05 November 201731 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
31 Ordinary Time
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A - Matthew 23:1-12

The boss was in his new office. An employee walked in. The boss picked up the phone and started an imaginary conversation flattering himself. He signaled the worker he'd be with him shortly. The employee said, "Take your time, boss. I'm here to hook up your phone." "A proud heart," wrote Ben Franklin, "is like a crooked fence. All the paint in the world won't straighten it."

The problem of pride was as bothersome to the early Church as it is to ours. Mark and Luke touch upon pride as well as today's Matthew. No century corners the market on pride. Can anyone even remotely imagine a proud Christ? Yet, He had much to be proud about.

What disciple does Jesus seek? A monk was sent to an abbey as abbot. He arrived at the abbey. From his dress, the monks judged him inferior. They sent him to their kitchen. Their new abbot spent weeks scouring pots and shelling beans. The bishop arrived. When he could not find the abbot, he went on a search. He found him in the kitchen preparing supper. He presented him to the monks in chapel. They had received a lifetime lesson in humility. The abbot is the man whom the Teacher wants. (William Barclay) The proud, we are told, pray on Sunday and PREY on those about them on Monday. Rather, pray with God on Sunday and walk with Him on Monday. The abbot reminds us when we think we are humble, we are not. Many of us even have a nasty habit of being proud of our humility. We become legends in our minds. We go to church to find out what our neighbors should do to lead better lives. He that is proud, said Shakespeare, eats himself up. Pride, says the Bible, goeth before the fall.

In Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," Alice found a mushroom. When she ate one side of the mushroom, she found herself getting smaller. When she ate the other side, she got taller. Of the two situations, Alice decided smaller was better. For, as she was reduced in size, all things and people about her looked more wonderful. Less, she discovered, can be more. Small can be beautiful. Walt Whitman ate the correct side of the mushroom, for he wrote, "As for me, I know nothing else but miracles."

We are forever circling that same mushroom. If we allow ourselves the portion that makes us larger, everything else about us will lack wonder. We will become puffed up with our worth. Critics will put us down as studies in pomposity. We will develop in ourselves the very faults which we detest in others. The proud, says the savant, detest pride in others. A man was awarded a medal for his humility. Shortly he was stripped of it. He had begun to wear it proudly. Many of us have much in common with him.

Two ambassadors walked on Paris' Champs Elysees. They were grieved. Though the Parisians had greeted them warmly, none had addressed them with their title, "Your Excellency." If proud, one becomes the character whom Peter Ustinov addresses in his play as "Your Altitude." We become like those who ask, "What will the world do without me when I'm gone?" Only those who permit themselves to grow smaller and smaller will be able to see "the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower." Not only will they bring themselves joy but also they will share that joy with others. They will be God's ambassadors. They will give pleasure to the Christ.

They will become the children which the Nazarene asked us to be. They will rush into the Kingdom laughing and singing "When the Saints Come Marching In." A US senator attends a weekly prayer group. At its end, while other participants rush to their jobs, the senator stays to stack chairs and clean up. And he is the highest ranking person there. Looking for a role model? But do not put off this thousand mile journey! Lewis Carroll must have had each of us in mind when he wrote in his other classic "Through the Looking-Glass": "It takes all the running you can do to stay in one place. If you want to get anywhere, you have to run twice as fast." A US president was working an old age home for votes while running for a second term. He said to an old man, "Do you know me?" The fellow said, "No, but if you ask the nurse, she'll tell you." No one, history tells us, has ever choked to death from swallowing his own pride. Can those, who really know themselves, afford to be proud?
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
31 Ordinary Time
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Call No Man Your Father

We used to have a delivery man here at St. Ignatius who must have been in continual trouble with his bosses because he was never concerned with finishing his route in the allotted time. He used to like spending time chatting with me and the secretaries. There was one problem though. He could not figure out what to call me. He would not call me "Father” because the leaders in his Church had instructed him to follow Matthew 23 literally and "call no man father.” Actually, the translation says, "call no man my father,” but I was sensitive to his difficulty. The only thing was that I told him it was not OK with him calling me "Joe” in my own office. So we settled on "Hey You.” Actually, I don't think that the Lord was asking that his priests be called "Hey you,” in today's Gospel. Let's look at this passage that we priests often skim through.

There are messages here about our relationship with God, as well as our own views of ourselves. First of all, Jesus is not banning the use of the term, "Father.” In fact, he expects us to respect our physical fathers and to call them "father.” He also tells us to respect our spiritual ancestors calling many of them, "Father.” Abraham is often referred to as Father Abraham. St. Paul will often remind people that he is their spiritual father. The apostles and all who founded churches were called to be the fathers of those churches. In today's Gospel, Jesus also tells his disciples to call no one teacher. But the New Testament continually refers to God's appointing some to be teachers. To find out what the passage, "call no one my father,” means, we need to look at it in its context in scripture. In Matthew 23, Jesus is focusing on the Pharisees.

They exalt themselves, looking for new ways to demand that people respect them. They wear headbands with pieces of cloth hanging on them called phylacteries. On the phylacteries they write words of scripture so that every time they turn their heads the Word of God will be before their eyes, keeping Proverbs 4:20-21 that says: My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. The trouble was that the Pharisees were seeing God's words but were not keeping God's words. They were just putting on a show of holiness so that others could be enlightened as to what wonderful people they were. Jesus' point was that the Pharisees were making religion about themselves, not about God.

The Catholic priest is ordained to continue the loving work of the Father. His fatherhood comes from God and must point to God. I am called father because the mandate of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is to make the Father's love real for His people. When I don't do that, then I don't deserve to be called father. It is easy for a priest to use his position in the Church to point to himself instead of to God. When that happens, priesthood is replaced by a sort of demagoguery. The priest acts as though he is the source of wisdom for all. People then look to him as their guide instead of to God. Sadly, there are many people who are so concerned with following a particular priest that they feel abandoned when that priest no longer holds a position of authority in the Church. They made too much of the individual and not enough of the One the individual was pointing towards. St. Paul ran into this difficulty after he left Corinth. The people there divided into groups.

One group said that they belonged to Paul, who brought them the faith. A second group said that they belonged to Apollos, a Christian missionary who came after Paul and who nurtured their faith. Paul wrote the Corinthians that we all belong to God, not to this or that individual. He reminded them in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who gave the growth. Throughout history, the Church has suffered from human beings making a big deal out of themselves and thus serving their egos instead of serving God. They seem to have forgotten the last words of today's Gospel, "whoever exalts himself shall be humbled. Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Priests need to take as their guide the first American saint who was not a martyr, St. John Neuman of Philadelphia. He wrote the pope that he was more than willing to give up ministry if he ever was ever viewed by Church authority or by anyone as an obstacle to people finding God.

Matthew 23 isn't just about priesthood, though. It is about how all of us use our position in the Church. We all have authority, some as priests, some as teachers, some as parents, some as catechists, etc. Many of you are parents. Do you parents demand that your children respect you because you are on an ego trip and want someone in the world to look up to you? Not if you are good parents. If you are good parents, and you are, you demand that your children respect you as the representative of God in this stage of their lives. You also want them to learn respect for all those whom God has given any form of authority.

The same message can be applied to all of us in whatever share of authority the Lord has given us. Most of us are confirmed. That means that we are given positions of leadership in the Church. Jesus also speak about teachers in today's gospel. Many here are teachers. You did not become a teacher because you were mocked when you were in school and sought a position that would demand the respect of children and teens. No, you became a teacher because you want to form the young into productive citizens of our country and of God's Kingdom. In that way you will continue the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ. We are all involved in charitable ministries. We don't do this so we can have others respect us. We reach out to others to serve Christ in the needy.

All here are people that others at school or work look towards when they are seeking to understand the working of God in their worlds. In whatever way this leadership is manifested in our lives, we have to be sure that we are leading others to God, not to a meeting of our own fan clubs. Matthew 6:3 says, "let your right hand not know what your left hand is doing.” That is hard to do when we are patting ourselves on our own backs. The basic message of today's gospel is that everything we do must be about Jesus Christ, never about ourselves. We have to understand that we are His servants.

Our priests must manifest God's fatherhood, not their own fatherhood. Our teachers are part of the teaching ministry of Christ, and are teaching for his glory, not teaching for their own glory. In all things, God must be exalted. If that means at times stepping back while another continues the Work of God more effectively than we can, so be it. It is better to humble ourselves and be exalted by God then to exalt ourselves and be humbled by God. That is the conclusion of today's Gospel. Too many people use the Church to trumpet their own self worth. That is not why we go to church. That is not why we are Roman Catholics. We go to church because we need God. We are Catholic because Catholicism is the authentic way of finding God. We know what we are like without him. But we also know the wonders that He works through us. We pray today that we might have the humility to be servants of the Lord.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
31 Ordinary Time
Most Misunderstood Form of Communication (November 5, 2017)

Bottom line: As your spiritual father I ask this pledge so our family can flourish. Some of you participated in the summer "Take the Plunge" Bible Study. You learned to use the Bible (daily Mass readings) for prayer and how to understand the original meaning - the text in context. Context is important for today's Gospel. When Jesus says to call no man rabbi, teacher, doctor, father, he's not rejecting titles of honor. No, Jesus himself refers to "father Abraham." What Jesus wants is for us recognize the ultimate teacher, doctor and father - God himself. St. Paul speaks about God as the source of all paternity.

To my brothers here I say: Your paternity and mine comes from God. Once a mom came to me with child in arm. She shared the struggles she was facing. I listened and then prayed over her and her child. When I finished she looked at me and said, "you are my father." I've now completed almost 46 years of priesthood and still the greatest satisfaction is to be a spiritual father. This weekend I am asking you to let me be your father and for us to form a spiritual family. We're a big family, even here in the Sky Valley. And we are family in flux. I can't get to know each of you as closely as I would like, but I do want to communicate with you. I ask you to give your contact information - address, phone, email. If you use Facebook, "friend" me.

I have a Twitter account, but unlike President Trump I haven't figured out how to use it except to post homily links. There's another form of communication. It's been around so long and we use it so often that we don't think of it as communication. Jesus speaks about it a lot and emphasizes how seriously we should take it. I'm talking of course about money. When you think about it, money is a basic way of communicating value and commitment. It's a pledge of goods and services - a vehicle of responsibility and Stewardship. For sure we often misuse money - because of our greed and desire to control others. This common tendency led St. Paul to say, "Love of money is root of all evil." Money in fact is the most misunderstood form of communication.

Still if we exercise Stewardship money can achieve much good. During the month of November I ask you to make a renewal of Stewardship. Please take one of the cards and fill out your contact information. On the top part you see three options for a Stewardship commitment. Our relationships depend on making pledges and then doing our best to see them through. As your spiritual father I ask this pledge so our family can flourish. Today's first reading speaks about keeping faith with each other. This often means accepting the "drudgery and toil" St. Paul describes. But it springs from love. As Paul says, "With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
31 Ordinary Time
Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time,
Modern Mal 1:1b-2:2b, 8-10, 1
Thes 2:7B-9, 13,Mat 23:1-12

A familiar sight in my hometown were the ungated railroad crossings with the signs that said; "Stop, Look, Listen." These were the instructions or maybe even the warnings to approach the crossings with caution and to use your eyes and ears to make certain no train was coming. The readings today brought back memories of these signs and how their basic message should be very much part of our lives as Christians. It is important for us to stop, look and listen so as to be attuned to the presence and message of God in our lives. It seems that our "To Do" lists are never completed because for every item we check off two more items appear on the list. Stop and put aside the lists, clear our minds of thinking about what else must be done, and quiet our souls so that we become aware of God's presence. It is during the times when we stop and sit in stillness that we are able to look and listen to what God is saying to us and showing us. We become less focused on doing, and more aware of being. There is the old saying, "practice what you preach," that is usually used when someone boldly and freely gives advice to others who take it to heart and work at making changes in their lives so as to follow this advice. Then, their eyes are opened and they realize that the person giving the advice is not living it themselves.

This can lead to becoming disheartened and disillusioned. Jesus calls on us to keep our eyes open and not to follow the bad example, or hypocrisy we see in those who instruct, but to take their good teachings to heart. Seeing what others do is only part of the message. Look at what we are doing in our lives. Do we see what we would like to be, or is the reality different than our hopes. Jesus words about the Pharisees are words that we should be mindful of. They talked a good talk and Jesus advised the crowds to listen to their teachings, but do not follow their example.

It's a word of caution to us that we can get caught up in saying the right things and giving the correct teachings, while not living them ourselves. The first word in the Rule of Saint Benedict is; "Listen," and he goes on to say, "listen with the ear of your heart." True listening involves not only hearing what is said, but also allowing our hearts to absorb the message so as to truly listen and understand. In Mark's Gospel Jesus asked the question to the crowds who were seeking a sign, but not listening to his teachings; "Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?" (Mark 8;18) How well do we listen? We hear the Word of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures and if we listen with our heart something might strike us as the Lord speaking in a very personal way. It might be a word that brings us comfort during some trying time, or a word that helps put some decision we are struggling into perspective, or a word that reminds us of God's faithfulness to us at all times. There are many other ways that God's word can speak to us and guide us, but in order for this to happen we have to listen. May we take to heart the message of these readings and take time to stop, look, and listen so as to me more attuned to God in our lives. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
31 Ordinary Time
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Gospel presents us with a bit of a dilemma since Christ forbids his disciples from using the title father or teacher and yet we find ourselves using these titles all the time. If we took this instruction of Jesus literally not only would we be forbidden to call priests by the title father, but also we would be forbidden from using the word teacher to describe those who guide us at school. And if we were to take it even more precisely it seems as though we are even forbidden to call our male parent father. This can hardly be what Jesus means! Actually, it would be pure nonsense; and indeed the Church has never taken this teaching at its face value. The hierarchy of the Church is littered with titles, even if, thankfully, in latter years there has been a noticeable pruning of them.

As always, we must look at the context and then look below the surface. The context is Jesus' teaching about practicing what you preach. He points out that the Pharisees do not practice what they preach and he is instructing his disciples to be sure that they do not follow this example. The Pharisees insist that the people call them Father or Rabbi or Master; but these are tiles to be earned and not claimed as a right. Anyone who insists on being called Rabbi, that is teacher, must fully live up to the title. They must have something to teach, something worth communicating to others, something people want to hear. All the more so if they claim to be preaching the message of God to the world. These titles of Father, Teacher and Master strictly speaking only belong to God. Only he can be called Father since he is the unique creator, only he can be called Master since it is solely to him that we all owe allegiance. He is the only true Teacher since all revelation comes from God and is communicated to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

These are not new things to us in the Church; they are deeply rooted in our Christian faith. It is this basic attitude that Jesus is surely speaking about. He is concerned that we should have a right relationship with God and especially when it comes to those with leadership in the Christian community that they should not interpose themselves between God and the people. When we on earth are given these titles it should not swell our heads, it should do the exact opposite. We acknowledge from whom these titles originate, and we ought to walk in his way with great trepidation and in all humility. Hypocrisy is the great sin of the New Testament, one which Jesus is constantly accusing the Pharisees. The greatest tragedy of all would be for his own followers to fall into the same trap. This is surely why he stresses the point. If we look at the first reading we see the author of the Book of Malachi admonishing the priests of the Temple to be true to their calling.

The worship in the Temple is to be pure and according to the instructions handed down from God. Their teaching is to be true and they are not to lead the people astray otherwise they will quite definitely incur God's anger. Christ, of course, inaugurates the New Covenant and the sacrifices of the Temple are replaced by the Eucharist. But this does not invalidate the warning in Malachi. We priests, as ministers of the New Covenant we must pay attention to what we are doing. We must celebrate the liturgy in accordance with the instructions handed down to us. We must do so in a way which is worthy of the dignity of this great sacrament of God's love. We must do so with real reverence and with the participation of all. Actually, the Church has been paying great attention to the celebration of the liturgy in the last few years.

As we are all aware the translation of the mass into English was revised. Even if not all are entirely happy with the final result it certainly is an improvement on what was a more banal earlier translation. The revision has definitely made us all think about how we are celebrating the liturgy and the meaning of the words and actions we use. Reflecting on how the liturgy is celebrated can only be a good thing. It is good for us to do so individually and in various groups such as servers, readers, singers and so on, but I think that we also have to consider how we as a whole congregation participate in the mass. Coming to mass should never be a merely passive experience; we ought to participate as fully as we can. Now we can't all come to the lectern to read at the one mass, and although we welcome as many servers as we can there isn't enough room up here for everyone. So, what can we do? Of course, we can participate by saying our prayers, by following the readings attentively and by joining in the hymns.

One of the most important areas of participation is saying the responses and in particular the Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. The word Amen means ‘so be it' and by saying the Great Amen you the people give your consent and express your faith in all that has been said on your behalf by the priest. Actually, you will notice that the priest normally doesn't say the Great Amen himself. He stays silent holding up the paten and the chalice and it's the job of the people to chime in loud and clear with what we call the Great Amen. We come to mass and we expect to be fed. We are fed with the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Life as well as being fed with the Word of God. But you the people of the parish have to bring something to the party as well, you have to participate and be attentive to all that is going on. We are a community gathered in the name of Christ; that alone guarantees his presence among us, but Christ is also present in Word and Sacrament and in many other ways. He is certainly among us now so let us worship him and pay him honour and do him service. Let us rejoice in his presence and let our prayer be taken from the Alleluia verse for today: Speak to us Lord, for you have the message of Eternal Life!
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