Archive for the ‘Weekday Homilies’ Category

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? 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: 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 “teachers,” 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.

Ninevites & Israelites — Wednesday, 1st Week of Lent

March 12, 2014

Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Luke 11:29-32

Jonah did not care much for the Ninevites. He preached the simple message God had given him, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” but his heart was not really in it. Yet by the end of the first day of Jonah’s three walk through the city, his words had spread through the city like the rumor of a fire. Everyone, from the king to the cattle, repented and were saved. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, loved his people profoundly and spent three years preaching throughout Israel with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s, yet many Israelites disregarded him.

Are we being converted like the Ninevites Jonah preached to, or remaining unconverted like the Israelites Jesus criticized? The grace of conversion is indeed a grace, but we can ask God for this grace and be open to it. We are now in the midst of our forty days; let us heed and respond to Christ’s words.

Recognizing the Christ — Thursday, 6th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 20, 2014

Readings: James 2:1-9, Mark 8:27-33

St. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, but “the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes” reject him. Would we have recognized and welcomed the Christ when he came?  Let us consider: Do we show partiality for or against others based on their popularity or prominence?

Would we have received Jesus’ challenging teachings? All the prophets were persecuted for sharing truths people refused to hear. How do we respond when someone critiques or challenges us?

Jesus was poor and perhaps wore “shabby clothes.” Do we have any friends who are poor?

As Dorothy Day said, “We love God as much as the one we love the least.” If we want to know whether we would have recognized and welcomed the Christ we should consider whether we receive and love him now, for Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25)

Gradually Growing Trees — Wednesday, 6th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 19, 2014

Readings: James 1:19-27, Mark 8:22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.

Jesus healed the blind man gradually, and he sometimes does the same with us; transforming us over months, years, or a lifetime. The change is subtle and we fail to notice it, “like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.” If we’ve been following Jesus but doubt our own growth, let us reflect on how we used to look, months or years ago.

Halfway through his cure, the blind man beholds “people looking like trees and walking.” Perhaps this more than just a distorted perception, perhaps he sees a vision of a spiritual reality. Jesus walked and suffered with “a tree”: his cross. (Galatians 3:13) If we have the eyes to see, we recognize that every person walks with a cross of their own. So “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” remembering that people resemble gradually growing trees.

Refusing Signs — Monday, 6th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 17, 2014

Readings: James 1:1-11, Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Yet, soon before this scene in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus took seven loaves and a few fish and miraculously fed about 4,000 people with them. That is a sign as surely as his resurrection will be, so how can Jesus say “no sign will be given to this generation”? Perhaps because there was no sign that his critics would accept.

The Pharisees sought “a sign from heaven.” If Jesus had performed some meteorological sign for them they may well have judged him as more evil than they had thought, in union with the demons of the air, just as they had condemned his manifest power to cast out demons. (Mark 3:21-30) They asked for proof but refused to accept evidence in his favor–they were of people of two minds, like St. James describes in the first reading:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

Let us pray for those who do not believe; for the sincere, that they may be given sufficient evidence to change their minds, and for the obstinate, that their hardened hearts may be opened. And let us who believe in God (as even the Pharisees did) not cause Jesus to “[sigh] from the depth of his spirit.” Let us be trusting and docile in following him.

The Importance of Praise — Wednesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 12, 2014

Readings: 1 Kings 10:1-10, Mark 7:14-23

Solomon & the Queen of Sheba, Pleased to Meet Each Other.The Queen of Sheba was genuinely impressed by King Solomon and told him so: “The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king. “Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the LORD, your God, whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” This was not flattery, lies told to manipulate him, but real praise. The praises the Queen spoke to the son of David equally apply to Jesus Christ.

When we perceive good things in another, we should note and compliment it. Not only does this encourage and help that person, but it benefits us as well; it increases our humility, gratitude, and joy. We should especially praise God, not because He needs it (though He appreciates it,) but because the praise which comes “from within the man, from his heart,” helps to sanctify him. As one Mass Preface says, “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Simon’s Missed Opportunity — Thursday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 19, 2013

Simon the Pharisee missed his opportunity. He invited Jesus to his house, but neglected to provide him water for his feet, oil for his head, or a kiss of greeting. Maybe Simon was preoccupied and the oversight was accidental, or maybe the discourtesy was intended, but in any case Simon failed to minister to Jesus from head to toe, he missed this chance to show him love.

We, however, are offered Simon’s opportunity every day, for the members of Christ’s body are in our midst. When we serve and greet them, his high and his lowly, we are serving  and loving him. Whatever you do for one of the least brothers of his, you do for him. (Matthew 25:40)

The Ever-Timely G.K. Chesterton — Wednesday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

September 18, 2013

Today’s readings remind me of things said by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936,) the British journalist, writer, husband, and convert to the Faith, whose cause for canonization has just been opened.

In the Gospel, the same critics who rejected John the Baptist, who came “neither eating food nor drinking wine,” as too extreme are rejecting Jesus for being too lax, on account of his “eating and drinking.” This is akin to something Chesterton noticed about criticisms of Christianity while he was still a non-believer. Christianity was supposedly too meek, and the cause of countless wars. It was condemned for its penitential austerity, and condemned for its opulence. The Church imprisoned women, yet was criticized as being “too feminine.” The Church promoted celibacy against the good of marriage, and it promoted marriage, forcing the shackles of marriage and family upon us. The Church feared sexuality, and Catholics had too many children. (Though this was a century ago, similar arguments are still made today.) Chesterton eventually concluded that Christianity was sane and all its critics mad—in various ways.

Why did Chesterton go on to become a Catholic? Partly because he did not see how the Bible could be wielded as a weapon against the Catholic heritage:

The ordinary sensible skeptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, “This is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.” But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned?  Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible. To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street.

What is the “pillar and foundation of truth?” Most Protestants would say “the Bible,” yet Sacred Scripture (in today’s first reading from St. Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy) answers “the Church.” The Bible cannot be trusted more than Catholic Church, which wrote and canonized its books (not to mention taught, revered, and preserved them for two millennia.)

(May the works and prayers of G.K. Chesterton aid us in the world today.)

Autobiographical Beatitudes — Tuesday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

June 11, 2013

The Beatitudes of Jesus are autobiographical:

Jesus was poor in spirit.
Jesus mourned.
Jesus was meek.
Jesus hungered and thirsted for righteousness.
Jesus was merciful.
Jesus was clean of heart.
Jesus was a peacemaker.
Jesus was persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Jesus was insulted and persecuted and had every kind of evil uttered against him falsely.

Jesus’ saints are people like him, and they share in his reward:

Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
They are now comforted.
They inherit the land.
They are now satisfied.
They have been shown mercy.
They now see God.
They are his children.
Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
And their reward is great in heaven.

Today, St. Paul told the Corinthians:  “Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.”  If you and I share in Christ’s likeness, we too will share in the reward that belongs to Jesus and his saints.


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