days later, he finished third in the 200-meter sprint, taking an unexpected bronze medal and his substitute won the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. Eric volunteered to run the 400 meters and surprised the world by winning an Olympic gold medal for England. Liddell ran to victory, five meters ahead of the silver medalist. “The Flying Scotsman” had a gold medal and a world record, 47.6 seconds. Most of all, Eric Liddell had kept his commitment to his convictions of Faith. After a few years Eric surprised the world once again by becoming an ordained missionary in China where he served as a zealous missionary for 13 years. Shortly after his forty-third birthday in January 1945 he died of a brain tumor. Eric Liddell ran, spoke, and lived with great faithfulness and solid commitment to Christ as demanded by Jesus in today’s Gospel. The movie, Chariots of Fire, chronicles his Faith, influencing yet another generation for Jesus Christ. (http://ww2.intouch.org/site/c.dhKHIXPKIuE/b.2704335/k.CF1A/Life_Center_Principles__Life_Examples__Eric_Liddell.htm)

15) The cost of discipleship: The Indian Epics narrate many amazing stories about the dedication of the disciples to their masters. The story of Ekalavya in Mahabharata is such an amazing one. Ekalavya is introduced as a young prince. He lived near the ashram of Drona, where Pandavas princes and Kaurava princes used to take lessons in various arts. He had great desire to learn the art of archery from Dronacharya. But Drona would not accept him as his disciple. But the boy was not to be put off; his determination knew no bounds. Ekalavya went off into the forest where he fashioned a clay statue of Drona. Worshipping the statue as his preceptor, he began a disciplined program of self-study. As a result, Ekalavya became an archer of exceptional prowess. One day while Ekalavya was practicing, he heard a dog barking. Ekalavya fired seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog’s mouth without injuring it. The Princes were surprised. They asked him who his master was. He replied that His “Guru” was Dronacharya. When Drona heard of it he went to see his unknown disciple. He found Ekalavya diligently practicing archery. Seeing Drona, Ekalavya prostrated himself and clasped the teacher’s hands, awaiting his order. Drona asked Ekalavya for his Gurudakshina, the deed of gratitude a student owed his teacher upon the completion of his training. Ekalavya replied that there was nothing he would not give his teacher. Drona said, “Give me your right thumb.” Without hesitation he cut off his right thumb and handed it to Drona. Today’s readings speak to us about the cost of discipleship. (Fr. Bobby)

16) Lech Walesa’s single-minded commitment: As is well known, not to retaliate in the face of provocation demands great courage and strength. Such was the moral courage and superhuman strength demonstrated by Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Solidarity was a non-violent movement formed among the shipyard workers of Gdansk in Poland during the Communist era. As Walesa put it, “The Solidarity Movement was successful because at every point it fought for whatever solution was the most humane, the most worthy, and for whatever was an alternative to brutality and hatred. When it needed to be, it was also a movement that was persistent, obstinate and unyielding. And that is why we eventually succeeded.” A similar sentiment was earlier eloquently expressed by the eminent Sir Winston Churchill, “In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.” To the suggestion of James and John that those opposing the Gospel be wiped out Jesus made it clear that it was totally unacceptable. Not to retaliate in the face of provocation demands greater courage and strength. Nothing should deviate us from our ultimate goal. (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit And They Are Life).

17) The Hound of Heaven: God has been unrelenting in his search for humankind from the beginning of our existence. Some people have been very aware of this and have committed God’s search for us to print. Francis Thompson wrote the poem “The Hound of Heaven, “which begins:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

The Hound of Heaven continues to invite each one of us to follow him. Whenever we say “yes,” the Hound will invite us anew to change our lives. Don’t be surprised when you hear God’s voice, for He makes invitations to ordinary people, like you and me, while we are doing ordinary things in our lives. (Rev. Mr. Lee Hunt).

18) Right Choices: A guard in charge of a lighthouse along a dangerous coast was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for some oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could study. Another needed some for an engine. The guard saw each as a worthy request and gave some oil to satisfy all. By the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse was dry. That night the beacon was dark, and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than one hundred lives were lost. The lighthouse assistant explained what he had done and why. But the prosecutor replied, “You were given only one and very important task: to keep the light burning. Every other thing was secondary. Deviation from your responsibility has caused loss of many lives and much property. You have no excuse.” -Temptation is not necessarily a choice between good and evil. Perhaps more confusing and tempting is the conflict when one must choose between the good and the best. The lighthouse keeper in our story found himself in such a conflict situation. And that is what happened to the would-be disciples in today’s Gospel story. In such cases the good easily becomes the enemy of the best. One must say NO to a good thing in order to say YES to the one thing necessary. (Gilbert K. in Liturgy and Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

19) Are You a Jesus Fan or Follower: A group of Christians was holding a Prayer Meeting in Russia, when such a thing was completely forbidden. Suddenly the door was broken down by the boot of a soldier, who came into the room, faced the group, with a machine gun in hand, and commanded, “If there’s any one of you who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then get out now, while you have a chance.” There was a rush for the door. The soldier then closed the door and stood in front of the remainder of the group, with machine gun in hand. He looked around the room, as the people were beginning to think that their end had come. Then he smiled and said, “Actually, I believe in Jesus too, and you’re better off without those others!”
(Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

20) Our Commitment to Him  In 1982 the same year the film Chariots of Fire won the Academy Award, an article appeared in the Reader’s Digest. It was about a Catholic advertising executive. In spite of her successful career, she felt emptiness in her life. One morning, during a breakfast meeting with her marketing consultant, she mentioned that emptiness. “Do you want to fill it?” her colleague asked. “Of course, I do,” She said. He looked at her and replied, “Then start each day with an hour of prayer.” She looked at him and said, “Don, you’ve got to be kidding. If I tried that I’d go off my rocker. “Her friend smiled and said, “That’s exactly what I said 20 years ago.” Then he said something else that really made her think. He said, “You’re trying to fit God into your life. Instead, you should be trying to fit your life around God.” The woman left the restaurant in turmoil. Begin each morning with prayer? Begin each morning with an hour of prayer? Absolutely out of the question! Yet, the next morning the woman found herself doing exactly that. And she’s been doing it ever since. The woman is the first to admit that it has not always been easy. There have been mornings when she was filled with great peace and joy. But there have been other mornings when she was filled with nothing but weariness. And it was on these weary mornings that she remembered something else that her marketing consultant said: “There will be times when your mind just won’t go into God’s sanctuary. That’s when you spend your hour in God’s waiting room. Still, you’re there, and God appreciates your struggle to stay there. What’s important is the commitment.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

21) Consider Paul’s Commitment to the Kingdom: Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys; in danger from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). (Fr. Tony Kayala) L/19

Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 36) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “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 and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or in the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text .

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

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