10 September 201723 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
23 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Cycle - Matthew 18:15-20

The Second Coming was history. The saved were partying in heaven. Missing was Jesus. Peter found Him at Heaven's gate. "Master, come for a glass of Dom Perignon." He replied, "Cephas, I'm waiting for Judas."

Abraham Lincoln said that only he has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.

A fellow crosses the street at the orange caution light. The traffic cop stops him. He discovers he is a fellow Irishman. Gently he says, "Your color like mine is green." The perp gets back on the curb. The light turns green. The man walks across. As he passes him, the cop says with a smile, "We don't give an Orangeman a chance around here." (Arthur Tonne) To correct others well, when our responsibility. is an art form in rare supply. The day of Orwell's Big Brother and equally Big Sister are here. Who has not been bruised by authority figures? Each of us has left scars on others. Some were inflicted on family and friends. As the psychiatrist attests for $200 in his forty-five minute hour, the scars last. Our words inflict wounds for life. When our temper gets the best of us, it reveals the worst of us. It is better to bite your tongue than to have a biting tongue. Besides, the sins of others are before our eyes. Our own are behind our back. (Unknown)

Henry James was asked the three most important rules in the world. He replied, "The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."

The cop has much to teach us. He was not humiliating the pedestrian. Rather, he was emphasizing gently but firmly that he must cross on the green and not in between. He did not make a federal case out of the incident. He surrounded his reprimand with such good humor the guilty party could not fault it. The cop didn't find a fault; he found a remedy.

Mind what you say or you might say whatever comes to mind. (Unknown)

The policeman subscribed to Fulton Sheen's insight, "While it is possible to win the argument, your anger may lose the war." His intent was not to win a battle but to win over the offender. The cop believed that society is improved one life at a time.

Kindness is a language that the dumb can speak and the deaf understand. Correction does much. Encouragement does much more. It is sun to the soul. One word of praise can speak volumes. The smallest word of encouragement today is better than the largest intention to compliment tomorrow. Encouragement is oxygen for the soul. People who say something is unforgivable should get out of the way of people who forgive. (Unknown) We do well to bring others up short with the same gentleness that we would hope they and God Himself would use on our dishonorable selves.

A Persian proverb says a gentle hand may lead an elephant with a single thread. May ours be that gentle hand. Putting others down should be but a portion of the punishment. For the Christian, the dressing down should be accompanied with forgiveness and, as Lincoln advised, the offer to help the other start again.

Count the number of people who encourage you. Don't worry. It won't take long. Then count the number of people you encourage. That won't take long either. We tell people to have a nice day, but we are reluctant to make it a nice day for them by paying a compliment or encouraging them. Why is that? Even Sigmund Freud could not answer that query. However, Freud would tell us our friendly neighborhood cop looked upon the guilty party as if he was what he ought to be. Thus, he helped him become what he should have been from the start. So, the message on the couch pillow correctly reads, "Praise loudly and blame softly."

Jesus looked upon people and saw not terminal cases. Rather, He felt each had a shot at salvation. You cannot find anyplace in the Gospels where Jesus nixed somebody's plea for help.

If Christ won't give up on even on Judas, should we give up on people? He would be the first to advise us, "Never turn your back on any person. Miracles happen every day." Sometimes, the miracles are even worked by Christ through our encouraging words.

Ben Franklin tells us when we point a long bony finger at someone, there are three other bony fingers pointing at ourselves. Besides, love your enemies, for only they will tell you your faults.

Cold words freeze people. Hot words scorch them. Angry words make them angry. Kind words comfort them. (Blaise Pascal)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
23 Ordinary Time
23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Our Brothers' Keepers

Do you you remember studying in American History about rugged individualism? The early pioneers- like Daniel Boone wanted to live apart from everyone, dealing with nature and life alone. They didn't like it if someone moved in a mere ten miles away. They wanted more elbow room.

All this made for good reading, but it was more poetic than reality. The early pioneers needed each other for protection, for help, and for support. When the Native Americans attacked, the settlers had to unite for their own protection. When Mrs. Boone was about to have a baby, she needed Mrs. Crockett's help.

We are communal. We depend on each other for support, for help, for strength. This is obvious as we respond to each other's natural needs and crises. We also need each other for our spiritual lives. Jesus did not establish a federation of individuals. He established a Church. He called upon us to unite as one person, one body, the Body of Christ. He knew that we would be infinitely stronger united. He promised He would be with us.

The Gospel reading for this week is sometimes called the Dissertation on the Church. It is quite realistic. It talks about the way we deal with people whose sinful ways are destroying themselves and hurting the community. "If your brother sins against you, go to him and tell him. If that doesn't work, go again with friends to support you. If that doesn't work, ask the whole Church for help with him, and so forth.”

Here's my favorite example of how this might work. Let's make believe you sing in the choir here at St. Ignatius, and so does your next door neighbor, Simon Snodgrass. Now Simon is a single man, and that's a good thing because he really doesn't like children. He's often grumpy around them, even when they come to his door selling girl scout cookies or what have you. Well, maybe you can live with that. You certainly don't need to have your children going to his house on Halloween. What you can't live with is when your ten year old daughter tells you that Mr. Snodgrass called her a bad name after she tried to get your dog from his front lawn. So you go over to Snodgrass and you tell him that it is unacceptable for him to use bad language around your daughter and even more to direct it to her. You tell him that you are sorry about the dog and will do you best to make sure that doesn't happen again, but you add that if something your children do upsets him, he should just give you a call and you'll take care of it. Snodgrass, now calls you a few choice ones.

The next Sunday, there he is at Mass, singing in the choir, all holy and spiritual.

A week or so later, your son's football lands in his backyard. Your son, rings his doorbell and politely asks if he can get the football. Snodgrass is enraged and lets the boy know it. He also teaches him a few words you really didn't want your son to learn. So, you call a few of the other guys in the choir and you all go over to his house, and you say, "Listen, Snoddy, I know children can bother you, but you can't be losing your temper with them and calling them names. We're sure you work hard and have a bit of stress, but you have to learn how to control it.” Snodgrass's reaction is even worst. But you let it go hoping he'll reconsider his actions.

Then there is a third incident, and again Snodgrass goes ballistic on the children.

You and the other guys decide to ask Msgr. Joe to intervene. When you approach him, Msgr. Joe says, "I really think Fr. Brian needs this experience.” Anyway, after the choir Mass, Fr. Brian says to Snodgrass, "I heard that there are some problems between you and your neighbors. Everybody is here now. Let's get together in my office and hash this out.” After everyone has their say, Fr. Brian tells Snodgrass that he hopes he will do a better job controlling his temper. Sadly, Snodgrass tells everyone where to go and how to get there. The result is that Father has to say, "Look, you can't be coming here, singing in the choir, acting all holy and then be verbally attacking little children. It's wrong, and not the behavior we can condone among the members of our Church. Can't you just try to get your temper under control.” Maybe this will all lead to Snodgrass's changing his life because he wants to be a true member of the Church. If it doesn't, well, then we need to pray for him. The doors of the Church are always open. If he's ready to re-consider his ways, he certainly will be welcome back. The bottom line is that we need to remember that the words, "I am not my brother's keeper,” were spoken by a sinful man, Cain. People of God recognize their responsibility towards each other.

The readings also tell us that as members of a faith community we are accountable to each other. Quite often, we miss this. We might consider ourselves accountable to God, but we don't consider the effect our actions have on each other. What we are overlooking is that God is present in the community. The Church is the Body of Christ. When we sin, we are sinning against the Body of Christ. If we hurt another person, we are offending Christ within that other person as well as offending the entire Christian community. If we claim we are Christian, we have a responsibility to all other Christians to behave in a Christian way. We are accountable to each other, and to all others in the Church.

We are better people when we sense the deep responsibility we have towards each other. You husbands and wives are better people because you treasure each other and choose your actions based on your love for your spouse. You parents don't let bad things into your homes because you are raising God's children. You Teens keep the garbage out of your lives because you are in love with Love, with God, and are looking forward to the future He is preparing for you. And all of us in ministry continually change our behavior for the sake of those to whom we minister, as well as the Ultimate One we serve.

Our parish church is has a large roof held up by massive beams. They were produced in North Carolina. I remember when they were brought to Tarpon Springs in 1981. They were so large that they had to be sent by train in huge open box cars. (By the way, that was last train trip up to Tarpon Springs on what is now the Pinellas trail.) The architect, Charlie Partin, who designed our Church conceived a very heavy roof. Can you imagine how much weight those beams hold? Now here's the thing: the beams are made of small pieces of wood. The small pieces of wood are laminated into a powerful structure, capable of holding an immense weight.

This is a good analogy of the importance each of us have in the Body of Christ, the Church. We are those little pieces of wood. We can each hold only a little weight, not all that much. But when we are united together, and united with Jesus, we can hold the weight of the world. We come to Church every Sunday to form a community of prayer. None of us can form a community alone. We need each other to form this community. We come and pray as a community to the One who is our head and our heart. And we ask Him to protect us from the evils of the world, outside us and within us. We pray to God to bind us together into the community of love.

We need each other, and we need Jesus. And we have each other. And we have Jesus. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Church.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
23 Ordinary Time
Are Humans Naturally Good and Loving? (September 10, 2017)

Message: Recognize you owe all to God - most important, the gift of love.
St. Paul tells us, "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." If you are like me, when you hear that verse, you think: Heck, I've got it made: I'm a loving person; I don't hate anyone; I wish well to everyone. Sure, I've got my faults, but I am basically a good person. On one level, your probably are. You and I have the image of God imprinted us - and we each have a value greater than everything else on this planet combined. When this world turns to dust your existence and mine will have barely begun. We have an incalculable dignity - but it's not unalloyed. We are like Mt. Rainier: Majestic, but a volcano inside that can erupt any moment.

Shakespeare depicts that inner reality. For example, he shows Julius Caesar who has conquered three continents. Caesar strides like a colossus, but at the same time is insecure, vacillating, vain, easily flattered, full of false bravado. Against Caesar are the conspirators: the idealists - like Brutus - they want to do good, to act unselfishly (or at least so they claim). They take it on themselves to assassinate Caesar, but instead of bringing freedom and peace, they bring civil war. And then there's that amazing public speaker, Mark Antony ("friends, Romans, countrymen..."). He can move people's hearts but his own heart is cynical and cruel.

Now, you and I are little people. We don't have the opportunity to do large scale evil, but let's face it, in our own spheres we do enough. At the beginning of Mass you and I admit, "I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do." Those aren't empty words. It's truth, empirically verified truth. Lots of evidence - in human history, in our homes, in your heart and mine. All of us have experienced love dissolve into hate.*

So while we each have goodness inside, it's a real stretch to say we are naturally good. We need education and training. Sometimes we need correction. In the Gospel Jesus speaks about fraternal correction: nothing any of us enjoy giving - even less receiving. But we do need it. A person who really desires to love has to open himself to correction. Let me repeat that. A person who really desires to love has to open himself to correction. Now, don't form a line after Mass to start correcting me, but you know what I mean. :)

We need correction above all from God. Some people ask why God allows disasters like the flooding in Texas and Louisiana. To answer that question you would have know the life stories of ten or twenty million people. We don't know the stories of people close to us, let alone millions in southeast Texas. We can however reflect on our own lives. I can look back on something which for me was catastrophic and have a sense, yes, God did have a purpose in allowing it. One purpose we do know. God allows bad things in order to evoke mercy. The recent flooding brought an outpouring of compassion and generosity. That's where we have to start, especially when disasters happen to those close to us. Those upheavals won't make the news; most people suffer quietly - although they sometimes receive unexpected compassion and effective help. We call it solidarity - or Stewardship. St. Paul gives the bottom line: "the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."** For Paul love is not a feeling; it is a decision. That love does not come naturally; it goes against our natural inclinations. Remember - love is patient, it forgives, it bears all, it endures. (cf. I Cor 13) St. Paul calls love a "charism" - a gift from God. A gift we have to ask for. Do not become discouraged at your failures. We have to ask for that gift over and over again. "Owe nothing to anyone," says Paul. But recognize you owe God everything - most important, you owe to him the gift of love. "The one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Amen.

************ *I know it's not your fault. You did explain that to me carefully and convincingly. **It's interesting Paul says "another" not "everybody."
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
23 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Matthew 18: 15 - 20

There have been a few times when I was scheduled to celebrate a Mass and for some reason, usually a snow storm, only one or two people made it to the church. On one such occasion the one woman who made it said very sincerely, "father, I feel badly that you have to get everything ready for Mass just for me." I responded, "Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them." Don't worry, we meet the minimum requirement. Jesus desires that we pray, and that we pray as a community. He didn't say "Where twelve or more are gathered," using he number of apostles he choose, or seventy-two, the number of disciples. He tells us where two or three are gathered he's with us. God gives us every opportunity to share in his presence. Earlier in Matthew he instructs his follower to go to their rooms and pray alone. He isn't contradicting himself with these two teachings. The one is for personal prayer, the one we heard today is for community prayer. For community prayer we don't need a large number of people, the community that is available at times might be very small, but that doesn't stand in the way of even two or three praying together. This teaching comes at the end of a passage that begins with instructions on how to deal with a sinner in the community. I think that we can also say that where two are three are gathered, even in the Lord's name, there is sin. While the presence of Jesus doesn't take away our free will and decision to sin, it does take away our sins. The love and mercy of Jesus toward the sinner can be seen in this reading.

In our time, when someone does something that might not meet the approval of others, even if it's not a sin, it seems that it is almost immediately broadcast through gossip. The cellphones light up, emails and texts are sent out, and internet blogs and web sites immediately broadcast the "news." The numerous and various means and speed of sending messages that we have today leads to a tendency to broadcast first, then maybe check out the truth of the message. It would be good for us to take seriously the instruction of Jesus and begin by discussing with the person one-on-one, then with two or three others, and finally with the wider community. While this instruction of Jesus is directed with dealing with sinners, it might be affective and more charitable to apply it with those with whom we disagree.

Our parishes and other Christian organizations and groups should be places of unity and charity. All too often gossip, backbiting and division can damage, and even destroy the unity and be like a cancer in the faith community. We are all involved in some way with other people. At times we see people who are doing things that are clearly sinful, and this passage is the instruction for how the community is to deal with it. We don't solve it by rash judgment, gossip and condemnation. We begin with prayer and discern a way to address it with directness and in charity. This is not always easy to do. It is far easier to talk about a problem with might have with someone, that it is to talk to them about it. The Gospel today makes it clear that for the followers of Jesus it is expected that misdeeds and conflict are dealt with the opportunity for conversion.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Matthew 18: 15-20

Gospel Summary
Today's gospel passage is taken from the fourth section (13:54-18:35) of Matthew's gospel in which he explains the relation of Christ to the church. In the passage Jesus addresses the problem of sin in a local church. Commentators on the text point out that the three-stage procedure for church-discipline is developed from Lev 19:17-18 and Dt 19:15. First, any member of the community may talk to the one who is sinning in the hope that the behavior will be corrected. If the sinner refuses to listen, one or two other additional persons should talk with the person who is causing the problem. If even then the correction is rejected, an assembly of the local church hears the case and makes a judgment. This may include excommunication if the sinner still refuses to amend (also read 1 Cor 5:1-8).

Jesus then gives the same assurance to the local church as he gave to Peter for the universal church (Mt 16:19). The authority to "bind and loose" in regard to the member who is sinning derives from Christ, to whom "all power in heaven and on earth has been given" (Mt 28:18). If the members of the community have gathered in his name, Christ is present with them in their deliberations and judgment.

Life Implications
The basic faith-affirmation in whose perspective Matthew composed his gospel is the concluding climax. Jesus, now the Risen Lord, said: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (28:18-20). In this perspective, confident that the Lord is present to guide his own community (A.D. 80-90), Matthew adapts sayings of the historical Jesus to address the new situation of an established local church in need of due process to handle difficult problems.

Just as there is no exact correspondence between the church at the time of Matthew's gospel and the time when disciples began to follow Jesus, so there is no exact correspondence between the situation of our church today and the church of Matthew's time. Nevertheless, it is essentially the same church because the Risen Lord is with us to help us adapt the gospel to our own circumstances in a creative way that is in fidelity to his original teaching.

What are the life implications for a local church today—a parish, and by extension, a school, a hospital, a religious community, even a family? In the spirit of today's gospel, it may be possible for someone to talk privately with another member of a community whose behavior is destructive. The Lord knows how difficult this is in our American culture of rugged moral individualism and relativism. Yet at times it may be that Christ's healing truth will touch someone in need only through one of us.

Even though these days civil law and canon law deal with unacceptable behavior in society and the church, at times a local community must resolve internal problems in a more formal manner. Jesus' admonition to convoke the church assembly to address a serious problem seems to indicate that great care must be taken to follow appropriate due process. The gospel thus warns us of an arbitrary or vindictive use of power in any community. Such an abuse of power cannot be an extension of Christ's authority in loving service to the community. When we abuse power, we can be certain that Christ is not present in our midst; we have not gathered in his name.

Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
23 Ordinary Time
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

It may be a very short Gospel this Sunday but it contains three distinct sections that appear to be quite unrelated. If we find ourselves a bit puzzled as to why these three disparate segments of Christ's teaching were put together then we first ought to spend a little time considering just how the Gospels were composed.

We have to understand that the Gospels were written some years after the events that they describe. If you look up Wikipedia you will see that many scholars reckon that Matthew's Gospel was not written earlier than 80 AD which would make it almost fifty years after the death of Christ. The earliest they think is Mark which is dated about 68 AD.

However, none of the Gospels or the Acts of the Apostles (which is essentially the second part of Luke's Gospel) mentions the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and since this was something prophesied by Jesus you would think that the fulfilment of his prophecy might have been mentioned. So some of the more traditional theologians argue for an earlier date and tend to think that this proves that all the Gospels must have been written before 70 AD.

Whenever they were written we realise that it likely to have been at least twenty or possibly thirty or more years after the death of Christ. The Gospel writers must, however, have used as their source material many of the stories told about Jesus either in written form or orally given by the original witnesses.

We surmise that these separate stories of particular incidents in the life of Christ were certainly circulating within the Christian community in those early years. Most of these accounts would have been factually based but some might have been a bit more fanciful and it was the Evangelist's job to sort out the true from the false and to put this vast amount of material together in a coherent and credible way.

That's why we end up with sections of the Gospel such as the one given today which have three separate pieces of Christ's teaching put together as if they were spoken on the same day at the same time. But just looking at the text we can see that they are completely unrelated to each other are so were unlikely to have been originally one unit.

This should not undermine our faith in the integrity of the Gospels but rather give us an insight into how they were actually composed. We can regard the Evangelists as being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they went about the process of editing the various stories and accounts of the life of Jesus that were handed down to them.

It is the judgement of the early Christian community that those Gospels produced by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the most authentic and that those put together by other authors are not to be relied upon. It is time to take a look at the text. The first few sentences provide a way of settling problems within the Christian community. Basically they provide a template of how to deal with the situation if a member of the Church is found to be doing something contrary to the Gospel.

This is a problem which must have come up fairly frequently among the members of the early Church and here the words of Jesus provide a procedure to use in such a situation. What he tells us to do is fairly obvious and follows what we might call the rules of natural justice. Nevertheless, the fact that these words are spoken by Jesus gives the members of the Church reassurance on how to proceed.

In verse eighteen we are given the text about binding and loosing. It is curious because we note that Jesus already spoke those words in chapter sixteen when he told Peter that he would give him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Perhaps they are repeated because earlier they were addressed only to Peter while here they seem to be addressed to the whole group of disciples. We know that these words are the origin of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and so it is important that they are repeated and said to all the disciples. It is crucial that there should be no ambiguity and that this ministry of reconciliation is not restricted to Peter but involves all of the disciples.

The last couple of sentences are also quite interesting. They speak about where two or three gathered in the name of Jesus having their prayers granted. It reminds us of the earlier phrase in chapter seven: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.'

Jesus certainly encourages us to ask the Father for the things we need and promises that what we ask for will be granted. You might think that this is very rash of him, promising unequivocally that our requests will be granted. And you might also wonder if Jesus' promise can be relied upon because perhaps you remember some things that you asked for that were not granted.

This is a tricky issue. Some people might say that you ought only to ask for proper things; that would rule out praying for a pay rise or praying for something that might be immoral or to other people's disadvantage. But Jesus makes no such qualification. However, we do know that prayer changes us. We know that we might start by praying for one particular thing but end up asking for another.

A priest once told me that when he was a teenager he prayed very hard for a motorcycle but never got one. Years later, after he was ordained, he was sent as a missionary to Africa. When he got there the Bishop said that he had no money to provide him with a Land Rover but instead was able to give him a motorcycle. Fifteen years after the event his prayers were answered but certainly not in the way he expected!

I think that we ought to look at intercessory prayer in the same way as that priest learned to do. We ought to see the whole picture and not think in the short term. We might, for example, pray very hard for healing for a particular person, not realising that because of that illness a whole family had started to pull together and were acting as a family unit for the first time. The healing came not to the individual but to them all as a family.

Not only that, but the sick person might have found great meaning and purpose in their life as a result of the suffering they had to undergo. Even if it brought about their early death their illness may have been the very thing that brought them to experience salvation. And what deeper healing could there be than that.

These things are a great mystery. But Christ is clear, ask and it will be given to you. And the text today stresses that praying with others is more powerful than praying alone. We would do well to remember this.

Jesus concludes by reminding us that whenever we gather in his name he is with us. What greater consolation could we have that this? What greater comfort could we have than knowing that he is here with us right now?
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