30 August 202022 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
22 Ordinary Time

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 16:21-27

Jacqueline Kennedy was the most admired beauty in the 20th century. Like Helen of Troy, her face could have launched a thousand ships. But all her beauty, elegance, and wealth could not save her from a disfiguring cancer and ugly death in 1994. Obviously her beauty was not free. It came with an expensive price tag.

But, if it was true for Jacqueline, so was it true for Jesus the Nazarene. How much easier it would have been if Jesus could have continued to tell pithy parables, heal the sick, go fishing with his buddies, pray a lot, and die at an advanced old age. (Daniel Durken)

That was not in the cards. His down days were approaching.

Today's Gospel points up a forgotten Christian truth. It would not be far off base to say it is one we want to forget. We enter here the strange world of denial.

Bear in mind that Jesus' prediction of His approaching suffering comes immediately after one of the rare glory points of His life. Shortly before this Gospel opens, Peter told Him, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." That unexpected and unqualified credo made His otherwise bad week.

We are being reminded that each time the Nazarene savored a win, He immediately e-mailed the information to us that He would soon be given a bill for that victory.

Think of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. There He enjoys one of the few high points of His life. His face shines like the sun. His clothing becomes resplendent with a whiteness no Clorox can duplicate. Then the bill is presented to Him. "Tell no one," says our Leader, "what you have seen...for the Son of Man must first suffer."

Here the Master is teaching His apostles that those of us who have tasted happiness today must realize that adversities await down the road. The Teacher is telling us, "I never promised you a permanent rose garden here." If He did not substitute a water bed for His cross, He will not do so for us either.

Everyone of us is anxious to receive favors from God. Usually we do. But, if we take the life of Christ as a guide plan, divine favors invariably come with a hefty price tag in the shape of a cross.

Consider John Paul II. An obscure cardinal from Poland is elected Vicar of Christ. Wherever he went, millions shouted, "Viva il Papa." Then the young Turkish waiter appears with an extravagant bill on a silver tray in 1981. It takes the form of two bullets from an assassin's Browning 9-millimeter automatic pistol. Skilled surgeons were required to sew the pope's stomach back together, The Browning almost ended his life.

If this truth applies to the giants of our culture, eg John and Robert Kennedy, if it even applies to our Lord, why would we think that bad times are going to pass us by? Even in the spiritual life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. And just forget about a free supper.

Happily, though, this grim tale is not concluded. We must not snap shut the Gospel book until the last pages are read. In those pages, we discover the happy ending that everyone of us wants and needs - the mighty Resurrection of Christ.

Remember Mount Tabor. It is true enough that Jesus spoke of His suffering immediately after His glory. But He also said, "Tell no one what you have seen until I have risen from the dead." The formula would appear to be: glory, death, and resurrection. Death then gives over to absolute victory.

Naturally enough, we would like to alter that plan of action. Were we drawing up the game plan, we would eliminate the suffering and just bring on the glory train.

We identify with Peter in today's Gospel. When Christ promises He is going to suffer, Peter replies, "Heaven preserve you. This must not happen to you." Jesus, the original script writer, closed Peter down roughly. The Galilean is reminding Peter and ourselves that no faux authors are welcome. We are but the actors who strut about on the stage for a time and then watch the final curtain fall. If savvy, we will recite our assigned lines correctly. We will resist the temptation to sneak our prose past the Master. Hopefully, then, all of us will win resurrection and a warm embrace from Jesus the Nazarene on the final day.

May Jacqueline, John Paul, and the brothers Kennedy already experience that tight embrace.

William Penn summed up this Gospel in the 18th century. "No pain, no ointment; no thorns, no throne; no bitterness, no glory; no cross, no crown.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
22 Ordinary Time

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Duped by Love

Boy, Peter sure was told off in today’s Gospel. “Get behind me Satan.” It didn’t take ole Pete long to fall off the pedestal Jesus put him on. The Gospel passage comes immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel when Jesus called Peter, “Blessed”, for proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ. He told him that he was the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church. He told Peter that his decisions on earth, Peter’s decisions on earth, would have power in heaven. Now in the passage that follows all this, Jesus calls Peter Satan. How did Peter fall so quickly? He fell because he was reasoning things out the way people of the world would reason. He was not thinking the way God thinks. He lacked wisdom. The way of the world would be, “Save your life. Don’t let anyone kill you.” The way of the Lord would be, “Make the sacrificial love of God real. Sacrifice yourself for others.”

It is easy for us to think the way the world thinks. Everything around us tells us to take not give, to be concerned about ourselves first and others second, or third or fourth. Fit God in somewhere, if you care. That is the thought process of the world.

“Times have changed, Father. I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by our society.” And with these words, the elderly lady explained away her present living condition. And with the same words, the young man justified his “wild” lifestyle, and with the same words the abuser justified his actions. And on and on and on. Add in whatever immoral behavior you can think of, and someone will say, “I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by society.”

But what society is that? In what society is immorality acceptable? It is acceptable by the society that finds nothing wrong with hedonism, putting one’s pleasure before every other good in life, including respect for others, respect for country, respect for life. What is the society that so many claim for themselves? It is the society that is at best amoral, but which is mostly immoral. It is the society that is at best pagan, but mostly atheistic. When a person hides his or her immoral behavior behind the “acceptable by our society,” argument, that person is invoking the society that St. Paul calls “this age,” or, according to some translations, “the pattern of the world.” This is the world that Jesus Christ came to save. It is the world of selfishness, a world of pride, a world where God is not wanted. It is a world of darkness. It is a world to which we Christians cannot belong.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and pleasing and perfect.

That is Romans 12:1-2, today’s second reading. 

We were joined to a new world when we were baptized. Each of us is a key part of the new world, the Kingdom of God. There are hundred, perhaps thousands of people in each of our lives who look to us to illuminate their darkness with the Light of Christ. The problem is that we can easily be enticed by all that is around us. We can easily reject all that is within us. And so we often straddle major issues in life.

We become like my friend Charlie Miller. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Don Bosco College and Seminary in Newton, New Jersey, as Charlie, myself and a small group of our friends walked by the little lake, more of a pond really. We had an hour to kill between Sunday Mass and dinner, not enough time to change out of our suits, but perhaps too much time for Charlie to spend walking around the property. When we came upon the little dock with the rowboats always available for our use, Charlie said, “I’m going to take a boat out. Anyone want to come?” None of us wanted to mess up our suits so we said, “No,” and watched Charlie go out onto the dock, untie a boat, and put one foot in the boat while keeping his other foot on the dock. Like the rest of us, Charlie did not know a whole lot about boats. He did not know that you need to get into the boat first and then untie it. Nor did he know that if you are going to get into an untied boat, you had better do so quickly. Well, you know what happened. Slowly the boat drifted out while Charlie still had one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. As the boat drifted further and further from the dock, Charlie was stretched out until he lost his balance and fell into the lake. We applauded. Then we fished him out.

We often do this ourselves. We have one foot that we are convinced is safely planted in God’s world, but then we stretch out our other foot to another world, the world of pagan society. And we get stretched out. And we fall.

Here is what I mean by this. Even though we recognize our dignity as sons and daughters of God, we often let ourselves get involved in actions that are far less than holy. We think that we are OK, because we are firmly planted on the Lord’s dock, but the forces the other foot has stepped into draws us away from the dock, and we end up in the drink.

“I didn’t know Christianity would be this difficult,” the young couple who are doing their best to have a wholesome relationship complains.

“Wait, you mean that commitment to Christ demands that I stay sober. Everyone I know gets drunk on Friday nights,” the senior in high school argues.

“Two can live cheaper than one doesn’t apply when both are getting social security, Father. Are you telling me that I am not living my Catholic faith because we won’t get married? If that’s so, then the faith is demanding too much,” the retiree rationalizes.

How did we get into this? Well, Jeremiah really put it so well, so poetically well in today’s first reading: You duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped. You tricked me into a life of Love that is far more demanding than I ever expected. And I love it.

We do not embrace Christianity for high theological reasons or arguments. We embrace Jesus Christ for one reason only: we are wounded by His Love. That is from an Irish saint, St. Columban: “Show me my hearts desire, O Lord, for I am wounded by your love.” 

Men of God, women of God, we have been wounded by Love. When we made the conscious choice of Jesus Christ, we set out on a course of action that does not allow turning back. But we don’t care. We are wounded by His Love. And we love it. He is within us, burning out for us to proclaim his presence. Even if we wanted to ignore Him, we cannot. We are His.

Better is one day in your house, O Lord, better is one day in your house, than a thousand elsewhere.  That is from Psalm 84. Better is one day savoring your presence in my life, than a thousand in a luxurious house gained through questionable business practices, gained immorally. Better is one day in your house than a thousand in the arms of an immoral love. Better is one day in your house, than a thousand as the most popular person in school with a talent for quietly destroying others. Better is one day in your house than a thousand parties where drugs and drunks are plentiful.

And yet, still, a little devious voice within us that protests, “Does this all need to be so demanding? I am doing my part. I can back off some.”

To this voice, we shout angrily as Jesus shouted at Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. God’s work is all that matters.”

We are wounded by Love. And we love it. You duped us Lord, and we let ourselves be duped. We love it. We love you. Nothing else, no one else, matters. Not even ourselves.

Better is one day in your courts, than a thousand elsewhere.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
22 Ordinary Time

Recover Prayer

(August 30, 2020)

Bottom line: Let's recover that life of prayer so we can live Jesus' words: "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Last Sunday Jesus gave a structure for his church. Today he gives the structure for our individual lives. For the church we have this basic framework, "you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church..." 

To structure your life - and mine - Jesus says this: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

How do we live something so demanding. Well, we have to start with prayer. During the pandemic some deepened their prayer. Others, not so much. Now, I'm not here to examine anyone's conscience but my own. I do want to say this: when it comes to prayer all of us need to make a new beginning. 

Spontaneous prayer is great. When gratitude wells up in you, thank God. When you feel overwhelmed, ask God for help. Spontaneous prayer is important. So is structured prayer. From the beginning the church has recognized the need for specific times of prayer. Set your alarm early enough so you can have time with God at the start of the day. Slowly read a Scripture passage, maybe the daily Mass readings. Pray the rosary. Try the Liturgy of Hours with its Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Before you go to bed, the Liturgy of Hours has a wonderful night prayer called Compline. 

Our family faith formation and youth ministry has put together some great resources for the month of September. Take home this flier - or download it from our website. 

The greatest prayer is the Mass. Even though Archbishop Etienne has dispensed the obligation, he has not cancelled the Third Commandment: Keep Holy the Lord's Day. If you cannot attend Mass physically, participate by live stream. 

Some are taking vacations - including me. I'm going to Oregon for a couple of weeks. But you know none of us can take a vacation from God. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. The joy of a vacation can turn to ashes in your mouth. With prayer a person can die to self in good times and in bad. 

The next two weeks Fr. Armando Guzman will be here. I'm counting on him building up the congregation both live and live stream for when I get back the third Sunday of September.

For now let's recover that life of prayer so we can live Jesus' words: "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Amen

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
22 Ordinary Time
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