15 October 201728 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A
Matthew 22:1-14

Cannibals in New Guinea invited a priest to visit under a truce. They had heard about Jesus. They wanted to see what influence He had on his life. The priest was gloomy. He never smiled. They decided to forget about Christ. They concluded that once the truce was over, they would not eat the priest. His tough hide would cause them heartburn. Hilaire Belloc wrote: "Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, there is always laughter and good red wine." Would Belloc say that about us? We are told it takes seventeen face muscles to smile but forty-three to frown. Laughter is the only tranquilizer yet developed that has no side effects. Our expression is the most important garment we wear. Yet, how many of us know fellow-Christians who never smile? They walk about with an eternal mad on their face. They are people one avoids. Undertakers on the job are happier looking than they. In today's parable, Jesus reminds His Jewish audience that when the Messiah comes, they will enjoy a first class sit down supper with Lenox China and Baccarat crystal. The menu is alluded to in today's Isaiah 25: "juicy red food and pure choice wines." Notice not wine but wines. White with the lobster and red with the filet mignon. It will be the mother of all parties. This is one six star banquet weight watchers should avoid. Jesus compares living in His company to the equivalent of a party.

His Church should be a happy place. To sign on with Him should be as great an occasion as going to a banquet filled with warm laughter, prime ribs, aged wines, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and brandy from Napoleon's cellar. We should remind ourselves of this wedding parable. Often the charge against the Church is it removes joie de vivre from life. Many argue the Gospels have them do the deeds which they dislike and avoid the activities which they want to perform. I dislike those banal prints picturing Jesus laughing His head off, but they touch upon a truth. He could not have been gloomy. Firstly, children were constantly pestering Him. Kids avoid sad sacks. Secondly, had He disliked parties, would He have walked many miles to the Cana wedding reception? The record suggests He was so anxious to get to that party He crashed it. Thirdly, because He went to so many parties, His enemies called Him "a glutton and wine drinker." (Mt 11:19) Fourthly, had He been a spoilsport, why would He have hosted a gourmet supper party the night before His death? Would you have the heart to play grip and grin host at your last supper?

The conclusion is Jesus loved pleasant times, loud laughter, and good red wine. He loved to party hearty. His puckish sense of humor caused this young Asiatic Jew to use amusing illustrations, puns, and jokes. He spoke them with a full smile. It is a pity we don't have Him on video tape in living color. His stories raised a chuckle, even a giggle, on the part of His spellbound audience. His patter was homey and earthy. The Gospels tell us that Jesus often went into the mountains alone. Why? GK Chesterton speculates the apostles made funny, even ridiculous remarks. He did not want to offend them by laughing in their faces. So, He ran into the mountains holding His sides and letting the laughter come out in steady bursts. If Jesus had given us an eighth sacrament, it might have been the Sacrament of Laughter. He would have enjoyed Locke's definition of laughter as "sudden glory." Early Christians got the point.

They were called hilares. That is the Latin adjective from which the word hilarious comes. They possessed a "certain holy hilarity." They went about their lives with a bounce in their steps and a smile on their faces. They were fun people to hang around with. They behaved as though they were forever at a party. They attracted millions of converts. The latter wanted a piece of that party. Wouldn't you? (William Barclay) When Beethoven wrote his Ode to Joy, he might have been thinking of the joyful news of Jesus. So, smile often. Let people sense Jesus does make a serious difference in your life. Worship God on Sunday and smile with Him through the week. The authentic way of finding joy is by focusing on the three letters of the word. J: place Jesus first. O: place others second. Y: place yourself last. (Unknown) Become pro choice. Choose to save life rather than destroy it. Choose to forgive rather than curse. Choose to smile rather than frown. Blessed are the joymakers. (Unknown)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
28 Ordinary Time
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: ....In Him Who Strengthens Us

The young man and young woman brought their treasure home, their first, a girl. A few days later, her Mom and sister went home. And there she was, alone with her baby. She never thought she would be so busy. And so tired. But she loved it. After all, this was her baby. Two weeks went by. Between the feeding, changing, holding, napping and crying, the baby's mostly, she has this horrible feeling. She can't tell her husband. She won't tell her mother. But the feeling is more than a thought. It is a reality. She whispers it to herself, "I can't do this." Her husband has gone back to work. All seems to be going well for him. He loves holding the baby, playing with her, and is really quite good at caring for her including changing diapers. What he doesn't tell his wife is that he can't stand the reality that he isn't a kid anymore. The baby has brought a new demand into his life. He has to be mature. All those things that he spent so much energy on in college are remote history.

Then he wonders if he will be able to provide all his family needs. He wonders if he will be able to pay the bills next month. For the first time in his life he faces pressure that will not go away after exams are taken. In the middle of the bouncing and holding, a doubt has formed. The doubt becomes a statement that he will not share with anyone. Still it is there. Within himself, he says, "I can't do this." Another man and another woman. They're married for sixteen years. Children came and grew into play age. Now evenings and weekends are spent going to games and recitals, doing schoolwork, attending meetings, etc. All seemed well. All seemed normal. Sure their marriage had lost the wonder and excitement of its first years, and they have their disagreements, but they've learned how to work through them.

They knew it was wrong to avoid some issues, but each knew that certain topics would bring reactions of upset rather than reason. Still, the other women she knew seemed to have it so much easier. The other men he knew seemed to have much less stress. Then one of the children fell ill, seriously ill. Caring for this child, caring for the others, caring for each other added new levels of stress to their lives. And both the husband and wife said to themselves, "I can't do this." The priest went from one assignment to another where he felt loved and respected. But those were easy assignments. At first he was a new priest that everyone helped. In those days his own gifts outshone his limitations. He went from place to place as he was assigned, even becoming a pastor of a small parish. And then he was sent to a large parish that had seen three pastors in four years. The people there had enough with new pastors. Many of them challenged everything he attempted. Every program had its detractors. Every homily had its critics. Every week brought new unsigned mail that he refused to read, but whose existence still upset him. He kept plugging along, telling himself that he was sent to the parish for a reason that God knows and he might never know. Still as one battle followed another, the thought began to clarify itself. For the first time in his life he wondered, afraid even to state it.

The thought kept coming to him, though. It was a simple thought, a horrible thought, one he never expected. The thought was, "I can't do this". And the gay man or woman who are trying to live chaste lives in the middle of a society that tells them that they should turn from morality, and the college students who try to live their faith in spite of all the times that they are told that all they avoided in high schools is acceptable in college, and the single man or woman who hold on to morality with both hands, all of these and so many more are tempted to say, "I can't do this" "I can't do this." No, you can't young mother, young father, older husband and wife, established priest, gay man, gay woman, college student, single person.

No, you can't do it. At least, you can't do it alone. But you are not asked to do it alone. You are not alone. You entered the marriage hoping to have a family with God as its center. You work hard to teach your children to make Christian choices. You chose the priesthood to serve God. You made a determination to live chastely gay man, woman, college student, single adult. And you are not alone. You are not alone. God is with you. Listen to what St. Paul says in today's second reading. They are some of the most reassuring words in scripture. Listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through St. Paul in Philippians 4:13, commit these lines to memory and recite them throughout your lives: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."  Alone, I am not that good. Neither are you. But we are not alone. We have Jesus Christ. He gives us the Power of His Spirit to conquer what might seem insurmountable. The Power of the Cross is given to us to wage war on any evil that attacks us. I can do it. You can do it. We can do all things in Him who strengthens us.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
28 Ordinary Time
Web Woven Over All Nations (October 15, 2017)

Bottom line: We live with reality of death, but Jesus offers the hope of his kingdom. In today's first reading Isaiah speaks of the "web that is woven over all nations." Like a spider's web death can unexpectedly engulf a person, making a mockery of dreams and hopes. I think of the assassination of President Kennedy. The web of death put a violent end to the dream of an American Camelot. Earlier this year I experienced the web of death in a more personal way - the tragic death of my Peruvian godson, Fr. Narciso Valencia. On a much smaller scale than President Kennedy his death shattered plans and dreams of many people, including me. Death is the web woven all people. The ancient Greeks observed that we are different from the gods (or angels) because unlike them we must die. And even though the other animals are mortal like us, we differ from them because we humans alone seem to live with the constant awareness of death.

Death is the web woven over all nations. So Isaiah confronts the awesome reality of death that no man can escape. Yet he declares that one day God will break that web - as a child brushes away a spider web. Breaking a spider web sounds messy. Perhaps it hints at the crucifixion. Isaiah has a second image, much lovelier. He says God will "lift the veil." At the end of wedding a groom might lift his bride's veil. The wedding night of course involves an unveiling.

The marital imagery continues as Isaiah describes a magnificent banquet - rich juicy meat and choice wine. As we hear in the Gospel Jesus invites us to a wedding banquet. While we await that day we live with the reality of death. It will enclose each one of us. But Jesus offers us a hope that gives us reason to continue in spite of the inevitability of death. It's not a hope that someone on earth will remember you or me. Even for a person as famous as President Kennedy, the memory will fade. A typical person carries the memory of his parents and grandparents but few know much about their great grandparents. Human memory fades like smoke, but the Bible teaches us to say, "Remember me, O Lord." Like the repentant theif we should pray, "Jesus, remember me...in your kingdom." I am currently offering that prayer on behalf of my friend and godson, Narciso Valencia, as I join his brother, sister and family members at a Mass near his tomb. Yes, we live with reality of death, but Jesus offers the hope of his kingdom. He alone breaks the web of death. He alone will lift the veil. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 22: 1-14

Gospel Summary
In today's gospel, Jesus offers us another parable about the kingdom of heaven. This does not mean a kingdom located in heaven but a community of believers on earth who accept the rule of God and who hope to find a place eventually in heaven. Matthew often uses the term "kingdom," and it is sometimes translated as "reign." I think there is a problem here because these words suggest political power and many people have experienced such power as tyranny. I have my own more existential definition of the gospel kingdom: it is God's dream for his beloved children. In the parable, those who were first invited to the banquet would be the people of ancient Israel, who often violated the covenant and resisted the prophets. At the time of Jesus, they found it impossible to let go of their traditions in order to make room for his revolutionary message. Those brought in from the streets to fill the banquet hall would be the outsiders; including the Gentiles who, in many cases, gladly responded to Jesus' universal invitation. However, some of them too were unwilling to be fully converted and thus were lacking the proper "wedding garment" of unselfish love.

Life Implications One of the most dangerous temptations for traditional Christians is an easy assumption that they have responded to God's invitation and are now comfortably seated at the banquet waiting for their final and inevitable heavenly reward. This temptation is so insidious because it really is based on the fact of faithful religious observance. Our lovely wedding garment begins to look somewhat soiled and shabby, however, when we begin to probe our hidden prejudices. Most of us claim not to be prejudiced, of course, but it is almost certain that such a claim is in fact the worst prejudice of all, for it means that we are not even conscious of our biases. It is much better to be aware of them so that we can at least try to correct our attitudes.

It is precisely traditional and confident Christian communities that are most likely to be burdened by racism and sexism. It is so easy to forget that Jesus associated freely and lovingly with all kinds of people who were considered unworthy by the "upright" folks of his day. This reminds us that the true characteristics of followers of Jesus are love and tolerance and respect for others, regardless of their social status or perceived unworthiness. This does not at all imply that one should condone unseemly or sinful behavior. But, as Matthew also reminds us, we should spend at least as much time removing the log from our own eye as in searching for the speck in our neighbor's eye (Chapter 7: verses 3-5). Pride is such an insidious attitude that it can spoil even our best efforts. I find it helpful to consider that definition of pride which notes that it is not so much the tendency to think too much of oneself as it is to think too little of others. How we think of others, and how tolerant we are of their shortcomings, will tell us a lot about whether we think too highly of ourselves.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Modern Isaiah 25:6
10 Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 Matthew 22: 1 - 14

The reading from Isaiah begins with the verse; "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice winesâ?¦.." The reading from Saint Paul's letter to the Phillipians ends with the verse; "My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with this glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Near the beginning of the Gospel Jesus has the King saying in the parable; "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast." Simply put these readings remind us that God will provide. Isaiah was a prophet during a time of great moral and political upheaval in Israel. The Israelites had wandered from God and taken accepted idols and immoral behavior as the norm. Assyria and her allies were attacking and succeeded in occupying much of Judah. It seemed that only the city of Jerusalem was able to withstand the attacks. Isaiah was the prophet who succeeded in drawing the king and the people of Israel back to God. The portion of Isaiah that we hear today come from a section of his prophecies sometimes called "The Apocalypse of Isaiah." He acknowledges the failures of Israel and tells them to get on board with God's plan. That is to repent for God has something very beautiful prepared.

The banquet Isaiah describes gives an image of God providing for them here, not just in food but in numerous ways that will give them strength and victory. It also points to what God has prepared for them, and for us, when our lives here come to an end. But for the faithful life here might come to an end, but life continues in a changed way at the heavenly banquet. God will provide for us. In the brief passage from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians Paul acknowledges that his life contains times of humility and wanting, as well as times of plenty. He tells the Philippians that these conditions are no longer matter to him, and should not matter to them. He ends by expressing this prayer, "My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Paul learned that God will provide, and shares this as an instruction to the Philippians and to us. In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of a King who desires to provide a great banquet in honor of his son's wedding. What an honor it is to be invited by the king to his palace for a banquet. Who would think of declining such an invite? In this parable it appears that many did turn down the invitation, but this did not deter the king from providing a great feast to many people. He sends out men to the highways and by-ways to invite anyone, whether citizens of his Kingdom or not. The kings desire was to provide the people with a memorable, great feast. This parable can be seen as a key in understanding both Isaiah and St. Paul's letter to the Philippians. Even though the desire to hold a banquet, and to provide is given, we cannot be forced to accept the invitation. We always have the freedom to send our regrets. We would benefit by taking on the humility of St. Paul and acknowledging that God will provide for us, even when we seem to be wanting, and ultimately he will provide for us at the Heavenly Banquet. Let's make the point to accept these invitations and trust both here and in eternity that God will provide.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable set before us today is a harsh one. I think that this is quite intentional. Jesus' ministry is coming to its conclusion, he has already made his solemn entrance into the Holy City and he has told the people a number of important parables which we have heard during these last few Sundays. Each one of these parables ramps up the importance of the choice everyone has to make. Each one of them also directly implies that the religious authorities have neglected their duty to accept the Messiah. Here with this parable of the Wedding Feast Jesus is making a final stab at trying to win over the hard-hearted Chief Priests and elders of the people. He wants them to make the decision whether to accept him or not and to do this he places before them an increasingly stark set of choices. It also becomes more and more obvious as to who each of the various characters in the parables represent. In this latest parable the wedding banquet clearly represents the Church and the guests are obviously the Chosen People who unfortunately decide not to come to the banquet. A second invitation is issued but they still do not come but instead some of them even kill the servants who come bearing the invitation. We understand these servants to represent the prophets. The King in his fury destroys them and their town.

Here we have a sort of prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and the subsequent dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations. Then the King issues his invitation to anyone and everyone; here we clearly understand that the invitation is extended by God to the Gentiles and that all people are invited to share in salvation. According to me, the word order here is rather important. The text says that bad and good alike were invited. Normally we would say 'good and bad' rather than 'bad and good.' This choice of words is to emphasise that every single person is invited to God's feast. A little more perplexing is the reference at the end of the parable to the man without a wedding garment. When he is questioned by the King he remains silent and so the King has him bound and then thrown out of the feast. Some writers point out that when a great man such as a King invites you to a wedding banquet he would provide at the door the correct garment for the poorer guests to wear. This man had obviously been given such a garment but must have taken it off and laid it aside at some point. Others don't agree with this but say that anyone going to a wedding feast would wear their very best clothes. They say the fact that he was wearing a set of what were presumably his ordinary clothes is insulting to the King.

Either way the point is the same, the wedding banquet is a symbol of the Church and we realise that when we assume membership of the Church we leave off our old clothes which represent sin and put on the new garment of sinlessness. This guest has either never accepted the Gospel or returned to his sinful ways. Whichever it is he does not deserve to remain at the banquet. So, while this parable is addressed to the Chief Priests and elders and demands that they must make a choice as to whether to embrace Christ or not, it also has a message to present day Christians warning us not to revert to our old sinful ways. What then we must understand is that while all are welcome into God's Kingdom, just turning up is not sufficient. No, actual, real change is also required in our lives. When we accept the invitation to become part of God's family we are expected to leave off old sinful ways and to live a new kind of life according to the laws of God. Of course, this is not easy and while we might be full of good intentions and earnestly desire to follow Christ's Gospel of love we may on occasion lapse and fall back into sinful ways.

This does not mean that we are complete failures, as long as we pick ourselves up again and repent of our sins and once again attempt to follow the Christian way of life. It has been said often enough that the Church is not a club for saints but a hospital for sinners. None of us are perfect, we are all sinners. But we are sinners who repent again and again. We are sinners who really do want to follow Christ's way of perfection. Because we recognise our own failures we should be even more patient with others and realise that everyone finds the Christian life difficult. The important thing though, is to sustain ourselves with regular prayer and worship. It is maintaining our commitment to Sunday mass and to daily prayer that will help us to repent when we fail to keep God's laws. The worse thing to do is to give up. Just because we commit one sin we should not think that we are failures and completely written off in God's eyes.

As we have already noted God calls sinners first to his banquet of love. What we should realise when we sin is that God still loves us deeply, perhaps even more deeply. And maybe coming to this recognition will give us the courage we need to repent and to turn once again to him. All these things give us cause for rejoicing. The fact is that God has extended his invitation to ever closer union with him to everyone in the world; that this invitation is extended to sinners first of all; and that even if we return to our old sinful ways we can after repentance return to our full role as members of his Church. This is Good News for the whole world, news that we certainly shouldn't keep to ourselves but share with others. Christ told this parable in the days running up to his death on the Cross. There is a sense of urgency in his words. He wants his listeners to choose life, he wants his listeners to recognise him for who he is, and he wants them to repent of sin and to commit their lives to following God's laws. These words of his echo down through the centuries to us now. Although much time has passed Christ's words are as urgent as ever. He wants us to change but not for its own sake; he wants us to be ever more conformed to the way of life he proposes in the Gospels. And he tells us that by embracing his teaching we will be enabled to enter God's Kingdom of Love and experience everlasting joy.
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