Archive for the ‘Weekday Homilies’ Category

Enduring Deprivation — Monday, 20th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

August 18, 2014

Readings: Ezekiel 24:15-23, Matthew 19:16-22

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, by a sudden blow I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes, but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears. Groan in silence, make no lament for the dead, bind on your turban, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard, and do not eat the customary bread.” That evening my wife died, and the next morning I did as I had been commanded.

Then the people asked me, “Will you not tell us what all these things that you are doing mean for us?” I therefore spoke to the people that morning, saying to them: “Thus the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD: I will now desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride, the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul. …  Your turbans shall remain on your heads, your sandals on your feet. You shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.”

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich HofmannWhat does Ezekiel in the first reading have in common with the young man in today’s gospel?

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” … Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The Lord asked the rich young man to give up something precious to him, and the Lord took away something precious from Ezekiel. What if Ezekiel had rebelled after his loss, refusing to do anything further in the Lord’s service? People sometimes react to tragic loss in this way. What if that rich young man who went away sad never changed his mind? Divine callings often entail hardship, but consider the greater loss of never fulfilling the purpose of one’s life.

Every good thing, every person or possession, has come to us from God, and his desire for us is our supreme good. Therefore, the Lord is worthy of trust, even if we are stripped of what is dearly precious to us. As the suffering Job observed,

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Ezekiel’s Consolation — Tuesday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

August 12, 2014

Readings: Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The Lord GOD said to me: “As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.” It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: “Lamentation and wailing and woe!”

He said to me: “Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat. “Son of man,” he then said to me, “feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you.” I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them.”

How can a message of “lamentation and wailing and woe” taste sweet in the prophet’s mouth? Ezekiel found the message sweet because it meant God was neither blind nor indifferent to the evils in his midst and that these evils, one way or another, would not continue forever. Either sincere conversion or painful events would soon check his people’s wickedness. This was the prophet’s consolation. Jesus says:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?

Guardian Angels by JHS MannIn the parable of the Lost Sheep, we focus on the lost sheep’s consolation while forgetting the ninety-nine’s desolation. The flock may fare just fine, but they will find the experience quite unsettling. Jesus tells us:

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

For forty years, the people of our land have intentionally and legally ended the lives of roughly one million unborn children annually. What would the opposite of receiving Jesus look like, if not this? Jesus warns us:

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

This represents a warning, because God’s angels are fearsome and righteous creatures. Let us earnestly pray for our country’s conversion to a culture of life. Yet we too share Ezekiel’s consolation, for one way or another, this evil in our midst will not go on forever.

Theological Gifts & Obligations — Tuesday, 15th Week of Ordinary Time

July 15, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the visitation of Jesus Christ, Chorazin and Bethsaida had advantages that no people before them had ever enjoyed. The Word of God was before them, but they did not accept him. Incarnate love was among them, but they did not embrace him. The hope of the world was in their midst, but they did not change their ways.

Consider how much more understanding we have of Christ and his teachings than they, how much we have experienced the love of Christ and his people, how many prophesies of Christ we have seen fulfilled. How much more cause do we have to respond to him with faith, hope, and love; how much more of an obligation. As St. Bonaventure said:

“Three things are necessary to everyone regardless of status, sex, or age, i.e., truth of faith which brings understanding; love of Christ which brings compassion; endurance of hope which brings perseverance. No adult is in the state of salvation unless he has faithful understanding in his mind, loving compassion in his heart, and enduring perseverance in his actions.”

As Seen in St. Kateri — Monday, 15th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

July 14, 2014

Readings: Isaiah 1:10-17, Matthew 10:34-11:1

Today’s readings reflect three truths of Christian discipleship:

The first reading from Isaiah shows us that we must do good if we are going to worship of God:

Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.

The first half of the Gospel shows us that we will sometimes need to leave good things behind in order to follow Christ:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me… and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

The second half of the Gospel encourages us that no good thing that we do or sacrifice will go unrewarded by the Lord:

And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

These three truths of Christian discipleship are reflected in the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. She practiced penances to root out her sins and train herself in goodness. After her Catholic baptism, she was rejected by her own kin. And when she died, it is reported that the small pox scars she bore from childhood faded away, pointing to her spiritual beauty and her heavenly rewards hereafter.

Well-Equipped Missionaries — Thursday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time

July 11, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ … Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.”

Why were the Apostles sent without second tunics? Because they were not supposed to sleep outside, but to dwell with the people they met. Why no sandals or walking sticks? Because there was no need to travel far to find people who needed their message. Why no bags or money for their belts? Because they were to trust in God to provide.

Perhaps we imagine a missionary as a priest who works in a far away jungle evangelizing people of a different language and culture than our own. However, we are all called to be missionaries; to proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand by our words and deeds. There is no need to travel to distant lands. Your mission field is the people in your midst. Do not be afraid, but trust in God to show you these opportunities and to help you to take them.

Peter & Judas — Wednesday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

July 11, 2014

Judas Iscariot and the chief priests and elders at the temple, their money on the floor.Readings: Hosea 10, Matthew 10:1-7

The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter,  … and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

What was the difference between Peter and Judas? Both were full-fledged apostles (although the Gospels always list the twelve apostles with Peter first and Judas last, much like how the Lord’s Prayer begins with “our Father” and ends with “the Evil One/evil.”) Was the difference that Peter believed Jesus was a good man and Judas did not? No, for Judas said after betraying Jesus, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” Was the difference that Judas was a sinner and Peter was not? No, for at one of their first encounters, Peter “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.'” In the Passion, Judas betrayed Jesus and while Peter denied him three times beside the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard. The vital difference between Peter and Judas was in their ultimate responses to their sins.

Judas fled and fell into utter despair. Like those in our first reading who “cry out to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall upon us,’ Judas welcomed dark oblivion. After the resurrection, when Peter was fishing in his boat, Jesus appeared on the shore. Though Peter was lightly clad, he did not run and hide like Adam and Eve in shame, but swam to Jesus enthusiastically. At that second charcoal fire, Peter professed three times that he loved Jesus.

Let us follow Peter’s example rather than that of Judas and encounter Jesus in the confessional. For those who love Christ, hope in Christ, seek Christ, and run to Christ, will find his mercy.

Resting at the Well — Monday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

July 7, 2014

Readings: Hosea 2:16-22, Matthew 9:18-26

In today’s first reading from the Book of Hosea, God uses one of his favorite images: Himself as the spouse of his people.

Thus says the LORD:
I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt.
On that day, says the LORD, she shall call me “My husband…”

A Water Well in the DesertGod takes Israel back into the desert so that she will remember the first love they shared.

If we are going to live in the desert, we must have water to survive. Prayer is our water in the desert of this life. When you go to pray, you may feel as if you need to dig a new well every time, but the truth is that you can return to previous wells for water. As long as these provide, why busy yourself with digging? Simply rest beside them. When the Lord wants you to move along to another mode of prayer, he will let these wells dry up for a while.

How do you think the healed hemorrhaging woman or the resurrected little girl felt when they would remember their encounters with Jesus? These memories were refreshing wells for them, strengthening their faith and consoling their hearts. Likewise, by praying with our memories of when the Lord has manifested his closeness and power to us, we can nurture our intimacy with Jesus.

 

The Untamed Christ — Wednesday, 13th Week of Ordinary Time

July 2, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned.

Though pigs were ritually-unclean to the Jews, these Gentiles raised them to eat and trade in order to secure a comfortable life. Once Jesus casts the demons into the swine the herd runs into the sea and drowns. (Perhaps the demons drove them, predicting the discord that would result, or perhaps the animals simply could not bear the demons’ terrible presence.)

The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.

Rather than rejoicing at the restoration of their brothers, the townspeople grieve over the loss of their herds. They would wish for the demons to return to the men if that meant their pigs would be restored to their pastures. These people do not want to see any more mighty deeds from this clearly holy man, but instead beg Jesus to leave. Like the demons, they perceive Jesus as a threat to their lifestyle. The townspeople desired comfort more than righteousness. They loved bacon more than their brothers. They preferred being left alone to having Jesus.

Domesticating the person of Jesus Christ and his revolutionary gospel, so that he neither challenges nor demands anything from us, is a danger in the Christian life. The real, undomesticated Christ calls us to constant growth and sacrifice for the love of God and neighbor. As C.S. Lewis puts it, Aslan is not a tame lion, but he is good.

The Next Life — Monday, 4th Week of Lent

March 31, 2014

Readings:  Isaiah 65:17-21, John 4:43-54

Thus says the LORD: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying; No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

What are we to make of this first reading of Isaiah? Has it been fulfilled in the two-dozen centuries since it was written? Clearly not, though just a few generations from now, because of medical and technological advances, people may be living up to 125 or 150 years on a regular basis. Yet what advantage does someone who dies at 150 without God have over someone who dies at 75? And even in a future with longevity and prosperity, there will still be weeping and crying.

I think the Lord gave this vision of a new heavens and a new earth in ancient times to help his people hope in something tangible and relatable: “What is eternal life? Would I really want that? But living a very long life without sadness would be something I’d desire.” In the new heavens and earth after Jesus’ return in glory there will be complete happiness and no death at all (Revelation 21:4.) We should imagine what that will be like; an intimate community of friends, conversation and feasting, sports and play, singing and dancing, and joyful worship; while at the same time realizing that our experience of the next life will surpass all of these earthly things as we know them.

Excuses Are Always Easy To Find — Thursday, 3rd Week of Lent

March 27, 2014

Readings: Jeremiah 7:23-28, Luke 11:14-23

One the easiest things in the world to find is an excuse. People can always find a seemingly good reason to do a bad thing, or a bad reason near at hand not to do something good. We like to rationalize and justify what we already desire.

Some in the crowd were made uncomfortable by Jesus, so they dismissed his obvious power to do good as a cunning trap of the devil: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord describes those too stubborn to turn to heed his voice or change their bad path as “stiffened-necked.”

Let us pray for those who “have stiffened their necks,” that they may have enlightened minds and open hearts, and for ourselves, to recognize and renounce our own weak excuses. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

The Two Mountains — Wednesday, 3rd Week of Lent

March 26, 2014

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:5-9, Matthew 5:17-19

[W]hat great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

The greatness of Israel among the nations consisted not merely in their moral law but in their intimacy with God. As C.S. Lewis once observed, “The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.” The morality of Mount Sinai is essential to the journey, but our goal is to worship on Mount Zion.

Immediately following today’s Gospel about fulfilling the Law, Jesus declares, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and scribes kept the commandments pretty well but they were often far from God.

This Lent, let us not only focus on growing in our moral practices, but also on our love and intimacy with the Lord.

Servants, Students, & Sons — Tuesday, 2nd Week of Lent

March 19, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.

Christ is our master and we must conform our lives to his will. Our flesh resists as if it were slavery, but in God’s will we find our greatest freedom and fulfillment.

The Lord is our teacher and we must learn from him. Unlike the scribes and the Pharisees, whose words we should heed but whose example we should ignore, all of Jesus Christ’s words and deeds are fit for our emulation.

Many people interpret “call no man on earth your father” as if it were about not addressing clergy as “Father.” Yet these persons call their dads their fathers, their teachers “teacher,” and forget that St. Paul wrote “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” and “I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment,” and often referred to “Father Abraham” (1 Corinthians 4:15, Philemon 10, Romans 4:16-17) However, Jesus is actually pointing to the importance of loving God as our good and loving Father. It is good for us to love the pope, but if we feel more fondness for our Holy Father than for God the Father then we very much need to develop and deepen our devotion to our Father in Heaven.

Measures of Mercy — Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

March 17, 2014

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Last year, a teenage posted a photo on the internet of an unrolled tape measure along side the 11-inch “footlong” sandwich he had bought. The corporate response was not one of the great moments in public relations history; they said that “footlong” was a trademark term, rather than a measurement of length. The negative consumer backlash to this went viral and the corporation pledged that every foot-long would henceforth be 12-inches.

In 12th century England, there were strict laws to punish bakers who sold undersized loaves. In response, the bakers would throw in an additional loaf with every dozen to safeguard their liberty.  The baker’s dozen (of 13) was born and their customers were happy. It is wiser to error on the side of generosity with others, in both the world of business and the realm mercy.

Commerce has been linked to mercy by the Lord in both Testaments. In Old Testament Israel, merchants would use cups and weights to measure out their products to customers. Sometimes, to increase their profits, unscrupulous sellers would manipulate these measures to their advantage, as the Lord describes through the prophet Amos:

“When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the grain-bins? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the destitute for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the worthless grain we will sell!”

Such cheating was especially abhorrent to the Lord because it most exploited the poor and vulnerable. Today, Jesus tells his disciples that they should be generous with their measurements of mercy if they do not wish to be condemned:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Without rejecting the truth, or declaring evil to be good, we need to be patient and forgiving with others if we wish to be shown mercy. As St. James says, “judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; [but] mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Converting Sinners — Friday, 1st Week of Lent

March 14, 2014

Readings: Ezekiel 18:21-28, Matthew 5:20-26

Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

The scribes and Pharisees wrote off the tax collectors and prostitutes as having no hope of salvation, yet Jesus pursued and prayed for these sinners. In the first century, one of the Church’s greatest persecutors became one of its greatest apostles, Saul of Tarsus, also known as St. Paul. In the last century, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who killed thousands as an abortionist and helped to mislead millions as a co-founder of NARAL, went on to become a powerful pro-life advocate. God still rejoices in sinners turning from their evil way, and for us today, part of surpassing the scribes and Pharisees in righteousness means praying for and pursuing the conversion of sinners.

Esther & Our Father — Thursday, 1st Week of Lent

March 13, 2014

Readings: Esther C, Matthew 7:7-12

Esther was an exceedingly beautiful, orphaned, young Jewish woman who was drafted by the king of Persia into becoming one of his wives. When the wicked government minister, Haman, manipulated the king into legalizing the killing of all Jews in the empire, Esther gathered her courage to intercede with the king. She feared not only because she was secretly Jewish, but because the potential punishment for appearing before the king (the “lion” as she calls him) without having been summoned was death. However, when Esther came before the king he extended his scepter for her to touch, sparing her, and invited her to ask for whatever she wished.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus likewise reveals to us that we should not be afraid to ask God, our loving and almighty Father, to provide good things for ourselves and others:

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.


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