13 June 202111 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
11 Ordinary Time

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 4:30-32

A man walked into a store. He found Christ behind the counter. He asked, "What do you sell here?" Christ replied, "You name it." "I want food for all, good health for kids, adequate housing for everyone, and abortion to cease." Gently Jesus answered, "Friend, I do not sell finished products here, only seeds. You must plant them and water them. I will do the rest."

When Jesus told this parable of the smallest seed in the world, His disciples were in a downer. They had worked so hard and so little had happened. The famous mountain had been in labor and only a mouse had been born. Their work, begun with a bang, was about to close down without a notice.

Given their depression, the Christ told them this three verse parable of the minuscule mustard seed. Though its beginnings are modest, its final height is awesome.

He wanted them to realize that despite their few numbers and the opposition against them a great Church would arise from their labors. The history books show how correct He was.

Someone has noted that masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings. From eight notes come every hymn, song, and symphony ever composed. Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - all of it from eight notes. All literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.

But one does not have to produce masterpieces to have an effect. Small acts make a difference. Graduating college seniors hear much nonsense from commencement speakers. However, Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prize journalist, whose reports formed the 1984 film "The Killing Fields," was a blessed exception.

He told the graduates before him, "You are often told you can change the world. But that is rubbish. What you can do is make the world modestly better." He went on to speak of their own classmates who assisted the homeless and fed the hungry over their college careers. These people made a difference. They themselves grew and developed. They were helping people one by one. Bigger is not necessarily better. His message was it is a great thing to do a little thing well.

Find a cause. Go for it. Take Gandhi's advice: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh. Then they attack. Then you win." We wish to see objects grow in a flash. Yet, Christ is telling us that though you cannot see it, the mustard seed is maturing. It will become among the largest of all plants. It will climb to eleven feet. No wonder birds flock to its branches for R & R and travelers crawl into its shade for lunch and a nap.

A story is told of an experiment performed by a physicist. She wanted to show her students the effect a small object can have on block of iron. The block was hanging from the ceiling. The physicist began throwing paper balls at the metal. At first nothing happened. Then after a time the iron began to vibrate, then sway, and at last move freely.

The poet Lucretius wrote, "Dripping water hollows a stone."

Everything must begin somewhere. No one emerged fully grown from his mother's wombs. If Christians could learn to bring together their modest contributions to the commonweal, can you imagine what a force for good we would be for those about us?

The Nazarene is saying to us, "Develop where you are planted." He warns us to that often we quit growing because, as James Tahaney said, we prefer groaning.

Some years ago I heard of an Oscar winning actor. He owed his career to an elderly woman. As a young man, he received bad notices. Finally he resolved to give up his dreams of becoming an actor. Then a note arrived in his mail box from an anonymous fan. She had heard of his despondency. She wrote but four words. "Keep acting. You're good." That small note gave him the courage to continue. From her four words grew an Oscar winner.

I have worked for years with teens. They often have sorrowfully spoken to me of how little or no encouragement they receive from their own families, friends, and even teachers. Cannot you and I substitute for those silent people? Cannot we do for them what the fan did for the actor? Our compliment need be no more than four words.

Begin today. Encourage others. And remember the advice of Winston Churchill, "The difficulty is not to be expected in the beginning but rather when one attempts to stay the course."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
11 Ordinary Time

Eleventh Sunday: Trusting in God's Time

Those of you who know me know that I have the basic New York attitudes of trying to do too much myself and wanting everything immediately. I have somewhat of a typical city boy attitude. I definitely would have made a terrible farmer. Even now I'll go out to the flowers and say, "Come on, let's cut the bud stuff and start blooming." Farmers have to be patient. Farmers also have to recognize that they really can't do things themselves. They have to depend upon nature.

The gospel reading, from Mark, contains two parables that farmers would certainly understand, but which drive city slickers like me nuts. The first is the parable of the seed. The farmer plants the seed and goes about his routine day, day after day. Eventually the seed grows, not because the farmer does something special, but because nature took its course. By the way, to the ancients every field of wheat, every flower, was a miracle of God's hand. The second parable is that of the mustard seed which seems insignificant, but with the growth that God gives becomes a plant, probably 8 to 10 feet, large enough to shelter the birds of the sky. These two parables of the Kingdom of God tell us that we have to trust in God to give growth to the Kingdom. Furthermore, the growth He gives will be greater than we could ever imagine. The kingdom that we trust God to give growth to could be the Kingdom of our church in the world, the Kingdom of our parish right here, or, particularly, the Kingdom of our home.

There are many times that we expect too much of ourselves and others. To make matters worse, we expect too much to happen too soon. Sometimes parents expect their 15 year olds to act like 21 year olds. Sometimes we get thoroughly disappointed in ourselves because we are not the perfect people we like to imagine ourselves being. Sometimes we are impatient with how we or others are progressing in life. We may be upset with our home situations, our marriages, our families, our jobs, or what have you. What we have to understand is that none of us are self-made men and women. If we trust in God, He will give growth. This growth might be very subtle, nothing we can put our fingers on. But after a while it suddenly occurs to us: God has brought us a long way. If we trust in God the growth that He gives us will be more than we could imagine. We are all small seeds, but God can make of us great trees. However, if we think that we can do everything ourselves, and if we don't trust in God, we won't get anywhere. None of us can make ourselves or others grow.

Let me be a bit more specific with something that we all want: peace in our families. We have to pray to God and trust Him to bring his peace. To think we can cause peace to happen in our homes or anywhere without God is to give ourselves power we don't have.

I am not the only person in this parish who puts too much pressure on himself or herself. I am not the only person in this parish who is always looking for results. But all of us have entrusted God with our lives. We must trust Him to form us in people more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.

After all, He does a pretty good job with flowers.

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

Gratitude Week 1: Start Small (June 13, 2021)

Bottom line: Today we begin with small things like a tender shoot or a tiny seed. Or things that we take for granted like hands and eyes and feet.

As you can see from the green vestments, we have returned to Ordinary Time. This will be the first of ten homilies on gratitude. Gratitude - being thankful - seems simple but it's not. During my fifty years of priesthood, I have struggled with gratitude both in my own life and what it means for people who face terrible situations. Still, I am convinced gratitude is at the heart of our lives as Christians. G.K. Chesterton said, "The aim of life is appreciation." The Bible has this beautiful verse: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever."

Gratitude is the basis not only for the spiritual life, but also for human life. Writing in Psychology Today, the psychiatrist Dr. Neel Burton said: "Recent studies have linked gratitude with increased satisfaction, motivation, and energy; better sleep and health; and reduced stress and sadness. Grateful people engage much more with their environment, leading to greater personal growth and self-acceptance, and stronger feelings of purpose, meaning, and connectedness."

If gratitude is so powerful, how do we achieve it? That's what we are going to be talking about this summer. In this first homily I want to emphasize the importance of beginning with small things. The prophet Ezekiel describes God taking a tender shoot and planting it on a high mountain. It becomes a majestic cedar that gives protection for God's creatures. Likewise, Jesus tells about a tiny mustard seed that grows and flourishes. When it comes to gratitude start small like a mustard seed.

One of the greatest writers about gratitude is G.K. Chesterton. He tells about how as child he had no explicit faith in God. But he began to feel thankful for things that most people take for granted, like having hands and feet and eyes. And he was amazed that he had them not just for one day, but for the next day as well. This wonder led him to a simple, profound faith in God. Eventually he joined the Catholic Church.

Chesterton lived in a time when people were consumed by envy, resentment and anger. Chesterton's disarming simplicity, his evident joy touched his contemporaries. Many of them were living dead-ends lives. Chesterton helped them see they didn't have to destroy the other guy in order to get ahead. If you want to learn more about Chesterton, I encourage this summer to read or re-read his masterpieces: The Everlasting Man and Orthodoxy. Don't let the titles scare you. With a little effort they are delightful books. They show how wonder and gratitude lead to faith.

Faith is essential. St. Paul says "we walk by faith, not by sight." That's certainly been the case in my 50 years as a priest. It's like the guy Jesus describes scattering seed on the land. It sprouts and grows, "he knows not how." At the end of the day we have to simply trust God and give thanks. That in fact is what Psalm tells us:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.

When people ask me what they can do to grow in faith, I recommend having a structure of prayer: Take some time, at least a moment in the morning, to offer the day to God and ask his help. And at night to take stock of the day, ask pardon for any sins, but most important thank God for his presence. As Maya Angelou said, "Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer."

Next Sunday we have Fathers Day. I'm going to say something about thanking God for making us in his image and giving us the gift of masculinity and femininity. It's not an easy message, but I ask you to open your hearts. We need fathers and we need spiritual fathers. Fatherhood depends on gratitude - as does every blessing. Today we begin with small things like a tender shoot or a tiny seed. And things that we take for granted like hands and eyes and feet. And please take home today's Psalm verse: Lord, it is good to give thanks to you. Amen.

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

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