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O. T. 26 Sunday Homily (Sept 26, 2021)

OT XXVI [B] (Sept 26) Eight-minute homily in one page (LP/21)

Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings give us a strong warning against jealousy, intolerance and giving scandal. Scripture lessons summarized:  In the first reading, we find jealousy, in its destructive form of envy, raising its ugly head in Moses’ assistant and successor, Joshua.  Moses and seventy future helpers were called by the Lord God to the Tent of Meeting for the Spirit-giving Ordination ceremony. But two of the invitees were absent, and Joshua could not tolerate these absent men prophesying in the camp without receiving God’s Spirit in the Tent of Meeting. Moses had to instruct Joshua to be tolerant. This selection is intended to provide a Biblical background for Jesus’ response to the same kind of jealousy apparent in the apostles. The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19), “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart,” reminds us that obedience to the spirit of the Law will draw us closer to God and so give us lasting joy. In the second reading, James warns the rich against giving scandal by their denial of social justice to their workers in refusing to give them a living wage, by ignoring the needs of others, and by condemning and murdering the innocent and the righteous. Withholding a day-laborer’s wage was a terrible act of injustice, tantamount to murder in the agricultural economy of the ancient Middle East.  Baptism commits every Christian to work for social justice through peaceable, rather than violent, means. In the Gospel, we find intolerance among the apostles of Christ. John complains to Jesus that a man outside their group of selected disciples has been exorcising demons in Jesus’ Name, despite their attempt to prevent him from doing so.  Jesus responds by giving the Apostles lessons in Jesus’ own kind of tolerance and in the reward to be given to outsiders for good deeds they have done for the apostles because they are the disciples of Jesus. We also hear the strong warning of Jesus against giving scandal, especially to innocent children, to vulnerable members of the community, and to beginners in the Faith. Jesus instructs the Apostles, and us, that, just as a doctor might remove by surgery a limb or some part of the body to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us or others to sin and which leads to spiritual death.

Life messages: 1) Let us avoid conduct that can lead to giving scandal.  We give scandal and become stumbling blocks to others: a) when we are unkind or unjust in our treatment of them, b) when we humiliate them by hurting their pride and damaging their self-image, c) when we discourage, ignore, or refuse to accept them, and d) when we become judgmental of those who are still struggling to reach a level of commitment that we feel is too low to be useful.

2: Let us learn the Christian virtue of tolerance: Christian tolerance asks that we bear with the weaknesses of others (without condoning the evil they do), by: a) remaining true to our conscience and beliefs, b) respecting the differences we encounter, c) working together on projects of common interest, d) affirming what is good in the other person’s position, even when we disagree on certain things, and e) allowing the light of Christ to shine through our loving words and deeds.

OT XXVI [B]: Nm 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Homily Starter Anecdotes: #1: “Could you not have tolerated him for just one meal According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So, Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?” The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” When Abraham heard this, he became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air. When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship You.” God answered, “I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?” We are all children of God, and, hence, we have to love and tolerate everyone, as explained in today’s first reading and the Gospel. (Fr. Lakra). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: Clerical scandal compared to rotten egg: Fr. Jacob Manjaly repeats in all his preaching on scandal givers, the pertinent advice he received as a Deacon from his teacher-mother. During a lunch at home, she asked him what the most balanced food was. He replied, fried chicken or fried fish. But his mother brought a fresh hen’s egg and convinced him that it was the most balanced food filled with all nutrients for the growth of a chick inside the egg, and hence the most nutritive food for humans as well. But she used the occasion as teachable moment for her future priest-son, warning him that if the egg is rotten, it is the most reprehensible, nasty smelling and poisonous stuff, fit only to be buried deep down in the soil. In the same way, a priest with his God-given power to consecrate bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of Jesus at Holy Mass, to pardon the sinner in Jesus’ name, to bring God’s Life to babies making them children of God by Baptism, to anoint the sick and prepare them for eternal life, if he becomes morally corrupt, giving scandal to people, he is worse than the rotten egg and deserves social and religious punishment. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

A picture containing person, outdoor Description automatically generated # 3: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” It was one of the most gripping news stories of 2003. In the beautiful but desolate mountains of southeastern Utah, a twenty-seven-year-old mountain climber named Aron Ralston, made a desperate decision. An avid outdoors man, Aron was rock-climbing one day when his right arm became trapped under a boulder, a boulder estimated to weigh at least eight hundred pounds. He saw immediately that he was in deep trouble. Unable to budge the rock at all, Aron took out his pocketknife and chipped away at the rock for 10 hours, managing to produce only a small handful of dust. Obviously, this was not going to work. Days were passing. No one knew where he was. Even worse, his family and friends were used to his going off for days without contacting anyone, so they were not even looking for him. With his arm still wedged beneath this enormous boulder Aron Ralston recorded a video message to his parents telling them good-bye. At the end of several days with no food or water, however, Aron made a remarkable choice. Aron Ralston decided to amputate his arm in order to save himself. And that’s exactly what he did, using only a pocketknife. What an amazing display of courage and determination! After he was finished, he applied a tourniquet to his arm and rappelled nearly 70 feet to the floor of the canyon. Then he hiked five miles downstream where he encountered some other hikers and was rescued. Aron Ralston made the obviously excruciating decision to amputate his right arm to save his life. It is an amazing story! Who can read this story without thinking of Jesus’ words from our lesson for today, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell”? What a stark declaration: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off”! Aron Ralston certainly made that choice – to sacrifice his arm in order to save his life. There are choices that must be made in life, and those choices determine our destiny. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#4: Gandhi, Mandela, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. With our fallen human nature, we fall victim to the evil tendency of trying to control the Spirit of God by our intolerance. Our own arrogance insists that another is not qualified to speak on justice or morality because of his/her lower educational qualifications, low-grade lifestyle, humble social background or race. As a society, we also tend to question people’s legitimacy – especially when they challenge us. Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu leader in India, challenged the colonial rule of the British Empire over India with his principles of peace and non-violence. But the intolerant British Empire, initially dismissing him as a “silly, half-naked fakir,” tried to silence him by imprisonment. But later they found, to their horror that the entire nation was behind him in its fight for freedom from colonial rule. Nelson Mandela was ignored by the minority ruling class and was jailed for many for years as a radical because of his option for the poor and the oppressed in South Africa. Dorothy Day was imprisoned in the U. S. for her beliefs and was accused of being a Communist. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged a nation and its policy of discrimination.  He was continually under surveillance by the FBI and was accused of inciting sedition and of being unpatriotic. There are Christians who still look on believers belonging to non-Christian religions and on members of Christian denominations different from their own as heretics and semi-pagans. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a lesson in Christian tolerance along with a warning against jealousy and scandal. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s readings give us a strong warning against jealousy, intolerance and giving scandal.  In the first reading, we find jealousy, in its destructive form of envy, raising its ugly head in Moses’ assistant and successor, Joshua.  Moses and seventy future helpers were called by the Lord God to the Tent of Meeting for the Spirit-giving ordination ceremony. But two of the invitees were absent, and Joshua could not tolerate these absent men prophesying in the camp without receiving God’s Spirit in the Tent of Meeting. Moses had to instruct Joshua to be tolerant. This selection is intended to provide a Biblical background for Jesus’ response to the same kind of jealousy in the apostles. The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19), “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart,” reminds us that obedience to the spirit of the Law will draw us closer to God and so give us lasting joy. In the second reading, James warns the rich against giving scandal by their denial of social justice to their workers in refusing to give them a living wage, by ignoring the needs of others, and by condemning and murdering the innocent and the righteous. Baptism commits every Christian to work for social justice through peaceable, rather than violent, means. In the Gospel, we find intolerance among the apostles of Christ. John complains to Jesus that a man outside their group of selected disciples has been exorcising demons in Jesus’ Name, in spite of their attempt to prevent him from doing so.  Jesus responds by giving the Apostles lessons in Jesus’ own kind of tolerance and in the reward to be given to outsiders for good deeds they do for the disciples of Jesus because they are serving Jesus. We also hear the strong warning of Jesus against giving scandal, especially to innocent children, vulnerable members of the community, and beginners in the Faith. Jesus instructs the Apostles, and us, that, just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us or others to sin and which leads to spiritual death. Jesus is inviting us to integrate our bodies into our following of Christ, so that our hands become instruments of compassion, healing and comfort, our feet help us to bring the Gospel to the world and our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness and beauty all around us.

First reading, Numbers 11:25-29, explained: The Book of Numbers was written down after the Exile, in the 6th century BC, by Jewish priests who were hoping to put the broken nation back together and to keep it faithful to God. Chapter 11 has two stories of God’s responses to the continuing complaints of the wandering Israelites.  First, they had lamented the absence of meat from their diet, comparing the manna unfavorably to the variety of foods they had eaten while enslaved in Egypt. Moses appealed to God, saying that he was unable to manage the people alone. God heard his plea and told him to select seventy elders — experienced men from among the tribes — whom God would appoint as leaders of the people under Moses and assemble them in the Tent of Meeting. Moses did so, and their God bestowed on them part of the Spirit He had given Moses. At once, they began to prophesy—a sign to the people that God had appointed them as His representatives. They prefigured the ministry of the apostles. But Joshua, a close follower and aide of Moses who was jealous for Moses’ reputation, complained about two men named Eldad and Medad. Though both had been on Moses’ list of 70, neither had attended the Spirit-giving ordination ceremony in the Tent of Meeting, yet both were prophesying. Moses asked Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” and reminded Joshua gently that God is free to choose anyone He pleases as His prophet. Moses promptly corrected Joshua for showing the tendency toward institutionalizing the power and presence of God. Through Baptism, all of us are made God’s ministers and God’s prophets.  We are filled with God’s Spirit and empowered to interpret God’s vision and message to the people around us, and we are not to grow jealous of those serving the community in positions of greater authority or working for the community in different venues.

Second Reading, (James 5:1-6), explained: The passage from James illustrates how the rich give scandal by their unjust treatment of laborers and their gross violation of the principles of social justice. Today’s passage is a straightforward moral condemnation and a strong denunciation of the unscrupulous rich who enrich themselves by treating others unfairly and spend their riches in self-indulgence. Withholding a day-laborer’s wage was a terrible act of injustice, tantamount to murder in the agricultural economy of the ancient Middle East.  James is merciless in his condemnation of ill-gotten wealth. There’s hardly a more emphatic passage in the New Testament. Baptism commits every Christian to work for social justice through peaceable, rather than violent, means. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on social justice echoes the tradition of James. Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialist made the false statement: “Hell is other people!” But the truth is that hell is the “person of only one book.” Hell is me, when I am alienated from others, and, from God.

Gospel exegesis: Today’s Gospel gives us lessons in Christian tolerance and exemplary Christian living.

 1) Warnings against jealousy and intolerance: The apostles wanted to reserve God’s love and healing power to themselves as the “sole owners” and “authorized distributors”! We hear John complaining to Jesus that a stranger was driving out demons in Jesus’ Name, though he was not of their company. They want Jesus to condemn the man.  As occasionally unsuccessful exorcists, they may have been jealous of this stranger.  Jesus, however, reprimands his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion and invites them to broaden their vision and to recognize God’s power wherever it is found. Like Moses in the first reading, Jesus challenges a rigid understanding of ministerial legitimacy. He wants the apostles to rejoice in the good that others are doing, for God is the Doer of all good.  Jesus enunciates a principle for the apostles: “Anyone who is not against us is for us.” God can and does use anyone to do His work. The invitation to proclaim the Good News of salvation, in both word and work, is not restricted to the twelve apostles or seventy disciples but extends to anyone who will hear and respond to it “in Jesus’ Name.” The Church has no monopoly on God’s work, truth, love, or power to heal and reconcile. The work of the Kingdom is not confined to the baptized, although it is certainly our special work. This lesson is especially valuable today. Intolerance rising from fear and envy has a long history in the Christian Church and Christians are still known for a spirit of intolerance.  Ask the average person on the street what he/she thinks is a Christian attitude, and he/she will use words like “judgmental,” “narrow-minded,” “dogmatic,” “condemning,” and “intolerant.”  The road to the brotherly love Jesus commands must begin with each of us.  The cause of Christ is not served by one’s rejecting ways to God different from one’s own, or by one’s claiming that no real good can take place outside the boundaries of one’s own denomination.  It is through mutual respect that we find common ground with others and discover strengths in different beliefs. Wherever we see God’s work being done, we should give it our support and be ready to work together with those doing the work, whether they are Christians or not, believers or not.

2) Tolerance in practicing ecumenism: The ecumenical movement aims at uniting all Christian denominations as a sign of Christian tolerance taught by Jesus, that is, as brotherly love. “The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” (CCC #820). That is why Jesus prayed: “that they may all be one. As You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be one in Us, . . . so that the world may know that You have sent Me’” (CCC #820). On September 5, 2000, the Vatican released a theological document called, Dominus Iesus. Its purpose was to correct Church theologians who were distorting the true meaning of the spirit of ecumenism. In this document, the Catholic Church rejected pluralism that implies that all religions are equal. To teach that one religion is as good as another one endangers the Church’s missionary message that the fullness of salvation can only be found in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. As some of you may have heard, this document created a worldwide reaction from a number of Christian denominations. At the same time, some of them admitted that this document proposed nothing new, that this has always been the position of the Holy Catholic Church. The difficulty that they had was that they had not heard the Vatican expressing it so openly since before Vatican II. As a sign of brotherly love, the Catholic Church sees all the baptized as separated brethren and instructs Catholics to practice ecumenism. i) by practicing personal holiness, becoming the best Catholics we can be. ii) by public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, including appropriate prayer in common with separated brethren. iii) by “fraternal knowledge” which means first, learning Catholic doctrines thoroughly and next, by becoming friends with non-Catholics, and learning what those friends believe. iv) by promoting collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind, in our parishes and communities.

3) A millstone for the scandal-giver: Jesus’ second warning is against scandal-givers: those who cause the “little ones” to sin. The Greek word for “little ones” is micron, meaning the smallest or the least.  It can mean children, those who are new to the Faith, or those who are weak in Faith.  Jesus is pointing out that the scandalous behavior of older believers can be an obstacle to those whose Faith is just beginning to develop.  Etymologically, the word scandal comes from the Greek skandalon, which was a trap-stick or bent sapling used for a snare. With a skandalon a hunter could catch a rabbit or other small prey. We may remember how the Enron scandal, the Monica Lewinsky affair, and of course, the horrible sexual abuse of children by the clergy were pictured by the media.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” (CCC #2284). We used to consider a scandal as some disgraceful happening, but here ‘to give scandal ‘means to behave in such a way that you encourage others to sin.

4) Modern scandal-givers: The truly dangerous people to whom Jesus is referring are those evil ones who wear the mantle of religious leadership, and at the same time, by their counter-witness, turn the weak and the innocent away from God, and cause them to sin. Today, we know the irreparable harm done to the Church and the faithful by the scandals of clerical sex abuse and its coverup by the Church authorities.  Likewise, scandal is often given by unorthodox theologians and false preachers, who propagate their anti-Christian ideas under the guise of Biblical and psychological research.   Professors, even at some Christian universities, sometime advocate moral relativism and nihilism, converting students to their false beliefs.  Even teachers at Catholic universities sometimes criticize papal pronouncements as “an infringement on academic freedom.”  Do they not give scandal? Our major social institutions — the news media, the Internet, law, public education, and the entertainment industry — under the guise of “freedom of speech and expression,” often seem hostile towards religion, erecting stumbling blocks to believers.  We have an obligation to make known, with Christian courage, our views on these matters so as to protect the innocent.

5) Interpreting Jesus’ words about self-mutilation? William Barclay says that the Jewish rabbis had sayings based on the way in which some part of the body can lend themselves to sin. They said that the eye and the heart are two brokers of sin, the two handmaids of sin. And also there are instincts in man and certain parts of man’s physical constitution which minister to sin

Our hands become instruments of sin according to what we touch and how we touch, in lust or greed or violence. Our feet are used for sin according to the places we have them take us. Our eyes become doorways for sins according to what we choose to look at or refuse to look at. However, it is important to understand that, in these passages about “plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand,” Jesus is not speaking literally. Jesus is using a figure of speech here, one very common in the Semitic world of first century Palestine — hyperbole, that is exaggeration – to make a special point.  We have more sins than we have bodily parts. Besides, even if all offending parts were removed, our hearts and minds — the source of all sins, as Jesus points out elsewhere — would still be intact. Hence, these sayings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations.  Jesus is inviting us to integrate our bodies into our following of Christ, so that our hands become instruments of compassion, healing and comfort, our feet help us to bring the Gospel to the world, and our eyes learn to see, and our mouth to speak the Truth, Goodness and Beauty all around us.

By these startling words about self-mutilation, Jesus also means that we must cut out of our lives all practices that keep us away from God, and retain only those habits that draw us closer to God. Many years ago, Paul Achtemeier suggested some modern parallels to the radical actions proposed by Jesus back in his time. “If your TV causes you to sin: turn it off! If your computer causes you to sin: disconnect it! If your magazine subscription causes you to sin, cancel it! If your job position or power causes you to sin, resign! If your bank account causes you to sin, give it away.” In other words, absolutely nothing is worth jeopardizing your eternal life with Jesus Christ! Jesus is setting before all disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice. That goal is everlasting union with God Himself beginning here, with our fidelity to following His will for our lives. God alone leads us to everlasting peace and happiness.  Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything which causes us to sin and which leads us or others to spiritual death. Billy Graham has a fantastic way of summing up this Gospel message by concluding his Crusades with a final challenge: “Decide! Cut away anything that prevents you from a radical decision for Jesus Christ! Decide for Christ!”

Life messages: 1) We need to avoid conduct that can give scandal.  We  give scandal and become stumbling blocks to others: a) when we are unkind or unjust in our treatment of  them, b) when we reject them because of their weakness, faults or sins, c) when we humiliate them by  hurting their pride and damaging their self-image, d) when we discourage, ignore, or refuse to accept them, e) when we ridicule them or deflate their dreams, f) when we follow a double standard: “Do as I say; don’t do as I do,”  g) when we set standards which are so high that we are unable to meet them  ourselves, and h) when we become judgmental of those who are still struggling to reach a  level of commitment that we feel is too low to be useful. On the other hand, we become good role models: a) when we support and guide others in moments of doubt, weakness, and suffering, b) when we increase other people’s self-confidence by accepting them as they are and enabling them to discover their hidden talents, c) when we help them to grow by inspiring and correcting them, d) when we forgive them and listen to them with patience, and e) when we make ourselves examples of Christian witnessing.

#2: Let us learn the Christian virtue of tolerance: Christian tolerance is brotherly love; it asks that we bear with the weaknesses of others, without condoning the evil they do.  Intolerance is a sign of a weak Faith.  Intolerance is also ineffective.  It does nothing but damage to the cause it seeks to defend. When we attack a heretic, we don’t change his mind, for the most part. We just give him an audience.  To ban a book, is, almost surely, to make it a best seller. Condemning a sinner immediately draws people to defend him.  An intolerant attitude will alienate, rather than attract, sinners.  Only genuine agape love can overcome hatred.  The Church should display this patient love to a hate-filled world.  The Church is expected to present Christ to the world.  How can the Church present Christ when it is arrogant or intolerant rather than loving others as Christ loves us?  We cannot exalt love by encouraging hate.  Hence, let us try both to learn and to practice the virtue of Christian brotherly love in our interfaith and ecumenical endeavors by: a) remaining true to our conscience and beliefs, b) respecting the differences we encounter, c) working together on projects of common interest, d) affirming what is good in the other person’s position, even when we disagree on certain things, and e) allowing the light of Christ to shine through our loving words and deeds.

# 3: “He who is not against us is for us:” (Emailed by Fr. Fredie A.C. freddieac@gmail.com): There is a tendency in us to downgrade, condemn, slander, ridicule, put down and make defamatory remarks against anybody who is different from us. Since the Church of Christ is scandalously divided on denominational lines, it is in our nature to think other denominations as inferior and ridicule or condemn them. When some lay people do better than the clergy in preaching and healing ministry, it is natural for the latter to feel envious of them and question their authority. The Gospel invites us to respect the gifts and charisms of all those who work in Jesus’ Name. Though we need not and cannot accept all the viewpoints of those who are opposed to us, Jesus teaches us to respect them and their viewpoints. All have a right to their own views and thoughts. How wrong we are in thinking that we alone are right, all others are wrong; we alone possess the truth, others do not; we alone possess a monopoly over salvation. This does not mean we accept anything and everything from anybody and agree with it. We too should have our own personal convictions. Tolerance involves a respect for various aspects and facets of the truth. Intolerance gives the impression that nothing is true beyond what our eyes can see. Again, is this also not a sign of arrogance? How difficult it is for us not to hate the person himself when we hate his/her views/ beliefs/ opinions! Jesus calls us to build up a truly tolerant and inclusive society.

JOKES OF THE WEEK #1: Intolerance in the blood: In Belfast, Ireland, a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi were engaged in a heated theological discussion. Suddenly an angel appeared in their midst and said to them, “God sends you His blessings. Make one wish for peace and your wish will be fulfilled by the Almighty.” The Protestant minister said, “Let every Catholic disappear from our lovely island. Then peace will reign supreme.” The priest said, “Let there not be a single Protestant left on our sacred Irish soil. That will bring peace to this island.” “And what about you, Rabbi?” said the angel. “Do you have no wish of your own?” “No,” said the rabbi. “Just attend to the wishes of these two gentlemen and I shall be well pleased.” (Anthony de Mello, in Taking Flight).

#2: “Die, heretic scum!” I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what?” “Well … are you religious or atheist?” “Religious.” “Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian.” “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God.” “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.” “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” To which I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off. {An Emo Phillips skit}.

# 3: Jealousy even in death: Feeling very ill, a tough businessman went to see his doctor. After examining him, the doctor backed away and said, “I regret having to tell you this, but you have an advanced case of highly infectious rabies. It appears you’ve had it for some time. It will almost certainly be fatal.” In shock, the man asked the doctor for pen and paper. “Do you want to write your will?” the doctor asked. “No! I want to make a list of all the people I want to bite!” the man replied.)

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Guide to Catholic Internet Resources: http://www.catholicusa.com/

2) Your guide to Catholic beliefs: http://www.aboutcatholics.com/

3) Families with students: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/home.jsp

4) Catholic mothers: http://www.catholicmom.com/

5) DOUAY-RHEIMS Online Catholic Bible:

http://www.catholicdoors.com/bible/index.htm

6) Text Week homilies: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/mark9c.htm

7)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

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

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

9)Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: (Type https://sundayprep.org  in the topmost Address bar in the YouTube or Google or MSN website and press the Enter button).

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24- Additional anecdotes

1) A picture containing text, handwear Description automatically generated : Cut it off: According to an Irish legend, in olden days a group of adventurers set out from the European mainland in a few boats to conquer a new territory, what is believed to be the present-day Ireland. Their leader was a daring man of fortune who announced that whoever touched land first would possess the entire territory and become its king. One of his team members was named O’Neil who was determined to have the new land. He rowed mightily, but a rival boat pressed him hard, caught up with him and then outstripped him. What could he do as his rival was fast approaching the land? This strong-nerved, iron-minded O’Neil dropped his oars, seized battle-axe, cut his left arm, and threw it upon the shore over his rival’s head so that he could be the first to touch the land to make it his own. And he won the land by his heroic sacrifice.– In today’s Gospel Jesus uses a similar metaphor asking us to cut off our hand if it causes us to sin and prevent us from inheriting Heaven. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) “If you call her a pig, Robert, you’re calling me a pig, too!” Robert A. Schuller, young Robert, tells of getting into an argument with his older sister when he was eight. “’You’re a pig!’ he screamed when she refused to give him one of his own toys. Their dad, television preacher Robert H. Schuller, heard what was going on. He came into the room and said to young Bob, ‘Robert, don’t you ever call your sister a pig again.’ ‘But, Dad, she is!’ he objected. ‘If you call her a pig, Robert, you’re calling me a pig, too!’ said the older Schuller. Young Bob had to think about that for a while. He certainly didn’t think his dad was a pig. His father could tell that he didn’t fully understand what he was saying. ‘Robert, if your sister is a pig, then I’m a pig. She is my child! I can’t have a pig for a child unless I’m a pig. When you insult your sister, you’re insulting me, too. When you mock or belittle yourself, you’re doing the same thing to me. You’re my son. The same thing is true for you and God or for your brothers and sisters in the human race and God. When you belittle yourself, you’re belittling God. When you insult your neighbor, you’re insulting God.’“ Young Robert said he never forgot that lesson. [Robert A. Schuler, Getting Through What You’re Going Through (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1986), p. 116.] It’s a lesson all of us need to learn. Can’t we all get along? We can, if each of us will open our hearts to the love of Jesus Christ. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “The building is on fire! The building is on fire!” Once there was an ecumenical crusade that was being held in a large city. Every imaginable denomination was in attendance for this unprecedented spiritual event. During one very well-attended event a secretary suddenly rushed in shouting, “The building is on fire! The building is on fire!” At which point: The METHODISTS gathered in the corner and prayed. The BAPTISTS cried, “Where is the water?” The QUAKERS quietly praised God for the blessings that fire brings. The LUTHERANS posted a notice on the door declaring that the fire was evil. The ROMAN CATHOLICS passed a plate to cover the damages. The JEWS posted symbols on the doors, hoping that the fire would pass. The CONGREGATIONALISTS shouted, “Every man for himself!” The FUNDAMENTALISTS proclaimed, “It’s the vengeance of God.” The EPISCOPALIANS formed a procession and marched out. The CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS concluded that there was no fire. The PRESBYTERIANS appointed a chairperson to appoint a committee to look into the matter and make a written report. And the secretary grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out [The Catholic Digest (September 1992), p. 37.] It is amazing the multitude of different groups there are, all calling themselves Christian. And each one, of course, feels that it has a corner on the truth. God must get a good laugh out of it all! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “Lord have mercy,” the old man whispered, “He’s gonna be a politician!” Some of our older members may remember a ridiculous, time-honored story about an old country preacher who had a teenage son. One day, while the boy was at school, his father decided to try an experiment. He went into the boy’s room and placed on his desk three objects: a Bible, a silver dollar, and a bottle of whiskey. “Now then,” the old preacher said to himself, “I’ll just hide behind the door here, and when my son comes home from school this afternoon, I’ll see which of these three objects he picks up. If he picks up the Bible, he’s going to be a preacher like me. If he picks up the dollar, he’s going to be a businessman, and that would be okay, too. But if he picks up the bottle of whiskey, he’s going to be a no-good drunkard.” Soon the old man heard his son’s footsteps as he came in the house. He watched as the boy walked over to inspect the three items on the desk. First, the boy picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm. Then he picked up the silver dollar and dropped it into his pocket. Finally, he uncorked the bottle and took a big drink. “Lord have mercy,” the old man whispered, “He’s gonna be a politician!” — I guess we could say that, unless you’re going to be a politician, you are going to have to make some choices in life. Life is a matter of choices — choices about how you spend your time, choices about how you spend your money –- which show you and others what you think is important. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) The “greatest moment in sports history” anyone has ever seen. The members of the opposing Central Washington University softball team did something that stunned spectators. Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman asked the umpire if she and her teammates could help Sara. The umpire said there was no rule against it. So Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace put their arms under Sara’s legs, and she put her arms over their shoulders. The three players headed around the bases, stopping to let Sara touch each base with her good leg. The three-run homer would count. — Here’s what’s amazing. Listen up all you sports addicts. This act of sportsmanship by the Central Washington team contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs. There was a price for their compassion, but still they did what was right. Sports writers around the country have hailed this event as the ultimate act of sportsmanship. Others have said it is the “greatest moment in sports history” anyone has ever seen. (Billy Strayhorn, http://www.epulpit.net/080810.htm.) I say it reflects a change that must take place in human hearts before God’s kingdom comes on earth, even as it is in Heaven. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” It was one of the most gripping news stories of 2003. In the beautiful but desolate mountains of southeastern Utah, a twenty-seven-year-old mountain climber named Aron Ralston, made a desperate decision. An avid outdoors man, Aron was rock-climbing one day when his right arm became trapped under a boulder, a boulder estimated to weigh at least eight hundred pounds. He saw immediately that he was in deep trouble. Unable to budge the rock at all, Aron took out his pocketknife and chipped away at the rock for 10 hours, managing to produce only a small handful of dust. Obviously, this was not going to work. Days were passing. No one knew where he was. Even worse, his family and friends were used to his going off for days without contacting anyone, so they were not even looking for him. With his arm still wedged beneath this enormous boulder Aron Ralston recorded a video message to his parents telling them good-bye. At the end of several days with no food or water, however, Aron made a remarkable choice. Aron Ralston decided to amputate his arm in order to save himself. And that’s exactly what he did, using only a pocket knife. What an amazing display of courage and determination! After he was finished, he applied a tourniquet to his arm and rappelled nearly 70 feet to the floor of the canyon. Then he hiked five miles downstream where he encountered some other hikers and was rescued. Aron Ralston made the obviously excruciating decision to amputate his right arm to save his life. It is an amazing story! — Who can read this story without thinking of Jesus’ words from our lesson for today, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell”? What a stark declaration: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Aron Ralston certainly made a choice – to sacrifice his arm in order to save his life. There are choices that must be made in life, and those choices determine our destiny. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) Sodium chloride: If there are any chemists here this morning, you know that sodium is an extremely active element found naturally only in combined form; it always links itself to another element. Chlorine, on the other hand, is a poisonous gas that can stand by itself. Chlorine is what gives bleach its offensive odor. When sodium and chlorine are combined, the result is Sodium Chloride. What is Sodium Chloride? Salt. Common table salt: the substance we use to preserve meat and bring out its flavor; the substance we use to add spice to meals. — Love and truth can be like sodium and chlorine. Love without truth is flighty, sometimes blind, willing to combine with various doctrines. On the other hand, truth by itself can be offensive, sometimes even poisonous. Spoken without love, it can turn people away from the Gospel. When truth and love are combined in an individual or a Church, then we have what Jesus called “the salt of the earth,” and we’re able to preserve and bring out the beauty of our faith. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) Dante’s View: In Death Valley, there is a place known as Dante’s View. From this location you can look down into the lowest spot in the United States, a depression in the earth two hundred feet below sea level called Black Water. But from Dante’s View you can also look up to the highest peak in the United States, Mt. Whitney, rising to a height of 14,500 feet. In one direction you move to the lowest spot in the United States, in the other, to the highest. From Dante’s View, only the traveler can decide which direction he or she will take. [Maxie Dunnam, The Devil at Noon Day (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).] — There are choices we must make. If you’re going to have a healthy spiritual life, there are choices you must make about the input you give your mind. If you’re going to have a healthy marriage and a healthy family, there are choices you’re going to have to make every day. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Can you be the new Telemachus? One person armed with the Gospel of peace can change the world. Telemachus did. Who was Telemachus? He was a monk who lived in the 5th century. And his story is a story of courage. He felt God saying to him, “Go to Rome.” He was in a cloistered monastery, but he put his possessions in a sack and set out for Rome. When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked why all the excitement and was told that this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting in the coliseum, the day of the games, the circus. He thought to himself, “Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other, for enjoyment?” He ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators saying, “Hail to Caesar, we die for Caesar!” and he thought, “This isn’t right.” He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, and tried to stop them. The crowd became enraged and stoned the peacemaker to death. When the Emperor of Rome, Honorius, heard about the monk, he declared him a Christian martyr and put an end to the games. Legend has it that the very last Gladiatorial game was the one in which Telemachus died. — Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves – be at peace with each other.” Sometimes it seems we have gladiatorial games going on inside the Church, inside our homes, at work. And the games have been going on for as long as we can remember! Who will be a Telemachus? Who will be the monk who jumps into the arena, sacrifices himself, and brings peace? Peace can be made but it sometimes comes at a heavy price. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) 268 years of peace and 8000 broken peace treaties: Here is an interesting statistic: The Society of International Law, in London, observed that during the last 3,550 years of recorded history there have been only 268 years of peace. That means that since the beginning of recorded history, the entire world has been at peace less than eight percent of the time! What is even more interesting is that during this time in excess of 8000 peace treaties were made — and broken. — My friend, that represents a lot of turf wars. Why do we not have peace in our life? Because, at any cost, we fight to protect our turf, and we fight to get the turf of the other fellow. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) USA flag on a Russian ship! Some time ago there was an interesting story about whales that were trapped in the ice off the coast of Alaska. These whales swam in the cool waters of Alaska so long that they missed the last plane to Hawaii! They were completely enclosed by the deepening ice. Some people saw their plight and tried to rescue them by sawing through the ice, but they were unsuccessful and called for additional help. The United States Navy sent in a ship to rescue the whales. That, too, failed. Finally, a Soviet ice­breaker was asked to plow through the ice allowing the whales to swim out into the open sea. This was in American waters, and thus, before the Russian ship started its work, a United States of America flag was raised on its mast. People, especially the Press Corps, could hardly believe it! Here was a USA flag on a Russian ship! A whale was used to bring two countries, often at odds with each other, together for the sake of rescue. [Eddie Fox & George E. Morris, Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So! (Franklin, TN: Providence House, 1999).] — It’s interesting. God also used a whale to get the attention of the prophet Jonah. As you’ll remember, Jonah was prejudiced against the people of Nineveh. He wanted God to destroy the people of that city. And then God sent a whale . . . and then a gourd . . . and then a worm. Finally Jonah got the message. It’s a message we still need to hear. All the world’s people belong to God. God loves us all the same. God’s will is liberty and justice for all the world’s people. But here is what we also need to realize: there will not be peace in the world until each of us resolves to live out the message of Christ’s love in our own family and neighborhood. If you and I cannot love one another, there is no hope for the world. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “If I don’t remember who I am in Him, I’m done.” Some of you are familiar with superstar singer Mary J. Blige. Blige is a three-time Grammy Award-winning rhythm & blues and hip-hop soul singer, songwriter and producer. She has had several #1 songs. Many people regard her as today’s queen of soul. Mary J. Blige has changed her image significantly over the course of her career, and she credits much of that change to her newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Blige claims that her early years in show business were marred by heavy alcohol and drug abuse. She projected an image of toughness, but inside she was hurting. One day, Blige read an interview with superstar Beyonce in which Beyonce spoke of her love for her mother and father. Blige found herself crying over the desire to experience that kind of love. In recent years, after giving her life to Jesus, Mary J. Blige is able to say, “It was later, when I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that I found out who I am. I’m a child of God. God is my mommy, my daddy. That’s the only thing that’ll keep my head up. If I don’t remember who I am in him, I’m done.” [“Oprah Talks to Mary J. Blige,” O, The Oprah Magazine (May 2006), p. 243.] — It was important for Mary J. Blige to find Jesus. What difference does it make whether I become one who really is affected by Christ’s presence in my life? Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) “Sacred Doves of Peace.” Mark from Wisconsin wrote in to his newspaper with this most ironic story: He stopped by a pet store one day to look for a bird. As he entered the store, he noticed a strange rustling noise coming from the back. In the back of the store was a large cage with a sign underneath it advertising “Sacred Doves of Peace.” And in the cage were two white doves . . . beating each other to a pulp. [Life As We Know It, edited by Daniel Kelly (Kansas City: Andrews and McMee, 1996), p. 32.] — I would like to say that is the way of the world, but it has often been the way of the Church as well. It reminds me of a proposal made by the Mennonite Church a few years ago. The Mennonites historically have been a Church that advocates peace. Here was their proposal: Can’t we agree that, as Christians, we at least won’t kill other Christians? The reference was to Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Liberals objected that this proposal makes it sound okay to kill Muslims or atheists or Hindus, which of course isn’t the point. Conservatives protested that this proposal might make war impossible. v

14) Sin is hell. And hell is serious business. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger [What Ever Became of Sin? (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973)] notes that American Presidents used to mention sin once in awhile, but that none has done so since 1953. The Republicans refer to the problems of “pride” and “self-righteousness.” The Democrats refer to “short-comings.” But no one uses the grand old sweeping concept of sin anymore. Thus, it seems, we as a nation stopped sinning sixty-seven years ago! And, speaking of politics: a poll on Heaven and Hell in the Des Moines Register awhile back found that only one Republican in 35 expects to end up in Hell, whereas one Democrat in nine assumes he will. I am not sure what that means. It may mean that it does little good to preach hellfire and brimstone to a congregation that is filled with people who don’t believe there is a chance in hell that they will end up there. And that reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous statement. He said that when he died, he would like to go to Heaven for the climate but would probably prefer Hell for the companionship. Mark Twain was clever and witty, but he missed the point. — Sin isn’t fun. Sin is hell. And hell is serious business. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) Thomas Aquinas once remarked, “Beware the man of one book!” Narrowness, intolerance or living life according to only one book or point of view is as much an injustice to the person so trapped as it is against others. The following anonymous piece offers a profile of such a person:

“When the other person acts that way, he’s obnoxious;
when you do it, it’s nerves.
When she is set in her ways, she is obstinate;
when you are, it’s just being firm.
When he doesn’t like your friends, he’s prejudiced;
when you don’t like his, you are simply showing good judgment of human nature.
When she tries to be accommodating, she’s polishing the apple;
when you do it, you’re using tact.
When he takes time to do things, he’s plodding and slow;
when you take forever, you’re being deliberate and careful.
When she finds fault, she’s cranky;
when you do, you’re discriminating.”

Each of the readings for today’s liturgy invites the gathered assembly to shatter this profile and shake itself free of its “one book mentality” by becoming more aware and appreciative of the Spirit of God at work in others, even in those we least expect. (Sanchez Archives). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) Ecce Homo – Behold the Man!  A war story provided William Sangster with the picture he wanted in order to show us that we see ourselves only when we see ourselves in Christ. “During the war a soldier picked up on the battle fields of France a battered frame which had once contained a picture of Christ. The picture had gone but the frame still bore the words: ‘Ecce Homo’. The soldier sent it home as a souvenir, and someone at home put a mirror on it and hung it on the wall. One day a man went into the house and understood the startling words ‘Behold the man!’ as he saw himself in the mirror. — We only see ourselves when we see ourselves in Jesus. Blots we barely knew there come to view in His white light” [James Feeban in Story Power! Quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) Small is beautiful:  For months the chapel was decorated with artificial flowers. While they looked pretty they lacked one vital thing – they emitted no scent. Then one day someone brought in a small bunch of fresh bluebells and placed them on the altar. As soon as you walked into the chapel you noticed the difference. The fragrance given off by the little bluebells filled the entire chapel. — How the genuine article shines out, how it quietly makes its presence felt. It doesn’t have to be big. Even the dew lessens the heat. Jesus said that anyone who gave one of the disciples even a cup of cold water would be rewarded. The “cup of cold water” is a symbol of the small kind deed.   (Flor McCarthy in New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies: quoted by Fr. Botelho.) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Envy destroys: In Greek history we read of a young man who so distinguished himself in public games that his fellow citizens raised a statue in his honor, to keep fresh the memory of his victories. This statue so excited the envy of another rival who had been defeated in the races that one night he stole out under cover of darkness with the intention to destroy the statue. But he only nicked it slightly. He gave it a final heave and it fell – on top of him and killed him. -– Envy always harms the one who is guilty of it. That is why in today’s Gospel Jesus warns us against jealousy and envy.   (Frank Michalic in 1000 Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho.) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle: A few years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun, they all started out, except one little boy who, tumbled, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down, then all turned around and went back……every one of them. One girl with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes. People who were there are telling the story. — Why? Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others win, instead of becoming jealous, even if it means slowing down and changing our course. (Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) Send him to Hell! O Henry, the master storyteller, once wrote a story about a woman whose mother had died when she was a little girl. When the father came home from work the little girl would ask him to play with her. Her father would tell her that he had no time and that she should go out into the street and play; then he would light up his pipe, take off his shoes, put his feet up and read the newspaper. By the time the little girl grew up, she was used to the streets, and made her living there. When she died, St. Peter looked up to Jesus and asked, “I suppose we send her to Hell?” The Lord said, “No she deserves Heaven. But go down to earth, look for that man who refused to play with her when she needed him, and send him to Hell because instead of training his daughter by good examples he ruined her life by bad example!” (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks: Listen! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Feeding Sin: In 1939, a coast guard vessel was cruising the Canadian Arctic when the men spotted a polar bear stranded on an ice floe. It was quite a novelty for the seamen, who threw the bear salami, peanut butter, and chocolate bars. Then they ran out of the food. Unfortunately, the polar bear hadn’t run out of appetite, so he proceeded to board their vessel. The men on ship were terrified and opened the fire hoses on the bear. The polar bear loved it and raised his paws in the air to get the water under his armpits. We don’t know how they did it, but eventually they forced the polar bear to return to his ice pad–but not before teaching these seamen a horrifying lesson about feeding polar bears. — Some people make the same mistake with sin that these sailors nearly made with the polar bear. That is why Jesus gives the strong warning about the surgical removal of sources of temptation in today’s Gospel. (Sermons.com). Fr. Kayala. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Difference between charity and social justice: Someone once told the following story as an illustration of the difference between charity and social justice: A huge boulder rolled down a mountain and landed in the middle of a narrow, curving roadway. An approaching car rounded the turn and crashed into the boulder. Families living nearby rushed to rescue the injured passengers, brought them into their own homes and tended to them until they were well. That’s charity. Not too many weeks later, another unwitting vehicle collided with the boulder and the families took them in and cared for them also. That’s charity. Within a month, still another carload of travellers hit the boulder. After seeing to the needs of the accident victims, the people in the area got together to decide how to get rid of the boulder. That’s social justice. — When James, in today’s second reading, called upon the rich to attend to the needs of the poor, he was not recommending charity; he was demanding social justice. He was not pleading with the wealthy to dip into their surplus in order to throw a few crumbs to the needy. James charged the rich to give the poor what was their due on two counts. First, as members of the same community, all were, therefore, responsible for the well-being of one another. If one was in need, those who had the means to help were bound, by the Christian law of love, to do so. Second, that which was being withheld from the poor were their just wages. To refuse to pay the farmhands who had harvested the fields was not only an act of injustice, but it was an affront to God who is ever alert to the cries of the poor. (Sanchez Archives). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) The Spirit came on them also: During her rounds, a Catholic social worker in Corning, New York got acquainted with Orrin, who was on the relief rolls. Orrin, 82, lived alone in a shanty on the edge of this small upstate city. He was just about as poor as he could be, but attracted her by his quiet, cheerful dignity. One day he told her a little about himself, and she began to understand why he was so serene. “I belong to the Gospel Tabernacle,” he said. “I go to Church on Wednesday night, and there isn’t a fuller Church in town.” “When I get up mornings, I pray for an hour. I pray for everybody I’m going to meet each day. Then I read my Bible for an hour. At night I read the Bible again.” Orrin’s remarks set the Catholic woman thinking. “I believe,” she said to herself, “that I belong to the true Church. But this sweet little man seems to be much closer to God than I am!” — God has indeed given us one true Church as the authorized channel of salvation. But that does not prevent Him from working out “special arrangements” with those who are not registered members of the Church. That is why Jesus told the apostles not to forbid a man outside their own number to invoke the name of Christ against demons. “Anyone who is not against us,” He explained, “is with us.” Moses had taken the same stand when Joshua tried to stop the preaching of the two men who had not been officially called to membership in the committee of seventy elders. “Are you jealous for my sake?” Moses asked Joshua. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” How the Spirit dealt with the two unofficial preachers was His business; and it was clear He “had come to rest on them also.” (Numbers 11:25. Today’s first reading.) — We have no right to pass judgment on God’s generosity towards any of His children. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) Cost of discipleship for St. Thomas More: The Movie A Man for All seasons (Watch movie clips: https://youtu.be/1Acvwko6Wd0) is based on the life of St. Thomas More. Thomas More was a teenager in England when Columbus discovered America. Thomas attended Oxford University and after graduation, entered public life. he rose rapidly as a government official. In 1529, king Henry VIII honored him by appointing him Chancellor of England. Then tragedy struck Thomas More’s life. Here’s how it happened. Henry VIII divorced his queen and remarried unlawfully. To combat opposition to his marriage, Henry ordered certain dignitaries of the state to sign a document swearing under oath that his remarriage was lawful. Henry passed word to the dignitaries that if they refused to sign the document they would be arrested for treason. A dramatic scene occurred when Lord Norfolk brought the document to Thomas More. Thomas refused to sign it; no amount of persuasion would change his mind. Finally, Lord Norfolk lost his patience. He said to his friend: “Oh confound all this ..I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not. But damn it, Thomas, look at these names….You know these men! Can’t you do what I did and come along with us , for fellowship?” — Thomas More still refused. He wouldn’t swear to something that he knew in his heart was wrong. Thomas More was eventually arrested. On July 6, 1535, he was executed for treason. The story of St. Thomas More illustrates what Jesus means when he says in today’s Gospel” “ If your hand makes you lose your faith, cut off. ….eyes… take it out. (Mark Link S. J. in Illustrated Sunday Homilies). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 52) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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 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

 

Sept 20-25 weekday homilies

Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed Sunday and weekday homilies. Sept 20-25: Sept 20 Monday (St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Paul Chong Ha-sang, and companion Martyrs): Lk 8:16-18: 16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. 18 Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Luke’s version of Jesus’ teachings after telling the parable of the sower.  It reminds us that we are the light of the world and that our duty is to receive and radiate around us Christ’s light of love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  The image of light and lamp: Lamps help people to see, move and work in the dark, and their light prevents our stumbling and falling down. For the Jews, light represented the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. God’s light illumines our lives with light, celestial joy, and everlasting peace. The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem (Lk 2:9). Paul experienced the presence of God in a blinding light (Acts 9:3; 22:6); God “dwells in inaccessible light” (1 Tim 6:16). That is why Jesus claims to be the light of the world. When the light of Christ shines in our hearts, we will be able to recognize who we are, who our neighbors are and who God is and to see clearly how we are related to God and our neighbors. When we live in Christ’s light, we will not foolishly try to hide truths about ourselves from ourselves, from our neighbors, or from God. Christ’s light will also remind us of the consequences of our loving the darkness of sinful ways and bad habits.

The paradox of the rich getting richer: In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the comment, “for to him who has will more be given,” following the warning “Take heed how you hear….” Jesus is telling us that if we listen to Him with open minds and open hearts and walk in Jesus’ light, the tiny bit of wisdom and understanding that we’ve already gained will grow and grow with God’s help. If, on the other hand, our hearts are closed to Jesus, even the little bit of wisdom that we think we’ve got will be lost. Jesus is not talking about money or wealth in any form. Jesus is talking about the extent and depth of our connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord is only superficial, it certainly won’t grow, and it may well not last at all.

Life messages: As “light of the world” it is our duty 1) to remove the darkness from around us and 2) to show others the true light of Jesus, His ideas and ideals through our model Christian life. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 21 Tuesday (St. Mathew, Apostle, Evangelist): Mt 9:9-13:  https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-matthew/ 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  13 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others. The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax-collector’s station to invite Matthew to become a disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, hated and despised the tax collectors as traitors, considered them public sinners, and ostracized them. But Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. That is why, while everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because, for him, Christ’s invitation to become Jesus’ follower, was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance, and protection. Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends who were also outcasts. Jesus’ dining with all these outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. But they asked, not Jesus but the young disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus, coming to the rescue of the disciples, cut in, and answered the question, in terns of healing: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Hosea 6:6).  Finally, Jesus clarified, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44. Then he went to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where he suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954].

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven us our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus calls us daily through the Word and through the Church, to be disciples and, so, to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 2) Just as Matthew did, we, too, are expected to proclaim Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 22 Wednesday: Lk 9:1-6): 1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, or bag, or bread, or money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the commissioning of the twelve Apostles. Sent out with “power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,” they exercised their preaching and healing mission according to the detailed action-plan given by Jesus.

Jesus’ instructions and travel tips. By these instructions, it is clear that Jesus meant the apostles to take no supplies for the road. They were simply to trust that God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of their needs. The Jews supported their rabbis, and judged doing so a privilege as well as an obligation, because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine. Jesus’ instructions also suggest that the apostles should not be like the acquisitive Jewish priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches.  They should be walking examples of God’s love and providence in action. They should choose temporary accommodation in a reputable household, they should bless the residents with God’s peace, and they should be satisfied with whatever food and accommodation they receive, and not search for better.

Life messages: 1) We, too, have a witness-bearing mission:  Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle. As apostles, we are sent out to evangelize the world by sharing with others, not just words, or ideas, or doctrines, but our experiences of God and His Son, Jesus. It is through our transparent Christian lives that we are to show the love, mercy and concern of Jesus to the people around us.

2) We also have a liberating mission: There are many demons which can control the lives of people around us, making them helpless slaves —the demon of nicotine, the demon of alcohol, the demon of gambling, the demon of pornography and promiscuous sex, the demon of materialism and consumerism. We need the help of Jesus to be liberated ourselves and to help Jesus liberate others from these bondages. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 23 Thursday (St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest): Lk 9:7-9: 7) Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen. 9 Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Although King Herod respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet, he was not converted, and he was maneuvered into beheading John by his vengeful, intolerant, immoral, jealous wife Herodias. When his personal staff started reporting stories to Herod about the new prophet, Jesus, as the reappearance of Elijah the prophet, Herod expressed his fear that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist whom he had unjustly killed. He wanted to see Jesus — not to hear Jesus preaching of the Good News, but in order to get rid of his fear and feelings of guilt.

The haunting conscience: Herod Antipas was one of the several sons of Herod the Great, the King of Israel who had divided his kingdom among four of his sons.  Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. The conscience of this immoral oriental tyrant Herod started destroying his peace of mind when he realized the heinousness of his crimes of an illicit and immoral relationship with his niece and sister-in-law, Herodias, in gross violation of Mosaic laws, and his cooperation in the murder of John the Baptist. His discomfort led him, not to repentance, but to the fear that John had come back from the dead to punish him, a fear that might have prompted Herod’s wish to see Jesus in person. His wish was finally realized when Jesus was dragged to him during Jesus’ trial before Pilate. But Jesus did not yield to Herod’s demand for a miracle and kept silence.

Life messages: 1) We need to keep our conscience clean by repenting of our sins and being reconciled with God and His Church. Otherwise, our sins will haunt us, making our lives miserable.

2) It is necessary that we should have a clear understanding of Who Jesus really is. We need to see, experience and accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. Such an acceptance should lead us to a total adoption of Jesus’ ideas and ideals and way of life.  Otherwise, we will be like Herod, who resembled the people who flock to healing services today, looking for miracles but not for Jesus. If our following of Jesus causes in us no change that transforms our souls and radiates Jesus outward from us, our attempts to have mountain-top experiences will be meaningless and vain. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 24 Friday: Lk 9:18-22: 18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” 20 And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third  day be raised.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the first of the three times when Jesus foretells His Passion, death and Resurrection.  It consists of two sections, the Messianic confession of Peter and the prediction of the Passion by Jesus.

Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by suffering, death and Resurrection.  According to Matthew (16:13-19), and Mark (8:27-30), this famous profession of Faith by Peter took place at Caesarea Philippi, at present called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus realized that if the apostles did not know Who He really was, then His entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless.  Hence, Jesus decided to ask a question in two parts. 1) “What is the public opinion about Me? “and 2) “What is your personal opinion? “Their answer to the first question was: “Some say John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”  Peter volunteered to answer the second question, saying: “You are the Christ of God.”  But Jesus charged and commanded them to tell this to no one and predicted His Passion and death.

Life messages: Let us experience Jesus as our Lord: 1) We experience Jesus as our personal Savior by listening to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to Jesus through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering Jesus our lives on the altar in frequent attendance at Holy Mass, by being reconciled with Jesus every night, asking pardon and forgiveness for our sins, and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we are in mortal sin.

2) The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 25 Saturday: Lk 9: 43-45: 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he did, he said to  his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Coming down from the mountain after His Transfiguration, Jesus healed an epileptic boy.  Today’s Gospel begins with the reaction of the crowds to this cure: “and all were astonished at the majesty of God.” But Jesus uses this occasion of high popularity to explain that, in order to reveal Jesus’ real majesty, “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Jesus’ least understood prediction: His coming suffering and death: In fact, Jesus foretold three times great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. The Apostles could not take it in because they were dreaming of a political messiah in Jesus. Besides, Jesus showed His glory to three of them on the mountain and baffled everyone by instantly healing an epileptic boy whom the Apostles could not heal, so plainly, no one could do this to Jesus by their own power. In addition, Jesus’ disciples were really frightened by such a prediction, perhaps fearing the same fate for themselves. They may also have been ignorant of the “Suffering Servant” prophecy of Isaiah, where the Messiah was pictured as making atonement for sins through suffering and death. When Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man,” the Apostles got the impression of the Messiah coming in glory as described by Daniel.

Life messages: 1) Jesus paid the ransom for our sins by His blood and freed us from the tyranny of sin and death through the Resurrection. Hence, it is our duty to live and die as free children of God, freed from all types of slavery to sin, evil habits and addictions.

2) We should ask Jesus for help to carry our daily crosses in the same spirit of atonement for our sins and those of others that marked Jesus’ willing, sacrificial sufferings and death for all of us. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

O. T. XXV (September 19th Sunday) homily

O.T. XXV [B] Sunday (Sept 19th) 8-minue homily in one page

Introduction: Today’s scripture readings invite us to become great in the sight of God by doing God’s will as Jesus did, surrendering our lives to Him in the service of others.

Scripture lessons summarized: The passage from the Book of Wisdom sounds like a messianic prophecy like the “Suffering Servant” prophecy in Isaiah referring to Christ’s passion. It urges us to choose the path of righteousness despite painful consequences. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 54), the psalmist prays for help against the insolent people who rise against the upright.

The second reading is in tune with the dispute among the apostles about who is the greatest. In it, James warns us that selfish ambitions destroy peace and cause conflicts and war. So, James advises us to choose the path of righteousness and humble service which leads to lasting peace.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what walking that path of righteousness mentioned in the first and second readings is, namely, welcoming and serving the vulnerable in our midst: the defenseless children, the despairing poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized. Jesus also teaches his apostles that child-like humility and selfless service make one great in the eyes of God.

Life messages: # 1:  We must become great through humble, self-giving service.    Greatness, in Jesus’ view, is found in our willingness to accept, welcome, and serve those who are considered unacceptable by reason of class, color, religion, wealth or culture.   We must welcome people the way a child welcomes them before he is taught discrimination.   If we are to be truly great, we must be ready to accept four challenges: (1) to put ourselves last, (2) to be the servant of all, (3) to receive the most insignificant human beings with love, and (4) to expect nothing in return.  During the holy Mass let us pray for the true spirit of service and for an attitude of love for those around us. May the Holy Spirit help us to become truly great through humble, selfless service.

2) We need to practice humility in thoughts, words, and actions. “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” “What is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ?” St. Augustine asks, and then responds, “I shall reply: first humility, second humility, and third humility.” We should not seek recognition and recompense for the service we do for Christ and the Church as parents, teachers, pastors, etc. Trusting Faith resulting from true humility is essential for all corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Since children reflect the innocence, purity, simplicity, and tenderness of our Lord, and since they are given the protection of a guardian angel, we are to love them, train them, and take care not to give scandal to them. We need to try to treat everyone with love and respect because, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (St. Basil), CCC # 336.

OT XXV Sunday: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Jas 3:16—4:3; Mk 9:30-37

Homily starter anecdotes: #1 “The most powerful woman in the world!” At the screening of the film Mother Teresa during the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1983, the Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar rose from his seat to introduce St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) to an elite gathering of the representatives of all member countries of the U.N. He needed only one sentence for his introduction:  “I present to you the most powerful woman in the world!” (Hers was the power of humble and sacrificial Christian service!) On March 3, 1976, conferring on Mother Teresa the highest honor of India’s Vishwa Bharati University, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who was at that time Prime Minister of India, said: “I feel myself dwarfed when I stand before this holy and mighty woman who heroically showed the world how to practice Christian love in sacrificial and humble service.” For many years, the world watched, admired, and loved this small, elderly nun, always dressed in a blue-bordered white sari, as the incarnation of humble and sacrificing Christian service.  She was the living proof of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel that real greatness lies in serving others. She did this with love and compassion. Beginning in 1962, she was given several awards, national and international, in recognition of her greatness, attained through the humble service given to the “poorest of the poor.”    On Sept. 5, 1997, the day of the death of this saint who lived with us, practicing what Jesus commanded His disciples to do, Pope St. John Paul II said: “Mother Teresa marked the history of our century with courage.  She served all human beings by promoting their dignity and respect, making them feel the tenderness of God.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: Dr. Charles Mayo polishing the shoes of his guests: There’s a story told about Dr. Charles Mayo who, with his father and brother, founded the world-famous Mayo Clinic. Some European medical experts were visiting the clinic and were staying as guests at Dr. Mayo’s home. In their own countries it was the custom of these gentlemen to place their shoes outside the bedroom doors for a servant to polish. As Dr. Mayo was headed to bed, he noticed shoes lined up outside the rooms of his guests, but it was too late to wake up any of the servants. With a sigh he picked up all of the shoes, hauled them to the kitchen, and spent half of the night polishing them. Here is an example of what Jesus tells you and me in today’s Gospel “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Msgr. Arthur Tonne). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: The first shall be the last: The Greeks had a story of a Spartan called Paedaretos. Three hundred men were to be chosen to govern Sparta and Paedaretos was one of the candidates. When the list of the successful was announced his name was not on it. “I am sorry,” said one of his friends, “that you were not elected. The people ought to have known what a wise officer of state you would have made.” “I am glad,” said Paedaretos, “that in Sparta there are three hundred men better than I am.” Here was a man who became a legend because he was prepared to give to others the first place and to bear no ill will, as Jesus demands in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to become great in the sight of God by doing God’s will, as Jesus did, surrendering our lives to Him in the service of others.

The Scripture readings summarized: The passage from the Book of Wisdom sounds like a messianic prophecy similar to the “Suffering Servant” prophecy in Isaiah referring to Christ’s passion. It urges us to choose the path of righteousness in spite of painful consequences. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 54), the psalmist prays for help against the insolent people who rise against the upright. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what walking that path is, namely, welcoming and serving the vulnerable in our midst: the defenseless children, the despairing poor, the mentally ill, and the marginalized. Jesus also teaches the apostles that only child-like humility and selfless service make one great in the eyes of God. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 54), the psalmist prays for help against the insolent people who rise against the upright. The second reading deals with the problem that caused the dispute among the apostles (over who would be the greatest among them in the coming Kingdom), that we hear about in today’s Gospel. James (the Less) warns us that selfish ambitions destroy peace and cause conflicts and war, and he advises us to choose the path of righteousness and humble service which leads to lasting peace

The first reading (Wisdom. 2:12, 17-20) explained. The Book of Wisdom was written around 100 BC for “the Diaspora,” — the Jews living in pagan cities such as   the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria. Today’s passage is a messianic prophecy of Jesus’ fate at the hands of Jesus’ own people, presenting Jesus as a “Suffering servant.” Referring to a righteous sufferer, the passage points to Jesus’ crucifixion and tells us how the world often ill-treats those who strive to live justly and do God’s will.   Bible scholars consider this as a reference to a conflict that was developing among the Jews living in Alexandria.  The conflict was between those who were trying to keep their Faith pure, and those who were adopting pagan Greek customs.

The second reading (James: 3:16 – 4:3) explained: James is emphatic about the contrast between spiritual wisdom and earthly wisdom. The apostle states that conflicts and disputes come from our inordinate desires, worldly cravings and selfish ambition.  It is precisely this kind of conflict that appears in the Gospel when the apostles argue about who will be highest in the Kingdom of God. James contrasts this kind of jealousy and selfishness with the wisdom from above that produces a harvest of righteousness.

Gospel exegesis:  The context: Jesus was returning to Capernaum after journeying incognito through the Northern Province of Galilee, avoiding crowds and teaching the apostles. Mark presents Jesus as giving three predictions about His coming suffering and death in chapters, 8, 9 and 10.   The response by Jesus’ disciples is a disappointment, because they were dreaming of a political messiah who would usher in an earthly kingdom.  In chapter 8, Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking so.   In chapter 9, (the first part of today’s text), an argument arises among the disciples as to who among them is the greatest.   In the third passage (chapter 10), James and John foolishly ask Jesus to give them seats on his right and left, when Jesus comes to power.  “The grumbling of the other ten disciples at the request of James and John surely implies that they have shared the same hopes of authority and privilege as have the sons of Zebedee.” (Carl W. Conrad; http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/Mark/mk8tr.html). The second part of today’s Gospel describes what happens when Jesus returns to Peter’s house in Capernaum and explains to the apostles what true greatness is.

The Christian criterion of greatness: Jesus says that people who serve humbly are the greatest. He uses a play on an Aramaic word that can mean either servant or child.  Presenting a child before them, Jesus explains that one who wishes to be the first among them must be a servant to all.  True greatness consists in serving one’s fellow men and is never self-centered.  It lies in the ability to see and respond to the needs of others, and it presupposes compassion and sympathy. The two conditions of true greatness are humility and service. This vocation to service belongs to the Church as a whole and to every member of the Church individually.    In other words, the Christian vocation is an apostolate of bearing witness to Christ through loving, humble service.  Christian history teaches us that whenever the members of Christ’s Church have forgotten or ignored this call to service, the Church has suffered. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, gives us this motto on service: “Do all the good you can; By all the means you can; In all the ways you can; In all the places you can; At all the times you can; To all the people you can; As long as ever you can.”

The paradox of the first becoming the last: Here, Jesus stands conventional wisdom on its head:  the truly great person is a diakonos − a deacon − a servant − a person who spends his/her day taking care of other people! What does it mean when Jesus states that those who want to be the first must be the last? Probably, Jesus is speaking of His own life and death in this spirit of His being a servant and considered the last, the loser. Jesus wants the apostles to substitute their ambition to rule thus becoming the first, with the ambition to serve, thus becoming the last. We are all supposed to be serving, whatever our position or role in the society or family or in the Church may be, because true greatness lies in being like Jesus, the servant or slave of all.

Welcoming children. “It may appear that Jesus’ teaching about innocence and welcoming the insignificant (vv. 33-37) is out of place in the context of His passion prediction (vv. 30-32). However, the prediction of his coming death was actually elucidated by Jesus’ lesson regarding the child and vice versa. Talya or child in Aramaic can also mean servant. To behave as a talya (servant) and to welcome even someone as insignificant (according to the standards of that time) as a talya (child) is to learn the reason for the cross (vv. 31-32) and its lesson of discipleship” (Sánchez files). In Greek also, the usual term for “children” [παις, pais] is the same term generally used for “slaves,” and vice-versa. By this play on words, it seems clear that, as much as Jesus is counseling His followers to welcome children in His name, Mark is also asking the Christian community to welcome “servants [of the Gospel],” in the same way that they would welcome Jesus. (Dr. Watson). By setting a child before them, Jesus asks them to be like the child, suggesting the importance of   innocence and humility. The trusting innocence of a child’s heart is the place where believers can meet both Christ and God. Besides, a child represents the most powerless member of any society, a person who has no power, no influence; a person who can be controlled, abused, or neglected by others.  By introducing the example of a child, Jesus also shows us that, when serving others, we must be careful to serve the least important.   This means that the Christian must show hospitality to those who have no social status: the outcast, the sinner, the sick and the feeble.  In other words, the Christian must serve all of God’s children, regardless of whether they are friends or foes. Why? Because such people represent Jesus in our midst and hence they must be welcomed, respected and helped. The passage also tells us that Christians must care for the unwanted, neglected, abused and ignored.

Life messages: # 1:  We must become great through humble, self-giving service.    Greatness, in Jesus’ view, is found in our willingness to accept, welcome and serve those who are considered unacceptable by reason of class, color, religion, wealth, or culture.   We must welcome people the way a child welcomes them before he is taught discrimination.   If we are to be truly great, we must be ready to accept four challenges: (1) to put ourselves last, (2) to be the servant of all, (3) to receive the most insignificant human beings with love, and (4) to expect nothing in return.  During the holy Mass let us pray for the true spirit of service, for an attitude of love for those around us.  May the Holy Spirit help us to become truly great through humble, selfless service. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) puts it like this: “Be the living expression of God’s kindness through humble service; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile and kindness in your warm greeting.” Here is the motto of the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa:

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is Faith.
The fruit of Faith is Love.
The fruit of Love is Service.
And the fruit of Service is Peace.

2) We need to practice humility in thoughts, words and actions. “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” “What is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ?” St. Augustine asks, and then responds, “I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility.” We should not seek recognition and recompense for the service we do for Christ and the Church as parents, teachers, pastors, etc. Trusting Faith resulting from true humility is essential for all corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Since children reflect the innocence, purity, simplicity, and tenderness of our Lord, and since they are given the protection of a guardian angel, we are to love them, train them and take care not to give scandal to them. We need to try to treat everyone with love and respect because, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life,” (St. Basil) CCC # 336.

JOKES OF THE WEEK # 1: Remember potato salad and jokes: Tony Campolo, used to say, “If you ever start to feel proud, thinking that you are somebody great, just remember that soon after your body has been lowered into the grave, your family and friends will be eating potato salad and telling jokes, and you’ll be history.”

# 2: More My Size! George Washington Carver, the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut: “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for Me alone.’ So, I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And He told me.”

# 3: A horrible mistake: Father, I have a besetting sin, and I want your help. I come to Church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation. I know I ought not think that, but I can’t help it. I want you to help me with it.” The pastor replied, “Mary, don’t worry about it. In your case it’s not a sin. It’s just a horrible mistake.”

#4: Prime minister’s humility: Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”

#5: I am proud of my humility: Do you have humility like the man who wrote the best-selling books, Humility and Humility and How I Attained It and The Ten Most Humble Men in the World and How I Chose the Other Nine?

# 6: Remember this old Sunday school song containing the basic servant-living theology: J.O.Y., J.O. Y. Tell you what it means: Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.

# 7: The humble pastor: Did you hear about the pastor who prepared a great message on humility. But he was waiting for a bigger congregation to preach the sermon to! Another pastor was given an award for humility. A week later, the congregation took the award back because the pastor displayed it in his office!

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK ((The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

  1. Study on O. T. XXV [B] readings: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/mark9b.htm
  2. Sermons from Seattle: http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_b_jesus_loves_all_the_little_children_of_the_world.htm
  3. Kurt’s Favorite Catholic Links: http://www.psalm40.org/catholic/
  4. Are Catholic doctrines biblical? http://usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/study-materials/articles/bible-at-core-of-catholic-beliefs.cfm
  5. Scripture Catholic: https://www.scripturecatholic.com/

6)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

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

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

8) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: (Type or copy https://sundayprep.org on the topmost URL column in Google search or YouTube Search and press the Enter button of the Keyboard.

jesus_loves_03jesus_loves_01

16 Additional anecdotes: 1) “There are no professionals in dying.” In George Seaton’s film The Proud and the Profane, the steps of a young nurse are traced to a place called Iwo Jima where her husband had been killed in World War II.  She goes to the cemetery where her husband lies buried and turns to the caretaker, a shell-shocked soldier, who had seen her husband die.  “How did he die?” she asks.  “Like an amateur,” he replies.  “They teach you how to hurl a grenade and how to fire a mortar, but nobody teaches you how to die.  There are no professionals in dying.” Most of us avoid the subject of death.  It’s a taboo subject.  We pretend that we are going to live forever.  But the only way we can keep up that pretense is through massive denial.  Woody Allen said, “When I die, all I want is just a few of my good friends to gather around the casket and do everything in their power to bring me back to life.” Everyone dies – that we can accept.  But somehow, we think we will be the exception. Jesus knew of the innate fear in the heart of the disciples concerning death, — His death and theirs.  Jesus also knew that they would all pay a terrible price for their future ministry.  So, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the apostles that He is going to become the Messiah by His death and Resurrection. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Beethoven’s Piano: On a visit to the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the “Moonlight Sonata.” As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” The guard shook his head. “Paderewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Baby, tell me what God feels like.” Soon after the birth of her brother, four-year-old Sachi began to ask her parents to leave her alone with the new baby. Worried that she might feel jealous and want to hit and shake the newborn, her parents said no. But the little girl’s pleas to be left alone with her brother became more urgent, and since she treated the baby lovingly and gently, her parents decided to allow it. Delighted, Sachi went into the baby’s room and closed the door, but it opened slightly, allowing her curious parents to peek in and listen. They watched as their daughter put her face close to her baby brother’s and whisper, “Baby, tell me what God feels like. I’m starting to forget.” (Dan Millman, Chicken Soup For the Soul, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL: 1993). The innocence of this little four-year-old-girl is disarming, particularly to adults grown crusty and cynical with age. When Jesus recommended that the apostles emulate the little child set in their midst, Jesus reminded them of the innocence that they had long since outgrown. Indeed, their innocence had been replaced by ambition as to who was most important among them. By offering the example of the child and by calling them to be the servants of all, Jesus challenged them to rethink their attitude toward Him, toward God and toward one another. Those who would rank first among them as leader must become the least among them. (Sanchez files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “Franz Josef, a poor sinner in need of the mercy of God”—This is a story that I have often heard told in various forms over the years, and that I recently had the opportunity to verify in person during a visit to the Franciscan Church in Vienna: For 900 years, members of the mighty Hapsburg dynasty ruled over large parts of Central and Eastern Europe—an area that would sometimes be known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The majority of the Hapsburg rulers (including the last reigning Hapsburg, the Empress Zita, who died in 1989) are buried in the subterranean crypt of a Church (the Kapuzinergruft) run by the Capuchin order of Franciscan monks (the crowned skull at left is part of one of the Hapsburg coffins). Hapsburg funerals were distinguished by a particularly solemn and evocative ritual. As the funeral procession approached the (closed) Church doors, an imperial dignitary would knock and seek admittance. “Who is it who seeks entrance?” a monk would call out from within the Church. “It is His Royal Highness, Franz Josef, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria and Hungary,” the dignitary would answer; the monk would reply, “I do not know him”. A second time, the dignitary would knock, and a second time the monk inside would ask who sought entry to the Church. “His Serene Majesty, the King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia and Galicia, the Protector of Jerusalem and the Grand Duke of Tuscany and Krakow…” (the list included more than 30 titles)—to which the monk again replied, “I do not know him”. A third and final time, the official knocked on the doors, and the monk once more asked the identity of the person seeking admission to the church. This time, however, the official answered humbly, “Franz Josef, a poor sinner in need of the mercy of God”—at which point the doors of the Church were swung open, the funeral procession was allowed to enter, and the Requiem Mass could begin. Father Gerry Pierse, CSsR; http://www.bible.claret.org/liturgy/daily/sundays_pierse/cycleB/B_25thSunOT.htm) –The model of greatness in the kingdom of God, presented by Jesus in today’s Gospel, is the powerless child. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Persecution of the just: Elie Wiesel, Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner tells a disturbing story in one of his books about Auschwitz. As soon as children arrived by train at Auschwitz, together with the elderly and the sick, they were immediately selected for the gas chamber. On one occasion a group of children were left to wait by themselves for the next day. A man asked the guards if he could stay with the children during their last night on earth. Surprisingly, his request was granted. How did they spend that last night? He started off by telling them stories in an effort to cheer them up. However, instead of cheering them up, he only succeeded in making them cry. So, what did they do? They cried together till daybreak. Then he accompanied the little ones to the gas chamber. Afterwards he returned to the prison yard to report to work. When the guards saw him, they burst out laughing. –The story has most of the ingredients of our reading. In it we see the brazenness of the evil-doers, the persecution of the innocent, and the apparent triumph of evil, which is the subject of the first reading. The man’s heroic act of service towards the little ones shines out in the darkness of Auschwitz. He risked his life to befriend the little ones. He had no answers to give them, no salvation to offer them. All he could do was suffer with them and accompany them on their last journey. Though he was an ordinary person with no rank or status of any kind, he was undoubtedly the greatest person in that sad place on that sad occasion. What made him great was his goodness. (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “If you had not gone to feed the people, I would have left!”(Story for children): 1: A story is told about a Monk who longed to see Jesus in person, and who prayed every day that Jesus would appear to him. Each day he prepared a meal for the many hungry people who came to the gate of his monastery.  Then one day, as he was about to serve a meal to the hungry people, Jesus appeared to him in the kitchen.   At that moment, the bell at the gate rang, telling the monk that the hungry people had arrived. The monk was in a real dilemma:  should he stay and speak with Jesus or go and serve the hungry people.   The bell rang again, and the monk quickly made up his mind.  He hurried to the gate and served the meal he had prepared.   When he had finished, he was saddened by the thought that he had turned his back on Jesus.  When he returned to the kitchen, however, he found Jesus there waiting for him.  “Lord,” he said, “I thought that you would have left when I went to feed the people.”  “No,” Jesus replied, “If you had not gone to feed the people, I would have left!” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees.”   Once upon a time there was a squire who longed to be a knight. He wanted to serve his king and be the most honorable and noble knight who ever lived. At his knighting he was so overcome by dedication that he made a special oath. He vowed to bow his knees and lift his arms in homage to his king and him alone. This knight was given the task of guarding a city on the frontier of the kingdom. Every day he stood at attention by the gate of the city in full armor. Years passed. One day as he was standing at attention guarding his post, a peasant woman passed by with goods for the market. Her cart turned over spilling potatoes and carrots and onions everywhere. The woman hurried to get them all back in her cart. But the knight wouldn’t help the poor woman. He just stood at attention lest he break his vow by bending his knees to help pick up the woman’s goods. Time passed and one day a man with one leg was passing by and his crutch broke. “Please help me noble knight,” he requested. “Reach down and help me up.” But the knight would not stoop or lift a hand to help lest he break his vow. Years and decades passed, the knight was getting old. One day his grandson came by and said, “Grandpa pick me up and take me to the fair.” But he would not stoop lest he break his vow to the king. Finally, after years the king came to visit and inspect the knight. As the king approached the knight stood there at attention. The king inspected him but noticed that the knight was crying. “You are one of the noblest knights I have ever seen why you are crying?”   “Your majesty, I took a vow that I would bow and lift my arms in homage to you, but I am unable to keep my vow. These years have done their work and the joints of my armor are rusted. I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees.”   With the loving voice of a parent the King replied, “Perhaps if you had knelt to help all those who passed by and lifted your arms to embrace all those who came to you, you would have been able to keep your vow to pay me homage today.”  — Do you want to be God’s number one? Then practice stooping. Practice the art of humility. Reach down to give a hand to someone in need. Sacrifice your wants for the needs of another. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) Episcopal careerism vs child-like innocence: Father John R. Donahue, (www.americamagazine.org): The Gospel reminds the Church today of the dangers of ambition and posturing for positions of power. In recent years the genie of ecclesiastical ambition has been again let out of the bottle, so much so that Cardinal Gantin, dean of the College of Cardinals and former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, deplored episcopal careerism and said he was shocked by bishops seeking promotion from smaller to larger dioceses (America 6/19/99), a view echoed two months later by Cardinal Ratzinger … Yet the pilgrim Church of God’s people continues the work of justice, and the unprotected and vulnerable are welcomed and protected. Jesus has many unnamed companions today as He follows the path of self-giving for others that leads through death to resurrection. Only humility exalts. (Geneva Notes). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) True Greatness: King Oscar II, monarch of Sweden and Norway at the turn of the century, enjoyed visiting schools and talking informally to the pupils. Calling on a village school one day, the king asked the pupils to name the greatest kings of Sweden. The answers were unanimous: Gustavus Vasa, Gustavus Adolphus, Charles XII. The teacher was embarrassed with the response, so she leaned over to one little boy and whispered something in his ear. “And King Oscar,” proclaimed the child. “Really? And what has King Oscar done that is so remarkable?” asked the King. ” I-I-I don’t know.” stammered the confused child. “That’s all right, my boy,” said the king. “Neither do I.” (Denis McBride; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) All God’s Children: There is a legend told about Abraham in the Mideast. According to the legend, he always held off eating his breakfast each morning until a hungry man came along to share it with him. One day an old man came along, and of course Abraham invited him to share his breakfast with him. However, when Abraham heard the old man say a pagan blessing over the food, he jumped up and ordered the old man from his table and from his house. Almost immediately, God spoke to Abraham. “Abraham! Abraham! I have been supplying that unbeliever with food every day for the past eighty years. Could you not have tolerated him for just one meal?” — We are all children of God. God has no grandchildren! (Jack McArdle in And that’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “Do you know who I am?”: When Nelson Mandela was a student lawyer in Johannesburg, he had a friend whose name was Paul Mahabane. Mahabane was a member of the African National Congress (ANC), and had the reputation of being a radical. One day the two of them were standing outside a post office when the local magistrate, a white man in his sixties, approached Mahabane and asked him to go buy him some stamps. It was quite common in those days for a white person to call on a black person to perform a chore. Paul refused. The magistrate was offended. “Do you know who I am?” he said, his face turning red with anger. “It is not necessary to know who you are,” Mahabane replied. “I know what you are.” The magistrate boiled over and exclaimed, “You’ll pay dearly for this,” and then walked away. — That white man was convinced that he was superior to Mahabane simply because he was a magistrate. And it had become second nature to him to expect others, especially if they were black, to serve him, ignoring the fact that both were God’s children. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “It can be hard work at times, but I enjoy it.” In Ireland, foster care is the preferred option for children and young people in care. Foster families open their homes to a child or young person who comes to live with them. This can be for a short time until the birth families are in a position to provide safe care for their child, or in some circumstances children/young people will need to be in care for a longer period of time. There was a woman in Dublin who in 1988 started short-term fostering –she works for a Catholic Adoption Agency. She receives the baby when he/she is two or three days old, and usually has the baby for three months. Then the baby is taken back by the natural mother, or adopted, or goes to long-term fostering. This dear woman, by no means well-off, has fostered in a short time, over forty babies. She says, “It can be hard work at times, but I enjoy it.” She enjoys it because she does it with love. —“Anyone who welcomes one of these little children, welcomes Me”, would be a fitting epitaph of her life. (Flor McCarthy, New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Pope St. Gregory the Great, the servant of all: Pope St. Gregory I is one of three popes to whom the faithful have assigned the adjective, “the Great.” If the term “great” is appropriate for a man of colossal ability and effort who accomplished many wonderful things, it is well applied to St. Gregory. Born to a noble Roman family in the sixth century, he was first engaged as a public official in a Rome and an Italy that were almost falling apart because of the invasions of Germanic peoples from the north. Then he turned away from governmental work and became a monk. But the then-reigning pope did not allow him to remain long in the quiet of his beloved monastery. He sent him as papal ambassador to the emperor at Constantinople. When Gregory returned to Rome, he showed such skill as a churchman that in 590 AD he himself was elected pope, though he tried to avoid the office, fearing its heavy responsibility. Because he was so conscientious, his thirteen years as pope proved a godsend for the Church and for Europe. His influence was wide in a hectic era. He was in regular contact with the Frankish rulers of France. He sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to preach Christianity to the Angles and Saxons in Britain. He organized the defense of Italian cities against the Germanic Lombards. He did not hesitate to upbraid the Roman emperor at Constantinople for his acts and oppression. Meanwhile, in an Italy that was impoverished and fatherless, he became its leader, seeing to it that the farmers were treated justly, the Jews were defended, the poor were fed and clothed – even at the cost of selling the silverware of the churches. Nor did he forget his spiritual duties. He was a great preacher, a writer of popular spiritual books, a reformer of Church personnel and a reviser of the liturgy (the Gregorian chant of the Church gets its name from him). At the end of his life Gregory was ill and reduced to skin and bones, but he still kept on. Why? Because he considered himself not the lord of God’s people, but (as he always signed himself) the “Servant of the Servants of God.” That is why he merited the title “the Great.” — As today’s Gospel reminds us, “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain … the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).(Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Why would Jesus choose a young child as a role model (in effect) for what it means to be “servant”? Jesus is really challenging his followers to reconsider the cultural “wisdom” of first century Palestine! This was an “honor and shame” society, and “humility” was not the “in” word! But this is what Jesus urges the apostles to embrace: a willingness to serve others, rather than to compete for more “honor.” My brother deacons and I have a special fondness for the word “servant” used in this Gospel (Mk 9:35), because this is where our word diakonos or “deacon” comes from. A “servant” is one who obeys and humbly accepts a servant relationship with all humankind. But this is not limited just to Deacons! ALL Christians are called to be “servant,” just like Christ. This is what real and true Discipleship is all about. To “obey” means to “listen” (Lat., obedire), to be open to anything that God might ask you to do to build up the Body of Christ. It means submitting and consecrating your will to Jesus Christ. To be “humble” means to live with a spirit of deference, putting your gifts and talents at the disposal of others, rather than vying for privileges and recognition. So when Jesus chose to identify Himself with a young child as an example of what He meant by “servant,” it was a radical break with cultural expectations. Children had no legal status, no honor, and no rights whatsoever. The message was clear: if you want to be a Disciple of Jesus, and agree to Jesus’ life of obedience and humility, then you will be risking – even anticipating – being ignored, reviled, and maybe even attacked (1st Rdg: Wis 2:12,17-20). But with Jesus as a role model, what else could you expect? No one is greater than his Master. (Deacon). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) “ God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death and carries us to eternal life!” This is an amazing true story, about the mother of a 10-day old baby who one day heard an explosion. The mother ran into the bedroom, but the baby wasn’t there. She was puzzled to see the window open—it was a very cold night—but before she could make the connection between the empty crib and the open window, a fire engulfed the bedroom and the mother rushed out of the house with the other children. The baby was never found; and the investigators eventually concluded that the fire consumed the baby. But the mother never believed it. Six years later, the mother happened to be attending a birthday party. There she met a bright-eyed, energetic six-year-old girl who looked very much like her own children; and she began to feel that this child might be her daughter. So, pretending the little girl had gum in her hair, she pulled a few strands of hair and then contacted the police. The police lab tested the hair samples and found that the girl’s DNA matched the mother’s. The little girl was indeed her daughter had been kidnapped six years before, and that the kidnapper had set fire to the bedroom to distract from the abduction. — Now the point of this bizarre yet true story is simple Evil and suffering mysteriously befall the innocent family –- all of a sudden, the baby disappears, but the mother never gives up on finding her child. And despite all kinds of disappointments and discouragements, she continues to hope. And almost miraculously she finds her daughter six years later. In a similar way, God loves us and never gives up on us –- in the midst of evil and suffering, problems and difficulties, failures and disappointments, threats and fear to the point of death. When we are lost to God or wander away, God relentlessly pursues us, and God pursues us until God catches up with us and leads all of us to our ultimate destiny. So, with great Faith and Hope in God we proclaim, “God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death and carries us to eternal life!” (Fr. Lakra). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) To such as these: It was a hard but heroic task for Catholics in Elizabethan England to keep up the practice of their Faith. By law, everybody was supposed to belong to the Anglican State Church. Therefore, the only solution for Catholics was to have priests go around in disguise from place to place, offering Mass in private homes at no small risk. The English Catholics did receive spiritual rewards for their spiritual daring. Jesuit Father William Weston, one of the courageous English missionaries, tells the story of a fascinating thing that occurred at a Mass celebrated in a secret “Mass-house” by his fellow Jesuit Father Leonard Hyde. Father Weston got the account from Father Hyde himself. This Mass was offered around the end of 1685. Among the householders and Catholic friends who attended, with great devotion, there was a small child. The child, evidently a boy, watched wide-eyed all that was going on at the altar and among the participants. At the end of Mass, he went up and tugged his mother’s skirt. “Mother, Mother” he said. “What’s the matter, child?” the mother asked him. “Didn’t you see? Didn’t you see?” “See what?” she replied. “That wonderful little baby! It was so beautiful … like nothing you have ever seen before. Uncle priest put it in Father’s mouth. Father took it, and it disappeared. Oh, what a pity!” He kept repeating “Oh, what a pity! ” It was clear that he was deeply moved, and most sad to have the beautiful infant that he saw in the consecrated host disappear. — When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the little children from clustering about him, they were doubtless trying to spare Him annoyance. But what He saw in the little ones was mankind at its most innocent. Only if grownups retained or recovered this innocence of eye, could they hope to look on God face-to-face! “It is to such as these,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “that the kingdom of God belongs.” One day in 1685 He lifted the veil of eternity for a moment to prove His point. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 51) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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

 

September 13-18 weekday homilies

Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed Sunday and weekday homilies.

Sept 13-18: Sept 13 Monday (St. John Chrysostom, Bishop, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-chrysostom : Lk 7:1-10: 1 After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at the point of death. 3 When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.”6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes; and to another, `Come,’ and he comes; and to  my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I  found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

Context: Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s slave, described in today’s Gospel, shows us how God listens to our Faith-filled prayers and meets our needs. Centurions were reliable, commanding officers, brave captains in charge of 80 soldiers in the first century AD.. They were the backbone of the Roman army. According to Luke’s account (Lk 7:1-10), this centurion loved the Jews, respected their religious customs, built a synagogue for them, loved his sick servant, trusted in Jesus’ power of healing, and was ready to face the ridicule of his fellow-centurions by pleading before a Jewish rabbi.

The remote healing: The centurion asked Jesus to shout a command, as the centurion did with his soldiers, so that the illness might leave his servant by the power of that order. Jesus was moved by the centurion’s Faith-filled request and rewarded the trusting Faith of this Gentile officer by performing a telepathic healing. When we ask for  the intercession of the saints, we are like the centurion,  acknowledging that we are not worthy, by our own merits, to stand before the Lord and bring Him our request, trusting in His healing love and forgiveness.

 Life message: 1) We need to grow to the level of the Faith of the centurion by knowing and personally experiencing Jesus in our lives. We do so by daily meditative reading of the Bible, by our daily personal and family prayers and by frequenting the Sacraments, especially the Eucharistic celebration. The next step to which the Holy Spirit brings us is the complete surrender of our whole being and life to Jesus whom we have experienced, by rendering loving service to others seeing Jesus in them. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 14 Tuesday (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/-Exaltation-of-the-Holy-Cross : John 3:13-17: USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

Introduction: We celebrate this feast of the Exaltation of the Cross for two reasons: (1) to understand the history of the discovery and recovery of the True Cross and (2) to appreciate better the importance of the symbol and reality of Christ’s sacrificial love, namely, the cross in the daily life of every Christian.

History: The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of twelve “Master feasts” celebrated in the Church to honor Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. This feast is celebrated to memorialize the first installation of the remnants of the true cross of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Mount Calvary, September 14, AD 335, and its reinstallation on September 14, AD 630. The original cross on which Jesus was crucified was excavated in AD 326 by a team led by St. Helena, the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine. The Emperor built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Calvary, it was consecrated on September 14, AD 335, and the remains of the cross were installed in it by Archbishop Maccharios of Jerusalem. After three centuries, the Persians invaded Jerusalem, plundered all valuables and took with them the relic of the Holy Cross. In AD 630, Heraclius II defeated the Persians, recaptured the casket containing the holy relic and reinstalled it in the rebuilt Church which was destroyed by Muslims in 1009. The crusaders rebuilt it as the present Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 1149. The largest fragment of the holy cross is now kept in Santa Croce Church in Rome

The first reading today describes how God healed the complaining Israelites through the brazen serpent. In today’s Gospel, answering the question raised by Nicodemus, Jesus cites the example of how, when the Israelites were in the desert, the impaled brazen serpent (representing the healing power of God), which God commanded Moses to raise, saved from death the serpent-bitten Israelites who looked at it (Numbers 21:4-9). Then Jesus explains how He is going to save the world by dying on the cross.

Life messages: 1) We should honor and venerate the cross and carry it on our person to remind ourselves of the love of God for us and the price Jesus paid for our salvation. 2) The cross will give us strength in our sufferings and remind us of our hope of eternal glory with the risen Lord. With St. Paul, we express our belief that the “message of the cross is foolishness only to those who are perishing” (1Cor 1:18-24), and that we should “glory in the cross of Our Lord” (Gal 6:14). 3) We should bless ourselves with the sign of the cross to remind ourselves that we belong to Christ Jesus and to honor the Most Holy Trinity, asking the Triune God to bless us, save us and protect us. 4) The crucifix should remind us that we are forgiven sinners and, hence, we are expected to forgive those who offend us and to ask for forgiveness whenever we offend others or hurt their feelings. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 15 Wednesday (Our Lady of Sorrows or Mother of Sorrows) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/our-lady-of-sorrows/: Jn 19:25-27 or Lk 2:33-35: USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

Today we remember the spiritual martyrdom of the Mother of Jesus and her participation in the sufferings of her Divine Son. Mary is the Queen of martyrs because she went through in spirit all Jesus suffered during His Passion and death, her spiritual torments were greater than the bodily agonies of the martyrs, and Mary offered her sorrows to God for our sake. The principal Biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. Many early Church writers interpret the sword prophesied by Simeon as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross.  In the past, the Church celebrated two feasts to commemorate separately 1) the spiritual martyrdom of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout her life as the mother of Jesus and 2) her compassion for her Divine Son during his suffering and death. The devotion to the Seven Dolors (sorrows) of Mary honors her for the motherly sufferings she endured during the whole life of Jesus on earth. In 1239 the seven founders of the Servite Order took up the sorrows of Mary who stood under the Cross as the main devotion of their religious Order. Originally, this day was kept on the Friday before Good Friday. It was Pope Pius XII who changed the date of the feast to the 15th of September immediately after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  The nineteenth-century German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich claimed to have received a vision in which Mary actually kisses the blood of Jesus in the many sacred places on the way of the cross. In his film, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson was inspired by this vision and pictures Claudia, Pontius Pilate’s wife, secretly handing Mary cloths to collect the blood of Jesus from the streets of    Jerusalem.

The seven sorrows: There are seven times of great suffering in Mary’s life. These events remind many parents of their personal family experiences of sorrow and mourning for their dear children. 1) The prophecy of Simeon, 2) The flight into Egypt, 3) The loss of the Child Jesus at Jerusalem, 4) Meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, 5) The standing at the foot of the Cross, 6) The descent of Jesus from the Cross, and 7) The burial of Jesus.

Life message: 1) On this feast day let us pray for those who continue to endure similar sufferings that they may receive from God the strength that they desperately need to continue to carry their spiritual crosses. Let us try to enter into the sorrowing hearts of the mothers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Nigeria and other terrorist-haunted nations and the mothers in the United States and other countries grieving for their children, soldiers and civilians alike. 2) Let us also remember with repentant hearts that it is our sins which caused the suffering of Jesus and Mary. [“At the cross her station keeping,/ Stood the mournful mother weeping, / Close to Jesus to the last.// Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, / All his bitter anguish bearing, / Now at length the sword has passed.” (Stabat Mater)] (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 16 Thursday (St. Cornelius, Pope) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-cornelius ) & St. Cyprian, Bishop (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-cyprian) , Martyrs): Luke 7: 36-50: 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of  woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” 41 …43 … USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: The central theme of today’s Gospel is an invitation to repent, do penance, and renew our lives, instead of continuing to carry the heavy baggage of our sins. This Gospel celebrates the gift of God’s forgiveness. Our God is a God Who always tries, not to punish, but to rehabilitate, so that we may be made whole and experience inner peace and harmony.  The sinner at the feet of Jesus: The Gospel story tells of a woman of the streets who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and perfumes them with costly oil. In sharp contrast, the host, Simon the Pharisee, has purposely omitted these Jewish customs of welcoming a guest.  When one invited a Rabbi to one’s house, it was normal to place one’s hand on his shoulder and give him the kiss of peace, to bathe his feet (Palestine is a very dusty country), and to burn a grain of incense or put a drop of attar of roses on his head. Jesus contrasts Simon’s rudeness with the prostitute’s public expression of repentance, and says that the repentant woman’s sins are forgiven because of her love. By telling the short parable of the two debtors, Christ teaches us two things–His own Divinity and His power to forgive sins. The parable also shows the merit the woman’s love deserves and underlines the discourtesy implied in Simeon’s neglecting to receive Jesus in the conventional way.

Life messages: 1) We can accept or reject the mercy of God: We are challenged to accept or reject the mercy of God. We often share Simon’s mentality by displaying an attitude of lovelessness and harshness.   We need to love Jesus because Jesus is the one and only Savior who has died for our sins. 2) We need to be grateful to our forgiving God: Our serious attempts to avoid the near occasions of sin will be both the proof of our sincere repentance and the expression of our gratitude to the merciful God who has forgiven our sins. 3) We need to cultivate a forgiving attitude towards our neighbor: Although it is not easy, we must learn to forgive those who hurt us if we want to be able to receive the daily forgiveness we need from a merciful God (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 17 Friday (St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Doctor of the Church (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-robert-bellarmine)): Luke 8: 1-3: 1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone  out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus began his preaching and healing ministry in the company of the twelve Apostles and a group of women volunteers.  Luke’s Gospel pays special attention to women. The female following of Jesus was out of the ordinary at the time and place where Jesus lived. In those days, strict rabbis would not speak to a woman in public, and very strict ones would not speak to their own wives in the streets or public places.  In his Gospel, Luke describes several women around Jesus, like Mary’s kinswoman, Elizabeth, the prophetess Anna, the sinful woman, Martha and Mary, the crippled woman, the woman with hemorrhage, the women who supplied the needs of Jesus and his Apostles out of their own resources, and, in the parables, the woman kneading yeast into the dough, the woman with the lost coin and the woman who tamed the judge.

The ministry and the associates: Jesus started preaching the “Good News” that God His Father is not a judging and punishing God, but a loving and forgiving God Who wants to save mankind through His Son Jesus. Luke mentions the names of a few women who helped Jesus’ ministry by their voluntary service and financial assistance. Some among them were rich and influential like Joanna, the wife of King Herod’s steward, Chuza. We meet Joanna again among the women who went to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection (Luke 24:10). Some others like Mary of Magdala were following Jesus to express their gratitude for the healing they had received from Jesus. It was a mixture of different types of women volunteers who were attracted by the person and message of Jesus. They supported the work of proclaiming the Gospel by providing food and other material assistance to Jesus and the Apostles who proclaimed the Gospel by word and deed and by their communal and shared life. It is nice to know that our Lord availed Himself of their charity and that they responded to Him with such refined and generous detachment that Christian women feel filled with a holy and fruitful envy (St. J. Escriva).  At crucial moments, Jesus was better served by the women disciples than by the men.

Life message: 1) The evangelizing work of the Church needs the preaching of the missionaries and preachers, feeding and leading the believers in parishes. This work also needs the active support of all Christians by their transparent Christian lives, fervent prayers and financial assistance. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 18 Saturday: Luke 8: 4-15: 4 And when a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while  and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives us the parable of the sower, the seeds sown, and the yield depending upon the type of soil. It is the first parable of Jesus in the New Testament about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also a parable interpreted by Jesus Himself. This parable was intended as a warning to the hearers to be attentive, and to the apostles to be hopeful, about Jesus’ preaching in the face of growing opposition to Jesus and Jesus’ ideas. The sower is God—through Jesus, the Church, the parents, and the teachers. The seed sown is the high-yielding word of God which is also “a sharp sword” (Is. 49: 2), “two-edged sword” (Heb 4: 12), and “fire and hammer” (Jer 23:29).

Soil type and the yield: The hardened soil on the footpath represents people with minds closed because of laziness, pride, prejudice, or fear. The soil on flat rock pieces represents emotional types of people who go after novelties without sticking to anything and are unwilling to surrender their wills to God. “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).  The soil filled with weeds represents people addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, those whose hearts are filled with hatred and jealousy or the greed that makes them interested only in acquiring money by any means and in enjoying life in any way possible.  The good and fertile soil represents well-intentioned people with open minds and clean hearts, earnest in hearing the word and zealous in putting it into practice. Zacchaeus, the sinful woman and the thief on Jesus’ right side, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier, among others, fall into this category of the good soil.

Life message: Let us become the good soil and produce hundred-fold harvests by earnestly hearing, faithfully assimilating and daily cultivating the word of God we have received, so that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruits in our lives.  (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

O. T. XXIV (B) September 12 Sunday homily

O.T. XXIV [B] (Sept 12) Sunday Homily on Mark 8:27-35 (LP/21)

Introduction: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as our acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus suffered, died and rose again to become our Savior. Finally, it outlines the three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus.

Scripture lessons summarized: Jesus saw aspects of His own life and mission foreshadowed in Isaiah’s Servant Songs. Hence, a large portion of the Third Song of the Suffering Servant is presented as the first reading today, while in the Gospel, Jesus foretells his passion, death and Resurrection for the first time, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in him as God’s Messiah and Savior. Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus’ lived a life of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 116), the Psalmist invites us to turn to the Lord for help amidst the trials of this world.  It is in God that we will find deliverance from trouble and relief from our afflictions.  (Ps 116). Today’s second reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James explains how our Faith in Jesus, the Messiah, should help us to alleviate the sufferings of others by our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. In the Gospel, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in Jesus as God’s Messiah and Savior, Jesus foretells for the first of three times his passion, death and Resurrection which lie ahead.  Today’s Gospel consists of two sections: 1) the Messianic confession of Peter, who acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” and 2) Jesus’ prediction of his passion, death and Resurrection, followed by Jesus clear teaching on the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”

Life Messages: 1) Jesus wants to become a living, present Reality for us, loving us, forgiving us, helping us, transforming our lives and outlook, and building a personal relationship with each of us. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior needs to become a living, personal experience for each Christian drawing each of us to loving response. The relationship deepens and grows as we listen to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, speak to Jesus in our daily, personal and family prayers, offer Jesus our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and seek reconciliation with Jesus, asking forgiveness for our sins every night and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Eucharistic celebration today, we are celebrating and experiencing in our lives the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior. 2) We need to surrender our life to Jesus Whom we experience as our Lord and Savior: The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus Whose love we have experienced by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, good and bad, realizing that God’s love shapes every event of our lives.

OT XXIV [B] (Sept 12) Is 50:5-9a; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “Who do you say that I am?” When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch), he arrived at a Church barbecue. It was late afternoon, and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman who was serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken? “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I am starved,” the governor said. “Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.” Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the Governor of this state.” “And do you know who I am?” the woman answered. “I am the lady-in-charge of the chicken. Move along, Mister.” — In the above story, the governor and the lady-in-charge of the chicken, each tries to exert authority over the other by revealing his/her identity  — who each is — and emphatically demanding,  “Do you know who I am?” In the Gospel Reading of today from St. Mark, Jesus asks the apostles the same very question as regards His identity: “Who do you say that I am?” but completely in a different  context. For, Jesus was not exerting personal authority over them, but asking of these men who had shared Jesus life for an extended time a simple and straightforward question. (Fr. Lakra). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: Baby powder and Christian powder: Yakov Smirnoff is a comedian from Russia. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip with my friend, I saw milk powder; you just add hot water, and you get milk. Then I saw orange powder; you just add cold water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country, you add water to a tin of powder and get a baby!’” — Smirnoff was joking on a comedy show. But some televangelists, preach such instant Christian transformation, leading to eternal salvation. According to this belief, when someone surrenders one’s life to Christ, accepts Christ as one’s personal God and Savior and confesses one’s sins to Jesus, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character and one becomes “born again” Christians  fully eligible for eternal salvation. Unfortunately, there is no such Christian powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. They are saved by their faithful and lifelong cooperation with the grace of God, given for doing good and avoiding evil and for obeying His commandments. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains what his disciples should do: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” [Adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, (Baker, 1997), p. 55-57.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: Shakespeare and Jesus. It was the 19th century British essayist, Charles Lamb, who snatched the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from his undeserved obscurity, returning him to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb was once involved in a discussion on the question of who the greatest literary genius of all time had been. Two names finally emerged: William Shakespeare and Jesus of Nazareth. Lamb put an end to the debate when he said: “I’ll tell you the difference between these two men. If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would all rise to greet him, but if Christ came in, we would all fall down and worship.” — There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all the other great people you can think of. Jesus Christ is God, and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting. Today’s Gospel describes who Jesus really is and gives us the unique conditions for Christian discipleship. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus suffered, died and rose again to become our Savior. Finally, it outlines the three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. Jesus saw aspects of His own life and mission foreshadowed in Isaiah’s Servant Songs. Hence, a large portion of the Third Song of the Suffering Servant is presented as the first reading today, while in the Gospel, Jesus foretells His passion, death and Resurrection for the first time, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in Jesus as God’s Messiah and Savior. Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus lived a life of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 116), the Psalmist invites us to turn to the Lord for help amidst the trials of this world.  It is in God that we will find deliverance from trouble and relief from our afflictions.   Today’s second reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James explains how our Faith in Jesus, the Messiah, should help us to alleviate suffering in others by our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. Today’s Gospel consists of two sections: 1) the Messianic confession of Peter, who acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ (Messiah,) the Son of the living God.” and 2) Jesus’ prediction of his Passion, death and Resurrection, followed by a clear teaching on the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”

First reading: Isaiah 50:4c-9a, explained: In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, in chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. In their original context, the songs were probably composed to help Israel see itself in the role of the servant. Through degradation and suffering, Israel could become for the rest of the world God’s message of liberation and salvation. But Jesus saw aspects of His own life and Messianic mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. Hence, this section of the third song is presented as the first reading today, while in the Gospel, Jesus foretells for the first time His passion, death and Resurrection, after Peter has professed his Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Jesus identifies Himself and mission with the sorrowful figure of humiliation and suffering, the Lord’s suffering servant. Like that servant, Jesus’ life is one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah.

Second Reading: James 2:14-18, explained: Today’s reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James tells us that our Faith in Jesus the Messiah should be expressed in alleviating others’ suffering through works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. In other words, professing Faith in the Divinity of Christ as our Redeemer is useless, unless we practice that Faith in genuine deeds of the love, mercy, forgiveness. and humble service Jesus lived and demonstrated. As Christians, we are obliged to meet the material needs of poor persons and to alleviate their sufferings. We should respond concretely to the needs and sufferings of our fellow humans. Otherwise, our Faith is all talk and no action. “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James is not refuting the Pauline doctrine of salvation by Faith but warning us that a lifeless or an unlived Faith has no power to save (v. 14) us from judgment.

Gospel exegesis: The context: This Sunday we begin a series of seven Sunday Gospel readings from Mark’s account of the journey of Jesus and the apostles from northern Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus gave them instructions about His identity and what it meant to follow Him (discipleship). Today’s Gospel, relating the first of Jesus’ three prophecies of the passion, death and Resurrection. This instruction consists of two sections: The Messianic confession of Peter and Jesus’ prediction of His Passion, death and Resurrection, followed by a clear teaching on discipleship.

Two pertinent questions in a pagan pilgrimage center: In Matthew and Mark, Jesus asked two questions about His identity. The incident occurred at Caesarea Philippi, presently called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. This city was founded by King Philip, the son of Herod the Great, to perpetuate his own memory and to honor the Roman emperor Caesar. It was situated on a beautiful terrace about 1150 feet above sea level on the southwest slope of Mount Hermon overlooking the Jordan valley. The city was a great pilgrimage center for pagans because it held temples for the Syrian gods Bal and Pan, the Roman God Zeus, and a marble temple for the emperor Caesar. Jesus realized that if the apostles did not know who He really was, then the entire Messianic Mission of ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, Jesus decided to ask a question in two parts.

The first question: “What is the public opinion?” Their answer was, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” John the Baptist was so great a figure that many Jews, and Herod their king, thought that John’s spirit had entered the body of Jesus. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets was believed to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  [“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”(Mal 4:5).] It was believed that, before the people went into exile, Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of incense out of the Temple, and hidden them away in a lonely cave on Mount Nebo; before the coming of the Messiah, he would return and produce them, and the glory of God would come to the people again (2 Mc 2:1-12). In 2 Esdr 2:18 (an apocryphal work), the promise of God is: “For thy help I will send my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah.”  The phrase, “one of the prophets,”   suggested that Jesus had a ministry like that of the former prophets. When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah they were, according to their lights, paying Jesus a great compliment, for Jeremiah and Elijah were the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.

The second question: “What is your personal opinion?” For the first time in their relationship, Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to recognize Jesus publicly as the Anointed One (also translated Messiah or Christ).  Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah. To say that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed one of God was to say that He was the Immanuel, the Salvation of God — God who became Man to save sinners!  It is evident that Jesus was well pleased with Peter’s answer, for Jesus first pronounced a blessing upon Peter, the only disciple in the Gospels to receive a personal blessing. “Blessed are you, Simon son of John!” Next, Jesus confirmed Peter’s insight as a special revelation from God. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but My Heavenly Father.” However, Jesus was quick to explain to the disciples that, instead of being a political Messiah who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom after ousting the Romans, He was the suffering Messiah who would redeem mankind by death and Resurrection. Like the Suffering Servant in the first reading, Jesus accepted suffering out of fidelity toward the One Whom He called Father, as part of the Messianic mission. Jesus’ example provides a challenge for us all to accept the mystery of the cross when our turn comes to follow the Suffering Servant and Suffering Messiah.

No suffering, no death, please: The Jewish religious tradition did include a certain amount of suffering and rejection on the part of its religious leaders. One finds this in several references to Moses and the prophets (Ex 16:2; 17:2-4; Jer 11:18-19; 20:7-10; Mt 23:37). The concept of suffering or self-sacrifice as having a saving effect was also present in the Jewish tradition (Ex 32:32; Is 53:5, 10, 12). But it received explicit expression in Christian Messianism, not only in the Gospels, but also in the Acts of the Apostles (8:32), and in the Epistles (Rom 5:6-8; Gal 3:13; 1 Pt 2:24-25). Jesus rebuked Peter when Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from such a course. For Jesus, this was yet another temptation in the guise of a close friend’s counsel. It tested Jesus’ commitment to the mission which His Heavenly Father had entrusted to Him. “Jesus rejected the term “Messiah” if it meant a political, nationalistic leader. Jesus consistently rejected that program as a diabolical attempt to divert him from His God-given mission.” (Reginald Fuller).

The three conditions for Christian discipleship: To counter the opposition expressed by Peter and to emphasize the fact that Jesus was not the political, conquering Messiah of Jewish expectations who would bring perfect peace and justice, put an end to all suffering and death, and provide perfect joy and happiness in this world, Jesus turned to the wider audience of the crowd gathered with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi and emphatically declared the stringent conditions to be met by his disciples. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Christian discipleship demands honesty of a disciple in order for him to practice self-control (“to offer our bodies as a willing sacrifice to God”), willingness to suffer, and readiness to follow Jesus by obeying Jesus’ commandment of love. A) Denying self: This means, with God’s grace, evicting selfish thoughts, evil desires and tendencies from our heart and filling it with God. In addition, also with God’s grace, it means cleansing ourselves of all evil habits, enthroning God in our hearts, and sharing Him with others. B) Carrying of the cross with Jesus: First, it means gracefully accepting that suffering without bitterness, as a part of our lives. Second, it means that we may not, in our suffering, pass on any bitterness to those around us. Third, it means that we must accept some other deaths before our physical death, that we are invited to let some parts of ourselves die. Fourth, it means that we must wait for the resurrection to receive the eternal reward for our suffering. A Christian life of service is carrying one’s cross in the footsteps of Jesus. Our sufferings become the cross of Jesus with its saving power when we suffer with Jesus by dying to our self-centeredness through serving others selflessly, enduring physical or mental pain and illness without complaint, and offering these sufferings to God in reparation for sin. We also offer penitential practices to God for the same intentions for ourselves and for the world. C) Following Jesus: This means that, as followers of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God by obeying what is commanded by Jesus. Jesus’ predictions about Christian suffering would have had particular meaning for Mark’s audience who would experience their fulfillment in both the horrors of the Jewish war against Rome and the persecution under Nero, when Christians were used as torches to light Nero’s garden.

Life Messages: #1: We need to ask ourselves Who Jesus is and what Jesus means to us. Founder of a religion? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal Savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions:  “How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook? What difference does Jesus make in my life?  Have I really given my life to Jesus?  Are there areas where I have excluded Jesus, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is through our daily life? Who do we say that Jesus is when we are in the presence of those who don’t know Jesus, those who aren’t interested in Jesus? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives?  We are gathered here today in the Name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a continuing memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration in which we encounter directly the Living God. “The salvation which Christ has already won for all is not yet complete. It must be accepted, embraced and acted out in the free lives of believers today.” (Catechism for Filipino Catholics).

2) We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to Jesus. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior needs to become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible, with the grace of God, by our listening to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by our talking to Jesus through daily, personal and family prayers, by our offering to Jesus our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and by our being forgiven by and reconciled with Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus through rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, good and bad, realizing that God’s love shapes every event of our lives.

# 3: We should be ready to take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Do we 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 God Who loves me?”  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? Can we offer even the day-to-day sacrifices asked by Jesus when they demand things we don’t want to do?  Can we sacrifice some of our time in order to visit Jesus in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can we sacrifice our job security and refuse to “go along” with a policy that is unjust? Can we sacrifice our need to be in control and let Christ do with us what He will? Can we refuse to let our children watch television programs filled with sex and violence?

Jokes of the Week

# 1: “Who do you say that I am?” On Sunday morning a man showed up at Church with both of his ears terribly blistered. So, his pastor asked, “What happened to you Jim?”
“I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.”
“How dreadful,” gasped the pastor. “But how did the other ear get burned?”
“Well, you see, I’d no sooner hung up, the guy called back!” — He just didn’t get it. Lots of folks never get it and never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That’s why Jesus is pressing His followers — and us with a challenging question in today’s Gospel: “Who do you say that I am?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke).

2) “I see millions of stars:” The story is told of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a camping trip. As they lay sleeping one night, Holmes woke Watson and said, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson said, “I see millions of stars.” Holmes asked, “And what does that tell you?” Watson replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. And what does it tell you?” Holmes answered, “Someone stole our tent!” Some people are great at speculative knowledge but when it comes to its implication for practical living they score zero. Such is Peter in today’s Gospel.

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

  1. Where is it in the Bible? https://www.catholicbible101.com/thetencommandments.htm

2)About Catholics: http://www.aboutcatholics.com/ 3) Catholic Spirit: http://thecatholicspirit.com/ 4) Catholic culture: http://www.catholicculture.org/ 5) Vatican on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/vatican

6)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

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

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

8) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: (Type https://sundayprep.org on the topmost URL column in Google search or YouTube Search and press the Enter button. Do not type it on You Tube Search column or Google Search)

WhoDoYouSayIAM_web cross05 Who do you say i am?

32- Additional anecdotes:

1) Who do you say I am? Jeremy Bowen could not be more wrong, and Bono could not be more right! Bowen, the presenter of a British Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Jesus Christ, said, “The important thing is not what Jesus was or what he wasn’t – the important thing is what people believe him to have been. A massive world-wide religion, numbering more than two billion people follows his memory – that’s pretty remarkable, 2,000 years on.” (Alex Webb, “Looking for the Historical Jesus,” BBC News Online, March 26, 2001.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, asked if he believes the claim of Jesus’ Divinity is farfetched, replied with this statement: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually, Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: “No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher. Don’t call Me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: ‘I’m the Messiah.’ I’m saying: ‘I am God Incarnate.’ So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was – the Messiah – or a complete nutcase. [Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (New York: Riverhead, 2005), p. 108.] Bowen could not be more wrong, and Bono could not be more right! Who Jesus is and what He did is the foundation of Christian Faith. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Larry King to interview Jesus Christ: Barbara Ann Walters, the first female evening news anchor on The ABC Evening News and ABC commentator on news specials, once asked the CNN talk show host Larry King, “If you could interview anyone in history, who would it be?” King replied with unguarded honesty: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Her next question was, “If you could ask him one question, what would it be?” After a brief pause, he responded, “I think I would like to ask him, ‘Were you truly virgin born?’ because if he was, that would change everything.” Larry King was correct. If the accounts of the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection of Jesus are true, then they change everything. It means that He was more than a man; consequently, His words are absolutely authoritative. It means that what He said about life and death, God and the devil, sin and salvation, and heaven and hell is true. — Today’s Gospel describes the great profession of Faith made by Peter recognizing Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, and the Son of the Living God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Who do Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam say that I am?” The first two groups claim to be Christian, and Islam speaks about Christ. But all of them have a confused Christology. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly called the Mormons, incorporates the Lord’s name in its title, but its beliefs about Jesus are fatally flawed. A basic compendium of the Mormon gospel, entitled Mormon Doctrine, was written by apostle Bruce Redd McConkie, an influential Mormon theologian. According to McConkie, Mormons believe that “Lucifer, the son of the morning, is our elder brother, and the brother of Jesus.” The Journal of Discourses, a 26-volume Mormon publication presenting public sermons by many early Mormon leaders, includes such statements as this: “Jesus, our elder brother was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our father in Heaven.” The same volumes assert, “Jesus was married at Cana of Galilee and had many wives … he also had many children.” From these writings, it is clear that the Mormons fail the test when it comes to answering Jesus Christ’s question, “Who do you say I am?” (v. 29). Ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Who do you say Jesus is?” The Jehovah’s Witness publication, New Heavens and New Earth, declares by way of response, “Michael the Archangel is no other than the only begotten Son of God, now Jesus Christ.” Consider the religion of Islam. Ask the Muslim who Jesus is and the answer we get from official publications is “Jesus was no more than a mortal whom Allah favored and made an example to the Israelites. They are unbelievers who say God is Messiah, Mary’s son” (Sura 43:59, Quran). Until people see Jesus as Peter did, as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” they miss the mark. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “She thinks I’m real!” A waitress at a restaurant was taking orders from a couple and their young son. The father and mother gave their luncheon selection and gratuitous instructions as to what was to be substituted for what, and which dressing changed to what sauce. When she finally turned to the boy, he began his order with a kind of fearful desperation. “I want a hot dog-” he started. And both parents barked at once, “No hot dog!” The mother went on. “Bring him the Lyonnais potatoes and the beef, both vegetables, a hard roll and . . .” The waitress wasn’t even listening. She said evenly to the youngster, “What do you want on your hotdog?” He flashed an amazed smile, “Ketchup, lots of ketchup, and-and bring a glass of milk.” “Coming up,” she said as she turned from the table, leaving behind her the stunned silence of utter parental dismay. The boy watched her go. Then he turned to his father and mother and with astonished elation said, “YOU KNOW WHAT? She thinks I’m real! She thinks I’m real!” [The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990).] — When we answer this question like Peter, when we accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of our lives, then all that Jesus taught, all that Jesus promised, all that Jesus preached becomes real in us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “Vox populi, vox Dei”?: “Jesus asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets’ ” (vv. 27b-28). Vox populi, vox Dei means “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” It is the foundational philosophy that stands behind every system of democracy that has ever been established. But, is it true? Are the people, always right? Indeed, we can ask, “Are the people, ever right?” Consider, for example, these confused determinations by people some consider “experts”: a) IBM: Thomas Watson, president of IBM, said when IBM unveiled its first computer, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Or, this: “We went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, built with some of your parts, what do you think about funding us? Or, pay our salary and we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So, we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t even finished college yet.'” That was Steve Jobs speaking about attempts to get Atari and Hewlett-Packard interested in a computer model later called Apple! Imagine, computer giants like Atari and Hewlett-Packard missed it! b) Telephone: In 1876, an internal memo circulated among Western Union executives. It originated with the head of that company and read in part, “The so-called ‘telephone’ device is a fad. It has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value.” c) FedEx: Fred Smith submitted a term paper proposing the reliable overnight delivery of packages using a fleet of airplanes. His Yale business professor returned that term paper with a grade of ‘C’ on the top and this comment below: “This concept is interesting and well-written, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” Fred Smith left Yale and founded FedEx! d) Mrs. Fields’ Cookies: Debbi Fields pitched an investment banker to help her find funding for a start-up, mall-based cookie store called Mrs. Fields’ Cookies. The banker replied, “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you are planning to make.” e) The Beatles: A Liverpool music group called The Beatles auditioned for a Decca Records’ agent in 1962. He told them, “We don’t like your sound. Frankly, guitar music is on the way out.” There are many more examples to demonstrate that the voice of the people – even the voice of the leaders among the people – is not guaranteed to be right or reliable. The majority is often wrong. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) A menu of sorts: In today’s Scripture lesson of a question and answer, we’re given a menu of sorts. We’re given a menu and then we’re to make a choice which reminds us of two restaurant orders. a) A woman went into a restaurant and ordered the breakfast special, “I want my pancakes well done,” she said. “You need to cook them all the way through and golden brown on both sides. Use the light syrup because the regular syrup is too sweet. Make the bacon crisp and thin, not oily or soggy and put it on a separate plate. The eggs must be over-easy, not broken or runny.” “And would you like butter or margarine?” asked the waitress. The woman answered, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; I’m not that picky.” (Parables, Etc.). b) A guest in an expensive seaside-hotel breakfast room called room service one morning and placed a breakfast order: “I want two boiled eggs, one of them so undercooked it’s runny, and the other so overcooked, it’s about as easy to eat as rubber; also grilled bacon that has been left on the plate to get cold; burnt toast that crumbles away as soon as you touch it with a knife; butter straight from the deep-freeze so that it’s impossible to spread; and a pot of very weak coffee, lukewarm.” The person taking the order said, “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s a rather strange and complicated order, and it might be a just little bit difficult to fill.” To which the guest replied, “Oh, but that’s exactly what you gave me yesterday!” [The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), February1998).] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” We must carry a cross to remind us that we are responsible in part for the cross that Jesus carried. When Rembrandt painted his famous work of the crucifixion called “The Three Crosses” which now hangs in the Louvre in Paris he did something most unusual. Among the faces in the crowd beneath the cross, he painted himself. That was his way of saying that he could not envision the crucifixion without admitting that he had a participation in it. Unfortunately, there are some who never see that. They identify with the Christ on the cross, rather than the Rembrandt in the crowd. That haunting old Negro spiritual gives the refrain “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The emphasis is on the you. If we were to be perfectly honest, we would have to answer, “Yes, I was there. Yes, I had a role in this.” It is only as we come to that understanding that we can then sing the last part of the hymn: “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” I must so identify with the event of the crucifixion as to see myself in the story. It is not simply His story; it is our story as well. That is why Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to take up our crosses and follow him. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “Deny yourself and take up your cross”: The University of Chicago did a five-year study of leading artists, athletes, and scholars. Directed by Dr. Benjamin Bloom, the research was based on anonymous interviews with the top twenty performers in various fields. These people included concert pianists, Olympic swimmers, tennis players, sculptors, mathematicians, and neurologists. Bloom and his team of researchers from the University of Chicago probed for clues as to how these achievers developed. For a more complete picture, they interviewed their families and teachers. The report stated conclusively that drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to the extraordinary success of these individuals. Bloom noted, “We expected to find tales of great natural gifts. We didn’t find that at all. Their mothers often said it was another child who had the greater talents.” What they found were extraordinary accounts of hard work and dedication: The pianist who practiced several hours a day for seventeen years; the swimmer who rolled out of bed every morning at half past five to do laps for two hours before school, etc. [Dr. Denis E. Waitley, Winning the Innovation Game (New York: Berkley Books, 1986).] In another study, when the nation’s top achievers were asked to rate the factors they consider most important in contributing to their own success, hard work emerges as the highest-rated factor. Not talent or luck but hard work. Psychologists followed the careers of violinists studying at the Music Academy of West Berlin. By the time they were 18, the academy’s best students had already spent about 2,000 more hours in practice, on average, than had their fellow students. That is denying yourself and taking up a cross. Business Guru Tom Peters recalls a wonderful story of a musician, it may have been cellist Pablo Casals, who died at almost one hundred years of age. The morning he died he was downstairs practicing at 6:00 a.m. “That’s just lovely,” says Peters. — It is lovely, if being the best at what you do is important to you. So we have a choice. We can heed part of Jesus’ words, “Deny yourself and take up your cross,” and have all the success this world has to offer. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Jesus wants us to be the very best of whatever we choose to be, as long as it does not cost us our souls. There is a better way, however. Use Jesus as your guide. Follow Jesus. Deny yourself by giving yourself for others in Jesus’ name. That’s where real happiness lies. That’s what ultimate success is all about. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Through the cross and a fellow-believer, he found the strength: Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his non-fiction, autobiographical trilogy, Gulag Archipelago, described his life in a Siberian prison. At one point he was so physically weak and discouraged that all he could hope for was death. The hard labor, terrible conditions, and inhumane treatment had taken their toll. He knew the guards would beat him severely and probably kill him if he stopped working. So, he planned to help them by simply stopping his work and leaning on his shovel. But when he stopped, a fellow Christian reached over with his shovel and quickly drew a sign of the cross at the feet of Solzhenitsyn, then erased it before a guard could see it. Solzhenitsyn later wrote that his entire being was energized by that little reminder of the hope and courage we find in Christ through the cross. It was a turning point. Through the cross and a fellow believer, he found the strength and the hope to continue. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) The cross symbolizes Faith, Hope and Love: The people of Lithuania take their cross-bearing a little more seriously than we do. For them, the cross symbolizes Faith, Hope and Love. There are crosses are everywhere in the countryside, on roads, in city parks and village squares. Communities and individuals erect crosses to bring them health and to commemorate events like weddings, births and christenings. Crosses are also erected to commemorate historical events. One of these is the Baltic Way, in which millions of people linked hands stretching across the Baltics from Estonia to Lithuania on August 25, 1989. About 9 monuments commemorate this extraordinary event. The nation’s pride is the Hill of Crosses, located north of Siauliai. Lithuanians erected crosses there as early as the mid-19th century. The Soviet government couldn’t tolerate that kind of spiritual expression, so they totally destroyed the hill in 1961, then again in 1973 and 1975. But people kept erecting more crosses, until in 1980 their destruction stopped. Today the crosses number in the thousands. They are different sizes and shapes, some simple, some ornate, but they immortalize Lithuania’s troubles, misfortunes, joys, hope and Faith. (Http://lithuanian-american.org/folklife/crosses.htm) For the Lithuanian people, the cross is more than a symbol in the Church. It is symbol for the world to see, a symbol that will not go away. It is a symbol of sacrifice, a sacrifice that gives each and every one of us Hope and Faith and courage. (Billy D. Strayhorn, At Cross Purposes). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “Those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” When Communist forces invaded Vietnam in the 1950s, Hien Pham, like many Vietnamese Christians, was arrested and jailed for his beliefs. After his release from prison, Pham made plans to escape Vietnam. He secretly began building a boat. Fifty-three fellow-Vietnamese made plans to escape with him. One day, four Vietcong soldiers came to Pham’s house and confronted him. They heard he was planning an escape. Was it true? Of course, Hien Pham lied to them. If he had told the truth, the Vietcong might have killed him and arrested the other fifty-three people. But after the soldiers left, Pham felt very uneasy. Had God really wanted him to lie? Didn’t he trust that God would provide for him under any circumstances? Even though it made no logical sense, Pham believed that God wanted him to tell the truth, even at the risk of his own life. So Hien Pham resolved that if the Vietcong soldiers returned, he would confess his escape plans. Hien Pham chose to bear a particular cross, the cross of honesty. He chose to sacrifice safety for faithfulness. He finished building his boat, and his friends made the final plans for their daring escape. To their horror, the Vietcong soldiers returned and demanded to know if the escape rumors were true. Hoping against hope, Hien Pham confessed his plans. Can you imagine his surprise when those four soldiers replied, “Take us with you!” That evening, Hien Pham, his fifty-three friends, and four Vietcong soldiers made a daring escape under cover of night in a homemade boat. But that’s not the end of the story! They sailed straight into a violent storm. Pham reports that they would have all been lost, if it hadn’t been for the expert sailing skills of, you guessed it, the four Vietcong soldiers. The escapees landed safely in Thailand. Eventually, Hien Pham emigrated to the United States, where he made a new life for himself. [Ravi Zacharias. Deliver Us from Evil (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), pp. 191-194.] — He proved the truth of verse 35: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “Get behind me Satan:” It’s encouraging to know that someone of Peter’s stature and importance in the early Church, could walk the walk so well with his foot in his mouth. What we have to remember is that Peter was human, and even the greatest of humans make mistakes. — Henry Ford changed the world. He changed how things are assembled, marketed and how we travel. But did you know he forgot to put a reverse gear in the first car he invented? Not only that, but he didn’t build a door wide enough to get the car out of the building he built it in. If you go to Greenfield Village, you can still see where he cut a hole in the wall to get the car out. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) 12% of Americans are “highly spiritually committed.” According to research conducted by George Gallup, 12% of Americans are “highly spiritually committed.” They are those who truly understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Gallup says the members of this group are “a breed apart from the rest of the populace in at least four ways: 1. They’re happier. 2. Their families are stronger. 3. They’re more tolerant of people of different races and religions. 4. They’re community-minded.” — They’re involved in service to others. That is cross-bearing that really makes a difference. (Rev. King Duncan). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) “Where were you during the critical days of the struggle?” During the dark days of World War II, England had a great deal of difficulty keeping men in the coal mines. It was a thankless kind of job, totally lacking in any glory. Most chose to join the various military services. They desired something that could give them more social acceptance and recognition. Something was needed to motivate these men in the work that they were doing so that they would remain in the mines. With this in mind, Winston Churchill delivered a speech one day to thousands of coal miners, stressing to them the importance of their role in the war effort. He did this by painting for them a mental picture. He told them to picture the grand parade that would take place when VE Day came. First, he said, would come the sailors of the British Navy, the ones who had upheld the grand tradition of Trafalgar and the defeat of the Armada. Next in the parade, he said, would come the pilots of the Royal Air Force. They were the ones who, more than any other, had saved England from the dreaded German Luftwaffe. Next in the parade would come the Army, the ones that had stood tall at the crises of Dunkirk. Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. And someone, he said, would cry from the crowd, “And where were you during the critical days of the struggle?” And then from ten thousand throats would come, “We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.” — We are told that there were tears in the eyes of many of those soot-laden coal miners with their weathered faces. They had been given a sense of their own value by the man at the top. Service does not always come with big fancy ribbons. And I think that it is forever true, that it is often the humble acts of service that provide us with the deepest sense of joy and the most fulfilling satisfaction. Jesus said “Whoever loses his life for My Sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” I am persuaded that true discipleship is found in the coal mines with our cross upon our backs. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) “Take up your cross and follow Me”: “In the rolling hills of northern New Jersey stands a small Church with a large, stone cross cut into an inside wall. Now, it happened that one of the Church’s wealthier members didn’t like the cross there and said it was an eyesore. He offered to give a huge donation to the Church in order to take the cross out of the wall and replace it with a stained-glass window. But when he presented his idea to the Church’s parish council members, they said to him, ‘We cannot do what you ask. The architect designed the Church to have this cross; it gives strength to the wall. If you take away the cross, you will destroy the Church.'” [Rev. Erskine White, The Victory of the Cross (CSS Publishing Company, 1991).] — The Architect of our salvation designed the Church to have the cross. The cross gives strength to the Church. Take away the cross and you do not have a Church. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) Applause for the brave woman: Eleven people, so goes the story, were dangling from a rope beneath a helicopter in a rescue scenario. Being rescued were ten men and one woman. Word came down from the pilot that one of the eleven would have to let go; if not, everyone would perish. The woman spoke right up and said her whole life had been one of sacrifice — for her children, husband, and parents — and now she would be willing to sacrifice one last time by letting go. With that, the ten men applauded! — The story’s point? Never underestimate the power of a woman! Never underestimate the power of the Gospel because it too is full of surprises, reversals, paradoxes, and strategies that on the surface don’t seem to make sense. “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 and that of the Gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:35). There we have the paradox. If you try really hard to save your life, you are going to lose it in the process. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) “What good is it,” asked Jesus, “for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Adam Burtle, a University of Washington student, sold his soul for $400 on the Internet before the listing was removed and he was suspended from the site. “Please realize, I make no warranties as to the condition of the soul,” he had written. “As of now, it is near mint condition, with only minor scratches. Due to difficulties involved with removing my soul, the winning bidder will either have to settle for a night of yummy Thai food and cool indy flicks or wait until my natural death.’’ EBay has blocked similar auctions in the past, but somehow Burtle’s offer slipped through. The bidding started at 5 cents. Burtle’s former girlfriend bid $6.66 but she was overtaken in the final hour of the auction when a Des Moines, Iowa, woman bid the price of Burtle’s soul to $400. “I don’t think she’s going to be able to collect on my soul, to be honest,’’ Burtle said, adding he didn’t intend for the ad to be taken seriously. “I was just bored, and I’m a geek,’’ he added. “So anytime I’m bored, I go back to my Internet.’’ (The Associated Press, 2001 & http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2001-02-09-ebay-soul.htm ) — My guess is that over the centuries many people have sold their soul simply and solely because they were bored. Talk about a bad bargain! “What good is it,” asked Jesus, “for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Charlemagne’s death wish: King Charlemagne lived from 742 to 814 A.D. He conquered much of Western Europe, including France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain. Everywhere Charlemagne’s troops went, they spread education and the Christian religion. His rule unified and stabilized much of Europe, making him one of the most powerful rulers in history. Yet, in spite of all of Charlemagne’s power, he arranged at his death to have his body displayed with his hand resting on our verse for today: “What good is it, for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” [William Beausay II, The Leadership Genius of Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), p. 45.] — Charlemagne knew such an exchange was a bad bargain indeed. This is more than a material world. As the eminent Jesuit philosopher-scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, put it so memorably, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Research for some scientific proof of a soul of a human body: Some of you may know the story of James Kidd. James Kidd was a lonely man. He lived on the edge of deprivation. He spent most of his life in a rugged copper mining town in Arizona. But Kidd was deeply troubled. On January 2, 1946, he sat down and wrote out his will. Four years later he disappeared and was never heard from again. Authorities responsible for the settlement of his will, sixteen years after his disappearance, discovered that he had left almost $200,000 for “research for some scientific proof of a soul of a human body which leaves at death.” [Bruce Shelley, All The Saints Adore Thee (Baker Books, 1988), p. 46.) — You will find the soul in the same place you find love, hope, peace, joy and a host of other positive emotions. You can capture none of these emotions in a test tube, but we know they exist. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) “I will show you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul.” Paginini, the great violinist, came out before his audience one day and made the discovery just as the applause ended that there was something wrong with his violin. He looked at it a second and then saw that it was not his famous and valuable violin, but a cheap substitute. He felt paralyzed for a moment, then turned to his audience and told them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain thinking that it was still where he had left it, but discovered that someone had stolen his violin and left this old secondhand one in its place. Paginini remained back of the curtain for a moment, then came out before his audience and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I will show you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul.” And he played as he had never played before; and out of that secondhand instrument, the music poured forth until his audience was enraptured with enthusiasm, and the applause almost lifted the roof off the building, because the man had revealed to them that the music was not in the machine but in his own soul. [Anthony P. Castle, ed., “Go Tell Everyone,” in Quotes and Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers, p. 207. Cited by Fuller, Gerard, O.M.I. Stories for All Seasons (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1996), pp. 128-129.] — The soul is who you are. It is the God-created spirit within us that will never die. Your soul is what makes you distinctive. You are more than a nose and a mouth and a pair of ears, etc. You have a distinct personality. Even if we could eliminate all your physical characteristics, you — the real you — would still exist. That’s your soul. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) “Jesus is more than a man.” Napoleon Bonaparte was entertaining a number of his generals at dinner. The superb meal of pheasant and wines was done. Napoleon and his guests were drinking cognac and smoking cigars. A discussion began about Christ. Napoleon listened intently but said nothing. Most of the guests dismissed the Nazarene as merely a man. Then their emperor said, “Gentlemen, you are wrong. I know men. Jesus is more than a man.” — Our religion is not a matter of knowing about Jesus. It is one of knowing Him. Napoleon was one of those who intuitively knew that the Christ was more than human. (Fr. James Gilhooley) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22)  Readiness to face death: When the Berkenhead sank, Alexander Russell, a young officer aged seventeen, was ordered to command one of the boats which carried women and children. As they were pushing off, a sailor who was drowning clasped the side of the boat, but there was no room for even one more. A woman on the boat cried: “Save him! He is my husband.” Russell rose, jumped clear of the boat, and amidst a chorus of “God bless you!” he sank in the water, which was full of sharks and was seen no more, the sailor being pulled in to take his place. — In today’s second reading, James insists on the necessity for action for the Christian. Our faith must find its expression in service to others, especially the needy. Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself.” (Anthony Castle in More Quotes and Anecdotes (quoted by Fr. Botelho. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) What do we believe we are? What will we be? There were three young trees growing together in the forest. They were young, healthy, and ambitious. They compared their dreams. One wanted to be part of the structure of a castle or a palace, so it would be a spectator in the lives of the high and mighty of society. The second wanted to end up as the mast in one of the tall ships, sailing around the world with a great sense of adventure. The third hoped to end up as part of some public monument, where the public would stop, admire, and take photographs. Years passed by, and all three were cut down. The first was chopped up, and parts of it were put together to form a manager for a stable in Bethlehem. The second was cut down, and the trunk was scooped out to form a boat, which was launched on the Sea of Galilee. The third was cut into sections, two of which were put together, to form a cross on Calvary. Each had a unique and special part to play in the one great story of redemption. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) “Send me Lord”…. Mrs. O’ Reilly received the news that one of her neighbors was seriously ill. She said to the person who gave her the news, ‘Tell her that I’ll remember her in my prayers, and that I hope she’ll soon be feeling better.’ And she was as good as she promised. She prayed very sincerely and fervently for her neighbor. She said to God, ‘Lord, I want to commend my neighbor to you. She’s very seriously ill. She needs a lot of help, a lot of support.’ When she finished her prayers, she felt better. And yet, something was bothering her. She sat down to think about it. Then she fell into a dream-like state in which she heard God saying to her, ‘I can see that you’re very concerned about your neighbor.’ ‘Yes, Lord, I really am,’ she replied with no little pride. ‘And I understand that your neighbor is in great need of help,’ said God. ‘So I’ve been told,’ said Mrs. O’Reilly. ‘You know, what she most needs is someone to spend a little time with her,’ said the Lord. ‘You’re absolutely right Lord. I was thinking the same myself,’ Mrs. O’Reilly answered. ‘Now when you asked Me to help her, you weren’t expecting Me to come down from Heaven to visit her, were you?’ ‘No, Lord, I wouldn’t expect you to do that. Nor would my neighbor expect it either. In fact, I think the shock of it might kill her.’ ‘But she does need someone to call on her?’ ‘She does, Lord.’ ‘Whom can I send?’ After a long pause, Mrs. O’Reilly said, ‘Send me, Lord.’ When she woke up from her dream, she knew exactly what she had to do. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) Never deserting Lord and Savior: Two travelers were on the road, when a bear suddenly appeared. Both ran as fast as they could. One dashed to a tree by the side of the road, climbed up and hid in its branches. The other was not able to climb and hide. So he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead. The bear came and sniffed the man lying on the ground. The man kept perfectly still and held his breath knowing that a bear will not touch a dead body. The bear took him for a corpse and went away. When the coast was clear, the traveler who hid on the tree went down and asked his companion, “What did the bear whisper to you when he put his mouth close to your ear?” The companion replied, “He told me never to travel again with a friend who deserts you at the first sight of danger!”(Fr. JS Benitez). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Double Lives: G. K. Chesterton has a story about a popular philanthropist. The main reason for his popularity was his unfailing good humour. No one bothered to ask how he managed to be always happy. They assumed he was born an optimist. But then one day he was found dead in mysterious circumstances. Foul play was immediately suspected. However, the case completely baffled the police. Eventually it was Chesterton’s unlikely detective, Fr Brown, who solved the case. His verdict – the man committed suicide. At first the people refused to accept Fr Brown’s verdict. They couldn’t imagine how such a happy man could commit suicide. But then it emerged that there was a serious side to the funny man. The man who made others laugh was in fact a deeply depressed man. But he could never tell anyone how he really felt. The man had two lives. One was open, seen and known by all, the other secret, and known only to himself. In public he was the man who smiled at everyone. But in private he was wounded and desperate. He felt he had to live up to people’s expectations in return for their attention and esteem. He was never able to be himself. Finally, he realized that his whole life was based on a lie. The strain of trying to maintain the public image became so great that he could no longer cope with it. So he committed suicide. (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

27) Cross-loving saint: St John of the Cross, in the final years of his short life, asked God for three favors: not to die as a superior of any Carmelite monastery; to die in a place where he was unknown; and to die after having suffered much. All these requests were granted in their entirety. In the last years of his life – he died at the age of 49 – he was stripped of all office by his superiors, and some even attempted to have him expelled from the Order which he himself had helped reform. He was sent to a house where nobody knew him, where the superior disliked him, installed him in the worst cell in the monastery and complained bitterly of the expense to the community caused by his ill health. Finally, the suffering of the saint worsened as his legs and back became ulcerated. Realizing that death was near, John, instead of seeking medical care, called for the prior, and begged his pardon for all the trouble and expense he had caused him. The prior in turn was moved to ask forgiveness and left the cell in tears, a changed man, so much so that he was later to die in the odor of sanctity. That same night, without agony or struggle, John yielded up his spirit to his Creator. — All of this does not immediately answer the question, “Why does God permit suffering?” Perhaps we could begin to see its meaning if we framed the question differently. “Would John of the Cross, whose example has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the 400 years since his death, would John have had the same influence on Christianity if the cross had never come into his life?” The answer has to be no, because suffering is something sacred; it confers upon all whom it touches the most intimate resemblance to the suffering Christ, whose cross saves the world. (Biblical IE). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

28) “Hey, Faith without works is dead.” A senior priest I know, I’ll call him Father A, tells this story of his first experience at a healing service: A skeptic himself regarding the charismatic movement, he was attending the service to humor his buddy, Father B, who had suggested that Father A might find some relief for his chronic indigestion. The presider was a well-known exponent of the charismatic healing ministry. After a period of hymn singing and community prayer, she invited people who were experiencing something that needed healing to come forward for a laying-on of hands. A number of the congregation began to form a line, but Father A was not among them. Fr. B nudged him and said, “A, go on up. You’ve got nothing to lose, and it might help your stomach.” Fr. A finally relented, approached the healer, submitted himself to the laying-on of hands, returned to the pew—and promptly popped a Gelusil into his mouth. When Fr. B responded to that gesture with a look of disapproval, Fr. A explained, “Hey, Faith without works is dead.” — This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that the life of Christian discipleship involves works of a certain kind: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”( Dennis Hamm, SJ). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) This recall and investigation cost the company $189 million. In 2001, the CEO of Baxter International, a medical supply company, made a decision that cost his company $189 million. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, like many crooked CEOs who have been in the news lately, Baxter’s CEO Harry Kraemer must have done something unethical. He must have cooked the books, or drained the company accounts in order to finance his own luxurious lifestyle. No, that’s not it at all. It was Kraemer’s honesty and high sense of ethics that caused him to make such a momentous decision. Executives at Baxter International learned in 2001 that one of the products they manufactured, a filter for a kidney dialysis machine, might have been defective. Some dialysis patients using the Baxter International filter had died of unexplained causes. Rather than covering up the situation, Kraemer recalled all of the filters and instituted a rigorous investigation into the problem. This recall and investigation cost the company $189 million. Kraemer also recommended that his performance bonus for that year be cut, because this situation occurred under his leadership. And to top it all off, he informed all his competitors in the medical manufacturing business of the possible flaws in Baxter’s filters, so that they could benefit from the research his investigation turned up. [John C. Maxwell with Stephen R. Graves and Thomas G. Addington, The Power of One, Workbook (Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004), pp. 15-16.] — Now I know nothing of Harry Kraemer’s religious affiliation. But I do know that is the sort of action that bearing a cross requires. When it is a matter of ethics, the follower of Christ is held to a higher standard than the world. That is why I say that, without the Gospel, it makes no sense to take up a cross. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

30) Never travel again with a friend who deserts you at the first sight of danger!” There is an ancient story in “Panchathanhtra” collection of stories. Two travelers were on the road, when a bear suddenly appeared. Both ran as fast as they could. One dashed to a tree by the side of the road, climbed up and hid in its branches. The other was not able to climb and hide. So he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead.The bear came and sniffed the man lying on the ground. The man kept perfectly still and held his breath knowing that a bear will not touch a dead body. The bear took him for a corpse and went away. When the coast was clear, the traveler who hid on the tree went down and asked his companion, “What did the bear whisper to you when he put his mouth close to your ear?” The companion replied, “He told me never to travel again with a friend who deserts you at the first sight of danger!” — Our Lord then sked His disciples Who they thought Him to be. Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 29).This answer of Saint Peter revealed the true and sincere type of friendship he had with Jesus. Peter knew Jesus better than the people did. For the people, Jesus was a great Teacher, Son of David, miracle worker, one of the prophets and the Holy One of God, but Peter knew Him as God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) See, the Lord is my help: In 1977 the missionary magazine Echo From Africa published a fascinating true story about ten heroic Ukrainian nuns sentenced by Russia to Siberian exile in 1951. Soviet authorities arrested three sisters in the Ukraine and tried to get them to renounce the pope and their religious vows. When they refused, they were condemned to ten years of hard labor in Siberia. At their Siberian prison camp, the atheistic commandant renewed the effort to break these ten women. He called them “dogs of the Vatican,” and ordered them to give up their “idolatry.” Though they angered him by their firmness, they won the admiration of their fellow prisoners by the way they helped the women and girls. They were even able to secretly baptize hundreds of adults. In January 1952, when the Siberian winter was at its coldest (the temperature is usually 50-60 degrees below zero), the camp commander summoned the sisters and announced that since they had proved themselves fanatical agents of the Vatican, Moscow had instructed him to take more severe measures. He told them that they were now to be put into solitary confinement on bread and water until they came around. If this method failed, he would force them to stand in the cold for three hours clad only in their underclothing. The first measure did not work. Therefore, after a week of solitary, the commandant sent them out to stand in the middle of the snowy camp square in the scantiest of clothing. Asked again to sign a statement of “confession,” they still declined. Then they began to sing the Creed. This was too much for the officer, and so he ordered that the savage watch-dogs be unleashed to attack the singing nuns. The blood-thirsty dogs bounded towards the sisters. But when they were six feet away from them, they suddenly stopped and lay down in the snow. A crowd of sympathetic but helpless fellow prisoners had been watching all this. Now they cried “A miracle!” The commandant turned pale, and sent the sisters back to the barracks. There was no further harassment, and eventually they were released. — Once again God had intervened to protect those who had trusted in Him: “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?” (Isaiah 50:9. Today’s first reading.) –(Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

32) I am the Light, and you do not see Me.

I am the Way, and you do not believe Me.

I am the Life, and you do not search for Me.

I am the Master, and you do not listen to Me.

I am the Leader, and you do not obey Me.

I am your God, and you do not pray to Me. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 50) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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 .

 

September 6-11 weekday homilies

Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed Sunday and weekday homilies.

Sept 6-11: Sept 6 Monday: (Labor Day in the U. S.homily on next page): Lk 4:31-37: 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

Context: After the sad experience in Nazareth, Jesus used the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business, as a base for a teaching, healing, and preaching ministery. The people were impressed by the authority with which Jesus taught. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus, as God Incarnate taught using Divine authority and knowledge. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect obedience to the will of God His Father, and absolute confidence in God were the sources and supports of Jesus’ authority. The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism, which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, as God Incarnate, exercised Divine authority to cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” The demon obeyed at once, throwing the man it had possessed to the floor in the midst of the people in the synagogue on its departure. The people were impressed with Jesus’ power and authority that could command even evil spirits.

 Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, demonstrated by His miracles, which in turn give authority and validity to His teaching and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings, even if some of them are mysteries beyond our understanding 2) Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 3) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus the Healer with trusting Faith first, then go to the doctors who are the ordinary instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept first Monday: Labor Day in the U.S.: .:(http://shelbyvillesermons.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ItsLaborDay.pdf)  The first Labor Day was observed on September 5, 1882, to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers and to give them a day off on the last day of the summer. Today, Labor Day unofficially signals the beginning of a new “school” year of work and study and the end of the lazy days of summer. It was President Grover Cleveland who signed a bill into law on June 28, 1894, declaring Labor Day a national holiday.

1) It is a day to acknowledge the dignity and necessity of labor and workers. We participate in the creative act of God by the various forms of work we do, using our God-given talents,  a) The Bible presents God as working six days in the creation of the world and commanding Adam to work six days and rest on the seventh as He had done. b) Jesus, God’s Son, was a professional carpenter. c) Most of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen, and Paul was a tentmaker. d) In an “Inaugural Address” in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus expressed a preferential option for the poor – the working class and those who cannot work. e) Work is necessary for our own wellbeing, for health of body, mind, and spirit. It enables us to support and care for all God has entrusted to us, with His help, and to help those who are less fortunate and unable to work.

f) Works of charity are the main criteria of our Last Judgement: “Whatever you did to one of these least brethren you did to Me.”

2) A day to remember the Church’s teaching on the nobility of work and the necessity of just wages. In the encyclical, Laborem exercens (September 14, 1981), Pope St. John Paul II instructs us that all of us are called to work together for a just society and a just economy which allow us all to share God’s blessings. He reminds us that governments should see that the greed of a minority does not make the life of the majority miserable. He advises labor unions to fight for social and economic justice, better wages and better working conditions.  3) It is the day to remember and pray for the job-less people: There are thousands without work and millions more who are underemployed, working at part-time jobs or jobs that do not pay a decent wage. Society has a moral obligation to reduce joblessness because it is through work that families are sustained, children are nurtured, and the future is secured. Joblessness is also a clear threat to family life. 4) It is an appropriate time to acknowledge and bless the temporal and spiritual work that our parishioners do for their families, for their neighbors and for the parish community. It is also a day to remind ourselves that our workplace gives us an opportunity to practice what we believe, and to display a level of integrity that matches our Faith, thus witnessing to Christ. 5) It is a day to pay attention to a warning: The warning is that we should be aware of the danger in work. If not properly oriented it can make us workaholics, we may turn work into our god or may consider it as an escape mechanism to run away from spouse, children, and neighbors.

Thus, on this Labor Day, let us try to realize the dignity of work, the necessity for work and the dangers involved in work. Let us thank the Lord for the talents and work He has given us to do. Let us pray that we may find joy and satisfaction in our work, realizing that we are co-creators with God and stewards of His creation. By offering our work for God’s glory, let us transform our work to prayer. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 7 Tuesday: Lk 6:12-19: 12 In those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; 18 and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19…. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives a short account of the call of the Apostles and of the preaching and healing mission of Jesus. Jesus was the first missionary, sent by His Father with the “Good News” that God his Father is a loving, merciful, and forgiving Father Who wants to save everyone through His Son, Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how this First Missionary selected and empowered twelve future missionaries as Apostles to continue the mission.

Special features: Jesus selected very ordinary people, most of them hard-working fishermen with no social status, learning or political influence. Jesus was sure that this strange mixture of people would be very effective instruments in God’s hands. Matthew was a hated tax collector serving the Roman Empire, while Simon the Cananaean was a Zealot, a fanatical nationalist or terrorist of those days, determined to destroy Roman rule by any means. The others were mostly professional fishermen with a lot of good will, patience and stamina. It was only Jesus‘ love for them and their admiration and love for Jesus that united them. Jesus selected them after a night of prayer and gave them His own Divine powers of healing and exorcism and made them a key part of His own Messianic mission of preaching the “Kingdom of God.”

Life Messages: 1) God wants to show us that a calling for ministry, or a vocation to priestly or religious life or family life, is an initiative of God. 2) As Christians we have the same mission that Jesus entrusted to his Apostles. 3) We fulfill this mission of preaching the word of God, primarily, by our living out of Jesus’ teachings and by promoting and helping world-wide missionary activities of the Church. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 8 Wednesday: (Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/nativity-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary  Mt 1: 1-16, 18-23: Anecdote: Life magazine estimated that the prayer “Hail Mary” is said two billion times every day, and each year five to ten million people make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  Many others visit Marian sites elsewhere in the world. Mary is prayed to as advocate and helper, and even in the sports area there is a reference to her power: the last desperate pass by a losing football team was once called a “Hail Mary pass.” Mary is also venerated by Muslims. It is reported that when the Prophet Muhammad cleared the idols out of the Kaaba in Mecca, he allowed only a fresco of the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus to remain. In the Qur’an, she is described as having been sent as “a mercy for the worlds.” (http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php?id=15974) & https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2015/12/18/what-islam-really-teaches-about-virgin-mary

History: As one of the oldest Marian solemnities, this feast is based on the second century (A.D. 175), apocryphal book Protoevagelium Jacobi (The Pre-Gospel of James), which reflects the traditions of the early Church, although it is not considered an inspired book.  According to this book, Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. Mary was born either in Jerusalem or in Sephoris, three miles north of Bethlehem.  The Annunciation is believed to have taken place later in the house of Mary’s parents. The feast originated in the fifth century in Syria or Palestine. St. Romanus of Syria is supposed to have brought it to Rome. The Roman Church adopted it in the 7th century and fixed it on September 8th. It is found in the 8th and 9th century Gregorian Sacramentary.

Importance: The feast is the birthday celebration of the mother of Jesus, our Heavenly Mother and the Mother of the Church. It is the birthday of an ordinary woman who was chosen to become the mother of an extraordinary Divine Child. The Church celebrates the death day of a saint as his/her feast day, considering it his/her “birthday in Heaven.” The three exceptions are Jesus’ birthday (Christmas), Mary’s birthday (September 8), and John the Baptist’s birthday (June 24). Mary’s birthday is celebrated because of her Immaculate Conception. John the Baptist, in Elizabeth’s womb, was filled with the Holy Spirit during Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth. We honor Mary because God has done great things for her (Luke 1:49), a) by choosing her as the mother of Jesus His Son, b) by filling her with His Holy Spirit twice, c) by making her the embodiment of all virtues (“full of grace”), and our Heavenly Mother and d) by allowing her to become the most active participant with Christ, her son, in our redemption.  The readings: (Mi 5:1-4 or Rom 8:28-30; Mt 1:1-16, 18-23).  Romans 1:3 states that Mary was a descendant of David, and Matthew’s genealogy in today’s Gospel also supports this truth.

Life Messages: 1) Let us, as Mary’s children, give a suitable birthday gift to our Heavenly Mother. Every mother wants her children to inherit and acquire all her good qualities. Hence, the best birthday gift to Mary is for us to become holy children of a Holy Mother.  2) Let us make this day a day to start practicing Mary’s virtues. Let us practice her virtues of a) trusting Faith in the power of God (“nothing is impossible for God’), b) perfect obedience to the will of God (“be it done to me according your will”). c) the spirit of sacrificial and sharing love and d) the acceptance of suffering  with one hundred percent commitment to her heroic mission. (Fr. Tony) L/21 (Gospel readings suggested: Matthew 1:16, 18-23, 24a or Mt 1: 18-23)

Sept 9 Thursday (St. Peter Claver, Priest, U. S. A.):https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-peter-claver Lk 6:27-38: 27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most  High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the second part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain as given by Luke.  It describes the power of Christian love when exercised by practicing the golden rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This golden rule is amplified by a string of particular commands: 1) “Love your enemiesDo good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.”    Jesus orders us to love our enemies. 2) Show your Christian love to everyone, especially to your enemies by treating them with mercy and compassion because our Heavenly Father is merciful and compassionate to all His children. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.”3) Stop judging and start forgiving.

Life messages: 1) We need to answer the invitation to grace-filled behavior: What makes Christianity distinct from any other religion is the quality known as grace, i.e., our ability to treat others, not as we think they deserve, but with love, kindness, the spirit of forgiveness and mercy. 2) We need to accept the challenges of day-to-day life. Jesus challenges our willingness to endure unjust suffering for His sake and the sake of His Gospel. 3) We need to pray for the strength to forgive. At every Mass we pray the “Our Father,” asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. We must forgive, because only forgiveness truly heals our relationships and heals us. If we remember how God has forgiven us, it will help us forgive others.   4) We need to live our lives in accordance with “the Golden Rule.”   (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 10 Friday: Lk 6: 39-42: He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: In today’s passage, taken from the Sermon on the Plain given in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus condemns our careless, malicious and rash judgments about the behavior, feelings, motives, or actions of others by using the funny examples of one blind man leading another blind man and one man with a log covering his eyes trying to remove a tiny speck from another’s eye.

Reasons why we should not judge others:  1) No one except God is good enough to judge others because only God sees the whole truth, and only He can read the human heart. Hence, only He has the ability, right, and authority to judge us. 2) We do not see all the facts or circumstances or the power of the temptation which has led a person to do something evil. 3) We are often prejudiced in our judgment of others, and total fairness cannot be expected from us.  4) We have no right to judge because we have the same faults as the one we are judging and often to a greater degree (remember the critical man with a wooden beam in his eye?) St. Philip Neri commented, watching the misbehavior of a drunkard: “There goes Philip but for the grace of God.” Abraham Lincoln said that only he has the right to criticize who has the heart to help (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 11 Saturday: Lk 6: 43-49: 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: In today’s passage, taken from the Sermon on the Plain given in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the necessity for cultivating a strong Christian moral character as the foundation of our Christian life.   The teaching: In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus teaches us that the good fruits of Christian virtues, like love, mercy, forgiveness, and service, result only from an upright character trained in and cultivated by the repeated practice of Christian principles. Jesus compares good works with figs and grapes and reminds us that thorny shrubs and bramble bushes cannot produce them.  In the second part, Jesus gives us two warnings: that we must match our profession of Faith with actual obedience to the will of God, and that we must build a life on the firm foundation of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus emphasizes the truth that we should not be mere hearers of the word of God but also consistent doers of that word. In other words, our profession of Faith should match our practice. Jesus compares mere hearers of the word to a foolish man who built his house on a sandy foundation, and the doers of the word to a wise man who built his house on strong and solid rock.

Life messages: 1) We need to be men and women of character with the courage of our religious convictions, doing what is right at all times. Such persons are honest and reliable before God, themselves, and their neighbors. 2) We need to build our family on a strong Christian foundation. There can be no great marriage and no great family without a solid foundation, and that foundation begins with the husband and wife doing and being the love of Christ for each other and for their children. 3)  We need to get ready to face the storms of life: Jesus wants us to follow his words and to build our lives and our families on these words. He wants us to be ready for the storms of life, including, among others, the current Covid-19 pandemic, economic downturns, pension defaults, war, depression both mental and economic, relationships that fade, the deaths of those who love us and whom we love, devastating illness, and protracted disease. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

O. T. XXIII (Sunday, August 29th) homily

O.T. XXIII [B] (Sept 5) Eight-minute homily in one page (L/21)

Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings from Isiah, James and Mark give us two challenges: 1) Ask God’s help to open our spiritually blind eyes, deaf ears and mute tongue. 2) Share in Jesus’ healing ministry by lending to him our eyes, ears, tongues, and hearts.

Homily starter anecdote: The “little monk” Telemachus opened the blind eyes of the  mighty Roman Empire by risking his own life. This V century Turkish monk travelled to Rome to stop the barbarian, entertainment  game of “Gladiatorial fight to death” of slaves, perpetuated by a Christian Roman Emperor and  his Christian citizens.

Scripture lessons: First reading from  Is 35:4-7: Foretelling the future messianic ministry of Jesus, Isiah introduces a God whose eyes are focused on the helpless and who heals the blind, the deaf the lame and the mute.

The responsorial psalm (146) praises a God who gives sight to the blind, raises the downtrodden and welcomes strangers.

The II reading from St. James’ Epistle (2:1-5) reminds us that as shearers in Christ’s healing ministry, we must practice Christian social justice by  showing no partiality by shaming the poor by denying their rights  and by  favoring the rich. Instead, we must practice Christ’s option for the poor.

Today’s gospel story explains how Jesus fulfills prophet Isiah’s prophecy by healing a deaf-mute in six stages in an audiovisual way. Jesus i)separates him from the crowd ii)looks to heaven and groans iii) puts his fingers in his ears iv) applies saliva on his tongue v) pray once again  and vi) gives the command “Ephatha” or “be opened.”

Life messages:1) We need to pray daily for healing from our spiritual blindness to see God’s presence in others, spiritual deafness to attentively listen to the word of God and the cry and needs of others, and our spiritual muteness to praise and worship God loudly and vibrantly during our family prayers at home and our liturgical prayers and hymns during the Holy Mass.

2) We need to share in Jesus’ healing ministry by lending him our eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, our hearts  and all our talents and blessings so that he may use them for granting all sorts of healing to people around us in our homes, parishes, institutions, and society

OT XXIII [B] (Sept 5) Is 35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5;   Mk 7:31-37

Homily Starter Anecdotes: # 1  The “little monk” Telemachus who opened blind eyes of an empire:  At the Annual National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 1984, Ronald Reagan, the former president of the United States, told the old story of “the little monk,” Telemachus, a martyr whose self-sacrificial commitment to Christian ideals opened the blind eyes and deaf ears of the Romans and their fifth century Christian Emperor Honorius. According to the story, this Turkish monk was led by an inner voice to go to Rome in order to stop the cruel and inhuman gladiatorial fights between slaves. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum where two gladiators were fighting.  He jumped into the arena and tried to stop them, shouting, “In the name of Christ, hold back!”   The gladiators stopped, but the spectators became indignant.   A group of them rushed into the arena and beat Telemachus to death.  When the crowd saw the brave little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Three days later, because of Telemachus’ heroic sacrifice of his own life, the Emperor decreed an end to the games. — In today’s Gospel, which describes the miraculous healing of a deaf mute, we are invited to open our ears and eyes, loosen our tongues and pray for the courage of our Christian convictions to become the voice of the voiceless. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”: In the poem, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” (for lyrics & music watch Myra Brooks Welch), tells the story of the auctioning of an old, dusty violin. The violin was about to be sold for a mere $3 when a grey-haired man stepped forward, picked it up, dusted it off, tuned it and began to play. The man played such sweet music that, when he finished, the bidding jumped into the thousands of dollars. What transformed the dusty old violin into a precious instrument? The touch of the Master’s hand. — The same “touch of the Master’s hand” continues to transform our lives today. By God’s touch we become His instruments to accomplish the marvelous works described in today’s Psalm 146: to secure justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry and set the captives free. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
(Touch Of The Master’s Hand, The Booth Brothers)

Well it was battered and scarred and the auctioneer felt
It was hardly worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin
But he held it up with a smile
He said, “It sure ain’t much but it’s all we’ve got left
I guess we oughta sell it too.
Oh, now who’ll start the bid on this old violin
Just one more and we’ll be through.”

And then he cried:
“One, give me one dollar, who’ll make it two?
Only two dollars, who’ll make it three?
Three dollars twice, now that’s a good price
Who’s gonna bid for me?
Raise up your hand now, don’t wait any longer
The auction’s about to end
Who’s got for just one dollar more to bid on this old violin?”

Well, the air was hot and the people stood around
As the sun was setting low
And from the back of the crowd, a gray-haired man
Came forward…(Source: Musixmatch). Music: https://youtu.be/JYgAsSyIibY & https://youtu.be/s8Ud34hc_l0

# 3: The “Ephphatha prayer:” There is a little ritual in the rite of Baptism — alas it is often omitted — whose name and form are taken from today’s Gospel: “The Ephphatha.” The celebrant touches the ears and then the lips of the one to be baptized saying: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He soon touch your ear to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim His Faith.” This simple ceremony captures not only the kernel of today’s Gospel, but a most profound aspect of our Faith: its ‘giftedness’. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#4: “Five past two.” Two older men were talking. One of them was bragging just a little bit. “I just purchased the most expensive hearing aid ever made,” he said. “It is imported and is guaranteed for life.” The second man asked: “What kind is it?” The first man answered, “Five past two.” — We can laugh about the hearing loss that comes with aging. It is a minor problem that will affect most of us sooner or later. In fact, experts predict that years of rock music, leaf blowers, and noise pollution in general will result in millions of baby boomers with hearing loss. According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, there has been a stunning 26 percent increase in those suffering permanent hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 60, compared to 15 years earlier. [With Adam Hanft, Dictionary of the Future (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2001), p. 3.] Today’s Gospel passage tells us how Jesus healed a deaf man who was mute. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings offer us an invitation to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving voice to the voiceless, the needy, and the marginalized in our society.   Today’s Scripture also invites us to open our ears to hear the word of God and to allow the Holy Spirit to loosen our tongues to convey the Good News of God’s love and salvation to others.    The first reading (Is 35:4-7), reminds us that God’s eyes are constantly focused on the helpless.   God especially cares for “the frightened, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute,” and He encourages the powerless to “be strong and fearless.” Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146), sings of a God who gives sight to the blind, raises up those who are bowed down and welcomes strangers. The Psalmist thanks God and asks us to rejoice because “the God of Jacob keeps Faith forever,” keeping His promise of peace and fullness of life for His people. That is why, in today’s second reading (Jas 2:1-5), the apostle gives us some basic, challenging principles of social justice. He exhorts Christians to show no partiality based on external appearance and to practice God’s “preferential option for the poor.” He warns the faithful against scorning or shaming the poor while showing special consideration to the rich.   Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus, by healing a deaf man with a speech impediment, fulfills Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.”  The ailments listed by Isaiah are symbolic of our interior illnesses: blindness to the needs of our neighbor, unwillingness to hear God’s voice and the inability to speak words of praise, apology, forgiveness, and gratitude. Through this miracle story, Mark also reminds us that no one can be a follower of the Lord without reaching out to the helpless (“preferential option for the poor”).

First reading, Isaiah 35:4-7, explained: “When the words, ‘Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing,’ were first spoken by Isaiah of Jerusalem, the immediate reference was the hoped-for return and restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile. By the time of Jesus, those words were understood as pointing to the further restoration of Israel in the messianic age.” (Dennis Hamm S. J.) The Jews are returning to their homeland after decades of exile in Babylon. Their arrival causes great friction with the other tribes already there, especially the Edomites. Hence, Isaiah reminds Israelites that when God leads his people home, He will work miracles on behalf of those who need it most: blind, deaf, lame, and mute persons.  The Lord God’s message expresses the promised redemption in terms of health, healing, and well-being for the disabled. Through Isaiah, He assures them that He blesses their return, and that they should be confident and not fearful. The prophetic admonition opens with one of the most frequent Biblical commands, “Fear not.” The life-giving “streams of water bursting forth in the desert” symbolize whatever is needed to achieve peace and fullness of life. The prophecy gives the Israelites the assurance that God will continue to save them from their enemies, will open their eyes to the reality of what He is providing for them, and will open their ears to what He has to tell them through His priests and prophets. This reading from Isaiah echoes the words of compliment given to Jesus by the people in today’s healing story, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” Mark presents Jesus as the kind of Savior prophesied by Isaiah, one who “makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Second Reading: James 2:1-5, explained: In this very practical pastoral letter, James points out to the members of the Church that they should treat others, whether they are rich or poor, with equal honor and courtesy. James is not writing speculative theology, but reacting to real hurts inflicted on real people, and calling real Christians to a higher level of charity and responsibility. He exposes the sad irony of a Christian’s giving special consideration to someone who is fashionably dressed and wearing gold rings, while shaming the poor man in his shabby dress.  The poor man, James says, is poor in the eyes of the world but rich in Faith because he recognizes his dependence on God for everything and acknowledges that dependence in the way he lives and acts. James insists that Christians “should show no partiality.” In a society like ours, which values people who have much money, great power, and/or celebrity status, James’s admonition turns our cultural assumptions upside-down and inside-out. That’s what makes our showing respect to everyone we encounter, despite social and/or economic status, and our treating all people as children of God, our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, a most valuable, living witness to Jesus who died to save us all. Wealthier Christians, then, should show concern for the poorer members because (in Baptism) God has chosen the poor to inherit the kingdom. At times, the Church was the only place in the ancient world where social distinctions did not exist. Master sat next to slave, poor beside rich.

Gospel Exegesis:  The human touch and the symbolism of Baptism: Today’s section from Mark’s Gospel begins with the healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment and ends with the healing of a blind man in the non-Jewish area of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31-10:52). “Mark uses the highly unusual word mogilalon (literally: with difficulty of speech) to describe the deaf-mute whose healing is recounted in today’s Gospel reading, for mogilalon is precisely the same Greek word used in the Septuagint for the word dumb in Isaiah 35:6.”(Reginald H. Fuller). In a culture where physical disabilities and sickness were commonly interpreted as signs of a person’s sinfulness (as a “curse” from God), many Jews would have considered this man to be stricken by God — a sinner. Hence, Jesus shows tender consideration for the weak by leading the man away from the crowd so as not to embarrass him. The miracle is described in seven ritual-like steps: (1) Jesus leads the man away from the crowd,   (2) puts His fingers into the man’s ears,  (3)  spits on His own fingers,  (4)  touches the man’s tongue  with the spittle, (5) looks up to Heaven,  (6)  sighs,  (7)  and speaks  the healing command: “Ephphatha”  (“Be opened.”) “Jesus humbles himself to share the limitations of this one deaf man. By undignified dumb show, the love of the Lord heals the deaf man’s soul as well as his ears.” (Eleonore Stump). Jesus’ listeners, who were familiar with Hebrew Scriptures, would have recognized another signal in Jesus’ command, “Ephphatha! Be opened!” The ancients believed that words contain power. If translated, the word would lose its power. ‘By reporting the original Aramaic word, Mark underscores Jesus’ power as a traditional healer.’ (Jon J. Pilch). Six centuries earlier, Ezekiel had prophesied, “that day your mouth shall be opened, and you shall be dumb no longer” (Ez 3:27). Why does Jesus carry out this elaborate ritual, while in other miracles simply speaking a word or touching the individual?   It is probably because the man cannot hear Jesus’ voice or express his needs.   People of that day also believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties.  The early Church Fathers saw an indirect reference to Baptism in the way Jesus healed the man. In Baptism, the priest or deacon who baptized us touched our ears and mouths that we might hear the word of God and speak about Christ to others, sharing the “Good News” with the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, and the broken-hearted.

God’s love in action: What we see is not simply the healing of a physical defect, but a concrete sign of the transforming power of God’s Love. The power of God’s Love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, sickness into health, death into new life. The dumb man who is unable to communicate also symbolizes our own communication problem vis-à-vis God. In order to perceive and proclaim God’s message, we need to be transformed. The miracle is not only about the physical healing of a person who was deaf and dumb. It also points to the opening of a person’s ears so that he may hear the word of God and loosening of his tongue so that he may speak his profession of Faith in Jesus. The miracle has great relevance to us, because a person can have perfect hearing, and yet not hear the word of God, have perfect speech, and yet be unable to make an act of Faith.

A challenge for the Church: All three readings speak of a God Who is partial to the voiceless and the afflicted.  Today, however, many of us have lost the ability to recognize the Voice of God calling us for action in our modern society.  We are asked to give hearing and voice to the deaf and the mute.   The person healed becomes a living witness to the power of God. A Church that is to bear witness to the example of Jesus’ love must not neglect “those who are bowed down.”   Through its healing presence the Church must give voice to the voiceless.

Instruction to Keep Silence:   Why did Jesus ask the man to keep silence? Jesus knew that there was still more to be accomplished before the final showdown with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.   If the crowds were to attempt to make Jesus the leader of a revolt, a probable result of spreading the story of this healing around, it would spoil the Heavenly Father’s holy plan. Also, it seems likely that Jesus realized that people could easily misunderstand the healings and could see Jesus simply as a human Messiah figure, a great miracle-worker and healer. In doing so, they would fail to grasp the larger message Jesus had come to preach and live, which included humility and the necessity of suffering and the Cross before Resurrection (Dr. Watson).

Life messages:  1) We need to help Jesus to heal the deaf and the mute today.  Jesus desires to touch and heal us by loosening our tongues in order to speak to the spiritually hungry through us, and to touch the lives of people in our day through our surrendered hearts, just as Jesus touched the lives of millions through saintly souls like Francis of Assisi, Damien of Molokai, Vincent de Paul and Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa).  Like them, we are also invited to become the voice of the “poorest of the poor,” the helpless, the downtrodden and the unwanted who are set aside by the “new economy,” or who cannot even “speak plainly and fearlessly” about their concerns. Jesus’ touch will reveal to us how we neglect, scorn or shame some people while showing favor to others.  Jesus’ compassionate touch will help us to hear the cries of the poor and the sick, and will teach us to show kindness, mercy and consideration to others. Jesus’ healing touch will also help us convey peace and hope to those around us.

2) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. Today Christ continues to touch us and heal us in the Sacraments – visible signs of invisible grace (CCC #1504). We need to learn how to have Faith, trusting in our Savior’s words and actions. In times of grief, despair, and failure, we can be “deaf” to the presence of God in the love and compassion of others; or we can become so preoccupied with the noise and clamor of the marketplace that we are unable to hear the voices of those we love and who love us. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. This may be because many of us are satisfied with what we have learned in catechism class about the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments of God, the Six Commandments of the Church and the seven deadly sins. We don’t want to hear more about our Faith through further study of the Bible or the teachings of the Church. It is not infrequent to meet Catholics who are highly qualified in their secular professions but are basically illiterate in their Faith. Hence, let us imitate the dumb man in the Gospel by seeking out Jesus, following Jesus away from the crowd, spending more of our time in coming to know Jesus intimately as we study Holy Scripture and experiencing Jesus directly in our lives in personal prayer. Our growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues

 

3) Let us bring Jesus’ holy word “Ephphatha” to a generation blighted by the materialistic cultural aggression of our times:   We are reminded that Jesus has the power to heal the spiritual deafness caused by habitual sin. Hearts that have become hardened by a refusal to hear, to be changed by, and then live out Jesus’ words are once again challenged: “Ephphatha! Be opened!” In their day, the Romans imposed their language and culture on Palestine.  Modern secular culture, in fact, is no better. Religion and God are being evicted from schools, colleges, courtrooms, politics and public life. One cannot speak of virginity or marital fidelity without a contemptuous laugh from others.   The unborn child with a precious soul is often considered a “mere nuisance,” a “product of conception,” a “fetus,” “a blob of tissue,” or a “tumor that can be gotten rid of,” with no human rights. In today’s motion pictures, all religious gestures are either forbidden or relegated to the ignorant or superstitious.   We are told that sixty-five percent of our Catholic youth have no formal religious education beyond the eighth grade. They are exposed to the culture of free sex, loose relationships, liquor, drugs, and violence.   No wonder, then, if they become deaf and blind to Christian ideals of morality, holiness in life and social justice! May our Lord touch us through this Gospel so that we also can say “Ephphatha” (“Be thou opened!”) to everything and everyone shut in from or closed to God and His loving Providence.

JOKES OF THE WEEK: “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time” {Proverbs 17: 22}.1) Who is deaf?  An old man is talking to the family doctor. “Doctor, I think my wife’s going deaf.” The doctor answers, “Well, here’s something you can try on her to test her hearing. Stand some distance away from her without facing her and ask her a question. If she doesn’t answer, move a little closer and ask again. Keep repeating this until she answers. Then you’ll be able to tell just how hard of hearing she really is.” The man goes home and tries it out. He walks in the door and asks, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” He doesn’t hear an answer, so he moves closer to her. “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still he gets no answer. He repeats this several times, until he’s standing just one foot away from her. Finally, she answers, “For the eleventh time, I said we’re having meat loaf!”

2) The new hearing aid: An elderly gentleman had had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor, and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%. The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.” The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”

3) Using Webster’s English in the first century!  Helena, a member of the Providence, Rhode Island Women’s Club went to a fund-raising “carnival” staged for the benefit of the Women’s Club. One of the events took place in a tent which had been set up for a medium to conduct séances. Helena bought a ticket, went inside, and sat down at a large round table, presided over by the medium. The medium asked if anyone would like to make contact with a departed person. “Very well,” said Helena, “there is a Bible story about Jesus curing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. I would like to contact that man.” After much bellringing, moaning and groaning, and humming which seemed to be coming from all directions, a voice from the chandelier announced distinctly, “I am the man whom Jesus cured of deafness and a speech impediment.” To which Helena replied, “I know you can hear me because Jesus cured you of your deafness, and I can tell you that your speech is coming through most clearly, but I have one question.” “Ask me anything,” the voice came back. “All right, then,” said Helena, “tell me, where did you, the Aramaic-speaking, first century Palestinian learn to speak American English?”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK ((The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

  1. The Catholic Information Service : http://www.catholic.net/
  2. Catholic Teenagers: http://www.faithfirst.com/
  3. Catholic online: http://www.catholic.org/
  4. Morality in Media: http://www.moralityinmedia.org/
  5. All about angels: http://www.catholic.org/saints/angel.phpCatechism of the Catholic church summarized: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm
  6. Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b
  7.  Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:
  8. https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

8) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: (Type https://sundayprep.org on the Address bar (topmost column) in Google search or YouTube Search and press the Enter button. Do not type it on You Tube Search column or Google Search)

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23- Additional anecdotes:

1) Ludwig van Beethoven: Did you know, by the way, that the three most popular languages in the United States are English, Spanish, and American Sign Language? There are more non-hearing people in our land than you might imagine. One of the saddest instances of deafness that I know is that of the immortal composer of classical music, Ludwig van Beethoven. For a musician, deafness would be the tragedy of tragedies. As he himself wrote on one occasion, “How sad is my lot! I must avoid all things that are dear to me.” There was a terrible time when Beethoven was struggling to conduct an orchestra playing one of his own compositions. He could not hear even the full orchestra. Soon he was beating one time and the orchestra was playing another, and the performance disintegrated in disaster. There is a pathetic picture of him after he had given a piano recital, bent over the keyboard, oblivious to the applause that thundered about him. He wrote on another occasion, “For two years I have avoided almost all social gatherings because it is impossible for me to say to people ‘I am deaf.’ If I belonged to any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession it is a frightful state.” — Beethoven died a broken, bitter man. You and I who have our hearing, have our vision, who are able to get around with a minimum of impediments, ought to thank God every day, and we ought to salute those who overcome obstacles that we cannot even imagine. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) “You have turned to medicine and drinking, and you are killing yourself.” W. Moore, in his book, When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions, tells about a “made-for-TV” movie years ago titled The Betty Ford Story. The movie was produced with the help, the support and the encouragement of former First Lady Betty Ford, to reveal, out of her own personal experience, the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Mrs. Ford was overwhelmed by the demands and stresses of being this nation’s first lady and by the debilitating pain of arthritis. Consequently, over time, she became addicted to pain medication and alcohol. In the most powerful scene in that movie, her family confronts Mrs. Ford, and one by one, her children express their love and their concern for her. And then straightforwardly, they tell her what they are seeing–that she has become a prescription-medicine addict and an alcoholic. At first, she denies that she has a problem, but eventually she realizes what is happening and gets help. In that poignant intervention scene, one of the children says this to her, “Mother, always before, when you had a problem, you turned to God and to your family, but lately you have shut us out. You have turned to medicine and drinking, and you are killing yourself.” — Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to tell him or her –in love–the brutal truth. Betty Ford’s family loved her enough to help her see herself as she really was. As long as there is someone who cares for us, there is hope. That is the first thing we need to see. And here is the second thing: No one is hopeless who is open to Jesus. That is why someone brought this non-hearing man to Jesus. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

1995ma3) Deaf Heather Whitestone did that. When Heather was a child, Daphne, her mother, was advised to send Heather to a school for the deaf and not to expect her to receive more than a third-grade education. But her mother had greater ambitions for Heather. With her mother’s encouragement Heather has been able to turn a hearing disability into an asset. Many of you will recognize Heather Whitestone’s name as Miss America 1995. In Heather’s hometown there is a poster featuring a photo of Heather, taped on a storefront. The poster reads: “They said she would only be able to get a third-grade education. Fortunately, she wasn’t listening!” (Denise George, “Capturing a Nation’s Heart,” Pursuit, Vol. III No. 4, p. 26). — Today’s Gospel tells us how a deaf and mute man receives Jesus’ healing touch. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) The healing touch: The Elephant Man, is a play about a real person. The “Elephant Man” was terribly deformed. People who saw him were repelled. If you saw the play, you will remember his meeting with Mrs. Kendall, an actress who befriended him. He offered her his less-deformed hand, but Mrs. Kendall shakes her head, making it clear that she wants to hold his horribly deformed hand. It takes several minutes for him to summon up the courage to hold out the other hand. Finally, Mrs. Kendall takes it into her hand and holds it affectionately for a minute. Then she leaves. Just before the curtain falls on Act I, the Elephant Man says, “This is the first time I have ever held a woman’s hand.” And much of the spiritual healing that occurs in his life follows this very simple incident. — The medical community has been telling us about the therapeutic value of touching. For example, monitoring equipment can measure the effects of the healing touch of a nurse on a patient. The heartbeats of intensive care patients often can be stabilized when a caring nurse holds a patient’s hand. The effects are measurable. A few years ago, in some orphanages in South America, many of the young children were dying mysteriously although they were well fed. Dr. Rene Spitz, who studied this phenomenon, concluded that the babies were dying for lack of touch, for lack of the love that is communicated through touching. Henri Nouwen, author of many spiritual books, has written about his experiences in South America, working among the poor. He talks about the children who come and stand beside him, not looking for a handout, but hoping to be hugged, to be touched, to be loved. They want that more than anything else, he says. Today’s Gospel tells us a story of Jesus’ healing touch, conveying the transforming power of God’s love, which healed a dumb man. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “It simply depends on what you are listening to.” A number of years ago, I heard a story about a Native American, a Cherokee, who was in downtown New York walking with a friend who lived in New York City. As they were walking along all of a sudden the Native American stopped and said, “I hear a cricket.” His friend replied, “Oh, you’re crazy.” “No, I hear a cricket. I do! I’m sure of it,” he said. The New Yorker said “It’s noon. There are people everywhere headed to lunch, cars are honking, taxis squealing, there’s all the noise from the city. Surely you can’t hear a cricket above all that.” The Native America said, “Well, I’m sure I hear a cricket.” So he listened attentively and then walked about 10 feet to the corner where there was a shrub in a large cement planter. He dug beneath the leaves and found a cricket. His friend was astounded. But the Cherokee said, “My ears are no different from yours. It simply depends on what you are listening to. Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, a few quarters, some dimes, nickels, and pennies. And he dropped it on the concrete. Every head within half a block turned. “You see what I mean?” as he began picking up all the coins. “It all depends on what you are listening for.” — I wonder what the deaf man in the passage today started listening for! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Some of you know the name Max Cleland. Cleland is a former United States Senator from the state of Georgia. Max Cleland is a genuine war hero. He lost three limbs in Vietnam. How did he keep going? He says that one of the books that inspired him after his devastating injuries was an incredible story titled Reach for the Sky. This book is about Doug Bader, a fighter pilot of World War II. Doug Bader was a gifted young pilot in the British Royal Air Force before World War II. Just before the war, he was involved in a plane crash that changed his life forever. Both of his legs were amputated, and he was discharged from the R.A.F. as “totally disabled.” However, as Hitler hammered Great Britain in the blitz, England needed every available, trained pilot who could be found. Bader was proficient with his artificial limbs by this time, and desperately wanted to return to active duty. In an amazing and unbelievable turn of events, Bader was returned to active duty in the R.A.F. He had an incredibly successful record as a pilot. He shot down 26 enemy planes and achieved the rank of wing commander. But then he himself was shot down behind enemy lines. As his plane went down in flames, he managed to parachute to safety, but he left one of his artificial legs behind. On the ground, he was easily captured by the Germans. He became a P.O.W. But the story doesn’t end there. He escaped from the P.O.W. camp. When he was recaptured the Germans placed him in a maximum-security prison. He remained there until the war was over. The Germans were so impressed by his courage that they allowed the R.A.F. to send Bader an artificial leg to replace the one he left in his crashing plane. When he strapped on the limb, the German officers raised their glasses in a toast of respect. The British celebrated the fifth anniversary of what Churchill called “The Battle of Britain” at the end of the war. Wing Commander Doug Bader was chosen to lead the fly past over London in honor of the occasion. For his incredible courage in World War II, Bader received the Victoria Cross, England’s highest military decoration. [Max Cleland, Going For The Max! 12 Principles for Living Life to the Fullest (Nashville, TN, 1999).] — These stories of people who overcame the loss of one of their physical abilities are amazing. Have you ever noticed that Jesus seemed to have had a special love for people with handicapping conditions? Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “There’s no bill now.” : One of the sad truths of life is that people with physical disabilities are often the recipients of abuse and humiliation from others. From a very young age, Henry Viscardi learned this cruel lesson. Henry was born with stumps instead of fully developed legs. He learned to walk well on his stumps, and he was capable of living a normal life, but the prejudices of others hurt him very much. When Henry was reduced to crying out, “Why me?” his mother told him a story that may trouble us theologically, but it helped young Henry. She said, “When it was time for another crippled boy to be born, the Lord and His councils held a meeting to decide where he should be sent, and the Lord said, “I think the Viscardis would be a good family to take care of him.'” It was just a simple story, but it made Henry feel he had a place and a purpose in life. He stopped asking “Why me?” and began making the most of his abilities. Henry did very well in school, and eventually graduated from Fordham University. After years of trying to walk like a normal person, Henry had damaged the skin and tissue of his stumps. He knew that without prosthetic legs, he would have to use a wheelchair. But no prosthesis could be found to fit him properly. Doctor after doctor said it was hopeless. But then one day, a German doctor committed himself to inventing a prosthesis that would work for Henry. It took a few months, but the German doctor finally created a workable pair of legs. For the first time in his life, Henry Viscardi looked and walked like a normal man. But when he tried to pay for the legs, the doctor refused to accept it. Here’s what he said to Henry, “There’s no bill now. But someday, if you’ll make the difference for one other individual–the difference between a life dependent on charity and one rich with dignity and self-sufficiency–our account will be squared.” Henry joined the Red Cross during World War II, and he dedicated himself to helping new amputees deal with their situation. When the war ended, Henry witnessed the problems that many disabled veterans had in getting jobs. So he gathered together a group of sympathetic business leaders and created Just One Break–or JOB–an organization that finds jobs for people with disabilities. Next, Henry started Abilities, Inc., with the same goal in mind. That was over forty years ago. Today, Abilities, Inc. has grown into the National Center for Disabilities Services. They run a school for children with disabilities. All their efforts are aimed at educating, empowering, and rehabilitating those with physical disabilities. As Henry Viscardi says today, “I can’t help but believe that the Lord had a plan for my life that made me the way I was and let me become who I am.” [Eric Feldman, The Power Behind Positive Thinking (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), pp. 153-155.] — Do you hear what he is saying? Henry Viscardi looked for God’s hand in his life, and he yielded himself to that leading hand and he accomplished far more than the majority of people with two good legs accomplish in their lifetimes. As long as somebody loves you, there’s hope. As long as you are willing to yield yourself to Jesus’ touch there is hope.   This deaf man with the speech impediment had people who cared about him. They brought him to Jesus. And then this deaf man yielded himself to the Master’s touch. Looking up to Heaven, Jesus sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately this man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “Something in me wants to live.” Rachel Naomi Remen who has written a popular book titled Kitchen Table Wisdom is a medical doctor. She has learned through the years that the best healing of the human body takes place when the mind, body and spirit work together. She is “one of the earliest pioneers in the mind/body health field.” Dr. Remen understands the importance of Faith within the field of medicine because her first and most important mentor was her grandfather, a rabbi. Dr. Remen speaks of the “life force” in people. It is very similar to Schweitzer’s doctor within. She tells about Max, a sixty-three-year-old man who was sent to her because he had metastatic colon cancer. In the words of Dr. Remen, “The experts had given him daunting statistics and offered only a guarded prognosis.” Their work together had to do with helping Max to see where his life force was. You see Max had been born prematurely. As a tiny, weak baby, he had absorbed his mother’s time and energy in the first few years of his life, which, for some reason, had enraged his father. As a little boy Max overheard an argument between his parents in which his father said, “If that little runt was one of the animals, I’d have put it out to starve.” That comment was devastating for Max. For the next 60 years he lived a self-destructive life that would have destroyed a weaker man. Dr. Remen reminded Max that despite his many brushes with death, the broken bones, the accidents, the risks he took almost daily, he was still here. She asked him what he thought had brought him through. “Luck,” he said quickly. She shot him a skeptical look. No one was that lucky. He sat for a while with his thoughts. Then in a choked and almost inaudible voice, he confessed that he had always wanted to live. She could hardly hear him. “Can you say that any louder?” He looked at the rug between his boots. Unable to speak, he just nodded. Almost in a whisper he said, “I feel ashamed.” Dr. Remen said that her heart went out to him. In a shaking voice he said, “Something in me wants to live.” His eyes were still fixed on the rug. “Say it, Max,” Dr. Remen thought. “Say it until it becomes real.” She wondered if she dared to push him a little further. “Do you think you could look at me and tell me that?” Dr. Remen asked Max. She could sense the struggle in him. Had she gone too far? He had never confronted his father. Most likely, saying such a simple thing out loud, “I want to live,” went against a lifelong pattern. Perhaps he would not be able to free himself even this little bit. With an effort Max raised his eyes, his voice still choked but no longer inaudible. “I want to live,” he said evenly. They stared at each other for a few moments but he did not drop his eyes. Dr. Remen smiled at him. “I want you to live too,” she said. And he did. Max went on to live eight more years. [(Penguin, 1996), pp. 12-13. Cited by Jean A. F. Holmes, http://www.npcpearl.org/Sermons/Sermon10292000.htm.] — Imagine! If a conversation with Dr. Remen could have such an effect on a person, what could a contact with Jesus of Nazareth have done for him? Jesus’ works of healing should be the least controversial part of his ministry. Of course Jesus could heal, and still heals today — sometimes bodies, sometimes marriages, sometimes broken hearts — but Jesus does heal. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “And now, God, what can I do for you?” The story is told of a four-year-old saying her night prayers. She asked God to take care of mommy, daddy, and her cat. Then she asked, “And now, God, what can I do for you?” — A question still hotly debated is how do we take care of the poor. Three billion people exist on $3 a day. Over one half billion on $1 daily. A quarter billion children work sometimes in dreadful conditions. Five people will die from malaria in the time it takes you to read this homily. Do we help the poor and ill just by paying our taxes? Or do we give at the office? Or do we get our own hands dirty? The answer to these questions is found in today’s Gospel? (Fr. James Gilhooley) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) “The Country of the Blind” is a short story written by H.G Wells. While attempting to summit the unconquered crest of Parascotopetl, a fictitious mountain in Ecuador, a mountaineer named Nunez slips and falls down the far side of the mountain. At the end of his descent, down a snow-slope in the mountain’s shadow, he finds a valley, cut off from the rest of the world on all sides by steep precipices. It was an unusual village with windowless houses and a network of paths, all bordered by kerbs. Upon discovering that everyone is blind, Nunez begins reciting to himself the refrain, “In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King”. He realizes that he can teach and rule them, but the villagers have no concept of sight and do not understand his attempts to explain this fifth sense to them. Frustrated, Nunez becomes angry but they calm him and he reluctantly submits to their way of life because returning to the outside world is impossible. Nunez is assigned to work for a villager named Yacob, and becomes attracted to Yacob’s youngest daughter, Medina-saroté. Nunez and Medina-saroté soon fall in love with one another, and having won her confidence, Nunez slowly starts trying to explain sight to her. Medina-saroté, however, simply dismisses it as his imagination. When Nunez asks for her hand in marriage he is turned down by the village elders on account of his “unstable” obsession with “sight”. The village doctor suggests that Nunez’s eyes be removed, claiming that they are diseased and are affecting his brain. Nunez reluctantly consents to the operation because of his love for Medina-saroté. But at sunrise on the day of the operation, while all the villagers are asleep, Nunez, the failed King of the Blind, sets off for the mountains hoping to find a passage to the outside world and escape the valley. — Sight is one of the greatest blessings that we enjoy. Since we are able to see from our birth we may not appreciate its value. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus, by healing a deaf and mute man, fulfills Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan: We all know Helen Keller, whose story we read or watched in the play or movie The Miracle Worker. Helen wrote in her autobiography the key experience in her life: “The most important day I remember in all my life is the one in which my teacher, Annie Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I stretched out my hand as I supposed it to be my mother. But someone took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of someone who had come to reveal all things to me, and more than all else to love me.” Annie Sullivan did give the child enormous love, but she also gave her firm and, at times, violent discipline. Annie’s combination of very tender and warm love and very stern and uncompromising discipline touched this child deeply and made her into a human being and a very great one at that. Even a cynical soul like Mark Twain, who got to know Helen Keller, reckoned her as one of the most interesting figures in the nineteenth century, because she had conquered her own physical limitations to become a beautiful and noble lady. — In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus dealing with the man who was deaf and dumb, and we can receive many insights for our own life from contemplating the scene. (William Bausch in Telling Stories, Compelling Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) Miraculous transformation: A working man was strongly drawn towards a beautiful vase he saw in a stall down in the town market. He bought the vase and brought it home. The vase was so beautiful that it made his front room look drab, dull, and indeed plain ugly. So. he got bright paints and transformed the whole house. He got colorful curtains to match the paint, a brightly patterned carpet, and he even stripped down and varnished the furniture. Because of the beauty of the vase the whole room was transformed. — When Jesus enters my heart, the areas in need of attention become, oh, so obvious. Holiness consists in discovering that I am a much bigger sinner than I ever thought I was! The closer I come to God the more obvious the contrast!  When Jesus comes to our lives, His touch, and His presence make all the difference! (Jack McArdle in More stories for Preachers and Teachers; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) The Buzzard, the Bat, and the Bumblebee: If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top. The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash. A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself. — In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up! That’s the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem! Just look up. (Sermons.com). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Joshua Bell’s violin performance in a subway station: On January 12, 2007, at 7:12 AM, The Washington Post conducted an experiment you might have heard about. The experiment involved Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists who performed for almost all the world’s orchestras. He was commissioned to play his $ 4,000,000 Stradivarius violin in a subway station in Washington, DC. So he dressed like a street musician looking for tips and sat in the subway station playing for 43 minutes. The Washington Post had a hidden camera to video the entire event. Out of the 1097 people who passed by him, seven stopped to listen! He received $32.17 in tips, not counting $20 he received from one person who recognized him. — The story is an excellent illustration of what James tells us in the second reading and what Jesus teaches us by healing a deaf man. (Fr. Joe Robinson; from Guiding Light). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) “I visualize where I want to be.” During a recent interview, American basketball star, Michael Jordan was asked to explain the reasons for his undaunting optimism and perseverance. He replied candidly, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it. I visualize where I want to be, what kind of player I want to become. I know exactly where I want to go and I focus on getting there.” — In today’s first reading, Isaiah’s prophetic message offers his original audience a similar Jordan-like optimism and willingness to persevere. The people had run into a wall, as it were, and Isaiah was offering advice on how to scale it. (Sanchez files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) “I’ve always thought our Lord Jesus was a bit of a liberal.” With regard to the proper Christian understanding of law and regulations: “Ernst Käsemann (Jesus Means Freedom) tells the delightful story of a Church in Holland in a year which had seen rising tides and collapsing dikes. One particularly bad weekend, it was necessary for the town mayor to ask the pastor of the local Reformed Church to bring all of his people out to help repair the dikes on Sunday morning or else they might lose the entire town. The pastor called the Church elders together who discussed the matter and concluded that they had been commanded to keep the Sabbath holy, so if they perished it was God’s will, but they would not cancel services. The pastor then mentioned Jesus’ violation of the Sabbath law, hoping it might stimulate some further thought. To which one old elder says ‘Pastor, I have never before ventured to say this publicly, but I’ve always thought our Lord Jesus was a bit of a liberal.” (http://www.preachingpeace.org). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) Found at a Church door: “May the door of this Church be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for fellowship. May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture. May the doors of this Church be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy, and enmity. May this sanctuary welcome all who seek serenity, renewal, and truth; may it be, for all of us, the gateway to a richer and more meaningful life.” (Dr. Murray Watson). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) What brought about the sudden change? During World War II, there was in Poland a brilliant and Popular pianist, named Marta Korwin-Rhodes. As a matter of fact, she was in Warsaw when the city was bombarded. The devastation to both life and property was so horrible, that the brave and noble musician decided to stay and help the wounded in crowded hospitals instead of fleeing to safely. One night as Marta was walking through the wards, she heard a soldier sobbing loudly and pathetically. Going over to his side, she watched helplessly as his heart-rending cries literally broke her heart. What was she to do? And how was she to console such a disconsolate person? Suddenly she looked at her hands, and a most interesting thought crossed her mind. “If these hands can produce harmony from the keys of a piano, then surely God can use them to comfort and reassure a person in extreme pain.” Instantly she bent down and gently placed her hand on his forehead and earnestly prayed: “O God, help this man, for he is in pain and misery. Give him your comfort and peace in this moment of trial.” To her stunned disbelief, the man’s sobbing stopped, and he soon fell into a peaceful sleep.
(James V. in “Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Crippled hearts handicaps of the Normal: One day while listening to a talk given by Jean Vanier (Founder of L’Arche) I learnt a great lesson. It was a disturbing one, but I am glad I learnt it. Until that day I thought I had no handicaps.  I had two good hands, two good feet, two good ears, and so on. In other words, I was what is considered ‘normal’. But in listening to Vanier I discovered I too had handicaps – of a different kind. The Gospel concerns the cure of a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. In other words, a handicapped man. If, because the man was handicapped, we might think that the miracle has little relevance for us, we would be mistaken. The man’s handicaps were physical. But there are other handicaps besides the physical ones. In truth all of us are handicapped in one way or another. The fact that our handicaps are not visible as those of the man in the Gospel doesn’t make them less real. The greatest handicap of all, however is that of a crippled heart. A paraplegic observed: “Living as a cripple in a wheelchair allows you to see more clearly the crippled hearts of some people whose bodies are whole and whose minds are sound.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) The eyes of the blind…. Opened: Back in the 1940’s the newspapers carried the story of a boy who was born blind. He was a lively and imaginative child, full of interest in everything around him. Unfortunately, since he could not see the world in which he lived, he could only guess what things were like from their shape and texture as he felt it or their sound as he heard it. When they were too far away to be felt or smelt or listened to, he would have to guess at what they looked like. Then his parents asked a certain eye surgeon whether an operation could remedy the blindness of their cheerful but sightless son. The doctor said he thought it was now possible to perform surgery that would make him able finally to see. On the day scheduled for the operation, his folks drove the lad to the hospital in the family car. The father and mother hoped the doctor was right. Still, they were torn by the inner, unexpressed question, “What if the operation fails?” Maybe their little son had the same inner fear, but his strongest emotion that day was a joyful hope. In the operating room the surgeon set deftly about his work. Then he bandaged the child’s eyes until they healed. Finally, the crucial day of the “unveiling” came. The doctor sat the boy by a window that looked out on the hospital parking lot and the green landscaped lawn beyond. He unrolled the bandage down to the gauze pads and set it on the table. Then he took the pads carefully off the closed eyes. Finally, he said, “Now, open your eyes.” The little boy opened his eyes and looked straight ahead of him. He blinked a couple of times but said nothing. Those seconds were like years to those present, and the father and mother were almost frantic. Then a smile spread across the lad’s face. “There’s the car I came in,” he exclaimed. “I know it! And there’s a tree. Oh, it’s beautiful! It’s beautiful!”– “The eyes of the blind had been opened.”(Isaiah 35:5. Today’s first reading). Do we who have always seen God’s trees and His other wonderful creatures really appreciate the beautiful things He has given us for our delight? (Father Robert F. McNamara) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Welcome change of society’s attitude: Society’s attitudes regarding its physically and/or mentally impaired members have evolved considerably through the centuries. Each generation, motivated by an ever-growing sensitivity and respect for another’s differences, has coined new words for referencing these special people among us. Mental retardation, for example, has been replaced by the term, mentally challenged. Those with physical limitations, such as deafness or blindness are now described as hearing or visually challenged. Children with learning disabilities are no longer called dumb, slow or stupid; they are appreciated as having special needs. At times, and in the interest of what has come to be known as “political correctness”, some of this newly devised vocabulary appears to be extreme, as for instance, when diminutive people are referred to as vertically challenged and those with receding hairlines are described as follicly challenged! For the most part however, although discrimination still exists and must be dealt with whenever it arises, contemporary society is learning to value people for who they are and what they can do rather than devalue them for what they are not and what they cannot do. In large measure, this lesson has been taught to us by those who have struggled against the worst obstacles. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Challenge to change our attitudes to the disabled: Helen Keller (1880-1968), who overcame blindness, deafness, and muteness once wrote: “They took away what should have been my eyes, but I remembered Milton’s Paradise. They took away what should have been my ears; Beethoven came and wiped away my tears. They took away what should have been my tongue; but I had talked with God when I was young. He would not let them take away my soul; possessing that I still possess the whole!” A mother of a brain-injured child offers a similar lesson: “We would have called our daughter’s handicap the greatest tragedy of our lives, if it were not for the fact that through it we came to know God much better. Words cannot express our initial disappointment when our daughter failed to develop normally. However, she enriched our lives and we found strength in God. As we struggled, our Faith deepened, and we knew a peace that we had never before experienced.” — The insightful testimony of those two women invites us to consider our own attitudes toward the handicapped, impaired, or otherwise challenged members of the human family. The readings for today’s liturgy do likewise. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Are you Christ? Cardinal Sin, as told in the homily of Bishop Bacani, tells the story of a blind vendor selling some candies and other items on a sidewalk during the Christmas season. As people were rushing, her “bilao” (bamboo tray) was bumped. She tried to grope for her wares. Nobody seemed to mind her as they hurried past her. Then a man stopped and then stooped to pick up her things and returned them to her in her bilao. She asked the kind gentleman, “Are you Christ?” — Yes, this good gentleman, for this blind woman, was Christ. There are many opportunities given to us by which we are faced with people who need help, but how often do we respond? Let us be more vigilant for those opportunities and allow Christ to reach out, through us, to others in need by the love we show. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) Jesus “sighed”. One day a little boy came home from school and he looked rather sad. His mother said, “Honey, is everything all right?”   He said, “Well, I guess so. But, Billy came to school today and told the class that his daddy had died. They just buried his daddy yesterday, mama.”  Then he said, “Mama, Billy was so upset about his daddy dying that he just cried and cried.”   His mother said, “Well, what did you do?”   He said, “I just laid my head on my desk and cried with him!”   That is the kind of heart that Jesus had, and that is the kind of heart that we need! In the healing of the deaf man the Scripture tells us that after looking toward Heaven, Jesus “sighed”. This word means “to groan”. The deaf man could not hear the sigh, but he could see Jesus when He did it and it spoke volume to him. The sigh said “I care about you and what you are going through!” (SNB Files) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 49) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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 .

Deborah Ugoretz, 2009, exodusconversations.org

 

August 30 to September 4

Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed Sunday and weekday homilies.

Aug 30- Sept 4: Aug 30 Monday: Lk 4:14-30: Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up  to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (((?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Today’s Gospel presents the reaction of Jesus’ fellow- townsmen, to the “Inaugural Address” offered them at a synagogue in Nazareth when Jesus visited the town as a rabbi with a band of disciples.  The reading shows us how Jesus faced skepticism and criticism with prophetic courage. The incident reminds us that we should have and show the courage of our Christian convictions daily as we live in our communities, especially when we face hatred and rejection because of our Christian Faith and its practice

Amazement turns to hatred.  The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus’ words was astonishment.  They were amazed that one of their fellow villagers could speak with such grace, eloquence and authority.  But their amazement turned into displeasure when Jesus speaking as a prophet, (different from the image of the miracle-worker that people wished to see), claimed identity with the Messiah described by Isaiah. That claim turned Jesus’ fellow-townsmen’s displeasure into anger, then hatred. They challenged Jesus’ Messianic claim, asking, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”   They could not understand how a mere carpenter from their hometown Nazareth, could be the Messiah, who would liberate them from Roman rule and reestablish the Davidic kingdom. Jesus’ reaction to His people’s skepticism: Jesus reacted to their negative attitude with the comment, “No prophet is accepted in his native place.”  Next, he referred to the Biblical stories of how God had blessed two Gentiles, while rejecting the many Jews in similar situations, precisely because those Gentiles were more open to the prophets than the Jewish people.  Jesus reminded them of the Gentile widow of Zarephath, in Lebanon (1 Kgs 17:7-24).  The Prophet Elijah stayed with her and her son during the three-and-a-half-year drought, fed them miraculously and, later, raised her son from death.  Then Jesus described how Naaman, the pagan military general of Syria, was healed of leprosy by Elisha, the prophet.

Life messages: 1) We need to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism, when we experience the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect, or abuse from our friends, families, or childhood companions.  2) Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our lives.  Are we unwilling to be helped by God, or by others?   Does our pride prevent us from recognizing God’s direction, help, and support in our lives through His words in the Bible, through the teachings of the Church and through the advice and examples of others?  3) We must have the prophetic courage of our convictions. This passage challenges us to have the courage of our Christian convictions in our day-to-day lives in our communities, when we face hatred and rejection because of our Christian Faith. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

August 30: Feast of St. Jeanne Jugan (October 25, 1792-August 29, 1879) foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor:  Charles Dickens, the great English novelist and writer, a contemporary of Jeanne Jugan, said of her: “There is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being.  Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.”

Sr. Mary of the Cross, canonized under her baptismal name as St. Jeanne Jugan, Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, was born into a poor family in Brittany, France on October 25, 1792.  She lived a heroic life, spent sacrificially in the care of the elderly poor.  She died a saintly death on August 29, 1879 at the age of 86.  This year (2020) marks her 141st birthday in Heaven and the 152nd anniversary of the arrival of her Little Sisters in the United States.  We are celebrating these anniversaries by offering all of her Little Sisters on the altar and presenting all the Residents and Caregivers of this Home before the Lord.

Although she was born into a poor family, Jeanne’s widowed mother trained her in the Catholic Faith and in its practice.  She learned the meaning of hard work, first by working as a shepherd girl, and then becoming a kitchen maid at 16.  Her mistress was a kind-hearted woman who took young Jeanne on visits to the sick and the poor.  Over time, Jeanne developed a special love for the aged, particularly for poor widows.  At age 25, the young woman became a member of the third Order of the Admirable Mother, founded by St. John Eudes (Eudists).  Jeanne did hospital work as a nursing assistant and domestic service for years until she was 47.

  In 1837, Jeanne began to share a modest second floor apartment with an older woman, Francoise Aubert (65) and a 17-year-old orphan, Virginie Trédaniel.  Two years later, in the winter of 1839, with the permission of her housemates, Jeanne carried home a blind, paralyzed, impoverished old woman, Anne Chauvin and placed the lady in her own bed.  Jeanne slept in the attic from then on.  As much as they were able, Virginie and Françoise helped Jeanne to care for Anne.

These three women then formed a Catholic community of prayer, devoted to assisting the elderly poor. Soon several other women joined her good work of caring for the sick and elderly by moving into her house.  They became an informal prayer community and eventually elected Jeanne as superior, and she took the name Sr. Mary of the Cross.  They supported themselves through domestic work.  Over time, the community came to be known, first as “the Servants of the Poor” and later as the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Their members, who begged for the needs of the elderly in their care, took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and hospitality.  A benefactor provided the growing community of women with a larger house, a former convent.  Since Sr. Mary of the Cross was a talented fundraiser and organizer, other houses were soon established.  The Sisters begged for the needs of the elderly in their care and ate only leftovers.

In 1843,  Sr. Mary of the Cross was forced out of her leadership role by Father Auguste Le Pailleur, the power-crazy priest who had been appointed Spiritual Father of the small community by the local bishop.  Ignoring the election of Jeanne Jugan as their Mother Superior by the Sisters, the spiritual director appointed his protegée,  Sister Marie Jamet, as the Mother General and instructed Jeanne Jugan to “live a hidden life behind the walls of the motherhouse with no contact with any of her former benefactors.”  She gladly accepted this demotion in great humility for 27 years, helping and encouraging the aspirants, postulants, and novices, without telling anyone that she had started the Congregation.  She rejoiced to see the 1879 approval of the  Constitution of the Little Sisters of the Poor  by  Pope Leo XIII.  At her death, August 29, 1879, her congregation had spread to other countries.  The autocratic spiritual director, Father Le Pailleur, however, was investigated and dismissed in 1890. It took until 1902 for Jeanne Jugan to be recognized, not  simply as “the third Little Sister,” but as the foundress of the Little Sisters.  God blessed the congregation with growth, establishing over 160 houses in the world in the 178 years since its founding, 26 of them in the United States.

Miracles leading to Jeanne Jugan’s canonization:  The medically inexplicable and sudden cure of Mr. Antoine Schlatter, a Resident of the Little Sisters of the Poor Home in Toulon, France in 1982, was recognized as the miracle necessary for the beatification.  When Pope John Paul II beatified her on October 3, 1982, he said: “God could glorify no more humble a servant than Jeanne Jugan”.  In early March, 2002,  Mrs. Jeanne Gatz of Omaha, Nebraska called the Superior of the Little Sisters Home in Kansas City, Missouri and told Sister that her husband had been cured of cancer in 1989, through the intercession of Blessed Jeanne Jugan.  On December 6, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree approving the miraculous cure of Dr. Edward Gatz through the intercession of Blessed Jeanne Jugan, clearing the way for her canonization.  That same Pope canonized her as a saint of the universal Church on October 11, 2009, along with Blessed Damien of Molokai and three other Blesseds!

 Pope Benedict XVI, in his canonization sermon, said: “St. Jeanne’s canonization would show once again, how a living faith is prodigious in good works and how sanctity is a healing balm for the wound of humankind.  ‘Come, follow Me.’  This is the Christian vocation which is born from the Lord’s proposal of love and can only be fulfilled in our loving response.  Saints accept this demanding invitation and set out with humble docility in the following of the Crucified and Risen Christ . . .” 

Life message:  1) We need to imitate St. Jeanne Jugan in seeing Jesus in everyone around us and offering everyone corporal and spiritual works of charity, realizing the truth that our eternal destiny with God depends on our answer to six questions Jesus the judge is going to ask us on the Day of Last Judgement. These questions, found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25:31-36 , are:  “I was hungry, I was thirsty: what did you do?  I was naked, I was homeless: Did you do anything?  I was sick, I was in prison: what did you do?”  The Holy Bible, the seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Six Precepts of the Church are all meant to help us to practice these corporal and spiritual acts of charity (mercy), in this life, with humble hearts filled with sacrificial and selfless agape love so that we may become eligible to receive God’s loving and eternal reward of Heavenly bliss.

Videos: 1) St. Jeanne Jugan speaks (Little Sisters of the Poor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn7oWlbL4h0&feature=youtu.be

2) Life story (Animation): https://youtu.be/IlEJkSgJXkg

3) Life in Sacred Heart Residence, Mobile, Al: https://youtu.be/eN1ReSrfDQ8

Aug 31 Tuesday: Lk 4:31-37: 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: After his sad experience with fellow-townsmen in, Nazareth, Jesus made the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business a base for a Messianic preaching and healing mission. The people were impressed by the authority with which Jesus taught. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using His own authority and knowledge as God. Perfect knowledge of God, His Father, perfect obedience to God His Father’s will, and absolute confidence in God, His Father, were the sources of Jesus’ authority. The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism, which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how, using His authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” The demon obeyed at once, throwing the man it had possessed to the floor in the midst of the people in the synagogue on its departure. The people were impressed with Jesus’ power and authority that could command even evil spirits.

 Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, demonstrated by Jesus’ miracles, which in turn give authority and validity to Jesus’ teaching and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings, even if some of them are mysteries beyond our understanding 2) Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 3) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus the healer with trusting Faith first, then go to the doctors who are the ordinary instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 1 Wednesday: Lk 4:38-44: 38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they besought him for her. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her; and immediately she rose and served them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them; 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. . USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation, and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to build up the Kingdom of God. By preaching and healing, Jesus drew listeners to belief in a loving and providing God and to loving obedience to His will. We are told that Jesus drew renewed spiritual streigth from God, His Father, every day by talking with and listening to Him, often in a desolate place at night.

Healing mission: Jesus never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the mercy and compassion of His Heavenly Father to every sick person who approached with trusting Faith. Having finished the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening, when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism. Jesus either concluded the day or, here, began the new day, by spending time with the Father in prayer in a lonely place.

Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, radiating Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick and by visiting, helping, and encouraging the sick and shut-ins. 3) We, too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged by prayer every day, as Jesus did.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 2 Thursday: Lk 5:1-11: 1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: The scene is the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret in Greek and Tiberius in Latin). The story of the miraculous catch of fish described in today’s Gospel is similar to the post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus recounted in John 21:4-14.  It is one of the “epiphany-call stories” which direct our attention to the fact that Jesus had distinct criteria for selecting people to be apostles.  The reading challenges us to examine our own personal calls to conversion and discipleship.

The miraculous catch followed by the call: After teaching the crowd from a seat in the boat of Simon, Jesus said to him “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Simon and his companions were stunned by the biggest catch of their lives. This event led Simon to acknowledge his unworthiness, as a sinner, even to stand before the Divine Presence of Jesus. Impressed by Simon’s obedience and confession of unworthiness, Jesus immediately invited Simon, Andrew, James and John to become close disciples and so to “catch men” instead of fish.

Life Messages: 1) Our encounter with the holiness of God needs to lead us to recognize our sinfulness. The Good News of today’s Gospel is that our sinfulness — our pride and self-centeredness – does not repel God. That is why we offer this Mass asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, and why we receive Jesus in Holy Communion only after acknowledging our unworthiness.

2) With Jesus, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.  Today’s Gospel passage tells us an important truth about how God works in and through us for His glory.  God chooses ordinary people – people like you and me – as His ambassadors.  He uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and our responses. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Sept 3 Friday: (St. Gregory the great, Pope & Doctor of the Church): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-gregory-the-great Lk 5:33-39: 33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 36 And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. 37 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. 38 Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. 39 (And) no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/ https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question asked by a few disciples of John the Baptist about fasting and feasting. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were three cardinal works of Jewish religious life. Hence, John’s disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted while Jesus’ disciples were seen feasting with him and never fasting.

Jesus’ reply: Jesus responds to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth, and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compares the apostles with the children of the bridal chamber, the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus explains that the apostles will fast when Jesus, the bridegroom, has been taken away from them. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. Jesus uses the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment and of using old wineskins to store freshly fermented wine, to tell the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow the new ideas they are hearing, which are in many cases different from the traditional Jewish teachings.

Life messages: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds: The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the Church’s teaching authority, enables the Church to have new visions, new ideas and new adaptations and to replace old ways of worship with new. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Who works through the Church’s magisterium to interpret and apply Scripture – the Old Testament revelations and the New Testament teachings — and Sacred Tradition to our daily lives. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L21

Sept 4 Saturday: Luke 6:1-5: 1 While he was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those (who were) with him were hungry? (How) he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was Jesus’ response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by some Pharisees against the apostles who, to satisfy their hunger on a Sabbath, had plucked ears of grain from a field for their snack, removed the husks by rubbing the grain between their palms and blowing away the chaff. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing and winnowing.

Counterarguments: Jesus gives three counterarguments from Holy Scripture defending the apostles. (1) Basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. Jesus cites from Scripture the example of the hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Abimelech, the priest of Nob, who gave them for food the “offering bread” which only the priests were allowed to eat (Samuel 21:1-6). (2) No law can stand against Divine worship. That is why the priests are not considered as violating Sabbath laws, although they do the work of preparing two rams for sacrifice in the Temple (Numbers 28:9-10). (3) Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea to remind the accusers of God’s words: “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). Further augmenting the counterarguments, Jesus, as Son of Man (a Messianic title), claims Lordship over the Sabbath itself.

Life messages: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be 1) a day of rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries, (through participation in the Eucharistic celebration, for Catholics); 3) a day for parents to teach religious Faith and the Bible to their children; 4) a day to do works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish and  5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors and fellow-parishioners. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

O. T. XXII (August 22nd Sunday homily)

O.T. XXII [B] (Aug 29, Sunday) (Eight-minute homily in one page)

Introduction: Today’s readings explain what true religion is. It is not simply a scrupulous, external observance of rules, laws, traditions and rituals. It is a loving, obedient relationship with God expressed in obeying His Commandments, worshipping Him, recognizing His presence in other human beings, and rendering them loving and humble service. Prayers, rituals, Sacraments, and religious practices only help us to practice this true religion in our daily lives.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading explains that religion is a Covenant relationship with a caring, providing and protecting God, fostered by keeping His Commandments given through Moses. God gave Israel the Law so that the Israelites might keep their Covenant with Yahweh and thank Him for His love and fidelity to His Chosen People. The Law was also intended to keep them a united, holy and intelligent nation, proud of their powerful, protective, single God.

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 15) describes a person who practices true religion —blameless and just, thoughtful and honest in dealing with others.

In the second reading, St. James defines true religion as keeping the word of God and doing His will by helping the needy, the poor and the weak in the community. He challenges Christians to become doers of the word, not merely hearers.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes true religion as serving God and all His children with a pure and holy heart.  The Gospel explains the encounter of Jesus with the Sanhedrin observers and the Pharisees who had been sent to assess Jesus’ unique, controversial teachings. These experts had found Jesus’ teachings an open violation of the “Traditions of the Elders,” and judged Jesus’ implied and spoken claims blasphemous. They also noticed that Jesus’ disciples omitted the required ritual washing before meals. It was in the fifth century BC that the scribes started adding oral traditions as interpretations and practical applications of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees observed them and insisted that all the Jews should do so. The original noble purpose was to sanctify the daily lives of the people, making them “holy as God is holy” (“You are a priestly kingdom, a holy nation” — Ex 19:6), and different in lifestyle from their pagan neighbors. Jesus uses the occasion as a teachable moment to give them the following lessons: 1) Don’t teach human doctrines as dogmas of Faith. 2) Sincerity of heart, internal disposition, purity, and holiness are more important than mere external ritual observances. 3) Keep your heart holy as it is the source of sins, vices and evil habits. The observance of traditions and of washing rituals does not correct the internal motivations and inclinations that really defile people. 4) External piety without internal holiness is hypocrisy.

Life messages: 1) We need to learn and keep the spirit of the Church’s laws and ritual practices. For example, our Sunday obligation is intended to allow us to worship God in the parish community, to offer our lives to God, to ask His pardon for sins, to thank God for His blessings, and to receive Divine Life and strength from Him in Holy Communion. Our daily family prayers are meant to thank God for His blessings, to present the family’s needs before God, to ask pardon for sins, to maintain the spirit of unity and love in the family, and to keep a close relationship with God.

 2) Let us avoid the tendency to become cafeteria Christians that is, to choose certain Commandments and Church laws to follow, and to ignore the others as we choose certain food items and ignore others in a cafeteria.

O. T.  XXII (Dt 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Homily starter anecdotes: 1) Traditions as “fences around the Law” to protect it.  One writer shares the following “fences” created by the Jews. “For example, looking in the mirror was forbidden, because if you looked into the mirror on the Sabbath day and saw a gray hair, you might be tempted to pull it out and thus perform work on the Sabbath. You also could not wear your false teeth; if they fell out, you would have to pick them up and you would be working. In regard to carrying a burden, you could not carry a handkerchief on the Sabbath, but you could wear a handkerchief. That meant if you were upstairs and wanted to take the handkerchief downstairs, you would have to tie it around your neck, walk downstairs, and untie it. Then you could blow your nose downstairs! The rabbis debated about a man with a wooden leg: if his home caught on fire, could he carry his wooden leg out of the house on the Sabbath? One could spit on the Sabbath, but you had to be careful where. If it landed on the dirt and you scuffed it with your sandal, you would be cultivating the soil and thus performing work.”         It’s easy to see how foolish such man-made rules had become. Again, the problem with their rules is they were not from God, but from man. Their rules were not God’s rules; they were rules made by men seeking to control other men.

2) Ritual washing using drinking-water: William Barclay in The Daily Study Bible tells the story of an old Jewish rabbi in the Roman prison diagnosed with acute dehydration which would have led to his death.  The prison guards insisted that the rabbi had been given his quota of drinking water.  So the prison doctor and the officer in charge instructed the guards to watch the rabbi and ascertain what he was doing with his ration of water.  They were shocked to find that the rabbi was using almost all his water for traditional ritual washing before prayer and meals. — Today’s Gospel tells us how the tradition-addicted Pharisees started questioning Jesus when his disciples omitted the ritual washing of hands in public before a meal. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “I don’t smoke during Lent!” About 2 o’clock on a cold, blustery morning the rectory telephone rang. “I think grandpa is dying,” an excited voice declared. As it was just two blocks away Fr. Murray decided to walk to anoint the dying man. As he passed an alley a figure with a gun stepped out and demanded: “Give me your money.” The priest told the gunman: “My wallet is in the pocket of my coat. As the priest opened his coat the gunman noticed his Roman collar. He said: “I am sorry, I didn’t know that you were a priest. I beg your pardon Father! Keep your money.” In grateful relief Fr. Murray offered him a cigar. But the fellow shook his head saying, “No Father, thank you very much, but I don’t smoke during Lent!” — In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls such blind observance of rules and tradition, hypocrisy. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “Put your hand in Jesus’ hand”:  For almost 50 years Mother Teresa worked in the slums of Calcutta, India. She worked among the most forsaken people on earth. You and I would recoil from most of the people that she touched every day – the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the diseased, the desperate. And yet, everybody who met Mother Teresa remarked on her warm smile. How, after almost 50 years of working in conditions like that did she keep a warm smile on her face? Mother explains that it is interesting. “When I was leaving home in Yugoslavia at age of 18 to become a nun, my mother told me something beautiful and very strange.” She said, ‘You go put your hand in Jesus’ hand and walk along with him.'” And that was the secret of Mother Teresa’s life ever after. (Rev. King Duncan). — Many of us here have good jobs, we live in nice homes, and we have easy situations. But we don’t have the warm smile on our faces that this little nun, working in the most desperate situation imaginable, had on her face. What’s the difference? It may be that we’ve never put our hand in Jesus’ hand. It may be that we have Jesus only on our lips as St. James remarks in the second reading and as Jesus remarks in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s readings explain what true religion is. It is not simply the scrupulous external observance of rules, laws, traditions and rituals. It is a loving, obedient relationship with God expressed in recognizing His presence in other human beings and rendering them loving and humble service. Prayers, rituals, Sacraments and religious practices only help us to practice this true religion in our daily lives.

Scripture lessons summarized:  The first reading explains that religion is a Covenant relationship with a caring, providing, and protecting God, fostered by keeping His Commandments given through Moses. God gave Israel the Law so that the Israelites might keep their Covenant with Yahweh and thank Him for His love and fidelity to His Chosen People. The Law was also intended to keep them a united, holy and intelligent nation, proud of their powerful, protective, single God. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 15) describes a person who practices true religion —blameless, just, thoughtful, and honest in dealing with others. In the second reading, St. James defines true religion as keeping the word of God and doing His will by helping the needy, the poor, and the weak in the community. He challenges Christians to become doers of the word, not merely hearers.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes true religion as serving God and all His children with a pure and holy heart.  The occasion is a debate between Jesus and the Pharisees on the subject of “Tradition.” Jesus warns the Pharisees against their tendency to equate traditional “human precepts” with God’s will. He blames the scribes and the Pharisees for giving undue importance to external observances in the name of “tradition,” while ignoring the Law’s real spirit. True religion should focus on the essentials. In particular, Jesus criticizes Pharisaic observance of ritual washing and declares that it is our inner motivations and dispositions that produce our purity or impurity.

First reading: Dt 4:1-2, 6-8, explained: In the fifth century BC, internal corruption and external pressures had brought the Israelites to the brink of extinction.  Kings, priests, prophets, and Temple had failed to hold them together. Deuteronomy, recorded under the Holy Spirit’s direction during the crisis of the Babylonian exile, 587-539 BC, presented the ancient legal traditions surrounding the Law which had been given Israel by the Lord God through Moses. In this book, Moses described the beauty of the Law and commanded its observance as Israel’s sign of gratitude for the Lord God’s promise of the land. He assured the people that their God-given Law (with their faithful observance of it), would serve three purposes: a) it would help Israel survive as a people; b) it would make the people proud of their God and His Covenant; and c) it would make neighboring nations marvel at the graciousness and justice of the God of Israel, at His closeness to His people, and at their closeness to Him.  Hence, Moses challenged the Israelites with the questions: “What great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to Him?  What other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?” Moses cited the praise they would receive from neighboring nations as an additional reason for keeping the Law: “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.”

Second Reading, James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27, explained: Today we begin a series of five Sunday readings from the letter of James.  In this letter, James addresses the whole Christian Church in general, rather than speaking just to a particular community or person as Paul did in his letters.  After dealing with the value of trials and temptations and refuting the argument that temptations come from God (James 1:2-18), James provides the only formal definition of religion in the Bible. He defines true religion as translating the love of God into deeds of loving kindness toward the vulnerable members of the community and putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. More specifically, true religion means that one is to “care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Gospel exegesis: The context: Our Jewish brothers and sisters called the Law, which guided and directed and sanctified their lives, Torah and regarded it as revelation from God. But, just as Jesus and the apostles were reforming Judaism by transforming it into Christianity, the Pharisees had begun reforming Judaism at an earlier period. They considered the “Written Law” or Torah or the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible), and the “Oral Law” (clarifications of, and additions to, the Mosaic Law given by scribes from the fifth century B.C.), as equally holy and binding.  These oral laws, known in Jesus’ time as the “Traditions of the Elders,” were a series of oral traditions intended to act as “a fence around the Law,” so that the Mosaic Law itself, and, thus, the Covenant, would never be violated. The original, noble intention of the scribes who formulated these traditions, and of the Pharisees who practiced them, was to have their religion permeate all Israel in order to purify the people in their daily lives and, thus, make them holy as their God is Holy.  In spite of these noble intentions, however, by the time of Jesus, their religion had degenerated, being reduced to the exact performance of external rituals only.  Small wonder, then, that the scribes and Pharisees were scandalized by the revolutionary teaching of Jesus, by the unique Divine and Messianic claims Jesus made, often by implication, and by Jesus’ violations of the “Traditions of the Elders! Hence, the supreme governing body of Judaism, the Sanhedrin, sent from Jerusalem as observers a team of scribes (experts in the Jewish Law), to assess Jesus’ claims, miracles, violations of traditions, and controversial teachings.  A few of the local Pharisees accompanied the experts and started questioning Jesus when they noticed that Jesus’ disciples had omitted the ritual cleansing of hands before a party meal.

Ritual versus hygienic washing: Ritual washing was required of the priest, but there was nothing in the Mosaic Law that required the same behavior from lay people.  Pious Jews began to adopt that habit on the principle of Exodus 19:6 — “you are a priestly kingdom and a holy nation,” and gradually it became the “the tradition of the elders.”  The ritual cleansing of raw food items bought from the market, of vessels used for cooking and of the hands of those who were to eat the prepared food, like many similar practices, evolved later, to remind the Chosen People of their call to be “set apart as a holy and consecrated people,” with values and life-style consciously different from those of pagans.  But in Jesus’ day, the Jews ignored the spirit of these traditions and practiced them simply as an essential judicial and ritual requisite.  The question “Why do your disciples not wash their hands before eating?” persisted. It created tensions in the early Church, particularly in the Christian community of Mark where some of the new Christians were Jews and some were Gentiles.  The Gentiles did not follow the Jewish customs, and, consequently, some of the Jewish Christians were upset.

Jesus’ reaction: In response to the Sanhedrin’s public criticism, Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition by citing Isaiah 29:13, where the prophet castigates the tendency to “teach mere human precepts as dogmas.”  “This people pays Me lip-service but their heart is far from Me.  Empty is the reverence they do Me, because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts.” The Pharisees placed emphasis, not on building a relationship with God and their fellow-human beings, but on checking out their own external behavior.  Originally these religious traditions were intended to symbolize inner realities — outward signs of inward devotion to God’s Will.  But the Pharisees were using them to boost their own egos.  Hence, Jesus flatly denied that external things or circumstances could separate a person from God.  Jesus was not criticizing rituals given in the Mosaic Law, but the giving of disproportionate importance to these things while neglecting what was far more important, the love of God and the care for one’s fellow-human beings.  By insisting that uncleanness comes from violations of the moral law rather than of minute ritual prescriptions, Jesus denied a basic principle of Jewish religion and set aside a considerable amount of Mosaic Law.  “Nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity.” Jesus contradicted the Pharisees, not denying the value of the Jewish Law, but understanding that Mosaic Law was primarily about love and freedom, and that its ritual elements were all subordinate to this primary concern.

Real source of impurity:  As illustrations of the evils which really make a person sinful and alienate him from God, Jesus mentions six evil acts: practices of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adultery, acts of coveting or lust, and wickedness in general.  Then he adds a checklist of six vices or sins of the heart: deceit (lying), wantonness (shamelessness, immodesty), jealousy or envy, slander (imputing evil to others), pride (arrogance), and folly (the stupidity of one lacking moral judgment).  The point is clear.  Righteousness is not what we do on the outside, but who we are on the inside.  Righteousness is not about the hand; it is about the heart.  Acts of adultery, murder and unkindness come from within, from hearts that are adulterous, murderous and unkind.  For Jesus, a community that is actively worshiping God is a community that does not base its behavior solely on precepts and doctrines, but is integrally connected to God through righteous, just, and loving relationships. What makes a person holy are the attitudes and actions that Paul in Gal 5:22-23 lists as “the fruits” of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Life messages: 1) We need to keep the spirit of the Church’s laws and practices. For example, our Sunday obligation is intended to allow us to worship God in the parish community, to offer our lives to God, to ask His pardon for our sins, to thank God for His blessings, to present our needs before Him  and to receive Divine Life and strength from Him in receiving Holy Communion. Our daily   family prayers are meant to thank God for His blessings, to present the family’s needs before God, to ask pardon for all our sins, and to maintain the spirit of unity and love in the family.

2) Let us avoid the tendency to become cafeteria Christians. As the Pharisees did, we, too, add to or subtract from God’s laws given in the Bible and taught by the Church. Some of us pick and choose certain Commandments to follow, ignoring the others as we do food offerings in a cafeteria. For example, some actively do corporal and spiritual works of Charity, but avoid Sunday Mass or remain unfaithful to the obligations attached to the   gift of their sexuality or the sacrament of marriage. Others are interested in fulfilling only the “minimal obligations” of the Faith. They come to Mass late and leave early. They make an effort to avoid serious sins, but don’t go to confession even when they fall into mortal sins.

3) Let us accept the challenge to become hearers and doers of God’s word as St. James instructs us:  Let us ask ourselves how the Sunday or daily readings are affecting or changing our lives. That will show us whether we are being attentive listeners to, and doers of, God’s word. We become more fully Jesus’ family members, only when we consistently “hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion today, let us ask for the grace to become the doers of his word as Jesus was the doer of his Fathers’ will.

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) 1) “Because they don’t know you.” Once a grouchy old Deacon was teaching a boy’s Sunday School class. He wanted to help them understand what a Christian was, so he asked them a question. He asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?” There was a moment of silence and then one of the boys said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.

2)Amazing family tradition: Isaac Ole had heard from his grandma stories of an amazing family tradition in his family.  It seems that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been able to walk on water on their 21st birthday.  On that day, they’d walk across the lake to the boat club for their first legal drink.  So, when Isaac’s 21st birthday came around, he and his pal Sven took a boat out to the middle of the lake.  Ole stepped out of the boat and nearly drowned!  Sven just managed to pull him to safety. Furious and confused, Ole went to see his grandmother.  “Grandma,” he asked,” it’s my 21st birthday, so why can’t I walk across the lake like my father, his father, and his father before him?”  Granny looked into Ole’s eyes with a broad smile and said, “Because your father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born in January when the lake is frozen, and you were born in July!”

3) The Jewish tradition: Late in the evening, the young Jew knocked at the door and asked as an elderly man opened the door. “Sir, what time is it?”  The old Jew just stared at him and did not answer.  “Sir forgive me for disturbing you at this time,” said the young Jew, “but I really want to know what time it is.  I have to find a place to sleep.”  The old Jew said, “Son, the inn on the next street is the only one in this small city.  I don’t know you, so you must be a stranger.  If I answer you now, according to our Jewish tradition, I must invite you to my home.  You’re handsome and I have a beautiful daughter.  You will both fall in love and you’ll want to get married.  And tell me, why would I want a son-in-law who can’t even afford a watch?”

4) Who is the Pharisee?  Father O’Malley was going through the mail one day after his powerful sermon on the Pharisaic life of some of his parishioners on the previous Sunday.  Drawing a single sheet of paper from an envelope, he found written on it just one word: “FOOL.”  The next Sunday at Mass, he announced, “I have known many people who have written letters and forgot to sign their names.  But this week I received a letter from someone who signed his name and forgot to write a letter.”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) 200 Useful Catholic Links: http://www.saintfrancis.net/links.htm http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/2) Movie & Home Video Reviews: http://www.usccb.org/movies/index.shtml

3) U.S. Catholic Magazine  http://www.uscatholic.org/

4) Text Week homily on Mk 7: 1-23: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/mark7a.htm

5)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

6Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

7) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/  (Type in the Address bar (topmost column) and press the Enter button of your keyboard

Scriptural Homilies” no. 48 by Fr. Tony akadavil@gmail.com

sam_12491 washing-hands img_vows_handwashing

26Additional anecdotes:  

1)  “Well, Daddy, which one did God believe?”One Sunday a man sat through a church service and then on the way home he fussed about the sermon, he griped about the traffic, he complained about the heat, and he made a big fuss about how late the lunch meal was served.         Then he bowed and prayed, giving God thanks for the food.        His son was watching him all the way through this post-church experience. Just as they were beginning to pass the food he said, “Daddy, did God hear you when we left the church and you started fussin’ about the sermon and about the traffic and about the heat?”         The father blushed and said, “Well, yes, son, He heard me.”         “Well, Daddy, did God hear you when you just prayed for this food right now?”         And he says, “Well, yes, son, He … He … He heard me.”         “Well, Daddy, which one did God believe?”         That little story showcases a problem that afflicts far too many church people. Too often what we claim to be and what we really are is miles apart. We call this condition “hypocrisy”

1) Bowing tradition: Years ago Harry Emerson Fosdick told about a Church in Denmark where the worshipers bowed regularly before a certain spot on the wall. They had been doing that for three centuries — bowing at that one spot in the sanctuary. Nobody could remember why. One day in renovating the Church, they removed some of the whitewash on the walls. At the exact spot where the people bowed they found the image of the Madonna under the whitewash. People had become so accustomed to bowing before that image that even after it was covered up for three centuries, people still bowed. Tradition is a powerful thing. — The Pharisees had learned to substitute tradition, custom, habit for the presence of the living God. Jaroslav Pelikan once said, “Tradition is the living Faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Traditionalism rears its head in many ways, in many times and in many places. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) We are being watched. In many cities, we will get a ticket for speeding by mail, because photo radar vans sit beneath freeway underpasses snapping our picture as we speed by, and the gun records our speed, while the camera focuses on our license plate.  Video cameras are popping up everywhere, like virtual watching eyes.  School districts are installing cameras in school buses to document for unbelieving parents how their children behave. YMCAs have mounted security cameras everywhere.  Banks and businesses monitor the movements of suspected criminals and shop-lifters.  With Webcams positioned strategically throughout the child-care center, parents can log on to the Internet to see what’s happening with their babies.  Buzzing along benignly through clear American skies, the Recon Spy Plane has a hidden, remote-controlled camera that can be activated from up to 1,000 feet away.  All these are meant to force citizens to behave well.  — But we conveniently forget the truth that God has an all-seeing “Holycam” perched inside our souls enabling Him to see what is in our hearts and minds. We may get away with appearance-based virtual morality in society, fooling civil authorities, friends, spouse, or children.  But Jesus gives us a strong warning in today’s Gospel: “Nothing that enters from outside can defile a person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mark 7:15).  Jesus is cautioning us not to be like some Pharisees who passed themselves off as pious, always performing the correct rites and keeping tradition-based observances, but whose inner lives were polluted with the stench of the graveyard. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Move Christ from our lips to our hearts:  In 1974, the top college basketball player in the country was a young man by the name of Bill Walton. At six foot eleven, he dominated college basketball. He took his team, UCLA, to their third consecutive NCAA championship, and in his senior year went on to the NBA. Bill had some adjustments to make in the NBA, and he didn’t make them very well. Then abruptly he left the game. He said his heart was no longer in his playing. After some time had gone by, Bill Walton came back. This time his heart was in his game, and he played like it. He led the Portland Trailblazers to their first NBA championship. Then he moved on to the Boston Celtics. Now he’s a television basketball announcer. — It makes all the difference in the world if your heart is in what you’re doing! A lot of us are trying to live our lives with our hearts in nothing or, we should say, with nothing in our hearts. We have Christ on our lips, but He’s never made that journey further down. That’s why we are bored. How do we  move Christ from our lips to our hearts? That is the question which today’s Gospel asks us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) The world needs people who are on fire for Christ: William Lloyd Garrison was the greatest Abolitionist this country has ever known. He was a publisher of an anti-slavery newspaper called The Liberator. Garrison was an angry man, angry with indignation caused by the unbelievably inhumane treatment many of the slaves experienced. He hated slavery with everything that was in him. One day one of his best friends, Samuel May, tried to calm him down. He said to Garrison, “Oh, my friend, try to moderate your indignation and keep more cool. Why, you are all on fire!” Garrison replied, “Brother May, I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice around me to melt.” — Well, the only way any of us can melt mountains of ice is to be on fire. The only way Christ can use any of us is when we are driven by a great passion, when we feel or hear Jesus’ Voice within our heart showing us a great cause that needs to be championed. Nothing is accomplished in this world by people who have no passion. They follow rituals and traditions without getting converted and renewed.  That’s one reason we need God in our hearts as well as on our lips. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Princess Diana versus Mother Teresa: Princes Diana captured the imagination of the world. When she married in 1981, 700 million watched it in TV, and when she met with a tragic death  on August 31, 1997, her funeral was watched by 2.5 billion people on TV. So it would not be surprising if, on August 31, 2021 media made mention of the anniversary of her passing. The media may recall that someone else who died twenty-four years ago, a little nun in Calcutta known to the world as Mother Teresa. It has been said that Mother Teresa chose the wrong week for her death, because it was overshadowed by the death of the young princess. But maybe that’s the way it should be. Nothing could better reflect how warped the values of the world are. Mother Teresa wasn’t accompanied by a billionaire playboy when she passed from this life to the celestial kingdom. She wasn’t being driven in a high-speed luxury car. She lived and died serving the least and the lowest. She lived and died glorifying God and serving her neighbor. — There’s nothing wrong with little girls aspiring to grow up to be princesses. How much better, though, if all of us aspired to be more like Mother Teresa! There’s nothing wrong with pomp and circumstance. There’s not even anything wrong with ceremonies linked to the washing of hands (even though doctors say a little dirt is good for one), unless the ceremony of washing hands causes one to look down on those who don’t observe such ceremonies, or unless one has clean hands but an impure heart. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) The Fall: In Albert Camus’ novel The Fall, the central figure is a nameless lawyer who tells his story to a stranger he meets in a Dutch bar. The anonymous lawyer relates how he had always prided himself on being a selfless servant of humanity, a man of noble virtue and generosity. But then one dark rainy midnight, something happened to shatter his self-righteous image. As he was walking home over a bridge, he passed by a slim young woman leaning over the rail and staring into the river. Stirred by the sight of her, he hesitated a moment, and then walked on. After crossing the bridge he heard a body striking the water, a cry repeated several times, and then the midnight silence again. He wanted to do something to save her, but stood there motionless for a while and then went home. — The nameless lawyer in Camus’ story reminds us in some ways of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. The Pharisees were experts in the law and prided themselves on their scrupulous observance of it. And yet Jesus castigated them for their hypocrisy by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “This people pay me lip service but their heart is far from me”  (Albert Cylwicki, His Word Resounds). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8)  “Oh yes, I believe in God, but I’m not nuts about Him 1”A young coed being interviewed on television about her religious beliefs said, “Oh yes, I believe in God, but I’m not nuts about Him!” According to the Gallup Poll that is a good description of how most Americans feel about God. Ninety-four percent of us believe in God. When it comes to translating that belief into action, however, most of us are clearly not nuts about Him. We have something in common with the Pharisees. Jesus once summed up the Pharisees’ chief problem like this: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” — There is a group kin to the traditionalists that we might call Christian Secularists. This group is made up of that host of nominally committed people who fill the rolls of most churches. They bring their children to Sunday School. They use the Church to marry and bury. They visit us at Christmas and at Easter. They are not atheists or agnostics. They, like that young coed, believe in God, but they’re not nuts about him. Today’s Gospel is Christ’s view about such followers. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) The great Potato Famine in Ireland: Between 1845 and 1849, the Great Potato Famine cruelly tortured Ireland and was responsible for the slow starvation and deaths of tens of thousands of Irish men, women and children. The blight that struck the beloved potato, the staple crop of the tenant farmers, was a blight called phytophthora infestans. As the disease decimated the potato crop, it assured bare tables and empty stomachs for millions of working families who depended on the potato for the filling, nourishing part of their daily diet. What was particularly cruel about this potato blight was that it left the tubers looking unscathed on the outside. The vegetables appeared large, firm, and hearty. But when cut open the potato revealed the blight had consumed it from the inside. The potato would be rotten, hollowed, soft and stinking from the center out to within a half-inch of its outer skin. What had looked promising as a meal couldn’t even produce a mouthful of unrotted pulpy flesh. The potatoes rotted from the inside out. — This is exactly what the Bible means when it talks about original sin. We all have this blight in our being that rots us from the inside out. So even if we look great on the outside, and even if we tithe our lottery earnings and put lots of people to work, our hidden hungers and deep desires within are our true selves. Paul the Apostle said, “The good that I would, I do not, and the evil that I would not, I do” (Rom 7:15). We all stand as lepers, ritually unclean, standing in the need of grace and prayer. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) “Love Lifted Me” Clarence Jordan the founder of Koinonia Farm, saw hypocrisy at work at an early age. His father was a prosperous banker and merchant in a small Georgia town. They lived within one hundred yards of the Talbot County jail. One hot summer night during a revival meeting, Jordan noted how carried away the warden of the jail’s chain gang became while singing, “Love Lifted Me.” He was inspired at how deeply the prevailing spiritual atmosphere had impacted this man. Later that same night, however, Jordan was awakened by agonizing groans coming from the direction of the chain gang camp. He knew what was happening; he had heard these sounds before. Someone had been placed into the “stretcher” and was being tortured. He also knew only one person could be responsible for inflicting such torture: the same man who had been singing “Love Lifted Me” with such great emotion and conviction only hours before. — The realization tore at Jordan’s heart. He identified with the man who was in agony and, as a result, became angry with the Church as he understood it. Jordan didn’t reject his Faith or launch a protest, however. He stuffed his anger deep inside until such time as he could make a difference, which he certainly did in writing the Cotton Patch versions of the New Testament and in founding Koinonia Farm. [Dr. William Mitchell and Michael A. Mitchell, Building Strong Families: How Your Family Can Withstand the Challenges of Today’s Culture (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), p. 193.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) A little dirt is good for you: One leading researcher, Dr. Joel V. Weinstock . . . said in an interview that the immune system at birth “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction . . . Children raised in an ultraclean environment,” he added, “are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits . . . Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat,” he said. He pointed out that children who grow up on farms are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases. Also helpful, he said, is to “let kids have two dogs and a cat, which will expose them to intestinal worms that can promote a healthy immune system.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?ref=science). — Some of us probably think the good doctor went a little too far, particularly with regard to worms. However, the case seems fairly well made: a little dirt is good for you. The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem saw some of Jesus’ disciples eating food with ritually unwashed hands. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “I was in awe, every time I walked onto the field.” In 2005, Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Listen to how he describes his devotion to the institution of professional baseball: “I was in awe,” says Sandberg, “every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever, your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.” Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career,” said Ryne Sandberg, “but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect . . . If this validates anything, it’s that guys who taught me the game . . . did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/opinion/27brooks.html?ref=opinion.) — Many people would call Sandberg old-fashioned. And perhaps he is. But respect for tradition is important for holding things together whether it is a game like baseball, a culture, or a community of Faith, a Church. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Don’t substitute rituals for authentic religion:  In Tony Campolo’s book Who Switched the Price Tags? Campolo says that, as an evangelical Baptist teacher and preacher, one of the most serious errors he made was to underestimate the value of ritual and tradition. From his studies of the famous French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, Campolo discovered how essential and vital “ritual is for the health and maintenance of any social institution.” Studies have shown, for example, “that in the absence of consistent ritual, families tend to fall apart morally and psychologically.” (Rev. Eric S. Ritz). — Jesus was the Master didn’t want us to substitute rituals for authentic religion or ceremonies for compassion toward others. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Changing rules of the game: Jesus had a knack for constantly changing the rules of the game of life in order to incorporate a wider range of people in his Kingdom “net.” One sport where the rules have occasionally been changed is volleyball. Volleyball is a well-established game with rules which are basically understood by everyone who plays. But many times we would have children playing the game who were either handicapped or mentally retarded. In order to integrate these special children into the game of volleyball, it was necessary to change the standing rules or laws of the game. We would say that it was fair for the special children to catch and throw the ball instead of having to volley the ball. This enabled all of the children to be part of the game. –In our text Jesus was concerned that all of God’s children be welcomed in His Kingdom life. And Jesus would go so far as to change the rules and regulations and laws in order to integrate as many of God’s children as possible. — The Pharisees and teachers used the law to exclude people from the kingdom. This angered Jesus to the point of remembering what Isaiah had written: “These people honor Me with their words, but their heart is really far away from Me.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) Where are your sheep? In the late 1960s a soldier returned from Vietnam with a war bride. They made their home in rural Virginia. And they went to Church. He was suffering post-battle stress syndrome and drinking heavily. She was Asian, lonely, and struggling to understand American society. The town shunned her. She was “different.” It was whispered she’d gotten pregnant to trap a husband and escape Saigon. People would not let their children play with hers. No one called her on her phone. She grew depressed and finally killed her child and herself. — At her funeral the Lord asked the pastor, “Where are your sheep?” He gave no reply. The Lord asked a second time, “Where are your sheep?” And the pastor said, “I don’t have any sheep. I have a pack of wolves!” — What of us? What of us? Will we be Jesus’ lambs or self-made wolves? The one is the product of grace, the other of demons and self. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) You are a Pharisee: You might be a Pharisee — if you’ve ever shouted, “Amen!” more than 51 times during a single sermon on somebody else’s sin; if you think the only music God listens to is at least 100 years old; if you’re sure nobody has ever had to forgive you; if your black leather Bible is so big it takes two hands to hold it up! You might be a Pharisee — if you think the world would be a better place if everyone were just like you; if you think Jesus might have overstepped His bounds when He turned water into wine; if you think big hair is a sign of holiness; if you go to Church to prove you’re good! That is why Jesus issues three bewares to his disciples: “Beware the leaven of the Herodians” (Mk 8:15), Beware the leaven of the Sadducees(Mt 16:6) and “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees,” (Mt 16:6). You are a Pharisee — if have faith in your ideas and traditions about God instead of a relationship with the Living God; if you inclined to see what’s wrong with everything; if have a martyr complex; if you crave recognition; if you believe you are closer to God than others; if you have a “That’s him!” attitude; if you are constantly wallowing in guilt with the feeling that you can never measure up; if you are repulsed by emotional extravagance; if you glory in the past; if you are addicted to self-help pop-psychology; if you bring division instead of  lasting works; if you don’t take correction; if you believe you have been appointed by God to fix everything; if your prayer life is mechanical; if you believe you are on the cutting edge; if you are bossy; if you are intolerant, merciless, and take pride in downward comparisons; if you are suspicious of new movements; if you are offended when you are addressed without the use of a proper title; and if you glory in anything but Jesus and the cross. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) White shoes in Summer: There was an amusing incident several years ago when the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, visited Houston, Texas. When the Duchess made her first public appearance in Houston she wore a summer dress and matching white shoes. Now a summer dress can be appropriate attire in November in Texas, but every good Southern belle knows you don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day. It simply isn’t done. Fergie’s fashion faux pas caused an uproar. It was the hot topic on all the news shows and radio shows in Houston. Finally, the Duchess’ press secretary actually had to issue a press release explaining that this custom was unheard of in England. [Schwartz, Marilyn. A Southern Belle Primer (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p. 21.] — Some traditions are just plain silly, like expressing dismay at someone wearing white shoes in November. Others can be sinful, like washing your hands to demonstrate to others your piety, when really your heart is far from God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Sleeping Beauty’s Castle:  The centerpiece of Disney World, its most familiar icon, is the beautiful Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Its tall towers, fluttering banners, imposing size, and fairy-tale perfection draw every child (and isn’t that all of us?) towards it. But at Disney World, with all its technological wizardry and attention to detail, that centerpiece castle is a disappointment to first-time visitors. At least it was for me. Far from being filled with magical nooks and crannies, secret staircases, vast ballrooms and airy aeries to gaze out at the rest of the “magic kingdom” Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is empty. The castle is a hollow shell. The castle’s function is simply to serve as a portal into the Magic Kingdom, which loses some of its magic as soon as it becomes apparent that the castle is nothing more than a glorified archway. The outward appearance is all deception. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has no heart of its own. — Jesus wants to transform you this morning from the inside out, not from the outside in. Whatever the hollowed-out areas of your life, Jesus wants to fill them in with his presence and power. Jesus wants to give you a new heart a heart of Faith, a heart of Hope, a heart of Love. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) “No-drownings” celebration in New Orleans: In 1985 there was a celebration in New Orleans. New Orleans is a town known for celebrating, but this was a special kind of celebration. Sponsored by the city, it was a celebration at the municipal pool in New Orleans. The city’s life guards and support personnel were commemorating the first summer in memory with no drownings in the pools of that city. Two hundred people showed up for that party; one hundred of them were certified life guards. They had a great time, but as the party broke up, and the four life guards on duty for the occasion cleared the water, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end of the pool. Jerome Moody, age 31, had drowned right in the midst of the celebration. They tried in vain to revive him. [Jon Tal Murphree, Made To Be Mastered, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984).] — When I read that, I wondered to myself if it might be possible, right here in the body of Christ, right here with all the certified life guards – Sunday School teachers, officers of the church, choir members, pastors and all — could it be possible that there is someone who is drowning? Someone who is hurting so inside that there has come a barrier between him/her and God? He/she is one of the walking wounded. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) “Freedom of choice is the right to hate”: The December 1998 issue of Life magazine carried a full-page picture of a group of about a dozen protestors. These people with twisted and angry faces were not protesting at the White House or in front of a military base. They were protesting at a funeral. One of them held a sign which read in big letters: “FREEDOM OF CHOICE IS THE RIGHT TO HATE.” They were protesting at the October 16, 1998 funeral of Matthew Shephard, the 21-year-old gay student beaten to death and hanged cross-like on a fence in Laramie, Wyoming. After such a terrible crime, could they not at least allow Matthew’s family and friends to mourn in peace? — I wonder if the people protesting at Matthew Shephard’s funeral considered themselves Christians. If so, I wonder how they justified their hatred–regardless of how they might have felt about Shephard’s lifestyle. Even on the cross, Jesus forgave His enemies. How could they possibly justify hatred in Jesus’ name? But that’s what happens when your lips are one place and your heart is somewhere else. You can use religion to mask a heart filled with evil. You can use religion as a weapon against those whom you despise. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Do we stand for God? Centuries ago in one of the Egyptian monasteries, a man came and asked to be admitted. The abbot told him that the chief rule was obedience, and the man promised to be patient on all occasions, even under excessive provocation. It chanced that the abbot was holding a dried-up willow stick in his hands; he forthwith fixed the dead stick into the earth and told the newcomer to water it until, against all rules of nature, it should once again become green. Obediently the new monk walked two miles every day to the river Nile to bring a vessel of water on his shoulders and water the dry stick. A year passed by and he was still faithful to his task, though very weary. Another year and still he toiled on. Well into the third year he was still trudging to the river and back, still watering the stick, when suddenly it burst into life.–The green bush alive today is a living witness to the mighty virtues of obedience and faith. (F. H. Drinkwater in Quotes and Anecdotes; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) The Wrongs of Rites: A disciple once boasted about the effectiveness of his prayers and pilgrimages. His Guru advised him to take a bitter gourd along with him on his pilgrimage to place at every altar, to dip into every holy river and to be blessed at every shrine. When the disciple returned, the Guru reverently conducted a liturgy with the bitter gourd, cut it into pieces, and distributed it as sacramental food. Tasting it he declared, “Isn’t it surprising that all the prayers, pujas and pilgrimages, have not reduced the bitterness of this gourd?” — Many people spend much time discussing rectitude of rituals and reinforcement of rites. Isn’t it time to stop fighting about rites and rituals and begin fighting for the rights of those orphans and widows mentioned in the Scripture? (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds: quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) Their heart is not in it…A man died recently and went to Heaven. He was very happy up there, as he wandered about, exploring the place. One Sunday morning he bumped into Jesus (it could happen up there, just as sure as down here!). Jesus called him over to show him something. He opened a sort of trap door in the floor of Heaven, so that the man could look through, and see even as far as the earth below. Eventually, Jesus got him to focus his attention on a Church, his own local Church at home, where there was a full congregation at Mass. The man watched for a while, and then something began to puzzle him. He could see the priest moving his lips, and turning over the pages. He could see the choir holding their hymnals, and the organist thumping the keyboards. But he couldn’t hear a sound. It was total silence. Thinking that the amplification system in heaven had broken down, he turned to Jesus for an explanation. Jesus looked at him in surprise. “Didn’t anybody ever tell you? We have a rule here that if they don’t do those things down there with their hearts, we don’t hear them up here at all!” (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) Pursuit of enemy not hindered by prayer: Barclay’s second story is about a Muslim pursuing an enemy to kill him. In the midst of the pursuit, the Azan, or public call to prayer, sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him. — Jesus opposes this type of legalism in the Jewish religion in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) Be doers of the word: St Fidelis, a martyr from southern Germany who died in 1622, is a good example. • Fidelis began his professional life as a brilliant and effective lawyer. • From the way he practiced law, he accrued a reputation for honesty, integrity, and effectiveness. • But his colleagues’ habitual dishonesty and self-seeking disgusted him so much that he left his career and became a Capuchin friar. • He put his lawyering skills to work in a heavy load of preaching, hearing confessions, and organizing care for the sick, many of whom he cured with miracles. • Everywhere he went whole towns were renewed in an energetic adherence to Christ and his Church. • When he and eight companions were sent to bring the Zwinglians (a branch of early Protestantism) of western Switzerland back into the Catholic fold, his mission met with similar success. • Too much success, maybe. • Soon the local leaders had had enough and roused the peasants against him. • They attempted to shoot him while he was preaching but missed. • Then they ambushed him on the road and beat him to death when he wouldn’t renounce his Catholic Faith. • The prayers for his attackers that escaped from his dying lips converted a Zwinglian minister who witnessed the martyrdom. If we live our Faith from the inside out, not only putting on a show, we will find the happiness we seek, and help others find it too. (E-Priest) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Lip Service: A story is told of a Moslem who, while pursuing a man with an upraised knife to kill him, heard the muezzin’s call to prayer from the minaret. He stopped, extended his prayer rug, said his prescribed prayers, and then continued his original pursuit after the man he wished to kill. He had said his prayers now he could go about his sordid business. — Unfortunately, changing what has to be changed, the same could be observed of some Christians, who while pursuing their sinful activities, may stop to attend Church services before getting back to their same old sinful pursuits. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) They saw that she was no sham: On Commencement Day, June 10, 1982, Harvard University conferred honorary degrees on twelve men and women. One of them was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her care of “the poorest of the poor.” The little nun was also chosen to give the Harvard Class Day address. It is reported that she was the third choice of the senior class. They had first invited actor Alan Alda, who had declined; and then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who had also declined. To use an old expression, the seniors had “shot at the goose and hit the gander.” Mother Teresa, whose English is slightly accented but excellent, “spoke with an almost mesmerizing conviction.” As usual she was direct, positive and Christian in her remarks. She told the members of the large graduating class that virginity is “the most beautiful thing a young man and a young woman can give each other.” Make a resolution,” she said, “that on your wedding day you can give each other something beautiful.” “But,” she added, “if a mistake has been made, have the courage to accept the child. Do not destroy it. That sin is murder.” Harvard Magazine commented, “What she said struck many listeners as anomalous in Harvard Yard on Class Day.” That is putting it mildly. But it was a tribute to this great university’s intellectual honesty that Mother Teresa “received a long, standing ovation from the unusually large crowd come to hear a saintly woman.” The same thing happened at commencement when she was praised for setting “an example of compassionate generosity that awakens the conscience of the world.” The commencement audience gave her another standing ovation. — Why should sophisticated audiences like these have hailed a nun who brought them back to basic principles? Simply because they saw she was no sham. By carefully living up to the law of God, she had “given evidence of her wisdom and intelligence to the nations.” (Dt 4:4. Today’s first reading.) -Father Robert Fr. McNamara. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

27) Reluctant to break the Sabbath law:Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a psychologist, is appalled by the culture of moral relativism that has pervaded our society. In her book, How Could You Do That? Dr. Laura tells of a call from a young woman who was living with her fiancé. The young woman’s future mother-in-law was insisting that the woman and her son move closer to her home. What was the problem with that? The young woman claimed to be an Orthodox Jew, and she complained that if she moved closer to her future mother-in-law’s home, then she would be too far away from the synagogue. Instead of walking to Sabbath services, she would then have to drive, which would be breaking the Sabbath law. — Dr. Laura couldn’t get the young woman to understand the inconsistency between observing one tenet of her faith, honoring the Sabbath, but not caring if she violated another — the prohibition against living with her fiancé out of wedlock. It’s not unusual for people to espouse one thing and to do something entirely different. [Schlessinger, Dr. Laura. How Could You Do That?! (New York: HarperPerennial, 1996), pp. 186-187.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).L/21
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 48) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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 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 .

Monday Meditation: RCL Year B, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 - Gary Neal Hansen -

 

August 23-28 weekday homilies

Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed Sunday and weekday homilies.

Aug 23-28: Aug 23 Monday (St. Rose of Lima, Virgin): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-rose-of-lima Mt 23:13-22: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you  make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, `If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20i One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;21one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it;22one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: It is the third day of the original “Holy Week” in Jerusalem, a day of controversy and personal attacks.  The Master is under fire, and challenges the religious leaders of Israel, pronouncing the first three of the eight woes Jesus would levy levies against the religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and publicly humiliating them. The Judeo-Christians of Matthew’s early Christian community argued that the Gentile Christians should follow all Torah laws, oral laws and oral traditions. Matthew’s account reminds them of the criticism Jesus laid against the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage.  Sins of the Scribes and Pharisees:  Matthew 23 gives us the Master’s scathing condemnation of the Jewish leadership, expressing the rolling thunder of Jesus’ anger and sorrow at the hypocrisy or double standard of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus levels three accusations against the Pharisees: 1) they do not practice what they preach, 2) they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and 3) they seek public acknowledgment and glory for themselves rather than for God. Jesus calls them hypocrites because i) although they know that the essence of religion is loving one’s neighbors, seeing God in them, they teach that external observance of man-made laws alone is the real essence of religion; ii) although they are zealous missionaries in inviting converts to Judaism, they overburden the converts with man-made laws and regulations as the essence of Judaism; and iii) they try to bluff God by misinterpreting the Law and misleading the people. Jesus gives the example of swearing and accuses them of cleverly evading binding oaths and solemn promises by falsified interpretations.

Life message: 1) What Jesus wants is a pure heart, with no element of deceit. We should not follow the dog-in-the-manger policy of the Pharisees by not keeping God’s commandments ourselves and not allowing others to keep them. 2)  Let us avoid frivolous swearing and oaths and all forms of hypocrisy and superstition in our religious life. (Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)

 

Aug 24 Tuesday (St. Bartholomew, Apostle) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-bartholomew Jn 1; 45-51: 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: In today’s Gospel of John (John 1:43-51), Nathanael, also called Bartholomew or “son of Tholomay,” is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he accepts Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus welcomes him saying, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (RSV2 Catholic) Jesus’ comment, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”(RSV 2 Catholic), is probably based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah because the rabbi used to give Bible classes for small groups under the shade of fig trees. Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” Nathanael reappears at the end of John’s Gospel (John 21:2), as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius after his Resurrection from the tomb. The Gospels thus present Bartholomew as a man with no malice and lover of Torah with openness to truth and readiness to accept the truth. Nathanael was the first Apostle to make an explicit confession of Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God.

Life messages: 1) Let us pray for the grace to love the word of God as Bartholomew did. 2) Let us also pray that we may accept the teaching of the Bible and the Church with open heart and open mind, without pride or prejudice. (Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)

Aug 25: Wednesday (St. Louis) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-louis-of-france , St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-joseph-calasanz ): Matthew 23:27-32: 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s passage, again taken from chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel, gives the seventh and eighth accusations made against the Pharisees on the third day of the original “Holy Week” in Jerusalem, as Jesus addressed them in the Temple precincts. Jesus told them plainly that they were whitewashed tombs containing rotten stuff inside.

Hypocrisy exposed:  Jesus compared the scribes and Pharisees to the tombs on the sides of the road leading to Jerusalem. In preparation for the three major Jewish feasts, the Scribes and Pharisees used to have these tombs whitewashed, so that the pilgrims would not be ritually defiled by unknowingly walking over one. In this seventh charge, Jesus accused the Pharisees of moral filth, of hiding injustice and immorality inside themselves and covering the corruption with “whitewash” — the pretenses of piety and religious fervor. In his eighth and final indictment, Jesus also criticized their false zeal in decorating the old monuments and rebuilding new monuments for the past prophets who had been persecuted and murdered by the forefathers of the Pharisees because these modern Pharisees had neither learned nor been changed by the messages of the now-dead prophets.

Life messages: 1) We need to be men and women of integrity and character without any element of hypocrisy in our Christian life. 2) We should not make a show of holiness and religious fervor when we are not internally holy. Here is St. John Chrysostom’s (4th century) comment on the matter: “You have been counted worthy to become temples of God. But you have instead suddenly become more like sepulchers, having the same sort of foul smell. This is dreadful. It is extreme wretchedness that one in whom Christ dwells and in whom the Holy Spirit has worked such great works should turn out to be a sepulcher, a place for death, carrying a dead soul – a soul deadened by sins, a soul paralyzed – in a living body(Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)

Aug 26 Thursday: Matthew 24: 42-51: 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, `My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, 51 and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: The central theme of today’s Gospel passage is the necessity for Faith and vigilant preparedness in the lives of Christ’s followers. The passage contains a pair of short parables in which the chief characters are a master (representing the risen Jesus), and his servants (Jesus’ followers, ourselves). Jesus warns the disciples that they must be prepared at all times because the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour. According to the Fathers of the Church, Jesus’ words in this passage have two senses. In the narrower sense, the words refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, but in the broader sense they refer to the time of our own death, when God will call us to meet Him and to give Him an account of our life on earth. Jesus wants all of us to be ready at every moment to do God’s will by loving others through humble, sacrificial service.

Steadfast Faith and eternal vigilance: In the first part of this discourse, prior to today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the disciples the need for constant vigilance, using the mini parable of the thief and the treasure. We should not lose our treasure of Divine grace or close relationship with Jesus, like the man who awoke one morning to discover that a thief had stolen his wealth in the night.  In the second part (today’s Gospel), Jesus exhorts the disciples to be steadfast in their Faith and ever vigilant. When he had to be away from home, a master would make a servant his steward and entrust to him the management of the household. A trusted steward was expected to run his master’s house well, to govern the master’s servants, and to administer the master’s estate. When his master was not at home, a wise and trustworthy steward was ever vigilant. He prepared himself for his master’s return at any time of the day or night by always doing his duties faithfully. Jesus illustrates the same point by using another mini parable of the foolish and wicked steward who got drunk and was caught red-handed by his master.

Life message: 1) These parables encouraging “wakefulness” and “preparedness” are addressed to all believers. Since the time of our death is quite uncertain, we, too, must be ever ready to meet our Lord at any moment. Our Master should find us carrying out our tasks of love, mercy and service, rather than leaving things undone or half-done or postponed. He should also find us at peace with God, ourselves and with our fellowmen (Eph 4:26) (Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)

Aug 27 Friday (St. Monica): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-monica Mt 25:1-13: 1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, `Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 …13 USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s parable, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, brings the usual warnings about preparation for the end of our own world, the end of our own times, and our own passage to another world.  The parable tells us that a searching, watching, and growing heart is essential for a lively, dynamic Faith in God; it also asks us whether we are ready for these events and how we are preparing for them.

The parable: Since a wedding was a great occasion, the whole village would line up at the sides of the road to wish God’s blessings on the bride and groom in procession.  The invited ones would join the procession, which started from the bride’s house, and ended at the groom’s house to take part in the week-long celebration. Since the bridegroom might come to the bride’s house unexpectedly, the bridal party had to be ready at any time, with virgins carrying lighted torches and reserve oil in jars.  The five foolish virgins who could not welcome the groom’s party lost not only the opportunity of witnessing the marriage ceremony, but also of participating in the week-long celebration that followed.  The local meaning is that the foolish virgins represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah but were shut out from the Messianic banquet because they were unprepared.  The universal meaning is that the five foolish virgins represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives and for the Final Judgment. They do not put their Faith in Jesus and live it out by keeping Jesus’ Commandment to love others as Jesus Himself did.

Life messages:  1) We must be wise enough to remain ever prepared:  Wise Christians carefully make their daily choices for God. They are ready to put the commandment of love into practice by showing kindness and forgiveness.   2) Let us be sure that our lamps are ready for the end of our lives: Spiritual readiness, preparation and growth come as a result of intentional habits built into one’s life.  These include taking time for prayer and being alone with God; reading God’s Word; leading a Sacramental life; cooperating with God’s grace by offering acts of loving service to others; practicing moral faithfulness, and living always in loving obedience to Him(Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)

Aug 28 Saturday (St. Augustine, Bishop, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-augustine-of-hippo : Matthew 25:14-30 : 14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, `Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I  have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the  joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, `Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the  joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and  gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’  USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: The three parables in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew (The Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Talents, The Last Judgment) are about the end times, the end of the world, and the end of our lives. The parable of the talents is an invitation for each one of us to live in such a way that we make the best use of the talents God has given us. Then, at the hour of our death, God will say: “Well done, My good and faithful servant! Come and share the joy of your Master.” The parable challenges us to ask the questions: Are we using our talents and gifts primarily to serve God? Are we doing everything we can to carry out God’s will? The story: A very rich person, about to set off on a journey, entrusted very large sums of wealth (talents), to three of his slaves, each according to his personal ability:  five, two, and one. Through skillful trading and investing, the first and second slaves managed to double their master’s money. Afraid of taking risk and lazy by nature, the third slave buried his talent in the ground. On the day of accounting, the master rewarded the two clever slaves (“Come, share your master’s joy.”), but punished the third slave whom he calls “wicked and slothful” (v. 26). Life messages: 1) We need to trust God enough to make use of the gifts and abilities we have been given. Everyone is given different talents and blessings by God. So, we should ask ourselves how we are using our particular gifts in the service of our Christian community and the wider society. 2) We need to make use of our talents in our parish. We should be always willing to share our abilities in the liturgy, in Sunday school classes and in social outreach activities like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting the sick and the shut-ins. 3) We need to trade with our talent of Christian Faith: All of us in the Church today have received at least one talent. We have received the gift of Faith. Our responsibility as men and women of Faith is not just to preserve and “keep” the Faith but to live it out daily and pass it on faithfully to the next generation in our family and in our parish community. (Fr. Tony) https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/21)