27 June 202113 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
13 Ordinary Time

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 5:21-43

Several years ago I caught a revival of the nineteenth century A Doll's House by the incomparable master Henrik Ibsen in New York City. The director was the great Ingmar Bergman.

Ibsen has his protagonist Nora rejecting out of hand the stereotype of being "just" a wife and mother. She says to her chauvinist husband, "I don't believe that any more. I am a human being - just like you." For almost a century, historians have hailed Ibsen as a pioneering fellow in the area of women's rights. What short memories they have! For nineteen centuries before Ibsen there was a Man named Jesus.

The woman cured of the hemorrhage was much admired in the early Church. The early historian Eusebius tells us a statue of her was erected at the miracle's site in Caesarea in northeastern Palestine. Perhaps it was set up by early feminists. It remained there to the fourth century. The Roman Emperor Justinian, who was not a friend of things Christian, destroyed it. Very modestly he put up one of himself. However, God and women both got even. Justinian lived to see his likeness destroyed by lightning. No doubt he got the message.

Contemporary feminists contend that while women have come a long way, they still have a long way to go. That is no doubt true. But what is absolutely certain is that women in the time of the Christ were considered less than nothing. The rabbis of the time, for example, suggested men should pray daily that they were not born as women. The "weaker sex" had two purposes - giving men pleasure in sex and raising children. The "little woman" could be divorced at the slightest pretext. Justifiable reasons would be cooking her man's three minute egg for four minutes or making dirty looks, however justifiable, at her mother-in-law.

I think you get the picture. A written note of dismissal and the woman was out on the street wondering what hit her. Yet, even the Emperor Justinian himself could not point to one Gospel text suggesting that the Nazarene looked upon women as beneath men in any form or way. And, given the atmosphere of the time, this point is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Isn't it amazing what a large part women play in the Gospels? A large number of Christ's miracles are centered around women. Think of the woman cured of a hemorrhage in today's Gospel. And do not forget His kindness to the widow of Naim or bringing today's little girl back to life with His Aramaic command,"Talitha cumi."

Recall too the parables that reveal how much Jesus knew about the humdrum affairs of a woman's life. How about Him telling us of the women working yeast into three measures of flour or the distraught woman sweeping out her house in a panic to find a discount coupon at her friendly neighborhood supermarket? To add icing to the cake, scholars consider that distraught woman as a stand-in for God.

Jesus' references to the home and its details must have charmed and delighted women every bit as much as it must have infuriated their men. But the Master did not run scared. Then there was the occasion when the woman shouted at Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that suckled you." This was reducing women to that tired stereotype - breasts and genitalia. The Saviour rejects such banality with curt words. "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it." One suspects that woman never spoke that way again. Perhaps Ibsen got his central idea for A Doll's House from Luke 11,27.

Women never forgot His kindness to them. They repaid Him in the most difficult times of His life. No woman was a hostile during the Passion. Even Mrs Pilate begged her husband to spare His life. On the Via Dolorosa, a woman courageously stepped out of that angry mob to wipe the sweat and spit off His face. Aside from a teen-age boy, women were the only ones who dared to go up to the very crucifixion itself. We men developed serious back trouble. A yellow line ran smack down our spinal cords. Perhaps the spiritual "Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?" was originally directed to us men.

Today's women do not forget Him either. Christian feminists in Peru have named their organization, Talita Cumi.

What is my attitude to women? What is the attitude of every man and boy here? If it doesn't match that of Jesus, we better do an about face and get the show on the road.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
13 Ordinary Time

Thirteenth Sunday: Fear is useless. What is needed is faith

This Sunday I would like to consider a difficult topic, but one we all have to confront, fear.

The Miriam Webster’s first definition of fear is that fear is an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by the anticipation of danger. There are many other ways that fear can be defined including the prudent use of reason, such as “If I don’t study for that test I’m afraid I might fail the class” or “If I have another drink, I’m afraid that I might not be able to drive, might get into an accident or might get a DUI.” Fear is often used in the Bible as showing reverence such as “the fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom, “Proverbs 9:10. But for this homily I will stick to the first definition of fear a strong emotion in response to an anticipation of danger.

Jairus, the Synagogue official, was afraid. He came to Jesus with the plea of a desperate Father: his daughter was dying. Could Jesus please come and heal her.? Jesus left immediately. He was momentarily delayed when a lady touched his cloak and was healed, but that’s a homily for another day. At Jairus’ house there was a horrible, pitiful scene. People were wailing because the girl had died. Jesus knew that her death was only so people could witness the Power of the Gospel. He knew He would heal her. What He said to Jairus was supremely significant: “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” I love Luke’s translation in his parallel to Mark’s words: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.”

Fear is useless. What has ever been accomplished through fear? How has fear ever helped a situation, no matter how grave it may be? Think about this. When has fear ever led to anything good happening? Again, I don’t mean fear used as prudence or as reverence, but fear used as a response to anticipation of danger. A man or woman is considering getting serious about a relationship. But he or she is afraid of getting hurt. So the opportunity to grow in love is rejected. A man is afraid that he might not be a good husband or a good father, a woman is afraid that she might not be a good wife or a good mother, so a new relationship of love is rejected or wonderful reflections of the love of a husband and wife united to the love of God are not allowed to come into existence. An intelligent student could take a step into a difficult career, but is afraid that he or she might not succeed in the classes, and so a great nurse or doctor or lawyer or engineer never comes into existence. So much is lost because of fear. “Fear is useless” the Lord says, “What is needed is faith.”

Fear destroys our capacity for faith. When we have faith, we know that no matter what the outcome of a situation may be in this world, there is infinitely more to life than what our eyes see. There will be a better outcome than we could ever imagine. If we have faith, we know that if a situation does not work out, we will still be a better person for having been in that situation. The old hack that it is better to love and lose than never to love is true. People enter into marriage, or in my case become priests, or women become sisters, because they have faith that God is leading them in a direction which will only turn out positive in the long run no matter what the immediate result is. I spent 14 years in a religious congregation. Priesthood was always right for me, but I was not a good fit for the religious congregation. Still, I am a better priest because of those 14 years and because of that congregation, the Salesians of St. John Bosco. I was blessed by not being afraid to join the Salesians, and then blessed by not being afraid to take a step from the secure life they gave me. My story is no different than the story of anyone who refuses to give in to fear. St John of the Cross wrote something that every husband here and every wife here and every one of us must have the courage to live in our lives. St John of the Cross wrote, “I went without discerning to that for which my heart was yearning.” We must have faith in God to guide us and not be slaves to fear.

Nothing good ever flows from fear. Fear destroys faith. Fear is an instrument of the devil tempting us to give up on God and His Goodness. Fear tells us to give in to a world that has rejected the Living God. We can easily become prey of the one who wants to use our fear against us. The devil wants us to deny the power of God. He wants us to give up on God. The devil can’t attack God, but he can attack us, particularly our trust in God, and he does this through fear.

In 2 Tim 1:7 we read:

God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

The opposite of fear is courage. The word courage comes from the Latin word for heart, cor, and the Latin word for action, acta. Courage is the action of a heart that has faith, that trusts in God.

Look at the martyrs. Two of my favorite saints are women, Perpetua and Felicity. They were threatened with every conceivable terror if they did not give up their faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, the thought of being thrown to the beasts scared them, but they did not fear that they would be left alone in that horrible arena in Carthage in 203. Felicity said, “I will suffer in Christ, and He will suffer in me.” She was a woman acting with what her heart told her was true. She was a woman of courage. She was a woman who rejected fear.

The great fear that we all must confront is the fear of dying. We know that none of us is going to get out of this life alive, but we fear death. The devil uses this particular fear to destroy our faith. He tells us the lie that all is lost if we die. The evil one is trying to get us to reject God’s Goodness, to reject heaven. He whispers in our ears that if God is so good and has such good things waiting for us, then where is He now when the doctor says we have only a year or two to live, maybe less. But if we keep our eyes focused on heaven, if we reject fear and trust in the Lord, if we have faith, then our journey to God will reflect the destination He has prepared for us.

Melissa and Jonathan David Hesler wrote:

I am no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

You split the sea so I could walk right through it.

You drown my fear in perfect love.

You rescue me so I can stand and say, “ I am a child of God.”

©CCLI License #2368115

From the decisions we must make in life to the very end of physical life itself, fear is useless. What is needed is faith.

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

Gratitude Week 3: Children (June 27, 2021)

Bottom line: Our goal is gratitude, especially for the greatest earthly treasure - our children. "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever."

This is the third homily in our summer series on gratitude. So far we have seen that we need to start with small things: like a mustard seed or that God gives us hands, eyes and feet - and that we have them for another day. Last Sunday we saw gratitude for the great gift of fatherhood that God gave when he created us male and female. Today (quite appropriately) we give thanks for children - especially as we see the man whose daughter falls mortally ill and he calls on Jesus.

Before going into gratitude for children, I want to note two other causes for gratitude that we see in today's readings. First, for living on this planet. The Book of Wisdom says, "For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome" For sure, this world has many dangers, but God made the earth good. We should give thanks to God for letting us live on this amazing planet - especially for our own beautiful valley.

St. Paul mentions another reason for gratitude. In taking up a collection for the needy in Jerusalem, he tells the Corinthians, "your abundance at the present time should supply their needs". You and I also have abundance. A person here, working for minimum wage can actually earn three times as much as a school teacher in Peru - and about 25% more than the average medical doctor. We should be grateful for living in this country. More on that next Sunday which is July 4.

So gratitude for our planet and gratitude for our country. Our biggest gratitude is for our children. Each child is a treasure greater than all the buildings and cars combined. We can see that in the Gospel when the daughter of the synagogue officer falls grievously ill, apparently dead. Jesus takes her hand and says, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" Those were the most beautiful words the man had ever heard. No wonder we have them in their original Aramaic.

In raising that child to life, we can see that Jesus wants to lift our children spiritually. It ultimately depends on Jesus, but we can help. How? Well, we have to start with gratitude. Give God thanks every day for your children and grandchildren. Recognize their achievements. Every step toward goodness is a step toward God.

At the same time, we should have gratitude even for afflictions. We would like to protect our children from everything hurtful, but we have to recognize that God has a purpose for allowing anguish. St. Augustine said to God, "You have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." God is at work in our children drawing them to himself.

So while we give thanks even for suffering, we thank God for raising up people who can touch our children's hearts. We do see movements of renewal in our church, even in our archdiocese, for example an initiative to enable young people and children to give their own testimony to how God works in their lives.

I know there is enormous suffering because our children and grandchildren have distanced themselves from the faith. Some of them consider God irrelevant to their lives. Others see faith as negative, a kind of hindrance. And of course we have to acknowledge that bad example has driven away many of our children. Next Sunday, even while we celebrate the Fourth of July, we will see how Jesus dealt with rejection by his family members.

Today, I ask you to remember the theme of this homily series: "The aim of life is appreciation." Our goal is gratitude, especially for the greatest earthly treasure - our children. "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever." Amen

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

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