22 January 20173 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 4:12-23

Four year old Jill asked, "God is bigger then us and lives in us, right?" Her mom agreed. Jill blurted out, "If God is bigger than us and lives in us, shouldn't He show through?" Jill is a promising theologian. Jesus possessed a sophisticated Early Warning System. Word reached him that John the Baptist had been jailed. He knew if He wanted to avoid arrest, He must flee John's country. His instincts pointed Him to Galilee. Even blindfolded, He knew that territory well. Nobody would find Him there. Besides, the time had come for Jesus to begin His preaching about His Father's Kingdom. He arrived in the north after a forced march. He checked in with His mother and had home-cooked meals. After His forty day fast, Mary must have been terrified at the looks of Him. He sold His tools at a yard sale. He would not be needing them again. He put the funds in the Nazareth Savings Bank for His mom and got a Visa credit card. Jesus was about to begin His second career. It would last but three years. Yet, the world still reels from that decision. Then He set up His headquarters not in Nazareth but in Capernaum. That was a gutsy call. Like many seaports, Capernaum was seedy. Its citizens were among the most violent in Galilee. Many would steal the eyes out of your head and tell you that you were born blind. Citizens there would prefer to be called former citizens of Capernaum. But it had one big plus. The town was sitting on a heavily traveled road.

Merchants from Syria and Phoenicia in the north would motel overnight in the town as they headed south. Those coming out of Egypt and other African countries heading for the north country would do likewise. Jesus would never want for a ready audience. These people would listen to fresh ideas. They would carry His story to whatever countries their business took them. That is the reason we non-Palestinians are Christians today. Also from Capernaum He could move out into all of the province of Galilee. It was not a large area. It measured about fifty miles from bottom to top and perhaps twenty-five miles from west to east. Jesus was no stranger to walking. He was in marvelous condition. In addition, the plentiful winds on the Sea of Galilee would carry Him in any direction by sailboat taxi. He had to pick up a team first before He began His serious work. Thus His famous invitation to the brothers Simon and Andrew and to the brothers James and John. These men were no spiritual midgets. Jesus had first met them down in John the Baptist's country. Like Him, they had researched the Baptizer and liked what they had seen and heard. They were conscious of the spirit portion of their own persons. Nor was Jesus an unknown to them. They had traveled in His company. No doubt they had heard Him preach often. They may even have witnessed miracles. They had become as charmed of Jesus as we are. When they accepted His invitation to sign on, they were bold men.

They were trading in a middle-class living for a precarious one. They were, after all, commercial fishermen. They owned their own boats. When was the last time you could afford to put fresh lobster, crabmeat, and shrimp on your table? Jesus was offering them not peace but the sword. And an executioner's two-edged sword awaited three of them a short way down the road. Jesus' invitation was directed not to their heads but to their hearts. Had it been the other way around, they might not have enlisted as charter members of a start up enterprise. Very few of us reason our way into the Church. Most of us become hypnotized with Jesus. It is not His clever words that move us. It is His very person. He was and remains a complete original. One genuine contact and one is addicted for life. (William Barclay) Once Jesus had His team, He began His work in earnest. Do reflect that today's Gospel tells us Jesus "cured the people of every disease and illness." Count them and you will discover that nine of the ten miracles in Matthew's Gospel concern healings. He was concerned both getting these people to heaven and in helping them today. His deeds, said an observer, became His message. So it must be with us. There is no dearth of work. According to the United Nations, 800 million people and rising are malnourished in the world. This week let God show through you. Do not disappoint Jill, who opened this homily, and above all don't disappoint yourself.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Call

Peter and Andrew, James and John heard the call of the Lord, dropped everything and followed Him. They were not the sort of people anyone would suspect of being religious. They were common, everyday people, fishermen. They were not the sort of people anyone would suspect could convince others to change their lives. They were common, everyday people, fishermen. They were not the sort of people that anyone would suspect could take the position of leadership in the conversion of the world. They were common, everyday people, fishermen. But they were called. They responded. And God worked his wonders through them. They and their companions were not an easy bunch to train in the Lord's way. They just couldn't seem to get the message straight. They wanted Jesus to call down fire and brimstone on the Samaritans. They fought with each other over who would have the greatest authority in the Kingdom of Heaven. They ran in fear when Jesus was arrested. There must have been times that Mary just rolled her eyes when she heard about the antics of these characters. They were difficult to teach in the ways of the Lord, but they did learn and as a result we are here, members of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Of course, the disciples had a secret teacher, a mystical teacher. They had the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit they were able to transform their lives and convey the joy of serving Christ to their companions.

This Sunday's readings have led me to a reflection on the vocation to the priesthood and religious life. I wish I could find a way to communicate to you, and particularly to our young people, my feelings about the priesthood. For me, the priesthood is the greatest life possible. I am certain that many of our married and our committed single people can also say, "For me, this is the greatest life possible.” Back to the priesthood, though. Sometimes I'm called upon in emergency situations to bring the sacraments to a person I have never met. If I only did that once in my life, my life would be have meaning and purpose, but this is an everyday event for a priest. I've been blessed to be able to do this for forty years. The ancient Hebrews of the psalms and wisdom literature spoke about their longing to sit at the gates of the city and meditate on Scripture. The priest is obliged to do this every day. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is basically psalms and readings from scripture. We prepare homilies. Sometimes we need a break from preaching. Sometimes you need a break from our preaching.

But it is a wonderful life to be obligated to spend so much time with the Word of God. Then there is the Mass. The Mass! One of my main motivation to become a priest was to be able to celebrate Mass. It is beyond my imaging that God would allow human beings to act in His Person and recreate the offering of His Son at the Last Supper and on the Cross, but that is what happens every time the priest celebrates Mass. I have to tell you an experience I had way back when I was a deacon less than a year away from being ordained a priest. At the time I used to help out as a chaplain at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I took a class at Ohio State University for new priests, lawyers, doctors, nurses and social workers. The purpose of the class was to develop a professional inter-disciplinary approach for people in critical situations. When we got together the first night in our inter-professional groups, the social worker objected to my presence. "What does he have to offer? Just a lot of mumble jumble. He shouldn't be here?” Everyone looked at me for a response. Having spent the last two years working with on the oncology floor, it was easy for me to answer her question. I just stated what I had experienced: "When the doctor says, ‘We'll do our best to keep the patient comfortable until the end comes,' and the nurse is happy to be able to be busy with other patients, and the lawyer waits for death to complete his responsibilities, and the social worker has no programs for the comatose, the family looks to the priest for hope and consolation. That's what I'm doing here.”

A couple of years ago I was speaking to a seminarian who was helping out at the International Institute for the Clergy. I told him that he was entering the greatest life in the world. He responded, "Yeah, I guess priests really do have it easy. They have everything that they could desire. They routinely go on vacations that most people would long to go on once in their lives.” I told him that he completely misunderstood me. I certainly hope that he was not becoming a priest for the sake of some temporal benefits. If he was, I'm afraid that he wouldn't last very long. God takes care of his priests, true, but he also expects more from them than anyone other than a priest could imagine. What I tried to express to the seminarian was that the priesthood was the greatest life in the world because it was thoroughly about Jesus. The priest acts in the person of Jesus, Personna Christi, by virtue of the call of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit. No action of a person's life can be greater than acting in the person of the Lord. At the same time, when I'm at priests' meetings I'll often think, "We are a strange looking lot.” Priests have more idiosyncrasies, more foibles than the average male. Maybe that's because we don't have wives to keep us in line.

Sometimes I think that individuals are chosen to be priests who themselves can best demonstrate that God can work through anyone. And that is what makes being a priest so very exciting. The priest realizes that somehow or other God does his work despite the human being he uses. No one should feel discouraged from being a priest or a sister for that matter because he or she does not feel worthy enough. Who is? And no one should be deprived of the opportunity to become a priest, or a sister for that matter, because relatives want something else for them. To discourage a vocation is to discourage a person from entering into the greatest life in the world. There was a day, not all that long ago, when the people felt obliged to provide priests and sisters from their family for the future of the Church. "Who is going to be the priest in our family?” they would ask. I don't believe that we need to go back to the methodology of the past, but we do need to embrace the Christian, Catholic attitudes that motivated the people to seek among themselves those who would be open to the call of the Lord and encourage them to follow him. This Sunday we pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. May more and more of our young men and women receive the call. May they listen to the call. May they follow, and, may they allow the Spirit to work through them.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Ordinary Time
They Left their Boat and their Father (January 22, 2017)

Message: God set up this whole scheme of marriage and family: That we would learn love, not just for a day, but for life eternal. Venerable Bishop Sheen used to say that the key to unlocking the Bible is the "Divine Nuptuals." The Bible begins with the marital union of our first parents and concludes with Jesus the Bridegroom receiving his bride the Church. We see the Divine Nuptuals written on almost every page. It's interesting today that when Jesus calls James and John they "leave their boat and their father." The book of Genesis describes that reordering of one's life: father and mother no longer have first place, but rather one's spouse. I had a wonderful experience of the Sacrament of Matrimony that I would like to share with you. Right after Christmas I brought a nine-person delegation to the Mary Bloom Center in Peru.

Included was an engaged couple I was particularly close to. I encouraged them to get married in Peru and gave three reasons: 1) Why wait? Studies show that when a man and woman have made a basic commitment of their lives, they gain little and can lose a lot by waiting. 2) They would avoid the nightmare of finding the "perfect setting" with all the implied competition - and deciding who to invite and who not to invite. 3) It would be a beautiful experience for the children and families of the Mary Bloom Center. The children enthusiasticaly took part in learning songs in English & Spanish - and forming an honor guard for the bride & groom. Beyond these reasons I have to say that I like the St. Mary of the Valley approach. When I became pastor seven and a half years ago, I inherited the custom of monthly blessing of those with anniversary of matrimony. This blessing emphasizes that marriage is not a day but a lifetime. And for life eternal. Today St. Paul tells to work and pray to overcome divisions. That's the reason, by the way, that God set up this whole scheme of marriage and family: That we would learn love, not just for a day, but for life eternal. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic Matthew 4: 12-33
Gospel Summary
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he left Nazareth and went to Capernaum. Herod Antipas was ruler of this territory, Galilee of the Gentiles, regarded as a region of God-forsaken pagan ways. It is here that Jesus goes to take up what is now the dangerous mission of John, to proclaim the coming of God's kingdom. Jesus then proceeds to call Peter, Andrew, James and his brother John to follow him as disciples. Through Jesus, what has been spoken through the prophet Isaiah is at last fulfilled: “. . . the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has risen." Life Implications Matthew graphically portrays the unredeemed human condition: John, victim of the injustice of arrest and subsequent execution; people sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Hearers of Matthew's gospel already know that Jesus and many who became his disciples soon would meet the same kind of injustice and violent death as John.

Graham Greene, in his novel The Power and the Glory, portrays the hopelessly fallen human condition in a similarly graphic way through the thoughts of the main character: “The knowledge of the world lay in her like the dark explicable spot in an x-ray photograph; he longed­—with a breathless feeling in the breast —to save her, but he knew the surgeon's decision—the ill was incurable." The good news of Christian faith is that no experience of our human condition, however “incurable" it may seem, even death, is hopeless. The mission of Jesus is to proclaim that God loves us and wants to give himself to us if we but turn to accept him. Jesus, “God with us," is the incarnation of this supreme love—light for people who sit in darkness, life in a land overshadowed by death. The gospel today also reminds us that Jesus calls each of us by name to follow him: our ultimate happiness depends upon our response. No human project or love, however great, may be preferred (“ They left their boat and their father and followed him"). In this Sunday's liturgy we might pray for the gift of faith to follow Jesus into the life of God's love. This is the faith that overcomes the world of violence, darkness and death. And with the gift of sharing Christ's faith comes a peace that surpasses understanding. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Third Sunday Ordinary Time, Modern Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
This Gospel passage takes place right after Jesus had spent forty days in the desert praying and fasting in preparation for his ministry. This forty day retreat began with his baptism by John in the Jordan, and it ends with him receiving word that John had been arrested. The time had come for Jesus to begin his public ministry. Matthew tells us that his message was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the message Jesus preached in various ways, from parables, to instructions, and through miracles. All of these were words and acts that were meant to touch the hearts and souls of Scribes and Pharisees, fishermen and carpenters, tradesmen and even sinners. As we know, the Pharisees and scribes, were less likely to take his words to heart and focused more on discrediting him. Maybe this is the reason that when it came time for Jesus to select his apostles he began by calling four fishermen. Later he would add to the group men of various backgrounds, who didn’t seem to be on a leadership tract in life. Jesus saw otherwise and called them to follow and learn from him. For Simon and Andrew, James and John, there was a power to the call of Jesus. They immediately left their nets, their work, and in the case of James and John, their father, and followed Jesus. It was a call that took the apostles to new places both geographically and spiritually. They changed their assumption that part of their call was to protect Jesus from people trying to vie for his attention, even children, to realizing that Jesus was welcoming to all. He showed them that to be a follower there are times when one must put aside their agenda and plans so as to minister.

They changed their view that sinners, lepers and other outcasts should be avoided, instead the learned from Jesus to treat them as brothers and sisters. They learned from Jesus that to be a leader was to be a servant willing to wash the feet of his followers, and suffer death out of love for us. The first question that comes from this Gospel is, "How is Jesus calling us to follow him?” We can respond by saying, "I have no special gifts, what can I do?” We each have been blessed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit that brings to us various charisms of service. Recognize and appreciate the wonderful gifts with which we have been blessed. Be willing to use these charisms (particular gifts) in the way God is calling me to use them. There is that temptation to make our own plans, and to figure out what we think is God’s plan on our own terms. The true follower is willing to set aside their plans and respond to God’s plan. We might not leave fishing boats, torn nets and even parents, but we are called to leave part of ourselves behind and follow Jesus. The call to discipleship is one that each of us has received and the Gospel reminds us of this call. May we be more attentive to this call. May we be more mindful in quickly answering the call. May we experience the beauty of accepting the call with faith and acting on it. In this way we will become like the first apostles who quickly responded, continued to learn during their three years walking with Jesus and the years afterwards during which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they did what they probably never imagined they would do when first called; traveled to the ends of the earth. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The Sundays of Ordinary Time lead us through the three years of Christ's public ministry. We began last week with his identification as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist and this week we hear how he called the Apostles to follow him. Next week we will start to hear the most important segment of his teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Gospel chosen for today we hear how Jesus begins by taking up residence in Capernaum then how he identifies himself as the Light to the Nations as foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. It goes on to show him choosing his first Apostles. Then the passage concludes by telling us how he went around the whole of Galilee teaching and healing. The selection of the Apostles at first sight seems to be fairly random, with Jesus simply walking past and calling them, but this surely cannot have been the case. He first calls the two brothers Andrew and Simon Peter; but we know from John's Gospel that Andrew had already been a follower of John the Baptist and that he had told his brother about Jesus and how John the Baptist had said that he was the Messiah.

So these two brothers at least knew something about Jesus before they were called, even if only his identity as the Messia. It sounds like they were looking for the Messiah and were prepared to answer the call if it came. When Jesus passes by and says that he will make them fishers of men if the follow him, they simply leave their nets on the shore and go after him. In the case of James and John, who were also bothers, it is thought by some scholars that John was also a disciple of John the Baptist. Just as Andrew did, it is accepted that John told his brother James about Jesus. If this is true it means that in both cases these two sets of brothers at least knew about Jesus beforehand and were also very aware that John the Baptist had proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. What we see here then is that these two sets of brothers where in some way prepared for Christ's appearance and so were ready to respond to his call when it came. At this point in the Gospel of Matthew we are only given these four names as specifically called to be Christ's disciples.

We have to wait till Chapter Ten until we get a full list of the twelve whom Jesus chose from among the larger group of disciples to be his Apostles. We should note the difference between these two designations of disciple and Apostle. A disciple is anyone who follows Jesus. This means that he or she is someone who listens to the teaching of Jesus and who tries to put it into practice. In the Gospels, the word disciple usually refers to those who followed Jesus around Palestine and who listened to his teaching and wanted to know more about his message. At one point in the Gospel of Luke we hear of Jesus sending out seventy-two of his disciples to hand on the Gospel message to those living in the various villages. Once they have fulfilled their mission they return rejoicing saying that ‘even the demons submit to us in your name.' The Apostles, however, are those whom Jesus has specially sent out as his representatives. The word Apostle literally means ‘one who is sent' but perhaps it has more of the meaning of an ambassador rather than a messenger boy. An Apostle represents his master and can in certain circumstances stand in for him. Today we regard the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles and we most definitely hold them in very high esteem and we regard them as Christ's official representatives to us. We are told that Jesus began his teaching with the message, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.'

This is very much along the same lines as the teaching of John the Baptist who preaches a very similar message of repentance. It seems then that this is the precondition before anyone can truly accept Jesus' message; they must repent. What we repent of is, of course, our sins. We come to the realisation that we can only live decent and proper and truly fulfilled lives if we follow God's laws. We discover for ourselves that God makes these laws not for any arbitrary reason but because his laws are in our own best interests and that following them is the only way to achieve true happiness. Once we have expressed sorrow for our sins we can then start living our lives in accordance with Christ's Gospel of love. It is then that we begin to understand that following his teaching brings us great rewards. Although the things Christ tells us seem to be the opposite to the way the world sees things, we discover that they actually bring us more fulfilment that anything the world could offer. The basis of Christ's teaching is that the strongest bond in the world is the bond of love. He tells us too that the poor are especially loved by God.

He also instructs us to love our enemies. He urges us to put great faith in the power of prayer. He reveals to us that it is the hidden things that are the most important of all, and he advises us to put our trust in the spiritual and not the material. All these things are part of his Gospel as well as many other truths such as his teaching that status and worldly power are without merit in God's eyes. He invites us to live our lives with truth and justice as our main priorities and he tells us to prefer doing good to others than striving to achieve our own aggrandisement. When we start to live our lives in this way we find that we become more and more his true disciples and we want to share his insights with others. We do not pass on this teaching as if we were salesmen with a product to peddle or authoritarian types who want to impose these rules of life on those who are not naturally disposed to receive them. No, the way of a true disciple of Christ is the way of gentleness and love.

We get our message across by simply suggesting these ideas to those around us, we do not ever impose them on others. We demonstrate that these teachings are worthwhile through the example of our lives and not by means of long lectures. We show great respect to our brothers and sisters in the human family and we speak to them words which demonstrate the values of the Gospel. We speak to them words of forgiveness, words of hope, words of charity, words of truth and love. Because we know that it is only by living the out values of the Gospel as well as we can that we will be able to give an authentic example of what it is to be a Christian. This is what it means to be a disciple, this is what it means to be a true Apostle of the Gospel of Jesus.
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