29 October 201730 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A
Matthew 22:34-40

When one elephant in a herd is hurt, other elephants will help the injured animal stay on its feet. They crowd about the injured elephant and provide a shoulder for him to lean on. Can we do less for people? The Herodians, Pharisees, and Saducees, pursuing Jesus in today's Gospel, were wannabe jailers. They had hunted Jesus for three years. They wanted Him out of their lives. Each time out they came up not with His scalp but with empty air. They were losers. Today's strategy was foolproof. Or so they thought. They took turns baiting Jesus with thorny legal questions. They hoped to reel Him in like an exhausted fish and gut Him. Today the Pharisees' attorney was the leadoff batter, "Master, which is the Law's greatest commandment?"

The question appears harmless to us, but it was a ticking bomb. For centuries, the Jews argued this question. They had 600 laws. If it was His enemies' lucky day, the Christ would give an unpopular response. The crowd would grow angry. He'd become history. Jesus' answer rings out clear even today. You must love God and neighbor. Neither of these concepts was news to the lawyer. Both were taken by Christ out of the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But He put a peculiar spin on His response. We see three firsts. For the first time in Jewish theology, Jesus had taken the two concepts and made them two sides of one coin. Also He was the first to argue that "on these two commandments hang the whole Law..." Finally, He was a complete original in telling His audience one must love Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles were the ones the Pharisees loved to hate.

Jesus had proved to be the Lord of Surprises. No wonder the editors of Time, Newsweek, and the US News & World Report chose to place His picture on their front cover in the same week. He was front-page news in His time and remains so in ours. The attorney from the firm of Dewey, Cheetem, & Howe, who was fronting for the hostiles, called time out. He found himself holding a gun shooting backwards. Fighting Jesus was unproductive. We cannot beat up on His enemies for not marrying the concepts of God and neighbor. Their inability to do so reflects a centuries old dispute in our Church. Some Catholics, especially many young, argue, "I come to church to worship God. Spare me the message on the poor.

I get that on the TV all week." This is telephone booth theology: just me and God and nobody else. Here they obey the first great commandment and forget the second. Other Catholics operate on social worker principles. They put out for the poor not because it pleases God but because it pleases them. Jesus is squeezed out of the package. They obey the second great commandment and disregard the first. Such people are humanists but not Christians. Maximilian Kolbe was a Nazi prisoner. He heard his fellow prisoners badmouth their jailers.

The priest, who would be executed by the Nazis in 1941, urged them to forgive their captors. "Hatred only leads to more of the same. Only love," he said, "is creative." Kolbe, now a canonized saint, loved his jailers because of today's Gospel. He had learned that when you look for good in others, you discover the best in yourself. (Unknown) Karl Barth wrote volumes on God. Still he tells us his definition of God is summed up in three words: One who loves. Since God is a tremendous lover, should we be less? When you fail to see God in people, you come to see others as a lost cause. If you forget today's Gospel, people appear to be unteachable. You become a misanthrope or cynic. This week give time.

Give a friend flowers. Share a cake. Perhaps a phone call. Give hope. Hug a child needing affection. Speak praise to a teen-ager. Forgive an enemy. Use humor to defuse an argument. Smile. Say thank you. (Unknown) A Hindu proverb sums up the above: "The narrow-minded ask, 'Are these people strangers or members of our tribe?' But to those in whom love dwells, the whole world is one family." Meditate today on the aphorism that people with a heart for God have a heart for people. If you find yourself a lousy lover, don't grow discouraged. Many bad lovers are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up? (Unknown) If the elephants can show love for each other, why can't we? Reaching out and aiding your neighbor is excellent exercise for the heart.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
30 Ordinary Time
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time: It's the Law!

Everybody wants simple easy answers to their questions. Some answers can be found using Google, like what day of the week you were born. It is absolutely amazing how much information is available using any device connected to the internet. However, some answers cannot be found, like, "How do I keep a straight face when my wife asks me how those jeans look on her?” Answers to the main questions of life cannot be Googled. Questions like, "Why do I exist? Why is their evil in the world?” Or even, "How do I raise this particularly difficult child?” do not have simple answers. The Pharisees who questioned Jesus in today's Gospel reading were trying to get him to give a simple answer to the question that the scholars of Hebrew law debated: "What is the greatest of the commandments?” There were 613 of them in Hebrew Scripture. Which was the most important?

Jesus responded to the lawyer's question with two quotations from the Torah. The first quotation came from the Sacred Jewish Prayer called the Shema Israel. This was a prayer contained in the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy 6:5 and recited by pious Jews every morning and evening, "Hear this, O Israel, Shema Israel, God is One. You shall love your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind." The second quotation came from the Book of Leviticus, 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We can't just love God part time, we have to love Him with everything we have. We can't just be good to our neighbor sometimes, we have to be good to others always.

This was not the easy answer the lawyer was seeking. Jesus' answer was not a particular law, not even two particular laws. His answer demanded a new lifestyle, a way of living that draws us so close to God that we become His presence for others. The poet Maya Angelou was once asked what her lifetime goals were. She answered that she wanted to become a Christian. Maya Angelou was a Christian. Her point was that Christianity is an ongoing process of becoming. Everyday we take steps to becoming a Christian. And everyday God uses people to find Him. There is a story about a college girl who was in great distress because she had loss a sense of God in her life. Her grandmother was very much the spiritual leader of the family, so the girl visited her and complained, "Why doesn't God let me feel His presence? If only I could feel Him and know that He has touched me.” Her grandmother said, "Pray to God, right now. Close your eyes and pray to him. Ask Him to put out his hand and touch you.

But no matter what happens, keep your eyes closed.” The girl closed her eyes and prayed fervently. Then she felt a hand on her hand. "He touched me. He touched me,” she cried out, her eyes still closed. Then she said, "Wait, this hand feels like your hand.” "Of course it is my hand,” her grandmother said, "That's how God works.” He takes the hand that is nearest and uses that.” I want to speak with you about a saintly American woman whom God used to touch others in the normal, every day ways. Her name was Dorothy Day. She lived most of the last century from 1893 to 1980 and is sometimes called the saint of the third millennium. Dorothy did not begin her adult life as a holy person. She embraced the loose lifestyle of the Roaring Twenties and what was then the wild scene in Greenwich Village in New York City. She was no Mother Theresa.

In fact, she was the antithesis of Mother Theresa. But then Dorothy found God. Actually, He was always there. She just stopped shutting him out of her life. She became a fervent Catholic, a dedicated Christian. She led a reform within the establish Church of America to reach out to the poor, the needy and the desperate. She was a crusader for social justice, a pacifist and even an agitator, at least in those areas where she saw the local and national government existing only for itself. There is talk Dorothy Day should be canonized, made a saint. She would have been completely repulsed by that thought. In fact, even during her life when people suggested that she would be made a saint by the church, she would say that she didn't want to be dismissed so easily. After all, people tend to view saints as doing that which is beyond normal human life.

She was really quite normal. She wanted normal people to join her in finding Christ in others. Her point was that there was nothing extraordinary in doing what she did. All she did was love God and love neighbor, and live the way every Christian should live. Still, she probably won't get her way. I am sure that Pope Francis would love to tell her story to the whole world. Just before the consecration in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer we pray, "Having loved His Own who were in the World, Jesus Loved them to the very end.” He gave us his Body and Blood. He gave us His life. And He said, "Follow me. Love as I love.” Which commandment is the greatest? "Don't search scripture for a particular commandment,” Jesus responds. Instead combine the Shema Israel, "Love the Lord with your whole mind, your whole heart and your whole soul,” with the law of love in Leviticus, "Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is a lifestyle, not a commandment. We pray today that we might love God so deeply that we will have no choice but to bring God's love to those around us.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
30 Ordinary Time
Working for One Flock with One Shepherd
(October 29, 2017)

Bottom line: To love God and neighbor means work that Jesus' prayer become reality - that there be one flock with one shepherd. You are probably aware that this month marks significant anniversaries: the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima and also the Russian Revolution. The two are collected because Mary asked the children to pray for the conversion of Russia - still an important prayer.

Besides the 100th anniversaries of Our Lady of Fatima and the Russian Revolution we have the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, university professor (and monk) named Martin Luther presented his famous 95 Theses. They were not so much a manifesto as points for a scholarly debate. They led, however, to a rejection of authority apart from "Sola Scriptura" (Bible Alone). He and the other "reformers" thought that the "plain sense of the Bible" would lead to purified faith accepted by all. In Unintended Reformation Professor Brad Gregory shows how it turned out very differently that the reformers dreamed.

This week is a good moment to pray for Christian Unity - the "one flock with one shepherd" that Jesus spoke about in his Last Supper. See John 10:16. St. Paul speaks about turning from idols to serve the living and true God. Setting oneself as judge and arbiter is a form of idolatry. That's why "Sola Scriptura" has led to the fracturing of Christ's Church. Each person becomes their own little pope. I've talked with guys who reject papal infallibility (which is actually quite limited) but then assert that their own interpretations are infallible! Before the Reformation we had one pope. Now it seems like we have thousands!

Don't get me wrong. The Reformation has a positive side - especially the emphasis on prayerfully reading the Scriptures. It's vital that Christians read and reflect on the Bible. It's God's word. But a person who uses the Bible to beat other people over the head is practicing a form of idolatry. We all stand under God's Word and need the authority of the Church's living magisterium. Otherwise we easily fall into traps. Jesus tells us to focus on the two great commandments: To love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. That's the first commandment and the second is like it: To love your neighbor as yourself. For us that means to work each day that Jesus' prayer become reality - that there be one flock with one shepherd. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 22: 34-40

Gospel Summary
Matthew's gospel, Jesus is frequently involved in confrontational situations. This reflects the tensions in the church of Antioch between conservative Jewish Christians and more liberal converts from among the Gentiles. The Pharisees in this gospel represent in some sense a conservative position that emphasizes observance of the law. They want to draw Jesus into their own interminable and sterile disputes about the relative importance of their numerous and detailed legal minutiae.

Jesus responds by quoting the essence of that great text from Deuteronomy (Chapter 6: verses 5 and 6) which as been justly called the heart of Israel's covenant commitment. In fact, when devout Jews today attach a mezuzah to their door posts, it contains this very text. And it does indeed sum up the divine revelation of the Old Testament. Its importance, therefore, can scarcely be overemphasized. Life Implications We all recognize the importance of rules of conduct in our society. The alternative is chaos and the cruel law of sheer power. Laws are often derived from the accumulated wisdom of society. We have learned from hard experience that there can be no real freedom without an order that protects rights and assigns obligations.

At the same time, there are laws that are based on divine revelation and which we may very well not be able to discover by our own wits. The law that Jesus calls the first and greatest of all laws belongs to this category, It has two parts: love of God and love of neighbor. Love of God always presupposes a prior experience of God's goodness, and God offers most of us abundant evidence of such goodness, usually mediated through the kindness of others and the beauty of creation. Nonetheless, the awareness of divine goodness may seem to disappear at times, such as at 9/11 or in the terrible consequence of Katrina. Love of God then becomes trust, which is especially pleasing to God, for even among humans it is a rare and precious gift.

The experience of God's goodness that makes such trust possible causes us to be intensely aware of the gratuity of divine love. The proper response to such a discovery is wonder and gratitude. Love of one's neighbor is profoundly influenced by one's loving relationship with God, because such human love, at its best, is also gratuitous. The other person is not loved simply because he or she is attractive. Rather, this love comes from the goodness of the one who loves and reaches out instinctively to anyone who is in need. After all, God did not love the Hebrew slaves in Egypt because they were beautiful or cultivated but simply because he is good and they were in desperate need. Such unconditional love, even among humans, creates freedom, confidence and beauty. A person who is loved in this way acquires an inner beauty, which manifests itself by a special personal sparkle. Perhaps that is because, even among humans, such love is really divine.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Modern Exodus 22: 2 - 26 I Thessalonians 1:5C-10 Matthew 22: 34 - 40

We have the Ten Commandments, the precepts of the Church, and numerous laws and rules we are expected to follow as members of the Church. In the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that of all of these, two take priority. The Gospel begins by informing us that Pharisees and Scribes are intent on getting Jesus with their questions. This would give them something to charge him with and have him silenced. However, they failed to realize or accept that with Jesus they weren't dealing with a mere Man, but with one was fully human and fully Divine.

His answer reveals his vast knowledge and understanding of God's word, after all Jesus is the Word made Flesh. The question put to Jesus seems simple; "Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” If Jesus were to single out one commandment he would have opened himself up to being accused of saying that the other commandments were not important. This response could be twisted, distorted and taken out of context to attempt to ruin the credibility of Jesus as a teacher. The wise response of Jesus is to quote two teachings from the Pentateuch. The first is from Moses' instructions to the Israelites in the dessert; "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) This is from a passage that all Israelites were very familiar with, and is known as the Shema. It was recited at the beginning of their gatherings, it was worn in leather pouches around their wrists and foreheads, and was found in little containers on the doorways of their homes.

There was no way that they could criticize Jesus for citing this as being the greatest commandment. To do so would be an attack on Moses himself. Jesus then adds a second commandment. (Doesn't Jesus always do more than we expect or ask of him?) This second commandment is from the book of Leviticus, (19:18) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke's Gospel this teaching about the neighbor is followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan which answers the question, "Who is my neighbor?” The parable and the readings this weekend teach us that our neighbor is much more than the person who lives nearby. We are bound to one another by God who created us in His image and likeness, and sent his son, Jesus, to unite us as brothers and sisters.

Our history of accepting prejudice because of race, ethnic background, or creed, give testimony of how difficult this second great commandment is to live. This commandment is not about building walls to keep those we see as undesirable out, but rather building bridges so as to welcome the alien, refugee, and the persecuted. We are sometimes quick at rejecting the messenger who calls on us to open our hearts to all our neighbors, but while rejecting the messenger who challenges us is easy,it does not change the reality of this teaching of Jesus. While it is easy for us to say that we will love God above all, although we struggle with living it. Materialism, ambition and pride often have us put God in the back seat. It is much more difficult to say that we love our neighbors as ourselves. But that is what the scriptures teach us today, and it is what Jesus teaches. These two commandments take ongoing work on our part in order to master. We might never master them during our lifetime, but there is the need for us to continue to progress.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By the time of Jesus, Jewish Law had greatly expanded from the original ten commandments. One writer says that there were 613 actual laws as well as 365 prohibitions (one for every day in the year) and 268 prescriptions (one for every bone in the body). Obviously not all these rules and regulations were of equal weight and the rabbis constantly disputed which of them were more important than the others. So we can see where the question of the Pharisees in today's Gospel comes from. Their desire to know which was the most important law was not just a matter of curiosity but a point of contention among the lawyers and religious figures of the day, something which was of real importance to them. Today we might find such a question a bit abstract and not very relevant, but you have to understand that the ancient world was a very different place and their concerns were quite other than ours. They lived in a completely religious world which was dominated by the Temple and the various factions gathered around it.

What to us seem obscure matters of religion were of vital importance to them. However, the purpose of the question in today's Gospel is not to find the answer but, as we are told, to disconcert Jesus. They want to wrong-foot him; to try to find something which they can use against him. In this and in the previous few chapters of Matthew's Gospel, extracts of which we have had read to us over the last few weeks, the Pharisees have been trying hard to catch Jesus out. They have put questions to him like the one last week about whether taxes can be paid to Caesar. Their purpose is to look for a chink in his armour so that they can find something to use against him. On each occasion Jesus outsmarts them. He either gives an answer they do not expect or he responds with a parable which puts them in a bad light. By now they are a bit exasperated and are running out of things to ask him, so they pose this question about which is the greatest commandment. Jesus gives the answer that there are two great and interrelated commandments: Love God and love your neighbour.

The Pharisees perhaps seeing that they cannot get the better of him simply decide to back off. It is interesting that, true to form, Jesus does not use the same categories as the Pharisees in their disputations about which is the greatest commandment. They ask which one commandment is the greatest and he gives them not one commandment but two. He does not place the first above the second but says that the second is like the first. What is interesting is his follow-up statement that on these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets, in other words the whole body of Jewish teaching. From this remarkable statement we see that the Jewish religion is based not on rules and regulations, as the Pharisees would have the people believe, but on love.

This is something that they do not expect. Yes, I am certain that the Pharisees loved their wives and their children, but it is obvious that their religion is not based on love; rather their religion is based on the observance of rules and regulations. In a word their religion is mechanical. According to their way of thinking if you observe this set of rituals or that set of behaviours then you will be righteous in the eyes of God. What Jesus proposes is something that they have completely overlooked. For all their study of the scriptures the Pharisees have failed to notice the great pillar on which their religion is based, namely love. They have not understood God's true nature. They do not realise that the sole motivating force of God is love. They do not realise that what God wants from us is for us to simply love him as well as our fellow human beings. The Pharisees did not understand this simple equation.

We realise that their failure to appreciate this important point is very reason why Jesus came into our world. He came to make sure that we perfectly understand just what God is like and what we need to do in order to live with him forever. The message of Jesus, to use the beautiful phrase of St John, is that ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them'. The task then of anyone who wants to be one with God is to learn to become a good lover in the very broadest sense of that term. What we ought to be striving for is to deepen our care and concern for and our appreciation of all those around us and to be constantly reaching out to God in our prayer as well as in our good works. What we need therefore is profound passion in our lives, a deep and warm and powerful love for our God and our fellow human beings. This word passion is very interesting because its roots are in the word suffering.

When, for example, we speak of Christ's Passion we mean his suffering on the Cross but we recognise that the motivation for his suffering is his great love for us and his concern that we should have the way to heaven opened up for us. There is no room for a cold Christian; there is no space in the Church for a stony-hearted Christian. These concepts are complete contradictions. What we are long for is passionate, warm and loving Christians; members of the Church who care deeply about the welfare of those around them.

We want Christians whose hearts are moved by the sufferings that they see and who want to do whatever they can to help to build a better world. When we describe someone as passionate we mean that they are excited and ardent about whatever it is that gets them going. In society at large we can see many passionate people in sport, in the arts, in politics and many other areas of life. It is hard for anyone to achieve a measure of success in a particular sphere without being passionate about what they do. However, what we are talking about here is Christianity. And Christianity goes far beyond mundane things such as sport or politics. What we are talking about is the most important thing that exists; namely God himself. We are speaking about the greatest kind of love that there is, the love of God and flowing from this the love of our neighbour. If we can harness a deep passion for the things of heaven in our lives then there is nothing we cannot do; no place we cannot go; no door that can ever be closed to us, least of all the door of heaven.
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