27 September 202026 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
26 Ordinary Time

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 21:28-32

A man was confined to his bed at home. A priest came to see him. After his visit, he said, "I'll pray for you." The cripple replied, "I can pray for myself. If you want to help me, you can take out the garbage and do the laundry." Christians, we are advised, should be audiovisual aids designed to teach other people how to live. Our lives should suggest we are already living in Heaven. We should be angels for each other.

Today's parable was one of three parables Christ spoke in His last days. They are known in history as the Parables of Rejection. This day's Gospel was the first and shortest of the melancholy three.

They are tough parables. Jesus delivered them right from the shoulder. He did not use diplomatic language. Put yourself in His sandals. He had but hours to live. Would you not tell it like it is? Or would you play happy camper?

Today's four verse parable has been called the Better of Two Bad Sons. The meaning is clear.

Number one son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted, is a type for sinners. When they run into the Nazarene, they change their lives. They throw their lot in with Him. Matthew, today's author, had been such a slug and so knows what he's writing about.

Number two son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver, is a stand-in for the religious authorities of the day who were long on words but short on deeds. When the Son of God came in the person of Christ, these folk were anxious to terminate Him.

In the final roundup, it is only by deeds that we prove what we are. It is only by actions that we establish whether we are genuine or faux. In the Middle Ages, a knight sought from his lady difficult deeds to perform. They both knew that words were but a nickel a bushel. "Words," said one crusty farmer, "aren't worth a barrel of spit."

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that the first part of the paper he read was the sports section. He wanted to read about people doing something rather than politicians promising something.

In the early centuries, the Church was called "the new way." (Acts 9:2) If you followed Jesus, it was not a question of memorizing the catechism or reciting the Ten Commandments. Rather your WAY of life would establish whether you possessed Tom Wolfe's celebrated right stuff or not.

In the rules laid down by Jesus, the mouth can never be a substitute for performance. "My life," said Gandhi, "is my message." Christ wants each of us to be able to speak that statement.

The greatest handicap to Jesus the Christ is the nasty lives of so many Christians. Each of the baptized is a flashing neon advertisement for the Church. If our lives fit our mouths, Christ wins. But, if our conduct reflects the morals of a sleazy money lender cheating widows, Jesus loses. The monk says words and deeds should speak the same language.

Heads of state send large pictures of themselves to regions where they cannot visit. And we, who follow Christ, must be His large pictures wherever we find ourselves. We must function as His ambassadors.

A preacher asked his congregation, "When people get to know you, do they want to learn about Christ?" An ugly question that but an essential one! Walker Percy, the National Book Award novelist, joined the Church after watching one of his college roommates rise daily at dawn and go to Mass. Example is always the best sermon.

If Christians do something worthwhile, they throw a no hitter for Christ. Shakespeare exults, "How far that little candle throws his beams. So shines a good deed in an evil world." It is sobering to reflect that our lives attract or repel people to Christ. The line that teaches, "I cannot hear what you say because I am too busy listening to what you are!" says it all.

Neither of the parable's sons is satisfactory. Both hurt their father. True the son who said no and obeyed was better. But he was no great shakes. What the Teacher shoots for is a follower who says, "Yes, Lord!", from day one and hops into the fast lane and delivers.

Lighthouses by definition make no noise. They just shine. That's our job.

Christ, it is said, is not a psychiatrist. He is a cardiologist. He listens not to words but to hearts.

A man on retreat was given paper cut outs to represent shoes. On them was written the stark message, "You are a sermon in shoes."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
26 Ordinary Time

 Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Eternal Offering

This Sunday we are treated to one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. It is found in the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. Paul begins by telling us to be kind, and loving, and merciful to each other. We are to put the interests of others above ourselves. Then he tells us about Jesus. He says that we should have the same attitude in life as Jesus had. He was forever God, but he did not regard this as something to be grasped. Instead, He emptied Himself of His Divinity. He became a human being. More than this, He became a slave for all of us. And He obeyed His Father for our sake, even when this obedience led to His death on the cross.

Then we have a Christological hymn: Because of this God has bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name; so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, both in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.

It is difficult for us to explain our belief in Jesus. Jesus is so much more for us than Christology, the study of Christ. Jesus is not just a dogma of the Church, an intellectual doctrine. He is a living person. We have a personal relationship with Him. We go through our days speaking to Him and listening for Him to speak to us. We know that He is the eternal Son of the Father, the Word of God present from the beginning of creation. That is not how we relate to Him, or He to us. He is our closest friend, our deepest Love. We look at the Cross and are amazed at the extent of His Love for us.

He is God, and yet He became one of us. More than that, He became a slave for us. Jesus came to serve us. He came to free us from the grasp of materialism. He came to renew the quest for the spiritual within us. He came to restore us to that place in creation that we deserted out of pride and selfishness. We sometimes tell the little children, “Jesus came to open the gates of heaven.” That is beautifully concrete, the way that a little child can understand. For us adults we develop this thought into: He came to instill the spiritual within us so that we can be united to the Eternal.

“Be like Him,” St. Paul says in the second reading. “Serve others. Stop being selfish. Look at others as more important than yourself.” This is difficult. So much of our society pressures us to think that the world revolves around our wants and us. However, it does not. The world is the Lord’s.

With the Grace of God, we can do the work of God. But this is work, and work is hard. Work takes time and strength. Work means exhausting ourselves to be understanding, in your case, of your husband or wife, your children, your parents. In my case, the people God calls me to serve. Recently, a seminarian said to me that it must be draining to serve as a priest. I told him that it is only draining when you really do the work correctly putting all of yourself into it. It is really the same for everyone here. For all of us, doing the work of the Lord means emptying ourselves for others.

It also means doing everything we can to stay away from all that could hurt us. It takes work to control our temper. It takes work to be spiritual in our homes. It takes work to turn a house into a place of prayer, a little Church. This is the work of Jesus, who humbled Himself for others, for us.

Like the two sons in the Gospel, we are called to work in the Father's vineyard. The vineyard is your house and my house. The vineyard is your life and my life. The vineyard is that place where others are reaching out to us, seeking the love of Christ in us. They long for Jesus. And they can find Him. They can find Him within us, within us as Church and within us as individuals.

For God to work through us, we have to take on the humility of Christ and be more concerned with those for whom we are called then with ourselves.

As a priest, I have had times when I’ve been treated rather poorly and have come close to saying, “This I don’t need. Let them figure out how to handle this without me.” There are times that I want to pack up and go home. Then I have to ask myself, “Why am I here in the first place?” I often have to remind myself that I am a priest, and the people need a priest. When I realize that, I am far more open to letting God work through me. 

I am sure you have had similar situations. I am sure that every married person has had to be more concerned with caring for his or her spouse then with how he or she has been treated by that same spouse. One snaps at the other, and the other has various choices: retaliate and snap back, employ the old classic passive aggressive behavior known as the silent treatment, sulk, or say, “I’m sorry for my part in this,” and look for something to do together to change the subject and ease the upset. Certainly, the silliest words ever uttered by Hollywood were from the old movie, Love Story, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” No, love means always having to say you are sorry. However, that takes humility. Pride and marriage cannot co-exist, at least not peacefully. Nevertheless, through humility you can be like Jesus for each other. 

I am also sure that every parent has had to swallow hard when their children have said something thoughtless. Pre-Teens and teenagers can get snarly or develop an attitude. Parents know that they have to be more concerned with caring for the children than their own feelings. Parents do not bring children into the world so they can have little people telling them how wonderful they are. They have children to expand their love and to fill the world with new reflections of God’s love. And yes it is an important part of parenting to bring children up to respect authority, but for their sake, not for the parents’ sake. 

Finally, I am sure that every single person has been confronted with the choice of serving God or receiving the proper respect he or she feels due. We cannot serve God when we are concerned about how we are treated by others.

Matthew 16:24: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” We know that this means accepting our suffering so the world can be filled with sacrificial love, and the Kingdom of God might grow. But we usually just relegate this and parallel passages to the way that we handle crises, perhaps a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a spouse or some other such crisis. Today’s second reading is more expansive. It directs us to take up our cross in our daily lives. It tells us that to follow Christ we have to change our attitude in life to be like His.

We have to be like the One who humbled Himself. This is difficult. It is difficult because pride is so deeply rooted in each of us. But through the Grace of God we can conquer pride. We can be the people that God needs us to be for His Kingdom. Christ is the victor. With Him we can conquer all that holds us back. And so we pray to the Father in the Third Eucharistic prayer, “May He make of us an eternal offering to you.”

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

Be of the Same Mind

(September 27, 2020)

Bottom line: For today I want to speak to you as Paul spoke to his beloved community at Philippi: "complete my joy by being of the same mind..."

Last Sunday Jesus gave us this question: Are you envious because I am generous? When we take our eyes off God, his generosity, we easily fall prey to envy. Envy tears us apart, divides us. 

Today St. Paul speaks about unity. He says, "complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing." What does it mean to be "of one mind"? That we should listen to the same music, eat the same food, vote for the same candidates?

I don't think so. G.K. Chesterton wrote a book on why he became a Catholic. He observed that Catholics agree on certain central truths, but - as he said - they take "pleasure in disagreeing on everything else."* I've been a priest for almost 50 years and I've seen that if the conversation turns to politics, priests will disagree, sometimes violently. I've never seen a fist fight, but I've witnessed some heated arguments. 

We do, however, agree on basic principles such as the sanctity of life - from womb to tomb. I found a good quiz that tests a Catholic's knowledge of ten core principles. I got 9 out of 10 correct. Well, I'm getting old and I sometimes miss nuances. I'll send it to you in a Flocknote. It's a good learning experience. I'll be referring to it in Generations of Faith this Wednesday when we begin our study of the Old Testament. It's very relevant to today's controversies. 

My point is that while we may disagree on prudential judgments, we are one mind on what is essential, what we express in the creed: I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus his only Son, born of the Virgin Mary. I believe in the Holy Spirit...

It is the Holy Spirit who unites us. Next weekend our young people will receive the Holy Spirit in this way: Bishop Mueggenborg will anoint them with sacred chrism saying, "Be sealed with the Holy Spirit." 

In this year of pandemic the Archbishop has given pastors the authority to administer confirmation so I will also be anointing young people. The pandemic coincides with the largest confirmation class ever - some 175 candidates. So we will have 5 confirmation Masses next weekend.

I ask you to participate in one of the Masses by live stream. We are dedicating these Masses to our candidates, their sponsors and parents. Besides participating by live stream, you might consider an in-person Mass at a neighboring parish. But be sure to come back to St. Mary of the Valley the following weekend!

For today I want to speak to you as Paul spoke to his beloved community at Philippi: "complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing." Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
26 Ordinary Time

Some years ago when I was a prison chaplain I was talking to one of the inmates in our local women’s prison. She told me that she had been working on the streets and was HIV positive and also had Hepatitis C. It was addiction to drugs that had put her on the street and had kept her there for many years. It was probably the sharing of needles that caused her two illnesses.

She was well educated and came from a good family. She bitterly regretted how she had wasted her life and wanted to experience the love and forgiveness of God. She acknowledged that it was only the fact that she was now locked up in prison and faced a sentence of several years that had enabled her to break through the bars of the even worse imprisonment of her addiction.

Jesus words in the Gospel today are both good news and bad news. His words are good news for that young woman and the many like her. But they are bad news for those who are so fixed in their own self-righteousness that they don’t even recognise that they too are in some way imprisoned.

With Jesus there is always the chance to turn back from the road to perdition. He is always there just over our shoulder, as it were, waiting and indeed longing for us to turn to him. But turning to him requires a certain degree of humility; it requires an acknowledgement by us that we are actually unable to manage our lives by ourselves and that it is only by coming to recognise our dependence on God that we will ever find salvation.

This is not easy for the self-important. Those who want to make a splash in the world; those who crave the recognition and approval of others are themselves in the grip of an addiction. They rarely find their way to God without a crisis or a catastrophe in which they discover that by themselves they can do nothing of any real value. Often it is only by being brought low that they can be lifted up by God.

The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, and the equivalent in our own day, are caught in a bind. Their problem is that they believe that they alone are doing God’s will. Their pursuit of respectability means that they are frequently (but not only) to be found in prominent places in church and in society. They don’t realise that being in the Church means being an Apostle of Christ not a promoter of self.

Now there is a bit of the Scribe and Pharisee in us all. The hard but most essential task for each of us is recognising that fact and then trying to root out those tendencies. We don’t want to denigrate ourselves and sink into the gutter like the young woman I spoke about but neither do we want to Lord it over others like the Scribes and Pharisees. We want a middle road, but more importantly we want to do things Christ’s way.

And I think that is the secret: doing things Christ’s way. If we do what he did, if we think like he thought, if we mix with the high and the low and feel at ease with both like he did, if we pray like he prayed, if we forgive like he forgave, if we heal as he healed; if we do all these things we will find the golden road that leads to heaven.

There is a very important lesson for us all in this Gospel text; I think that it is probably most important for parents. The lesson is: Always leave a way back. In any family there are rows and disagreements especially when children reach the sometimes-stormy teenage years. Occasionally the problems seem irreconcilable and in heated arguments things can get said which are deeply regretted later. Frequently children leave home in the natural course of events to go to college or to work away or whatever. But sometimes they storm-off and sometimes they are ejected from the home.

In these extreme cases no matter how bad the behaviour or how hot the temper of the various parties it is very important that the parent ensures that the child knows that the door is left ajar. It is vital that they know there is a way back. The same goes for adult relationships which turn sour.

I remember once when I was living in the Salvatorian Community House in Wealdstone, the telephone rang and I picked it up. There was a young man on the end of the line looking for the Salvation Army. The Salvatorian Order and the Salvation Army are next to each other in the phone book and he simply got the wrong number.

After sorting out the confusion I realised that this young man was quite desperate. He was on the point of leaving his family home in the north of England to go to London. He was trying to find a bed at a Salvation Army Hostel for when he got there. I couldn’t help him on that one but I tried to dissuade him from making the journey since I knew from my previous work in a night shelter just how hard and dangerous life is in London for a homeless young person.

But he was quite insistent that he was going to London whatever I said. And he was going by coach the following morning because it was the cheapest way. In response to my questioning he implied that there were compelling reasons why he had to leave home. I understood that he might be the victim of some kind of violence or abuse or perhaps he had committed an offence and was wanted by the police. There could be many possible reasons but he didn’t want to say.

So, I switched tack and managed to persuade him to get a return rather than a single coach ticket which in those days just cost £1 extra. At least it would give him a way out if he couldn’t manage in London or got into difficulties there. He reluctantly made a promise that he would get that return ticket and then his money ran out and the call ended.

I don’t know what ever happened to that young man. It was a freak chance that he dialled the wrong number and ended up speaking to me. I don’t know if he took the advice, I don’t know where he ended up; all I know is that he was desperate enough to leave home and take his chances in London.

All I am proud to have done is tried to ensure that he had a way back; that, bad though his family situation might be, at least there was a way open for a reconciliation. 

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