23 July 201716 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday in Sunday
Ordinary Time - Cycle A - Matthew 13:24-43

British lawmakers are reviewing the country's pro-abortion laws. The review came about after publication of pictures of fetuses as young as twelve weeks stretching and kicking in the womb. Carl Sandburg wrote, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." Yet almost one third of respondents to The New York Times poll favor legal abortion. Is the pro-life position so weak that many cannot accept it? The answer is negative. Most of the national media favor abortion. Many readers accept journalists' opinions as infallible. The Los Angeles Times published a study on national newspapers by a Pulitzer Prize journalist. Here are some conclusions. Most major newspapers support abortion on their editorial pages - the Los Angeles Times among them. 80 to 90% of US journalists favor abortion rights.

If one is for unborn human life, one is called an extremist. It is not politically correct according to most newspapers to be pro-life. There is more defense for owls, whales, and seals. Mark Twain says correctly, "We revere all forms of life except human."

Incidentally, do not be intimidated by the fact 80 to 90% of US journalists are for abortion. 80 to 90% of German journalists were for Hitler. The overwhelming majority of Germans took their cue from journalists and supported Hitler. One consequence was the murder of eleven million civilians in infamous comcentration camps.

Only one third of the colonists supported the American Revolution in the 18th century. Abolitionists in the 19th century never numbered more than 100,000. The vast majority of our citizens could not imagine a country without the British king or slavery. A few could and changed the USA forever.

In verse 33, Jesus tells us we should be yeast in flour. Bread without yeast is like a water biscuit - dry, tough, and without flavor. But bread baked with yeast is delicious. Jesus wants a few dynamic people. The point of the parable is just as a little yeast plays a changing power in flour, so too should small pockets of Catholics transform society. Many Christians have done that. Remember but one ounce of yeast is needed to leaven seventeen pounds of flour. Just as there is more going on in a thin electric wire than one sees, so a handful of us can be dynamos for Christ. The martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero says, "We may never see the end results. We are the workers, not the master builder, the ministers, not the Messiah. We are prophets of the future." We plant the seeds. Others reap.

There are four such areas where Christ improved the world. Firstly, Jesus and a few Christians changed life for women. The Jewish male in the time of Christ daily thanked God He had not made him a woman. Christianity gave dignity to women.

Secondly, a few Christ followers transformed life for the sick. In ancient society, if you were ill, you were finished. Christianity would not buy that. The first home for the blind was opened by a Christian monk. The first free clinic by a Christian layman. The first hospital by a Christian woman named Fabiola. Thirdly, Christianity improved old people's lives. When you became old, you were considered useless. A handful of Christ's followers changed that. The elderly became honored and revered.

Fourthly, Christianity improved life for the child. In Christ's time, divorce was rampant. Children were a nuisance. Exposing babies to death became common. Small groups of Christians reduced infanticide significantly. (William Barclay)

There is nothing more provable than the leavening power of a few followers of Christ on society. One can better understand why the Acts of the Apostles records that when Christianity reached Thessalonica, the citizens said, "These people who have turned the world upside down have come here." Margaret Mead says, "Never doubt that small groups of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

A question stares us in the face. Where do we stand on the destruction of human life in the womb? Will we stand with the Christians who struggled for the rights of women, sick, aged, and children? Or will we ignore the problem?

Throughout history, the most common physical illness has not been the head cold but cold feet. (Unknown)

When you take a public position against abortion, you will be derided. If you do not, historians will judge you unfaithful to your Christian heritage. Even if you read the Gospels standing on your head, you must conclude Christ was always for losers. There is nobody more a loser than the unborn in USA society.

Abortion is not just a Catholic issue but one of the most pressing human rights and civil rights issues in the world. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Weeds Among Us

I'm sure you are aware that Pope Francis rarely holds himself back when he feels deeply about something. And he feels extremely deeply about sex abuse within the Church. A while ago he gave a talk to victims of sex abuse. Among other things he said, "This is something more than despicable.” He went on excoriate those who did not respond properly to reports made by family members and the victims themselves. "There is no place in the Church's ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.” When this pope says, "they will be held accountable,” he means it. Ask the former Archbishop Nuncio from the Dominican Republic who was defrocked. Our most pastoral pope is a fierce shepherd when it comes to caring for his flock.

"Well, good for you, Pope Francis,” some people might say. Others might say, "Its about time.” Both are right. But another question comes up: How is it possible that there could be such horribly sinful people in the leadership of the Church?This question has been asked for ages. The saints of the Middle Ages and Renaissance could not believe the scandals that took place in Rome. There were popes like the Borgias who violated celibacy openly and then placed their children in positions of authority. There were bishops who were second and third children of noble families and who were made bishops so they could use their positions to build up huge fortunes to replace the wealth their oldest brother would inherit. How could God allow evil people to have positions of authority in His Church?

This question probably was posed by the Eleven when they learned about Judas Iscariot's betrayal. Judas not only experienced the presence of the Lord, he shared in the power of the Lord. In Luke 9:1-2 we read, "He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick].” Judas Iscariot cast out demons, cured diseases and healed the sick. And yet he betrayed the Lord because there was money to be made. He got thirty pieces of silver, along with whatever he skimmed off the top from the money the disciples collected for the poor, as the Gospel of John mentions. Thirty pieces of silver. A decent guess is that thirty pieces of silver were one third of an average workers yearly wage; therefore, about $17,000 in our money if we go by the statistics that say an average yearly salary in the US is $51,000. Back to Judas. $17,000! And all he had to do was lead the Temple guard to Jesus and point him out to them. Jesus said that he was going to die anyway. Judas might as well profit from it. Judas valued money over the work of the Lord, the establishment of the Kingdom, and the very life of Jesus Himself. How could Judas, an avaricious man, be one of the Twelve? Perhaps the Lord was offering him an opportunity to change his ways. But Judas didn't change.

How could this happen, that evil people could be part of the Church? Jesus knew this question would be asked. He answered it with the parable in today's Gospel, the weeds among the wheat. An enemy sowed the weeds. The devil uses his cunning to convince evil people to seek their victims within the Church. Documents recently released detail how the Soviet Union's KGB, planted spies in the Vatican during the papacy of St. John Paul II. This was similar to the popular TV show the Americans which depicts Soviet spies assuming a role in American society. In real life, intelligent young boys were sent to seemingly Catholic families that prepared them for the seminary. They faked having faith, passed their exams with flying colors, were ordained priests, and worked their way up to positions of authority in the Church. They then sent to Moscow whatever information their real bosses might find useful.

So what should the Church have done if it had known what was taking place, close the seminaries? The enemy sowed the weeds, but you can't just burn the wheat field down. There is plenty of good wheat there. Hundreds of thousands of priests and bishops are sacrificing their lives for the Kingdom of God right now. What do we do about the relative few who are evil? The Lord says, "Wait until it is the time for the harvest.” "By their fruit you will know the evil ones,” the Lord said in Matthew 7. The Church in America demands all sorts of safeguards like we do in our safe environment training, and all forms of vehicles of transparency as we do in our financial policies. These actions eliminate many prone to evil, as well as discourage others from seeking their victims in the Church. But there will always be those in any organization, religious, educational, you name it, there will always be those who will find ways to beat the system. Still, God is in control. He is aware of those who bear evil fruit. They will have to account for their actions in the most severe way to the One who is judge of the living and the dead. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all quote the Lord as saying, "It would be better for them to have a milestone around their necks and then be cast into the sea.”

With all this said, I have to remind you not to look at your priests in a negative way. Two weeks ago Fr. Brian joined about thirty other priests hearing confessions for a minimum of six hours each at the Steubenville Atlanta Youth Conference. Over 25,000 teenagers wanted to go to confession. The priests did their best to provide. I remember a few years ago that the former auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta, Bishop David Talley, now the Bishop of Alexandria, Louisiana, was scheduled to say Mass on the Saturday evening of the conference. He arrived four hours early so he could hear confessions too. There are 23 of these conference held throughout the country and Canada this summer. There are great speakers, music and experiences for the Teens, but the conferences are only profitable for them if there are a large number of priests to support them, and this takes a lot out of a priest. The vast majority of priests, well over 95% of them, are more than willing to empty themselves for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, we priests have the best life there is. The needs of our people force us to focus on Jesus Christ throughout the day. And, sometimes, in the middle of the night. And we love it. We love being needed. We love ministering. We loved being called on to pray in the most significant moments of our people's lives: their babies' baptisms, their children's first communions and confirmations, their weddings, their battles against sickness, and their commending their loved ones to the Lord in funerals. We love saying Mass. We love preaching, sometimes too much. What I said here about our priests, I and you can also say about the teachers in our schools, the coaches guiding our children, scoutmasters, instructors in music, theater and dance, etc. So many of them, most of them, have had a huge, positive impact on your children. Many of them have helped you in your parenting. We cannot judge the wheat fields by the presence of some weeds. But, we have to be wary. We have to be watchful. We have to be sure our various systems of protection are enforced. Most of all, we need to pray that the Lord of the Harvest will continue to sort out the weeds from the wheat.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
16 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 5: Leave the Separation to God
(July 23, 2017)

Message: We're in a spiritual war. We need allies and we need to become strong soldiers.

Perhaps you've heard about the distinction between reading the Bible and reading into the Bible. Reading the Bible involves listening for God's message. Reading into the Bible means looking for something convenient.

Today Jesus says to let the weeds and wheat grow together. Don't uproot the weeds. "Great," I say. "I don't have to work in the flower beds!" That's reading into the Bible. On the other hand, reading the Bible - listening for God's message - requires trying to see the big picture. As we've seen in recent weeks, we are in a spiritual war. Every page of the Bible speaks about that struggle. We are in a spiritual war, but it's not a war of total annihilation. In the present moment we have to let weeds and wheat grow together - and the leave the final separation to God.

There are good reasons to leave weeds alone. First, you and I may not see the difference between useful and useless plants. Many people consider dandelions a nuisance. Others however harvest the leaves for a spring salad and even use the flowers as part of a vegetable stew. Weeds - plants we consider useless - might turn out to have a good use. Furthermore an extremely valuable plant - wheat - once grew wild until our ancestors learned to domesticate it.

Something similar can happen in our souls. Weeds can transform into something valuable. Let me illustrate: A certain man had a terrible temper. His outbursts of rage were destroying his family. He went to a priest for help. The priest pointed out that his tendency to anger had a good side. The man was surprised because he did not see anything good in his temper, which often went out of control. But the priest explained that God gave him the energy of anger and wants him to use that energy to protect and defend his family. When the man went home, he talked with his wife and children. He asked forgiveness for the outbursts, but also said he wanted to form a strong family - a family that would withstand the attacks against it.

The man got out one of those Christian picture books. It had symbols for virtues like courage, justice and temperance. He focused on the virtue of temperance whose symbol is a compact fire. If a fire gets too big, it burns down the house, but if it's too small it simply dies out. Temperance keeps anger in the right balance. Anger is not bad in itself. A certain amount produces heat and light. The family thought about this and the man's wife said she would help her husband keep the fire in the fireplace. Together they prayed for the virtue of temperance. What appears as a weed can transform into something valuable.

This principle of transformation applies also to our relationship with others. We are in a spiritual war and we need all the help we can get. To cut off a potential ally is a huge mistake. A famous man hated Christians so much that he hunted them from city to city. Once he fomented the stoning of a young Christian named Stephen. The persecutor held people's cloaks as they threw rocks. Bruised and bleeding, Stephen prayed for the persecutors, including the instigator.

Shortly after, a light blinded the persecutor. He went from persecutor to proponent. You know who I mean. Most Sundays we read from his letters: like today, St. Paul's letter to the Romans. Paul transformed from Christian persecutor to Christian proponent. The same can happen to the person who scoffs as you go to Mass or leaves an anti-Christian message on Facebook. So let's not lose potential allies or the strength that can emerge from apparently negative energy. We're in a spiritual war. We need allies and we need to become strong soldiers.

Leave the separation to God. Jesus assures us that one day God will send his angels to separate weeds from wheat. Not our job. But we do want to help others convert so they will not be bundled and burned. A terrible fate.

When Mary appeared to the children of Fatima - one hundred years ago - she gave them a glimpse of hell. She then taught them this prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy". We want everyone to become part of the great harvest. That means helping them learn to pray. As St. Alphonsus said, "Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned." (see Catechism #2744)

We are in a spiritual war. Let's seek potential allies and help others become part of the good harvest. As one former persecutor, St. Paul, tells us today: "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought...the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern
Matthew 13; 24 - 43

The Gospel today continues with some parables of Jesus. Parables are intended to cause the listener to think about them, and reflect on what Jesus meant in telling them. One can hear the same parable numerous times, and each time gain a different insight into its' meaning. The three given to us today; the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed, and the yeast, are about the Kingdom of Heaven. As I reflected on them the virtue that stands out is patience.
A common reaction when things in our lives don't go as planned is to quickly make changes without fully considering the consequences. When the farmer first realized that weeds were growing in the midst of his wheat he could have immediately began to get rid of the weeds so as to protect the wheat. But as Jesus points out, pulling out the weeds would also mean pulling out the wheat. Jesus calls them to be patient. Patience is a virtue that seems to be seen less and less today. The patience to wait for the right moment to speak or act is not always easy. Waiting for God to answer our prayer can be frustrating. We expect ourselves and others to act quickly in making decisions. The pressure is on for the quick fix, not the well thought out solution or resolution. When a child is taught how a little seed grows into a plant, it is common for the child to keep watching the soil for the plant, then to keep checking every few moments. One of the first lesson we learn when it comes to planting is that it takes time. When we plant a seed we aren't going to see the plant, bush or tree mature for quite a while, sometimes years. Like the mustard seed in the parable, the seed is so small yet grows into the beautiful flower, spreading shrub, or mighty tree. It's hard to believe when we look at the seed to envision how with patience we will see the growth. The same is true in our spiritual lives. We might have experienced some conversion and we look at our lives and realize how much we have to change. That realization can become almost overwhelming and lead us to think that it is impossible to make all these changes. When the changes don't happen right away we can become frustrated and discouraged. God is patient with us and we would do well to imitate Christ by cultivating the virtue of patience. With patience we can walk to road of conversion, and progress in the spiritual life.

PatiencePatience does seem to be lacking in society today. We like "fast food", instant news and movies via the internet, online banking, a quick response to our emails and texts. We have grown too accustomed to getting things taken care of quickly, and patience has faded into the background. A rediscovery of patience is necessary in our lives. It is patience that is needed for us to see the Kingdom of Heaven that is in our midst. God's presence slowly becomes more evident in our lives, and the answer to prayers involves our slowly uniting our prayers with the will of God. Sometimes our vision of the Kingdom is small, but as we patiently grow in faith it becomes more and more evident in our lives. The three parables teach us that the Kingdom of God is here, and will take time for it to become fully established. Meanwhile, we have the need to be patient and attentive to how God is working within us and in the world. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 13: 24-43

Gospel Summaryere is a longer and a shorter version of this Sunday's gospel reading and most congregations will probably hear only the shorter passage (13:24-30). Accordingly, I shall focus on the shorter version, with some brief comments at the end about the remaining verses (13:31-43). The analogy Jesus uses is called a parable, which means that it is a fictitious but believable story used to illustrate a spiritual reality. Most of those who heard Jesus were farmers and they could readily understand that one cannot easily distinguish weeds from wheat when the plants are very small. It is only when they have grown taller that the difference becomes apparent. By that time, however, the roots are so intertwined that one cannot pull out the weeds without severely damaging the wheat. Only at the harvest can the separation be made safely. The spiritual reality being illustrated is the congregation of believers. It is often impossible to know who may be for sure the true and faithful followers of Jesus since we can usually judge only by appearances. In Jesus' day, the Scribes and Pharisees seemed to be the most religious of all, yet he rejected them for lack of interior conversion. In particular, they thought they knew for sure who were the "weeds” and who were the "wheat.” And they were sure that those whom they rejected were rejected by God also. The gospels tell us that Jesus thought otherwise.

Life Implications
Nothing is more hazardous for us human beings than to pass judgment on the relationship of any individual with God. Even in cases of fairly obvious wrongdoing we cannot always know about special circumstances that may affect final judgment on that person's behavior. Since one cannot sin without freedom, and since many have been loved so little that their freedom is minimal, it follows that the degree of their culpability may be greatly reduced.

Many of us prefer not to listen to such reasoning because we want a simplistic solution to crime, which ignores the deeper question about who have been loved and are therefore free enough to accept full responsibility for their actions. As a consequence, it is quite likely that many of us more or less free and privileged people will be judged harshly because we did not love and help those who are living in psychic or spiritual bondage.

No doubt Jesus has the judgmental tendencies of the Scribes and Pharisees in mind when he uses this parable. Such smugly "orthodox” members of the church are often very impatient with church authorities who do not condemn and reject less "observant” members. They want the "weeds” torn out of the ground…and the sooner, the better. In fact, however, it is not all so clear who are the "wheat” and who are the "weeds.” And those who are sure they know the difference may, like the Scribes and Pharisees, discover at harvest-time that they too are totally mistaken. The conclusion is clear: rash judgment is a very dangerous spiritual disease.

The short parables about the mustard seed and the leaven are used to illustrate the surprising growth of the church in spite of small and unpromising beginnings. The point is that God can work through small and ordinary agents (like ourselves) to achieve surprising and significant results. We should find this truth encouraging and allow it to free us from a sense of helplessness. With God we can do more than we could ever imagine.
Demetrius R. Dumm. O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Darnel is a common weed in Palestine and indeed around the world. The seed of the darnel is easily mistaken for wheat and the two plants are indistinguishable until they have ripened and the ear has developed. This means that they are easily confused for each other, hence the believability of the conclusion drawn in the parable that it had to have been an enemy who had sown the darnel among the wheat.

Wheat and darnel are so alike that darnel is even known in some places as false-wheat. The major difference between the two plants is that darnel is highly toxic and when consumed can result in a kind of drunken nausea which in some cases can be fatal. In fact, the Latin name for darnel is lolium temulentum; lolium is the genus which is sometimes also called ryegrass and the description temulentus means drunk or intoxicated.

You can see that any farmer would take great care to plant only good seeds. And also, that farmers would burn darnel whenever it is discovered so that no seed remains to contaminate the next harvest.

We can see from this that the Parable of the Darnel is one that would have been well understood by the people at the time of Jesus. There is however one problem and that is the decision of the landowner not to uproot the darnel straight away as soon as it was discovered. This is not something that a truly wise farmer would have done, he would realise that the darnel was likely to choke the wheat and that it ought to be dug up straight away.

However, since this is a parable, we appreciate that there is likely to be a divergence from the ordinary way of thinking. Here the true meaning of the parable rises to the surface and we come to the realisation that the landowner represents God the Father and the harvest is the Last Day, the Day of Judgement. We appreciate that God in his wisdom has decided to leave his final judgement till the end of time and that this is the reason the landowner does not get his men to go through the crop to root out the weeds in advance of the final harvest.

We human beings are, of course, represented by the crop and we find ourselves to be of two types represented by the good wheat and the bad darnel. Outwardly they are indistinguishable until they have arrived at an advanced stage of development. The enemy who has planted the darnel is, naturally enough, the devil and the workers who are employed to harvest the crop are, of course, the angels.

This parable is a good one. Its hidden meaning is easily understood and it stands as a warning to everyone to be sure that they follow the laws of God and that they do everything they can to avoid the wiles of the Devil. Jesus is warning us that there will be a time of judgement and that on that day we will be dealt with according to where our true loyalties lie. While we still have time, we had better make sure of our allegiance. We need to decide which side we are on: the side of Christ or the side of the Evil One.

There are two other parables in the extract presented to us today; one is about the mustard seed which grows into the biggest shrub of all and the other is about the woman adding yeast to her flour while making the dough.

We can see how these two parables instruct us about the action of God’s Word in the world. Jesus tells us how the tiniest seed can grow into a huge plant and how a very small measure of yeast makes an enormous difference to the dough to which it is added.

Jesus wants us to understand that the Word of God is an agent of real change in the world. It may appear to outsiders to be insignificant, but it actually has a huge impact on the world. Both of the images presented in these two parables tell us how something very tiny can, in its interaction with other things, prove to be completely transformative and the agent of tremendous growth. If we are to become God’s collaborators in the spread of his message then we are being told that we had better believe in the efficacy of the Word as an agent of change in the world.

And more than this, because we also ought to let the Word begin its work within our own hearts. We need to realise that the change that the Word of God can bring about had better start with us for if others do not see our lives having become transformed then they will not be likely to take it very seriously.

Many people view Catholics as traditional and somewhat conservative. They think that we stick to tradition and avoid adaptation and change. They view Catholics as essentially reactionary and unable to show openness or flexibility. In this they make a serious misjudgement. They have not read these two parables and they do not understand that change is at the heart of everything we do.

It is true that there is a strong desire among Catholics to cling to tradition but it does not apply to all traditions only some. The traditions that we hold firmly to are essentially the teaching of Christ. Actually, Catholics and indeed any Christians, are wholly open to change. Change is an essential part of our DNA, so to speak.

We are all about conversion which means change. But we are not open to just any kind of change. The change we are open to is that of greater conformity with the teaching presented in the Gospels. We are orientated to the radical transformation of our lives so that we become ever more conformed to the will of God.

We are totally open to change but not to change for its own sake, or for the following of fashion, or change which takes us away from the values of the Kingdom. We are in favour of change which is truly wholesome and brings us gradually to our true fulfilment as human beings. We are in favour of the kind of change which enables us to reach our true destiny.

This is why the symbols of the mustard seed and the yeast are so good. Each are constantly changing and growing in a positive direction, if in a hidden way. We Catholics are not then concerned with holding to traditions for their own sake but we are very devoted to those traditions which are rooted in the Gospel and which are orientated to enabling mankind to achieve its true purpose.
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