For this week’s homily please play the video file below.
Video Homily here:
To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:
If I ask you what gifts you have, you might say, “Well, I can cook a good plate of pasta, or I’m a pretty good carpenter. I can fix a lot of things around the house. I think I’m a good mother or good father, good grandmother, good grandfather.” We actually have a lot of gifts; many we may not be aware of.
Now, I can tell you one gift we all have. Unfortunately this gift is one we may not be aware of. That’s the gift of prayer. We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. Let’s begin our reflection on today’s gospel about the widow who gets what she wants from an unjust judge with that. We all have the gift of prayer.
If you notice in the gospels, Jesus teaches his disciple how to pray, but he never says they can’t pray. He never says that to anyone: he presumes that prayer is a gift everyone has. Prayer is a gift God gives to everyone, whether we use that gift or not. The greatest sinner as well as the greatest saint, has the gift of prayer.
Think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who turned to Jesus and said “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We might guess that the thief hadn’t prayed in a long time, maybe his prayer is a cry of desperation. But he prays, and is prayer is answered. More than he ever expected. The gospels are filled with that kind of prayer.
Now, what Jesus is concerned with in our parable today is that we get tired of praying. For one reason or another, we give it up. Maybe we don’t think praying is going to do any good. God isn’t listening, or we’re not good enough to speak to God. Maybe we think we can take care of ourselves. We don’t need the help of God. For all of these reasons we can lose our appreciation of the power of prayer; we think it’s really not necessary, so prayer becomes an unused gift, a neglected gift.
Now, let’s look at the example in the gospel that Jesus gives. He offers the picture of “a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.” He’s a dishonest judge, one of “Untouchables” He doesn’t care about God or anybody else. He seems to have absolute power, or at least he thinks he has.
On the other hand, there’s a widow, who seems to have no power at all. She seems powerless, maybe someone has cheated her; someone has wronged her. She’s looking for justice, but can she get it? We could speculate further. Who caused this injustice ? Maybe it’s a friend of the judge, or the judge himself who seems to control everybody and everything. but whoever and whatever it is, she wants what’s right, and humanly speaking, it doesn’t seem she has any chance of getting justice.
But she keeps going, she doesn’t let up, she doesn’t lose hope. She’s persistent. The judge says, “She keeps bothering me, she wearing me down, and he finally gives in and justice is done.
What about God, Jesus asks? Compare him to the unjust judge. He’s the very opposite, He cares for the poor widow; he wants justice done.
“Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says,”Jesus says,
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
We hear those words of Jesus and questions arise. Justice will be done, the rights of God’s chosen ones will be secure. God will see justice done speedily. Speedily?
Speedily for us means right away, doesn’t it? And when things are not done right away, we lose faith, we wonder if God cares or can God do anything about it at all.
That’s why we have to keep the poor widow in mind. What keeps her going is faith and hope. It’s obvious she believes she has Someone more powerful that the unjust judge on her side. And so do we. But God’s way of securing our rights, God’s way of having his kingdom come, God’s time is not ours. We have to keep praying, keep knocking at the door, keep asking, keep seeking, night and day.
The biggest problems in the world, the greatest challenges we face can be met, if we like the poor widow believe in the gift of pray and pray with faith, night and days, that God’s will be done.
To listen to this week’s homily, please select the audio file below:
Some years ago, I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC with a cousin of mine who fought in that war. We were passing along the wall where names of those who were killed in that war were inscribed, when he stopped and pointed to a name.
One day, he said, his artillery unit was ordered to a forward position; he was the officer in charge. Just as he was ready to get into the helicopter, word came that he was wanted for a meeting at headquarters, so he got out of the helicopter and told a junior officer to take over; he would join them as soon as he could.
That day the unit took heavy fire; the name he pointed to on the wall was the officer who took his place.
“Why am I living and he’s not?” That’s a question he keeps asking, he told me. “Why am I alive?”
That’s really the ultimate question in today’s readings. The lepers who were cured by Jesus were facing death. There was no cure for their disease. Leprosy was so frightening then that those affected by it were driven from their homes and families to live in isolated places and forbidden to go near anyone. Jesus gave them the miracle of life.
It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor. Namaan, the Syrian general, whom we read about in our first reading, was one of the most powerful people in the world, but he had leprosy; it was a death sentence. In desperation he went down to Israel looking for a cure, a miracle. Washing in the Jordan River, he received the miracle of life.
The ten lepers were cured, our gospel reading says, but only one was truly thankful. The other nine seem to take the life they were given for granted. Do those nine represent most of us? The one who was thankful was a Samaritan.
Namaan, the Syrian, was also thankful. He went to the prophet Elisha after being cured and offered him gifts. No, the prophet said, life is God’s gift, not mine, and he wouldn’t take anything from the Syrian.
“Then at least let me take some dirt from this place, ‘two mule loads of earth,’” Namaan says, “so that I can take it back with me and stand on it and remember and give thanks to God for what I have received here. “ He won’t forget the gift of life and how to use it.
That’s the great challenge we all face–not to forget that life is a gift and it’s been given to us by God to live well every moment, each day, as long as God gives it to us.
Our church is a place of thanksgiving. Above all, our church is a place where we give thanks. Our Mass is also called Eucharist, an act of thanksgiving. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” “It’s truly right and just” that we do this. In this place we remember the God of Life who gives us life. Here too we receive a promise of life beyond this, greater than this, through Jesus Christ.
We have been given the gift of life, a precious gift. Don’t take it for granted. We thank God for it and try with all our strength to live it as we should.
For an audio homily:
Faith like a mustard seed
Like the apostles, we would like a stronger faith. “Increase our faith,” they ask Jesus. Give us faith that understands everything immediately and sees everything clearly–right away! We can hear ourselves asking for faith like that too.
In response, Jesus offers the image of a mustard seed. Look at this tiny seed, he says. With faith like this, you can accomplish the most impossible things. What does he mean?
A mustard seed is so small that you hardly can see it in the palm of your hand, Yet once in the ground it grows into a full sized tree, through cold and heat, nights and days, all kinds of weather. But it takes time.
Faith is like that. It grows, but its growth takes place over time, day by day, through the common experiences that come our way. God dwells in the ground of daily life and it’s there we meet him most of all. That’s why the psalm for today’s Mass insists: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Today in countless little things, in unassuming moments, God speaks to us. God acts. And even as the moments slip by, God’s plan unfolds. We need a daily faith, a patient faith, a faith like the mustard seed, to wait until it reaches its completion. “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”
A daily faith that watches God’s plan unfold in the course of things.
Listen to the homily here:
As our young people begin school we pray for them, but let’s not forget to pray for good teachers for them. When I entered my community, The Passionists, in 1950, I was fortunate to have a teacher who went on to become one of the leading figures in the environmental movement. His name was Father Thomas Berry. You can find information about him on Wikipedia. He died in 2009.
I remember the first day he came into class with a stack of booklets in his hands. “We have to know what’s going on today in the world,” he said, “and so we’re going to study The Communist Manifesto.”
Now remember, this was 1950. Senator Joe McCarthy had begun a witch-hunt to root out Communist sympathizers and I think The Communist Manifesto was on the church’s list of forbidden books. We studied it.
Fr. Tom never mentioned Joe Mc Carthy or the threats of a Communist takeover in Europe or what was happening then in China. No, he was interested in where the Communist Manifesto came from. Beyond Karl Marx and Lenin, he traced it back to the Jewish prophets and their demands for justice for the poor and human rights. Probably the prophet with the strongest voice against injustice to the poor was the prophet we hear in our first reading today: the Prophet Amos.
Amos was sheepbreeder, he bred sheep in northern Israel about 700 years before Christ. In those days Israel prospering and so were the countries around her, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, yet prosperity came at a cost. They were getting everything they wanted–at least, the elite of those societies were getting everything they wanted– and more often than not it was at the expense of the poor.
You can hear Amos’ indictment, not only the people of Israel, but her neighbors as well, for trampling on the needy and destroying the poor of the land.
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
Amos was an ordinary sheep herder, but he knew what was going on, and he wasn’t afraid to say what he saw. A prophet calls out everyone, kings, rulers, political people, priests, religious leaders, business people, anyone who’s cashing in on the needy and the poor of the land.
The Lord won’t forget what you have done, he tells them.
God won’t forget what you have done. Notice, the prophet doesn’t appeal to economics and say it’s not good economics to neglect the poor and have a society of “have’s and have nots.” The prophet doesn’t appeal to politics and say a fractured society isn’t good for a community; it will lead to or to violence, riots, internal instability. The prophet doesn’t appeal to human good feeling and say that being good to the poor will help you feel better about yourself. No.
A prophet like Amos sees the world through God’s eyes and God’s values. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Saints like Mother Theresa do the same thing. They see the world through God’s eyes and God’s values.
That’s why we need to listen to prophets and saints. They help us see things, even the complicated things, right.