4 August 201918 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
18 Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 95: 1-2,6-9; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; St. Luke 12: 13-21

"One of the multitude said to him, 'Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?' " (Lk 12: 13-14.) Why does the Lord, in effect, refuse this man's request? Was the request wrong? Perhaps not. The Lord's purpose is take the moment to teach about the higher good of the kingdom which might be lost to those who sin by coveting the goods of this world. By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness, and death, (Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.)

Jesus performed Messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, (Cf. Lk 12:13-14; Jn 18:36.) but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage. (Cf. Jn 8:34-36.) (CCC 549) The primary mission of Christ is to free mankind from the evil of sin. Then he said to the crows, Avoid greed in all its forms. A man may be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life. (Lk 12) The tenth commandment forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. (CCC 2552) Greed, or avarice, is one of the capital sins. Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called "capital" because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (CCC 1866)

The Lord Jesus offers us the gift of grace, the power in Him by which we can keep the law and walk in the way of salvation. The economy of law and grace turns men's hearts away from avarice and envy. It initiates them into desire for the Sovereign Good; it instructs them in the desires of the Holy Spirit who satisfies man's heart. The God of the promises always warned man against seduction by what from the beginning has seemed "good for food . . . a delight to the eyes . . . to be desired to make one wise." (CCC 2541) Grace engages our human freedom to choose and do the good we ought to do and reject the evil, such as greed, that we ought not do. Freedom and grace. The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world: Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your will. (Roman Missal, 32d Sun, Opening Prayer.) ( CCC 1742)

Almighty God forbids vices, or sins, that He might grant us virtues in their place. The Holy Spirit, at work in us through word and Sacrament, is the give of all good gifts or graces. Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit." Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church. (CCC 2003) See also nos. 547, 548, 550 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(Publish with permission.)

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
18 Ordinary Time
Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Successful Christian

Last week I celebrated by 72nd birthday. I’ve gotten to the age that when birthdays come around, I start looking back on life as well as forward. Perhaps some of you may do this too. The question that we might ask ourselves is this: Has my life been a success? Actually, this question cannot be answered unless we can answer a deeper question: What is success? What is a successful life, a successful career, a successful relationship?

Is a person’s life successful if he or she is making a good salary? There’s a story about a grandmother who pulled out pictures of her three grandchildren, all under two, and showed them to a friend saying, “These are my grandchildren. That one’s the rich doctor, that one’s the rich lawyer and that one’s the chairman of the board of a large corporation.”

Is success predicated on salary? Certainly, that is the way that most people calculate success. But are they correct?

How about marriage? What makes a marriage successful? Is a marriage successful because a woman and a man have been together for twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years and have avoided both divorce and homicide? Marriage anniversaries are important, but do they point to the success of a marriage or only to its longevity?

The readings for this Sunday force us to take a closer look at the whole concept of success. In the Gospel reading, the man is convinced that he is a success because he is a rich farmer. What should he do now that he has succeeded in harvesting more grain than he has storage room? Build a bigger barn, of course. The only thing is, the basis of his success is his grain. When he suddenly dies, his success remains here, and he goes on to God empty handed.

The whole mind set that success is predicated on what we own is based on a fallacy that was very clear to the author of the first reading. He is sometimes called Qoheleth, or the Preacher. This book from the Hebrew Scriptures is the very insightful and difficult book called Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities,” says Qoheleth, “All is vanity.” Qoheleth’s point is that the only real values are the spiritual values. The early Christians loved this book of the Hebrew Scriptures because it helped them remain focused on the reason for their existence.

There is a fantastic book of meditations on St. Francis of Assisi written by James Cowan, a lay novelist, who spent some time in Assisi trying to understand Francis. You are all well aware that Francis gave up all his worldly possessions as a radical prophetic action. Cowan writes that Francis recognized that wealth, family, social position and profession confined him in a web of relationships that made it impossible to define himself as a full human being in the image of Christ. Francis lived at the time of the emergence of the middle/merchant class. Before this a person was either a peasant or a noble. The merchant class was so taken up with making money and having the finest things of life that, as Qoheleth predicted, their days were full of labors and their nights were restless. Francis’ prophetic action of stripping off his rich clothes in the square in Assisi was a sign that the inner person had to be exposed rather than cloaked in silk and velvet. Francis’ action was prophetic, a radical action to help us recognize the entanglements of what the world calls success.

A doctor is successful not if he or she has a prosperous practice but if he or she becomes the healing hands of Christ for the sick. A lawyer is successful not if he or she is part of a profitable firm, but if he or she uses learning, knowledge and talent to protect people and the community, to do good for people and the community, to be just.

Many times an incorrect view of success is based on honors and titles. Is a priest a success if he becomes a Monsignor or a Bishop? Monsignor Guido Sarducci from the old Saturday Night Live boasted that it was really important for him to become a Monsignor because he could get a better cut of veal in Rome. (I haven"t tried that yet. I hope he's right.) No, success is not measured by titles. A priest is on the road to success if he can draw closer to God each day of his life while he also draws those he serves to join him on the journey to God.

How can we determine if a marriage is successful? Certainly, longevity does not determine the success of a marriage. A marriage is successful if the man or woman is a better person, a more loving person, because of the marriage.

How about parenting? What are the signs that people are good parents? Success in parenting is certainly not based on what your kids have, but who your kids are. For example, many of our parents have begun shopping for school clothes. Perhaps, some are shopping at Ross, Walmart or Target. Perhaps some are shopping at the most exclusive stores in Tampa Bay. The cost of the clothes that they put on their children has nothing to do with the success of their parenting. The success of their parenting is evidenced in the decisions their children make throughout their lives.

The general concept of success is a fallacy. Success is not predicated on what we have, what honors we receive, what jobs we hold, etc. Success is predicated on how each of us has developed as a person.

Let me take this one step, one infinite step, farther. Success is predicated on our ability to assume the person of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says in the second reading that our lives are hidden with Christ in God in such a way that when Christ appears we appear. The personality of a Christian is so entwined with the person of Jesus Christ that Christ and the Christian, and Christ in the Christian, must be one. That is success.

Therefore, success, true success, is never that which we have obtained. This is a completely different way of considering success. Success is not a present reality, it is a goal, the goal of Christian life. This goal will be reached when every aspect of our lives reflects the Person of Jesus Christ.

That is success.

All else is vanity.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
18 Ordinary Time
anity of Life and Elusiveness of Truth (August 4, 2019)

Bottom line: Like a shimmering bubble our lives pass quickly and are soon forgotten. Jesus and the Church remain.

In our first reading Qoheleth says, "Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!" The Hebrew word for vanity has the sense of "bubbles". When we were children most of us had those little bubble blowers. Now, you can see guys in parks with much bigger ones. The bubble forms and refracts a rainbow of colors, then bursts. Such is our existence. Vanity of vanities. All things are vanity.

Jesus applies this viewpoint when someone asks him to settle an inheritance. Jesus tells about a man who has a bountiful harvest - a bumper crop. And what does the lucky man do? Unlike Joseph in Egypt he doesn't think about how his good fortune can help others. Instead he falls into greed which is a form of pride. He says "my harvest", "my barns", "my grain". He starts imagining paradise on earth: "rest, eat, drink and be merry".

He doesn't realize his life hangs on a thread: maybe a clot moving to his heart or in his brain a vessel ready to break. He may own a lot of grain but he doesn't own his life. That night God demands his life like a creditor calling in a debt. A rich man can buy a lot of things but no one can purchase his own life. Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

St Paul also picks up the theme of this life's vanity. "Seek what is above," says Paul, "(not) what is on earth." Material things are good and necessary. They can, however, become idols - substitutes for God.

We all want some security yet only in God do we have lasting security. In this life we strive for security, justice and truth but they elude us.

Regarding the elusiveness of truth, Bishop Barron gives an example in Letter to a Suffering Church. Writing about the cases of abuse that the Pennsylvania Grand Jury describes in graphic detail, Bishop Barron observes this: "even churchgoing Catholics tended to believe that the terrible instances mentioned in that study were recent cases". Not so. As Bishop Barron and others point out, "of the 400 or so crimes reported, precisely 2 occurred after 2002".

Here in Seattle we can say something similar. You have to go back to 1988 to identify a criminal case. In the eighties Archbishop Hunthausen began a series of reforms. He did it without fanfare but effectively. Succeeding archbishops continued and strengthened those reforms.

Sometimes I feel like a guy who belongs to a family that once had a good reputation. People would say, "Oh, he's a Bloom. You can trust him". Some family members abuse the trust and instead of correcting them or calling the police, the elder members try to cover up. Word gets out and the Bloom elders get sued. Eventually they set some standards and enforce them. Quite understandably, few people applaud the Blooms' efforts to reform. Lawyers keep finding old cases. Who can blame them? But it does seem unfair the newspapers report those decades-old cases as if they happened yesterday. Some of the Bloom children say, "I'm tired of people making fun of us. I'm leaving". I say, "No, we have a good heritage. For sure, some Blooms messed up. But we are fighters. We are a family."

I hope you will stick with our family - not the Blooms, although we could use some new members, but the Church family. The question before us is how we move forward. Bishop Barron devotes his final chapter to that question. Prayer of course is most basic, but that involves taking a long view. Our own lives are brief - like a bubble forming, shimmering, then dissolving. Here below we have no abiding security, justice and truth. That will happen only when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. Today I ask you to renew your commitment to Jesus and his Bride - the Church.

Next week we have a change of pace. I've invited Deacon Pierce Murphy from St. Michael, Snohomish. He is Executive Director of Stewardship and Development for the Archdiocese. He has quite a bio. I put it in the bulletin. Deacon Pierce has an important message for us.

Today take this home: Like a shimmering bubble our lives pass quickly and are soon forgotten. Jesus and the Church remain. Seek the things that are above. Only there will we find lasting security, genuine justice and unfiltered truth. "If you were raised with Christ seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
18 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
18 Ordinary Time
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The fellow in the Gospel today who asks Jesus to arbitrate in his claim for his brother to give him his share of the inheritance sounds a bit like the Prodigal Son in the parable we know so well. Both the man in today's Gospel and the Prodigal Son seem to want to exercise their independence and to go their own way apart from their families

Probably in this case the two sons had inherited their father's farm and instead of dividing it were working it together, at least until one was dissatisfied with his lot and wanted out so he could do his own thing. He probably thought that if his brother bought him out he could invest his money better elsewhere.

Jesus does not pronounce on the matter but instead goes to the root of this man's motivation which is greed or avarice. Jesus points out that wealth does not bring security. At the heart of Jesus' teaching has always been the idea that our true fulfillment can only be found in heaven, and that we must realise that this world is transitory and that while we are in it we should be doing all we can to secure our place in eternity.

Jesus underlines the point by telling the people a parable about a rich man who build huge barns to store all his wealth and then decided to take things easy and have a good time thinking to himself that he had made it in life, not knowing that his soul would be demanded by God that very night.

Again and again in the Gospels we see that it is attitude that Jesus is most concerned with. If the man in the parable had been thanking God for his wealth and had taken some steps to share his good fortune with those in need then it would have been a very different story. Instead this man focusses his energy on acquiring wealth and storing it up for himself in order that he will have security for the future so that he can then live a life of leisure. He gives no thought to God or to his less fortunate neighbour.

However, the purpose of our lives is to become rich in God's sight. It is not to acquire wealth so that we can indulge ourselves and become independent of everyone else. And God's values are completely different to the values of this world. He desires things like justice, peace, charity, love, patience, sharing, faith, hope and so on. These are quite contrary to the things that the world teaches are important such as independence, wealth, luxury, leisure, power, etc.

The Christian is someone who has made adjustments in his life. The Christian has realised that the values of this world are transitory and knows that they cannot bring true fulfillment. He places his trust in the things of God and understands well that true fulfillment consists in embracing the heavenly virtues such as truth, humility, honesty, patience, kindness and so on. The true Christian knows that it is only by cultivating these virtues that we will reach heaven.

Coming to this conclusion we are drawn back to the First Reading this Sunday from the Book of Ecclesiastes in which the Prophet declares that all is vanity. From the dictionary we define vanity as an excessive belief in one's own beauty or personal ability; but it also means whatever is vain, empty, or valueless and it is this that the Prophet intends it to mean in the reading for today.

We are being told that we should not place value in anything material since ultimately all material things will pass away and therefore cannot bring us lasting security or peace. It is only the spiritual things which are eternal and therefore it is these in which we should place our trust.

Transitory material things can never be trusted to last. Only those things which find their origin in heaven can ever be truly lasting and so it is in these that we should place our trust.

Of course, there is a tremendous silver lining here because by adopting the virtues as our rule of life we become much better and more attractive people. We become people whom others look up to and admire. Other people feel they can trust us and find us friendly and open towards them.

Whatever the side benefits, the main point is that our goal should be acquiring the virtues and so aiming to become the kind of person that God wants us to be. By making ourselves acceptable in the sight of the Lord we will find that in due time the gates of heaven will swing open for us and we will find ourselves welcome citizens in the Kingdom of God.

Of course, we might feel that leaving material things behind will leave us vulnerable. Having a few pounds in the bank put aside for a rainy day makes us feel secure. Owning our own house would in a similar way make us feel safe. We might hesitate to live without these props because we feel we could risk disaster; we would feel that we were living life without being insured.

This is where the doctrine of Divine Providence comes in. The refrain of the saints was always this: God will provide. The bottom line of our faith should be complete trust in a God who will not let his little ones falter. If we take risks for our faith God will not pour money in our laps but he will ensure that we are safe. This is what we mean by Divine Providence, that God will give us our daily bread, that he will in fact provide for our needs.

The great saints understood this and made tremendous sacrifices knowing that God would keep them from harm. We are not all saints and we feel the weight of our responsibilities especially if we have children or other dependents to look after. But we should remember that our greatest gift to them should not simply be material security but rather the correct attitude to adopt in life.

Given the choice of bequeathing our children wealth and security or giving them the gift of faith, I know what I would choose and it would be faith. After all, wealth can distort our character and is easily squandered but the gift of faith lasts forever, it is the only thing that we take with us from this work into the Kingdom of God. Give them this gift for it is the only thing really worth having.
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