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.
To listen to this week’s homily, please select the audio file below:
Three gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, are called the synoptic gospels because they seem to “see” the story of Jesus in the same way. They were written some years apart. Scholars say Mark is the earliest, written around the year 70 AD. Matthew perhaps around the year 80 AD, and Luke between 80 and 90 AD.
All three recall the same story, but each introduces changes and additions of their own to teach the communities they’re writing for. We may hardly notice the differences, but they’re there.
For example, today’s gospel from Luke recalls an important incident that’s found in all three gospels. After ministering and teaching in Galilee for a time, Jesus announces he is going up to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again.
In all three gospels, Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say I am?” Their answers are pretty much the same: ‘John the Baptist’ others ‘Elijah’ still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Jesus then asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” All three gospels report Peter’s response: “You are the Messiah.”
Then, Jesus announces he is going up to Jerusalem and he tells his disciples to follow him. The three synoptic gospels agree on the basics of this crucial incident in the story of Jesus.
But notice in Luke’s gospel two interesting variations in Jesus’ call to follow him. “Jesus then said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. “”
Jesus speaks to “all,” not just to a few disciples, Luke says. He invites all, not just the chosen twelve, or the Jewish people, or Jewish-Christians to follow him. Luke’s gospel insists that Jesus reaches out to everyone. All are invited to follow him and all, not a designated few, have to take of their cross.
Notice, too, the subtle change Luke makes in Jesus’ call to take up our cross. It’s a “daily” cross we are to take up. “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.” It’s an everyday cross, not the cross of wood that Jesus bore; it’s not nails in our hands and feet or scourges on our back that we’re asked to bear.
What’s an everyday cross, we may ask? Open your arms wide and what do you see? We’re formed like a cross. That’s what we carry everyday–ourselves. Maybe it’s sickness or disappointment or weariness or worry about something or someone. Maybe it’s putting up with a world that wont change or dreams that wont come true.
The cross we take up is there, everyday, in ourselves and the world we live in, and our patience wears out bearing it.
“Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus says in Luke’s gospel. By adding one word, the evangelist makes clearer what Jesus would say.
The pope went home to Rome yesterday evening. But I think he stretched the meaning of that word “home,” on his visit with us here in the United States. He spoke of “our common home.”
His final homily in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families was based the “word of God which surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images. Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm.
“In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!
“Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.
“Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!
“Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith! “
We live in a bigger world than the home we live in, the church we live in, the country we live in. Thank you, Pope Francis.
To listen to the homily please play the audio below.
This parable of Jesus could come from today’s world of bankers and accountants and venture capitalists. We can miss what the story means. It’s deceptively simple, so let’s go slowly through it part by part.
First of all, the master of the house is going on a journey, so he calls three of his servants and writes out checks to them. He wants to make some money from what he gives them, and so they’re to trade till he comes back.
Right away, we see that the master of the house is very wealthy, extremely wealthy. He’s writing out big, big checks for his three servants.
The currency then was different than ours, of course. We have dollars; they had talents. One talent was a lot of money then, the equivalent to 6,000 denarii. And one denarius was the usual pay for a days work. So figure it out. My rough calculation is that 6,000 denarii would be what someone might accumulate after working 20 years.
So the one who got 1 talent got about $500, 000. 00. Not a bad amount to work with. The servant with 2 talents, was given about a million dollars. The servant with 5 talents, was about 2 and a half million dollars. That’s what I figure it was.
Whatever it was, it was a very large sum. That might be the first lesson to learn from the story. The Master of the house– God, of course– is very generous with what he gives us. We’re rich. When we were born and baptized we received, not money– most of us came into this world without a cent to our name. But we have gifts, talents. Actually, the word today means more than money. Talents encompass all the gifts of mind and body we have from God
The second lesson is that we have to use the gifts we have. “Trade till I come,” God says. We are God’s servants and what we have is not ours, it’s been given to us, and we have to account for our lives and what we do with them.. “What do you have that you have not received,“ St. Paul says.
That’s a good question. Some today say “I worked for everything I’ve got. I can do whatever I want with my life and what I have.” No we can’t. We’re God’s servants. We may not like to be called servants, but that’s what we are. The life that pulses through our bodies, health we have, the mind we have, the homes we live in, the cars we have, the jobs we do.
God gives us a great deal of freedom, as he does to the servants in the parable. He’s not standing over us every minute, telling us what to do. No, we’re free to do creatively what we can do. But God wants us to trade till he comes.
The final lesson in the parable is this. Did you notice which servant gets chastized ? It’s the one who was given one talent. His excuse is that he was worried about losing everything and so he buried his master’s money in a field. Actually, from what we know of our Lord’s time, that was the safest place you could keep precious things. Dig a hole and bury them in the fields out of sight.
I always wondered why the Master was so angry with this servant who seems only to be playing it safe. Maybe it’s because he seems to stand for all those with ordinary talents, so ordinary that they bury them and don’t use them.
There’s so much neglect of ordinary talents today, so much belittlement of them, so much of taking them for granted. We think only people with a lot are important. We stand in awe of celebraties and we miss the value of ordinary people and ordinary things and ordinary talents.
Someone sent me this little quiz by email.
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies.. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. Use the talents you have.
“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” (Charles Schultz)!