Oct 2, 2021
Click here for First Option Diocesan Homily and Resources on the Eucharist
Mark 9:30 - 37
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
After Labor Day, the season of summer unofficially comes to a close - the fall will officially begin. Even with the arrival of cooler and darker mornings and longer shadows in the evenings, I get the sense that summer does not want to be put in it's box.
Maybe, because it knows that it is, like a child, time to bed, it's not leaving without a heated protest (and we felt that last week). And I'm sure that in the coming months of the fall, and even during the winter, with what we call the Santa Ana winds, the summer we thought was sleeping quietly, wakes up every so often and blows hot air at us.
As if to assess our "readiness for the fall and winter", today's Entrance Antiphon spoke of crying out to the Lord in distress, in tribulation. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom has us meditate on the enemy's dark strategy. Psalm 54 comes from the anguish of a heart that fears betrayal. The Second Reading from St. James explores the internal origin of wars and conflicts. And the Gospel has Christ predicting his death and his resurrection. But rather than issuing us with armor to go to the front lines or a defense strategy to prevent the fall, Our Lord presents us with a child - a child shall be our standard bearer. And then he embraces this little child in his arms? What does this mean?
The humility of God is his greatest strength. Our humility before the strength of God is his greatest gift to us.
Back to the language of nature. To paraphrase St. Augustine: “Consider a tree: how as it grows, it must reach down deep into the earth so that it might shoot forth upwards. It anchors its roots deep in the ground so that it may reach the heavens. Is it not from its humility (hidden from public view) that the tree can rise to great heights? Without humility, there is no growth. Without deep and secure roots, yes, you might rise tall, but you easily collapse in the winter storm.”
Sep 15, 2021
Today’s Gospel (according to Mark) was written at a time when early Roman Christians were being arrested and tortured. Many of them suffered horrifying deaths, many of them were brutally crucified or thrown into cages to be ripped apart by lions and wild beasts.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. "
Think about it. At the time of Christ, the cross was a reminder of what happened when you antagonized the authorities. You were publicly crucified to death. The image of a cross was the reminder of a death sentence. Who goes into the battlefield handing the enemy the means to crucify them? Does it not seem logical to instead go to the front lines waving swords and plowing down anyone who stood in our way?
1. We place value on freedom, respect, on being tolerant, looking after the stranger, looking out for the poor. And this is commendable.
2. We also place value on hard work, on making sacrifices, on long hours, on physical endurance, fighting against the odds, investing in our future, and often times at a great personal cost. These are noble qualities indeed.
We are at our best when these two values meet each other, cooperate together, value each other, rather than being pitted against each other. A household divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).
How does this translate into our Christian discipleship within the Church? We cannot be part of the Church, a disciple of Christ without carrying the cross. Christ will never allow himself to be separated or detached from it. Because the Church is Christ’s Body, as a Church we have to embrace the cross, the sins of the world, our own sins, the sins of the members of the Church.
But when the Enemy gets into our mind, we are often tempted to purify Christ and his Church from the very cross he is attached to.
When we are tempted to embrace Christ without his Cross, we can keep him all nice and beautiful, not a hair out of place - no pain, no suffering, no discipline, no sacrifice. He becomes a gentle teacher. The substitute teacher! A Christ without his cross, a Christian without embracing their own Cross, is weak, soft and nonessential. The Church without a cross becomes a simple social science project.
When we are tempted to embrace the Cross without Christ, our pride will tell us we have all the strength we need to carry it ourselves. Why do we need Christ or God's grace, when we can be self-made superheroes who can lift the cross up high and threaten to drop it on the heads of our enemies. A cross without Christ is a logo, a brand mark to be designed, marketed and mass produced.
In the words of a third-century North African saint, St. Cyprian of Carthage, before he was beheaded on the shores of the Mediterranean by a politically driven lynch mob, some of them former disciples, he asked “how can anyone think themselves a Christian when they are afraid or ashamed to live as a Christian? How can a Christian hope to be with Christ in heaven someday, when they are embarrassed or afraid to belong to Christ and his Church on earth this very day?”
Let us ask our Blessed Mother for a share in her Good Friday strength. It allowed her not only to courageously stand beside the cross of her Son. At the same time, she fully opened her immaculate heart to the grace of God's sacrificial love for all of humanity. May we, with God's grace, do likewise.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sep 6, 2021
Words are very important to God. His word is creative - “Let there be Light”. In a way, the darkness heard God’s Word. And there was Light!
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug 28, 2021
The Gospel that is proclaimed today (Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) has us reflect on the purity of our hearts and how we allow, what has been embedded deep within us, to come to the surface. And when it does, we are to notice how it can influence our thought patterns, the choice of words we speak, and the behavior each one of us often feels compelled to engage in.
In this portion of the Gospel, the Evangelist St. Mark, gives a racial stereotype for his Gentile listeners of how his own fellow Jews were often perceived by others at that time. In fact, how he describes them and their customs, comes across as “more Jewish than the Jews themselves.”
Born and bred in Ireland and immigrating to the U.S. when I was in my 20's, how the average American perceived the Irish surprised me. I don’t wear green, nor do I have red hair or freckles. I was not brought up on a diet of corn beef and cabbage, drink alcohol in excess or go around greeting people with “The top of the morning to you!”
You may laugh, but maybe underneath, in my heart of hearts, I may be deeply resentful by the racial profiling. I may be secretly angry at being stereotyped. But then, you would never know. After all, I’m an Irishman! We don’t show or emotions readily. Instead, we instead use poetry, stories, and wit to express ourselves.
But this, in a way, demonstrates how difficult it often is to trace the origin of external actions and behaviors that we often get ourselves caught up in. It takes honesty and courage to track our thoughts and actions back to their source, to the secret chambers of the heart and soul.
It is often easier to make judgments about externals - about spoken words, messages or public statements - about how someone dresses or appears in public, about how someone prays or offers Mass or the type of car they drive or work they do.
Don’t get me wrong - words and actions are incredibly important - they carry force and influence the world around us for good or for bad. But so do the secrets of our hearts. They also carry equal weight and significance. Our words and actions can be out of place, wrong, inappropriate, displeasing to God. Our heart and soul can be at times in a dark place, especially when it has been affected by pride, resentment, lust or anger.
We can dress up or paper over the cracks that sometimes appear on the surface of a building such as our house or church. We can do likewise with our relationships or even our bodies. But what if by constantly covering up, we are then distracted from a personal weakness or vulnerability, an unresolved hurt or a painful memory, something that has not been completely healed and then, given an excuse, it is easily triggered and up it comes? Then the waters of that deep well out of which flows all our motivations quickly become impure.
That is what Christ speaks of in the Gospel we have just heard. They are his words of caution to me and to you. And he speaks to us, not as Americans, Irish, Europeans, Asians, African or Latinos. But as a brother and as a savior. We are His family and His Church. It belongs to Him and so do we. As St. James, from our Lord’s own family circle reminded us in Second Reading, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you, and is able to save your soul”. S.O.S.
Be careful. The evil we see out there and might want to subdue, might, in fact, be hiding also within our own heart. And that’s a tender place, easily bruised. So during these days, we should find the courage, space and the time to make a “thorough examination of conscience” - no window dressing, no hiding behind a shield, and that includes laptops, smartphones and plates and dishes that can be easily broken to pieces. The Good News is that Christ, who rose from the dead, can put all the broken pieces together. But He never puts back the broken pieces the same way we want them. Suffering and death to the old self must come first. Then all things will be new and a fresh start will begin.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Christ spoke words. He did not send Twitter messages. He Himself is the undeletable Word. We note from the Sunday Gospel (John 6:60-69), that many of Jesus’ followers and disciples turned away from Him, abandoned Him, not because they misunderstood his language – they understood Him perfectly. Instead, they could not accept his words when He told them that his flesh and blood were real food and drink that they must actually consume if they were to have eternal life.
If they understood Jesus' words symbolically, figuratively, they would not have left Him in such great numbers, numbers so great that Jesus reacted strongly, turning to Peter and the apostles asking them if they too wanted to stop following Him.
St. Peter may not have had the intellectual “smarts” to explain how bread would be turned into the sacramental heavenly Body of Christ. Instead, in his wonderful peasant faith, infused with God's grace, He knew to trust in the standard of heaven, not earth - that for God all things are possible and that the words of Jesus were not the words of a mere holy man talking about holy bread. These were the words of God Himself, providing the means for his disciples to be fed by his very life giving body and blood.
What is to become of the bread and wine during our celebration of the Mass is one of the truly unique, and indeed, astonishing teachings of our Catholic faith, passed down to us from Christ and the apostles. That the bread and wine of the Mass can truly become the substance of Christ’s heavenly body and blood is so astonishingly a part of our faith that we could not even make something like this up, even if we tried!
Is this teaching hard? Yes it is! But this is the language of Jesus, the embodiment of God - these are divine words, not mine or yours. He has the words of eternal life - I don't. We do not write the text book! We can reflect upon his words, we can use adjectives to explain them. And sometimes, we just can't!
Christ speaks to us in terms of the standard of heaven, not earth. Our Faith is never on our own terms. It is always on His terms. That's what we mean when we talk about the scandal of the cross! St. Paul understood this when He said, "We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1.23) Sometimes we just can't get our head around it. We need the peasant faith of the fisherman, open to God's grace.
As St. Peter reminds us, all we have is Jesus; there is no one else we can turn to for eternal life. We do not turn to philosophers for eternal life, nor to theologians, celebrities or even bloggers! Only Christ. Let us listen to his words and be prompted by his Spirit to believe what He says is true and life-giving.
Again, this is a message of hope - God’s love and mercy is always greater than our own highest expectations, more than we can ever imagine or ever dream off - and for us on this side of heaven, God's love and mercy for the sinner who He wants to feed with his very own life, is surely the most hardest teaching for us to truly comprehend.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Diocesan Homily and Resources on the Eucharist Sunday Eucharistic Themes to keep in mind to apply to one’s life: He took (choose), blessed, ...