15 July 201815 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
15 Ordinary Time
15 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 6:7-13

A pastor bankrupt his parish giving away wood to the poor to bring warmth to their homes in bitter winter. When he had no money left, he sold the rectory Chippendale dining room furniture for more wood. He was ridiculed by his peers for being a bad administrator. He was embraced by Christ on his death.

We must accept it as a given that not only does Christ believe in life after death but also He believes just as strongly in life before death. Furthermore, He believes not only in bread for the poor but roses too.

Do check today's Gospel. Mark clearly tells us that Jesus sent the apostles on a two-fold mission. They must preach repentance for people's sins. But in addition they must cure them of their physical ills and wants. Mark in verse 13 tells us today that the twelve did precisely that. Such a job definition is the reverse of the oft-told tale that Jesus is preaching pie in the sky in the bye and bye. The Teacher is interested not only in souls but bodies as well. He is anxious both to develop the spiritual life of people as well as their humanity. To say otherwise would be equal to presenting a counterfeit and plastic Christ to the world. He is in the business of saving people - body and soul.

It is quite true that the Master said, "The poor you will always have with you." But, in the words of Edward McGlynn, He never said that you and I were to do nothing to help them. Our Leader reminds us hunger is one disease that is 100% curable.

God, said one cynic, must have loved the poor. He made so many of them. Arguably He did so to make it easier for you and me to get into Paradise. We accomplish that by holding out a loaf of bread and cherry jam to them along with some substantive assistance. Nowadays that substantive aid goes by the name of empowerment. We must help them to build ovens and grow cherries. It cannot be said that all Catholics accept this as a given. Many do not. I know of one American Catholic college where students bitterly indicted their chaplain in the school paper. They said that they came to the Liturgy to worship God and be inspired. They were fed up with hearing from him about the poor. The latter were living by the thousands in the neighborhood around the college. The priest replied, "I am sorry about that. I did not write the rulebook." Asked one sophomore sweetly, "What rulebook?" "The Gospels," he replied.

If you read through the Gospels, one discovers quickly that the Nazarene spent more hours assisting the great unwashed than He did about speaking of His Father. What would happen if the reader tears out of the Gospels the pages that speak of the needy and His assistance of them? Well, we wind up with a book so abridged that no publisher would publish it.

Many rabbis of Christ's time said religion consists primarily in sacrifice. Some scribes would correct them and say that religion is concerned principally with the Law. And the Christ would buy neither definition. According to Him, it consists in love of God and one's neighbor - especially the ones who finds themselves with empty bellies.

Christ's Church must belong primarily to the down and out. If the opposite is the case, the Church has seriously violated its charter. Furthermore, when the Church favors the poor over the middle class, we should not complain like the college students of the above. After all, must of us in the United States are the direct descendants of the very poor. Some of us are their children. Or at the very least their grandchildren. My mother as a child owned no shoes.

Furthermore, when the preacher turns us upside down to shake money out of our pockets for the poor, we should not moan. Rather, we should learn to say, "This is exactly what the Church should be doing. And, if it were not, I should be kicking and screaming till it began to do so."

I found these reflective lines in the Canterbury cathedral of Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas a Becket. "Poverty is carrying your water four miles. Poverty is being old at 40 and dead at 45. Poverty is having no crops to scare birds away from. Poverty is having no money to worry about."

Of the forty two million without health insurance in the United States, eight million are children. This translates into prolonged illness, skipping life saving medical exams, and inadequate medical care. Christ waits impatiently.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Amos and Us?Everyday People Called to Prophesy

Today's first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos. Amos was quite different than most of the prophets we come upon in Hebrew Scriptures. He did not wear strange clothes like Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He was not a prophet throughout his life like Isaiah or Samuel. He did not even do strange prophetic actions like Elijah, Hosea and most the prophets.

Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. These were every day type jobs for an every day sort of a guy. He lived just south of the border between the Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Israel. One day he received the message from God that he was to drop everything, cross the border into the Northern Kingdom, go to the holy city of the North, Bethel, and tell the people that they were facing destruction unless they changed their lives. The local priest of Bethel, Amaziah, was upset that this foreigner was infringing on his area and told him to go back to his home. Amos responded that he didn't need this. He didn't ask to become a prophet. God sent him. But he had no choice but to proclaim the truth of the Lord. In another part of the book of Amos, Amos says: "The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?"

Amos' concern was focused on the message and the one who gave him the message. He was not concerned whether or not the people were impressed with him as an individual or even whether or not they wanted to hear what God told him to proclaim.

We see the exact same action taking place in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God. These disciples were every day people. Nothing special about them. Jesus tells them to carry little luggage and to just proclaim the word and then move on. If people accept the word great, if they don't, leave quickly, but bring the word of God to the next village.

All of this goes very must against the standard procedures of our information age. Standard procedure of our time is to get a test sampling of what people believe or want to believe and then deal with that as a truth. Fox News, USA Today, CNN polls, Gallup polls, all tell us what they feel the majority is thinking and then treat it as though this were a truth. For example, a number of years ago a rather faulty sampling of Catholics was taken and printed by the leading newspaper of our area saying that the vast majority of Catholics do not believe in the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. I doubt the credibility of the statement and certainly doubt the credibility of the newspaper involved, but I am deeply disturbed by the concept that Catholics should determine their faith and morals by what the majority of people is believing or doing.

The truth is not dependent on the people to whom it is addressed. The truth is dependent on the fidelity of the proclaimer to the message received by God. There was a time in history that two thirds of the Church questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ. That was the time of the Arian heresy. Two thirds of the church! The numbers still didn't make the Arians correct. The truth always wins. The Arians are forgotten, buried in history and the Church lives on believing in the divinity of Christ.

I am sure you come upon people in your neighborhood or even in your families who tell you that things have changed. Certain things which were seen as immoral before are not immoral now. I'm sure you have come upon people who tell you that it is OK for people to live together if they are not married, it is OK for people to us certain drugs, it is OK for people to ignore their responsibility to bring their children to the Eucharist on a regular basis, etc. Their message is that everyone accepts this or that new way of living. They do not want to hear someone telling them that the majority does not determine the truth. They do not want to hear the preaching of Amos or Jesus if it goes against their desires in life.

Faced with this, the temptation that we have, you and I, is to keep quiet, not make waves and just let things slide. Like Amos, we can all claim: We don't need this. Let the priests talk about morals and attempt to practice them. I'm just an everyday person. But then we read scripture. We read the readings for this Sunday. The readings today tell us that we do not have the right to walk away from our responsibilities to the Truth. We have to stand for the truth of the Lord, whether it is popular or not, whether it is convenient or not. We have all received the mandate of Jesus to go out and proclaim his Word. Today we pray for the courage to proclaim the truth at work, in our neighborhoods and in our families.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
15 Ordinary Time
Ephesians Week 1: In Love He Destined Us
(July 15, 2018)

Bottom line: God chooses and predestines us. He does not take away our freedom and responsibility, but can even use our mistakes and sins to bring about his purpose.

Last week we concluded the homilies on St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. Today we begin a series of 7 homilies on the letter to the Ephesians. Paul spent 18 months in Corinth and 3 years in Ephesus. So both communities he knows well.

Yet the letters differ greatly. In Second Corinthians Paul pours out his soul. He shares his intense suffering - for example, that God sent him a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat him so he doesn't get puffed up. As we begin Ephesians it seems Paul moves from the personal to the cosmic. He speaks about God's purpose before the universe began - to bring everything together in Christ.

Paul says God chose us and destined us according to that purpose. Sometimes it surprises people to hear that Catholics believe in predestination. But we do. Everything that happens pertains to God's eternal plan. "He chose us in Christ before the world began," says Paul, "In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus."

Now, we need to understand that predestination somehow includes human freedom. We cannot blame God for our sins - the long history of human cruelty and betrayal belongs to us. Predestination means that God takes into account even our sins in order to achieve his eternal purpose.

President Abraham Lincoln made a powerful statement about God's purpose, his judgments. After four years of civil war, people were asking: If God is so wise, so benevolent, how could he allow this to happen? When war's end seemed near, Lincoln spoke these words: "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away." Then he adds, "Yet if God wills that it continues... until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'".

I remember listening to a man whose relatives died in the Holocaust. The interviewer asked how he could avoid bitterness. He drew a deep breath and replied softly, "as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'".

Now, I admit it's easier to imagine we are part of a random, meaningless universe. And certainly more comfortable to think there is no right or wrong, no true or false, no good or evil - and therefore, no judgment. While that view seems attractive, those who hold it are quite ready to judge. Think about how much of our ordinary conversations involves criticizing, blaming and judging others! As Christians we should avoid judging because we know we will be judged by the same measure we judge others. On the final day we will stand before God and we will realize "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".

We see it in today's Gospel as Jesus sends out disciples with authority over unclean spirits. Evil doesn't have the last word. St. Paul tells us that in spite of the tragedies of life, we have hope because of Christ. We are part of the plan God mapped out from the beginning.

This understanding brings peace. Last year my friend Fr. Jim Lee was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. Fr. Jim had a habit of responding "I am blessed," when people ask, "how are you?" Telling his parishioners about the diagnosis, he spoke about living one day at time, his desire to continue serving and to die surrounded by parishioners, Fr. Jim concluded, "I am blessed."

You and I can have peace, even gratitude, when we recognize that although our lives seem chaotic, what appears random really is part of bigger plan. The parts fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Scientist tells us that in order to make life possible certain variables had to be set in the first micro second of time. I'll leave that discussion to physicists, but what we know from the Bible is that God is equally present to each moment of time. God sees the end of the world in the same glance he sees the beginning and this present moment. Living in an eternal now, God can take into account our prayers - including the ones we offer during this Mass.

God chooses and predestines us. He does not take away our freedom and responsibility, but can even use our mistakes and sins to bring about his purpose. We'll see more as we continue with Paul's brilliant letter to the Ephesians. This is only the first of seven selections. Today let's take home this, "He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus." Amen.


*For the unbeliever judging is incoherent, yet they do it. For us it's scary when we remember Jesus words: For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Mt 7:2

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern
Gospel ? Mark 6: 7 - 13

A reoccurring theme in the message of Jesus is that of surrendering all to God. Three examples are: "I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me." (John 6:38, ), "He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ?"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.'" (Matthew 26:39) and the third is probably most familiar to us in that when Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer we pray, "thy will be done." In the Gospel this weekend Jesus instructs the disciples that one must leave your possessions behind. In a sense he is saying not to think about possessions, think about serving the Lord. This reflects the first of the great commandments that Jesus gives us, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind." Mt. 22: 36 ? 40. Jesus is not seeking half-hearted followers, but only those who have the desire to wholeheartedly embrace him.

Jesus tells his disciples this as he gives them instructions before sending them out to minister. He is not only giving them the mission of preaching repentance and casting out demons, he is also giving them a very basic lesson on the cost of discipleship. To be a Disciple of Jesus costs all that we have. There is not room for the dollar store disciple, or a disciple with coupons that will allow him to save something. To be a disciple of Jesus one must be willing to surrender all to the Lord. He is very particular about this, "take nothing for the journey but a walking stick ? no food, no sack, no money in your belts." (Mk 6:8) This giving up of our heart, our will and our mind is to be done freely, for God cannot force us to surrender. He instructs, encourages and invites, but there is always the freedom to hold back.

For most of us the thought of surrendering our possessions is one we would rather avoid. This Gospel might be an opportunity for us to take a good look at what we have and do a mid-Summer cleaning of our homes, our closets and cabinets. This would be a good start towards surrendering, for surrendering is far more than just getting rid of our old, used and no longer needed items. Surrendering is an attitude of the heart that would have us see Christ as the most important possession we have, and to strive towards him being the only worthwhile possession. Beginning this process of changing our hearts and letting go is difficult, but once we begin we realize that the less we carry on this journey, the easier the journey becomes. Christ becomes more and more the center of our lives and all else becomes just things on the periphery.

Through our Baptism and Confirmation we are called to take on the mission of Christ. It is the mission we see in the Gospel for today as Jesus sends out the Apostles to minister two by two. It is the mission Jesus gives to the Apostles the Disciples and the Church in Matthew's Gospel at the Ascension, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?" Mt. 28:19 This is our mission and we prepare best for it when we surrender more and more of ourselves and welcome Christ more and more into our lives.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We hear in this Sunday's Gospel how Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs to proclaim the Gospel. There are similar accounts in Matthew and Luke which have a bit more detail. But here we are presented with Mark's typically more compressed and succinct account of the event.

We observe that Jesus gives the disciples strict instructions. They are not to take anything with them, they are to stay in one place and if they are rejected they are to shake the dust off their feet and move directly on to the next village.

I said earlier that they were sent to preach the Gospel but actually Mark is a bit more specific than that. He says that they are ?to preach repentance.' And then he adds that they cast out many devils and cured many sick people through anointing.

Apart from the exorcising and healing they undertook while on this mission we see that their teaching ministry was restricted to preaching repentance. This is interesting, because it implies that their role was very much like John the Baptist who also preached repentance. This implies that these disciples were, like John the Baptist, to be forerunners of Jesus. Their job was to prepare the ground for the time when Jesus himself would visit those same villages.

So, we see that Jesus seems to reserve the preaching of the full message of the Gospel to himself. In the Gospels we observe that it is only Jesus who teaches things like the Beatitudes, only he who delivers the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of his body of teaching. The duty of the disciples during Jesus' public ministry was therefore simply to prepare the ground.

It is only after the Day of Pentecost that the disciples are impelled to proclaim the full message of the Gospel to the people of the various nations who had come up to Jerusalem.

What applies to the disciples after Pentecost applies also to us today. We modern day disciples are not required to reserve our preaching just to the message repentance, important though that is. We are obliged to impart the Christian message in all its entirety to the people among who we live. We are entrusted with the task of communicating the whole content to the Gospel to our brothers and sisters.

Most importantly, our first and most vital duty is to proclaim the teaching of Christ to our own children. We train them in the practice of the faith and we teach them the truths of the Gospel and instruct them on how to live a moral life. When we do this, we are giving them the greatest possible gift that could ever be bestowed on them.

As long as we carry out this task with integrity we will have done our job, we will have fulfilled our mission. If in due time our children ultimately choose to reject the message of Jesus then we will not be to blame. We will have done our job and handed on Jesus' message to them, we will have trained them in prayer, and we will have taught them the importance of living good morals. What they do with this information is entirely up to them.

If, after all our hard work, they decide to reject the message of Christ, then, sad as we may be, we cannot take responsibility for their rejection and we ought not to see it as any kind of failure of our own. Our children will still be the objects of our love and prayers and we will keep on hoping that they will eventually come to the crucial insight that accepting the Gospel is the best way to life a truly authentic and fulfilling life. But the fundamental choice of whether to accept the Gospel is their own.

The first reading which comes from the Book of Amos is very interesting and, according to me, sheds some light on the Gospel text. Amos states very clearly that he is no prophet and that he did not belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets. He says that he is a simple shepherd and one who looked after sycamore trees. So according to him he has absolutely no qualifications to be a prophet. He is a simple man with only very basic skills.

Nevertheless, he says that God chose him and impelled him to go to prophesy to the people of Israel. This is his single qualification; that God chose him. You can say the very same for the Apostles and the disciples of Christ. They had no qualifications of birth or special expertise, they belonged to no brotherhoods; they were ordinary men with only the very basic skills of a simple profession. Like Amos, their single qualification was that Christ had called them to this ministry.

Also, like Amos the message of these disciples sent out by Christ was one of repentance. Amos points out that the other nations will be punished for sin and for attacking the People of God. But he warns the People of Israel that they too will be punished, according to him they will be judged by the same standards as the other nations and they should therefore repent of their sins.

The message of Amos also has a great stress of social justice, he rails against the rich for exploiting the poor and tells them that they will have to pay the consequences of this neglect. There is a curious expression in Chapter Four where he quotes the Lord saying about the poor, ?I have given you cleanness of teeth.' By this he means hunger; if you have no food then the teeth will never get dirty.

This emphasis is not different to the attitudes of Jesus who also showed great sympathy for the poor. He fed them and he healed them and he called them Blessed. His disciples were to do likewise. We see this at work in the early Church where collections were taken up for the poor and especially the widows.

I don't expect that many of us consider that we have any special qualifications as preachers of the Word of God. Perhaps we don't study the text of the Bible very closely and surely very few of us have a theological education. Like Amos and the first disciples we feel unqualified. And yet we ought to realise that God has chosen us. We are the modern-day proclaimers of the Gospel; we are the people God has chosen to be communicators of his Word in the world of today.

Unqualified though we believe ourselves to be, we find that God has chosen us and singled us out for this task. Our job is therefore to step up to the plate, to believe in ourselves and to begin to act like real disciples of Christ and to proclaim the Gospel without hesitation wherever we may be.
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