17 June 201811 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
11 Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 4:30-32

A man walked into a store. He found Christ behind the counter. He asked, "What do you sell here?" Christ replied, "You name it." "I want food for all, good health for kids, adequate housing for everyone, and abortion to cease." Gently Jesus answered, "Friend, I do not sell finished products here, only seeds. You must plant them and water them. I will do the rest." When Jesus told this parable of the smallest seed in the world, His disciples were in a downer. They had worked so hard and so little had happened. The famous mountain had been in labor and only a mouse had been born. Their work, begun with a bang, was about to close down without a notice. Given their depression, the Christ told them this three verse parable of the minuscule mustard seed. Though its beginnings are modest, its final height is awesome.

He wanted them to realize that despite their few numbers and the opposition against them a great Church would arise from their labors. The history books show how correct He was. Someone has noted that masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings. From eight notes come every hymn, song, and symphony ever composed. Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - all of it from eight notes. All literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. But one does not have to produce masterpieces to have an effect. Small acts make a difference. Graduating college seniors hear much nonsense from commencement speakers. However, Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prize journalist, whose reports formed the 1984 film "The Killing Fields," was a blessed exception.

He told the graduates before him, "You are often told you can change the world. But that is rubbish. What you can do is make the world modestly better." He went on to speak of their own classmates who assisted the homeless and fed the hungry over their college careers. These people made a difference. They themselves grew and developed. They were helping people one by one. Bigger is not necessarily better. His message was it is a great thing to do a little thing well. Find a cause. Go for it. Take Gandhi's advice: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh. Then they attack. Then you win." We wish to see objects grow in a flash. Yet, Christ is telling us that though you cannot see it, the mustard seed is maturing. It will become among the largest of all plants. It will climb to eleven feet. No wonder birds flock to its branches for R & R and travelers crawl into its shade for lunch and a nap. A story is told of an experiment performed by a physicist. She wanted to show her students the effect a small object can have on block of iron. The block was hanging from the ceiling. The physicist began throwing paper balls at the metal. At first nothing happened. Then after a time the iron began to vibrate, then sway, and at last move freely. The poet Lucretius wrote, "Dripping water hollows a stone."

Everything must begin somewhere. No one emerged fully grown from his mother's wombs. If Christians could learn to bring together their modest contributions to the commonweal, can you imagine what a force for good we would be for those about us? The Nazarene is saying to us, "Develop where you are planted." He warns us to that often we quit growing because, as James Tahaney said, we prefer groaning. Some years ago I heard of an Oscar winning actor. He owed his career to an elderly woman. As a young man, he received bad notices. Finally he resolved to give up his dreams of becoming an actor. Then a note arrived in his mail box from an anonymous fan. She had heard of his despondency. She wrote but four words. "Keep acting. You're good." That small note gave him the courage to continue. From her four words grew an Oscar winner. I have worked for years with teens. They often have sorrowfully spoken to me of how little or no encouragement they receive from their own families, friends, and even teachers. Cannot you and I substitute for those silent people? Cannot we do for them what the fan did for the actor? Our compliment need be no more than four words. Begin today. Encourage others. And remember the advice of Winston Churchill, "The difficulty is not to be expected in the beginning but rather when one attempts to stay the course."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
11 Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: God Gives the Growth

One year as Christmas was approaching, I decided to buy a little potted tree to decorate. I found a great one at Kmart or Walmart. I think it was a Japanese pine. I didn’t realize it, but there were actually three trees in the pot. The one that caught my attention was about 18 inches tall, but there were also two tiny little trees next to it, about three to four inches tall. After the Christmas Season, when it was time to take the decorations down, I didn’t know what to do with the trees; so I asked my Mom if she’d want to put them in the ground. She said, "Sure." That was about eighteen years ago. Now if you were to go over to my Mom’s house, and roam through her absolutely beautiful garden, you’ll see three huge trees towering over the rest of her yard. My tiny Christmas trees are now some of the biggest on her property. How did my Mom get those trees to grow like that? Well, she planted them and watered them, but God gave the growth. The ancient Hebrews understood agriculture. Their lives were dependent on the crops they cultivated and the animals they raised. Yet, they knew that the wonder of growth belonged to the Lord.

Paul would allude to this in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." When, in today's first reading, Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would take a sprig from a tree and turn it into a noble cedar, the people recognized in this prophecy that growth is always in God's hands. He would do more for them than they could imagine. Israel, a nation in exile at the time of this prophecy, would become the nation that the whole world would look to with respect. For from Israel would come the Savior. Every kind of bird, all the nations, would live under the tree of Israel. The people who heard Jesus tell the parable of the farmer's life also shared the wonder of the soil. The farmer works hard during the day, but he can't make the seed grow into a plant, and the plant produce fruit. God causes the growth. Jesus' point is that like the plants the Kingdom of God is in God's hands.

The workers in the Lord's fields must do their best to create the proper environment for growth, but God causes the growth. The parable comforted the people of the early Church in face of discouragement when their efforts didn't seem to be getting them anywhere. Remember, early Christianity grew as a development of the Jewish faith, but the Christians were rejected by the Jews. It must have been difficult for them to explain to the pagan gentiles how Jesus was predicted by the Jewish prophets when the Jews had rejected Him and them. Persecuted on every side, the early Christians had to trust God to give growth to his kingdom. And He did. And He still does. The Church lives on despite the persecution from the Romans, despite the internal dogmatic fights and debates of the second through fifth centuries, despite the Fall of Rome and conquest of the barbarians, despite the corruption from within and outside in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, despite the Christian fratricide of the Reformation, despite the onslaught of rationalists in the last two centuries, despite the clergy sex abuse scandal, despite the attacks on Christians by ISIS, and despite two thousand years of martyrdom aimed at destroying the faith, the Church still lives on, and grows. God gives the growth. He does wonders with our feeble efforts. He turns that which is insignificant into that which is substantial.

Here at St. Ignatius we have been blessed to have parochial vicars who were members of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas, Fr. Thomas Kumblanthanth and Fr. Mathew Mootheseril. The main work of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas is to spread the faith in India. Now Christians are persecuted in many of the sections of India. Both Hindus and Moslems attack them. Fr. Mathew used to tell us horror stories of priests being killed, nuns being attacked, etc. These missionaries cannot display signs of their faith in public. If they give someone a bible, a catechism, a cross or a rosary, they are facing certain persecution, possibly beatings and death. Yet, the Missionaries of St. Thomas have been successful in leading people to Christ. How do they do it? They don’t; the Lord does. What they do is move into a village or town and establish a mission center. They care for the needs of the people, dispensing medicine and food and teaching the children. They are not allowed to speak about the faith. They live the faith. And they will do this not for a few years, but for generations. Fr. Mathew said that sometimes they begin making converts among the third generation of people in the village, people whose grandparents were young when the missionaries arrived. Perhaps it may take 80 years, but then the faith begins to flourish in the village. The Missionaries of St. Thomas give a great example of trusting in God to give the growth.

We need to recognize God’s work in the faith lives of our children, our nation and in our own faith lives. There are many of you here who are very upset because you did everything you could to raise your children in the faith, but they stopped practicing the faith when they left for college. Then they got married, outside of the Church, and now you have grandchildren who haven’t even been baptized. So you ask, "Where did I go wrong?" Well, you didn’t go wrong. You need to continue to pray that your children will be open to the faith. That seed that you planted may spring into a marvelous tree, but only after a long period of time. I have witnessed many people in their forties and fifties returning to the faith of their youth and then becoming devoted Catholics. Ask their parents, "How did this happen?" They would respond, "We planted, but God gave the growth." Many people are upset by the recent survey that showed a decline in the number of Catholics in the United States over the last twenty-five years.

Well, first of all, the report fails to consider the continual impact of migrants to our country from the Catholic countries of Latin America, but that mistake aside, we should be concerned, but our concern should be tempered by the large number of young Catholics devoted to the faith. This summer over 50,000 Catholic high school students will have deep experiences of their faith on the Steubenville retreats. Our campus ministries are growing. There are wonderful groups of young adult Catholics at Florida State, the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida just to name a few flourishing campus ministries. With all this said, it is not the conferences or campus ministries themselves that cause the faith to grow. They provide the environment for growth. But it is God who gives the growth.

We really need to recognize the wonders of God’s hand in our own lives. Does our faith mean more to us today than it did twenty years ago, or even ten years ago? I think most of us would say, "Yes" to that question. Well, how does it happen that we are more determined to live our faith now than we had been? It happens because God continues to give growth to the faith. We are members of the greatest society the world has ever seen. We are members of the Kingdom of God. We are members of the Church. No matter what the media may comment, we are part of the only truly relevant organization in the world. We give meaning to the whole purpose of existence.

The Church continues to grow; for the Lord, not people, gives the growth. When we are confronted with those who compare the numbers of priests and priest-less parishes and the numbers of Catholics to figures of sixty years ago, we need to remember that the Church will exist until the Second Coming of the Lord. The Church will adjust and flourish in the future just as it has in the past. And it will grow, for God gives it growth.

And when we are confronted with immorality on all sides, when we are convinced that the world will soon be coming to an end because so many people are behaving so poorly, and when we are often tempted to join the immorality, we should not despair, the Church not only lives on through the muddle and the mire of the world, it actually grows. You and I also grow as long as we do everything we can to stay united to the Church. For in the face of turmoil, outside us and within us, God gives his Church growth. You and I, right here, St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish, are the Church. St. Paul wrote in today's second reading: we walk by faith, not by sight. May we always be strong members of the Church so God might work the miracle of His growth through us.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
11 Ordinary Time
We are Always Courageous
(June 17, 2018)

Bottom line: We are always courageous because we walk by faith, not by sight.
Happy Father's Day! In this homily I will address fatherhood, spiritual fatherhood and those called to fatherhood. This fits with our summer series focusing on the readings from St. Paul: his 2nd letter to the Corinthians and (beginning in mid-July) the letter to the Ephesians. Last Sunday we heard Paul speak about the affliction we bear: physical ailments, betrayals, persecution, anxiety, exhaustion. The list goes on. Today Paul says that in spite of these afflictions, "we are always courageous." What does he mean? That we are some kind of macho guys? If that were the case, I'd never qualify. You have to read the whole verse. "We are always courageous," says Paul "for (because) we walk by faith not by sight." If we relied solely on sight we would despair. After all, what do we see? Families breaking apart, young people drawn into a culture of empty show and pornography, homelessness in the midst of abundance, increase in suicides, devastating diseases. While our culture glitters, we know all that glitters is not gold. If we relied solely on sight we would despair.

You and I, however, do not walk simply by sight. We walk by faith and that makes us hopeful, even courageous. We can see this in a pastoral letter written by Bishop Thomas Olmstead. (We were in school together, but don't hold that against him.)

Bishop Olmstead challenges us men to take up our task. His letter has three parts:
1) what it means to be a Christian man;
2) how a Catholic man loves and
3) why fatherhood, fully understood, is crucial for every man. In his final section he quotes St. John Paul, "Becoming dad and mom makes us more like God...all the baptized, even though in different ways, are called to be a father or mother." Pope John Paul considers that Satan's primary strategy is to damage and abolish fatherhood. Why? Because that's the relationship where each of us glimpses what God's fatherhood might be like. A mother almost automatically loves her child. Not so automatic with a father. He has to make a choice: Will he love and care for this child? With the father we see love as a choice, a decision.*

After speaking about the importance of fathers - both physical and spiritual - Bishop Olmstead has a beautiful section on the importance of grandfathers. Finally he offers a special word to "those men who have failed in their fatherhood." He writes, "This is true to a greater or lesser degree in each and every one of us." I feel that very much myself. St. Paul writes today about how one day you and I must "appear before the judgment seat of Christ." It makes me tremble when I realize I will be judged on how I carried out my role as a spiritual father.

Even though I tremble I do not pull back. As Bishop Olmstead observes: the enemy wants to drag us into a despair. He wants us to abandon our fatherhood: to feel unneeded - like a fifth wheel. But there is hope. We walk by faith not by sight. By faith, by making a good confession, by receiving the Eucharist we can rebuild lost fatherhood. A father can start by praying for his children - perhaps even at Eucharistic Adoration. Here's the truth, brothers: No matter how far a person has sunk, no matter how miserable he feels, there's hope: we walk by faith not by sight.

We'll this more clearly next Sunday. It falls on June 24 - the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist. A man of great courage. We will focus on the hope he gives by the "baptism of repentance." What counts are not our past failures, but whether we make a new beginning. This good news encourages us to start fresh, especially in the great call to fatherhood. Here's what God wants us to take home today: We are always courageous because we walk by faith, not by sight. Amen. ********** *For sure a mother makes a choice to carry her child but once she sees and touches her infant the love seems imposed.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
11 Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Mark 4: 26–34

Gospel Summary
Jesus teaches the meaning of the reign or kingdom of God by way of two parables. In the first comparison, the reign of God is like seeds that a man plants in the soil. It is not the man, however, but the soil that makes the seeds sprout and grow in a way the man does not understand. In the second comparison, the reign of God is like the smallest of all seeds. Yet, once it has completed its growth, it is so large that birds can build nests in its shade. Mark mentions that Jesus further explained the meaning of parables to his disciples.

Life Implications
An immediate life implication is present in the means that Jesus uses to help us understand the meaning of God's reign—that is, through parables. He uses images from our common experience whose truth is evident in order to give us some insight into a reality whose truth is not evident. A parable is a literary form that better fits the category of non-fiction, rather than fiction: it is not simply an imaginative story. Jesus uses parables to make us aware that we are a living part of a deeper, real story. Some response on the hearer's part is thus inescapable—whether it be to ignore, to reject, or to accept the truth of the parable as pointing to the ultimate meaning of one's life. Jesus had explained to his disciples that some people may hear a parable, "but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit" (Mark 4: 19).

In the two parables of today's Gospel, Jesus gives us an insight into the mystery of God's reign. We have already learned that the purpose of Jesus' ministry is to preach the good news of the reign of God (Mark 1: 14). The good news is that God has not abandoned his human family, fallen and wounded, living in bondage under the reign of satanic powers (Mark 3: 20–30). It is the will of God to liberate and to reunite the human family through a divine reign of parental love, which ultimately will prevail over satanic violence and deceit. We see the meaning and the complete realization of the reign of God's love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. And in the Church that Jesus founded, we see the beginning of the complete realization of God's reign in the entire human family. Because the reign of God is a reign of love, it is not realized unless the divine self-giving to us is accepted and lived in human freedom.

The Lord's Prayer beautifully expresses the decision to accept and to live in God's reign. It is the necessary context of all the parables. Jesus in the two seed-parables addresses the human tendency to believe that human fulfillment comes mostly through our plans and efforts. As a result, when things do not turn out as we have planned and worked to achieve, we become discouraged and lose hope. Jesus reminds us that the coming and growth of God's reign is the work of God's love. Its complete realization will be evident only when the Son of Man comes in glory. Our response to this truth about the reign of God is to pray for its coming on earth as it is in heaven. Further, it is to do our utmost to prepare for its coming in the particular circumstances of our lives. The story is told that upon his election Pope John XXIII was unable to sleep because the seemingly insurmountable problems facing the Church were pressing upon him. Then the personal meaning of the seed-parables dawned on him. He was able to pray: "Listen, Lord, this Church is yours not mine. I'm going to sleep." Only in this trust was John XXIII liberated to take courageous actions that were to change the course of world history.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern
2 Cor 5:6-10, Mark 4:26-34

Where is the Kingdom of God, and how do we see it? These are two questions that come from the Gospel this weekend. In the first Chapter of Mark's Gospel after Jesus is Baptized by John and before he calls the first disciples, he says "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) In Luke's Gospel when the Pharisees ask him about the Kingdom he responds, "The Kingdom of God is within you." (Lune 17:21) Saint Paul wrote in several of his letters, we are citizens of Heaven. The Catechism tells us; "The Kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ." (CCC 567) And goes on to quote a passage from the Vatican II document, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church; "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works, and in the presence of Christ." (LG 5) Simply put, the Kingdom of Heaven is here, and we are citizens of Heaven. Jesus gives us a lesson on how the Kingdom of Heaven takes root in in the world and in our lives. He speaks of the seed, the blade, the ear and the full grain, and tells us about the small mustard seed growing into a large plant.

This is an important lesson or us because we live at a time when in which we have become accustomed to everything being fast, if not instantaneous. From fast food to instant communication get what we desire immediately. This is not how God works with us when it comes to the presence of His Kingdom in our lives. Occasionally we hear of someone who had an immediate conversion, but for most of us conversion and growth take a lifetime. Like the plants and the seed in the Gospel it must be cared for, cultivated and tended as it grows. At times we can easily become discouraged when we don't hear the booming voice, see dramatic acts, or receive an immediate response to prayer. We might find ourselves asking, "Where is God?", or even, "Is there a God?" Jesus tells us clearly by his presence and with teachings like this that, yes, there is a God, and He is in our midst. He usually moves so gently, quietly and subtly that we don't notice his presence, but he is with us.

It was not long ago, on the Second Sunday of Easter, that we heard Jesus say to Thomas "You believe because you have seen, blessed are those who have not seen, and believe." We are those who are blessed because we do not see, but we believe. While we might not see the concrete presence of God, we are blessed with the faith to believe in his presence. Saint Paul speaks of this in the Second Corinthians where he wrote, "we walk by faith, not by sight." Christ is truly present to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Christ Is present in the Sacraments, Christ is present when we hear the Scriptures read and the Gospels proclaimed. Christ is also present whenever two or three gather in his name, when we see the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy being done by ourselves or others. It takes Faith to see Christ in all of these, but He is there, and with him is His Kingdom. In order to see the kingdom we need patience and we need faith. With these we can enjoy the kingdom knowing that it continues to grow within us and the world, and we recognize Christ and his Kingdom in the prayers and works done in his name. May we claim our citizenship in God's Kingdom and allow his Kingdom to shine forth from us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
11 Ordinary Time
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus speaks to us in parables. Indeed it says in today's Gospel that Jesus wouldn't speak to the ordinary people except in parables. However, we are told that he did explain everything to his disciples in private. This seems manifestly unfair! If Jesus had a message of real significance for the world then why did he not speak it in plain language for everyone to understand? Using cryptic forms of speech surely obscures the Good News of the Gospel and so runs completely counter to Jesus' purpose. We are left asking: Why can't the poor and simple ordinary folk hear God's message in a way that they can appreciate?

There are several answers to this question. One is that yes, poor ordinary simple fold can understand the message of Christ; in fact, anyone can hear it. But in order to appreciate the full meaning of the Gospel you have to be correctly disposed. Only someone who is truly ready will understand the deeper significance of Jesus' words and their very personal nature. Parables are not literal stories. For example, it doesn't take a minute before we realise that there is something fundamentally wrong with what Jesus says in today's Gospel reading. In actual fact, the mustard seed is not the smallest of all the seeds and neither does it grow into the biggest shrub of them all. The premises of Jesus' story are all wrong. But this shouldn't upset us because what we are dealing with here is exaggeration; if you want to know the technical vocabulary it is called ‘biblical hyperbole'. Jesus is a storyteller and storytellers are not required to stick to the precise facts. Like any good public speaker Jesus frequently uses exaggeration for effect. And we can easily visualise him enrapturing his listeners and painting for them a wonderful picture of this large tree emerging from a very tiny seed. A seed which when it sprouts grows into a tree so big that, as he says, all the birds of the air can shelter in its shade. What we, who look deeper, understand very well is that the truth is not to be found in the facts of the story because the facts here are plainly false.

The truth is to be found in what the seed represents, in this case the Word of God planted in our hearts. Some of the listeners will remain at the surface; yes, they understand quite well that this is not a true story, they know that Jesus is exaggerating and they are aware that that the story works on a number of different levels. They will even realise that the seed represents the Word of God. But what many won't do is follow through with the consequences of Jesus words. They will fail understand that by the very act of listening to the story that the Word of God has been planted into their hearts and that the consequence is that they must change their lives. They will not understand because they are not ready, they are not receptive enough; they are not at a point in their lives where they are prepared even to begin to make the personal changes that the Gospel requires.

The private instruction that the Apostles receive is not some secret teaching about the hidden meaning of the story. No, it is private instruction on the implications of the Gospel message for their lives; it is instruction in about how to be a disciple of Christ. The Word of God is like a seed planted in our hearts. It is small because in the beginning we do not notice it; we only realise its presence gradually over a long period of time. It takes a good length of time before we realise that we have been marked out and chosen by God. All of us gathered here have faith, it's the very reason we are assembled in this Church. But not all of us have realised that God wants us to be his disciples. Some are too young to understand what this means and it hasn't yet dawned upon some others of us. God doesn't only want us to conform to a few laws; to go to mass on Sunday, to say a certain number of prayers, to be faithful in marriage, to refrain from stealing or murdering anyone. Well, he does want all those things! But he wants something else as well. He wants the whole of us. He wants us to give our whole lives over to him. He wants us to realise the depth of his love for us. And he wants us to open up our entire lives to him so that he can possess us completely. He wants the lot! And he won't be satisfied till he has got the lot! Not in any coercive way, but given freely in love to him.

This is what we are about in the Church. This is what discipleship means. It is about self-giving, self-emptying love; in the words of TS Elliot, ‘costing not less than everything.' This is not something that is just one-way, it is entirely reciprocal, and God gives as well as takes.

Of course, God gives more to us than we could ever give to him. We owe him everything; he is, after all, the very author of our lives. Nothing we have came as a result of our own doing. Actually, our entire lives and everything we have is his gift to us. And more than this, because, as we know, he gave his Son to us to suffer and die for our sins. And if that weren't enough he is constantly showering wonderful blessings on us, if we were only aware of it.

In the face of these overwhelming gifts we can hardly refuse God anything. And yet! And yet we still hold back. We still try to keep something for ourselves. We still want to hold on to a private little corner and not let him in. The important thing about that parable is that the seed grows. It doesn't reach its full stature all at once. It doesn't begin in a fully formed state. No, it is always growing, always stretching, always developing. Our faith might be small or it might be large; but, whatever state it is in, it is organic. It changes, it grows. And this dynamic process continues our whole life long. Let's hope and pray that when we come to the Gate of Heaven, and by the time we get there we will probably find that there will be a lot of nests and birds and who knows what other creatures taking shelter in our branches.

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