22 July 201816 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
16 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Justice & Integrity

When I read through the Sacred Scripture for this Sunday, I was struck by one concept in the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah. First of all, a little background. Jeremiah wrote immediately before the great and horrible exile. Jeremiah, you might remember, told the leaders to trust in God and not to make treaties with the pagan nations. These treaties would demand the practice of pagan rituals, and the adoption of pagan immorality. More than this, these treaties would be a rejection of something that was at the heart of the Hebrew People. God had chosen them. God had delivered them from the Egyptians, fought their battles for them and protected them in the past. A treaty with another nation would imply that God would not care for his people. At very best, the leaders would be hedging their bets. Now while these leaders, these faithless shepherds, were rejecting God, they were also putting on the pious front. Externally they appeared to be religious. In reality they were hypocrites. Jeremiah was sick of their act.

He continued his attack against them. He piled the prophetic gloom and doom on thick. But, then he did a 180 and spoke positively. That's the section that caught my eye. Jeremiah prophesied a day when the leaders would be wise and just, a day when people would proclaim with their lives, "The Lord is our justice." Usually when we hear the term "justice" we think of court cases. We refer to justice as a decision that safeguards the rights of all people. Biblical justice is much deeper than that. Biblical justice describes a way of life that reflects the presence of God. Biblical justice is based on faith in God resulting in a particular way of acting. Biblical justice refers to integrity.

Now there's a word that we don't hear a lot, at least not in the public forum. Integrity. The word integrity means to be whole, complete. A person with integrity is a person of sincerity, a person's whose actions are a natural reflection of his or her interior. A person with integrity has a firm hold on the truth. He does not create truth. He respects truth. The age of integrity began with Jesus Christ. It must continue with us. A day is coming when people will say, "The Lord is our justice, our integrity." That day is upon us. We have in the past, and we can in the present be people who make the love of Christ a living reality in the world. Jesus is with us. Jesus is yearning to come out of us. He is calling us to be the people we can be. Many people in the world have tremendous needs. They need true leaders to show them the love, the compassion of Christ. They need us to be those leaders. We can do this. We must do this.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
16 Ordinary Time
Ephesians Week 2: He is Our Peace (July 22, 2018)

Bottom line: We look to Jesus to overcome the negative side of competition and ego gratification. He is our peace; he broke down the dividing wall of enmity. Last week - in our first homily on the letter to Ephesians - we heard about God's eternal purpose: to bring everything together in Christ. Today Paul expands on that purpose, "You who were once far off have become near by the blood of Christ." Jesus is our peace: he "broke down the dividing wall of enmity." Paul is speaking about competition and reconciliation. I'd like to lead into this topic with some humor. I once got into an unusual competition. My friend, Fr. Jim Coyne and I started competing about who could do the most funerals.

A parishioner would call about someone who died. I would listen and express my condolences, but when the call finished I'd think, "One more for me!" This whole competition, of course, was silly and juvenile. (Pause) But I did win! :) Coyne got back: "With your monotone, Bloom, they were probably dying of boredom!" :) We humans naturally compete - and sometimes it can be beneficial. For example, it can lead to seek excellence or simply to provide better service. Still it has a dark side. In ancient times Jews and Greeks competed. It sometimes led to name-calling and violence. Jesus brought Greeks and Jews together in a remarkable way. Our faith combines Hebrew revelation and Greek rational philosophy. When people focus of Jesus we can listen to each other and take the best from each person. The problem is that instead of focusing on Jesus we easily fall into ego gratification. Fr. Robert Spitzer shared a painful personal experience. You may have heard of him - a brilliant priest who served as president of Gonzaga University. Fr. Spitzer has done outstanding work on the relationship of faith and science. He spent weeks putting together a lecture on what modern physics indicates about God's existence. Afterward he received much praise but one guy approached him maybe he a little self-satisfied. He announced to Fr. Spitzer that he had mispronounced a certain scientific word. Fr. Spitzer tells how he fell into a depression that lasted several days. In spite of all his achievement he felt like a failure.

Like a good Jesuit, however, he analyzed the movements in his soul. He recognized that his sadness stemmed from striving for ego-gratification. We can start thinking our happiness depends on achieving some sort of superiority. I gave the humorous example of my competition with Fr. Coyne. It can extend to other things. For example if I see another parish achieving their Annual Appeal goal and we haven't, I feel bad. Or maybe some other parish is 20% over their goal. I think, Bloom, you're a failure. Now, like I said, competition is not bad in itself. If it gives me motivation to do funerals or raise funds for a common need, that's a good thing. I'm glad we have Jack in the Box to compete with McDonald's. I'm glad our young people compete as athletes and scholars. But as Father Spitzer points out it's not good to base one's happiness on ego gratification. It's a step above the pursuit of sensual pleasure but it's always precarious. Mispronouncing a word, falling short on a goal, some blow to self-esteem - and the whole world crashes down.

Fortunately pleasure and ego-gratification are only the first two levels of happiness. There's a third level - service: the sense of purpose a person experiences when caring for others. And beyond service is the fourth and highest level: seeking ultimate truth, beauty and goodness. That's what Jesus invites today: "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." They had spent exhausting and exhilarating days serving other, but now it is time for what ultimately counts: being with Jesus. As St. Paul tells us: Jesus brings us together by his blood. He is our peace. He breaks down the dividing wall that separate us from those we compete with. Through him we have access in the one Spirit to the Father.

This week I will be making a pilgrimage to Sister Barbara's grave. It's a five-day road trip to San Francisco and back - time to thank God for Sister Barbara and reflect on what she means for us. I'll say something about it next week when we hear Paul explain how Jesus wants us to live. For today we look to Jesus to overcome the negative side of competition and ego gratification. In him we who were once far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He is our peace; he breaks down the dividing wall of enmity. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
16 Ordinary Time
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern Lectionary 107

Sometimes an idea or concept from the scripture readings comes across very clearly in the Lectionary, and that is certainly the case this Sunday. The image of a shepherd runs through the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, the responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel as well. The shepherd is probably one of the most common biblical images, being known even to people with only a passing familiarity with the Bible. In John's Gospel Jesus famously calls himself the Good Shepherd, and Psalm 23, which we hear today and which is the most popular of all the Psalms, begins with the words "the Lord is my shepherd" (Ps 23:1). Reflecting on this peaceful image, it is important to recall in the first place that the image of a shepherd was used so often in the Bible because practically everyone in the ancient near east encountered shepherds on a regular basis, and because shepherds developed remarkably close bonds with their sheep, to the point where sheep distinguished between the voice of their shepherd and that of another, such as a thief (see John 10:2-5).

The shepherd thus became a powerful biblical symbol representing the Lord, who guided the whole nation of Israel and sought their best even though they often rebelled against their shepherd (see Ps 80). The Lord was a faithful shepherd for his people, but the earthly kings and rulers who reigned over Israel were not, as we clearly hear today: "thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds" (Jer 26:2). Jeremiah not only announces the Lord's judgement against the "shepherds" of Israel, he also provides a note of great hope, when, speaking in the name of God, he says: "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing" (Jer 26:3-4).

The prophet Jeremiah's inspired words would be partially fulfilled when the people of Israel were led from their exile in Babylon back to their homeland by leaders who were truly righteous and devoted to the Lord. The full meaning of his prophecy would not be seen however, until the time of Jesus himself, more than five centuries after the exile, when he revealed himself to be the true and definitive shepherd of Israel and of all the nations. We see evidence of that in today's Gospel reading: Jesus is greeted by a huge crowd—more than five thousand people—and he sees that they were downtrodden spiritually and physically, "like sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34).

He responds by giving them two things that a good shepherd provides to his sheep: instruction and sustenance. Just as a shepherd carefully guides his sheep so as to avoid danger, so too Jesus turned to the crowd and "began to teach them many things" that they might avoid spiritual danger and come to find eternal life in him (Mark 6:34). A shepherd also provides grazing for his sheep, and Jesus provides a miraculous abundance of food for the crowd, beginning with just five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:35-44). As we recall the image of the shepherd found so often in the Bible, let us be grateful that in Jesus we have found the one true "shepherd and guardian of our souls" (1 Pet 2:25). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our first reading we have one of the great prophecies of the Old Testament. It is a prophecy with many aspects. Jeremiah speaks these words in the midst of one of the most terrible events to affect the People of Israel –the Babylonian captivity. At the time he is speaking already half of the population had already been dragged off to slavery in Babylon and it wouldn’t be long before the rest followed. Jeremiah in the clearest possible terms blames this misfortune on the leaders of the people, that is the civil and religious authorities. It is they who have sinned and allowed the flock to be scattered and he tells them that this neglect will most certainly be punished. But then comes the extraordinary prophecy that God himself will gather his people together and return them to the pastures of Israel and he will raise up new shepherds who will truly guard his flock. But even this is not enough because Jeremiah goes one step further and prophecies that he will raise up a true King for Israel, a descendent of David, who will be the salvation of the people.

We, of course, recognise that this great prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah. When it comes to the Gospel reading it is as if we see this ancient prophecy of Jeremiah in all its various aspects come to its fulfilment. The exile into Babylon took place well over five hundred years before Christ and lasted about fifty years; but even though it had happened so long before it was such a formative event in the history of the People of Israel that it remained fresh in their minds. Now while Jeremiah blamed the fact of the captivity on the uselessness of the leaders of Israel and promised that God would send new and better shepherds they hadn’t made much of an appearance even five hundred years later. But, as we saw in our Gospel reading last week, Jesus sent out his disciples to teach and preach in the villages and to cure the people and cast out evil spirits. At long last it seems, even if at that moment only in a small way, that this prophecy of Jeremiah was beginning to be fulfilled. The greatest part of the prophecy was the coming of the Messiah, the Shepherd King of Israel and in our Gospel reading we see Jesus busy about his ministry of shepherding and nurturing his people.

The disciples return full of enthusiasm from their missionary journey among the villages. But they were quite obviously tired and worn out and so Jesus invites them to come to a lonely place where they can rest. But they get no rest because the people realised where they were going and crowded round them wanting to see and hear more. This reminds me of one of our Salvatorian missionaries in the Congo, Father Paulus, who had a great reputation as a builder of churches. He got help from many benefactors in Switzerland and with his skill as a builder constructed many churches and chapels in the villages in the area of our mission. One problem in Africa is the children; they are really nice and friendly but they never let you go. A foreigner is a great source of interest to them and someone special like a big tall priest with a long beard who was going to build a church becomes the object of very great curiosity indeed. The children used to follow him absolutely everywhere, so much so that he had no privacy at all.

Not even to go to the toilet! In those remote villages it was a case of going out to the corner of a field and finding some bushes you could hide behind in order to give you the privacy to do what you have to do. But there was no chance of that when there was a troop of children following you everywhere. This exasperated Father Paulus completely and eventually he issued an edict. "You build me a toilet and I’ll build you a church!" You can imagine how the disciples felt when thinking that they had gone somewhere out of the way for a rest found themselves surrounded by people. But, of course, Jesus takes pity on them and sets himself to teach them because, as it says, they were like sheep without a shepherd. Maybe the reason the people flocked around was more because they wanted to see miracles and healings than to hear the Gospel preached to them. But Jesus knows what they really need, Jesus knows what will truly satisfy them –the Word of God. Sensation won’t hold their interest for long; but real solid teaching will.

They want to know the answers to the same questions we do. How did I come into being? What is mans true destiny? How can I find inner peace? What is the best way to live a fulfilling human life? And Jesus has the answers to all these questions and more. As it says in the Penny catechism: God created us to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next. Our true destiny lies in heaven. We find inner peace by loving God and our neighbour. The best way to live an authentic human life is to follow God’s laws and to live in close communion with him. These are the things we are thirsting for. We want to know and understand the meaning of life; we want to do the things that will help us to get to heaven. We want to understand how to overcome sin and all those things which distract us from reaching our true destiny.

Jesus has the answers to our questions; and they all come down to living a life deeply in harmony with God. And he not only tells us but shows us the way. He talks the talk but he also walks the walk. And his walk takes him eventually to Jerusalem and up the hill to Golgotha where he gave his life for us. And on the Cross he shows us that the ultimate act of sacrifice is what gives life and salvation to the whole world. And he invites us to walk with him; to walk with him on his journeys through Palestine where we can listen to his teaching and experience his healing ministry, and then to walk with him on that last journey to the Cross to suffer and die and rise to new life with him. No wonder they wanted to hear more.

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