August 25, 2020

O. T. XXII (August 30 Sunday)

OT XXII (A) (Aug 30) Eight-minute homily in one page

Introduction: Today’s Gospel passage reminds us that Christian discipleship demands self-control (“Deny yourself”), the willingness to suffer (“take up your cross”), the readiness to follow Jesus by obeying his commandment of love, and generosity in surrendering our lives to God (“to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” (Romans 12:1).(An anecdote may be added)

Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s readings explain how we should practice true, dynamic Christian discipleship. Jeremiah, in the first reading, is certainly a prototype of the suffering Christ. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 65), the Psalmist manifests his profound trust in God, just as Jeremiah himself does. In the second reading, Paul advises the Romans and us (Rom 12:1-2): to ‘’offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God by explicitly rejecting the ungodly behavior of the world around us and by discerning and doing the will of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples by surprise when, after Peter’s great confession of Faith, Jesus announces that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” After correcting Peter’s protest, Jesus announces the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

Life messages: # 1: We need to be “extremophiles” for Christ: True disciples of Christ are: a) truly compassionate: they are willing to visit and help the infected and the sick in hospitals, the incontinent elderly, the handicapped and those who suffer dementia in nursing homes, and AIDS patients in hospices; b) truly humble: they are able to see that every good gift comes from God alone, and that His gifts to us of time, personal talents, and resources should inspire gratitude, not pride; c) truly patient: they are committed to working with challenging children, adolescents with problems, young adults who are struggling with their Faith, with the intellectually challenged and with those suffering dementia; d) truly forgiving: they are willing to forgive not just once, or twice, but again and again, because they know that God has forgiven them again and again; e) truly loving: they willingly visit people in prisons, in retirement homes, and  in homeless shelters; and f) truly faithful: they are living out a committed, trusting relationship with God, with spouse, with family and friends.

# 2: We need to ask these questions as we examine our conscience. A true disciple examines his or her conscience every day, asking three questions about discipleship: a) Did I sacrifice a part of my time, talents and income for my parish and the missionary activities of the Church? b) Did I practice self-control over my thoughts, words, deeds and use of mass media, and put loving restriction on the cell phone and Internet activities of my children? c) Did I train my children in my Faith in a loving, providing, redeeming God by encouraging them as we spend some time together as a family, praying and reading the Bible, and by teaching them through example and word to pardon each other, to ask for God’s pardon for our own sins and failures, to thank God for His blessings and to participate in the Sunday school classes and youth programs?

OT XXII [A] (Aug 30) Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27

Homily Starter Anecdotes # 1: “There is no Poland without a cross.” Years ago, when Poland was still under Communist control, the Prime Minister ordered the crucifixes removed from classroom walls. Catholic Bishops attacked the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms. But one zealous Communist school administrator, the director of the Mietnow Agricultural College, Ryszard Dobrynski, took the crosses down from his seven lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby Church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the Church. But the press was there as well, and pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. “There is no Poland without a cross.” (http://www.nytimes.com/1984/03/09/world/student-protest-swells-in-poland-return-of-crucifixes-is-demanded.html)– Perhaps the cross has come to symbolize comfort to us because we have had to sacrifice little in our lives. The more we are called upon to carry our own crosses, the more we will understand the one our Savior carried outside the city gates to the hill called Golgotha. That is why today’s Gospel challenges us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

# 2: Jesus’ call to be extremophiles or “extreme-lovers.” Probably, you’ve never met these creatures called extremophiles. This is because they are extremely small microorganisms which live in environments where the Fahrenheit temperature ranges either from 170 to 215 degrees (water boils at 212 °F), or down to several degrees below freezing point — or in acidic media. One such extremophile is Pyrococcus furiosus. Pyro is only one of many microorganisms attracting the attention of scientists today. Biotechnologists are learning a lot from such microorganisms living way out there, in dangerous places like hot springs, polar ice caps, salty lakes and acidic fields. They live in conditions that would kill humans and most plants and animals. Extremophile microbes are also busy industrialists, reports The Futurist magazine, because they produce enzymes that are enormously useful in the food, chemical, pharmaceutical, waste treatment and other industries. Suppose you need an enzyme to replace bleaching by Chlorine (Cynthia G. Wagner, “Biotech Goes to Extremes,” The Futurist, October 1998). — Today’s reading points us to the Greatest Extremophile of all time. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus reveals himself to be an extremophile, showing his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). When Peter objects to this extremely painful prediction, Jesus rebukes him sharply: “Get behind me, Satan! … you are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things.” He then tells his disciples: ”Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (16:24-25). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

# 3: Quo vadis Domine?” There is an ancient legend about Peter, which became the basis for a famous novel and motion picture. At the time of the great persecution under Nero, the Christians of Rome told Peter to leave. “You’re too valuable,” they said. “Get out of town! Find your safety! Go to another place and preach the Gospel.” Peter hastily hurried out of town as fast as he could. But as he hurried along the Appian Way, away from the Eternal City, he was met by Christ, going toward the city. Peter said to him in Latin, “Quo vadis, Domine?” “Where are you going, Lord?” To which Jesus replied, “Back to Rome, to be crucified with my people. Where are you going, Peter?” Peter’s eyes filled with tears of remorse, as he turned and walked back to Rome, where, according to tradition, he was crucified head downward, feeling that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as had his Lord. Jesus’ question to Peter comes to us also. “Where are you going?” Are we going with Christ, or away from him and from his cross? That’s the really important question. It doesn’t matter how far we have traveled. What does matter is the direction in which we are going. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

# 4: “They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles.” Like a burning fire within, the irresistible word of the Lord compels us to resist evil. It strengthens us to speak for the reign of God. The following high-impact story, circulated through the Internet, illustrates the challenges for today’s Christians as well as the appeal of Saint Paul “not to conform … but be transformed”. “Tennessee Football”: This is a statement that was read over the PA system at the football game at Roanne County High School, Kingston, Tennessee, by school principal Jody McLeod.

It has always been the custom of Roanne County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and country. Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it “an alternate lifestyle”, and if someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, “safe sex”. If someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a “viable means of birth control”. If someone is offended, no problem … I can designate a school day as “Earth Day” and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess “Mother Earth” and call it “ecology”. I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depict people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as “simple minded” and “ignorant” and call it “enlightenment” … However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated. This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS commandments. Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical … I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression. For this reason, I shall “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and refrain from praying this time. However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to bless this event, please feel free to do so. As far as I know, that’s not against the law – yet.

One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray. They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer’s Box. The only place they didn’t pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America – the Seat of “Justice” in the “one nation, under GOD”. Somehow, Kingston, Tennessee remembered what so many have forgotten … We are given the freedom OF religions, not the freedom FROM religion. Praise GOD that HIS remnant remains! JESUS said, “If you are ashamed before men, then I will be ashamed of you before MY FATHER.” (Lectio Divina). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

Introduction: The readings for this Sunday remind us that Christians are called to live their lives in a different way from others around them. Christian discipleship demands honesty, the willingness to suffer (“take up your cross”), generosity (“to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God”), and readiness to follow Jesus by obeying his commandment of love. Today’s readings explain how this Christian mission should be accomplished. They explain how we should know and live the will of God, accepting the suffering involved in it. These readings also tell us that suffering is an integral part of our earthly life, but it is also our road to glory. There is no crown without a cross. Jeremiah, in the first reading, is a certainly a prototype of the suffering Christ. He tried to live the will of God bravely facing confrontations and persecution, and he continued to proclaim His message because the message itself “becomes like a fire, burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 63), the Psalmist sings, “O God, You are my God Whom I seek; for You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts, like the earth parched, lifeless and without water. … You are my Help, and in the shadow of Your Wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to You: Your right hand upholds me.” In the second reading, Paul advises the Romans and us (Rom 12:1-2): to ‘’offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God by explicitly rejecting the ungodly behavior of the world around us and by discerning and doing the will of God. He learned from his experience that commitment to God’s will required an attitude of non-conformity to one’s contemporary culture and draws hostility and physical danger on him because of his fidelity to Jesus. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples by surprise when, after Peter’s great confession of Faith, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” After correcting Peter’s protest, Jesus announces the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Unless we constantly remind ourselves of the demands of this difficult vocation from God, we will fail to be the kind of disciples that Christ expects us to be.

The first reading: Jer 20:7-9 explained: The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C. to about 580 B.C. Most of his work was done in Judah’s capital, Jerusalem. Jeremiah was sent by God, “to tear up and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow” (Jer. 1:10). He tried to keep this people, who lived in an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing, faithful to God. Jeremiah was regarded as a traitor by his own people because, as God’s mouthpiece, he had to foretell the dire results that would follow from their plan of revolt against the mighty power of Babylon. So, he became depressed and complained bitterly to God. The English word jeremiad means an elaborate and prolonged lamentation or tale of woe. Today’s first reading is the purest of jeremiads. In it, Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of tricking him and offers us a powerful description of someone suffering for obedience to his conscience.

Second reading (Rom 12:1-2) explained: In the second reading, Paul advises the Roman Christians that they must live their Christian lives in such a way that they differ both from the Jews and from the pagans. St. Paul calls them to adopt an attitude of sacrifice in their worship of God.  In order to do this, they must explicitly reject the behavior of the world around them. Paul tells them, and us (Rom 12:1-2): “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” to God.  Paul then explains that the sacrifices that should be offered are not the animals or grain of Jewish Temple worship, but their bodies “as a living sacrifice … spiritual worship.”   In this way, by non-conformity to their own age, they should differ from the Jews and the pagans, which would cost them suffering and sometimes their very lives, as we, in our turn, must do. Like Paul’s Christians, we, too, must “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect,”– and then do it!

Gospel exegesis: “Get behind me, Satan!” After Peter had confessed his Faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, explained to the apostles what the Messianic Mission and their responsive discipleship really meant. Jesus realized that, although he had predicted his suffering and death three times, his disciples were still thinking in terms of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. That is why Peter could not bear the idea of a suffering Messiah. It was then that Jesus rebuked him so sternly, “Get behind me, Satan,” in an attempt to nullify what was, in fact, a temptation of the evil one urging Him to shrink from doing the work for which He had come. It was the same kind of rebuke He had delivered to Satan in the wilderness. Origen suggests that Jesus was saying to Peter: “Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It’s your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go.” Satan is banished from the presence of Christ, and Peter is recalled to become, again, Christ’s follower. “This foundation-stone-become-stumbling-stone stands as a cautionary tale for all of us who are called to serve with authority in the Church, a reality that surely extends to parents with respect to their children and teachers with respect to students.” (Fr. Reginald Fuller). The Good News is that, by the grace of God, rehabilitation is not only possible but likely, if we pray.  Like Peter, the Church is often tempted to judge the success or failure of her ministry by the world’s standards. But Jesus teaches that worldly success is not always the Christian way. That is why Jesus decided that the time had come for him to confront the forces of the scribes and the Pharisees at the seat of their power, Jerusalem, realizing fully well what the agonizing consequences would be.

Three conditions of Christian discipleship: After correcting Peter for trying to divert him from what would be his way of the cross in Jerusalem, Jesus declares three conditions for any who would become and live as his disciples: a) deny yourself b) take up your cross and c) follow me. A) Self-denial means evicting selfish thoughts, desires and tendencies from our hearts and letting God fill our hearts with Himself. It also means being cleansed of all evil habits, enthroning God in in our hearts, and sharing Him with others. B) Carrying the cross with Jesus always entails pain and suffering. Our personal sufferings become the cross of Jesus when: 1) we suffer by serving others selflessly; 2) we give ourselves — our health, wealth, time and talents – to others until it hurts us; 3) we join our physical, mental or emotional sufferings to Jesus’ and offer them with him to the Father in reparation for our sins and those of the world; and we work with the Spirit Who is purifying us through our personal sufferings or penitential practices. C) Following Jesus means that, as disciples of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God by obeying Jesus’ commandment of love. To follow someone who has asked us to “take up our cross” daily seems foolish. But in the words of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “to be a fool for Christ is the greatest compliment the world can give. You and I are in good company, because most of the saints embraced the Cross of Christ and were considered fools for doing so.” The Catechism teaches, “The way of perfection,” that is, the path leading to holiness, “passes by way of the Cross” (CCC 2015). “There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (CCC 2015). “Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (CCC 2015).

Losing life, finding life: Matthew was writing for the Christian community in the bitterest days of persecution – AD 80-90. Hence, he emphasizes Jesus’ teaching that a man who is faithful may die for his Faith in Jesus, but in dying he will live. The man who risks everything for Christ finds life. On the other hand, the man who abandons his Faith for safety or security may live, but he is actually dying. History is full of noble souls who risked their lives for the sake of others. If certain scientists had not been prepared to take risks, many a medical cure would not exist. If mothers were not prepared to take risks, no child would ever be born. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that there are constant opportunities for us to choose to be true to the Gospel.  But the world is essentially opposed to the Gospel and those who live out its truths.   Archbishop Desmond Tutu was questioned once as to whether or not he was a politician. He answered, “No, I am not. I am a Church person who believes that religion does not deal just with a certain compartment of life. Religion has relevance for the whole of life, and we have to say whether a particular policy is consistent with the policy of Jesus Christ or not, and if you want to say that that is political, then I will be a politician in those terms….My role, the role of people of Faith, is to be able to say: ‘Thus saith the Lord.'”

Life messages: # 1: We need to be extremophiles for Christ: True disciples of Christ are: a) truly compassionate: they are willing to visit the infected and the sick in hospitals, the incontinent elderly, the handicapped, and those who suffer dementia. in nursing homes, and AIDS patients in hospices; b) truly humble: they are able to see that every good gift comes from God alone, and that His gifts to us of time, personal talents, and resources should inspire gratitude, not pride; c) truly patient: they are committed to working with challenging children, adolescents with problems, young adults who are struggling with their Faith, with the intellectually challenged, and with those suffering dementia; d) truly forgiving: they are willing to forgive, not just once or twice but again and again, because they know that God has forgiven them again and again; e) truly loving: they willingly visit people in prisons, in retirement homes, and  in homeless shelters; f) truly faithful: they are living out a committed, trusting relationship with God, with spouse, with family and friends.

# 2: We need to ask these questions as we examine our conscience. A true disciple examines his or her conscience every day asking three questions about discipleship: a) Did I sacrifice a part of my time, talents and income for my parish and the missionary activities of the Church? b) Did I practice self-control over my thoughts, words, deeds and use of mass media, and put loving restriction on the cell phone and Internet activities of my children? c) Did I train my children in my Faith in a loving, providing, redeeming God by encouraging them as we spend some time together as a family praying and reading the Bible and by teaching them through example and word to pardon each other, to ask for God’s pardon for our own sins and failures, to thank God for His blessings and to participate in the Sunday school classes and youth programs?

# 3: We need to ask additional questions. Does my Church offer a Faith strong enough to command a sacrifice on my part? Do I have enough Faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ’s sake? Can a Church in today’s self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the Gospel? Jesus’ challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than a “feel-good” spirituality. A true disciple asks, “Am I willing to sacrifice something for the Kingdom?”  What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr’s death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing Faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? How can I offer even the day-to-day sacrifices of my Faith that demand things I don’t want to do or give?  Can I sacrifice some of my time in order to visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can I sacrifice my job security and refuse to “go along” with a policy that is unjust? Can I sacrifice my need to be in control and let Christ do with me whatever he may will? Can I refuse to let my children watch television programs filled with sex and violence?

JOKE OF THE WEEK: 

Three holy, religious priests, a Dominican, a Franciscan, and a Jesuit were in the same hospice. All were near death. One evening, the Angel of Death appeared before them and informed them that it was their time. He said, however, that each could have a final request before accompanying him from this world as they had scrupulously practiced the triple norms of Christian discipleship in their pretty long lives. The Dominican went first, and he asked to gaze upon the face of his Savior. In an instant, the face of Christ appeared before him. He was satisfied and felt he could die with no regrets. The Franciscan was next. He asked to touch the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus before he died. No sooner had he spoken than Christ appeared and invited him, as he did Thomas, to examine His wounds. The dying priest touched Christ’s hands and feet, wept with joy and was content and at peace. Finally, the angel turned to the Jesuit and asked his final request. Without hesitation, the Jesuit replied: “I’d like a second opinion.”

Very useful websites for priests by Fr. Justus & Fr. Nick  & Fr. Geoffrey

1) Fr. Justus S. J. Bible, theology, Art: http://catholic-resources.org/

2) Fr. Nick: http://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies

3) Fr. Felix Justus S.J: http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Evangelists.htm

4) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

4) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://youtu.be/pE-E7i7EdtM?list=TLPQMjUwODIwMjBDxvrGAzw3ag 

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27- Additional anecdotes:

1) Heroic modern cross bearers: Valerie Price, Maximilian Kolbe and Dom Helder Camara: Here are the stories of three Christians who accepted the challenge of Christian discipleship given in today’s Gospel, by “denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Jesus.” Twenty-three-year-old Valerie Price went to Somalia to work as a nurse. She wanted to help people who had nothing. She wanted to offer them a better way of life. Valerie was concerned about her safety, but nothing could stop her from doing her work. She was put in charge of a feeding center in Mogadishu. Through her efforts, children who had been near starvation were fed. Valerie even established a school so the children could learn and have some hope for the future. She became nationally known for her committed service. Valerie, however, was killed by armed bandits outside the school she had started.   She was willing to risk her life to help other people. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland. It seems that his early years – while good – were not that remarkable. He was devoted to Mary. He became a Conventual Franciscan priest. His Faith was important to him. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Kolbe saw the writing on the wall. He knew that if he were to be a person of Faith – and be true to his Faith – he would probably have to suffer. In February 1941, because he spoke out against the horror of the Nazis, he was arrested and imprisoned at Auschwitz. On July 30, 1941, a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, and in retaliation, the commandant of the camp lined up the inmates of cellblock 14 and ordered that ten of them be selected at random for punishment. They would be consigned to an underground bunker and starved to death. Ten men were selected. One of them, Francis Gajowniczek, cried out in tears, “My poor wife and children! I will never see them again.” At this point Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. The commandant accepted his offer, and so Fr. Maximillian Kolbe assumed his place among the condemned. By August 14, Kolbe was dead, his body cremated in the camp ovens. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

Dom Helder Camara was an Archbishop of the poorest and least developed Archdiocese of Brazil. But he has been described as “one of the shapers of the Catholic Church in the second half of the twentieth century.” Early in his life, he was part of a conservative political movement inspired by Italian Fascism. But as he became more and more involved in pastoral work in Rio de Janeiro, he became increasingly affected by the poor. In trying to relate the message of the Gospel to their sufferings, he underwent a radical conversion, which finally reached the point where he himself was labeled a Communist and called “the red bishop.” His was an outspoken witness for peace and social justice in a land ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. Dom Helder’s message was reflected in his style of leadership.   Instead of a pectoral cross of gold or silver, he wore a simple wooden cross. He moved out of the bishop’s palace and lived in a much poorer house. He encouraged the training of lay catechists and opened the seminary doors to lay people and women. His own door was always open to any who sought him, and he presented himself as truly the servant of the people. His house was sprayed with machine-gun fire, his diocesan offices were repeatedly ransacked, he was banned for thirteen years by the government from any public speaking, the newspapers were not permitted to mention his name, and even the Church in Rome continually questioned his orthodoxy. When he retired as Archbishop of Recife, his conservative successor reversed nearly all his initiative. He died on 27 August 1999, aged 90. But his spirit lives on.  Valerie and St. Maximillian Kolbe and Don Helder Camara did not choose to suffer – they chose to live the Gospel, to be true to the covenant God offered them. Valerie wanted to serve the poor – she didn’t want to be shot to death. Maximillian Kolbe wanted to preach the Gospel in every way possible – he didn’t want to be starved to death. Don Helder Camara wanted to be with his people – he didn’t want to be reviled. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

2) “I will take your identification and wait here.” Bruce Riggins was working sacrificially with underprivileged people in London. When the reporter asked one of these women what had inspired her Christian Faith and action, she shared her story of how seeing another Christian’s Faith converted her. She was a Jew fleeing the German Gestapo in France during World War II. She knew she was close to being caught, and she wanted to give up. When she came to the home of a French Huguenot, a widow working with the underground came to tell her it was time to flee to a new place. This Jewish lady said, “It’s no use, Ma’am, they’ll find me anyway. They are so close behind.” The Christian widow said, “Yes, they will find someone here, but it’s time for you to leave. Go with these people to safety; I will take your identification and wait here.” Then the Jewish woman understood. The Gestapo would come and find this widow and think she was the fleeing Jew. As Bruce Riggins listened to this story, the now-Christian woman of Jewish descent looked him in the eye and said, “I asked her why she was doing that and the widow responded, ‘It’s the least I can do; Christ has already done that and more for me.'” The widow was caught and imprisoned in the Jewish woman’s place, allowing the Jewish fugitive time to escape. Within six months, the Christian widow was dead in the concentration camp. The Jewish woman never forgot and became a follower of Christ through that one widow’s living sacrifice. Who knows how many people will come to new life through the witness of our living sacrifice? What will it be for us? Mission field? Ministry? More committed service in our Church or in our workplace? Only we and God can decide. Whatever it is, let us just do it – present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

3) Generic Christians: As Maxie Dunnam was driving one day on Poplar Avenue, in Memphis, Tennessee, he noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of him. He inched closer and saw that the bumper sticker read in big letters, “I am a Generic Christian.” That got his attention. He tried to get closer. Some smaller letters were written beneath the larger ones. He got dangerously close to the back of the car to read the words, “Ask me what I mean.” He was intrigued even more. What was the person with this bumper sticker trying to say? A couple of blocks later the driver pulled into a car wash. Dunnam had no intention of having his car washed that day. Nevertheless, he also turned in to the car wash hoping to meet and speak with the driver with the intriguing bumper sticker. The man told him that he was a member of a local congregation. He was so tired, though, of the denominational emphasis in so many churches that he wanted to proclaim a different kind of message. He wanted the world to know that he was a Christian not tied to any label – hence a generic Christian. The man might have had a point, but on further reflection Dr. Dunnam says, “I wonder if we don’t have too many generic Christians and not enough disciples who are ready to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus as demanded by today’s Gospel.” [Maxie Dunnam, Congregational Evangelism, (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1992), p. 25]. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

4) Christians in the Roman amphitheater who accepted Jesus’ challenge: The year is AD 177. The place is the arena at Lyons, France and the sport is killing criminals, runaway slaves, and Christians. A letter from the local Church to a sister Church in Turkey describes what happened: “The Roman governor who ruled France in those days ordered the Christians to form a procession for the enjoyment of the crowd. First Maturus, then Sanctus, Blandina, and Attalus were led to face the lions in the amphitheater. The virgin Blandina, after the whips, after the lions, after the iron chair, was at last thrown into a basket and presented to a bull. For a time, the animal tossed her, but she had now lost any sense of what was happening, thanks to her Hope, her steadfast Faith and her close communion with Christ.” (Quoted by Christopher Kelly in Times Literary Supplement, 22 December 1995). The governor was so fond of violence that he ordered his soldiers to turn the faces of the mauled, mutilated, dying Christians in his direction, so he could enjoy their final moments of agony. The people who were in the stadium, the people who roared even louder than the lions when Blandina and her Christian companions were led into the arena, were not the rabble, but the respectable, the wealthy, the good, decent, law-abiding citizens of France. Think we have finally risen above exploiting the kind of canned violence that the French and the Romans cheered at in their Coliseums? Like the ancient Romans and the French, we are bombarded daily by images of brutality on our computer, movie and TV screens, and we seem to need ever more heinous acts to quench our blood lust. “Today, experts estimate that by the end of elementary school, the average American child will have seen 8,000 screen murders and more than 100,000 acts of violence. In real life during the past decade, there has been a fifty-five percent increase in the number of juveniles arrested for murder. More American teens today die from violence than from disease” (Louis Moore, as quoted in Current Thoughts and Trends, January, 1996). Today’s Gospel text acknowledges the painful reality that we live in a violent world and that we are a violent people. Consequently, we find it difficult to accept the challenge Jesus extends to those who would be true disciples: “Take up [your] cross and follow Me …. whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (vv. 24-25).  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

5) “…I’ll fight; while men go to prison…” Remember the words of General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army and a friend to the down and out? Three months, before his death he wrote: “While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – fight to the very end.” Can you imagine General Booth writing a book entitled Looking Out For Number One? What has happened to us? “If any man or woman would be my disciple,” Jesus says to us, “Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” That is the word we desperately need to hear. It is a call, as M. Scott Peck would phrase it to walk “a road less traveled.” In Zig Ziglar’s analogy, it is the lonely stairway as opposed to the crowded elevator. Or as Jesus himself once said, it is the narrow way that only a committed few will pursue. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

6) “There is no Poland without a cross.” Years ago, when Poland was still under Communist control, the Prime Minister ordered the crucifixes removed from classroom walls. Catholic Bishops attacked the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms. But one zealous Communist school administrator decided that the law was the law. So, one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby Church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the Church. But the press was there as well, and pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. “There is no Poland without a cross.” Perhaps the cross has come to symbolize comfort to us because we have had to sacrifice little in our lives. The more we are called upon to carry our own crosses, the more we will understand the one our Savior carried outside the city gates to the hill called Golgotha. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

7) Mistaken identity: Mistaken identity is not all that uncommon, especially since there are only so many variations of our common facial features. After both Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein had gained worldwide fame and had had their pictures printed in a variety of media, some mistook the former for the latter. Once Schweitzer was approached hesitantly by a mother and daughter duo who asked if he were the great scientist, Einstein. Rather than disappoint them, with more magnanimous grace than he felt, Schweitzer signed an autograph, “Albert Einstein, by way of his friend, Albert Schweitzer.” Or take the case of Queen Elizabeth II of England. She was stopped on one occasion in Norfolk as she entered a tea shop. Two women were exiting carrying baskets of cakes and breads. One commented to her that she looked remarkably similar to the queen. “How very reassuring,” said the modest royal personage, and moved on. Her daughter, Princess Anne, had a similar encounter. At a sporting event, she was approached by a woman who said, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Princess Anne?” She replied, “I think I’m better looking than she is.” Mistaken identities may be commonplace, but on some occasions, they are more serious than others. Certainly, that is true in Matthew 16. Just before these verses, Jesus had asked his disciples what people were saying about him. Did they get it right? Peter did. But when Jesus explained that it was by undergoing a shameful death on the cross that he would accomplish his Messianic mission, Peter tried to discourage him and was challenged by Jesus for it, as described in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

8) What it is that separates man from the great apes? Richard Leaky, the famous archeologist who worked in northern Kenya, discusses in his book, People of the Lake, what it is that separates man from the great apes. It is not man’s intelligence, says Leakey, but his generosity. Only human beings have the ability to share. Only human beings are capable of genuine compassion. Only human beings are capable of laying down their lives for a friend. When it comes to taking up the cross of self-denial, however, many of us have not discovered our humanity. If we don’t care what happens to this world, who will? If we don’t feed the hungry, who will? If we don’t shelter the homeless, who will? If we don’t tell the world about Christ, who will? If we don’t pray and offer sacrifices, who will? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

9) “That’s the reason, Ruth. No one else is doing it.” You may know the thrilling story of Glen Cunningham, a young man whose legs were so badly burned when he was a boy that doctors said he would never walk again. However, this determined champion went on to win an Olympic gold medal as a miler. Even more importantly, Glen Cunningham devoted his life to helping troubled young people. Once, his wife asked, “Glen, why do we have to give so much more than others? No one else is doing what we are.” Glen answered, “That’s the reason, Ruth. No one else is doing it.”

10) “The least compassionate people I ever knew.” Michael Slaughter in his book, Unlearning Church, tells about a religion editor from a local newspaper who came to his Church to interview him about a conference they were having. At the end of the interview, he asked if she went to Church. He assumed she did, since she was a religion editor. She said, “No, I am a Buddhist. I was raised in the Church,” she went on, “but about ten years ago, I became interested in Buddhism because the highest value of Buddhism is the value of compassion.” Michael Slaughter says her next comment made him feel as if she had put her hand in his chest and squeezed his heart. “The people I grew up around in the Church,” she added, “were some of the least compassionate people I ever knew.” “Ouch,” says Michael Slaughter, and then he adds, “Yet Jesus is compassion made visible.” And he’s right. Jesus is compassion made visible. Having Jesus’ name, but not his heart is a dangerous combination. It can make us turn away people that Jesus is calling us to embrace. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

11) The Hollywood movie, The Insider. In 1995, Jeffrey Wigand made headlines when he exposed illegal and unethical practices by his employer, Brown & Williamson, a major tobacco company. Overnight, Wigand lost his $300,000-per-year job. He became the target of death threats. Wigand faced tremendous pressure from former friends and colleagues. His ordeal was documented in the Hollywood movie, The Insider. Today, Jeffrey Wigand is still the target of occasional threats. He is making only about one-tenth of his former salary. But he claims to be happier now than he’s ever been in his life. In an interview with Time magazine, Wigand commented, “I felt dirty before [as a cigarette executive]. Now I feel good . . . I don’t need the cars and fancy ties and all those trappings that consumed me once. My enjoyment comes when some kid comes up to me and says, ‘I’m never gonna smoke.’ I can take that to the bank, whatever bank you want to call it.” It takes nerve to offend your friends, offend your employer. Many Christians are pleased that Jesus died on a cross on their behalf, but they seem to try studiously to avoid taking up a cross of their own. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

12) “My God, I could have bought back two more people with this ring:” There is a powerful scene in the movie Schindler’s List. In the beginning of the story, a Czech businessman named Oskar Schindler builds a factory in occupied Poland using Jewish labor because, in those tragic days at the start of World War II, Jewish labor was cheap. As the war progresses, however, and he learns what is happening to the Jews under Adolph Hitler, Schindler’s motivations switch from profit to sympathy. He uses his factory as a refuge for Jews to protect them from the Nazis. As a result of his efforts, more than 1,100 Jews were saved from death in the gas chambers. You would think that Oskar Schindler would have felt quite pleased with himself, but at the end of the war Schindler stands in the midst of some of the Jews he has saved, breaks down in tears, takes off his gold ring and says, “My God, I could have bought back two more people [with this ring]. These shoes? One more person. My coat? Two more people. These cufflinks? Three more people.” There he stands, not gloating but weeping with regret that he has not done more. I wonder if one day you and I, as followers of Christ, will ask ourselves, “Could I have done more? Have I truly borne the cross of Christ?” That is the first question on today’s test: is our Faith sacrificial? Is it costing us something? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

13) Free legal service: Tony Campolo was preaching in West Virginia one night. Two young lawyers were part of the congregation. Campolo’s sermon was on the cost of discipleship. At the conclusion of the service the invitation was given for people to commit themselves fully to Christian service. The two young lawyers did not come forward. However, they did accept the challenge to change their lives and seek ways in which they could more fully serve Christ. The two men practiced law together. As a result of the call to discipleship, these lawyers decided to offer free legal services to poor people in their county. This was a decision that went beyond the amount of free service that most law firms provide. These lawyers would help anyone in the county who needed their help – without cost. People responded to their generosity. Their commitment to helping the poor, though, changed their lives in ways they did not expect. They soon gained new paying customers. Even more surprising, a number of people who had been delinquent with their bills suddenly paid them in full. “I suppose they didn’t want to cheat lawyers who helped the poor,” one of the lawyers explained. These men have taken the first step in becoming disciples of Jesus, and they are headed in the right direction. They are doing something significant for Christ in their everyday lives. [Tony Campolo, Wake up America! (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), pp. 83]. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

14) In baseball and in Christian life you “sacrifice…” In football, you “Tackle!” In baseball, you “catch flies…” In football, you “Punt!” In baseball, you “bunt…” Football is played on a “Gridiron”! Baseball is played on a “field…” In football, you “Score!” In baseball you “go home…” In football, you “Kill!” In baseball, you “sacrifice…” Baseball may be the only sport where you actually can hear this last word. It’s one of the few places anywhere that you hear it in a self-centered, take-care-of-yourself, don’t-worry-about-anybody-else society. In contrast to football, sacrifice may sound like a sign of weakness, but I hardly think of any of the Atlanta Braves or Minnesota Twins as weak. Baseball’s one thing; life is quite another.- In our society, there are still Christians who sacrifice their lives for Christ and who really deny themselves and takes up their crosses. [The Gates of New Life, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940), p. 3]. — Here is a young man who wanted to be a lawyer, but his father died, and he had to leave school and work to keep things going at home. Here is a young woman who wanted to be a great doctor but was never admitted to medical school. Here is a businessman who had hoped all his life to make his business a great success, but the competition was much tougher than he had ever expected, and he soon found himself declaring bankruptcy. Here is a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. When it started out it was so sweet and good but now… now it’s just not the same. There is not a person in any congregation who has not sacrificed a hope, or a dream as burnt offering on the high altar of the providence of God. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

15) “I wasn’t hard enough on myself, that’s all.” During the Los Angeles Open Golf Tournament a few years ago, Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer, was interviewed while practicing on the putting green. “Arnie,” he was asked, “What do you feel was wrong to make you play so poorly this past year?” Without looking up from his putting, Arnold answered in his own direct way, “I wasn’t hard enough on myself, that’s all.” Two hours after this brief interview, the same reporter came back to find Palmer still practicing on the putting green. The reporter concluded, “The greatness of Arnold Palmer is his choice of the hard way.” Success in life requires a willingness to resist the lure of the easy way. A sound body requires that we exercise, eat the right foods, conquer bad habits. A sound mind requires that we read, that we observe, that we continually learn. A sound marriage requires that each partner go into it with the understanding that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition but a 70/30 one in which both parties give the 70. A sound family means that we take the time to be sensitive to the needs of our children and that we provide not only for their physical needs but for their emotional and spiritual needs as well. Such goals require sacrifice, they require perseverance and they require determination. But every one of us knows that the path to personal success is the path of self-denial. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

16) A Russian Soldier Fights for Christ: Every aspect of our lives, everything we do, can glorify God and help build up his Kingdom. The great Catholic apologist and writer G.K. Chesterton once said that when he became a believer, it even changed the way he brushed his teeth. This is one of the reasons why Christianity is such a dynamic religion – it isn’t limited to the sacristy and the altar; it overflows into everything we do and fills us with desires to do more and more. One of Pope St. John Paul II’s favorite phrases was a line written by St Ireneaus in the third century: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” The Christian God is a Father Who rejoices in seeing His children grow and flourish. Years ago, a book came out that told the story of a young man who had been drafted into the Russian Communist army. He was a Russian who loved his country, but he was also a Christian. Of course, Russian Communism had no room for Christianity – it was an atheist social system. And so, during his training, the officers paid special attention to this Christian soldier. They were constantly looking for opportunities to humiliate him in front of the other soldiers, to make life hard for him, so that he would give up his Christian Faith. But no matter how closely they watched him, they couldn’t find anything to punish him for. In every point of military discipline, he was the top soldier: he was always on time; his uniform was always impeccable; his performance was exceptional; his knowledge always complete. He was a Christian, and so everything he did, from kitchen duty to the parade ground, he did with love and excellence, making his whole life into a spiritual worship that was pleasing to God. (E- Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

17) Mary Lou Retton losing to win: In the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton became the first American girl to win a gold medal in gymnastics. To accomplish this extraordinary feat, she had to make sacrifices during her two years of intensive training prior to the Olympics. While other teenagers were enjoying themselves with a full schedule of dating and dancing, Mary Lou Retton could only participate on a very limited basis. To improve her skills she had to practice long hours in the gym; to nourish her body properly she had to follow a strict diet and practice long hours, and to increase her confidence she had to compete frequently in meets. But what Mary Lou Retton gave up in terms of good times and junk food was little compared to what she gained when she won her Olympic gold medal. What she lost in the usual social life of a teenager she found in the special setting of becoming a champion gymnast – acceptance, camaraderie and respect. Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic experience illustrates somewhat Christ’s paradox in today’s Scripture: “Whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

18) Saving one’s soul: “What good will it do you, even if you gain the whole world, if you lose your soul?” These are good words to recall when we are faced with important and difficult choices. Here is a modern example. The scene: a prison for political prisoners near Moscow (during the era of Stalin). Ivan knew at once that they wanted something from him. “Would you like a remission?” they asked him. ”What do I have to do?” he asked. “We’d like to transfer you to another prison to take charge of an important project. If you agree, you will be free in six months.” “What is the project?” “We want you to perfect a camera that works in the dark, and another miniature one that can be fitted to the jamb of a door, and which works when the door is opened. We know you can do this.” Ivan was perhaps the only person in the whole of Russia who could produce a blueprint for these devices. After seventeen years in prison the idea of going home appealed to him. Here surely was the answer to his wife Natasha’s prayer. All he had to do was invent a device that would set him free. “Could I not go on working on television sets as I am at present?” he asked. “You mean you refuse?” said the general. Ivan thought: Who would ever thank him? Were those people out there worth saving? Natasha was his lifelong companion. She had waited for him for seventeen years. “I couldn’t do it,” he said at last. “But you’re just the man for the job,” said the general. “We’ll give you time to make up your mind.” “I won’t do it. Putting people in prison because of the way they think is not my line. That’s my final answer.” Ivan knew what his ‘no’ meant. A few days later he was on a train to Siberia to work in a copper mine where starvation rations, and probable death awaited him. No fate on earth could be worse. Yet he was at peace with himself. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

19) The cost of discipleship: Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison or ten thousand days (approximately). Before that he was on the run for a couple of years. Of the time he was on the run he wrote later: “It wasn’t easy for me to separate myself from my wife and children, to say good-bye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at the office, I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner table, and instead to take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, facing continually the hazards of detection and of arrest. This was a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence.” [Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, (Little, Brown and Company).] What drove him to make such great sacrifices was his love for his country. This was the ‘cross’ he carried because of his love for his people. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

20) Crossroad to life! In the 1998-99 persecutions against Gujarat’s Dangi Christians, many tales of Faith fortitude went unrecorded. I still remember the battered and bleeding youth, Sitaram Devasyabhai, who told me, “I will not give up Christianity even if they kill me!” Earlier in Karota village of the Dawada mission where I served as priest, Poslabhai Vasava confessed, “I find great strength in Jesus crucified although friends joke that I adore a helpless, naked deity.” A young Christian from Mumbai, Neil Gaikwad gave witness to self-sacrifice. For twelve hours during torrential rains that submerged Mumbai in July 2005, he swam to save the lives of 60 people trapped in a bus. Eyewitnesses said, Neil must’ve gone up and done 40-50 times to take people out.” Texan Lance Armstrong too combated cancer and went on to win the prestigious Tour de France cycle-rally on July 24, 2005, for an unprecedented 7th time in succession. Neil and Lance demonstrate that life comes through dying to self, and all Crossroads lead to Heaven. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

21) Salt March of Gandhi: One of the very important events in the history of struggle for Indian independence was the Historic Salt March. During British Colonialism in India, the British Salt Tax rule was imposed, making it illegal to sell or produce salt. Gandhiji saw this as an injustice to the people of India. Gandhiji decided to protest against it. He decided to lead 78 people through 240-mile journey from his Ashram to the coastal village of Dandi, Gujarat, on 12 March 1930. It involved high risk. Hence, veteran politicians, and experienced leaders warned Gandhi about its consequences and tried to dissuade him. But, Gandhiji was determined. Thousands of Indians, inspired by his non-violent demonstration and strong will joined him on his march to the sea.– It is a common experience that people try to be in their comfort zone, and try to dissuade those who struggle to come out of it — because it involves risk; it means daring into the unknown; it brings a lot of challenges, and it causes suffering. In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. The Apostles could not accept it. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

22) Graceful acceptance of temporary suffering results in lasting glory: When a bud goes through the pain of bursting, it is transformed into a beautiful flower. When a pupa struggles out of a cocoon, it is transformed into a charming butterfly. When a chicken breaks the shell and comes out it becomes a lovely bird. When a seed bursts the pod and falls to the ground it begins to grow as a plant. When we undergo the suffering and pain of life we are strengthened. Arthur Golden reminds us, “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” (Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha). St. Paul wrote: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).” Suffering is not the last thing in life. It leads us to something greater, as long as we are ready to accept its challenges. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.” (Fr. Bobby Jose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

23) Why do injustices prevail? Eugene Orowitz was a skinny, 100-pound sophomore at Collingswood High at Collingswood, N.J. One afternoon the gym coach held classes in the middle of the track field to show the kids how to throw a javelin. After instructions he let the kids try their hand at it. The longest throw was 30 yards. “You want to throw it too, Orowitz?” the coach asked Eugene. The other kids laughed at Eugene. Someone shouted “Careful! You’ll stab yourself!” Eugene pictured himself as a young warrior about to battle the enemy; he raised the javelin and threw it over 50 yards till it crashed into the empty bleachers, its tip broken. The coach ignoring his feat, looked at the broken head and said, “What the heck Orowitz, you broke the thing. It’s no good to the school any longer.” That summer Eugene began throwing the javelin in a vacant lot. By the end of the year he threw the javelin 211 feet, farther than any high schooler in the nation. He was given an athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California and he began dreaming of the Olympics. Then one day he didn’t warm up properly and tore the ligaments of his shoulder. That put an end to javelin throwing, his scholarship, and his dreams. Eugene dropped out of college and took a job in a warehouse. -The tragic story of Eugene Orowitz raises a vexing question which prophet Jeremiah asks in the first reading today. Why does God let misfortune wreck the lives of so many good people?
(Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

24) The film, The Devil’s Advocate: When a talented small-town Southern lawyer, Kevin Lomax, discovers his client is guilty, he goes to the restroom to compose himself. He returns to the courtroom, humiliates the prosecution’s young witness and emerges victorious. Soon after, he is offered an opportunity to join a prestigious firm in New York. His wife is uncertain about the move and his very religious mother is against it, but he joins, and strange things happen in New York. Kevin’s wife is lonely and hallucinates, Kevin’s confidence in his work begins to falter, he is attracted to a female lawyer and his relationship with his wife suffers. He gets a wealthy but guilty businessman acquitted of murder charges. Kevin’s wife claims that she has been assaulted by John Milton the company’s head. When Kevin confronts Milton, he discovers that Milton is the devil incarnate who offers Kevin the world and the opportunity to sire an Antichrist. Milton reveals that Kevin is actually his son, and Kevin put a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Suddenly, Kevin is back in the restroom where he had gone to plan the next move for his guilty client. He decides to do the right and noble thing – to discontinue defending the client, knowing that he will be disbarred. But as he leaves the courtroom, a journalist asks Kevin for an interview that will make him a celebrity. The Devil’s Advocate deals explicitly with sin and the screenplay raises themes of God, the devil, salvation, damnation and freewill. The film is about choices people have to make to live an upright life with all its challenges, or to live an easy life that leads to doom. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, reminds us that we have to make a choice for him or for the Satan. The way of the devil is attractive and comfortable. The way of the Messiah is the way of the Cross, hard, challenging but in the end fulfilling. (Peter Malone in Lights Camera..Faith!; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

25) Cheap grace and costly grace: Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, Baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price, to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “you were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).– Today’s Gospel challenges us to pray for the costly grace. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

26) Pope St. John Paul II on suffering: In his apostolic letter entitled Salvifici Dolores, Pope St. John Paul II spoke about suffering. Here is a summary: 1. Suffering is evil. Evil is the absence of good, rooted in sin, which can bring about death. This absence of good can cause greater suffering, if the one who suffers thinks he/she does not deserve such suffering. 2. There are different kinds of suffering: physical, spiritual and psychological. There are also private sufferings like loneliness. And there are common sufferings like those caused by epidemic, calamity and famine. 3. Suffering comes from the world. It does not come from God. Yet the one who suffers usually turns to God to ask about the causes and objectives of suffering. 4. Suffering can be a punishment arising from the justice of God. It can also be a test, as it was with Job. And God can also permit suffering in order that it can serve as a seed for a greater good that will come because of it, holiness, or greatness.5. Our sufferings can also be joined with the sufferings of Christ for our salvation, or for that of others, not because Christ’s suffering are not enough, but because Christ has left his sufferings open to love so that the bitter sufferings of man mingled, with this love, may turn into a sweet spring which shall overflow into eternity. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

26) “Take up your cross and follow me.” A certain lady who spent her time working for the Lord – visiting the sick and the bed-ridden, helping the elderly and the handicapped – was diagnosed of a knee-problem needing surgery. The surgery unfortunately, was not a success and so left her in constant pain and unable to walk. It seemed that the Lord had ignored the prayers of this woman and her friends for a successful surgery. This was a woman who considered herself a personal friend of Jesus. She was utterly disappointed, and her cheerful disposition turned into sadness and gloom. One day she pulled herself together and shared with her confessor what was going on in her soul. The confessor suggested that she go into prayer and ask her friend Jesus why he has treated her this way. And she did. The following day the priest met her and saw peace written all over her face in spite of her pain. “Do you know what he said to me?” she began, “As I was looking at the crucified Jesus and telling him about my bad knee, he said to me, ‘Mine is worse.’” (Fr. Lakra). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

26) The intimate connection between carrying the cross and Christian discipleship: The following modern-day account gives insight into the intimate connection between carrying the cross and Christian discipleship (cf. “Help for the Neighborhood” in Poverello News, July 2014, p. 3-4). One of the most devastating events that anyone can experience is the death of a child. Some parents never recover from the shock and grief. For others time heals some of the pain, but there remains a deep sadness, that never quite goes away. Mayo and Karlene Ryan lived this parental nightmare. Their son, Timothy Ryan, lost his life in a tragic accident in 1986. Tim Ryan was a promising, delightful young man. He was a scholar and athlete, popular and respected at school and seemed to have endless potential, but less than one year after graduating from high school, Tim was gone, leaving behind shattered parents, family members and friends. Mayo, a longtime Poverello board member, and Karlene, a volunteer here for many years, were overcome with sorrow. Faith, friends, and the passage of time lessened some of the pain, but at some point, they decided that helping someone else might be a way of bringing some closure to the tragedy, and at the same time honor the memory of Tim. At the time of his death, Mayo and Karlene asked that remembrances be sent to the Poverello House in Tim’s name, and the Timothy Ryan Memorial Fund was started. The fund’s original purpose was to provide scholarships to men in the Poverello Resident Program. Over the years, the Timothy Ryan Memorial Fund has paid tuition to college and other vocational schools, provided specialized equipment, books and uniforms, and in general supported graduates of Poverello’s rehabilitation program in their training for a better life. There had been fewer candidates for the scholarship in the past couple of years, so Mayo and Karlene decided to turn their attention to the neighborhood surrounding Poverello, one of the poorest areas in the city. Thanks to the Ryan Fund and Mayo and Karlene’s personal contributions, children from King, Lincoln, Kirk, and Columbia Elementary Schools, 1,813 students in all, will begin their 2014-2015 school year with new backpacks, filled with items needed for school. (Lectio Divina). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

27) Why not accept the irresistible force of God’s call as prophet Jeremiah did? The following article by Paul Thigpen illustrates the prophetic ministry of Pope St. Paul VI (canonized October 19, 2018) and shows us how the Christians of today are called to witness to God’s truth about the sanctity of life and “not to conform themselves to this age” (Rom 12:2a) (cf. “Paul VI, Pope and Prophet” in The Catholic Answer, July-August 2006, p. 4).

I read an article yesterday in the Washington Post by a woman planning to have a third child. She noted, with some perplexity, a certain reaction she has encountered to her pregnancy. Some people complain – in all seriousness – that she and others like her are just “showing off”, ostentatiously advertising their financial security. Only well-off families, they insist, can afford three children. Well, just tell that to my parents. Mom and Dad barely eked out a living in our little family-owned business, a meat market where we kids grew up working alongside them to bring home the bacon. All five kids, that is. My folks would have been mystified by the notion that we five little ones were somehow a luxury they were presumptuous to take on. I was the third child, and I certainly never felt like a luxury.

Yet I don’t think Pope St. Paul VI, who became pontiff the year my baby sister was born (1963), would have been mystified at all by this disturbing attitude. Why not? Because he described the context for its development in his encyclical letter HUMANAE VITAE, whose 57th anniversary the Church commemorates on July 25. In this profound but controversial document on the transmission of human life, the Pope laid out the reasons why artificial contraception is gravely immoral. In it, he noted that the desire to contracept is only one of many modern attempts to extend our control over every aspect of life, including those aspects that represent a mystery not of our own making, much less of our own understanding. In short, it’s an endeavor to play God, and a dangerous one indeed. When much of a society comes to believe – as ours has – that the miracle of life’s transmission is simply one more mechanical function to manipulate at will, then the “product of conception”, as they are now termed (we once called them “children”) are viewed as nothing more than a commodity. So we feel to abort them. We buy and sell them. We use them as lab rats. We figure their costs to see whether we can work them into our financial plan – just one more budget item to be added or subtracted, according to how many other luxury items we might rank ahead of them. Pope St. Paul VI courageously declared that children are gifts from God to be gratefully received, not assets to be calculated or liabilities disposed of. Fifty-seven years later, we must acknowledge his prophetic insight – and mourn a world that has largely rejected his warning. (LectioDivina). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 46) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

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 akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under CBCI or  Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website- http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604