27 January 20193 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

A shoemaker, says Edwin Markham, through a dream was told that he would see Jesus the next day. He waited in his store all day. The only one who came in the morning was a senior citizen. His shoes were worn out. The shoemaker gave him a fresh pair at no charge. In the afternoon came an old woman. She was hungry. The shoemaker promptly gave her his own lunch. As evening approached, a child came in crying bitterly. She was lost. The shoemaker took her home to the other end of town. Returning, he was certain that he had missed his rendezvous with the Christ. Then he heard a voice. "...I kept my word. Three times today I came to your door. Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was the lost child you took home." Today's Gospel puts the Master back in His hometown of Nazareth. He had come back for a long weekend. He was anxious to spend quality time with His mother. At this point, He was a celebrity.

The news about the miracle at Cana had preceded Him. After all, Cana was only about four miles away. Politely He had declined to appear on the cover of a national magazine. His name was on everybody's lips. A local boy had made good. Every eye in town was on Mary's door. The natives were expecting some kind of fireworks to erupt from the house. If He could do the hat trick in Cana, why not in His own backyard? Imagine what it would do for the town's tourist business. However, the Teacher to everyone's annoyance remained out of sight. Probably He did much-needed carpentry repairs on Mary's house. No doubt she knocked herself out making Him His favorite meals. She was appalled at the weight He had lost on the road. She had heard much about those fast-food shops down in Jerusalem. But on the Sabbath Mary's door swung outwards. With her arm in her Son's, they walked to the synagogue. He would not miss Sabbath worship for all the olive oil in Palestine.

There must have been many times when He was bored out of His skull by long, dull homilies. Yet, every Sabbath found Him in a synagogue in whatever town He was. If you have concluded that He was telling us we should be at Mass each Sunday, you have broken the code. There was never anything subtle about the Lord. You can bet your life the synagogue was packed to the rafters that morning. Not even a shoehorn would get another body in. If scalpers could have sold tickets, they could have retired that day and moved to the south of France. I share your hunch that Jesus and His mother were given two seats on the aisle way up front immediately. Predictably the synagogue president invited our Leader to read the Scriptures. He well knew that if he had not, he might be lynched by his fellow townspeople. The Teacher deliberately chose the particular passages from Isaiah that He wanted to share with His neighbors that morning. These are the first recorded adult words of Jesus the Christ. The sixty first chapter of Isaiah is oftentimes called the Gospel of the Old Testament. The words of Isaiah would constitute the inaugural address of the Saviour.

They tell us what Jesus is all about and what He considers His most important mission. He had come among His own to bring happy news to the poor, to tell captives they were free, to open the eyes of the blind, and to relieve the burdens of the oppressed. Having finished the reading, He rejoined His proud mother. She realized that every eye in the synagogue was on her Son. Luke does not tell us how His audience reacted to the message, for their reaction is not really important. The one that is crucial is mine and yours. The Christ allows each of us to make up our own minds. As we make up our minds, listen to the sixteenth century Spanish mystic, St Teresa of Avila. "Christ has no body on earth now but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless people now." The shoemaker took her advice. Why don't we?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: Liberating Law

The readings for this Sunday lead us to a discussion about laws and codes of behavior. I thought I'd like to begin today by telling you about a very strict monastery and a new recruit, Br. Alpheus. When Brother Alpheus joined the monastery he was told that the monastery was so strict that the monks were only allowed to say two words every five years. They were to spend their five years considering what they would say. Well, after five years in the monastery, the Reverend Abbot called Brother Alpheus in and asked him what his two words were. Brother Alpheus said, "Food Cold." "OK," Brother Alpheus," the Abbot said, "You may no longer speak until five more years when you will be allowed to say your next two words.?

After five years the Abbot called Brother Alpheus in and asked him what his two words were. Brother Alpheus said, "Bed, hard." "OK, Brother Alpheus," the Abbot said, rather dismayed, you may say your next two words five years from now." Five years later the Abbot called Brother Alpheus in and again told him he could now say two words. "I quit," said Brother Alpheus. "Well, no wonder, the Abbot said, "You've been complaining since you got here." In the first reading for this week, Ezra reads from the Law of God. The occasion is some time after the Dedication of the rebuilt Temple, after the exile.

Let's just place it about 510 BC. Ezra presents the Law of God on a major feast day, perhaps the New Year, perhaps what later generations would call Yom Kippur. One thing caught my eye immediately in that first reading from the history book, Nehemiah, Ezra continually tells the people not to be sad, but instead be full of joy. The Law of God esults in joy, not sadness. In the Gospel, Jesus begins his public preaching in the equivalent of a synagogue in his own town. His text is presented today: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Therefore, he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favor from the Lord.

These two readings assert that the Law of God, The Word of God should be received in joy not in gloom. The Law of God is seen as liberating, not something that is restrictive. Let us be honest now. This is not how most of us view commandments, Church teachings, etc. But if we really think about it, we can understand the joy and the freedom we have received when we have adhered to the principles of our faith life, our morality. Many people in our times have demanded a freedom from all codes of moral conduct. How happy are these people? Can a person be a member of a family he or she loves and receive love from that family if that person flaunts the basic code for living in the family?

A person cannot be happily married and at the same time unfaithful. A person cannot grow in love and be basically selfish. If a lack of rules brought happiness, then why do so many hedonists commit suicide? If a code of morality is supposed to be somber and oppressive, then why are the happiest people in the world those whose lives revolve around a very strict following of the Lord? Some of the happiest people I have ever met are the Trappist monks I made retreats with in Conyers, Georgia and in Gethsemani, Kentucky. They have to get up in the middle of the night. They have set hours for work and prayer. Their diets are restricted. They take vows of silence. Yet, they are happy. These are not people who do not know any better. They are some of the brightest people of our generation. Nor are they social misfits, people who could have no place in society. The monastery will only accept people who have been successful members of society. They are people whose lives point people to the true source of happiness.

Honestly, I have never met Brother Alpheus in a Trappist monastery. The monks are happy. The Law of God has brought joy. Think of the dark corridors of our society, the sleazy sections of the cities with their sex clubs and free life style. Think about the people who flaunt all codes of behavior. Are any of them happy. Are prostitutes happy? Only in the movies. Are their customers happy? No, they are depressed and depressing. Are those who party to the extreme and wake up wondering who they are happy? Or do some of them finally realize that their way of life destroys all meaning in life? Consider some people you have known in your life who have demonstrated contempt for all codes of behavior. I guarantee you that in their unending quest for happiness, they were among the saddest people in the world. One day I had a particularly beautiful experience that demonstrated the joy that following God's way brings.

I was scurrying about the front office when I noticed a teenage girl standing behind some people getting Mass cards. She looked pretty shy. She also looked pretty pregnant. I said to her, "Can I help you, honey?" (OK, so I'm not politically correct.) She told me that she was wondering if this is the Church where she could get some food. I walked her outside and asked her if she was pregnant. She said, "Six months," with a big smile and then told me, "That's why I need food, I'm eating everything in sight." I brought her over to our Food Pantry where our wonderful volunteers took good care of her with the food you folks bring in. I also brought her to our Pregnancy Center. I asked her if she had everything she needed for the baby. She said she had nothing. So I told her that the people of St. Ignatius have help for her and her baby. She got in touch with one of our counselors and was able to get all sorts of baby furniture, and clothes, and infant toys and general stuff. Before she left she said to me, "You know, I could have had an abortion like some of my girlfriends.

But I know it is not right. I know there is a baby in me, and I just couldn't live with myself." I'm relating all this to you because I want to emphasize this point: It is not guilt that kept her from having an abortion; it was the joy that she would be doing the right thing by having the baby. The law of the Lord brings joy. Last Tuesday we considered the grim anniversary of Roe vs Wade. The advocates of abortion love to portray the Catholic Church as being oppressive in its determination to protect life. To this I must tell you something that I am certain you would agree with: I have met many people who, no matter what their situations in life, have rejoiced in their unexpected babies. I have also met many people who suffer from the results of an abortion throughout their lives. Our Upper Pinellas Pregnancy Center really protects and respects two lives, the baby's and the mother's. So often we Catholics are portrayed as people struggling to live under oppressive laws. That?s not true. People who chose the way of the Lord are happy.

That way demands that we take control of ourselves, and allow His Love to motivate our lives. The big lie of our society is that happiness can be found outside of the Lord. We know that what others pass off as happiness is merely a temporary band aid over a broken life. Happiness, comes from God and leads us back to God. These reflections have led me, and perhaps also you, to a deeper understanding of a passage in Psalm 19: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they then gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Ordinary Time
Cleft for Me (January 27, 2019)
Bottom line: Like Martin Luther King, we need to come to Jesus, to hide ourselves in that Rock cleft for me - and for you.

Before getting to the main body of this homily, I address a question some people ask: From a human point of view, how do we know he Gospels are reliable? Can we be confident they tell true history? Well, in the opening of today's Gospel: Luke states he is compiling a narrative based based on eye-witness reports. If Luke doesn't get things right, those and other first-hand observers could correct him. Recently I had the funeral of man who like me was a member of the class of '64 - him from Monroe and me from Stanwood. At that time Monroe and Stanwood were rivals. I made a joke about the Spartans beating the Bearcats in every football game. After Mass a Monroe graduate was happy to tell me the precise record, even some of the half-time and final scores. Needless to say, my account didn't hold up. It was different for Luke. He's a careful historian. He interviews people who were there. After his Gospel starts circulating, people would correct errors just like that Monroe graduate corrected me.

A trained physician, we can trust Luke. As Christians of course we know the Holy Spirit guided Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but even on a human level we see that the Gospels are not fairy tales. They are trustworthy narratives about life-changing events. We see one of those events today - and this brings me to the main point of the homily. When Jesus returns to Nazareth, his home town, he stands up in the synagogue and opens the scroll to Isaiah's prophecy about the messiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because has anointed me." In Hebrew the word for "anointed" is Messiah - and in Greek, Christ. The Spirit anoints Jesus to bring glad tidings to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year of favor, of grace. Those verses encapsulate his mission.

We can illustrate Jesus' mission in a man we are following this month: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I found inspiration listening to his speeches and sermons - and a book about his final year: Death of a King. It shows him working to liberate not only his fellow blacks, but whites and others in our American mosaic. Martin Luther King identified with other people's suffering because he endured grave afflictions. In the last year of his life he suffered depression that led to hospitalization. We can understand his depression in light of the stress he was under: savage attacks from the press, family troubles, financial woes, a splintering movement with internal divisions and betrayals - and his own demons that led him to seek relief in alcohol and infidelity.

Those failures and sins brought guilt that drug him deeper into depression. His staff members - many of them fellow ministers - worried about him. They finally got him to take a few days away. At the place they were staying one of them - at 3 in the morning - realized Dr. King was not in his bedroom. The fellow minister searched frantically and and found him on a balcony. Remembering that Dr. King had attempted suicide as youth, the friend was thinking he might now plunge to his death. Moving closer, Dr. King asked, "Do you see that rock?" Then he sang in full voice, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me; let me hide myself in thee."

Jesus was cleft for us like Moses cleft - opened - the rock in the desert. Dr. King's power came from the fact he took his troubles, weaknesses and sins to Jesus. Jesus, he knew, came to free the captive, give sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free. That's Jesus mission as we see today. You and I may not have lives so stressful - and so significant - as Martin Luther King. We are little people. That of course does not mean we won't have stress. From the outside other people's lives can look easy, but as a pastor I've often seen that someone who has - quote - "peaceful life" can be enduring terrible anxiety. Like Martin Luther King, we need to come to Jesus, to hide ourselves in that Rock cleft for me - and for you. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Start as you mean to go on" is a very good proverb and Jesus certainly does this in our Gospel reading today. He stands up in the synagogue of Nazareth and issues a manifesto; he proclaims a statement of intent for the rest of his public ministry. And this manifesto is not something made up by himself; it consists of the words of one of the most revered of all the prophets, Isaiah. These are words every member of the synagogue would have been familiar with. They are words attributed to the Messiah who was so long expected. And now they are words proclaimed from the lips of Jesus who thereby makes them his own. No wonder all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him especially when he went on to say, "This text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen."

In the most explicit way Jesus identifies himself with the Messiah even though, as we will hear next Sunday, it infuriates his listeners who regard his statement as little short of blasphemy. And yet as it turns out Jesus really should be taken at his word for he does indeed prove himself to be the Messiah. And every phrase of that prophecy of Isaiah he makes his own. We should not blame the people of Nazareth for getting angry with Jesus as he made this solemn proclamation. They were not scripture scholars or teachers of the law who ought to have known better. They were just ordinary townsfolk who were probably barely literate and who simply could not believe that one of their own would dare to adopt this text and state that he was its living fulfilment. This just goes to show that quite often when we are surrounded by what might appear to us as quite banal and ordinary we might actually be in the presence of something that is truly extraordinary. We need to develop eyes to see and observe the things of God. We need to train ourselves to notice his hand at work in our world.

We need to acquire a certain sensitivity to the things of the spirit. And if we do so we might discover that we are surrounded on all sides by the things of heaven. Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it well when she wrote, "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes, the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries." In other words only people who have acquired the necessary insight to see the hand of God in all that is around them act reverently, the rest simply pick blackberries or in other words just do what they would do anyway. It is important that we are not fooled by just looking at the world as it presents itself to us and then believing that is all there is. Catholics have long understood that there is another world which is hidden from us as if by a gossamer veil; this is the world of the spiritual, this is the world of all things godly. This spiritual world is invisible but there are clues to it all around us. In this spiritual world live the angels and the saints as well as all the faithful departed.

And it is through this spiritual world that Christ exercises his influence over the earthly realm. The first reading today also includes a reading from the scriptures. In it we hear how the Prophet Ezra read from the law and gave explanations for half a day. The reaction of the people was quite different to those of Nazareth. On that day the people raised their hands and responded with the words, "Amen! Amen!" and then prostrated themselves on the ground in reverence. The people in the time of Ezra were eager to hear the Law read and explained to them; they heard it with tears in their eyes and after hearing it they feasted with great joy in their hearts. This tells us something important, that the Word of God literally is Good News and needs to be received as such. Sometimes though when we hear the scriptures or the teaching of the Church especially on a difficult point we listen to it with critical ears. We might say to ourselves that while we believe in most of the scriptures and the greater part of what the Church teaches we can't go along with one or other specific bit of teaching. When this happens what we have to do is to say to ourselves, "This is supposed to be Good News."

Then we need to look for the Good News in it. Some people, for example, disregard the teaching on artificial contraception. But the correct way to deal with what we might regard as difficult teaching is not to reject it but to look for the Good News in it. In this case that might mean an acknowledgement of the bodily cycles which God created and the wish to harness these in the service of regulating birth. More than this, we might also start to appreciate how this particular teaching needs each party to a marriage to have an ever deeper respect for the feelings of the other and not to look upon our sexuality as a means of recreation but rather as the means to profoundly worship our partner.

What we need to learn to do therefore is to more and more get in touch with that spiritual world from which we are separated by that gossamer veil. We need to see beyond the purely material and come to an appreciation that creation also includes this spiritual world. If we are also to sensitise ourselves in this way we will be more profoundly aware that God's creation is indeed immense. Immense not just in the extent of the material universe, but immense too in its spiritual and other-worldly aspect. This is the fundamental problem that atheists have, that they simply cannot see this other world of which we Catholics are so conscious. They believe that what we see is illusory and ought to be stamped out. But we know that acknowledging the spiritual world is only coming to a true appreciation of the full extent of God?s creation.

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