26 August 201821 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
21 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
21 Ordinary Time
Twenty-first Sunday of Time: Floating with the Lord

In the second book of his science fiction trilogy, Perelandra, C. S. Lewis presents a Paradise being tempted by evil. But instead of painting a lush Garden of Eden, as the Book of Genesis paints, C. S. Lewis presents a planet with a huge sea on which there are floating islands. The waves on that planet are so large that the floating islands go up and down with the swell. Sometimes an entire island is on the bottom of the swell and the ocean is a wall. Anyone on the island would not be able to see anything other than the island or the sea. Sometimes an entire island is on top of the waves, and an inhabitant of the island cold look out and see the world just as someone here on earth might see the world from the top of Pike's Peak or Mount Everest. Everything on Perelandra is beautiful. There are dolphin like fish in the sea that spout water the colors of the rainbow. The floating islands are lush and green. The fruit on the islands is so delicious that the first inclination one has after he or she takes a bite, is to eat some and then pick and hoard as much as possible. An explorer from earth named Ransom lands on one of the islands on a trip to what he thinks is Venus. He find far more than he expected.

After adjusting to his island, Ransom notices off in the distant water a human form. As his island floats closer he sees that it is a woman traveling from island to island on the back of the dolphin like creatures. She is tall. She is beautiful. And she is green. He would later learn that she was Trindiri, the queen of the planet and with her husband the King, its only human inhabitants. All would seem to be ideal, but then Ransom sees a dragon flying through the skies. He realizes that this wonderful world is under attack by the forces of evil. "Why do you sleep on this floating island?" the dragon calls out to the beautiful green lady. "Because God has told us to trust in Him," she responds. "But you would be much safer if you slept on solid land instead of a floating island," the devil responds. "Look, over there is a continent. It doesn't float, it just sits there. Why do you risk everything trusting in God.

You should sleep on solid ground." And so, C. S. Lewis presents the ancient quandary of man: To trust in what he or she sees or to trust in God. To trust in the spiritual which cannot be seen, or to trust in the physical which our eyes can focus on. I won't tell you the ending of Perelandra, because the C. S. Lewis trilogy is worth reading and reflection. Instead, I want you to consider this, the disciples of the Lord are presented in John 6 as on a Perelandra. They loved hearing the words of the Lord. They loved experiencing the warmth of His Presence. They had just eaten bread He multiplied. They had seen him heal people. They had heard about His Kingdom. What was even better, they had heard Him call them to be leaders in His Kingdom. But now Jesus had given them a teaching that demanded their absolute trust in Him, their absolute faith in Him, even though this teaching was completely against what their eyes, ears and senses were telling them. He told them that He was the Bread of Life. He told them that they needed to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood for them to have eternal life. For some of the disciples, this was too hard to accept. They left the island of trust.

They were convinced that the spiritual would not make such outlandish demands on their senses. They left Jesus and returned to their previous lives. The Twelve told Jesus what was happening. Perhaps they were implying that Jesus tone down His teaching some. Maybe they were just pointing out that the Lord was losing followers. Whatever. The fact is that Jesus was not going to rescind a word. He came to make the spiritual real. He came to bring a reality to the world that was beyond the capacity of man to understand. He came to bring the Gifts of God that were far greater than man's fondest hopes. He would not compromise the truth. "Will you go, also, Peter," he asks the leader of his Twelve. "Lord, where can we go, you alone have the words of eternal life." And with that confession of faith, Peter stays on the floating island of hope and faith. He did not know with his senses how it is possible for Jesus to give His Body and Blood for the food they would need for the journey to God.

Peter did not know with his senses, but he knew with his heart that all was beautiful with Jesus and that it would be infinitely foolish to trust in the senses rather than trust in the Lord. And Jesus said in today's gospel, "It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is to no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life." We are called to believe in the Lord, to trust in Him. We are called to stay on the floating island of faith rather than to trust in our own ability to make sense of the world. We are called to give an infinitely greater credence to the spiritual we cannot see over the material we can see. We are called to faith. It is quite normal for us to go through periods of doubting the teachings of the Lord. It is normal for us to ask, "How is God only one, if the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God?" It is quite normal for us to ask: "How can Jesus be both fully God and fully man?" It is quite normal for us to ask: "How can this bread and wine, material objects before the Mass, now be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?"

It is quite normal for us to want to stand on the material world of our senses and ignore the new world of the spiritual. When these types of doubts come to our mind, be they flashing through, or lingering and challenging us, we need to stop and consider the Gifts of the Lord. We need to reflect on our Savior, Jesus Christ. We reflect on the wonders He provides that are beyond our imagination, too good to be true, but, yes, they are true. We are children of God. We think about the peace that we have when we are united with Him and the chaos we have when we turn from Him. And, so, we trust completely in the Lord. We trust Him over our own senses. We trust that floating on the island of faith is infinitely better than standing on the material ground of physical senses. For what else can we do? Where else can we go? He alone has the words of eternal life. And so we believe.

We believe in that which we do not see. We believe in that which our human senses cannot reveal. We believe in the Lord, in His Love, and in His teaching. We believe that God exists for eternity in a Trinity of Persons. We believe that the Second Person of this Trinity became man to restore the spiritual to the physical, to restore man to his rightful place in the spiritual world, and we believe He gave us His Body and Blood, the Eucharist, as both an intimate sharing in His Presence and a union of all believers into the eternal swell of His love. And we come to Church this Sunday and pray as we pray every day of our lives, we pray the prayer of the father of the epileptic boy in Mark 9:24 whom Jesus asked, "Do you believe?"

We join this man and pray, "I do believe, Lord, but help those parts of me that do not believe." We are human, yes, but we have been entrusted with the mystery of the Divine. We have been given the Gift of the Eucharist. Floating on the island of faith is infinitely superior to clasping the deadly limitations of life without God, the limitations of the physical. When we float on the island of faith, we experience deeper and deeper revelations of God's Love. Sure, we are tempted to trust only our senses. We are tempted to stand on the material. We are tempted to limit ourselves to the here and now. We are human. But we are also spiritual. And deep within us, deep within every single one of us there is the Voice of Faith prodding us to exclaim with Peter, "I will not leave you Lord. You alone have the words of eternal life." Today we pray, as we do everyday, for faith.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
21 Ordinary Time
Ephesians Week 7: Will you too leave me?
(August 26, 2018)

Bottom line: God does not tell us to trust in men - only in one man: Jesus. We need to hear him ask, "Will you too leave me?" We arrive today at the conclusion of our readings from Ephesians. You might remember in mid-July we heard that God calls and predestines us before the foundation of the world. As we have seen in previous homilies, the question naturally arises: If God guides the course of human history, why do so many horrible hideous things happen? We can address this question on two levels: First, that God made us free and we have abused our freedom bringing terrible suffering on each other. That's true enough but the Bible takes us to a deeper level. The prophets had to ask why God allows disasters such as the destruction of Jerusalem with her sacred and glorious temple. The prophets conclude that God permits catastrophes so he can bring us back to him.

We easily become proud-minded and that arrogance separates us from God and from others. God loves humility because it opens us to him and to each other. We see that in today's reading: St. Paul says to be subordinate one to another out of reverence for Christ. We tend to focus on the submission of wife to husband, but God requires a similar humility when says, "husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church." Jesus is never domineering and rude. Rather he gently leads. That's what we want from our young men - to be self-giving leaders. A while back I told you about studies showing that our young people dream about marriage - even traditional marriage where a husband makes most of the decisions.

This presumes dialogue: recognizing a woman's abilities that she needs to develop and use to the maximum. Remember the parable of the talents. I see that in our parish staff. We are blessed by young moms who put their extraordinary gifts at the service of the church. At the same time what matters most to them are their marriages and families. St. Paul speaks about this great mystery: the two become one flesh. As he says this refers to Christ and his bride the church. This mystery ties with today's Gospel - which is the conclusion of Jesus' discourse on the Bread of Life. What he says about eating his flesh and drinking his blood seems so shocking than many leave him. Jesus asks his intimate disciples, "Will you too leave me?"

This question resounds today. So many have become scandalized, discouraged and embarrassed to follow Jesus. He asks, Will you too leave me? People drift away. With all the horrific news they understandably feel disappointed by leaders of the Church. They feel disgust, even contempt. I can understand. At the same time God does not tell us to trust in men - only in one man: Jesus. We need to hear him ask, "Will you too leave me?" As we conclude this summer series, please consider Peter's response: "Master to whom shall we go?" No one else has made such extraordinary claims - not the Buddha, not Mohamed, not Confucius. Those men claim to show the way. Only Jesus says, "I am the way - and the truth and the life." With Peter we respond, "Where shall we go? We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
21 Ordinary Time
Twenty first Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Modern Sunday,
August 26, 2018 Gospel John 6: 60 - 69

This weekend we listen to the end of the Bread of Life Discourse. The ending is not what one would expect regarding the miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Israelites at the time of Jesus were longing for the coming of the Messiah. There were others preaching at that time who some people thought were the Messiah, including John the Baptist. One of the reasons such large crowds came to follow Jesus was because of his preaching and mighty works, and because they saw him as the long awaited Messiah. With the Bread of Life Discourse Jesus seems to have crossed a line for many of those who followed him. Not only was he speaking as a Messiah, but he was beginning to reveal himself as being divine, the Son of God. Recall that when Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin he was charged with blasphemy in that he claimed to be God.

This was a crime punishable by death and he was thus taken to the Roman officials to carry out the death sentence. Jesus' teaching that he was the Bread of Life that led to Eternal Life was difficult form some of the followers to accept, and so we are told "that many of his disciple returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." When it comes to the ministry of Jesus you would think that there would be a happy ending rather than people rejecting him and walking away. In some ways this episode is a preview of the ultimate rejection of Jesus and his passion and death. Jesus' response to the disciples leaving is to turn to the twelve and ask, "Do you want to leave?" In our relation with Jesus we make the decision to follow him or to leave him. This is the free will we were blessed with that enables us to love or reject the Lord.

Peter answered that question with a beautiful profession of Faith, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." Rather than seeing the teaching of Jesus as blasphemous Peter sees Jesus as the one who leads us to eternal life, and who is the Holy One of God. This Gospel and question of Peter should cause us to pause and ask ourselves if we can give the same response about Jesus. Are we able to acknowledge him as the one who leads us to eternal life? Do we see him as the Holy one of God, as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer? To follow Jesus involves listening carefully and seriously to his teachings, and to reflect on them in a way that helps us to grow in our faith.

At times his teachings may seem difficult and his promises seem impossible, but with faith we come to understand even the most difficult teaching, and to believe that "with Christ all things are possible." With Christ bread and wine become his Body and Blood Soul and Divinity, sins are forgiven in the sacrament of Confession, people are healed in the sacrament of the Anointing of the sick, the Holy Spirit fills us at Baptism and Confirmation, vocations are sanctified in the Sacraments of Marriage and Ordination. With all of these how could anyone choose to stop following him? This is a choice and people have made the choice to do so. May we reflect on this Gospel and give thanks to God for the gift of faith we have to follow him, and pray for those who have chosen not too. May their eyes and hearts be open to rediscover the beauty of Christ.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
21 Ordinary Time
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel text for today is the last of a series taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We are in the Year of Mark but these last five Sundays are devoted to the Gospel of John. The editors of the Lectionary obviously think that St Mark's account of the life of Christ needs some supplementing. These five Sunday Gospels have contained the heart of Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist. In the opening line of today's text we hear his listeners expressing their incredulity at what he had been telling them about the Eucharist. Jesus' response to them is quite simple. He says that his words are spirit and they are life. Those who accept his teaching will find his words to be life enhancing and they will come to a profound faith in the Son. But clearly, as we are told, his explanation of the Eucharist did not find favour with a substantial number of people and at that moment many turned away and stopped following him. It is often like this in life. We go along with something and keep listening to a particular point of view until we get to a sticking point and then we have to decide whether to accept this new teaching or not.

We have to decide whether we will go along with the teacher or whether we will walk away. In the face of something completely new we almost always get to a point where we are faced with such a choice. This is particularly so in the case of Jesus. He is an enigma and once we get to know about him and the content of his teaching we find that we have to make a choice. We either go along with him or we walk away. Of course, this presupposes that we have taken the time to hear about Jesus and to weigh up his teachings. We have to listen carefully to what he has to say and to evaluate it and see whether it is something that will enhance our human life or not. However, many people in our society live their lives in profound ignorance of Jesus. They know some things about him; that he was a great man, that he performed miracles and that he died on the Cross.

But they have never taken the trouble to study his life, they have never understood that belief in him opens the door to eternal life. Many of them might realise that there is more to Jesus than first meets the eye but they don't want to know more. They don't want to enquire too deeply because they feel at some level that they might then be required to make a choice. Such people realise that there is something unsettling about Jesus. They decide to steer clear of him because they recognise that if they get to know him better then they might be required to make some changes to their lives. They prefer to live their lives in ignorance unwilling as they are to make any personal changes. What this means is that they rarely enter a Church, they never say any prayers and they avoid discussing things such as the meaning of life or whether there is a life after death. Actually what they end up with is a deep emptiness in their lives, a feeling that something essential is missing but they don't know precisely what it is. Once the disbelievers have left Jesus is standing there surrounded only by his Apostles. So, he turns to them and asks if they will leave him too. Peter responds by saying, Lord, who shall we go to?

You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.' For all his impetuousness and his denials Peter often hits on precisely the right words to express what the other Apostles feel. They have followed Jesus on his travels around Palestine, they have listened to his teachings and while they might not understand him completely they know that he alone has the message of eternal life. We are just like those Apostles standing there in the countryside outside Capernaum. We may not be experts on Christ's teaching, we may not have explored all the doctrines of the Church but we know enough to realise that Jesus is the one who is the key to life's mysteries. We know that he is the only one who can save us. We understand very well that having a close relationship with him is the most important thing that we have to do in life. Like those Apostles we want to know more, we want to stick with Jesus and to deepen our relationship with him. We know that we cannot walk away; we realise that our true destiny is only to be found in following him; we understand very well that in order to attain eternal life we have to follow in his path and embrace his Gospel of love.

This moment of truth, this point where we must make a decision about Jesus is not something that is simply a one-off event. No, during the course of our lives we are faced with such moments over and over again. There may well have been at a certain point in our lives a time of crisis, a time when we first accepted Christ and chose to follow him. But this fundamental choice has to be frequently faced again, it needs to be constantly renewed and reinforced. Each time we come to Sunday mass we stand together as a congregation and recite the Creed. When we do this, we are reaffirming our faith in Jesus. When we do this, we are choosing once again to commit our lives to him and all that he stands for. When we do this, we are deciding once again to be his faithful follower. Reciting the Creed is not therefore just a ritual exercise it is a profound reaffirmation of our faith in Jesus and in the teachings of his Church. When we express our faith in this way we find ourselves united with Peter when he says those most insightful words, Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.