01 July 201813 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
13 Ordinary Time
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B - Mark 5:21-43

Several years ago I caught a revival of the nineteenth century A Doll's House by the incomparable master Henrik Ibsen in New York City. The director was the great Ingmar Bergman. Ibsen has his protagonist Nora rejecting out of hand the stereotype of being "just" a wife and mother. She says to her chauvinist husband, "I don't believe that any more. I am a human being - just like you." For almost a century, historians have hailed Ibsen as a pioneering fellow in the area of women's rights. What short memories they have! For nineteen centuries before Ibsen there was a Man named Jesus. The woman cured of the hemorrhage was much admired in the early Church. The early historian Eusebius tells us a statue of her was erected at the miracle's site in Caesarea in northeastern Palestine. Perhaps it was set up by early feminists. It remained there to the fourth century. The Roman Emperor Justinian, who was not a friend of things Christian, destroyed it. Very modestly he put up one of himself. However, God and women both got even. Justinian lived to see his likeness destroyed by lightning. No doubt he got the message.

Contemporary feminists contend that while women have come a long way, they still have a long way to go. That is no doubt true. But what is absolutely certain is that women in the time of the Christ were considered less than nothing. The rabbis of the time, for example, suggested men should pray daily that they were not born as women. The "weaker sex" had two purposes - giving men pleasure in sex and raising children. The "little woman" could be divorced at the slightest pretext. Justifiable reasons would be cooking her man's three minute egg for four minutes or making dirty looks, however justifiable, at her mother-in-law. I think you get the picture. A written note of dismissal and the woman was out on the street wondering what hit her. Yet, even the Emperor Justinian himself could not point to one Gospel text suggesting that the Nazarene looked upon women as beneath men in any form or way. And, given the atmosphere of the time, this point is nothing short of extraordinary. Isn't it amazing what a large part women play in the Gospels? A large number of Christ's miracles are centered about women.

Think of the woman cured of a hemorrhage in today's Gospel. And do not forget His kindness to the widow of Naim or bringing today's little girl back to life with His Aramaic command,"Talitha cumi." Recall too the parables that reveal how much Jesus knew about the humdrum affairs of a woman's life. How about Him telling us of the women working yeast into three measures of flour or the distraught woman sweeping out her house in a panic to find a discount coupon at her friendly neighborhood supermarket? To add icing to the cake, scholars consider that distraught woman as a stand-in for God. Jesus' references to the home and its details must have charmed and delighted women every bit as much as it must have infuriated their men. But the Master did not run scared. Then there was the occasion when the woman shouted at Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that suckled you." This was reducing women to that tired stereotype - breasts and genitalia. The Saviour rejects such banality with curt words. "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it." One suspects that woman never spoke that way again.

Perhaps Ibsen got his central idea for A Doll's House from Luke 11,27. Women never forgot His kindness to them. They repaid Him in the most difficult times of His life. No woman was a hostile during the Passion. Even Mrs Pilate begged her husband to spare His life. On the Via Dolorosa, a woman courageously stepped out of that angry mob to wipe the sweat and spit off His face. Aside from a teen-age boy, women were the only ones who dared to go up to the very crucifixion itself. We men developed serious back trouble. A yellow line ran smack down our spinal cords. Perhaps the spiritual "Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?" was originally directed to us men. Today's women do not forget Him either. Christian feminists in Peru have named their organization, Talita Cumi. What is my attitude to women? What is the attitude of every man and boy here? If it doesn't match that of Jesus, we better do an about face and get the show on the road. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: God Did Not Make Death

God did not make death. The readings for this Sunday don't ease us into today's topic. They launch us into it. They demand that we discuss that question that bothers us deeply. Why is there death? And the questions that flow from this: Why do children die? How can a good and loving God let a child die? Jesus raised up a dead child in the Gospel. Sometimes she is called Tabitha or Talitha. Why did not God do for a child who just passed away from complications due to leukemia what He did for Tabitha? Why is there evil? Why is there sin? How can some people do things which are so completely evil? A young white man attends a service at a Church in Charleston with a long history of serving the African American community. The man sits next to the pastor and worships with him and the community for a full hour. Then he pulls out a gun and kills that pastor and eight other people. Was he deranged, mentally ill? Possibly. Maybe he was just misguided. That would be an understatement. His actions were completely, totally evil. Recently, there was an article in the Ossertavore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

It told the story of one of thousands of Teen girls who are suffering due to ISIS. She and her family were Christians living in Northern Iraq. Isis attacked her town, conquered it easily and then rounded up all the survivors. The men and boys were herded into a group and gunned down. She saw her father and brother killed right in front of her. The older women and little children were put into another group and then killed. The Teenage girls were not killed. They were given a choice: renounce Jesus Christ, become Moslem, and be married to one of the soldiers, or become a slave servicing the base desires of the soldiers. She and many others refused to renounce Christ. Her life became a nightmare. Man after man, day and night, beating her, doing horrendous things to her. One night the Turkish army attacked the ISIS positions. Mortar fire hit the building she was in. In the chaos, she escaped from the building and ran towards the mortars. She knew she might be killed, but it was worth the risk. She made it to the Turkish lines. Some of the soldiers there saw her and held their fire. A Turkish family took her in. Shortly after that she realized she was pregnant. She was sent to Rome, where religious sisters are caring for her. In her mind and in her culture her life is over. No man would ever marry her. But she wants to care for her baby. There is no way that those soldiers were living their faith. Islam speaks of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful. So we ask How could people be so completely evil to young teenage girls in so many places throughout the world? They are not the first to pervert religion to justify their selfishness, their immorality. Many Christians have done terrible things throughout history, even in our own time. And so we ask: Why does this evil exist? Why doesn't God do something about it? Why is there death? These questions eat at us to such an extent that we are tempted to question God's existence, or at least His Goodness and His Power. That is exactly what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to question God's power.

Today's first reading from the Book of Wisdom says that it is by the envy of the devil that death entered into the world. Angels were created before humans. They were given free will. They could chooses God or reject Him. Some angels in their pride attempted to make themselves equal to God. St Michael the Archangel, whose name means "Who is equal to God?" defeated them, and banned Satan from any contact with the Lord of Life. Satan went from being Lucifer, the name that means God's Lightbearer, to the Prince of Darkness. Satan could not defeat God's angels, but he could make war on God's most beautiful physical creature, man. He tried to destroy mankind with the same sin that he committed: the sin of pride. He told mankind, Adam and Eve, that if they disobey God they will be gods themselves. Man pushed God aside, made their own selfishness their god, turned from the Lord of Life and embraced death. Mankind continues to do this. Satan continues to wage war and win battles. So, God did not cause evil. Evil came into the world because mankind chose sin over goodness. God did not make death. Mankind chose death by rejecting the Lord of Life. God's love for mankind was not limited. He destroyed death through an act of complete giving, complete selflessness.

He became one of us and then told evil to throw its worst at him. It did. He was crucified. But Jesus destroyed death through sacrificial love. He rose from the dead and then gave us His Life Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling over death by death, Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave! Matt Maher wrote © CCLI License # 2368115 God formed man to be imperishable. In the image of his own nature he made him," the first reading says. Man had rejected God's gift. As a result of his sin, man no longer shared in Gods nature. But Jesus Christ restored man's ability to receive the life of God. Do you see how important baptism is? Baptism pours the Life of God into our souls. Nothing the world can do to us can take this life from us. The Gospel tells the story about the raising of a twelve year old girl from the dead. Little girl, arise, Talitha Kaum. Let me tell you one last story about another little girl the same age as Tabitha. Her name was Agnes. She was 12, just beginning to flower into a woman. She lived in Rome in the beginning of the Fourth century. This was a time when more and more people were embracing Jesus Christ. Agnes was a Christian and a determined one. But she had caught the eye of the son of a pagan Roman official. The official tried to arrange a marriage for his son. Agnes refused. To marry his son, she would have to reject Jesus Christ and become a pagan. She would not do that. The official was furious. He was insulted. He was belittled. He would show her and the other Christians what would happen to someone who defied Rome.

The Emperor had declared all out war on all Christians, determined to rid the Empire and particularly Rome of these people who refused to worship the pagan gods, refused to worship him. Agnes was an easy victim for the Romans to use as an example to any who would defy the Emperor and worship Jesus Christ. She was condemned to become a child prostitute. They dressed her up and paraded her through Rome to the horrible place where those who were human but less than human were lining up for her. We don't know exactly what happened, but we do know that the men could not defile her. Frustrated, the soldiers took Agnes out and killed her. But Jesus was there and said, "Talitha Kaum". She did not rise from the dead like Tabitha did. She did something infinitely better. She left a world of death and was eternally united to the Lord of Life. To this very day, whenever a priest or bishop is made an archbishop, he travels to Rome to receive a special garment called a pallium. This garment made of fine lamb's wool. It is conferred on the new archbishops on January 21st, the Feast of St Agnes, God's little Lamb.

Agnes joined Jesus in conquering death by death. She calls on us to join her in selling out for the Lord. God did not make death. He does not cause evil. He cries with us, bawls with us in the face of the horror of the world. But He is not defeated. He restores His life to those who accept Him. "Go and baptize," Jesus said. Go and lead others to God. Lead them away from the horror of the world. Lead them to the Lord of Life. the dark is groaning the tomb is reaching out oh, but you can't have me oh, but you can't have me the crows are circling the jackal waits in the dark oh, but you can't have me oh, but you can't have me I belong to the land of the rising sun where the grave is no more and the war has been won I belong to the land of the rising sun I belong to you, I belong Ike Ndolo © CCLI License # 2368115

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
13 Ordinary Time
What Pursuit of Happiness Means (July 1, 2018)
Bottom line: Pursuit of happiness means pursuit of excellence - not to take care of number one, but to care for others. Last week we celebrated the Birth of John the Baptist and we heard his call to repentance. We saw that far from involving negative thinking repentance is one of the most positive things a person can do: humbly acknowledge mistakes, seek forgiveness and help to get back on right course. The power of repentance applies to us as individuals and as a society. Back in the 19th century a Frenchman named De Toqueville observed, "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." As a nation we can learn from past mistakes - and we made a lot of them. At the same time we can recognize the good inheritance we have received. This 4th of July we remember the declaration that all men - all humans - are created equal and that our creator has endowed us with inalienable rights - life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When our founders spoke about pursuit of happiness they weren't referring to delicious meals or luxury vacations.

Nothing wrong with those pleasures, but the founders meant something deeper: What St. Paul says today, "you excel in every respect..." Pursuit of happiness means to strive for excellence, to realize one's full potential. This idea of happiness goes back to the ancient Greeks as well as Christian writers like St. Paul or St. Augustine. Pursuing excellence is not about outshining others. It does not mean getting people to see how smart I am, how much money I make or what a great car I have. No, St. Paul makes it clear that we pursue excellence so we can do what he calls the "gracious act" - like Jesus who made himself poor to help us. We follow Jesus' example; we pursue excellence in order to care for others. Paul tells us to bear one another's burdens. (Gal 6:2) As we saw a couple weeks ago, people are living in a world of hurt.

We have the opioid epidemic and other crippling addictions. In our abundant society we have people - including members of our families - living under bridges. We see the increase of suicide and the devastation it brings to families. And of course the plague of porn that engulfs children, the young and the not-so-young. There's no easy solution. The response to this suffering involves what St. Paul talks about today: faith, discourse, knowledge and earnestness. Faith - we walk by faith therefore we have hope. Discourse and knowledge - we want the right words when we encounter a hurting person. Earnestness means diligence - not giving in to discouragement. So says Paul, excel in every respect: faith, words and diligence. How am I going to remember this? Faith, words, diligence - f,w,d: That stands for front wheel drive, also the abbreviation for forward. So, pray: dear God, help me move forward, to excel in faith, words and diligence. I hope we can move forward together. Today I begin my 10th year as your pastor. (wait for applause) These have been good years for me and we have been through a lot together. I can honestly say these have been the happiest years of my life. And we were blessed by Sister Barbara and Fr. Valencia.

Even in their deaths we can take something to help us move forward. On August 19 we dedicate a memorial to Sister Barbara. Regarding Fr. Valencia our Knights of Columbus purchased a lovely Dogwood tree that we dedicated on the anniversary of his death. We chose the Dogwood tree for its beautiful blossoms, but then discovered the legend that connects the Dogwood tree to Jesus' passion. I won't give the whole story but recently we saw it flower in the form of a cross with a tiny crown of thorns in the center. The flower begins perfectly white then red spots appear that resemble drops of blood. I took pictures of it that you can see in the bulletin. The cross is most appropriate for Father Valencia.

For him and for the Aymara people, their devotion is the cross: they embrace the cross, they carry the cross and they dance before the cross. Fr. Valencia took his own suffering to the cross. Because of that he could radiate wonderful joy. May his example help us move forward. To excel in all things means to embrace the cross. Our Founders envisioned a Republic of Virtue where people would use their freedom not for self-indulgence but for excellence. Remember, pursuit of happiness means pursuit of excellence - not to take care of number one, but to care for others. So excel in all things: in faith, in word and in diligence to care for that hurting person. St. Paul underscores this by taking up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. It's a matter of equality, he says. We'll hear more about equality in coming weeks. Today we ask God to help us excel in every respect faith, words and diligence - to move forward with gratitude for Jesus. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern Gospel
Mark 5: 21 - 43

There is the old saying; "there are no enemies in fox holes." When we find ourselves in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations even the non-believer discovers God and cries out to Him for help. While we probably would not describe ourselves as a non-believer, we do have the tendency of trying to solve our own problems first. When all our efforts and plans fail, in desperation we cry out to God. This is especially true when it comes to someone being diagnosed with a serious illness. We include this petition in our usual daily prayers, search for the cure that the medical professionals tell us does not exist, when these seem to fail we storm heaven with prayers of pleading as we hang onto hope for a miracle. Miraculous healings do occur and I can testify to that from experience. There are times when the unexpected, inexplicable change for the better takes place.

When these happen there is great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving. There are times when the healing doesn't take place and we wonder where God is, and ask, "Why is this happening?" This Gospel from Mark gives us to accounts of healings. Jairus the Synagogue official comes to Jesus who is surrounded by a crowd. He pleads to Jesus, "My daughter is at the point of death, please come and lay hands on her, that she may get well and live." It was a plea from a desperate father who did not want to see his daughter die. It is the same plea made today by desperate fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and so many others, for God to come and intervene in some serious and tragic situation. Jesus goes with Jairus to his home and on the way encounters the woman who has been suffering for twelve years. In a similar desperate act of faith she reaches out and touches the garment of Jesus, and she is healed. Jesus knows that power has gone out from him and asked who touched him, and when the women admitted that it was she, Jesus says, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.

Go in peace and be cured of your affliction." Jesus lauds people for putting their faith in him. When we put our faith in Jesus we are opening our hearts to his presence. Jesus does not force himself into our lives, he comes when he is invited. Prayer is our invitation to God to enter into our lives. Jesus and Jairus continue their journey, but before they arrive word reaches Jairus that his daughter is dead. Jairus begins to send Jesus on his way, but Jesus insists on continuing and proclaims, "The child is not dead but asleep." They reach the house that is now filled with mourners, and Jesus goes in and restores the girl to life. Jairus invited Jesus into his home, and Jesus entered and healed his daughter. Another invitation and another reminder to us of the importance of inviting Jesus into our hearts. Healing is a complex issue because we don' know the mind of God. Why some people are healed and others are not is a mystery that calls on a deep faith to accept. Sometimes we are attracted to various forms or methods of healing, but the power of Jesus cannot be confined, channeled or controlled by these. His healing is a gift to us that seems to come when we open our hearts and invite him into these situations. We are called to have the faith to invite Jesus into our lives, and allow his will to be done. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The two miracles performed in today's extract from St Mark's Gospel both involve women, one a little girl and the other a mature woman suffering from a haemorrhage. Actually, there are only four healings of women recorded in the Gospel, these two together with Peter's Mother in Law and the woman bent double, The first three of these miracles are recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels and the last only in St Luke. Altogether there are thirty-seven miracles recorded in the Gospels and you might think that the fact that only four of these directly concern women must mean that Jesus did not regard them very highly. But actually, there are some other things to take into account. The first of these is the milieu in which the Gospels were written. Women in the culture of Palestine had a subservient role and were not much taken into account. The man was the head of the household and it was he who had the important place in society.

If you are to look at other literature of the period you would see that women are largely absent or play only a very minor role. We note too that the Gospel accounts were all written by men and although it has often been observed that St Luke appears to be very favourable to women we may well conclude that the other authors were not very different from their contemporaries in their consideration of women. However, when you look at the Gospels as a whole you will soon notice that there are a remarkable number of women recorded in them. And several of these women play very important roles. Besides the crucial part played by Mary the Mother of Jesus, we see other women at the forefront of the Gospel story. These include Mary Magdalene, the Woman at the Well, the Syrophoenician Woman, and, of course, Martha and Mary who appear several times. As well as many others. We recall some of these other women such as the Widow of Nain, the woman taken in adultery, the widow who put her small coin in the treasury as well as the several women who anointed Jesus. So, by no means can it ever be suggested that Jesus shunned women or regarded them in any sort of subservient capacity. It is also worth noting the case of the Woman with the Haemorrhage included in today's Gospel text. Here we have a classic feminine problem which most men would have found embarrassing and would have normally tried to ignore.

Even the woman herself is embarrassed and convinces herself that all she has to do it to touch Jesus' garment to find healing. However, Jesus instantly recognises the woman's presence and realises the extent of her illness. He shows absolutely no hint of embarrassment and immediately brings her healing. In this incident we see something unique in the literature of the period. We see Jesus handling a purely feminine problem in a highly sensitive way and we realise that his action is, in the context of the time, something quite exceptional. From all this we observe, therefore, that women are very much involved with Jesus as he carries out his three years of public ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem. They are just as believing as his Apostles and in some cases even more so, as for example in the case of Mary Magdalene who was the first witness to the resurrection. As Jesus travelled around Palestine the main aspects of his ministry were teaching and healing and we see both of these as we study the Gospel texts. However, today in this extract from Mark the focus is most definitely on healing. Even today we find ourselves turning to Jesus for both of these things. We turn to him to learn more about his teaching and to discover the truths of the Gospel. And we also turn to him for healing and other related things such as divine protection. Many people's lives are blighted by ill health. We are surrounded by those who suffer from cancer or other illnesses that bring them pain and suffering and impair their quality of life. Sometimes these illnesses lead to despair and anguish and today in the newspapers we read of those who want to travel to some clinic in Switzerland where they can put an end to their lives and, as they sometimes say, die with dignity. In actual fact, there is no dignity to be found in such a decision. What becomes clear is that they are experiencing hopelessness and lack of faith. While we have great sympathy with people in such circumstances we see that their decision comes ultimately from despair and from a lack of trust in the promises of God.

The desire for the healing of a loved one or for ourselves is a frequent element of our daily prayers. We ask God earnestly to heal those we pray for or at least to alleviate their suffering. However, we know that these prayers do not always seem to be answered, at least not at face value. Oftentimes the person's illness takes its course and they eventually die. But we Christian's do not consider this as a rejection by God of our prayers. We Christians pray for healing but we also understand that healing is something that works on different levels. We understand that the very deepest form of healing is salvation itself. I recently spent a month in hospital on an orthopaedic ward. It was a very educational time for me and one of the things I observed was the great optimism of the patients and their concern to boost each other up at every opportunity. Every time someone was taken for an operation or a procedure it was thumbs up all around the ward. I often heard quiet words of encouragement and advice given by one patient to another. The atmosphere was entirely positive, even though some of the patients had lost limbs or found themselves severely crippled as the result of accidents at work or on motorcycles. We Christians understand very well that the deepest healing of all is salvation itself. And salvation means, after our work here on this earth is done, that we are drawn into the embrace of God himself and welcomed into our true destiny which is to live with him and the blessed in heaven. There is no greater healing than this. Our loved ones will miss us and mourn our passing, but they will realise that our sufferings had a purpose and that we are now in the arms of our Divine Saviour and enjoying the bliss of life eternal.

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