30 September 201826 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
26 Ordinary Time
26 Sun in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

A college chaplain told me of a distressed student who came to him. He carried in his hands a desecrated crucifix. Some tormented person on campus had broken off the arms and legs of Christ. The student asked, "Should I burn the corpus?" The priest replied, "No, put it on your wall. Let it remind you that you must be the arms and legs of Christ. If anyone needs a glass of water, you must give it. Jesus will be reaching that person through your hands. If anyone needs a visit, you must go. The Christ will be using your legs." The student understood. The Gospel today is a gathering of memorable one-liners that the Christ spoke at various times. Good writer that he is, Mark brings them all together for our convenience so that we might reflect on them and profit from them. Also he was anxious that they might be lost to future generations.

On either count, we are in his debt. Mark makes it easier for us to understand why the term teacher is the one commonly used of the Nazarene. In Christ's time, Jews believed in the devil. After the horrors of the twentieth century, many people are believing again. Perhaps the words of Ronald Knox have caused them to reconsider: "It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil. He is the only explanation of it." It was the belief of Christ's contemporaries that all illness that one might encounter came directly from the devil. The trick was to get the devil off your back. Someone more powerful than he could do the job for you. So, one shrewd doctor was using the mighty name of Jesus for just that purpose. Since the doctor was not a Christ follower, John the apostle got angry. "How dare he, etc?" But the Teacher played it cool. He calms young John down with the famous advice, "You must not stop him. No one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me.

Anyone who is not against us is for us." Joseph Donders sees in Christ's advice a plug for ecumenism on the part of the Nazarene. We would do well today to examine our outlook on Christian churches that are not Catholic. Why cannot we cooperate with them especially in areas where we both share a common belief? Surely the concern for the poor of our own community is something we can work with them on. The line that teaches "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere" has much to tell us. It is directly in line with today's Gospel. Unhappily we read of the crime and sin of pedophilia on the part of some of Christ's priests. With this as background, the passage in today's Gospel about the millstone takes on particularly ominous tones. The millstone the Master would place around such people's necks is so heavy that only a straining ox could move it. In addition, He would have such people be thrown into the sea and drowned.

When Christ indicts hypocrites, one can still almost hear the tension in His voice. One need wonder no longer where Dante got his inspiration for the punishments he describes in the Inferno of his Divine Comedy. They were lifted out of today's Gospel. William Barclay reminds his readers of a graphic story by O. Henry. A girl's mother died. She was left with her father. He found himself too busy to give any time to her. Not surprisingly, the youngster was lonely. At her first opportunity, she got out on the streets looking for companionship. She found it soon enough, but it was the wrong kind. She drifted into prostitution. She died.

At her judgement, St Peter asked Jesus whether he should dispatch her to hell. The Master replied in the negative. But sternly He said, "But look for the father who refused to play with his child and sent her out on the streets - and send him to hell." The sinner who leads others into sin is foolish to think that Jesus does not play hard ball with such types. None of us can say that we have not been warned. Do harm to no one. Become the arms and legs of Christ. "The smallest good deed is better than the largest good intention." Like Dorothy Day, if you help the poor, you will be "entertaining angels." A friend of mine says to people in trouble, "God is busy. Can I help?" Why can't we copy his style?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Discern and Respect Authentic Christianity While Remaining a Faithful Catholic

Eldad and Medad were not in the tent when the Spirit of God came upon the 70 in the first reading from the Book of Numbers. Eldad and Medad weren't there, but they still received the Spirit and began to prophesize. "Stop them," Joshua told Moses, "Why?" asked Moses. "Would that God's Spirit come upon all the people." In today's Gospel, from Mark, the Disciples overstepped their bounds. A man who was not one of the Twelve was driving out demons in the name of Jesus. They tried to stop him. Jesus replied, "Don't prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who at the same time can speak ill of me. Whoever is not against us is for us." There is a huge difference between these two accounts and an incident that took place in Ephesus that is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Paul had been in Ephesus for two years, preaching and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. Then itinerant exorcists came into the city. They were like the traveling medicine men of the Old West, selling snake oil that healed everyone's woes........for a price. When they learned how the popular Paul had become, they saw a chance to make a profit using his name and Jesus' name. It would be relatively simple since they knew that many people would be healed by the power of suggestion. The trouble is that they came upon the real thing, a man who was really suffering from demonic possession. These charlatans, the seven sons of Sceva, proclaimed over the man, "I adjure by the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches to come out of this man." Well, the devil answered back from the man, "Jesus I know.

Paul I know. But who are you?" I can imagine the seven guys looking at each other and saying, "This is not good. We are in big trouble." Then the evil spirit leapt out of the man and possessed all seven of the phonies, who, according to Acts, ran away naked and wounded. It really is a funny story found in Acts 19:13-16. What was the difference between this incident and the previous two? Eldad and Medad, and man healing in the name of Jesus, were all sincere. They had received God's spirit and were caring for God's people. The charlatans in Acts just wanted to make a buck on Jesus. These three incidents bring me to consider two questions: First: how do we distinguish between those who are truly authentic Christians and those who are using Christ for money? And second: what should our relationship be with authentic Christians who are not Catholic? The first question is easy. Jesus said, "By your fruits you will know them." When we come upon someone who uses the name of Jesus for their own personal profit, that person is not an authentic Christian. An authentic Christian, including those within the Catholic Church, does not turn religion into a lucrative business.

In the Catholic church we have many very intricate procedures for handling the people's donations mandated by the Diocese, but if priests or church workers find a way to get around these, they have to answer to the civil law first for thievery, and, ultimately, they have, to paraphrase Desi Arnez in the old I Love Lucy Show, they have "some splainin to do......to God." Most of the main stream non-Catholic churches, synagogues, and mosques have similar procedures to ensure that the people's tithes is used properly, but this does not necessarily exist in churches independent of any organized structure. People need to watch and even investigate to see whether the goal of the ministry is truly Jesus Christ or is the accumulation of wealth in his name. "By their fruits you will know them." The second question is more difficult: What should our relationship be with authentic Christians who are not Catholic? In the past, we would say that our relationship should be cordial, but I find that insufficient.

Here we have people who are determined to praise and worship Jesus Christ and to bring His Love to the poor of the world. It is not enough to say that we should be cordial. It sounds like we are tolerating each other, sort of being forced to put up with each other. No, we can and must do far more than that. We should support each other. We should pray together. And we should pray for each other. We Catholics should profoundly respect the call of non Catholics to authentic discipleship. We should also respect the call of those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ but who have received the Spirit of God. We also should respect the call and gifts we have received within the Catholic Church. As Catholics we have been called into a Eucharistic relationship with the Lord. We have been given the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord as our means to the goal of union with the Father. Others have been given different gifts, and we respect them and their gifts. But we who were called to the Eucharist cannot abandon the Eucharist. It is right for us to pray with our non Catholic brothers and sisters. It is wrong for us to stop receiving communion in the Catholic Church. We can join them in prayer there, but we must always receive Eucharist here.

But why isn't it good enough for us to receive communion in a Protestant Church that has communion services? Because in the various Protestant Churches, the Eucharist does not convey the same Reality it conveys in the Catholic Church. No Protestant would say that this is really and truly the Body of Christ. They do not have tabernacles to worship before the Blessed Sacrament and to bring His Presence to others. They do not have Eucharistic Adoration. That is not their faith. And we respect that. We respect their faith and their belief. But we also respect our own faith and our own belief. We believe that when we receive communion we receive Jesus offering Himself at the Last Supper, dying on the Cross, rising on Easter Sunday. We have been given the Gift of the Eucharistic Presence.

We treasure this Gift; we honor this Gift, and we adore the Divine Presence of the Lord. It is perfectly correct for us to join non-Catholics in prayer, in service, and in support. It is incorrect for us to reject our Catholicism. If we have been admitted to the Eucharist, and we have, we cannot reject the Gift of the Eucharist. Moses did not tell Joshua to leave the meeting tent and join up with Eldad and Medad. Nor did Jesus tell his disciples to leave Him and follow the man driving demons out in Jesus' name. But Moses and Jesus taught their followers and us to recognize the work of God from within and from outside of the immediate community. We treat our non-Catholic brothers and sisters with deep respect because we recognize that God can and does speak through them as He can and does speak through us. The world is saturated with the Spirit of God. We just need to open our eyes to the good that others are doing to savor the presence of the Spirit around us. At the same time, we need to recognize that the Spirit is moving and active in our own immediate community, in our own individual families, and in our Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
26 Ordinary Time
The Money Trap (September 30, 2018)
Bottom line: If we recognize who our money belongs to, other parts of our lives fall into right order.

Today we have our final selection from James. We can sum up his message is three words: Turn to God. Like the sunflower seeks the sun so our souls should seek God. Turn away from darkness, illusion and vanity - and turn to God. James spells out the illusions keeping us from God. For example, he mentions the sins of the tongue. The same tongue we use to bless God, we sometimes use to curse others. We fall into gossip: that delicious pleasure we feel when we talk about some other person - not their good points of course but how they annoy us, their hypocrisy and stupidity. Gossip binds people together by excluding the other. But it's a fragile unity. We suspect our gossip partner might later be talking about us. Gossip has become our national pastime. It's hard to find news of persecution going on in many nations, but no problem getting negative news about political figures, movie stars - and religious leaders. Gossip separates us from others - and from God.

A second sin James mentions is lust or unchastity. God gave the gift of sexuality for unity and procreation: the life-long union of marriage and to have children. When a person pursues sexual pleasure apart from those goals, it becomes destructive. Now, everyone who has reached a certain age has fallen short. Still it's not too late to turn from darkness and turn to God. Like the sunflower we can make a fresh start each morning. James then describes a third sin even more destructive than gossip or lust: that green eyed monster of jealousy or envy. It tortures a person to the point he wants to destroy the other. Like gossip envy has become pervasive. Instead of learning how to work together we've become focused on bringing the other guy down. Today James gives a strong lesson against envy. He tells the rich to weep and wail over their impending miseries. Your wealth will rot, he says, your clothes will become moth eaten; your gold and silver will tarnish and lose their value.

To illustrate this reversal we have the story of a man to whom a genie appears. The genie tells him he can have any wish. The man asks for the newspaper of one year from today. The genie grants the wish and the man eagerly opens the paper to the stock market report. He sees which stocks rise and which fall. He begins to calculate the stocks he will sell and the ones he will buy - imagining what he will do with his wealth. Then he glances to the other side and sees his own picture. Does the picture acclaim a clever investor? No, it's the obituary page! Perhaps the genie woke the man from his world of illusion. Instead of becoming a trap his wealth becomes a tool. Money can do great good if we see the source of all good gifts. Jesus spends a lot of time talking about money. It's amazing if we recognize who our money belongs to, other parts of our lives fall into right order. Those struggles with sins of the tongue, lust and envy suddenly don't seem so overwhelming. As we bring the readings from James to a conclusion, I encourage you to find your Bible and read the whole letter. It takes about fifteen minutes, maybe a half hour to do it slowly, stopping at the parts that most speak to you. I invite you today to take home the responsorial verse: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
26 Ordinary Time
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary 137

Envy is a particularly evil sin because by means of it we wish to deprive others without gaining anything ourselvesâ??it is the self-pitying refuge of all of us when we become embittered and petty. The YouCat, a version of the Catechism which Pope Benedict XVI directed to be developed for use among young adults, says this about envy: "Envy is sadness and annoyance at the sight of another's well-being and the desire to acquire unjustly what others have" (YouCat 466). That is exactly what we see happening in today's first reading from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is not often read at mass; a passage from it is proclaimed every year on New Years' Day, and every third year on the twenty-sixth Sunday of the year (today), aside from a few readings at weekday masses. It tells the story of the people of Israel after they had left their slavery in Egypt and before they entered into the promised land of Canaan, and it is full of rich imagery and moral lessons. In today's excerpt from Numbers, we hear how a group of seventy elders of the people were about to receive the Spirit of the Lord so that they could assist the over-worked Moses in leading and judging the people during their desert wandering.

A young member of the congregation saw that two men, Eldad and Medad, had received the very same prophetic gift of the Spirit even though they were not among the chosen seventy. He and Joshua, Moses' principal assistant, became envious and complained to Moses "Moses, my lord, stop them!" asking him to forbid Eldad and Medad from exercising their God-given gift. Moses wisely reproves them: "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!" (Num 11:28-29). Moses understood that God will give gifts to whom he wishes to give gifts, and while it is natural to wonder how the Lord "decides" upon such outpourings of the Spirit, nonetheless we are not to be envious of others' blessings. This theme is taken up subtly but firmly in the gospel account of our Lord rebuking his disciples when they had tried to chase away someone who was driving out demons in Jesus' name, but was not of the company of the disciples.

Plainly speaking, they were envious of this man who succeeded in doing something they had failed at (see Mark 9:14-29). Jesus takes up the lesson of the reading from Numbers when he tells the disciples: "Do not prevent him ¦whoever is not against us is for us" (9:39-40). He then continues to teach them that there are in fact deeds that confirm their practitioners are very much "against" the Lord and "against us" who wish to be his followers. Of such a person Jesus says "it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." Further, he tells his disciples that they must be willing to set aside anything that gets in the way of being "for Jesus" when he says "If your hand / foot / eye causes you to sin, cut it off / tear it out" (9:43-47). Stemming from that teaching, the reading from the Epistle of James which precedes the gospel can be seen in its proper light: riches and the seeming security they provide can put us squarely in the "against" Jesus camp. James says: "Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries" (James 5:1). Be it temporal riches or the spiritual gifts that God bestows on others, many intrinsically good things can become stumbling blocks for us when they become ends in themselves or when envy of them takes over. Let us rejoice then in whatever gifts that come from the gracious hand of the Lord, whether they be given to us or to another.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel text today is pretty gruesome with its talk of chopping your hand or foot off or tearing out your eye. I do not think that Jesus intends us to take these words literally. According to the scholars they are an example of what is called Biblical hyperbole. In other words, an exaggeration to make a point. This is something we all do from time to time. We try to impress something important on our children and we often exaggerate the bad effects of doing a particular thing, especially if it is dangerous, with the intention of keeping them safe. We do not intend our words to be taken at face value as long as the child understands that we are talking about something serious and that he does not go running into the road or start talking to strangers. Jesus is exaggerating in order to make sure we know just how bad sin is. He is warning us that sin corrupts our interior life and that by falling into the habit of serious sin we are very likely to jeopardise our eternal salvation.

A phrase from the liturgy of Baptism comes to mind. The priest instructs the parents and god-parents when he says, 'See that the divine life which God gives this child is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his heart.' Sin is not literally a poison but it can have the same effect as a poison because sin kills the spiritual life and cuts us off from God. It is right that Jesus warns his disciples about the harmful effects of sin. And if he left it at that it would be an important lesson that the disciples could observe in their lives. But of course, Jesus does not leave it at that. No, Jesus does far more because he gives his life in sacrifice to take all our sins away. He doesn't just warn us about sin. No, when we turn to him in a spirit of repentance he heals us of our sins. However, when we look at the text carefully we see the words, 'If your hand or foot or eye should cause you to sin then you had better cut it off.' But, of course, our hand or foot or eye cannot actually cause us to sin.

Our hand or foot or eye has no consciousness; they don't have the ability to do things by themselves. The seat of sin is in our volition, in an act of our own will. A hand or an eye cannot cause sin but the brain can. Sin is the result of the choices we make. We think about what we want to do in a specific set of circumstances, we go over the options open to us, and then we choose to sin. Sin arises from within, from the inappropriate desires that we have. We sin when we give way to laziness instead of fulfilling our responsibilities. We sin when we slip something into our bag when in a shop so that we avoid paying for it. We sin when we tell a lie instead of admitting the truth. We sin when we neglect our prayers or decide to stay in bed rather than go to mass. We sin when we give into the temptation to gossip about our neighbour. In all these circumstances we are making a choice, we are deciding to sin. We know that the way to avoid sin is to instil some self-discipline in our lives.

We avoid sin by consistently choosing to do good. We make a life-decision, and decide that we will live good lives, that we will be honest, that we will not pass judgement on our neighbours, that we will perform our religious duties. We make that one big decision and then from it flow a hundred little decisions. Those little decisions are made every day, each time we are presented with a temptation. And it is important that those little decisions reinforce that one big decision that we have made to live our lives in accordance with the will of God. They strengthen our resolve and lead us in the right direction in life. Earlier I said that the hand or the eye cannot sin. But, of course, they can be used to commit sin. Maybe the hand is used to do something we shouldn't such as to pick up money someone has left lying around. The foot can be used for sin when we walk to somewhere we have no right to be. And also, the eye can be used for sinful purposes such as looking at things we shouldn't be looking at. So, the hand and the foot and the eye have their role but the sin is in our consciousness, the sin is in our decision making.

When we are talking about sinning and not sinning it is important never to underestimate the importance of habit. If we yield to temptation and do something wrong we might at first struggle with ourselves because we know that we will be doing a bad thing, especially if it is for the first time. The second time we are tempted we don't have the same struggle. By the tenth time we have become habituated and begin to think that whatever we are doing is not even a sin. This is how the Evil One reels us in. He is the one who suggests to us that we are not sinning; even if we realise we are doing something wrong he will suggest to us that it is not very serious. He will encourage us to overlook it and once he has established the habit of committing one particular sin then he will move on to others and tempt us with bigger and bigger sins. The Evil One is an expert psychologist and he knows very well how to draw us in to his clutches. What we have to do to resit his advances is to get into good habits. What we have to do is to practice the virtues. We need to have taught ourselves to spontaneously perform good acts and to get into the habit of them. If we develop our instincts into doing what is good in a spontaneous way then we will be living the kind of life that God wants. So no axe is necessary to cut off our limbs, but rather the acquisition of good habits is the way for us to go in life. We want to be close to God, so let us do the things that delight God.

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