07 October 201827 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
27 Ordinary Time
27 Sun in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 10:2-16

A man was observing the golden jubilee of his wedding. He was asked his secret. He responded, "On my wedding day, Joan's father gave me a watch. Across the face of it, he had printed, "Say something nice to Joan.'" Did Jesus know of the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato who lived 400 years before Him? There is speculation Christ spoke Greek. If He did, He surely would have applauded Plato's writing on marriage. He taught that man and woman are but half of their original size. Genuine happiness only arrives when the two halves in question find each other and marry. Thus they help each other reach full growth. Marriage then should not shrink one's personality. The contrary, according to one of the greatest minds we know of, is the case. Marriage should double one's own person and spirit in its fullest sense. Courtship, said a sage, is dreaming happy dreams together and a good marriage is bringing them down to earth and watching them come true.

First the bad news. Everyone here is aware of the alarming statistics on divorce. One third of all marriages are ending before the divorce judge. Some feel that percentage is too conservative. But, in any case, these are no longer academic numbers, for most of us have family members who are divorced. The dreadful plague has hit our own homes. In Joseph Donder's words, we have all witnessed too often in marriage: "hopes not fulfilled, prayers not heard, efforts in vain, promises unrealized, frustration, disaster, a curse instead of a blessing, death instead of life."

Now the good news. Arthur Tonne reports that a study reveals that but one out of fifty seven marriages ended in divorce among husbands and wives that worshipped at church consistently. Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is organized Scripture reading and prayer. To paraphrase Patrick Peyton, the husband and wife who pray together have an above-average chance of staying together. Mark's Gospel today reveals that God made the law prohibiting divorce. But Tonne's figures reveal He also appears determined to do His part to assist couples who give Him the serious attention He deserves. Public worship and private study and prayer over the Scriptures strike me as good marriage insurance. The most hard-nosed insurance broker would advise bride and groom to invest in same from day one. When this Gospel begins, the Teacher is in the territory which is today's Jordan. The Nazarene was preaching out in the open fields. The synagogues were too small to hold the crowds who wanted to hear Him. This tells you of His popularity and effectiveness as a preacher.

The Master's prohibition on divorce is found not merely here in Mark's Gospel. One can also discover it in the Gospel of Luke and, for emphasis, two different times in Matthew. Some may wish He did not condemn divorce, but the written record shows He did. And St Paul clearly understood that point, for he underlines the prohibition in his own letters. Divorce disturbed the Christ. In His day, it was more common than the common cold. No attorneys nor judges were required. A divorce became a fact before one could say, "Going, going, gone." Marriage for the Christ means undivided loyalty. One commentator has observed that our culture teaches husband and wife to ask, "What's in it for me?" But Jesus wants them to ask each other, "What's in it for us?" Married people rush to ask, "How can I complete myself in this union?" But the Teacher according to Mark wishes them to ask, "How can we complete ourselves?"

Some self-anointed experts advise couples to inquire, "How can I serve my wife?" and "How can I serve my husband?" But the real question is, "How can we serve each other?" Albert Schweitzer sums up the point this way: "The only ones who will be really happy are those who have sought and found out how to serve." Or, as Neil Diamond puts it in a ballad: "Selfishness is the reason for the decline in the number of husbands and wives." If couples learn to treat the other the way they treat their own selves, their marriage will become more attractive. Each must say, "I will do more than belong, I will participate. I will do more than care, I will help. I will do more than believe, I will practice. I will do more than be fair, I will be kind. I will do more than be friendly, I will be a friend. I will do more than forgive, I will love." Author Unknown 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
27 Ordinary Time
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: For You, the Married

Today's readings give us an opportunity to consider what we mean by marriage in the Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a real presence of God, the most powerful presence of the Lord possible in this world. In the sacrament of Baptism, God is present giving the Life of the Trinity to the baptized. In Penance God is present through his Son giving his forgiveness to the penitent. In the Eucharist, the Son is present nourishing the communicant and uniting him in an intimate way to the Divine Presence as Jesus is offered to the Father for us. In the sacrament of marriage, Jesus is present uniting his love to the love of the husband and wife. Their love, when lived properly, that is sacrificially, is His Love. More and more of our young people are enthusiastically embracing the sacrament of matrimony, rather than settling for anything less than the sacrament. Also, more and more of those who are married outside of the Church are seeking to have their marriage raised to the level of the sacrament.

They do this because they want the real presence of God in their marriages just as they want the real presence of God in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Penance. Those of you who are in a Catholic marriage, ask yourselves, "Why did we make this decision?" Most probably you were married in the Church because you realized that marriage was the most important decision of your lives. And you wanted Jesus to be present in the way of a sacrament not just at your wedding, but as you celebrate your marriage throughout your lives. The sacrament of marriage is not just a prayer during the wedding, it is not just a blessing of a union, it is far more than this. The sacrament of matrimony is the union of God with people establishing a new unit of his Church. The sacrament of matrimony establishes the Christian home with Christ at the center. That is why you were married in the Church. But there is disorder," the Pharisees say to Jesus in the Gospel reading. The Law of Moses, after all, permitted a bill of divorce.

"This was not the Father's intention," Jesus replies. Disharmony in homes, among people, results from all, good people and bad people, suffering the results of sin. It was never in God's plan for evil to enter the world. This resulted from mankind decision to push God, the Lord of Life, aside and to, therefore, choose death. God never meant for people to be widowed, divorced or single. In God's original plan there was no need for celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom because all would enjoy the Kingdom to its fullest in marriage. In God's original plan there would be no need for people to work so hard to establish and preserve their marriages. We have so many wonderful people in our parish whose marriages have suffered. It may not be their fault; it may not even be their former spouse's fault. Just as children suffer sickness and death due to the effects of sin in the world; so many good people suffer the destruction of their marriage or the inability to form a sacred lasting union due to the effects of sin in the world, not necessarily in either of the individuals. Therefore, we need to have a special place in our hearts and in our charity for those who have suffered the loss of their marriages. They have been pulled away from the intention of the Creator by the forces of the world.

They need our support and our love. In the same way, there are so many wonderful people in our parish who wish they could marry but who have not found and may never find a person with whom they can make a lasting union. Perhaps they are not called to the sacrament of marriage. Perhaps, they also are innocent victims of evil in the world, victims of that evil that has destroyed their potential husbands and wives by convincing that man or woman who could have been out there and should have been out there to instead seek selfishness over sacrificial love. Many single people are denied the sacrament of marriage due to the limitation of potential partners for life by selfishness. The single also need our love and support. They will never feel alone if they are cared for as members of a loving community. And if you are single and hoping to marry, pray for that man or woman who would make a wonderful spouse.

Pray that he or she are open to the mystery of sacrificial love, the mystery of the sacrament of matrimony. Finally, a word regarding the physical aspect of married love. It is sad how evil is able to distort good. The divinely created attraction of men and women to image God has been deformed into a drive for selfish gratification. Sex is portrayed by the media as having little to do with love and mostly concerned with lust. But people know better. People have an innate knowledge that tells them that a person cannot love and take at the same time. People know that the ideal of marriage exists. But people need more than the ideal. People need witness, your witness. They need the witness of your marriages as a union with God, imaging the Creatorâ??s Love for the Word, making real the mystery of the singular in the plural and the plural in the singular. You, the married, how important you are to us all! We the single, we the celibate, we the separated, we the divorced, we the widowed, need you the married to embrace and to live the ideal of marriage. We ask God's blessing today upon all in our parish who celebrate the sacrament of matrimony. May you have the courage and strength to give witness to the presence of God in the union of husband and wife.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
27 Ordinary Time
Not Impossible (October 7, 2018) Bottom line: It's a huge challenge to live Jesus' teaching on marriage and on celibacy - but not impossible.

Our first reading says, "It's not good for the man to be alone." God calls each of us into being and he gives us strengths to share generously. We also have personal weaknesses that require assistance from others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu observed, "the totally self-sufficient person is sub-human." God created the animals to give us a certain companionship, but that's not enough. God's final, most complex creation - for sure the most beautiful - is the woman.

The fact that God creates her from Adam's rib, near his heart, speaks to something mysterious: the tug of affection that results in the desire to share life together in physical intimacy. It's the greatest earthly blessing a man can receive. As the Psalm says, "your wife will be like a fruitful vine. Your children like olive plants.' The Psalm concludes with a beautiful blessing, "may you see your children's children." Jesus goes back to that vision when they confront him with the sticky question of divorce. God made us male and female - and for that reason a man leaves his father and mother. It doesn't mean he stops honoring them or caring for them, but they do take second place. Joined to his wife, the two become one flesh.

Because of this vision of marriage, Jesus has a strict teaching about use of sexuality: either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Dr. Scott Hahn somewhat playfully said that it's not enough to say sex is good. Campbells Soup is good. It's insufficient to say sex is great. Kellogs Frosted Flakes are grrreat. For us as Christians sex is holy. To recognize and live the sanctity of sex requires a revolution in thinking. That's why after giving this demanding rule Jesus picks up a child and says we have to become like a child to enter his Kingdom. It's not so much that children are innocent but that they are not afraid to depend on others. We need to become childlike. Not childish, but childlike.

In connection with this I want to say a word about next Sunday's Gospel. I'll be in Peru and I know Deacon Gene will do his usual fine job illuminating the Gospel, but I want to note one verse: where Jesus talks about giving up all for the Kingdom, including home and family. Jesus has an exalted view of marriage, but he says that some will not marry for the sake of the Kingdom. I know celibacy has become a difficult topic, especially in light of the clergy abuse scandal and the ways we priests have fallen down in living celibacy. It may be we need to make more place for married priests - like Fr. Tom McMichael, a Lutheran pastor who converted to Catholicism. He does a magnificent job serving pastoral needs of Skagit County. I'd personally like to have more married men in the priesthood.

I am, however, convinced that God called me to celibacy and I know the immense satisfaction of being a spiritual father. I've had the opportunity to get to know some of our young priests. I worry about them getting stretched to thin. I want us to be a parish where lay people - both volunteers and paid staff - can take more responsibility in administration and pastoral care. We've also seen the unique role of a religious sister as Sister Barbara did for 41 years here. Join me in praying a sister or sisters may come to help us. Male and female God created us. We want to develop the great gifts of Catholic men and women. It's a huge challenge to live Jesus' teaching on marriage and on celibacy - but not impossible. I admit sometimes things look bleak. We wonder how we put our Church back together. The truth is we can't but God can. We will hear Jesus say, "For human beings it is impossible. But not for God. For God all things are possible. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Respect Life Sunday
Genesis 2:18-24
Hebrews 2:9-11
Mark 10:2-16

The first Sunday of October is designated by the United States Bishops as Respect Life Sunday. The theme for this year is "Every life; Cherished, Chosen, Sent." This observance is meant to remind us and renew in us the importance of the culture of life. Human life is both a gift from God and a creation of God. The creation stories in the Book of Genesis tell of God's creating Adam and Eve. God named them both, thus showing his relationship as creator to us, his creations. He permits Adam to name the rest of creation indicating that while God is creator, He has given Adam and Eve the responsibility of being stewards of creation. The most precious life on earth is human life for we are created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing else created by God can be described that way. Thus we have the God-given responsibility to cherish, respect and protect human life from conception to natural death. The most important aspect of our call is to protect life in the womb. By saying this I do not mean that other life issues are not important. All life issues are important and should be the concern of everyone.

In Pope Francis' Encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, Our Holy Father reflects on our call of be good stewards. He puts in the context of Genesis and points out that the mistreatment of others and poor stewardship of the environment comes from, and leads to a lack of respect for human life in the womb. This culture of death, as Saint John Paul II called it during his pontificate, In many ways is the root of all the other acts of disrespect and violence towards life. The culture of death begins with a disrespect for life in the womb. For if the innocent and vulnerable human life in a mother's womb can be discarded, what reason do people have to show respect for the rest of human life?

To grow in respect for all human life one needs to have a good relationship with the Lord. This involves an experience and understanding of God as our creator who made us in his own image and likeness out of love. Because love cannot be mandated or forced, but can only be given and received freely, God has given us a free will to accept his love or not to accept it; to love Him or not to love Him. A good relationship with the Lord is one in which we accept the gift of God's love and love him in return. This relationship with God opens our hearts to love and respect all that belongs to God; that is all of creation.

It opens our eyes to see the child in the mother's room as being part of the miracle of God's creation, and to look at others as being made in the image and likeness of God, out of God's unconditional love. Other than our relationship with God, where do we experience unconditional love? We do so in marriage. When a couple exchange vows the various forms all say the same thing; that they promise love each other in good times and in bad, in richness or poorness, in sickness and health, all the days of their lives. They promise to love each other without conditions. Marriage is the best human example we have of the love God has for us. It mirrors the unconditional love of God and brings it down to earth for us. Hopeful this will lead us to see every life as cherished, chosen and sent.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel we are presented with Jesus' teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. To many people today this teaching might seem overly strict or out of harmony with the modern reality of frequent marriage breakdown.

Father Alex's sermons for the three year Sunday cycle are now available as a Kindle e-bookMany Christian denominations have accommodated themselves to the reality of widespread marriage breakdown and their ministers freely conduct second or third marriages. The irony is that these same Churches are often the very ones that stress the importance of the literal word of God. Yet the words of Jesus seem pretty clear: What God has joined man must not divide. I frequently stress the need to look at the text of the Gospel very carefully to get the full and proper meaning of the text and we should do so also today.

Here the Pharisees say that Moses allowed a man to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce his wife. Notice the emphasis, men were allowed to divorce their wives but wives were not able to divorce their husbands. Jesus denies the man's right and so places the man and woman on an equal basis in the marriage. The teaching of Jesus states that the man must also stay and make the marriage work despite difficulties just in the same way as the woman would have had to. We can see therefore that Jesus opposes the patriarchal approach to marriage, which was taken for granted at that time and indeed is prevalent even today in many parts of the world. The woman was first the property of her father and then of her husband. If she committed adultery she violated the rights of her husband. According to this theory a man could not commit adultery, it was only the woman who was at fault.

Jesus is claiming that the woman has rights in the relationship as well. By doing this he is not making the demands of marriage any easier, but he is placing the marriage partners on an equal footing. In fact, this does change the whole nature of marriage. It takes it away from family alliances over property rights and power and moves it in the direction of a mutual love and union between two people. However, Jesus does not claim to be introducing something new, he says he is going back to the original intention of God. As he says: 'From the beginning of creation God made them male and female.' Here Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:27, just about as authoritative as you can get. He then draws the conclusion from this 'that they are no longer two, therefore, but one body.' The Church has quite a lot to say on marriage, and this is right and fitting because marriage is one of the most important foundation stones on which society is built. It is a divinely instituted sacrament and as such is a holy state.

We Catholics have a very high ideal of marriage and are quite strict about it; sometimes our rules and regulations cause people difficulties especially when they wish to remarry. But the Church does not relax its rules for fear of pulling the whole edifice down. That doesn't mean that those who are remarried are excluded from our community, far from it; but the Church is unable to sanction a remarriage unless the previous marriage was declared annulled. By that we mean that it has been proved that some essential element was missing and the diocesan tribunal has declared the first marriage to be no marriage at all. In society at large and perhaps even among many churchgoers it is considered quite alright for a couple to live together for some months or even years before marriage. This is considered to be practically a universal custom these days.

Not that long ago social pressure went in completely the opposite direction and this was also harmful. There was great pressure on people to get married and be respectable even when they were obviously unsuited. But social pressure rarely gets things right. The Pharisees in the time of Christ didn't get it right so we are not surprised that society at large today doesn't get it right either. Today people say that living together is the best preparation for marriage because it is only in this way that the couple can really get to know each other. Sometimes it is the case that after some months or years after setting up home together the couple splits up and they take up with other partners. We know of not a few who do this over and over again in a sort of serial monogamy. We understand human weakness in this area, and with the relaxation of social mores in recent years it is very hard for a young person not to enter into a full-blown relationship at an early stage.

We are not in the business of issuing condemnations or heavy judgements; our task is to show a better way. Our task is to show the way that Christ teaches, and although this way is difficult it has very great rewards and enhances our human dignity and self-worth. It is a way of sacrifice but it is also a way to true happiness and self-fulfilment. It is the way of holiness. So, we unhesitatingly counsel restraint in our personal relationships before marriage. We urge our young people not to live together outside marriage. We believe that the self-control involved on both sides is a true expression of the worth that each has for the other. It is a real testing, much more of a testing than living together. In our present social climate what we are proposing is by far the exceptional way of preparing for marriage. But it is a much better way.

We are not all able to live up to what Christ teaches but this does not exclude us from his love. The point is to focus on what Christ wants from us, he wants us to be happy. He wants us to be pure and holy. He wants us to have self-worth. He wants us to be in relationships that truly build us up. He wants us to be free from the pressures of society which distort the Gospel. He wants us to live our lives in true and fulfilling love with our partners in marriage. If we are to summarise we ought to look no further than the scriptures: 'God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.' Father Alex's sermons for the three year Sunday cycle are now available as a Kindle e-book.

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