January 19, 2020

O. T. III (A) Jan 26 Sunday, 2020 Homily

OT III [A] Sunday (Jan 26)1-page summary for an 8-minutes homily

Introduction:  Today’s readings show that the early Christians understood how Jesus had fulfilled the expectations of ancient Israel.  Describing the humble beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, today’s Scripture readings teach us that Christ has brought us from the darkness of sin into the Light of God (4:16) by calling us to repentance (4:17) and the acceptance of God’s rule in our lives. (You may add a homily starter anecdote)

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading contains the prophetic reference to Christ as the Light that dispels darkness. Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light of which Isaiah spoke had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus.  The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) reminds us, The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.  The second reading advises the Corinthians to live as children of the Light, avoiding divisions and rivalries, because several factions had arisen among the Corinthian Christians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle.  In today’s Gospel passage (Mt 4:12-23), Matthew explains that what Isaiah prophesied has been fulfilled through the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus. By his ministry of inviting people to the Kingdom of God through repentance, Jesus has brought Light to peoples living in darkness, thus fulfilling God’s original promise.  In addition, the Gospel describes the call of the first disciples (4:18-22), and Jesus’ own preaching,  teaching, and healing ministry which has led people to repent of their sins and accept the Good News of God’s rule (the Kingdom of God).  He has also chosen and empowered ordinary fishermen with no formal training in Mosaic Law to preach the Good News, and they became very effective instruments in the hands of the Holy Spirit, continuing Jesus’ mission to the world.

Life messages: 1) We need to be the light of the world:The mission and  role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to everyone as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, humble service, respect for those with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths, or with no faith at all.  With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. 2) We need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom: When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are sent forth to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic Faith. Each Christian has received a unique call to preach the Good News of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation through his or her daily life. This call challenges us to rebuild our lives, homes and communities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaimed. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer his calling, so that we may faithfully serve the Lord, doing His Divine will as best as we can by cooperating with His grace.

OT III [A] Is 8:23–9:3; I Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23 (L/20) Full text

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Light and darkness: Terry Anderson, a journalist for the Associated Press, was seized and held hostage in Lebanon for seven years; blindfolded almost all of that time, Anderson described his experience in this way, “Deepest darkness, fumbling, uncertainties are frightening. More frightening is the darkness of the mind, when outside light makes no impression and inner lights go dim. . .” [Den of Lions, Crown Publishers, Inc. (New York: 1993).] In November of 1965, a power failure plunged seven northeastern U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, into a darkness which lasted for more than thirteen hours. About thirty million people living in eighty thousand square miles of territory were affected. In 1977, another, less severe, power failure darkened New York City for fifty-two minutes. Losses due to accidents and looting were in excess of one billion dollars. In the Holy Scriptures, light and darkness serve as symbols for good and evil. In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, Jesus is presented as the One sent to remove the darkness of sin from the world. Through Isaiah, God promises that His people will see an end to the darkness of oppression and separation. Today’s Gospel shows us how the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus.

# 2: Remain in politics and exert a Christian influence there: Those of you who saw the remarkable film Amazing Grace (https://youtu.be/lqlcjI85gaY?list=PLHKcjlIaFmTQHWaOU6j4fwNo-0PHUDr4f) remember the story of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who, after his conversion to Christianity, became England’s greatest anti-slavery advocate. It was through his tireless efforts that England eventually outlawed slavery, paving the way for the end of the slave-trade in the Western world. But William Wilberforce almost missed his calling. After his conversion, Wilberforce considered leaving politics for the ministry. He wasn’t sure how a Christian could live out his Faith in “the world.” Fortunately, Wilberforce turned to an Anglican clergyman, John Newton, for guidance. Newton, of course, was the author of the much-loved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Newton, a former slave trader who had renounced the trade but only some years after his conversion, convinced Wilberforce that God had called him to remain in politics to exert a Christian influence there. It was John Newton who gave William Wilberforce the wake-up call that kept him championing the cause of freedom for Britain’s slaves. Four men, fishermen by trade, were toiling at the nets beside the Sea of Galilee when they received a wake-up call from Jesus. And their whole world was turned upside down.

#3: Light in darkness in the life of a football legend: Darryl Floyd Stingley (September 18, 1951 – April 5, 2007) was an American professional football player, a wide receiver whose career was ended at age 26 by an on-field spinal cord injury. Stingley had 110 receptions for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns in 60 regular season games for the Patriots. He also had 28 carries for 244 yards and two touchdowns, 19 punt returns for 136 yards and eight kickoff returns for 187 yards. He had over 500 combined yards rushing, receiving and returning both punt and kickoffs in 1973 and 1975. He finished his career with 2,450 combined yards rushing, receiving, and returning both punts and kickoffs.  In a 1978 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum on August 12, Stingley was hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. As Stingley stretched for an errant pass, he and Tatum collided.  Stingley’s helmet made contact with Tatum’s shoulder pad, compressing his spinal cord and breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.[5] He eventually regained limited movement in his right arm, but spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic on a wheel chair.  The injury came just after Stingley had finished negotiating a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL. The new contract was to be announced when the Patriots returned from the West Coast. Instead, it was never signed. But Daryl never gave up, but trusted that God will show him His light in darkness. In an interview with Newsweek magazine he insisted that his life was better after the accident. He told Chicago Tribune that the tragedy gave him a spiritual rebirth, enabling him to show some light to those in the darkness of despair. Matthew describes in today’s gospel that Jesus’ public ministry in the Galilee of the Gentiles was the light prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darryl_Stingley).

# 4: Cardinal Newman’s prayer for light in the darkness of life:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,–
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene,–one step enough for me.

Introduction:   Today’s Scripture readings tell us that Christ has brought us into the Light (4:16), by calling us to repentance (4:17).

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading contains the prophetic reference to Christ as the Light that dispels darkness. Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light Isaiah spoke of had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus.  The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) has us sing, The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, and the Psalm itself reminds us that with Him as our “life’s refuge,” we need fear no earthly power or threat. In the second reading, Paul advises the Corinthians to live as children of the Light, avoiding divisions and rivalries, because several factions had arisen among the Corinthians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle, which threatened to splinter the Community.  Today’s Gospel reading (Mt. 4:12-23) makes us realize that what had been prophesied by Isaiah was fulfilled through Jesus. In his ministry of calling the disciples and reforming lives, Jesus also brought Light to peoples in darkness, restoring and fulfilling God’s original promise.  His presence made a great difference in the life of the people of Capernaum as well as those of neighboring towns of Zebulon and Naphtali. His light was strongly felt because it brought healing and deliverance. In addition, the Gospel describes the call of the first disciples (4:18-22) and Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry, which invited people to repent of their sins and accept the Good News of God’s Kingdom, changing their lives to match their Faith.  Thus, the Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

First Reading (Is 8: 23- 9:3) explained: At the time of Isaiah the prophet, Israel was split into a northern kingdom called Israel, with the city of Samaria as its capital, and a southern kingdom known as Judah with Jerusalem as its capital.  Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman invaders always came from “the north” – meaning they followed the trade routes and river routes. Two of Jacob’s sons, Zebulun and Naphtali, were apportioned territory west and north of the Sea of Galilee. Therefore, they would be the first to feel the brunt of an attack from an invading force. In fact, when Assyria destroyed the kingdom of Northern Israel around 720 BC, Zebulun and Naphtali were the first tribal lands to fall into the hands of the enemy. Later the Roman army would occupy the territory. Note that this area would include the towns of Nazareth and Capernaum. The people in the region around Galilee were overcome by gloom when their enemy, Assyria, conquered them and began among them the process of enculturation and paganization. The Assyrians forced intermarriage in the northern tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali. The descendants of these intermarriages became the despised Samaritans of Jesus’ day.  But Isaiah declares that God’s power is greater than the powers of darkness and assures them that “a great light” will lead them into “abundant joy.”  Jesus is “the great light” who leads us all out of the land of gloom.  By His death and Resurrection, He has assured us that darkness can never have the last word.  In his prophetic mind, Isaiah sees this as if it has already happened: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light…”  The Light he is talking about is the Light of God, which scatters the darkness of ignorance and sin. No wonder Matthew quoted this very passage from the great prophet when he described the time Jesus went to the area around the Sea of Galilee and “began to preach”! Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light Isaiah spoke of had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus.  Although the Judean Jews considered the Samaritan women unclean from the womb and their men godless blasphemers, Jesus came to them as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, bringing them light and salvation. Jesus shows that he is the “light” of hope, evident to all through his deeds of power (healing), preaching the Good News (about the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven), and calling his first disciples (the apostles). His message is very clear and has two main elements: Repent because the kingdom is at hand and Follow Me to learn how to spread the Good News and live this new life of love and service. The message is the same for us today, a timeless message that calls for immediate action from each of us.

Second Reading (I Cor 1:10-13, 17) explained: Since Corinth was a wild and woolly place, Saint Paul needed to wield his authority there quite severely.  Throughout this letter, he is very concerned with preserving the unity of the Christian community. Several factions have arisen among his Corinthians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle.  Paul wants the Christians to rise above these immature rivalries and to follow the humility and obedience of Jesus who emptied himself for them all.  Paul argues that people who live in the Light must avoid divisions and rivalries. The quarrel and division among them is not a good sign that they live in the light of Christ. Christ cannot be divided, nor can his message be changed to suit its hearers.  So, Paul urges his readers to heal all divisions in their community so they will be able to bear united witness to the Lord.  They need to keep their focus on Jesus Christ.

Gospel exegesis (Mt 4:12-23): The center of Jesus’ public life.  After John was arrested, Jesus chose Galilee as the base for his teaching, preaching and healing mission. That choice fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (9:1-2).  Nazareth and Capernaum of Galilee were in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali. It would seem that Jesus’ trip to Capernaum was made, not just as a missionary trip, but to establish Capernaum as his home base.  Capernaum by the sea was a small agricultural and fishing village of Galilee on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Galilee was a small region with a large, mixed Jewish and Gentile population. Major trade routes passed through it. Hence, the Galileans were more open than the residents of Judea to new ideas. In addition, the western shore of the sea was occupied by many small but prosperous cities and towns. This provided Jesus with the chance to minister to many people within a reasonable walking distance.

Light in darkness: Matthew tells us that the people to whom Jesus brought his ministry had been sitting in darkness, but that Jesus’ coming had brought them a great Light.  The area was called the “Galilee of the Gentiles” because there was a large population of Hellenistic pagans mixed in with the Jews who had only recently begun to resettle a land devastated by earlier wars.  As a Jew in Roman-controlled territory, Jesus had located himself among the marginalized, with the poor not the wealthy, with the rural peasants not the urban elite, with the ruled not the rulers, with the powerless and exploited not the powerful, and with those who resisted Imperial demands rather than with those who enforced them. Thus, he began his ministry among the apparently small and insignificant places and people who, nevertheless, were central for God’s purposes. We, too, need to introduce Christ’s Light into the darkness of prejudice, war, abuse, social injustice, hunger, poverty, ignorance, greed, anger, vengeance, and apathy. We should seek and walk in the light of God, the good news. God’s light breaks our yoke. It shows us the way. It clears our doubts and fears and increases our confidence in God and in ourselves too.

Invitation to repentance:  Jesus used exactly the same words John the Baptist had used: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” ‘Repent ’usually means to be sorry for or to regret some wrong actions we have done in the past. Jesus, however, is asking for much more than that. The call is not just to be sorry for past sins and to avoid them in the future. It is a call for a change of direction from now on and into the future, a right about turn from sin to God. The Greek word for repent is ‘metanoia,’ which implies a radical change in one’s thinking. It means looking at life in a completely new way. It is only when we begin to make this radical change that we begin to become part of that Kingdom and God starts ruling our lives. When we come before God confessing, “I can’t do better,” then we are dying to self.  We are giving up control of our lives.  We are throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God.  We are inviting God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves — namely to raise the dead — to change and re-create us.  “Repent” is in the present tense — “Keep on repenting!”  “Continually be repentant!”  Repentance is the ongoing lifestyle of the people in the kingdom. We may not neglect the first step into the net of Jesus, the step of “repentance” – which is also the first teaching of Jesus (CCC#1989).

The Kingdom of Heaven is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. Matthew consistently uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.” Though the terms are synonymous, many Jews in those days preferred the use of “Kingdom of Heaven,” because of scruples about using God’s Name. The kingdom of God is when the will of God is established on earth, when the world becomes the way God wants it to be. (In Our Father prayer we pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.)” That day will be good news for all of us because when we do God’s will, His kingdom is established, evil is destroyed, poverty, war, hatred, injustice, corruption and violence will disappear. There will be abundance and peace, love and kindness, harmony and justice. Hence, to be in God’s Kingdom or the Kingdom of Heaven, is not to be in a particular place, either in this life or the next. Rather it is to be living one’s life – wherever we are – under the loving Kingly and Fatherly power of God. It is to be in a relationship of loving surrender to one’s God and Lord and to be in an environment where values like truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom and peace prevail. In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom right now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives in order to let God reign in our lives.

 

The call of the Apostles: While the Evangelists Luke and John allowed time for the disciples to find out more about Jesus before they were called, Matthew did no such thing. He immediately shows Jesus calling two set of fishermen brothers — Simon (later renamed Peter) & Andrew and James & James. And except for telling them “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” He gives no indication about what following him will entail — where they are going and what they will do. Matthew is not concerned with those details. His concern is that Jesus, about to begin his public ministry chooses to need help so that he can become the ‘great light,’ and shine on the people. Jesus invites these four to become his disciples, and they respond immediately, leaving their nets, their boats, and their father to follow Jesus.   Usually rabbinical students sought out their teachers and attached themselves to the rabbi they had chosen.  However, Jesus, as rabbi, takes the initiative and calls what are apparently less-than-ideal candidates to be his students. The disciples are simple working people with no great background.  In Cicero’s ranking of occupations (De Off 1.150-51), owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last.  What Jesus needed then were ordinary folk who would give him themselves.  What Christ needs today is not our ability, but our availability.  What Jesus taught his first disciples was not a course of study, but a way of life to follow. Hence, he offered these men the opportunity to observe him close at hand on a daily basis.   How did the first four disciples respond to Jesus’ call? In St. Matthew’s words, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Even though they had no previous knowledge of Jesus, they put their total trust in him, leaving behind everything, their fishing nets, their parents and family, not knowing where it would all lead. Given the relatively small size of Lower Galilee and close proximity of the Galilean places named in the Gospel, there is no need to assume that those who followed Jesus never returned home again. The Church responds to Jesus by reminding us that the call from Jesus is “personal” for each one of us. It is then our responsibility to be a personal witness within the common mission of spreading the good news (CCC#878).

Fishers of men: In the ancient world, fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities: judgment and teaching.  Fishing for people meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge. Fishing as teaching people meant leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involved a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and an entrance upon a new way of life.  We are the fish dragged out of the water in the nets to die so that God may give us a resurrection, a new life, a new family, a new future, all under God’s control, all within the Kingdom of Heaven which has come near in Jesus.  We have very little control over our own lives, but as fish caught in the net of God’s love, we can trust that we are under God’s control.  We have to believe that being captured by God’s love, being commanded by Him to repent, die to self and obey Him, and being raised to a new life by God, is not only right for us, but is a message we need to share with the entire world. . For the moment, ‘Jesus is the Light’ which the people in darkness are rejoicing to see; but he will soon say to his followers, ‘You are the light of the world,’ and that is his purpose in choosing his followers.

Jesus’ teaching ministry: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” For Matthew, Jesus’ teaching was of much greater significance than his miracles. Indeed, his teaching took precedence even over preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Jesus taught in their synagogues. There was only one Temple, located in Jerusalem, but every village of any size had a synagogue where people gathered to worship and to learn. Teaching was at the heart of synagogue life. The service consisted of prayers, readings from the Scriptures, and an address. The ruler of the synagogue could invite any qualified man to give the address.  The synagogue, then, was the natural place for Jesus to begin His teaching ministry. The last two verses (24-25), of this chapter, not included in this lesson, emphasize Jesus’ healing ministry and the effect it had on people. Great crowds came from near and far to follow Jesus.  The activities of Jesus are summarized in the last verse of our text: teaching, preaching, and healing — perhaps in simpler terms: words and deeds.  Our words and deeds need to be addressed, not just to Church people or to our parishioners, but to all with whom we have contact.

Life messages: 1) We need to appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually and as Church members. The mission of preaching, teaching and healing which Jesus began in Galilee is now the responsibility of the Church.  Our own unique vocation and relationship with the risen Lord is never separated from the Body of the universal Church.  Be we monk, priest, married or single lay person, male or female, we are all called, and in this call we become what God wants us to be.   Our response to the call begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation. That response is strengthened through the years by the Eucharist and Reconciliation and is made manifest in Matrimony or Holy Orders. We are healed and consoled in the Anointing which also prepares us for death.  In addition, God is relentless in calling us back to Himself when we stray from Him.  Let us make personal efforts, then, to see the Light of Christ and to grow in holiness by learning the truths that are revealed through the Holy Catholic Church and its Sacraments.  Let us be shining lights in the world as Christ was, and let us and make a personal effort to bring others to the Truth and the Light, so that they may rejoice with us in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, the present, developing form of the Kingdom of God.

2) God sends us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom:Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt. 4:23). Equally today, the Word of God, the promoting of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, heals all kinds of ills. The Word of God transforms hearts so that victims may forgive those who have harmed them, those who have physically abused them, those who have sexually abused them, and those who have psychologically abused them. When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are sent forth to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic Faith. Like Peter, James and John, we are asked by Jesus to take on the work of discipleship; we are asked to leave our “fishing nets” — our own needs and wants — to follow the example of love and servanthood given to us by Jesus; we are asked to rebuild our lives, homes and cities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaims. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer His calling so that we may faithfully serve the Lord according to His Divine Will.3)

3) We need to be the light of the world as Jesus was Light in darkness:The mission and  role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to everyone as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, humble service, respect for those with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths, or with no faith at all.  With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

1) Teaching ministry: A pastor told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying.  To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.” The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands.  He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17.  Every hand went up.  The minister smiled and said, “Mark has only 16 chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.”

2) God’s Chosen People absent in China? Two Jews Sid and Al were sitting in a Chinese restaurant. “Sid,” asked Al, “Are there any Jews in China?” “I don’t know,” Sid replied. “Why don’t we ask the waiter?” When the waiter came by, Al said, “Do you have any Chinese Jews?” “I don’t know sir, let me ask,” the waiter replied, and he went into the kitchen. He quickly returned and said, “No, sir. No Chinese Jews.” “Are you sure?” Al asked. “I will check with our manager, sir.” the waiter replied and went back to the kitchen. While he was still gone, Sid said, “I cannot believe there are no Jews in China. Our people are scattered everywhere.” When the waiter returned, he said, “Sir, no Chinese Jews.” “Are you really sure?” Al asked again. “I cannot believe you have no Chinese Jews.” “Sir, I asked everyone,” the waiter replied exasperated. “We have orange juice, prune juice, tomato juice and grape juice, but no one ever heard of Chinese juice!”

3) “Think about your face and cut the homily.” The story is told about a pastor that got up in the pulpit and apologized for the Band-Aid on his face. He said, “I was thinking about my homily while shaving and cut my face.” Afterward the trustee found a note in the collection plate, “Next time, think about your face and cut the homily.”

Websites of the Week

Searching the Scriptures: http://www.searchingthescriptures.net/

Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

Text Week sermons on OT 3 (A): http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/matt4b.htm

16- Additional anecdotes:

1) Be fishers of men: On Feb. 2, 2006, President George W. Bush hosted the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. The speaker that day was the rock star known as Bono, lead singer of the group U2. Here is something Bono had to say: “A number of years ago I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. And this wise man said: ‘Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing–because it’s already blessed. Get involved in what God is doing.’” What a radical idea. Don’t spend so much time asking God to bless what you are doing. Rather, ask God to show you what God is doing, and join in. Bono believes God is calling him to be an advocate for the poor. He said to the National Prayer Breakfast, “Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what He’s calling us to do.” All Christians should be committed to helping the poor, but it may not be our chief emphasis. There are people in the medical field who feel called of God to help in the healing of bodies. Some in teaching believe their calling from God is to help grow little boys’ and girls’ minds. A plumber can be a Christian plumber, doing honest, helpful work and sharing a positive Christian witness to everyone he serves.

2) Delivery Room suspense: Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse came out beaming.  To the first she said, “Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins.” “Terrific!” said the man, “I just signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins, and this’ll be great press.” To the second man the nurse said, “Congratulations to you too.  You are the father of healthy triplets!” “Fantastic!” he said.  “I’m the vice-president of 3-M Company. This’ll be great P.R.!” At that point the third man turned ashen and ran for the door. “What’s wrong, sir?  Where are you going?” called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, “I’m dashing to my office to resign.  I’m the president of 7-UP!”  (Msgr. Dennis Clarke). John the Baptist and Jesus surprised the self-righteous Jews by their call to repentance. Today’s Gospel, from the fourth chapter of Matthew, offers us Christians an equally surprising and shocking announcement by Jesus: “Repent; the Kingdom of God is near.”

3) “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” John McKay, the former coach of the University of Southern California Trojans once said that it is not the superstars who win most football games but average players giving their best. In the play, Green Pastures, God asks Gabriel to recruit a leader and Gabriel asks in return, “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” God answers, “Get me the holiest. I’ll make him the brainiest.” In a little town in the Swiss Alps there is a monument with two figures on it. One is a cultured scientist, the author of many books. The other is a poor Swiss peasant, an Alpine guide. Together they had conquered a great mountain. The scientist’s name made all of the newspapers, but the monument contains both figures because the great scientist could never have made the ascent without the humble guide. Beginning with the crude manager of Bethlehem, no message is clearer in the New Testament than this one: Christian Faith is the celebration of ordinary people who come to possess a very extraordinary power. When you are asked to serve God in some capacity, don’t talk yourself out of a great opportunity by saying, “I’m too old,” or “I don’t have enough education,” or using some other personal putdown. God can give you the ability. What He can’t give you is willingness to say “yes” and act on it. That must come from our free choice. That is why God always prefers the holiest to the brainiest. The first disciples that Jesus called were ordinary fishermen.

4) Novel way of presenting the Kingdom of God: Jesus came preaching, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What was there about that Kingdom that got these fishermen so excited? And why are we not just as excited? It reminds me of a woman who read somewhere that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day. So, each day she followed the same routine: she chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the fishy remedy down the dog’s throat. One day, in the middle of this grueling medical effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosened her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess. To her surprise the dog trotted over to the puddle and began lapping up what had been spilled. The dog loved cod liver oil. It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to. (Bill McNabb and Steven Mabry, Awaken Your Students to Scripture). Sometimes, I think something like that has happened to the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It has been so poorly presented to us that we have never been captured by its attractiveness and its power.

5) They kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves: Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help customers decorate their booths. Industry shows are the cheapest way to reach customers within the trade, but some undercapitalized entrepreneurs hardly have enough to rent a booth, let alone pay for the decorations. Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth “look flashy.” Egan said he had the displays, but they were for rent. The kids said they were short of cash, but perhaps Egan might like some stock in their new company. Egan, who had seen them come and go in his twenty years in the business, said he would accept only hard cash. So, Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs did without the chrome, fixed up their booth, and kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash. (Peter Hay, The Book of Business Anecdotes, p. 212). Sometimes it is a good thing to catch fire from someone else. The story of the New Testament is the story of men and women who got close enough to Jesus to catch fire from Him. Doesn’t it amaze you to see how quickly the disciples left their fishing nets to follow Jesus?

6) “Please know that the management forgives you.” J. Edwin Orr, a former professor of Church History, described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century. As people sought the infilling of the Spirit, they did all they could to confess wrongdoings and to make restitution. This unexpectedly created severe problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years, workers had pilfered all kinds of things. Everything from wheelbarrows to hammers had been stolen. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards had to put up signs that read, IF YOU HAVE BEEN LED BY GOD TO RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN, PLEASE KNOW THAT THE MANAGEMENT FORGIVES YOU AND WISHES YOU TO KEEP WHAT YOU HAVE TAKEN. (Tony Campolo, How to Be Pentecostal (Dallas: Word, 1991), pp. 92-93.) Wouldn’t you love to see that kind of revival sweep this nation? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which people began making restitution for their wrongs? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which you could always trust people to do the right thing because God lived in their hearts? Couldn’t you get excited about a world without child-abuse, without murder, without broken families, or drug addiction? In order to enter this Kingdom of God, Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to repent and renew our lives.

7) “Lead kindly light…” In 1833, there was a young theologian and Anglican vicar, John Henry Newman (1801-90; he was converted to the Roman Catholic Church, ordained a priest, made a Cardinal. In 2019 he was canonized by Pope Francis). He was traveling in the Mediterranean when he was struck down by a fever that nearly killed him. “My servant thought I was dying and begged for my last directions,” he recalled in his autobiography. ”I gave them as he wished, but I said, ‘I shall not die, for I have not sinned against light.”‘ Newman recovered slowly but felt desperately homesick. On the way back to England, he took an orange boat sailing from Palermo to Marseilles; the boat was becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio. Thus stranded, in an exhausted and emotional state, Newman was impelled to write this verse as a meditative poem called “The Pillar of the Cloud,” expressive of his longing for consoling Christian certainties in an age of mounting doubt (The Telegraph, 22 Sept, 2007). Newman probably had in mind the prophecy of Isaiah given in today’s first reading “The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light.” We too have our moments of darkness. The death of a lifelong spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success or the loss of good health can throw us into temporary darkness. But in these tragic moments true believers have in the past seen the light of Christ, a light that illumines the shadows of our hearts with the radiance of his splendor, guiding us to travel safely over the tempestuous sea of life. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho)

8) The Light she lit is still burning. Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He hadn’t had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first, he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish, she found a beautiful oil lamp, but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” “Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I’ll light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first Sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho)

9) Copper kettle Christian: A woman who was studying the Bible, went to her basement and made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first, she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. She said, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, ‘I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of Christ and reflecting His light to someone in a dark corner.’” Today’s Scripture lesson tells us that Christ came as a Light and brought us into the Light by calling us to repentance and to the Kingdom of God. (Fr. Chirakkal).

10) Their faces said it all: A historian tells us that many, many years ago, a group of prospectors set out from Bannock, Montana, in search of gold. For days together they had to endure many hardships and cope with severe weather changes, so that some of them, unable to cope, actually perished. Undeterred, the rest persisted until one day they ran into a gang of ruthless Indians, who seized their horses and belongings and left them with a few limping ponies. Releasing them, the Red Indians warned them never to return for, the next time, their lives would be at risk. The crestfallen group began their return journey very disappointed. At night they decided to stop by a stream and camp. One of the men entered the stream and noticed something unusual about one stone. So he lifted it up and cracked it open and realized that they had struck gold right there. And so his companions joined and they made a reasonable haul. The next day they discovered even more and were absolutely ecstatic. The following day they returned to Bannock, in order to bring all the equipment and horses necessary to collect their treasure. And they vowed that they would not tell anyone of their extraordinary discovery. When they decided to set out, they found themselves surrounded by 300 equally excited gold prospectors. Somebody seemed to have spilled the beans! The fact of the matter is that no one had let out their secret. But the others saw their ecstatic joy on their faces and sensed there certainly was a very good reason. So, they decided to join, fully assured that soon they too would be as jubilantly happy as the others. The successful prospectors’ beaming faces had literally betrayed their secret! – Do our faces reveal that we have found the greatest treasure -Jesus Christ? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

11) Ready to follow, no matter what the cost? Have you heard the story of Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru? The Spaniards came to know that the rivers of Peru were flowing with gold and people could just pick up gold from these rivers. Pizarro got together a band of men who were fond of adventure and eager to get gold. They crossed the Atlantic and crossed the Isthmus of Panama. The travel was not easy, and they had troubled times. On the sea there were storms and over land poisonous snakes and wild animals. There was no food, and the band of men had to face many difficulties and therefore decided to return to Spain. Pizarro drew out his sword and drew a line on the sand with his sword that separated north and south. Then he said to his band of soldiers, “Comrades, on the south of this line there lie famine, perils, nakedness, trials, and death, while on the north there lie pleasure, ease, and comfort. As for me I go south,” and he stepped over the line on the south. Seven men followed him not for love of the gold but because they loved him and trusted him and wanted to sacrifice everything. That is why we remember them as the seven immortals of Peru.
(Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

12) The Arrival of the Light: Some Alpine valleys are so deep that the rays of the sun do not reach them for days or even weeks in the middle of winter. These days can be very depressing ones for the people who live in the valleys. It is almost as if life were one long night. A priest who ministered in one of those valleys tells the following story. One day in the depths of winter he was in the classroom chatting with the children, who hadn’t seen the sun for nine days. Then all of a sudden, a ray of sunshine shone into the classroom. On seeing it the children climbed on to their desks and cheered for sheer joy. It shows that even though the sun may not touch the skin it can warm the soul. The little incident shows how light is a source of great joy. For sick people the night is the hardest of all times. How they welcome those first rays of light which signal the end of the night and the dawning of the day. The coming of electricity to rural Ireland transformed life for those living in the country. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

13) Film: Finding Private Ryan (Embracing your mission in life).
It is June 6, 1944, D-Day. The Allied troops land on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Captain Miller is a squadron leader. After the deadly and horror-filled landing, he is asked to lead his men on a special mission of dubious merit to find a Private James Ryan. Ryan is one of four sons in the U.S. military and, when the other three are killed, top military officials in Washington want the surviving son returned home to his mother. Miller and six men take on the mission. In an American-occupied town, they find the wrong Private Ryan. They continue on and encounter a German guard-post where a sniper kills one of the men. The translator, Corporal Upham, persuades Miller not to kill the sniper, and they let him go. They eventually find the right Ryan in a squad defending a bridge, but he refuses to leave. During an attack, Upham cowers in fear while the sniper they had released shoots one of the team. Miller is also killed, but U.S. planes save the troops and the bridge is held. Upham confronts the sniper and kills him. Private Ryan is saved. Decades later, Ryan and his family visit Miller’s grave in France. Each one of us has a mission. We have to discover our mission and fulfill that mission to find fulfillment in life. (Peter Malone in Lights Camera…. Faith!; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

14) Repent and Believe the Good News: In November of 1984 on one of his PBS Late Night America Shows, Dennis Wholey confessed that he was an alcoholic. He went on to describe a book he had put together entitled The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey. The book contains frank and revealing conversations with a wide variety of celebrity alcoholics such as rock singer Grace Slick, baseball player Bob Welch, actor Jason Robards, comedian Shecky Greene and Catholic priest Vaughan Quinn. Also, there are heartfelt conversations with Rod Steiger and Jerry Falwell, who are children of alcoholics; and Sybil Carter, whose husband Billy is an alcoholic. Four years earlier, Dennis Wholey confronted his own problem with alcohol and now is on a mission with his book to help other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated disease in this country.” Dennis Wholey’s message in The Courage to Change matches our Lord’s message in Mark’s Gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

15) Let There Be No Factions: In today’s second reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians – and all Christians – against factions: “Be united in mind and judgment.” It should be unnecessary to tell those joined by Baptism into Christ’s mystical body to avoid fighting each other! Unfortunately, we, and all human beings, are prone to quarreling. In some tragic cases, throughout the history of the church, Catholics have not only quarreled, but let their quarrels end up in schism. Schism means withdrawal from, and denial of the authority Christ gave to his Church and its Shepherds. Some schisms have been large and have remained unhealed even after centuries. Others have been small, sometimes, permanent, sometimes (thank God) brief. All have involved unchristian bitterness.

In the 1850’s there was a small schism in a parish in Rochester, New York. It serves as a good illustration. The issue debated was control by the laity of Church funds and of Pastoral appointments. From as early as 1785, people in some American Catholic parishes had been embattled with Catholic Church authorities over these matters of control. One cause of the trouble was that the state laws for parish incorporation were designed for Protestant parishes, in which, unlike Catholic parishes, laymen were allowed to manage funds and hire or fire pastors. Wherever Catholic laypeople interpreted the State law in a Catholic way, a “trustee” corporation could work out the interpretation. The trouble was that lay Catholic trustees so often abused their powers – even violently – that the American bishops had to forbid this type of lay participation entirely. Gradually, from 1829 to 1850, the bishops were able to put an end to most of these factional quarrels. But not to all. In the 1850’s, in a handful of American Catholic parishes, “trusteeists” decided to make a last stand. One was the German Catholic parish of St. Peter’s Rochester. Here the ringleaders were so bitter that they even worked hand-in-glove with the Know-nothings (an anti-Catholic political party) to get a state law passed demanding that Catholic parishes incorporate according to the Protestant form. When the bishop (John Timon of Buffalo) suspended Church services at St. Peter’s as a countermove, they replied by incorporating a new parish called “The Christ Catholic St. Stephen’s Congregation.” This was schism. Even though they used the adjective “Catholic,” they were no longer a part of the Catholic Church, and no Catholic could attend worship there in good conscience. Fortunately, the dissidents came to their senses eventually. By 1862 Bishop Timon had received all but one back into the Catholic fold. The Catholic parish was reincorporated under the name “Ss. Peter and Paul,” and as such it still functions. Even today, however, Catholics can be tempted to schism. Factions still arise and some Catholics even leave the Church to worship at other churches that may call themselves “Catholic” but are not in union with either the local Catholic bishop or through him, with the Pope. Schism has often been called “tearing apart of the seamless robe of Christ” – that is, splitting the people of God into parts. Christ prayed “that all may be one.” Those who foster disunion are therefore enemies of Christ’s prayer. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara).

16) “O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” Clint Eastwood is an American film icon. Who can forget Dirty Harry and the huge 45 caliber Magnum he carried, more a cannon than a pistol, or the sneering invitation, “Make my day!”? But long before he was Dirty Harry, Eastwood was Rowdy Yates on the TV show Rawhide. There is an important hand gesture I remember from that boyhood drama. On horseback, the trail boss would lift his hand, index finger up, make a rapid circling motion in the air, then point ahead with these words, “O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” It was a call to a long, tough, trail ride with the promise of adventure along the way and a payout at the end. That is the gesture I see Jesus making in these call stories. “Simon, Andrew, James, John, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.’ Follow me, and I will help you corral people for God,” or, in the case of their work, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” L/20

clip_image001 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 14) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A 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  the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version.  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604