OT XIII [A] Sunday (June 28) Eight-minutes homily in one page
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. The readings also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him. (A homily starter anecdote may be added here)
Scripture lessons: In our first reading, we see, the welcome given to the prophet Elisha by an elderly, childless woman and her husband who lived in Shunem. The woman recognized the holiness of Elisha. She showed him reverence and hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by arranging an upper room of their house so that Elisha might stay with them when he visited the area. In response, Elisha promised her, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” The promise was fulfilled by God. The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, explains why those who care for the followers of Jesus are caring for Jesus himself, and those who show hospitality to any one of them are eligible for a reward. By our Baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and buried with him, and we look forward to resurrection with him (Rom 6:5). Since Baptism is our entrée into this new life, it makes us part of the Body of Christ, and Christ is truly present in us. That is why the one who welcomes us welcomes Christ and becomes eligible for a reward. Today’s Gospel lesson concludes Jesus’ great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs the twelve apostles on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of a disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus details the behavior expected of his disciples, and the second half speaks of the behavior expected of others towards the disciples. Even Jesus’ shameful death on the cross is not too high a price to pay, if one is to be a true disciple, because the reward is great. Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. Also, those who help the “little ones,” (believers) and the poor, the sick, and the needy will be amply rewarded.
Life message: We need to be hospitable and generous: Hospitality means acknowledging the presence of God in others and serving Him in them, especially those in whom we least expect to find Him. We, as individuals and as a community, are to look for opportunities to be hospitable–and, of course, there are plenty of ways of offering hospitality. Maybe hospitality is offered through a kind word to a stranger – or even a smile. A kind smile or a “hello” to someone waiting with us in a grocery line may be the only kindness that person encounters all day. We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves. What is more important than sending checks for charitable causes is giving of ourselves to people, first, in the way we think about them, for from that spring will flow the ways we speak to them and about them, forgive their failings, encourage them, show them respect, console them, and offer them help. Such generosity reflects warmth radiating from the very love of God.
OT XIII (June 28) 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42
Homily starter anecdotes: (Biblical reason why preachers may use anecdotes in their homilies? Mt 13: 34: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable). 1) “Paid in full for one glass of milk.” The special joy of nature-loving boy Howard Kelly was hiking great distances and studying animals in the wild. On a walking trip, up through Northern Pennsylvania one spring, young Kelly stopped by a small farmhouse for a drink of cool spring water. A little girl answered his knock at the door, and instead of water, she brought him a glass of fresh milk. He thanked her profusely and went on his way. After years of medical studies, he became Dr. Kelly. Dr. Howard Kelly (1858-1943) was a distinguished physician who was one of the four founding doctors of Johns Hopkins, the first medical research university in the U.S. and, arguably, one of the finest hospitals anywhere. In 1895, he established in that school the department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Over the course of his career, Doctor Kelly advanced the sciences of gynecology and surgery, both as a teacher and as a practitioner. Some years later, that same little girl from Northern Pennsylvania who had given him that glass of milk years ago, came to him for an operation. Just before she left for home, fearful of a huge bill, her bill was brought into the room and across its face was written in a bold hand, “Paid in full for one glass of milk.” That was Dr. Kelly’s style of showing gratitude and hospitality. While he charged the rich patients substantial fees, he provided his services free-of-charge to the less fortunate. By his conservative estimate, in 75% of his cases he neither sought nor received a fee. Today’s Scriptures challenge us to practice hospitality, seeing Christ in others. Adapted from http://www.snopes.com/glurge/milk.asp. See the Thai version of this story in YouTube. (https://youtu.be/BhEvzF8GOKQ). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality. The eighth of November marks the 123rd anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980), the uncanonized saint of the homeless, an American journalist turned social activist, and a devout member of the Catholic Church. She was also an outspoken advocate for the poor. For most of her life she agitated for better treatment of the disadvantaged. The Catholic Worker Movement, which she started in May 1933, was a further extension of her interest in the poor. With the help of her friend Peter Maurin she revived the idea of hospitality once fostered by monasteries. All were welcome: the poor, the downtrodden and losers. She also started the first House of Hospitality where she could care for the poor. Dorothy and Peter suggested that every Catholic parish should have such a place of hospitality. Today there are nearly 175 of these Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality. “Those who cannot see the face of Christ in the poor,” she used to say, “are atheists indeed.” “If I have achieved anything in my life,” she once remarked, “it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs Christians on how they should be hospitable and generous. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Amish hospitality: Years ago, on a trip through the Amish country of Pennsylvania, I took the occasion to visit several of the shops. Many of them had signs of greeting hung on the door or in the window, which read, “Welcome! There are no strangers here — only friends we haven’t yet met.” In keeping with the sign was the warmth and kindness with which visitors were received and tended to. Unfortunately, hospitality such as this has become an uncommon, albeit pleasant surprise in today’s world. But it was not always so. In ancient times, hospitality was considered a sacred duty and in Scripture the patriarchs are cited as models of this virtue (Genesis 19:2; 24:17-33; 43:24). Recall, in particular, the visit of Yahweh to Abraham (Genesis 18:2-8); Abraham and Sarah’s generous welcome of their guests was rewarded with the promise of a son. As Xavier Leon-Dufour [Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Geoffrey Chapman, London: 1973)] explains, hospitality was to be valued as a work of mercy as well as a means of witnessing to the Faith. The visitor who traveled through and requested assistance (Proverbs 27:8, Sirach 29:21-27) was to be regarded as a living reminder of Israel’s former struggle as enslaved strangers in Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34). The stranger in need was also to remind Israel of its present status as a wandering pilgrim on earth (Psalm 39:13, Hebrews 11:13, 13:14). In today’s Gospel, Jesus impresses upon his disciples the importance of hospitality; those who labor for the sake of the Gospel are to be provided with a ready welcome by those to whom they minister. (Sanchez Files). — All this reminds us that the hospitality and generosity expected of us should be given here and now. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) The vow of hospitality by the Little Sisters of the Poor: By our vow of hospitality we promise God to consecrate ourselves exclusively to the service of the elderly poor. We welcome them into our homes, form one family with them, accompany them from day to day and care for them with love and respect until God calls them home. Through our vow of hospitality the Church has given us a mandate to prolong Christ’s mission of charity—to convey to the elderly, in the concrete realities of everyday life, the kindness and love of God for them, his eldest children. Consecrated hospitality is a witness to the mercy and compassionate love of the heart of Jesus. It is based on the words of Christ himself: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). “I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … sick and you visited me.… Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35–40). Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, echoed these words of our Lord as she often said, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord. In caring for the poor say to yourself: This is for my Jesus—what a great grace! “As Hospitaller religious our lives are made up of many humble, hidden tasks. We serve the elderly day and night, striving to meet their physical needs, to make them happy and to minister to them spiritually. We accomplish our mission together as a community, each one bringing her gifts and talents to the work of hospitality. The accompaniment and care of the dying is the summit of our vocation. In today’s world it is an ever more powerful witness of the culture of life. By the look in his eyes or by the silence of his whole being, the elderly person who is near death asks us this question: “Does my life still have any value? Is it worth living?” To each person we respond with a resounding yes! Thanks to Saint Jeanne Jugan’s presence among us, we continue her spirit as we pursue our mission of hospitality today. Reflecting on the canonization of our foundress, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., referred to our homes as icons of mercy: “The quiet but eloquent radiance of Jeanne’s life continues to shine out in the lives of the Little Sisters of the Poor today. I can attest to this through my personal experience, as for a number of years my aunt was cared for in one of their homes. These residences are icons of mercy where Christ is welcomed and served in the elderly poor with the utmost respect for their dignity. May God be praised and may the entire Church rejoice at the public proclamation of the extraordinary holiness of Jeanne Jugan.” (http://www.littlesistersofthepoorwashingtondc.org/vow-of-hospitality/). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: to love God and our brothers and sisters through hospitality, generosity, commitment, and charity. They also remind us of the sacrifice demanded of Jesus’ disciples and the suffering they will endure for their Faith when they bear witness to him.
Scripture readings summarized: In our first reading, we see, in Elisha’s welcome by a childless woman and her husband who lived in Shunem, a radical illustration of all four works. The woman recognized the holiness of Elisha. She showed him reverence and hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by setting aside and furnishing an upper room of her house for the prophet to occupy whenever he should come to town. In grateful response, Elisha promised her, “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son. “The promise was fulfilled by God.”
The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans, reminds the Roman Christians, and us, that by Baptism we have been baptized into Jesus’ death, buried with him, and now look forward to resurrection with him (Rom 6:5). As Jesus died to sin, we, too, must be dead to sin and “live for God in Christ Jesus.” Since Baptism is our entrée into this new life in which we are made part of the Body of Christ and Christ is truly present in us, the one who welcomes us welcomes Christ and becomes eligible for a reward. Thus, since those who care for the followers of Jesus are caring for Jesus himself, those who show hospitality to any one of them are eligible for a reward.
Today’s Gospel lesson concludes Jesus’ great “missionary discourse” in which he instructs his twelve disciples on the cost and the reward of the commitment required of being a disciple. The first half of these sayings of Jesus details the behavior expected of the disciples, and the second half speaks of the behavior expected of others toward the disciples. Even Jesus’ shameful death on the cross is not too high a price to pay if one is to be a true disciple because the reward is so great. Jesus assures his disciples that whoever shows them hospitality will be blessed. Those who receive Jesus receive the One who sent him. So, too, those who help the “little ones” (messengers) will be amply rewarded.
Gospel exegesis: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me….” These words may sound a bit extreme, since family comes first for most of us. 1) What Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God. The wants of any person or any group of people (e.g. a family), cannot be met by trampling on or denying the rights and needs of others. If members of one’s family act unjustly, one must, in conscience, separate oneself from them. In other words, one cannot condone immoral practices even by members of one’s family. Jesus clearly is not attacking family life. He is giving a warning to his disciples of the conflicts and misunderstandings they will experience through their living out the word and thus becoming prophets, proclaiming God’s Will and living presence among His people through their own lives.
2) These words of Jesus can have another meaning. All those who become followers of Jesus belong to a new family. It is a family where every single person, including relatives, friends and even strangers are truly my brothers and sisters. We become part of a larger family to whom we also have responsibilities. Jesus means that there will be times when we will have to give more love and compassion to the hungry, the sick, those in prison, the social outcasts, the unemployed or the unemployable, the handicapped, and the lonely than to the members of our own family. In other words, Jesus is not speaking against the family, but rather reminding us that we are part of a larger family of our fellow Christians.
We need to be ready to take up our cross and lose our life for Christ: In ancient Palestine, the cross had a terrible meaning. Crucifixion was a vicious way of executing people, and it was reserved only for those who were not Roman citizens. Only the worst criminals were crucified. The Jews who heard Jesus’ call for taking up one’s cross in order to follow him must have been horrified. Yet, that is what Christ wants from his disciples. The cross stands for unconditional forgiveness, the total emptying of ourselves of our wants and needs for the sake of another, and the courageous, consistent choosing to do what is right and just. The main paradox of the Christian life is that we must lose life in order to find Life, and we must die to ourselves in order to rise again. (“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”). We live in a world where “finding their lives” is the paramount ambition of the majority of people. But Jesus tells us very clearly that this should not be our main concern. What he asks of us is that we should “lose this life,” which means that we must stop living for ourselves alone. We must forget our own security and work toward the security of others. We must learn to take our own health a bit less seriously, in order to care for those who are sick and hungry. We must stop polluting the environment, so that the rest of the world will have clean air to breathe. All these things fall into place when we lose ourselves in caring for others.
We owe hospitality to strangers in Jesus’ name (“offering a cup of cold water..”): For the Jews, receiving a person’s representative or messenger was the same as receiving the person himself. Hence, receiving a man of God who teaches God’s truth was considered equivalent to receiving God Himself. The four main links in the chain of salvation are i) God who sent Jesus with His message, ii) Jesus who preached the “Good News,” iii) the human messenger who preaches Jesus’ message through words and life, and iv), the believer who welcomes the message and the messengers. Giving hospitality to a preacher or a believer is the same as welcoming Jesus Himself. This is why welcoming others is given such high priority in the New Testament, and why it is a tradition which still lives on in many parts of the Church today. The basis of all hospitality is that we all belong to God’s family, and that every person is our brother or sister. In the game of life, while we would prefer to be the quarterback — the hero — Jesus’ heart leans toward the water-boy or water-girl. Hence, providing a cup of water is a valid vocation.
Materialism and consumerism dominate our lives and turn our homes into isolated fortresses with iron gates, intruder alarms, and surveillance cameras. Society believes in competition, power, influence and success. Jesus’ argument is that when we work hard to ensure that everyone has enough, there will be enough for us, too. Hence, the questions we should ask are, “Am I living my life at the expense of others?” “Am I trying to live in solidarity with others?” and “Am I aware of people in my area who are in real need?” In the words of Mother Teresa, “The Gospel is written on your fingers.” Holding up her fingers, one at a time, she accented each word: “You-Did-It-To-Me.” Mother Teresa then added: “At the end of your life, your five fingers will either excuse you or accuse you of doing it unto the least of these.”
The reward promised to preachers and helpers. Today’s Gospel lesson implies that there might be differing rewards for prophets, righteous persons, and little ones — and differing rewards for those who receive prophets, righteous persons, and little ones. The Good News is that the modesty of our circumstances does not limit our potential rewards. We don’t have to be a prophet to receive a prophet’s reward–we have only to receive a prophet. We don’t have to be a great saint to receive a great saint’s reward–we have only to show hospitality to such a saint. The smallest gift to the littlest disciple brings a certain reward. Just as God knows and cares about every hair of our heads, so too, He knows about our generous acts in behalf of the faithful. Such gifts are counted as gifts to Jesus — and gifts to Jesus are counted as gifts to the Father. Another bit of Good News is that, as we are engaged in the Lord’s work, those who help us are also promised a reward. That is true whether we are clergy or lay people, preachers or janitors. We may not find it comfortable to be on the receiving end rather than the giving end of a generous, loving exchange, but the Lord has ordained that our humble, grateful receiving becomes a blessing for the giver.
Life messages: 1) We need to be hospitable: Hospitality means encountering the hidden presence of God in others, usually where we least expect to find Him, and serving Him there in the loving service we give to the person. The virtue of hospitality is the virtue of recognizing the presence of God in others and nourishing this presence. We, as a community, are to look for the opportunities to be hospitable– and, of course, there are many ways of offering hospitality. Maybe we offer hospitality simply by offering a stranger a kind word or a smile. When we live in such a busy and hectic world, we tend to brush off people who need help. A kind smile or a “hello” to someone waiting with us in a grocery line may be the only kindness that person encounters all day.
2) We become fully alive as Christians through the generous giving of ourselves. What is more important than sending checks for charitable causes is giving of ourselves to people, first, in the way we think about them, for from that spring will flow the ways we speak to them and about them, forgive their failings, encourage them, show them respect, console them, and offer them help. Such generosity reflects warmth radiating from the very love of God
JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) Funny truths: You may sleep in the Church, but don’t snore. William Muehl, professor of preaching at Yale Divinity, spoke the following famous words to generations of seminarians: “Always remember that most of the people you have on a Sunday morning almost decided not to come, to stay in bed and sleep instead.” Hence, it is no wonder that a recent study in Great Britain found that 42 percent of regular Churchgoers fall asleep in Church. Ever feel like yawning in Church yourself? This’ll wake you up: “Yawning is of medical importance because it is symptomatic of pathology such as brain lesions and tumors, hemorrhage, motion sickness, chorea and encephalitis.” So says a 1987 University of Maryland report in the journal “Behavioral and Neural Biology.” So, while you’re yawning, be sure to tell yourself: “Don’t worry. There’s only a small chance it’s a tumor.”
2) Southern hospitality: Two women, a Yankee and a Southern Belle, are sitting next to each other on a plane. The Southern Belle turns to the Yankee and asks, “So, where y’all from?” The Yankee replies, “I am from a place where we do not end our sentences with a preposition.” Without missing a beat, the Southern Belle bats her lashes and asks, “So, where y’all from, Rude, lady?”
3) Overdose hospitality: A farmer, who went to a big city to see the sights, asked the hotel’s clerk about the time of meals. “Breakfast is served from 7 to 11, dinner from 12 to 3, and supper from 6 to 8,” explained the clerk. “Look here,” inquired the farmer in surprise, “when am I going to get time to see the city?”
WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- Apologetic Answers: http://www.bigccatholics.com/p/apologetics.html
- A link to over 5,000 Catholic links: catholic-usa.com
- The Holy Father’s Home Page: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/index.htm
- Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
23- Additional anecdotes:
1a)“It’s hard just to make it past the suffering part!” : St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), like some early Christian writers, notes, “suffering has to come because if you look at the cross, Jesus has got his head bending down — he wants to kiss you — and he has both hands open wide — he wants to embrace you. He has his heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you. Do you understand, brothers, sisters, or whoever you may be? Suffering, pain, humiliation — this is the kiss of Jesus. At times you come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” But, Mother Teresa added, “I once told this to a lady who was suffering very much. The lady answered, “Tell Jesus not to kiss me — to stop kissing me.” (Rev. Paul Andrew) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
1b)Benedictine hospitality: Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of Benedictine spirituality, and it is based on seeing Christ in the guest, just as he is seen in the monks. In the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter LIII is dedicated to the reception of guests. Christ told his disciples that their service and disservice of others would also be directed at him, and this teaching is the foundation for the Benedictine attitude on hospitality: “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’ (Mt 25:35). And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those ‘of the household of the faith’ (Gal 6:10) and to wayfarers.” When a guest arrives, the Rule of St. Benedict prescribes that he be greeted by the superior and the brothers, and they all pray together before anything else. The Abbot attends to the guest and teaches the guest about “Divine law.” Hospitality also involves flexibility: in the Rule, it prescribes a separate kitchen with a couple of monks dedicated to meeting the guests’ needs, even when they are not following the monastery’s schedule for mealtimes and other activities. (E- Priest) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Saints and preachers who lived for others as Jesus did: John Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century, was one of the most powerful preachers in Church history. Yet, he devoted more time and energy to the poor than to preaching. He established many Christian charities, hospices, and hospitals for the destitute. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian abbot and renowned monastic theologian and preacher, led many people to Christ. He also established a network of hostels, hospices, and hospitals that survive today. John Wycliffe, who translated the New Testament into English, led a grass-roots movement of lay-preachers and relief workers who ministered to the poor. General William Booth was a Methodist preacher when he started The Salvation Army. Dwight L. Moody, one of the best known of all the pastors in America established more than 150 street missions, soup kitchens, clinics, schools, and rescue outreaches. [John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Points (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991), p. 189.] — The Christian Faith is about giving. We only have to survey the ministry of Jesus to see that. There was nothing self-serving in anything Jesus ever did. He was truly the Man for others. And Jesus calls us to be men and women for others. At the very heart of our Faith is a spirit of giving. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Heroic suffering of the baseball player Kirk Gibson: Suffering and pain are integral to life’s experience but they need not humiliate, defeat, and destroy us! A Detroit News article some years ago carried the story of Kirk Gibson during his glory days with the Tigers. Few really knew the price of pain and agony paid by Gibson for that glory. According to the article, Kirk Gibson was a baseball player who knew how to live with pain. In 1980, he tore the cartilage in his wrist. Two years later, he had a sore left knee, a strained left calf muscle, and a severe left wrist sprain. In 1983, he was out for knee surgery, and in 1985 he required 17 stitches after getting hit in the mouth with a wild pitch. In addition, he bruised a hamstring muscle, injured his right heel, and suffered a sore left ankle. His worst injury involved severe ligament damage to his ankle in 1986, a year predicted to be his best. When asked about pain, Gibson was quoted as saying, “There are pluses and minuses in everything we do in life. But the pluses for my career, myself, and my family make it worth it. It’s the path I chose.” He accepted Jesus’ challenge in today’s Gospel, “Whoever does not take up his cross* and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) The agony and ecstasy of Michelangelo: A few of you perhaps have had the privilege of visiting Rome to view some of the world’s most splendid artistic productions in sculpture, on canvas, and in architecture. While there, perhaps you saw what is regarded by some as the most outstanding of all artistic expressions, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. What many people do not know is that he suffered beyond imagination while producing that unparalleled masterpiece. In Irving Stone’s novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Michelangelo’s agony is vividly described. For thirty days, he painted from dawn to darkness, completing the Sacrifice of Noah, the four large male figures surrounding the Ark and the Prophet Isaiah opposite. He returned home late each night to work on the scene of the Garden of Eden. For those thirty days, he slept in his clothes without even taking off his boots. When at the completion of that section, utterly spent, he asked a friend to pull his boots off for him, the skin came away with them. He grew dizzy from standing and painting with his head and shoulders thrown back, his neck arched so that he could peer straight upward, his arms aching in every joint from the vertical effort, his eyes blurred from the dripping paint, even though he had learned to paint through slits and to blink his eyes shut with each brush stroke, as he had learned to do against flying marble chips when sculpting. He did his painting on a platform on top of the scaffolding. He painted sitting down, his thighs drawn up tight against his stomach for balance until the padded bones of his legs became so bruised that he could no longer bear the agony. Then he would lie flat on his back, his knees in the air, until he could no longer endure that and would switch to another position. But no matter which way he leaned, crouched, lay, or knelt, on his feet, knees, or back, eventually there always came a painful strain. Yet, the greatness of the agony of his painting experience was more than matched by the greatness of the glory the marvelous production and end result gave him.– Today there are many people who want to live a godly life, who want to assist in seeing the Kingdom of God grow, but whenever effort, strain, or suffering is involved, they beg off. Jesus challenges them in today’s Gospel: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) Long living, hardy Bristlecone Pines: Some time ago a fascinating article appeared in Reader’s Digest, telling about a most unusual tree called the “Bristlecone Pine.” Growing in the western mountain regions, sometimes as high as two or more miles above sea level, these evergreens may live for thousands of years. The older specimens often have only one thin layer of bark on their trunks. Considering the habitat of these trees, rocky areas where the soil is poor and precipitation is slight, it seems almost incredible that they should live so long or even survive at all. The environmental “adversities,” however, actually contribute to their longevity. Cells that are produced as a result of these perverse conditions are densely arranged, and many resin canals are formed within the plant. Wood that is so structured continues to live for an extremely long period of time. What happens if these trees are grown in more welcoming circumstances? Says author Darwin Lambert in his article on the subject, “Bristlecone Pines in richer conditions grow faster, but die earlier and soon decay.” The harshness of their surroundings, then, is a vital factor in making them strong and sturdy. –How similar this is to the experience of the Christian who graciously accepts the hardships God allows to come into his life! In Hebrews 12:11 we read that such chastening produces “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (KJV) For those not rooted in Christ, suffering can be decimating. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) “You one day gave a coin to Baron de Rothschild in the studio.” Baron De Rothschild was one of the richest men who ever lived. Legend has it that the Baron once posed before an artist as a beggar. While the artist, Ary Scheffer, was painting him, the financier sat before him in rags and tatters holding a tin cup. A friend of the artist entered, and the baron was so well-disguised that he was not recognized. Thinking he was really a beggar, the visitor dropped a coin into the cup. Ten years later, the man who gave the coin to Rothschild received a letter containing a bank order for 10,000 francs and the following message: “You one day gave a coin to Baron de Rothschild in the studio of Ary Scheffer. He has invested it and today sends you the capital which you entrusted to him, together with the compounded interest. A good action always brings good fortune. Signed, Baron de Rothschild.” [Bits and Pieces (February 4, 1993), p. 24.) — A simple act of kindness was bountifully rewarded. Now hear the words of our Lord: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” Even a cup of cold water, says the Master, water given to one of His little ones, will be rewarded. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “I give while I’m still living!”: In a fable of the pig and the cow, the pig was lamenting to the cow one day how unpopular he was. “People are always talking about your gentleness and your kind eyes,” said the pig. “Sure, you give milk and cream, but I give more. I give bacon, ham, bristles. They even pickle my feet! Still, nobody likes me. Why?” The cow thought a minute and then replied, “Well, maybe it’s because I give while I’m still living, and I give milk which is meant for my child.” — Today’s Gospel reminds us that the hospitality and generosity expected of us should be offered here and now, and not just by way of something left for others in our Last Will and Testament. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) Imitation of Christ or Presentation of Christ? In 1418 the first copy of what would become the most widely read volume on Christian spirituality appeared. The Imitation of Christ was first published anonymously but is now accepted as the work of the priest Thomas a Kempis. This book of devotions holds up Jesus’ teachings as the greatest counsel and truths one could ever find and urges all Christians to follow Jesus’ words at every juncture. The Imitation of Christ quickly became popular with the educated laity, then was accepted, read, and followed by such diverse groups as religious orders and monasteries, the Jesuits, and the Methodists. What a Kempis offered was “soul-steeping” in Christ’s words: inward meditation, outward devotion, committed contemplation. It’s a great book. I encourage you to read it. But in today’s Gospel text, Jesus is not interested in growing a new generation of mere “imitators” of the Christ.” In fact, Jesus’ words are startling. When disciples go out, those who welcome them are welcoming JESUS! Disciples are not “imitations.” Disciples are the real deal. Disciples are not “copies,” or a copy of a copy. Disciples are “originals.” Do you hear it? Jesus IS present, God IS present, when disciples come in the Name of the One Who has sent them. It’s not about “imitation.” It’s about implantation. No wonder “welcoming” is such a mandate! Instead of a Kempis’ “imitations” of Christ, better to envision Paul’s “Body of Christ.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) Pastoral ministry is a tough occupation: Did you hear about the farm boy who always wondered what would happen if he twisted the tail on the mule? One day he tried it. And now they say about him, he’s not as pretty as he used to be, but he’s a whole lot wiser. Ministry is not for cowards, the lazy, the easily discouraged, the thin-skinned, or those without endurance. It is a tough occupation! And it’s getting tougher! I love the cartoon that shows a man saying, “I don’t get America’s fascination with the television show Survivor. I’ve occupied an island of strenuous and dangerous activities with hostile cohorts with a chance of getting voted out. I’ve been a pastor for thirty years!” Today’s Gospel lesson gives us Jesus’ final words of instruction to his disciples, as he commissions them to undertake their mission and continues instructing them about their purpose. The text also urges us to see that our ministers get rest. Jesus talks about giving our prophets a break, time off for a cup of cool water. Let’s face it; a minister’s job is never done. There is always another sermon to write, a book to read, prayers to pray, a person to meet, a wrong to right, a meeting to attend. Even the pace of ministry is accelerating, thanks to e-mail, faxes, and cell phones. And a pastor, to survive, must learn to work under a load of unfinished work. Why, today’s pastor is like a man juggling a dozen balls well! The people of his congregation keep tossing him more balls until he’s up to 64! Then he drops them all and people walk away, shaking their heads in disbelief. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) One unsung hero of the Bible is Onesiphorus. He is forever known as a minister to the minister, the one who kept the Apostle Paul on his feet. In 2 Timothy 1:15-18, Paul confided, “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus.” (II Tim 1:16-18). http://www.usccb.org/bible/2timothy/1 – 63001018-o — Just listen to the action verbs: He often gave me new heart. He was not ashamed of my chains. He promptly searched for me. He found me. May we be that sort of person to one another, and especially to our pastors! Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “The Messiah is among you.” There is an old legend about the famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. Its many buildings were once filled with young monks, and chapel resounded with the singing of the choir. But now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. Only a handful of old monks remained. On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a tiny hut. He came there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: “The rabbi walks in the woods.” One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and bare his heart to the rabbi. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced. As he entered the hut, he saw in the middle of the room a wooden table with the Scriptures open. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. The abbot could not contain himself. He covered his face with his hands and broke down. After the tears and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts,” he said. “You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again.” The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, “The Messiah is among you.” The Abbot stood in stunned silence. Then the rabbi said, “Now you must go.” The abbot left without ever looking back. The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them that he had received a teaching from the rabbi who walks in the woods, and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, “The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah.” The monks were startled and thought to themselves: “What could it mean? Is brother John the Messiah? No, he’s too old and crotchety. Is brother Thomas? No, he’s too stubborn and set in his ways. Am I the Messiah? What could this possibly mean?” They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi’s teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again. As time went by, though, something began to happen at the monastery. The monks began to treat one another with a reverence. They were gentle with one another. They lived with one another as brothers once again. Visitors found themselves deeply moved by the genuine caring and sharing that went on among them. Before long, people were again coming from great distances to be nourished by the prayer life of these monks. And young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community. Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me.” Hospitality…because in one another we see face of Christ. It is the first step in Christian Discipleship. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) No trespassers allowed: Eleven times in the New Testament, Jesus either assumes or receives the hospitality of others for his daily care and lodging. How else do you think he survived? Furthermore, hospitality is assumed by Jesus in the sending forth of the apostles (“He who receives you, receives me,” Matthew 10:40). And the early Church would never have made it, had it not “practiced hospitality” as Paul mandated in Romans 12. Traveling missionaries stayed in homes … conducted worship in homes … served the Sacrament in homes … and took up collections for those engaged in the work of the Gospel in homes. In the first two centuries of the Church’s existence, any talk about “the house of God” literally meant a house … somebody’s house … where the people of God gathered and where the servants of God bunked (while passing through). “What happened to hospitality?” people cry. Well, what happened to hospitality was insecurity. When people no longer felt safe, they buttoned things up. They installed locks, buzzers, cameras, gatehouses and tall hedges … along with any number of things that controlled access. They became “selectively social,” given that you never knew who might be out there. But “security” was not the only issue that privatized hospitality, turning “welcome” into a highly selective verb. Privacy also entered in. People began to define their space more carefully … setting limits … establishing parameters. All of which is understandable. Maybe even laudable. But much of this runs counter to the spirit of Scripture whose mandate was especially appropriate to “nomadic life,” when people moved around a lot, but where public inns were a rarity. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) And so the House of the Urchin was established: Shortly after World War II, the bombed-out city of Naples was filled with bands of young orphans and outcasts called scugnizzi. These scugnizzi lived on the streets, begging, pilfering, and sometimes assisting older criminals. These kids were tough, wily, and apparently unreachable. But 25-year-old Father Mario Borrelli wanted to try. He felt it was his responsibility to love in the way Christ has loved. So, each night right after his regular duties, he became a scugnizzi. Dressed in a ragged and filthy get-up, he started begging at the Naples railroad terminal. The other young toughs were impressed by his style, just the right mixture of humor and pathetic humility. When a gang leader swaggered up and demanded half his take, Mario beat him up. That really impressed the guys. This incognito priest slept on basement gratings covered with old newspapers, just like the others. Soon he was getting to know his new companions well as they talked around fires, heating up their scraps of food in old tin cans. He had something to express about the God who took on human flesh. And Mario discovered that all of them, even the most bitter and hardened, had a longing for home, affection, and security. After winter arrived, Mario informed the gang that he’d found a place for them to stay, the abandoned ruins of the church of Saint Gennaro. Slowly he transformed the structure into a home and started providing the boys with nourishing meals. One night, Mario appeared in full clerical robes. After his buddies stopped laughing, he explained that he was, in fact, a priest. By this time, the bonds he’d established were strong enough to make them stay; Mario had won their respect. And so the House of the Urchin was established, where young throwaways could find a home, hope, and the streetwise spiritual guidance of Mario Borrelli. [This story is a paraphrase of one recorded by Frederic Sondern Jr. in “Don Vesovio and the House of the Urchin,” Reader’s Digest Teenage Treasure, vol. 3 (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 1957), pp. 28-32; found in Steven Mosley, Secrets of the Mustard Seed: Ten Life-Changing Promises From the New Testament.] — Christ is not asking most of us to make that drastic a change in our lifestyle, but he is asking us to be in mission. There is no other path to true happiness. We are to be in mission in our family, in our community and in our world and to have a consciousness that we are the people of God, bringing God’s light to the world. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) “Help yourself to a cool drink.” Some years ago, Sam Foss, a writer and traveler, came to a little rustic house in England situated at the top of a hill. Nearby was a signpost that read: “Help yourself to a cool drink.” Not far away he found a spring of ice-cold water. Above the spring hung an old-fashioned gourd dipper, and on a bench nearby was a basket of summer apples and another sign inviting the passersby to help themselves. Curious about the people who showed such hospitality to strangers, Foss knocked at the door. An elderly couple answered, and Foss asked them about the well and the apples. They explained that they were childless. Their little plot of ground yielded a scant living, but because they had a well with an abundance of cold water, they just wanted to share it with anyone who happened by. “We’re too poor to give money to charity,” said the husband, “but we thought that in this way we could do something for the folks who pass our way.” [Donald E. and Vesta W. Mansell, Sure As The Dawn (Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1993).] — That’s the kind of hospitality Christ had in mind. It’s a simple thing, “a cup of cold water,” but rarer than you might think. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) Shrinking and growing angel: The Russian author Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a shoemaker who was making his way home one night when he found a poor man shivering and poorly clad. Moved by pity, the shoemaker took the man home. His wife was not pleased. She complained about the cost of feeding another mouth. As she continued to complain, the stranger grew smaller and smaller, shriveled and wrinkled with every unkind word. But when she spoke kindly to the stranger and gave him food, he grew and became more beautiful. The reason was that the stranger was an angel from Heaven in human form and could live only in an atmosphere of kindness and love. [Fulton J. Sheen, The Power of Love (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).] The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to be hospitable to “strangers for thereby, some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) “Broken bread.” Salvation Army General Albert Osborn, in a favorite hymn [found in The Song Book of the Salvation Army, American Edition (Verona, NJ: National Headquarters, 1987), 512], wrote:
“My life must be Christ’s broken bread,
My love his outpoured wine,
A cup o’erfilled, a table spread
Beneath his name and sign,
That other souls, refreshed and fed
May share his life through mine.”
— Cook food. Serve love. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) “My life must be Christ’s the seminarian sponsored by the cobbler. There was a poor lad in a country village who, after a great struggle, became a priest. His benefactor in his days of study in the seminary was the village cobbler. In due time, the new priest became an associate pastor in his benefactor’s parish. On that day his benefactor, the cobbler, said to him, “It was always my desire to be a minister of the Gospel, but the circumstances of my life made it impossible. But you are achieving what was closed to me. And I want you to promise me one thing — I want you to let me make and cobble your shoes–for nothing — and I want you to wear them in the pulpit when you preach. Then I will feel that you are preaching the Gospel that I always wanted to preach standing in my shoes.” Beyond a doubt the cobbler was serving God as the preacher was, and his reward would one day be the same. (Adapted from Barclay). Today’s Gospel challenges us to help those in the ministry by using our God-given talents. The Church and Christ will also always need those in whose homes there is hospitality and, in whose hearts,, there is Christian love. All service ranks the same with God. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Following Christ faithfully is tough, but it’s worth it! St Maximilian Kolbe is a particularly eloquent example of how our faith in Christ gives strength and meaning in the midst of this world’s sufferings. He was a Polish Franciscan arrested by the Gestapo during World War II because of his criticism of Nazism. Eventually, he was sent to the concentration camp of Auschwitz, where he was treated with extra brutality because he was a priest. We have all heard of the famous incident where a fellow prisoner, a man who was married with children, was condemned by the guards to execution, and St. Maximilian Kolbe offered himselfin the other prisoner’s place. His offer was accepted, and he died with other condemned prisoners in a starvation bunker. But even before that dramatic finish, he was already bringing Christ’s light into the darkness of the concentration camp. Here is how a fellow prisoner who survived the camp expressed the inspiring power of Fr Kolbe’s presence, even in that hellish place: “Each time I saw Father Kolbe in the courtyard I felt within myself an extraordinary effusion of his goodness. Although he wore the same ragged clothes as the rest of us, with the same tin can hanging from his belt, oneforgot this wretched exterior and was conscious only of the charm of his inspired countenance and of his radiant holiness.” (E- Priest). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Cardinal Van Thuan’s Reward: Many of us have heard parts of the amazing story of the Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. Just six days after he was named coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon, South Vietnam fell to Communist controlled North Vietnam. Soon thereafter, the future Cardinal was arrested by the Communist authorities. For the next fourteen years, the Communists tried to break his Faith, moving him among re-education camps, prisons, and solitary confinement. When he was finally released, he was expelled from Vietnam and forbidden to return. So, he went to Rome, was welcomed by Pope St. John Paul II in 1991. He was made Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and named President in 1998. [F.X.. Nguyen Van Thuan The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2001), pp. ix-xi]. In the year 2000, the Great Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II asked Cardinal Van Thuan to preach the annual spiritual exercises – a retreat that lasts a full week – to the pope and the other cardinals who work in the Vatican. In 2002, Archbishop Nguyen Van Thuan was named a Cardinal, and had printed a book of his reflections, written day by day while he was in prison on scraps of paper smuggled out by a young boy who visited him daily. The short reflections were copied by his brothers and sisters and so circulated among his flock. The Cardinal died in exile in 2002, at the age of 74. (Ibid). After the Retreat of 2000, the Pope asked Cardinal Van Thuan to publish as a book the powerful reflections he had shared on the retreat. That’s how a modern-day spiritual classic was born: Testimony of Hope. In the introduction to that book, Cardinal Van Thuan shares with his readers a moving coincidence, a coincidence that was morethan a coincidence. It was a sign to Cardinal Van Thuan, just two years before his death, that his suffering had not been in vain. [“Today, at the conclusion of the spiritual exercises, I feel profoundly moved. Exactly twenty-four years ago on March 18, 1976, on the vigil of the Feast of St Joseph, I was taken by force from my residence in Cay Vong and put in solitary confinement in the prison of Phu Khanh. Twenty-four years ago, I never would have imagined that today, on exactly the same date, I would conclude preaching the spiritual exercises in the Vatican. Twenty-four years ago, when I celebrated Mass with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I never would have dreamed that today the Holy Father would offer me a gilded chalice. Twenty-four years ago, I never would have thought that today (the Feast of St Joseph, 2000) in Cay Vong – the very place where I lived under house arrest – my successor would consecrate the most beautiful church dedicated to St Joseph]. — Following Christ is not easy, but it’s worth it – no matter how bad things get, if we stay close to Christ, he stays close to us and gives meaning and fruitfulness to everything we suffer. (E- Priest) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Alaskan hospitality: One American family was travelling in their motor home through Alaska, when the axle broke and they were stranded in the middle of nowhere. So the father left the family in their motor home and began to walk in search of help. To his good luck, he came upon an isolated farmhouse. He knocked on the door and a very friendly farmer responded. When he learned of the man’s distress, the farmer just patted him on the shoulder and said he could help him. Without wasting a minute, he got into his tractor, drove out and towed the motor house to his yard. And then, in a very short time, he used his welder and fixed the problem. The American family were extremely relieved and grateful. Taking out his wallet the father of the family offered to pay, but the farmer would have none of it. “It was my pleasure” was all he said. “As you can see, I live in isolation and often do not see anybody for weeks and even months. You have given me the pleasure of your company. That is more than adequate compensation.” The American family were greatly impressed. It certainly enhanced their belief in the essential goodness of human beings. (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) “Oh, no!” Satan answered. “That’s my tool to wreck the Church.” There is an old legend about Satan one day having a yard sale. He thought he’d get rid of some of his old tools that were cluttering up the place. So there was gossip, slander, adultery, lying, greed, power-hunger, and more laid out on the tables. Interested buyers were crowding the tables, curious, handling the goods. One customer, however, strolled way back in the garage and found on a shelf a well-oiled and cared-for tool. He brought it out to Satan and inquired if it was for sale. “Oh, no!” Satan answered. “That’s my tool. Without it I couldn’t wreck the Church! It’s my secret weapon!” “But what is it?” the customer inquired. “It’s the tool of discouragement,” the devil said. — Indeed! In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is talking to the Church members about their attitude and deportment toward the prophets God sends among us as shepherds. He speaks frankly about acceptance and rejection, about kindness and trust. In short, he promises that in the minister’s success among us shall come our own reward as well as his. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) Shell-Shock: A new malady was introduced to the human race through the First World War, a disorder medical services had never encountered before: shell-shock. Soldiers by the thousands “were being turned into zombies and freaks without suffering physical injuries of any kind,” walking about in trancelike states, shaking uncontrollably or freezing in odd postures, sometimes “unable to see or hear or speak.” All without experiencing physical harm. The reason was the incomprehensible firepower of the first modern war: earth-shattering artillery bombardments, flamethrowers, poison gas, machine gun fire that cut whole companies of charging men in half, etc. It was too much for the mind to endure, more than it was meant to handle. The result was shell shock. –Everyday life can likewise throw at us more than we can handle on our own, from financial stresses to griefs to broken relationships to fears for the future. [G. J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 (Bantam Books, 2006), pp. 393-7] — Our Heavenly Father gives us a cure in his Word to this spiritual shell-shock: “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) — He will be our refuge through the battles of life. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
23) The little prophet in the hospital cot: A young woman oncologist was a part of a group of doctors from a Boston hospital who went to Haiti in January 2010 to offer their help in the wake of the deadly earthquake. She told of being totally overwhelmed by the situation in a very primitive tent hospital. There was a seemingly endless barrage of impossible medical traumas, and they were without proper medicines or instruments. At one point, she said, she became paralyzed by her helplessness and fear. It was all too much. Unable to function any longer, she began sobbing uncontrollably, burying her face in her hands. She was at the bedside of a little boy, whose leg had been amputated a few days earlier. The little boy, about six or seven years old, saw her tears and her trembling and, with a smile, lifted his head from his pillow and encouraged her to move on to some other kids nearby whom he knew needed her attention more than he did. And remarkably she found she was able to do so. For in that moment, the power of death and her overwhelming sense of horror and hopelessness were broken open. She witnessed in that little boy the triumph of love over pain and fear. In his generosity of heart and compassion of spirit, this little boy is the kind of “prophet” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel. To receive the prophet’s reward is to seek out every opportunity, to use every gift God has given us, to devote every resource at our disposal to make the love of God a living reality in every life we touch. The Gospel “cup of water” can be simple and ordinary, but every kindness we offer, when given out of generous compassion, is a prophetic act of God’s presence in our midst. (Quoted in Connections as reported in The Boston Globe). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 37) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my 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 email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604