June 28 – July 3: June 28 Monday (St. Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr)( https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-irenaeus) : Mt 8:18-22: 18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel passage explains the cost of Christian discipleship and the total commitment, wholehearted constancy, and sacrificial ministry that the Christian mission requires.
It was quite unexpected for a learned scribe to volunteer to become Jesus’ disciple. But Jesus offered him no false promises, telling him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has not whereon to lay his head.” Jesus was simply being honest about the demands and the cost of a commitment the scribe might make too lightly and an arduous journey he might be undertaking too easily. Being a Christian is not an easy or comfortable affair. It calls for a lot of self-control and self-denial, putting God before everything else. Jesus’ response to another would-be disciple who asked for more time before becoming a disciple sounds harsh: “Let the dead bury their dead.” But this man’s father was not dead or sick. The man had simply asked to stay with his father until the father’s death. Jesus knew that later he would find another reason to delay answering the call.
Life messages: 1) We need to honor our commitments: Today, more than ever, people make marriage commitments too easily and then break them. The problem today is that the couples do not have the courage to make the commitment of marriage. We all know there is a tremendous shortage of priests and religious. Our young people are unwilling to make commitments to God by committing themselves to life-long celibacy, obedience to a Bishop or religious superior or to the vowed life of a religious community. 2) We need to pray for strength to honor our commitments. We are here this morning because, in one way or another, we have said to Jesus, “I will follow You.” Sometimes we have been faithful to Jesus, and other times we have not. Hence, we need to pray for strength to honor our commitments, we need to ask for forgiveness when we fail, and we need to renew our determination to walk with Jesus by being loyal to our spouse and family, earning our living honestly, and living not only peacefully, but lovingly, with our neighbors. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
June 29 Tuesday (Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles): Saints Peter & Paul the Apostles): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/solemnity-of-saints-peter-and-paul/ Mt 16: 13-19: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
Peter and Paul are the principal pillars of the Church. Today we celebrate the feast of their martyrdom. Peter was son of Jona and brother of Andrew. He was a professional fisherman from Bethsaida, a fishing town on the Lake of Galilee or Gennesaret. He might have been a follower of John the Baptist. It was his brother, Andrew, who introduced him to Jesus, and Jesus who changed his name from Simon to Cephas or Peter. Jesus made Peter the leader of the apostles. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus promised to make Peter the head of the Church, and the risen Jesus confirmed Peter’s precedence. It was the Holy Spirit through Whose Presence and Power, Peter’s speech on the day of the Pentecost, inaugurated the active life of the Church. Peter made missionary journeys to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea He also offered the decisive argument settling the question of Gentile converts and the Jewish Law at the first Council in Jerusalem. He wrote two epistles to the whole Church, and he was martyred in Rome by crucifixion under the emperor Nero.
Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest apostolic missionary, was a Roman citizen by birth, as he had been born in the Roman colony of Tarsus. His original name was Saul. As a Pharisee, he was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he learned the trade of tent-making. He was present at the stoning of Stephen and “consented to” this deed (Acts 8:1). But he was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. He made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. Paul wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and lived under house arrest for two more years in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome.
Life Messages: 1) Just as Peter and the other apostles did, we must open our eyes, ears, and hearts wide to see, hear and experience the Risen Lord coming into our life in various disguises, circumstances, and events, reminding us of our mission to proclaim the Good News in deed and in word. 2) We need to love, obey, and pray for Pope Francis and the bishops and priests who are the successors of Peter and the Apostles as they continue the work of the Risen Lord with and for us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
June 30 Wednesday (The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/first-martyrs-of-the-church-of-rome) : Mt 8:28-34 28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel episode demonstrates Jesus’ power over the devil in a Gentile town called Gadara (Matthew) or Gerasa (Mark and Luke) of Decapolis, east of the Jordan. Two (in Mark and Luke, one), possessed men came out of a tomb-filled desolate place. The possessing demons, recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, begged that Jesus send them into a herd of swine. In Mark’s and Luke’s version of the incident, the possessed man’s demons named themselves Legion (6000), indicating their number. Jesus did as the evil spirits requested, the then-possessed swine ran down the slope, and they drowned in the sea. The frightened people of the city asked Jesus to leave their city. The people considered their swine more precious than the possessed men, and the liberation given to these men from evil spirits did not matter to them. If we have a selfish or materialistic outlook, we fail to appreciate the value of Divine things and push God out of our lives, begging Him to go away as these people did.
Life messages: Come out of your tombs: 1) Jesus is calling us to come out of the tombs. Our tombs are the closed-in, sealed-off areas of our hearts where Life in the Spirit of God has died because we have not allowed Jesus to minister to us through others. When we are sealed off from God, we are lonely. We try to satisfy our inner emptiness by filling our lives with money, promiscuity, addictions, or workaholism. 2) Jesus, the liberator, is ready to free us from the tombs of our evil addictions and habits. Let us go to him and receive his love, that we may experience the joy and freedom of the children of God. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
July 1 Thursday (St. Junipero Serra, Priest (USA) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-junipero-serra) : Mt 9:1-8: 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Beyond exercising Divine authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons, and over sickness, Jesus, as we see in today’s Gospel demonstrates a new form of authority – the Divine authority to forgive sins. Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed man to health as a sign of having this Divine authority. The healing episode presents Jesus as God Incarnate was sent to save us, restore us, and make us new. So, we have to look beyond the boundaries of our limited religious experience to appreciate the healing and forgiving operation of our God in newer and newer ways.
Many kinds of sickness, like the paralysis of the man in the story, were seen by the Jews as punishment for the personal sins of the sufferer or of the sufferer’s parents. It was also a common belief that no sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus had first to convince the paralyzed man that his sins had been forgiven. Once Jesus had granted the paralytic the forgiveness of God, the man knew that God was no longer his enemy, and he was ready to receive the cure which followed. It was the manner of the cure which scandalized the Scribes. By forgiving sin Himself, Jesus had, they thought, blasphemed, insulted God, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. This healing demonstrates two facts: that we can never be right physically until we are right spiritually, and that health in body and peace with God go hand in hand.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives. The heart of the Christian Faith is the “forgiveness of sins.” In the Creed we say, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” While we have the power to forgive others, we need to be forgiven ourselves by the One who has the authority to forgive. In Jesus, we see this authority, the same authority He gave to his Church. Today’s Gospel gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to hear from the priest’s mouth the words of Jesus to the paralytic being spoken to us: “Your sins are forgiven.”
2) The Gospel also instructs us to forgive others their sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily sins every day of our lives. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
July 2 Friday: Mt 9:9-13: 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/
The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call to be 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 post to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, the Jewish people hated and despised them as traitors. They were also considered public sinners and ostracized by the Pharisees. 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 promised 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. Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Answering that question and stressing Jesus’ ministry as healer, the Master said, “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.’” 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 Matthew 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 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 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 preach Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy and compassion. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21
July 3 Saturday (St. Thomas, Apostle) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-the-apostle) : Friday Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-thomas-the-apostle/ Jn 20:24-29: 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21….USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle. Today’s Gospel passage (Jn 20:24-29) presents the fearless apostle St. Thomas, in his uncompromising honesty, demanding a personal vision of, and physical contact with, the risen Jesus as a condition for his belief. Thomas had not been with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them in the Upper Room. As a result, he refused to believe. The following week, Jesus appeared to the apostles and Thomas in the still-locked Upper Room and said: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.” Thomas was able to overcome his doubts by seeing the risen Jesus.
The unique profession of Faith: Thomas, the “doubting apostle,” made the great profession of Faith, “My Lord and My God.” This declaration by the “doubting apostle” in today’s Gospel is highly significant for two reasons. 1) It is the foundation of our Christian Faith. Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Jesus as demonstrated by Divine miracles, especially by the supreme miracle of the Resurrection from the dead. Thomas’ profession of Faith is the strongest evidence we have for the Resurrection of Jesus. 2) Thomas’ Faith culminated in his self-surrender to Jesus, his heroic missionary expedition to India in A.D. 52, his fearless preaching, and the powerful testimony given by his martyrdom in A.D. 72.
Life messages: 1) Faith culminating in self-surrender to God leads us to the service of our fellow-human beings. Living Faith enables us to see the risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render each one loving service: “Faith without good works is dead” (Jas 2:17). Mother Teresa presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.” It was his Faith in the Lord and obedience to Jesus’ missionary command that prompted St. Thomas to travel to India to preach the Gospel among the Hindus, to establish seven Christian communities (known later as “St. Thomas Christians”), and eventually to endure martyrdom. 2) We need to grow in the living and dynamic Faith of St. Thomas using the following means prescribed by the Spiritual Fathers: a) We come to know and experience Jesus personally and intimately by the daily and meditative reading of the Bible. b) We strengthen our Faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal and community prayer. c) We share in the Divine Life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. d) We are reconciled with God on a daily basis by repenting of our sins and asking God’s forgiveness and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we fall into a grave sin. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21