6 October 201927 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
27 Ordinary Time
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 17:5-10

The Church works best we are advised when we see ourselves not as spectators but as participants.

Arthur Tonne tells about the seventeenth century St Francis de Sales. As a young man, Francis was seriously ill. It was felt certain he would die. He begged his professor, "Sir, arrange my funeral as you see fit. I only ask that after my funeral you give my body to medical students." The professor demurred. Bur de Sales persisted. "It is very consoling to me, as I lie dying," said Francis, "to think that if I have been a useless servant during life, I will be of some good after death."

Incidentally, it would be wonderful if we were useful in life and also after our deaths. Why not copy the style of de Sales? We need not be as generous as the saint. We can give our families the consolation of burying our bodies in the family plot. But why not make provisions now to donate our organs after death? Why not enjoy two resurrections? The auto decal correctly instructs us, "Heaven knows we need your organs here."

I have already made arrangements. In New York State, it is a very simple matter. One signs the back of a Driver License in the presence of a witness. Why not today find out what the law is in your own state? Surely, by the time the second resurrection of our respective bodies comes about, God will have figured some way to put us all back together again. In the meantime, we shall hear from a smiling Christ, "Well done, good and useful servant."

Unhappily, the Church of Jesus is filled with people who are not pulling their weight. Their style is described in this piece by that scribbler Author Unknown. "There is a story named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry at that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

It is of course a badly kept secret that a small percentage of every parish largely carries the entire operation. Money is one important factor of course. Another is time invested in church enterprises whether they be participation in the parish council, ushering, lectors, social functions, etc. If everyone did his or her part, what a difference this parish would be! Yet, should anyone be moved to thank us for our participation, all of us would have to still borrow the last line of Jesus from today's Gospel. Without sounding like Charles Dickens' Uriah Heep, we must say of ourselves, "We are unworthy servants. We have done what it is our duty to do."

Many of us are less than useful servants not from malice but from procrastination. Such a defect robs us of a get up and go spirit. It is something which today's Gospel would have us correct if we are to become useful people. There is a story told of a man who received a suit from a soup kitchen. In a pocket he found a fifteen year old receipt for a pair of shoes left at a shoemaker. The shop was still in the neighborhood. On a hunch, he went to the store. He handed the ticket over to the owner. He went to the back of the store and returned in a few moments. He said to the man "Those shoes will be ready next Wednesday."

I hope none of us here today is in the class of our friend the cobbler. Yet, there are times when those working with us or at least attempting to do so must be tempted to think so.

A professional basketball coach made a prediction to a journalist about one of his prospective basketball players. "He's got potential and the chance to be a great player. But there's a lot of guys with `potential' written on their gravestones. That means they never reached it." Hopefully "potential" will not appear on the tombstone of anyone of our company here today. May all of us be useful Christians!

The way to get started advised Walt Disney is to quit talking and begin doing

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Seventh Sunday: The First Word in Respect Life.

Today's first reading has a particular impact. "Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord," the prophet Habakkuk cries. He didn't even have CNN & Fox. There are times that we feel overwhelmed by the negatives of our life. Terrorism, unrest among our people, the attacks of the pornography industry on our children, and the continual droning of network news organizations giving breaking alerts of as many horrible stories they can drum up, these and many other negative situations of our lives can lead us to join the prophet in questioning God's presence and control. To Habakkuk and us God says:

"The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live."

And in the Gospel the Lord says:

"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you."

We have to have faith that God will set our world straight and that His justice will prevail.

It is in this light that we should view the theme for this Sunday: Respect Life. We do everything we can to promote life, but ultimately we have to have faith that God's way will prevail.

He is winning. Look at the area of Respect Life which is the Right to Life: the area of opposing abortion. It is difficult to get to exact numbers, but there appears to be a continual decrease in abortions since 2012. Still, the latest statistics, from 2015, shows the number of abortions in the US to be 638, 169, a 2 % drop from the previous year. This is still a horrible number of abortions, one being one abortion too many, but at least the number appears to be going in the right direction, down. What has caused the drop? Certainly it is prayer. Regarding other factors, well, we really can't pinpoint them. Perhaps it is the easier availability of birth control. Hopefully, it is the determination of many of the young to live moral lives, and, even more hopefully, much of the drop may be due to a change of heart. As much as we need to work to change the laws in our country, our primary effort should be to change the hearts of people. We have to have faith that God is winning this battle for the babies.

God's victory in Respect Life is also seen in the determination of more and more states to eliminate capital punishment. All life must be respected, including those lives lived in hideous ways. Murderers should not be released into society, but their deaths should not be caused by society either. The Christian cannot be motivated by vengeance.

God's victory in Respect Life is particularly evident in the care we have for those who cannot care for themselves. People who are physically and mentally challenged are cared for by people who recognize the presence of Christ in those who need our help. We have much more work to do, particularly in solving the problem of the mentally ill forced out onto the streets, but we are making strides to respect their lives.

Another area where life is being respected is the area of care for the elderly. God is winning the victory over those who treat the elderly as a burden to society. When we look in on the ailing senior citizen down the street from us, we are respecting life.

An area of Respect Life where we appear to be losing ground in the United States is the area of euthanasia, or assisted suicide. But we have faith that God will also win this battle.

The first word of Respect Life is Respect. Those who exhibit limited respect or no respect for others demonstrate that they have limited or no respect for life. People who continually mock, insult, belittle and even attack those who are different than what they think is the mainstream of society, cannot respect life because they refuse to respect others. Those who are vitriolic in their attacks on others cannot claim to be people of God.

Jesus Christ came to transform the world with love. He did not come to foster hatred. When we fight hatred, we are loving as the Lord loves. When we are determined to fight the battle for life the Lord's way, with love, we are truly respecting life. Respect life begins with respect. We have to remind ourselves that every person is made in the image and likeness of God. Every person has dignity. Every person has a right to be respected, even those people who do not respect us.

This is difficult. We have to work against forces outside of us which do not respect others. We have to work hard against forces within us that reduce individuals to members of a group. At the beginning of the Book of Revelations we come upon the Letters to the Seven Churches. The first letter is written to the people of the Church of Ephesus. They are commended for their fight for the Lord, but they are also chastised. Listen to what the Spirit said to these people in Revelations 2:4-5:

"Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."

Jesus' love must radiate in all that we do if we really desire to respect life.

For the committed Catholic, respecting life is expected. We are like that servant in the Gospel reading. We put on our aprons and serve our master recognizing that we are simply doing that which we are obligated to do. We are obligated to lead others to respect life by respecting their lives.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
27 Ordinary Time
The Certitude of Faith
(October 6, 2019)

Bottom line: in this dark world one thing can guide us: faith, faith in Jesus.

Last Saturday we had a Day of Reflection for Men. As men we have our struggles and failings. At the same time we want to provide spiritual leadership in our families and in our parish. Like the apostles we ask, "Lord, increase our faith."

We recognize that faith has power. Jesus says, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

In our Day of Reflection we explored the power of faith. We saw that power, for example, in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and St. John Paul. Faith can change the world and our own lives.

The question is: How can we strengthen faith? For sure, we can learn to answer objections such as: "Science disproves God's existence". (It does no such thing.) Or "If God exists, why is there so much suffering?" (Open the Book of Job, meditate on the cross.) A person can grow in faith by reading authors like C.S. Lewis or watching the videos of Bishop Robert Barron.

Today we have a man who can help us: John Henry Newman. Next Sunday Pope Francis will canonize him. St. John Henry Newman shows the lukewarm how they can come to the certitude of faith. Newman begins with something simple - his certainty that England (Britain) is an island. How does he know this? Not by some rational demonstration but by a thousand things coming together: maps, history, testimonies, explorations and so on.

Just so, I am certain God exists for many reasons: the birth of baby, the beauty of a lonely beach, the way the Bible speaks to my heart, prayers answered, the peace of doing God's will and the misery of going on the wrong path, the joy of forgiveness. These and a hundred other reasons give me certainty God exists - even though I cannot reduce him to a concept or definition.

Better than my reasons, read Newman or listen to Bishop Barron's talk. Or reflect on your own reasons.

The certitude of faith does not mean fanaticism or imposition. It does not mean we will have no darkness. Newman himself experienced rejection, accusations and twisting of his words. He wrote a powerful prayer I want to share with you this weekend:

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone
Lead Thou me on!

Brothers and sisters, in this dark world one thing can guide us: faith, faith in Jesus. So we say, "Lord increase our faith." And Jesus responds, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you." Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
10/1/2019 0 Comments

In the Gospel today we hear the Apostles asking Jesus to increase their faith. They understand the first lesson that faith is necessary but we presume because they feel that they do not have very much faith they want to know how to increase it, and in this they are probably not too different from us. Like them we too often feel very keenly that our faith is completely inadequate and that we could do with much more of it.

At first sight, in the actual text presented to us today Jesus doesn't seem to offer his disciples very much help. You might think that Jesus would have given them some tips or tricks as to how to increase their faith. You might think that he ought to help them to come to an insight as to what faith actually is and how to strengthen it. But he doesn't do any of these things. He gives them absolutely no idea as to how to increase their faith.

Instead what he does is tell them that if their faith were the size of a mustard seed they could uproot mountains. He tells them that if their faith was so tiny that it would be hardly even possible to detect it then it would still be sufficient to perform mighty deeds. This tells the Apostles that faith is not like anything else that they know. It tells them that faith is something that belongs to quite a different order of things.

With almost everything else, the more we have the better off we are. The more money you have, the better health you have, the more self-esteem you have, the more anything that you have in general terms then the better off you are. But this is not the case with faith. With faith there is no possible way that you can increase what you have. You are stuck with the amount of faith you've been given. But we should not think that this is a negative thing because, as Jesus tries to tell us, even the tiniest amount of faith is sufficient for anyone.

According to Jesus, even the merest hint of faith is enough for anyone's needs. And this is so for one very good reason and that is because faith is essentially a gift from God. If it is a divine gift then, by definition, it is a gift without limits; it is a gift which is completely sufficient for the person to whom it has been granted. And in recognising that faith is a divine gift we are acknowledging that it is not something that we can find by ourselves. Neither can we give it to anyone. The bestowing of the gift of faith is entirely God's work.

Yes, we can do all the right things to hand on our faith to our children, for example; but the one thing we cannot control is whether God actually gives them the gift of faith. This is something which is entirely in his gift and we cannot begin to fathom the reasons why he gives this gift to one person and not to another. We teach our children to believe in Jesus, we teach them how to pray and how to live decent moral lives but at a certain point they have to believe in God by the exercise of their own free choice.

Going back to ourselves, even when we acknowledge that faith is a gift from God, we may still feel rather inadequate about our own faith. But we should understand that this is a very common experience for human beings, even the greatest of saints lacked faith. It is said of St Therese of Lisieux that she experienced only darkness in her last years and frequently had deep doubts about her faith in God. If this can be true of such a very great saint then we should not lament over much our own apparent lack of faith.

When I say that faith is a gift from God and that we can't do anything to increase it by our own efforts or an act of the will or anything like that, I'm missing something out. What I am missing out is that we can put ourselves in the way of faith. We can do the things that believers do; we can pray, we can frequent the sacraments, we can act justly, we can keep temptation in check. If we do these things then we are thinking and acting like a believer; and perhaps if we do them often enough then God may reward us by gifting us with an increase in faith.

​ In the little example Jesus gives us about servants performing their duties, Jesus is telling us that in terms of faith we too simply need to do our duty; we simply need to do the things we have been taught by the Church over many years. By thinking and speaking and acting like a Christian we might find that we become more of a Christian. We may not think that we are doing anything exceptional but by living our lives in this way we are obeying God's commands and acknowledging him to be the Lord of heaven and earth. This is in itself an expression of deep faith.

In response to these words of Jesus our best response is to simply do what he tells us and leave the rest to him, just as the servant in his example merely does what he is told by his earthly master.

So, if you experience doubts and crises of faith then fall back on the basics that you were taught in your childhood; carry on loving God as best you can, say your prayers regularly, go to mass as often as you can and, most important of all, place your complete trust in God. You might feel that you are going through the motions but God sees this and knows that this is a real expression of faith and trust in him.

We mere humans do not see the whole picture but God certainly does. We do not see the impact on the world of our faith, what little we have of it, but certainly God does.

We are completely incapable of increasing our own faith or of transmitting it to others. These are all things best left to God who pours out his gifts on whoever he chooses and according to his own divine purposes.

Our task is to trust him, to pray, and to work as hard as we can for the building up of the Kingdom here on earth. Everything else belongs to God.
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