29 August 202122 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
22 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
22 Ordinary Time

Twenty-second Sunday: Laws and Love

“Buckle up your seat belts. It’s the Law.” That sign that we have all seen throughout our country expresses the common American mentality regarding laws. That mentality is: “You must do this or that or not do this or that because the authorities say so. If you violate the law you will be punished.” To some degree or other, we all share in this mentality. So often the determination of our actions are based on whether or not we will be punished, not on what is right or wrong. For example, how fast we drive may be determined by the speed we know will not result in our getting a traffic ticket. Many times, though, we take a higher look at the law and determine or actions accordingly. The law might be to drive at 25 mph in your neighborhood, but because you know that there are children playing who could run into the street at any time, you drive at 10-15 mph, bound not by the law but by your concern for the children of the area.

Hopefully, when we were children we all listened to and obeyed our parents for an even higher motivation than fear of punishment, or the good of society. Hopefully, we all obeyed our parents out of love. We experienced the continual sacrificial love our parents had for us and realized that even if we disagreed with one of their rules, these rules were an expression of their love and concern for us and for our own good. Maybe we didn’t like it if when other teenagers were allowed to stay out until one or two while we had to be home at eleven, but we knew that our parents’ rules were set out of love and we responded because that was out way of reciprocating love, showing our love for them.

Now the first reading for this Sunday from the Book of Deuteronomy speaks about the laws that God gave to the people of Israel in terms of his love for them. The Israelites did not view these laws as impositions from above that had to be followed to avoid punishment. They saw the law as a personal expression of God’s love for them. So we heard, “What great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord Our God is to us when we call on him?” The people of Israel had a personal relationship with God. They knew that he cared for them. His laws were an expression of his love. They kept the law to return his love.

“All good things come from heaven above,” James tells us in today’s second reading. God continually chooses each of us to be his child. He loves us first. We have to respond to his love. We have to, James says, submit to his word, follow his law as our way of loving God. James reminds us, “Just listening to the Word of God within us is not enough.” We have to respond by putting his word into action.

We have, all of us, the capacity for a personal relationship with Jesus and through Jesus with God the Father in union with the eternal life force, the Holy Spirit. We have a personal Savior in Jesus Christ. He is near to us. He is with us every moment of our lives. However, it is not enough for us to acknowledge his presence, we have to respond to his love by reciprocating, by loving him back. Christian morality is not a matter of performing actions to avoid punishment. Christian morality is a matter of loving God by doing his will.

The motivation for our actions as Christians must be hearts full of love. That’s what Jesus is pointing out in the Gospel reading. Performing actions without love is just paying God lip service. What matters is the motivation of our actions. What matters is what is inside of us. Sin springs from hatred and selfishness within a person and takes its expression in the terrible actions enumerated at the end of the Gospel reading, fornication, murder, theft, adultery, etc. Virtue springs from hearts full of the love of God and responds with charity, kindness, and upright decent behavior.

James says that pure unspoiled religion is this: simply to come to the aid of orphans and widows and to keep ourselves uncontaminated by the world. The word religion means being tied to God. We are religious, bound to God, if we care for those who need our help, widows, orphans, the sick, distressed, all challenged in any way, the poor, those with terrible diseases etc. We care for those who need our help out of love for God who created them and loves them. And we keep our hearts uncontaminated by the evils of the world, selfishness, pride, the concept that whatever we do is OK regardless of its effects on others.

Our God, our loving Father, is not up there somewhere dumping laws upon us and waiting to catch us erring. Our God, our loving Father, is right here, personally within each of us. Because he wants us to have a personal relationship with him, he calls us to respond to his love. But we have to make this response. Sometimes people say that they have a personal relationship with God, but they continue to sin. They think that God is too loving to punish them no matter what they do. They do not realize that when we don’t respond to God’s love, we destroy our capacity to love him. Our religion is unauthentic, corrupt, nothing more than lip service when we say we have a relationship with God yet have hearts corrupted by selfishness, hatred and sin.

My friends, you and I are called by Jesus to love him. We are never alone. We have a personal relationship with a loving Father. But we must care for his presence. We must nurture his presence by responding to his love or we will shut his love out of our lives no matter how much we claim that he is our Lord. Today we pray that we might live the ways of the Lord out of our deep love for our Jesus Our Savior.

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

Basis for Abundant Life

(August 29, 2021)

Bottom line: Following God's plan not only leads to eternal life. It provides the basis for an abundant life here on earth.

We've had a good summer together. I have to admit I had fun doing the series on gratitude and a number of you told me you appreciated it. I am especially grateful for all who worked to celebrate my 50 years of priesthood. It was not so much a personal event because a priest belongs to the people - not just to the parish but also the broader community.

The next two weeks I will be in Oregon with my friends, Fr. Jim Coleman and Bishop Liam Cary. I'll be taking a longer break in October leading a small delegation to the Mary Bloom Center in Peru. I'm not doing this to get away from the parish but to recharge for my mission as your pastor, your spiritual father. I'm excited about our parish plans for the coming year. I describe some of those plans in the bulletin.

We can see part of our plan in this Sunday's Scripture readings. They lay out a vision for living the Christian moral life. Let's start with Jesus. Speaking about what defiles a person, Jesus says: From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

From within come evil intentions, that is, sinful inclinations that separate a person from God. On the Feast of the Assumption we talked about how we have been banished from paradise. It's a self-banishment. We have exiled ourselves by our sins. Jesus elaborates twelve sinful thoughts and deeds. In the Greek text the first six are plural, indicating sinful acts - acts of unchastity and theft for example. The last six are singular indicating inner dispositions. For example, envy. The literal Greek is "evil eye". It refers to looking with bitterness at the possessions or accomplishments of some other person.

Not only the poor, but also the rich can fall into envy. Once Peggy Noonan interviewed the CEO of a large corporation. He admitted that when he gets a financial report from another company, the first thing he does is go to the list of perks the other CEO gets - use of jets, stock options, etc. If his perks are better, he feels happy. If not, he's feels bad. We, all of us, live in a society of envy - the evil eye.

One other sin to note is blasphemy. It can be translated as slander. It includes gossip, insults and other types of abusive speech. Welcome to social media which has become the devil's playground. We can rightly call gossip blasphemy because it not only hurts other people; it hurts God.

The thing that all these sins and dispositions have in common is that they separate us from God and from each other.

St. James shows the way back: Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. This year we will focus on welcoming the word - obviously in homilies. While I am gone, I have lined up two excellent preachers - Deacon Gene and Deacon Leon. They will give the homilies when Fr. Francisco celebrates the English Masses.

We will ground ourselves in God's work in our parish programs. For example, RCIA, Generations of Faith and First Sacraments. We also have our Men's Bible Study, Women Growing in Faith - and other faith sharing group. Often our Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent de Paul serve as faith sharing groups. I could mention others.

We want to help our parents guide their children in sexual education in a way that is grounded in God's word. You'll be hearing more about that. It will be part of the work of our parish council. I will put something in the bulletin about it.

I'm looking forward to our youth program for middle and high school students. Together with our new youth minister, I will have a meeting with parents on September 20 and then with youth on September 27. We will have some fun together, but will also learn God's word.

As St. James says, if we welcome God's word it will join us back to God and thus save our souls. But you know, following God's plan not only leads to eternal life. It provides the basis for an abundant life here on earth. As our Psalm says: The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

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

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