02 July 201713 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 10:37-42

A missionary went to an island to introduce Christianity. He spoke to the natives about such subjects as virtue, justice, and sin. His audience was unimpressed. He bored them out of their skulls. He concluded it was time to cut his losses and head home. The natives agreed and made him a set of genuine alligator luggage "to go."

Since his ship would not arrive for months, the priest translated the Gospels into their language. A time came when he wanted to test his work's value. So, he read to the natives the details about the sufferings and death of Jesus.

The natives were overwhelmed by the passion. They asked him to read the passion chapters again. Finally, their chief said, "Why did you wait so long to tell us about a God who voluntarily suffers for us? You must not leave. Tell us more about this strange God who died for us." Soon the priest had to write for more missionaries to deal with his many converts. He had learned people are not attracted to Christianity by dry catechetical recitals but by the crucified Christ.

Have you ever wondered why so many people, who come to church only to be hatched, matched, and dispatched, aka baptized, married, and buried, wear crosses? Proudly they wear them around their necks, on their fingers, and dangling from their ear lobes. I spent a distracting hour with a woman who wore one on each nostril.

I speak not merely of the people who drink six packs of beer for exercise and have room temperature IQs. Nor do I refer only to the glitzy show business types who would not be caught dead without three crosses on their bronzed, lean persons.

I am also talking about those with megadollars. The Saturday before Palm Sunday, Tiffany jewelers of Manhattan's Fifth Avenue traditionally advertises in The New York Times a small cross. It is set in platinum and weighed down with gold, diamonds and rubies. The asking price last time out was over $22,000. Obviously there has to be a goodly number of the American aristocracy eager to place the cross around their elegant necks.

Some puzzled people will turn up their nose at the cross. They will ask, "Why would anyone want to wear something as negative as a cross? Why not wear a tasteful symbol that recalls the resurrection and final victory of the Teacher?"

Check the history of Christianity. It establishes that those who remove Christ from the cross in their preaching will find themselves in the same situation as the missionary who opened our tale. They will retire licking their wounds. Read about St Paul in Acts 17 and how he went 0 for 4 in Athens when he neglected to speak of the crucifixion. He never repeated that mistake.

Intriguingly the early Christians may have learned from Paul's faux pas. The first part of the Christ tale that they committed to papyrus was the passion narrative. They were most anxious to tell every Grunewald detail, no matter how gory, of the suffering, crucifixion, and death of their Saviour. They would have applauded Mel Gibson's 2004 The Passion of the Christ but judged it conservative.

They would turn up their noses at the "crosses" in some of our churches. I speak of the ones that show the resurrected Christ in His Easter Sunday designer outfit. Sometimes He even wears a tailored damask stole. One is hard put to find His wounds. The Saviour is dressed for the Easter parade down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

If we search for the person of our deepest longings, we find the wounded and scarred Christ.

Why are we drawn to the cross like a magnet?

Firstly, the cross telegraphs the information that God is a tremendous lover. A prison chaplain will walk with a murderer to receive a lethal injection, but he will not accept it for him. Would you? But Jesus has done precisely that for us. The cross reminds its wearer, devout or not, that this mad world does have a purpose and God does not make throwaways.

Secondly, the cross speaks of the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus' willingness to forgive sins is more remarkable than His miracles. (Karl Barth)

Thirdly, the cross and today's Gospel tell us if there was a cross even in Christ's life, then our lives must not go into a tailspin when one appears in ours. We must carry it. We must follow in His footsteps and walk out of the tunnel a winner.

Be patient with yourself. Just as God takes time to make an oak tree, He takes His own good time to make a saint. (Unknown)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Hospitality–Welcoming the Lord

Our readings this week begin with a wonderful little story about the prophet Elisha from the Second Book of Kings. If you remember, Elisha was Elijah’s protégé. On one of Elisha journeys he came to the city of Shuman where he was warmly received by a generous lady of the city. She knew that he carried the presence of God’s prophetic Spirit, so she invited him to stay with her and her husband anytime he was passing through the area. Elisha wanted to do something for her in return. He found out that she and her husband did not have any sons and that child bearing time was over. This was a serious situation because it was up to sons to care for their parents in their declining years. Elisha prophesied that God would reward her by giving her a son. And the prophecy was fulfilled.

This is a beautiful story of generosity and the love of God. You might remember a similar event in the Book of Genesis. Three men on a journey came upon Abraham’s tent. Abraham treated them with complete respect, welcoming them and providing for their needs. In response, they promised him that his wife, Sara, would have a baby within a year. She was inside the tent and heard this. Knowing that she was beyond childbearing years, she started laughing. But the travelers were actually angels. And in a year, Abraham and Sarah had a baby they named Isaac, which means Child of Laughter.

Hospitality was one of the great virtues of the Bible. The ancients believed that each person should be welcomed as though one were welcoming God himself. Jesus moves this virtue into Christian times in today’s Gospel, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

The virtue of hospitality is far more than being a good host at a dinner party. Hospitality means encountering the presence of God in others, usually in those whom we least expect.

Sometimes I, and we, get so self absorbed in our own expressions of spirituality, that we miss the presence of the Lord as he stands right before us in our family or as he knocks on the door of our homes and our lives through other people. For example, we can make the mistake of thinking that our particular expressions of spirituality be they within the Catholic faith or within the general context of Christianity are exclusive. If another person doesn’t pray as we pray, express the presence of the Almighty as we express His presence, we might miss the Lord as He is standing right before us in a person that we least expect to meet Him.

This is what the people of Jesus’ time did. The scribes and Pharisees were so self-absorbed with their ways of practicing the faith that they missed God speaking through John the Baptist, saying that he was a fanatic, and they missed God’s presence in Jesus, saying that He was just common every day man, eating and drinking like all others. There is a wonderful parable about this in Luke. Jesus says, "These people are like children in the marketplace.” Their Moms dragged them there and normally the kids would play, but instead they argued saying, "we played the flute and you wouldn’t dance, we sang a dirge and you wouldn’t weep.” The girls were playing the flute and boys would do the wedding dance of the groomsmen. They would play wedding. Or the boys would sing a sad song, and the girls were supposed to wail like professional mourners. They would play funeral. Only the children in the parable wasted time arguing.

The people of Jesus’ day wasted their opportunity to experience the presence of God because they decided what this presence should be like. So also, we often miss the presence of God in others because we decide what this presence should be like. We need to let God be God and let God express himself in others, even if this expression is new or even foreign to us.

One of the joys of Catholicism is contained in the very word "catholic”. That word means "universal.” The expression of God is universal throughout the church even if this expression is quite different in cultures and in individuals. Here in our Diocese, the Catholic African American parishes such as St. Joseph’s in St. Petersburg and St. Peter Claver in Tampa express their Catholicism in Masses that take over two hours every Sunday. Similarly the Vietnamese Community, the Polish Community, the Korean Community, just to mention a few, express their Catholicism in ways not experienced at St. Ignatius. We respect these expressions of their faith even though they might differ greatly from how you and I express our faith.

We don’t have to go to the extremes of different cultures to experience the wonderful various ways that God is present to us. Within our families, children express their faith in a different way than adults. Teenagers in a different way that either children or adults. Men in a different way than women. Each person in a different way than every other person in that family. A strong family is based on mutual respect. This must be extended to the ways that each member communicates with God.

Instead of trying to mold others to experience God exactly as we experience Him, we need to be open to other’s expression of His presence. This is really what the virtue of hospitality is all about. If we welcome someone’s expression of spirituality which might be different from ours, then we will enrich our faith family.

The interesting paradox to all this is that when we are respectful of other’s spirituality, then those who do not share our faith are drawn by our hospitality to be open to the truths of Catholicism. The fact is that most of the people who come into the faith through the RCIA do so because they have been welcomed and treated with respect.

The virtue of hospitality is the virtue of recognizing the presence of God in others and nourishing this presence. When we practice this virtue, then the stranger among us is no longer a stranger, but a member of the family, welcome, like Elisha, to enjoy a room in our house, our Church.

Today we pray for an openness to God’s presence in ways we least expect. We pray for the virtue of hospitality.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
13 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 2: Jesus First
(July 2, 2017)
Message: There's a huge difference between placing Jesus first and placing him second.

Last week I began a homily series on Spiritual Warfare. Full title: Strengthening Marriages and Families for Spiritual Warfare. You know, even though our children have summer vacation, the devil takes no vacation. Rather than letting summer become an opportunity for the enemy, Jesus wants us to use summer to get in fighting form.

Jesus presents himself like a general who requires total loyalty: "Whoever loves father or mother - son or daughter - more than me is not worthy of me." When you think about it, Jesus asks more than any sane general. Is Jesus insane? I don't think so. You and I might be missing something. Over the past two months - since the death of my Peruvian godson - I've asked about my priorities. Do I really put Jesus first - above any human consideration?

It can seem harsh to put friends and family in second place. I ask you, however, to think what happens when a person puts family above any other consideration. We can see it dramatically in a classic movie - The Godfather. It tells about a man willing to cheat, lie, intimidate - even murder - for his family. He commits his crimes with such finesse that people come out the theater speaking fondly about him because "he really loves his family."

All this changes in part II. The Godfather not only destroys enemies; he destroys what he claims to value most - his very family. In the end he becomes isolated and embittered. The lesson is clear: the person who places his family first will lose his family. To save ones family requires loving something more than one's family.

Once a young lady shares with me that she is praying for her future husband. So I ask her what he is like. "I haven't met him yet," she says, "but I don't care what he looks like, whether he's skinny or hefty, rich or poor. I want a man who loves Jesus more than he loves me."

I remember her coming into church with a guy who for sure would get no starring role in a movie and would not make a bundle of money. Still they got married and he works hard. When he finishes work, he comes right home. He adores his children and loves his wife, but even more he loves Jesus.

If a man places Jesus first, all good things will come - not without trials and tribulations - but they will come.

As we celebrate Fourth of July, it's good to remember this paradox. Patriotism is a good thing. It can inspire self sacrifice for others. Still patriotism has limits. G.K. Chesterton observed "'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.'"

I love America and am grateful to belong to this county. I feel good pledging allegiance. Yet I cannot give America total allegiance. If I did it would not be good for me or for the country. President Trump has said a lot of things I disagree with, but I do agree with what he said at a Christian gathering: "In America, we don't worship government - we worship God."

By placing Jesus first we may find ourselves at odds with the government. So far America has done a fairly good job respecting religious conscience, but that may not continue. Religious liberty has become as a key issue in our world and our nation. I pray that you and I never have to make a choice between God and loyalty to our country. Still, that time could come.

In other parts of the world, Christians face persecution, intimidation and death for their faith. A few weeks ago in Egypt a busload of Christians made their way on a pilgrimage to a monastery. Gunmen stopped the bus and separate the men from the women and children. They ordered the men to recite the shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith. When the men refused, the gunmen opened fire, killing at least 28 people.

While we pray that this demonic violence will stop, we ask God to give us valiant hearts like those Coptic Christians. You and I may not be called to such heroism, yet Jesus says the same to us: "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Next week we have a change of pace as Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who...are burdened, and I will give you rest." In this spiritual war we need time for rest and retooling. That will be for next week.

The message for this week is: There's a huge difference between placing Jesus first and placing him second: place him second and you will lose everything; place Jesus first and you will gain all good things. This week we have a day or two for remembrance and relaxation,. Why not set aside the first hour for Jesus - or at least the first twenty minutes? Everything else will go better. Enjoy a hot dog and your favorite brew, but remember Jesus words, "Whoever loves beer and burgers better than me..." (smile) Not exactly, but you get the idea: "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Amen.
Last year when we went to Poland for World Youth Day it was inspiring to hear about people who put God above country by resisting the Nazis. I think of Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian layman arrested for resisting the Nazi regime. Visiting him in jail he wife told him she wanted him to stay with her and their three little daughters, but she respected his conscience. On August 9, 1943 the Nazis executed him using a guillotine to behead him. In 2007 Pope Benedict declared him a martyr and beatified him. Famous director Terrence Malik has made major movie about Blessed Franz which will be released this year.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter placed Jesus first - above every human consideration.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 10: 37-42
Gospel Summary

In chapter ten of his gospel, Matthew explains how Jesus extends the mission he received from the Father to his disciples. They will encounter the same hostility he has encountered, and they must be aware of the high cost as well as the rewards of discipleship.

In this Sunday's gospel passage taken from the tenth chapter, Jesus tells us that his presence entails a crisis of ultimate choice and loyalty: father, mother, son, daughter or Jesus; discipleship without personal inconvenience or discipleship even if it means the cross; ultimate loyalty to one's own self and to one's own will or to Jesus.

Jesus then affirms and further illustrates the sacramental principle that underlies his entire mission to the world:

"Whoever receives you [a disciple] receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” One may receive a prophet, an eminent person, or just an ordinary member of the church ("one of these little ones”).

Life Implications

Jesus in sharing our created humanity experienced what it means to receive at every moment the gift of life from God, our creator. Throughout his life, even to the moment of his death, he realized that only in giving himself totally to God in love is ultimate joy possible. The strongest and most pervasive temptation for every creature is to reject the truth of the first and great commandment: "I, the Lord, am your God . . . You shall not have other gods besides me” (Ex 20: 2-3). "Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart. . . " (Dt 6:5).

Because Jesus is Emmanuel ("God is with us”), to give or to refuse him one's ultimate love is to accept or to reject the first and great commandment. To give one's ultimate love to any created being, even the most precious -- father, mother, son, daughter, self -- is to "have another god besides me.” Idolatry is to mistake the gift for the giver, to love the creature in preference to the creator.

Today Jesus extends his presence and his mission through his disciples, again entailing a crisis of decision. Perhaps it is not so difficult to understand in faith that one receives Christ in receiving those disciples who, by virtue of their office as bishops, are successors of the twelve. This Sunday's gospel passage, however, also speaks of a disciple who is "one of these little ones” and is in need of a cup of cold water. Like Christ himself such a disciple may not be received as one sent by God. Jesus thereby alerts us to the profound implications of hospitality, even to the least of our brothers and sisters whom he sends as disciples into our lives.

Hospitality to a fellow human being—even giving a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty—is inseparable from receiving Christ and the one who sends him to us.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern
Gospel: Matthew 11: 25-30

The Gospel passage this week comes at an end of a chapter in which Jesus is facing increased opposition from the people of Israel. He reproaches the various towns in which he had preached, ministered, and performed miracles, that resulted with little conversion or repentance of the people there. Jesus turns his disappointment and anger into prayer. This is a lesson for all of us in what to do with the difficult situations that trouble us.

Jesus turns to his Father with praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging his Father and the importance of trusting in the will of the Father. Very often we might act impulsively to difficult situations without taking the time to turning over the Father in prayer for guidance. This could include calling upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially Wisdom and Understanding needed in our particular situation. The lesson for us is to follow this example of Jesus by turning to the Father and surrendering to his will.

Jesus teaches us not to keep the Father’s presence to ourselves. The unity of Jesus with the Father is a perfect unity; "No one knows the Father except the Son….." While our unity is not perfect, it is a unity that strengthens and consoles us. Jesus moves from praise and thanksgiving to his father to the invitation to us. He calls us to bring all that is wearing us down to him and he will help us. He uses the image of a yoke that calls us to picture two farm animals with the wooden yoke across their necks so that together they can pull a heavy load. We are to picture ourselves and Jesus with a yoke connecting us so that we can carry the burdens of life, not alone, but with Jesus. Jesus does this for us out of meekness and humility, so that we might find rest. How beautiful it is when we are that connected, in unity with the Lord, so as to experience that rest! It’s a rest that calms us, renews us, and energizes us.

Finally, the invitation to come to Jesus with our burdens is not only for us, it is for all. On our part we can extend this invitation to others through prayer and words. In this Gospel we learn that it is the Father’s will that has hidden the teachings of Jesus from the wise and clever, yet revealed them to the childlike. The religious leaders who were considered the ones with knowledge, were the ones who rejected Jesus. Meanwhile it is the fishermen, the tax collectors and sinners who were receiving Jesus and turning to him. In order to accept God’s word, one must be open to it and receive it with humility and a type of innocence found in a child. One might not expect to find this innocence in the tax collectors and sinners, but the way that they responded to Jesus, repented and followed him is proof that what we sometimes assume about the spiritual life a person can be wrong. We don’t know why someone is living a life that we might see as sinful, and we also don’t know what is happening in their soul. Sometimes there is a receptivity to the Lord that we don’t see, while in fact in the midst of all the things they seem to be doing wrong, there is a childlike faith that when touched by God’s presence turns them to him. This opens within us the ability to see the work of God in ways we do not expect to. With this comes a peace and calmness in the midst of frustrations and even anger.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some things that we read in the scriptures can cause us quite a lot of unease and perhaps the very first line of the text today might be one of those. Jesus is telling his disciples that anyone who chooses their own family over him is not worthy of him, and many of us might find these words rather challenging and uncomfortable.

Of course, we have to see this instruction in its context. It is accompanied by two other sayings one about taking up the Cross and the other stating that those who find their life will lose it but those who lose their life will find it.

We can see that these three sayings are related. They are simply different ways of saying the same thing. They are telling us that we must put Christ and his Gospel above everything else. By using what might seem to us to be rather extreme sentiments Jesus is trying to get us to realise the absolute importance of choosing eternal life. He is telling us that this is the most important choice we have to make in life and that to put anything else before it is mere foolishness.

Jesus is telling us that it is more important even than our own earthly life or our family. Our task is to take up our Cross and to follow him wholeheartedly; nothing less will do.

What Jesus presents to us is not always going to be an actual choice. We are not being called on this very minute to choose between our family and the Kingdom. But we need to very clearly understand that in certain extreme circumstances it might come to that. Normally, our family will be quite supportive of our desire to follow Christ's Gospel of love and we will not be forced to make such a desperate choice.

We need to understand that what Jesus is doing here is preparing his disciples for the day when that choice will have to be made. He knows that all bar one of them will die a martyr's death. He knows that as the various persecutions launched against Christianity by the Roman Emperors begin to occur his disciples are going to have some very tough choices to make. And he realises that he has to prepare the disciples now so that they will be ready for the day when they will have to face having to choose between their loved ones and the Kingdom.

Christians down the ages have faced times of extreme persecution. Many have given their lives for the faith or suffered extraordinary deprivations for the sake of Christ. In our own day we too are suffering a new kind of persecution and we have to be very sure that we understand precisely what form it takes otherwise we will not know how to defend ourselves against it. We will not experience the kind of persecution our forefathers faced when they endured more or less overt discrimination for being a Catholic.

Today what we face is a different kind of hostility, it is more hidden and better disguised. It is presented first of all as indifference; we are told that no one cares about faith anymore and that it is superfluous in the modern world. We are told that the secular world is quite indifferent to matters of faith. Those who influence society give the impression that our beliefs are simply quaint and amusing.

But we shouldn't believe what we are being told because actually the values of faith are being consistently undermined and put under attack. There is present in society at large a deep seated, if disguised, hostility towards matters of faith in our modern society.

For example we have recently seen that politicians who stand up for their faith are exposed to ridicule; and we understand very well that the ultimate aim is to eventually hound them out of mainstream politics.

Actually there is becoming less and less room for faith in our media-centred world. In state schools faith has become a taboo topic which is never to be discussed. This is not just a religious deprivation but a cultural one; young people are growing up who cannot even recite the Our Father or are unable to recognise an obvious biblical quotation when they are presented with one. This is a deliberate policy aiming to detach the mass of the people from their Christian roots.

Today society regards all religions as the same and they are treated as a sort of refuge for those whose thinking is backward and unmodern. There is a continual erosion in many important areas of life. We can see how faith based morality is being constantly rolled back not just in areas of abortion and euthanasia but also in the areas of bioethics and sexuality.

You can see this erosion in tiny things such as how euthanasia is now always described in the media as ‘the right to die with dignity' instead of what it really is namely the increasing desire in society to kill old people. The language which frames everything as a human-right is also insidious. It makes it very difficult to disagree with anything which is generally regarded as a right whether it actually is a real human right or not.

It would take more time than we have here to discuss all the ways in which faith is under fire in the modern world. But it is important that we are not under any illusions that our beliefs are certainly under attack and that the powers of evil are hard at work trying to undermine faith whenever and wherever it is to be found.

The last few lines of the text before us today are a bit more uplifting: ‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.' Here Jesus is affirming his disciples and we see that despite his warnings he is not afraid to give them hope.

His disciples are certainly going to need hope in the years to come. They will be facing tough times and the persecution that they face will lead ultimately to death but assuredly in its wake will come the martyr's crown. Hope is going to be their crucial defence against everything that their persecutors will throw at them.

We must recognise that the challenges we face are different to theirs. The attacks on faith today are much more insidious and subtle. They involve the tricky use of language and the outright deception of millions of people. The values we hold dear are twisted and used against us. Language is given new and strange meanings so that we find we cannot explain ourselves any more.

We need to be on the alert for this new form of persecution. We need to talk to each other about these things so that we are better equipped to deal with these new attacks on our faith and on the Gospel values that we hold to be so essential for ourselves and indeed for the whole world.
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