08 July 201814 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
14 Ordinary Time
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 6:1-6

The bishop asked the monsignor, "How was my homily?" The msgr: "You were brief." The bp: "I try never to be tiresome. The msgr: "You were tiresome too."

The nineteenth century English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Was that a cute throwaway line or did Lord Tennyson know something we do not? The answer to our question is to be found in the prayer life of Jesus.

During boyhood, Mary and Joseph annually took the Child to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in the Great Temple. It was a costly journey for this working class family. And don't forget exhaustion. We speak about a five day walk over ninety miles. The sun would blister them in the day and the nights would deep freeze them. But each year, faithful as the sunrise, they loaded the old donkey and moved south. When He became a Man, Jesus continued to go to Jerusalem for the solemn feast.

Furthermore, every Saturday in Nazareth the Master picked up His weekly contribution envelope and took Himself to His synagogue or parish. Like most Jews, He was tithing 10% of His income. Anything less He would consider a tip. There He worshipped publicly and received instructions. This procedure He followed till He knocked the dust of Nazareth off His sandals for good at about age 30.

But the Gospel record shows He continued weekly public worship after leaving His home town. Today Mark explicitly mentions His presence in a synagogue. The next time you want to skip weekend Mass, you might want to dwell on this point.

Perhaps a line from Saint Padre Pio might help: "If we understood the Eucharist, we would risk our life to get to Mass.

With the above as evidence, one must conclude the Teacher has little patience with many self-deceived men and women. These are the folks who say that, while they do not go to Sunday Liturgy, they do worship God at home in their own way. If such worship was not kosher for the Christ, how can it be acceptable for any of us today?

Some wannabe intellectuals say, "If the homilies were better, I would go." The only answer for that is the response of the grizzled old pastor, "If it's laughs you want, catch a TV comic. If worship, I'm your man."

Can you imagine the number of dull sermons Jesus of Nazareth must have been subjected to over thirty-three years?

How many times must He have put His knuckle deep into His mouth to stifle laughter at some theological gaffe from a well-meaning rabbi? Yet, He faithfully went each Saturday.

"I don't go to church because there are so many hypocrites there." Do you really think there were no such deadbeats around the Teacher during His public worship days? Incidentally, we always have room for one more hypocrite. And, as Andrew Greeley puts it, "If you can find a perfect church, join it. But realize that as soon as you do, it ceases to be perfect."

Deadly homilies and hypocrites notwithstanding, the Nazarene felt obliged to go to public worship. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he wanted to tune into the secret wireless of God.

If Christ did all this, so of course should you and I.

An even careless reading of the Gospels reveal that the Teacher invested His time in private prayer as well. It was a given that every Jewish family would have a schedule of daily private prayer. This would be particularly true at meals. This custom Jesus continued to the end as the Last Supper indicates.

His public ministry had to be very busy. Yet, He put aside quality time for private prayer. Check it out in Luke. He writes: "Crowds pressed on Him. But He retired to a mountain and prayed." In Mark: "In the morning, He got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place, and prayed there."

If the Master had not spent so much time in public and private prayer, He could have cured so many more hundreds, if not thousands, of their physical ailments.

One must thereby conclude He considered prayer not a luxury item but a necessity. It is a must-do for us. Matthew and John tell us the servant is not greater than the master and the pupil not greater than the teacher. Given the example of the Nazarene, why then do we assign prayer to the fringes of our lives? Why is it not one of the essentials of our brief existence?

"To pray is," as Ralph Sockman wrote, "to expose the shore of the mind to the incoming tide of God."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
14 Ordinary Time
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: On Being an American Catholic

This weekend we are continuing our Fourth of July celebrations. Here at St. Ignatius we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, inviting all to pray for our country before the Lord's Eucharistic Presence. We love our country. We love America. But the path our country is on is troubling, to say the least. Many Americans have followed the Supreme Court and accepted abortion arguing that it is a right to be defended, allowing the Supreme Court to decide whether a human being exists within a mother. People seem to think that the Supreme Court is superior to the law of God. It is as though the Supreme Court must be correct if the majority of the justices agree on something. People forget that four years before the Civil War the Supreme Court defined slaves as pieces of property rather than human beings. That was the Dred Scott Decision. The Supreme Court went beyond its competency when it defined marriage. Many people would rather follow the Court than recognize the biblical definition of marriage given in the Book of Genesis. Our country is unable to pass reasonable gun control laws and would rather sacrifice the lives of our children then demand the most basic regulation such as universal background checks, elimination of assault weapons, etc. In the name of border security, our country was recently found to have been taking children away from their parents, parents who seek the same thing our ancestors sought: a better life for their children.

Our concern is not just for the institutions of our country, but for the people of our country who naively accept as true and good whatever path our nation chooses. There appears to be no limit to the absurdity promoted by those in power, and no limit to those who will support them no matter what the promote. We need to pray for our country, and we need to pray for the American people. At the same time, we need to pray for the courage to stand firm for God, to fight for morality, to fight for Jesus Christ and for His Way.

Jesus concluded the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew with: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12.

We present day American Catholics are living this beatitude every day. We stand up for what is right and moral. We stand up for life and for the biblical definition of marriage, and we are reviled and insulted by those who never consider God's presence in the world or even His existence. We stand up for charity to the poor and are mocked by those who dare to claim the Bible as supporting their perverse laws and tactics.

There is nothing new here. 2,500 years ago, Ezekiel was told to proclaim the truth, even though he would be rejected by the people and their leaders. That was this Sunday's first reading. 2,000 years ago, people refused to accept the Messiah of God when He stood right before them because Jesus did not fit their pre-conceived notion of what the Messiah should be like. "He shouldn't be one of us,” they said. "We shouldn't know him or his family,” they argued. That was today's Gospel.

If the prophets were ignored and if Jesus Himself was disregarded, then how can we expect people to listen to us when we proclaim God's way? We are certainly no better than Paul who tells us about his weakness in today's second reading. We are also weak. And we do dumb things. Lots of them. We sin. And yet we ask people to listen to us, turn from sin and put Christ into the center of their lives. Do we really have a right to even attempt to do this? Yes. In fact, we have more than a right. We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to lead others to God. We need to call others to Christ knowing that if they hear our call and follow Christ it will because Jesus worked though us, despite our weakness.

So, someone states, "I am fighting a horrible addiction: alcohol, chemical dependency, porn or other sexual addictions, what have you." And then the person asks, "How can people hear God through me?" This person needs to know that others will hear God through him or her because God is more powerful than their addiction. Or someone says, "I have a huge temper." Or another, "I am selfish. I am envious. There are a lot of times that I'm just not a nice person. How am I going to lead others to God?" We need to keep putting up the fight to follow Jesus and know that He will work through us, because of us, and, sometimes, despite us. "My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord told St. Paul. "My power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Cor 12:9).

Do you remember the poem, The Old Violin? It really applies to all of us. Let me recite it:

'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its bow.

"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Master's Hand."
by Myra Books Welch

It's not the violin that produced the music. It was the touch of the Master's hand. The work of God is accomplished not because of you or me with all our dust and our loose strings. The work of God is accomplished because we allow God to use us to bring His music to the world.

It is imperative that we do not allow anything to limit our battle for Jesus Christ. That includes what others think about us and what we think about ourselves. It does not matter if others think less of us because we reject the immorality of many elements of our society. The society that matters to us is the Kingdom of God. It does not matter that we might appear to be a minority. Jesus never promised us that ours would be the majority opinion. He just promised us that He would be with us until the end of time.

Nor does it matter that each of us in our own way is weak. We have the Lord, and He has us. We witness His working both because of us and, sometimes, even despite us. He does the work, not us. That is when we really come to a recognition of His Power. His Power is made perfect in our weakness.

We are American Catholics. We love our country. We pray for our country. It is our responsibility as committed Catholics and as patriotic Americans to lead the United States to be a nation under God.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
14 Ordinary Time
My Grace is Sufficient
(July 8, 2018)

Bottom line: Like St. Paul - and like Sister Barbara - we want to keep pressing forward. "My grace is sufficient for you".

For homilies this summer I am focusing on two of St. Paul's letters. This Sunday we conclude readings from the Second Letter to the Corinthians and next weekend we begin Ephesians.

The New Testament contains 21 letters, most of they written by St. Paul. It's interesting that today's Gospel mentions two other letter writers: James and Jude who are part of Jesus' extended families - "brothers" which in this context refers to male cousins: what Hispanics call "primos hermanos" - brother cousins.

The letters of James and Jude are well worth reading but today we have Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians. Of all the New Testament letters it is the most personal. Paul spent 18 months in Corinth where he formed deep attachments - and also fought some fierce battles. In this letter he bears his soul.

To defend himself against false prophets who were claiming special revelations Paul mentions his own intimate experiences of the Lord. But then he immediately adds that God sent him a "thorn in the flesh" - an angel to Satan to beat him so that he wouldn't get elated or puffed up.

We don't know the exact nature of the thorn in the flesh: Maybe a bodily affliction, some constant jabbing pain, an ailment of the eyes or some other bodily organ. Others think the thorn may have been a recurring temptation like anger, lust or gluttony. Perhaps he experienced bouts of depression; we know he carried a burden of shame. The movie Paul Apostle of Christ powerfully depicts the elderly man coming to grips with his past misdeeds, especially for having hunted down women and children who belonged to the Christian way.

OK, the thorn could have been some bodily ailment, persistent temptation, depression brought on by a burden of shame - or something else. Whatever it was, God does not remove it but says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore Paul is at peace with insults, hardships and daily frustrations.

In the spiritual battle St Paul provides a great model - especially for us men. It's easy to avoid present duties by fantasizing about a time when we can kick back and relax. I a little bit thought that when the archbishop assigned me to St. Mary of the Valley. My former parish - Holy Family in Seattle - had 7 weekend Masses with about 2,800 attending. Besides large Hispanics and Anglos we had significant Vietnamese and Filipino groups, each with particular needs - and gifts. Holy Family has a parish school which is a huge responsibility. And we had a debt.

In comparison St. Mary of the Valley seemed like dying and going to heaven. I'm grateful for the assignment here and I have found parishioners extremely supportive. Still, it hasn't been like an unending Caribbean cruise. We've had our challenges and we have been through lots together. Each day God sends some stress, some heartbreak and some satisfaction. He does not, however, call me - or you - to simply take it easy. I am grateful to men and women my age and older who say, "God isn't finished with me yet."

I saw that in Sister Barbara. For me she was a beautiful companion and prayer partner. As I've told people she was my sister, my mother, my daughter. Since her death I know how widowers feel - only when she died did I start to realize just how much she did and how our lives were interwoven. I'm going to take 5 days at the end of the month to make a pilgrimage to Sister Barbara's grave. We have two cars and I hope others will join us - at least for the first leg which will be the Portland Grotto for noon Mass.

Sister Barbara's symbol is the turtle. As she would say, "You can't move forward unless you stick your neck out." This theme of moving forward is something we will see next week as we begin Paul's letter to the Ephesians. In that letter he shows how God calls and predestines us. Whatever we suffer is part of God's mysterious design. We'll go behind the scenes to see what's really happening in our world. That begins next week. Don't miss it.

For today, like St. Paul - and like Sister Barbara - we want to keep pressing forward. "My grace is sufficient for you," says Jesus, "for power is made perfect in weakness." Amen

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
14 Ordinary Time
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern

Lectionary 101

Today the prophet Ezekiel makes an appearance in our Sunday readings; he is among the most colorful characters in the Old Testament. Since we do not get to hear anywhere near the whole of his preaching in the Lectionary, we should read his prophecy carefully on our own. Aside from the fascinating and sometimes bizarre actions that Ezekiel performs, the spectacular visions he describes, and the passages of his prophecy that are sufficiently graphic that they are never read in church, Ezekiel and his contemporary Jeremiah are the greatest voices of the exile of Israel in Babylon. The exile of roughly 586 – 538 B.C. was an event of tremendous importance in the life of the people of Israel, helping to shape the form of Judaism and of the Bible as they were known in the time of Christ.

Just as the scriptures came to their current form over time, so too they use language whose meaning has developed over time. For example, Ezekiel uses two terms today that did not have the same theological significance in his day (early 6th century B.C.) that they would come to have in their more familiar setting in the Gospel and in the early Church: "spirit," and "son of man." The fact that Ezekiel uses these terms in a manner that falls short of their New Testament meaning tells us that God reveals his will gradually and according to a pedagogy (cf. Galatians 3-4).

"Spirit" for Ezekiel seems to have the sense of a divine or at least heavenly force that empowers Ezekiel to do and say what he is told. It is not yet understood by the prophet or his contemporary readers as we understand the "Holy Spirit"—as a co-equal "person" of God. Similarly the term "son of man" is often used in Ezekiel simply to describe him as a mortal human being in distinction from God; later "Son of Man" comes to be attributed to Christ in the Gospels and in the liturgy of the Church, and in that case we use it with the fully developed sense of a divine title of the Lord.

Only in the fullness of time would God fully reveal himself through his Son, Jesus Christ—yet even he was not widely recognized. That Christ is the complete Word of the Father is made clear in the opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when the author writes: "In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son" (Heb 1:1-2). This age-old teaching of the Church is restated in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council where we read: "By…revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (Dei Verbum 2).

Living in the present day thus brings a great blessing to us in that we have the fullness of what God desired to reveal to us for the sake of our salvation. It also brings us a great responsibility because having heard the Word is not enough; we must put faith in it and live by it. The danger of failing to do this can be seen in the famous words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house" (Mark 6:4). Since knowledge of God does not suffice let us not "become too elated" as Saint Paul says (2 Cor 12:9) because God’s revelation is known to us; rather, taking a cue from Ezekiel let us attentively listen to the Word of the Lord and put it into action.

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
14 Ordinary Time
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We don't often observe Jesus being disempowered and perhaps this is the only incident of this kind we find in the Gospels. It seems that because of the people's lack of faith he could perform no miracle in his own home town. This is surprising because we usually think of Jesus as being all-powerful and capable of doing anything.

But actually, if we look at the text closely we see the words, 'he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them.' These words appear to contradict themselves because if a healing is not a miracle then you would be forced to wonder what is.

I suppose that St Mark means that Jesus could not or was not inclined to perform any great miracle in Nazareth such as feeding the five thousand or walking on water. Perhaps knowing that Jesus healed people wherever he went St Mark just took those healings for granted, even though to the recipients they must have been entirely life changing.

Of course, must also realise that personal faith is very much involved in the making of a miracle. Yes, Jesus can perform whatever wonders he wishes, but he usually only performs a miracle when faith is present. We might often be tempted to think that Jesus rewards faith with miracles, so frequently do we hear him saying such things as, 'your faith has healed you' as we did in last Sunday's Gospel in the case of the Woman with the Haemorrhage.

Faith is always an important element in any miracle, it has to be. We cannot envisage Jesus healing someone who had outright rejected him. Of course, many times a particular individual may not have a very great amount of faith, but Jesus often chooses to reward the person all the same.

Faith, of course, is what Jesus is all about. He comes to help us to believe in God, he comes to teach us and to help us deepen and strengthen whatever small amount of faith we have. He wants us to be less preoccupied with ourselves and to become ever more open to the hidden spiritual world.

Jesus wants to enlarge our horizons and to open us up to the way the universe really is. He wants to help us to realise that the most important dimension of all is the spiritual one. He wants us to realise that the physical world we inhabit is negligible in comparison to those things which belong to the spiritual realm.

This is what gives Christians a roundness and a fullness to their lives. By acknowledging that creation has its very roots in God and in the spiritual we see everything with very different eyes to those living around us. We see God's hand at work in the world. We do not attribute the things that happen in life to good luck or bad luck; no, we attribute them to the will of God. We see God's involvement in every detail of our lives.

As you know, I recently spent a month in hospital. It was a great learning experience for me. One interesting thing was that although nobody mentioned God there was a great acceptance of suffering by the other patients. Also their sufferings seemed to bring out a great goodness in them and it was wonderful to notice how kind the patients were to each other and how grateful they were to the nurses and doctors.

Perhaps none of those patients believed they had very much faith and perhaps none of them even had the vocabulary to talk about God, but yet I saw faith in abundance. It was evident in the small kindnesses they performed for one another and the encouragement that was always on offer.

We should see the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth in its historical context. In the course of history God sent many prophets to guide and instruct his Chosen People but, with some notable exceptions, these prophets were mostly ignored or rejected.

We see from our first reading that Ezekiel was sent to the People of Israel to prophesy that their bad behaviour and rebellion against God was going to bring about the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the whole nation. The people did not listen and his prophesy was inevitably fulfilled when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and enslaved the people.

Like his contemporary Jeremiah, Ezekiel's message was not popular and while the people acknowledged that he was indeed a powerful prophet they ultimately chose to reject his message. We can see the parallel with the reaction of the people of Nazareth, and indeed with the religious authorities of Israel, to Jesus when they fail to recognise that he is the ultimate prophet and the definitive emissary of God.

This account of Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth is common to all three of the Synoptic Gospels and there are many similarities between them. However, the versions given in Mark and Matthew are rather brief and it is left to Luke to give a longer and more detailed account.

In Luke we are given the passage from Isaiah that Jesus read to the people; and also unique to Luke is the passage about them trying to push him over a cliff and how he slipped through the crowd and quickly disappeared.

The choice that faced the people of Nazareth is the very same choice that faces us; it is whether we choose to accept Jesus or to reject him, whether to have faith in him or not. This is what theologians call the fundamental choice; the choice to act like a Christian or to go our own way.

Especially in our own day the forces of the media and society in general are pressurising us to go our own way. We are being inveigled into a secular mentality which completely ignores the spiritual side of life. We are being gradually channelled into a mentality which is centred around looking after ourselves and ignoring everything else. We are being pushed into accepting a philosophy of materialism and consequently we are led to reject our Christian faith.

Jesus did not come to threaten the people of Nazareth, he came to warn them of the consequences of sin and to reveal himself as the Messiah, the one true Saviour of the World. Because they had known him since boyhood and had not before discerned anything special about him they decide to reject Jesus and his message. They fail to see below the surface; they only notice the superficialities; they do not recognise that Jesus brings a message of hope and salvation.

We must ensure that we do not make the same mistake. We need to see Jesus for who he really is. We need to recognise him as the Son of God, our Saviour and Redeemer, the only one who can bring us to a fuller and indeed to an eternal life.
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