02 September 201822 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
22 Ordinary Time
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

A priest, writes Arthur Tonne, was called out for an emergency in the early morning hours. On his return, he was accosted by a mugger, "Your money or your life!" Then, when the thief saw the priest's Roman collar, he told him to put his wallet away. The relieved priest lit a cigarette and offered his would-be mugger one. The latter proudly said, "No thanks, Father. I've given up cigarettes for Lent." Like the thief, many Catholics lose sight of the forest because of the trees. We give attention to minutiae and turn our backs on the essentials. Unhappily for us, we are living our lives in an epoch which downplays sin. There is a danger, John Newman warned, of thinking God takes our sins lightly because we take them lightly.

A man told a priest. "I am a drunkard, a wife beater, unfaithful, a liar, and a thief. But I am a practicing Catholic." Pope Pius XII said, "The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin." Pope John Paul II preached, "Secularism preaches there is no God and therefore no sin. Psychology advises us to resist our feelings of guilt. Sociology instructs us to lay all blame on society and think of ourselves as victims... Theological cliques jump on the bandwagon and define sin away." John Kiley observes that just as we have "no fault" insurance, so too do we have "no fault" lives. This attitude has become not only politically correct but also morally correct. Sophisticates advise us the examination of conscience is something quaint designed by the nuns of our childhood.

But in fact the exam of conscience is not Christian in origin. It was first designed by the pagans. Then it was passed on to the Jews. We in turn borrowed it from them. Today's Gospel mentions specific sins that the Master would have us run by ourselves. They are fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, and pride. Clearly the Teacher looked upon sin not only as a social evil but also a personal decision. Christ, someone has put it succinctly, gives the sinner but two options - either to be forgiven or be punished.

I know of priests who are considered village idiots for preaching about sin. It is no longer fashionable to refer to such unenlightened concepts. But, as Pope John Paul II says, "It is not we who have written the Gospel." Still, the favorite indoor sport of many of us is trading the Gospel according to ourselves for the Gospel according to Christ. St Augustine put the case this way centuries ago, "If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you do not like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself." Some sins have been raised to the level of virtue. Take fornication. It is commonly called pre-marital sex. Give me a break! Even third rate writers testify in their many forgettable novels marriage is the last thing on the mind of many people when they slip between the sheets. Oftentimes they have to tell each other their names in the morning. If you put yourself down as opposed to abortion and euthanasia, you are labeled by the media as right-wing and fundamentalist. Those terms are not meant to be complimentary.

Let me share with you an examination of conscience worked up by the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi. It is a list of seven deadly sins. They are wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, commerce without morality, science without humility, worship without sacrifice, knowledge without character, and politics without principle. Which ones of these are we guilty of? How about a trip to the confessional box for an eyeball to eyeball rendezvous with Jesus immediately? Remember Augustine reminded us that the confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. A non-Christian wrote, "Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves." Or, as John Donne taught, "I am a little world. It requires all my energy to remake this little world of mine." Incidentally, it has been argued by a writer that you can learn more about a congregation in the parking lot than at the Liturgy. How do Massgoers behave once they have left the church? Is road rage waitng to appear? What kind of jokes are told? Who gossips about whom and with whom? We have just honored God with our lips in the church. In the parking lot, it is time to honor Him with our hearts. The aphorism teaches you cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
22 Ordinary Time
Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: What Comes Out of Us?

I like a good steak. We have some steak restaurants here in Tampa Bay which are as good as any in the world. I like turkey. I look forward to Thanksgiving. I like chicken. I make the best fried chicken in the world, or at least in my world. But I will not eat steak, turkey, or chicken on the Fridays of Lent. Is that because steak, turkey, or chicken are evil? No, they are not evil. But during Lent, I, and you, abstain from meat as a sacrifice to God to help us remember the Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and to help us prepare for the celebration of the banquet of life at Easter and at the end of our lives. Abstinence is a community prayer we offer during Lent. The ancient Hebrews were given laws telling them to stay away from certain foods. The religious intent of the dietary restrictions was to show obedience to God. As time went on, the various items prohibited were seen to be evil because eating them was being disobedient. Actually pork, shell fish, etc are not evil in themselves. "Hear me and understand," Jesus says in today's Gospel from the Gospel of Mark, "Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. All these come from within, and they defile." So, are we basically evil?

The The reformed protestant theologians believe that mankind was created in the image and likeness of God, but due to sin has become totally corrupted. According to them sinfulness affects a person's nature including his will. This was taken to the extreme by the Predestinationists who are perhaps best exemplified by the colonial American Preacher, Jonathan Edwards' and his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. You may have studied that in school. The Catholic belief is that we are basically good. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God and every person can bring a unique reflection of God to the world. Sin tempts us to do evil, but we can fight off the temptation. In Genesis 4, before Cain kills his brother Abel, God says to him, "Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." We have sin lurking at the door of our hearts.

We must master it. We can best do this by keeping our hearts pure. We cannot allow that which is evil to have a toehold within us. That means that we have to be on our guard. A battle is being waged for our souls. Evil lurks. Suggestions are made: we hear people say things like, "It's not all that bad. It's a new world now." We are in conversations where people say, "Living together is certainly now accepted even if the Church says its wrong. After all, two social security checks are more important than traditional morality." or "So what if you get drunk, everybody else does." or "You don't want to be the only virgin in your class do you? Sure, this or that is wrong, but there can be exceptions." And before we know what hit us, our thoughts have been turned to evil. We question what is right or wrong, and open the door for evil to take hold of our hearts. The contemporary Christian group, Casting Crowns, captured the necessity of being on our guard to protect our hearts in their song, Slow Fade. It's a slow fade when you give yourself away.

It's a slow fade when black or white have turned to gray, Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, When you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It's a slow fade.©CCLI License #2368115 That's a great line, It's a slow fade when black or white have turned to gray. Instead of saying, "This is wrong; this is sinful," we compromise. In our minds we say, "It's OK for them to live together. It's OK for the kids to behave like this or that." What should be black or white, has turned to gray within us. It is only a matter of time then, a slow fade, when we ourselves begin acting on our gray thoughts. And then that which comes from within defiles us. The thought of using others for our own selfishness, be that envy or lust, taking what is theirs, adultery, greed malice, licentiousness, etc, etc, all begin from within, from the gray thoughts.

We have to put up a fight against evil. We have to remain pure for the Lord. To do this we need the grace of the sacraments, particularly penance. We need the strength of the Eucharist. And we need the company of our Catholic Community. We need positive friends. We need accountability partners, even in the most informal sense of people for whom we need to protect our morality.

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness
pulls the strings.

Be careful little ears what you hear,
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near,

Be careful little lips what you say,
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts

Be careful little feet where you go,
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow.
©CCLI License #2368115

Jesus speaks about hypocrisy today. All of us hate hypocrites. We can't stand it when we learn that models of morality have been leading secret immoral lives. We are upset when those whom we respect are revealed to be indecent, anything but deserving our deference. We agree with the Lord in his attack on the hypocrites. But then Jesus turns the focus of his teaching towards us. He says that which is evil is what comes out of us. He forces each of us to ask, "Am I a hypocrite? What is coming out of me? Where is this coming from?" We need to be concerned with fighting against any evil that might be lurking inside us. We can easily proclaim this or that wrong in others, but if we are to avoid being hypocrites ourselves, we need to control our thoughts. We need to protect ourselves against that which will turn black and white into gray. We need to be wholesome. We need to be pure of heart. We all hate hypocrisy. When we are the hypocrites, we hate ourselves. God does not want us hating ourselves. We can and must replace self-loathing with love, His love. We belong to God. He is among us and, through the grace of our baptism, He is within us. His very presence within us will help us win the battle for our souls. So we join Hillsong United and proclaim:
My heart and my soul,
I giI give you control,

Consume me from the inside out, Lord,
Let Let justice and praise

Become my embrace,
To love you from the inside out,

Hillsong United
©CCLI License #2368115

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
22 Ordinary Time
Care for the Afflicted
(September 2, 2018)

Bottom line: We'll hear more about care for the afflicted as we read James these five Sundays of September. Today I invite you to learn more about our giving through the Annual Catholic Appeal and Stewardship.

This Sunday is my 72nd birthday. (wait for applause) After Masses I'm heading for Redmond, Oregon, to get together with my friends, Fr. Jim Coleman and Bishop Liam Cary. I told them, "I'm sure you guys know its my birthday, but don't make a big deal about it. They assured me they wouldn't. You can, though, when I'm back the Sunday after next. Today I've asked our P.A.A. (Pastoral Associate for Administration) to give an update regarding Stewardship and the Annual Catholic Appeal. I want to tie it in with the reading from James. He speaks about how all good giving come from the Father of lights. Good giving means to be generous in doing the right thing for the right reason. In James' vision God is the source of all kindness, generosity and justice. If I do something good, I need to give credit where credit belongs. God is the primary cause. He is the father of lights. You and I am the secondary cause of any good work. On the other hand, if I do evil I can't blame God. I have abused the free will he gave me. I know it sounds unfair but that's the way it is. We won't see God's perfect justice until we arrive at the Judgment Day.

Right now we need to respond to God: By welcoming his word, says James, we will save our souls. The soul is the inner core that endures. The soul either turns to God and others or becomes twisted, curved in on itself. Jesus addresses this when he speaks about sins that defile. Your favorite one might be on this list: "evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly." James tells that guarding against corruption is essential to true religion. Religion has taken on a negative connotation. James, however, says that religion pure and undefiled means to care for orphans and widows in their affliction. This refers to those who fall through the cracks of society. We see them every day on our streets - and in our families. Our St. Vincent de Paul reaches out to them. To support St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charity, Annual Catholic Appeal, Mary Bloom is a way of caring for those afflicted. When I was a missionary in Peru we used to say, some give by going, others go by giving. We'll hear more about care for the afflicted as we read James these 5 Sundays of September. Today I invite you to learn more about our giving through the Annual Catholic Appeal and Stewardship. With a prayer in your heart I ask you to give your attention to our P.A.A. Anita Maceda.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
22 Ordinary Time
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary 125

This Sunday the scripture readings reflect upon law, both that of Moses and that of Christ, and upon the way in which we are called to abide by the law. To put it better, we should substitute the term "instruction" for "law," since the root of the word Torah, the Hebrew term for the law of Moses, is best translated as "instruction" or "teaching." Christ's words to his disciples also fall more along the lines of instruction than they do law, because while they have the force of a moral obligation, they are directed toward the ultimate goal of our following his example freely and joyfully. We begin our exploration of the Lord's instruction in the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the last book of the Torah and a summary of the teaching that God delivered to the Israelites and the adventures they experienced during the forty years of their desert wandering. Moses relates the Lord's instruction: "Hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe…you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Observe them carefully" (Deut 4:1-2, 6). We see that God requires that his people observe what they have heard, yet as later events show they often did not keep the Lord's teaching. Further, God orders the people not to add to his teaching nor subtract from it, but to keep it exactly as Moses has spoken it. This would maintain the beautiful simplicity and focus of God's teaching, and prevent it from being overlaid with distractions and minutiae.

The Psalmist summarizes the powerful simplicity and dignity of the Torah's commands when he says: "The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord" (Ps 15:1). Next our scriptures move on to the Epistle of James; by the way, we will hear from James at each Sunday mass in the month of September. James, who was the head of the Church in Jerusalem in its earliest days, urges us: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves" (James 1:22). This advice from James is not surprising since he himself was of Jewish origins and was a devoted leader of Jewish-Christians who made up a large part of the Church at its beginning. These Jewish-Christians were naturally familiar with the instruction of the Torah and James wants them to follow the "law of Christ" just as carefully as they honored the law of Moses. James explains: "the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25). Here James is pointing to the teaching of Christ as "the perfect law of freedom," which brings to fulfillment the law of Moses and extends the guidance—and freedom—of God's edifying teaching to all nations. In the gospel, our Lord reiterates that excessive focus on the external details of the law can cause us to lose our proper focus on the whole purpose of his divine instruction. By dint of our fallen human nature we tend to seize upon minor points of observance which are easy to follow, but which distract us from the serious evils that lurk in our hearts. To this end our Lord says: "Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile" (Mark 7:15). Instructed by our Lord today, let us abide freely in the "law of Christ," not deluding ourselves or judging others, but rather living as those who both hear the word of God and keep it. Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
22 Ordinary Time
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We should regard the readings today as an extended meditation on the role of law in our lives. We are talking of course of religious laws not secular ones. Actually in the beginning there was just law as there was no clear difference between the religious and the secular; this distinction is something that has only come about gradually through history. Even at the time of Jesus in Judaism there was only one body of law which was enforced by the religious authorities. The little phrase at the beginning of the Gospel indicates this; the Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem. We know very well that Jerusalem was the centre of the Jewish faith and the source of all authority. So this little phrase indicating that they came from Jerusalem heightens the fact that these particular Pharisees were a sort of religious police. They had come to build a case against Jesus. Even the fact that they do not openly criticise him but instead direct their focus on the behaviour of his Disciples is an indication that their purposes are evil. The implication being that if the Disciples offend against the law then their transgressions become the responsibility of their Master. We have here in our readings a rather good meditation on the uses and abuses of law. God issues instructions but these are not arbitrary commandments, they are given to us to help us to live in harmony with one another. These laws, the Ten Commandments, are wise injunctions for the good ordering of society. That is the main point made in the First Reading today. However, as time passed these basic laws had been built on until, by the time of Jesus, there were 613 individual laws which the Jews were expected to follow. The Law had therefore become oppressive and was being used by the Pharisees and others to keep themselves in a position of power over the people.

Be clear, Jesus does not dismiss the Law but he condemns its misuse. And the Pharisees were certainly guilty of misusing the Law by placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of the people. The ritual hand washing before eating has its origins in the common sense practice of washing one's hands before eating a meal, something any sensible person would do. But by the time of Jesus this custom had become incorporated into the Law, it had become much more elaborate and was accompanied by prayers as a way of consecrating the whole day and all one's actions to God. This is fine and good, but it should not become a burden or become a reason for accepting some people and rejecting others, depending on whether they observed these prescriptions or not. Jesus cuts through all of this and turns it around and accuses the Pharisees of honouring God with lip-service while their hearts are far from him. Jesus sees the true purpose of the Pharisees, he knows that they are there to build a case against him and that their fine words about these Jewish customs are just a pretext and he gives them pretty short shrift. Jesus points out that nothing that goes into a man can make him unclean, it is what comes out of him that makes him unclean. Jesus goes to the very core of the matter and tells us that it is not whether we fail to perform this or that pious act that makes us evil but the desires of our heart. It is our heart that we have to look at; we have to examine the seat of our wishes and desires to see whether we conform to God's laws or not.

I don't want here to go through a long list of poisonous thoughts that we might have, but would rather point out that the way to really live a wholesome Christian life is to base our lives firmly on the virtues. These are the basic virtues: faith, hope and charity; but the virtues also include things like temperance, humility, justice, patience, kindness, generosity and so on. It is by cultivating these virtues in our lives that we will be sure that we are living the kind of life that God wants. We will have moved away from doing this or that particular action and on to living a live filled with love and all the good things that God wants. What all this comes down to is cultivating a series of particular attitudes, internal motivations which are consonant with the Christian life. It is by developing these that we will be sure that we are living a life worthy of the Gospels. The more we live our lives like this the more we realise that it is on these virtues that all good laws are based. The good thing about this approach to law is that it does not concentrate so much on the specifics of how the law is drafted –you can do this but not that– as on the character of the individual person involved. What we are interested in then is building up the individual person as someone who acts correctly whatever the circumstances might be. This is what goes on in the Christian family where the parents through their own example and teaching bring up their children to be people who act in a moral way in accordance with the Gospel. We should never underestimate the importance of this Christian moral formation for the good of society and for the individual.

In fact it is something that we are lacking more and more in society at large, as with the breakdown of the family more and more children are being left to their own devices and brought up without any kind of moral compass in their lives. In our Gospel text Jesus rightly castigates the Pharisees for concentrating on trivial elements of the Law because by doing this they miss the bigger picture. Those Pharisees should be asking themselves what is the right thing to do, rather than looking for loopholes in the Law which they can use to catch Jesus out. The wonderful meditation from the Letter of St James gives us a very fine approach to these things in his wonderful words: ‘Accept and submit to the Word which has been planted in you and can save your souls.' It is the Word of God then that should be the ultimate measure of our actions.

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