(Sept 2-7) Sept 2 Monday: Lk 4:14-30: Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (((?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away. (The next homily is on Labor Day).
The context: Today’s Gospel presents his own people’s reaction to Jesus’ “Inaugural Address” at a synagogue in Nazareth when he visited his hometown as a rabbi with a band of disciples. The reading shows us how Jesus faced skepticism and criticism with prophetic courage. The incident reminds us that we should have and show the courage of our Christian convictions daily as we live in our communities, especially when we face hatred and rejection because of our Christian Faith and its practice
Amazement turns to hatred. The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus’ words was astonishment. They were amazed that one of their fellow villagers could speak with such grace, eloquence and authority. But their amazement turned into displeasure when Jesus took upon himself the identity of a prophet, different from the image of the miracle-worker that people wished to see. Their displeasure turned into anger, then hatred, when Jesus claimed that he was the Messiah of Isaiah’s prophecy. They challenged his Messianic claim, asking, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” They could not understand how a mere carpenter from their hometown Nazareth, could be the Messiah, who would liberate them from Roman rule and reestablish the Davidic kingdom. Jesus’ reaction to His people’s skepticism: Jesus reacted to their negative attitude with the comment, “No prophet is accepted in his native place.” Next, he referred to the Biblical stories of how God had blessed two Gentiles, while rejecting the many Jews in similar situations, precisely because those Gentiles were more open to the prophets than the Jewish people. Jesus reminded them of the Gentile widow of Zarephath, in Lebanon (1 Kings 17:7-24). The Prophet Elijah stayed with her and her son during the three-and-a-half-year drought, fed them miraculously and raised her son from death. Then Jesus described how Naaman, the pagan military general of Syria, was healed of leprosy by Elisha, the prophet.
Life messages: 1) We need to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism, when we experience the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse from our friends, families, or childhood companions. 2) Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our lives. Are we unwilling to be helped by God, or by others? Does our pride prevent us from recognizing God’s direction, help and support in our lives through His words in the Bible, through the teachings of the Church and through the advice and examples of others? 3) We must have the prophetic courage of our convictions. This passage challenges us to have the courage of our Christian convictions in our day-to-day lives in our communities, when we face hatred and rejection because of our Christian Faith. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 2: Labor Day in the U.S.: The first Labor Day was observed on September 5, 1882, to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers and to give them a day off on the last day of the summer. Today, Labor Day unofficially signals the beginning of a new “school” year of work and study and the end of the lazy days of summer. It was President Grover Cleveland who signed a bill into law on June 28, 1894, declaring Labor Day a national holiday.
1)It is a day to acknowledge the necessity and dignity of labor and workers. Work is necessary for our own wellbeing, for health of body, mind and spirit. It enables us to be independent and to help those who are less fortunate and unable to work. Works of charity are the main criteria of our Last Judgement: “Whatever you did to one of these least brethren you did to Me.” Besides, by the various forms of work we do using our God-given talents, we participate in the creative act of God. a) The Bible presents God as working six days in the creation of the world and commanding Adam to work six days and rest on the seventh. b) Jesus, God’s Son, was a professional carpenter. c) Most of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen and Paul was a tent-maker. d) In his inaugural speech in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus expressed his preferential option for the poor – the working class and those who cannot work.
2) A day to remember the Church’s teaching on the nobility of work and the necessity of just wages. In the encyclical, Laborem exercens (September 14, 1981), Pope St. John Paul II instructs us that all of us are called to work together for a just society and a just economy which allow us all to share God’s blessings. He reminds us that governments should see that the greed of a minority does not make the life of the majority miserable. He advises labor unions to fight for social and economic justice, better wages and better working conditions.
3) It is the day to remember and pray for the job-less people: There are thousands without work and millions more who are underemployed, working at part-time jobs or jobs that do not pay a decent wage. Society has a moral obligation to reduce joblessness because it is through work that families are sustained, children are nurtured, and the future is secured. Joblessness is also a clear threat to family life.
4) It is an appropriate time to acknowledge and bless the temporal and spiritual work that our parishioners do for their families, for their neighbors and for the parish community. It is also a day to remind ourselves that our workplace gives us an opportunity to practice what we believe, and to display a level of integrity that matches our Faith, thus witnessing to Christ.
5) Labor Day warning: This is the day to be aware of the danger in work. If not properly oriented it can make us workaholics, we may turn work as our God or may consider it as an escape mechanism to run away from spouse, children, and neighbors. Finally, on this Labor Day, let us try to realize the dignity of work, the necessity of work and the danger involved in work. Let us thank the Lord for the talents and work he has given us to do. Let us pray that we may find joy and satisfaction in our work, realizing that we are co-creators with God and stewards of His creation. By offering our work for God’s glory, let us transform our work to prayer. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 3 Tuesday (St. Gregory the Great: Pope: Doctor of the Church): Lk 4:31-37: 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
The context: After his sad experience in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus made the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business, his headquarters. There he started his preaching and healing ministry. The people were impressed by the authority with which he taught. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using his own authority and knowledge as God. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect obedience to God his Father’s will, and absolute confidence in God were the sources of Jesus’ authority. The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism, which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, using his authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” The demon obeyed at once, throwing the man it had possessed to the floor in the midst of the people in the synagogue on its departure. The people were impressed with Jesus’ power and authority that could command even evil spirits.
Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, demonstrated by his miracles, which in turn give authority and validity to his teaching and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings, even if some of them are mysteries beyond our understanding 2) Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 3) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus the healer with trusting Faith first, then go to the doctors who are the ordinary instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 4 Wednesday: Lk 4:38-44:
38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they besought him for her. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her; and immediately she rose and served them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them; 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation, and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to build up the Kingdom of God or rule of God in human hearts. By preaching and healing, Jesus drew his listeners to belief in a loving and providing God and to loving obedience to His will. We are told that Jesus recharged his spiritual batteries every day by talking with and listening to his Heavenly Father, often in a desolate place at night.
Healing mission: Jesus never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the mercy and compassion of his Heavenly Father to every sick person who approached him with trusting Faith. As soon as he had finished the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening, when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism. Jesus either concluded the day or, as he did here, began the new day, by spending time with the Father in prayer in a lonely place.
Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, radiating Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick and by visiting, helping, and encouraging the sick and shut ins. 3) In order share in Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry, we, too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged by prayer every day, as Jesus did. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 5 Thursday: Lk 5:1-11: 1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
The context: The scene is the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret in Greek and Tiberius in Latin). The story of the miraculous catch of fish described in today’s Gospel is similar to the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus recounted in John 21:4-14. It is one of the “epiphany-call stories” which direct our attention to the fact that Jesus had his own criteria for selecting people to be his apostles. The reading challenges us to examine our own personal calls to conversion and discipleship.
The miraculous catch followed by the call: After teaching the crowd from a seat in the boat of Simon, Jesus said to him “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Simon and his companions were stunned by the biggest catch of their lives. This event led Simon to acknowledge his unworthiness, as a sinner, even to stand before the Divine Presence of Jesus. Jesus was so impressed by Simon’s obedience and confession of unworthiness that he immediately invited Simon, Andrew, James and John to be his disciples and so to “catch men” instead of fish.
Life Messages: 1) Our encounter with the holiness of God needs to lead us to recognize our sinfulness. The Good News of today’s Gospel is that our sinfulness — our pride and self-centeredness – does not repel God. That is why we offer this Mass asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, and why we receive Jesus in Holy Communion only after acknowledging our unworthiness.
2) With Jesus, the seemingly impossible becomes possible. Today’s Gospel passage tells us an important truth about how God works in and through us for His glory. God chooses ordinary people – people like you and me – as His ambassadors. He uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and our responses. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 6 Friday: Lk 5:33-39: 33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 36 And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. 37 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. 38 Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. 39 (And) no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question asked by a few disciples of John the Baptist about fasting and feasting. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were three cardinal works of Jewish religious life. Hence, John’s disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted while Jesus’ disciples were seen feasting with him and never fasting.
Jesus’ reply: Jesus responds to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compares his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber, the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus explains that his disciples will fast when he, the bridegroom, has been taken away from them. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment and of using old wineskins to store freshly fermented wine, Jesus tells the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which are in many cases different from the traditional Jewish teachings.
Life messages: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds: The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to have new visions, new ideas and new adaptations and to replace old ways of worship with new. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Holy Spirit, who works through the Church’s magisterium to interpret and apply Scripture – the Old Testament revelations and the New Testament teachings — and Sacred Tradition to our daily lives. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
Sept 7 Saturday (BVM): Luke 6:1-5: 1 While he was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those (who were) with him were hungry? (How) he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was his response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by some Pharisees against his disciples who, to satisfy their hunger on a Sabbath, had plucked ears of grain from a field for their snack, removed the husks by rubbing the grain between their palms and blowing away the chaff. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing and winnowing.
Counterarguments: Jesus gives three counterarguments from Holy Scripture defending his apostles. (1) Basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. Jesus cites from Scripture the example of the hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Abimelech, the priest of Nob, who gave them for food the “offering bread” which only the priests were allowed to eat (Samuel 21:1-6). (2) No law can stand against Divine worship. That is why the priests are not considered as violating Sabbath laws, although they do the work of preparing two rams for sacrifice in the Temple (Numbers 28:9-10). (3) Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea to remind the accusers of God’s words: “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus further augments his counterarguments, referring to himself as Son of Man, a Messianic title, and declaring that He holds Lordship over the Sabbath itself.
Life messages: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be 1) a day of rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries, (through participation in the Eucharistic celebration, for Catholics); 3) a day for parents to teach religious Faith and the Bible to their children; 4) a day to do works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish and 5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors and fellow-parishioners. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19