17 February 20196 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Jeremiah 17:5-8;1 & Luke 6:17, 20-26

One clever pastor placed a letter for one and all in the church vestibule. In bold letters, it read, "Do not feel totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything. That's my job." The note was signed "God." "Blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord... (He) has no worries in a year of drought." So speaks the prophet Jeremiah in this Sunday's Old Testament's reading. Contrary to Jeremiah's advice, worrying is something most of us seem to have our doctorates in. Yet, are we not assuming the job definition of God and usurping His burdens? Worrying we are advised is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it will get you nowhere.

Though hundreds of years apart, there is a great deal of resemblance between the Old Testament Jeremiah and Jesus the Nazarene. Both were superstar prophets. They both courageously practiced a profession which most people flee like the plague. No matter the consequences, each boldly spoke pronouncements that their contemporaries closed their ears against. Both spent times as exiles in the land of the Pharaohs. Each of them was pursued by critics. Both spoke their own interpretation of the Beatitudes in language that will be enjoyed to time's end. Each was destined to die young. And neither would die in bed. And the prophecies of Jeremiah and Jesus were subsequently proved correct. Nor is one hard put to find a similarity in the thoughts of Jeremiah and Jesus in today's readings. No doubt the Christ both as a boy and as a man had read Jeremiah oftentimes with delight. Were you to challenge Him, He would recite many of the passages from memory. One does feel a similarity in the rhythm and the cadence of their language.

The Church in pairing these two readings wanted us to see the resemblance between these two scriptural giants. It wants us to see that the earlier Jeremiah is in fact almost a zerox of the Master and a promise of what He would be. But the Church's task is not done once you and I acknowledge that point. It now hurls at us most vital questions. Is there any resemblance between me and Jesus? What similarity is present between you and the Christ? Can anyone of us say without blushing that we like Jeremiah are almost a carbon copy of the Nazarene? St Iranaeus testified that "the glory of God is man fully alive." What better way to be alive than to be Christlike? If you want to soar with the eagles, become a twin of the Christ. If you want to stagger with the turkeys, remain yourself. At the bare minimum, do we possess even one quality that would make even a hostile admit we share it in common with Christ?

Do we return hurts with a vengeance bordering on pleasure? Or do we accept them just as the record shows the Master did as part and parcel of some strange divine plan? Do we too have a feeling for the weak, the lonely, and the poor? If affirmative, when was the last time we went out of our way to visit with these people or drop a note or even phone them? For example, today's Gospel tells us "Jesus came down ...and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering...who had come to hear Him and be cured of their diseases." Why does Luke stress that Jesus "came down"? One commentator answers the question convincingly.

The Galilean had been up on the mountain. But the crippled and the arthritic were unable to scale the mountain. So, He came down to them. He was willing to descend to their level. Would you and I be so willing to put ourselves out? Or would we tell ourselves how busy we are and proceed about our tasks? As someone has said so well, Jesus today does not need defenders. What He does need in excess is witnesses. Are we such? Witness then and, as St Francis of Assisi suggested, only when absolutely necessary, use words. Everyone of us should attempt to remember each day this week that, in a commentator's words, we are Christ's letter of recommendation to a lost world. He would add God put us on earth to shine as lights, not to get used to the dark.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time: Trust in the Lord

I'm a science fiction fan. It flows from my essential nerdiness. Now standard science fiction fare often follows lines like this: You are presented with a perfect race of human beings or human like beings. These are the good guys. They are young and happy, living an ideal life. Science has provided them with everything they need: health, food, happiness. They talk to a large TV screen and their home is transferred into a beach or a mountain. They talk to their kitchen and mounds of spaghetti appear on their table. A perfect world, for Italians at least. Then the story unfolds. We learn that this ideal civilization is a sham.

The people are actually living in a form of slavery where they have no protection from the demands of the leader. Or, like in the old movie, Logan's Run, they are forced to commit suicide. Or they are being systematically destroyed in one way or other by an evil they can not avoid. This stock simple science fiction plot also has another standard element. There is no belief in the supernatural, no faith and, consequently, no hope. In the first reading for this Sunday, Jeremiah says, "Cursed be he who trusts in human beings." It is impossible to create an ideal society if that society does not have God as its foundation, its heart and its end. St. Augustine's ideal society was the City of God. St. Thomas More's ideal society, Utopia, was a renaissance City of God.

Jeremiah was the one true prophet in Jerusalem that lived through the events resulting in the Babylonian Captivity. The king wanted to compromise the power of the Babylonians through military treaties. Jeremiah was told by God to proclaim that man could not solve his own problems. Man needed to trust in God. That is a message we still need to hear. Jeremiah counseled the King that he and all the people should renew their commitment to Yahweh and put their faith in him to deliver them from the Babylonians. That was the way of the faithful Hebrews. Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and all other successful military leaders trusted in God to fight the battle against evil for them. But King Zedekiah, the King Jeremiah spoke to, put his trust in himself and in foreign alliances.

This was an outright rejection of God. More than that, these alliances meant that the people of Judah would have to recognize the gods of their pagan allies and even embrace practices of idolatry. "Cursed is he who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord." In 588 BC Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the king was blinded and led into slavery with most of his subjects just as Jeremiah had prophesied. There are many very good people in our world who are determined to correct the pains of humanity. This is wonderful to the extent that it is a determination to extend God's love to all poor, sick and persecuted of the world. However, there are well meaning but mistaken people in the world who think that they can make the world a better place by trusting completely in man's own capabilities. This does not work. Think about the last century.

The twentieth century began with the most terrible war mankind had ever endured. Millions were killed in the battlefields. They called it the Great War. We call it World War I. In 1919, a hundred years ago, the victorious nations gathered in Versailles to formulate a treaty which, they said, would guarantee that the Great War would be the war to end all wars. At the time the treaty was signed, the Pope, Pope Benedict XV, said that the treaty and the peace would not work. There was no mention anywhere in the treaty about trusting in God. No mention of eternal, spiritual values. The treaty trusted completely in mankind's capability to restore peace to the world. The Pope, as we all know, was correct. Within twenty years the world was engaged in even a worse war, World War II. Ultimate reliance upon human capabilities is a sham. It didn't work for the people of Jeremiah's day. It didn't work after World War I. It won't work today. The one lesson we need to learn from history is that our only true hope must be in God. We cannot even approach the creation of the perfect society ourselves. "Creation without the Creator fades into nothingness," Vatican II, The Church in the Modern World.

The perfect society must be united to and a reflection of the Perfect One. We cannot relate to a concept, though. We can only relate to a person. That is why God sent His Son to us. We relate to Jesus as individuals and as a people. We experience His Presence within us and among us. We love Him. We live for Him. We join Him in the construction of the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the poor, St. Luke's account of the beatitudes states in today's gospel. Luke is concrete. He is not talking about attitudes like Matthew was. He doesn't quote the Lord as saying Blessed are the poor in spirit. Luke quotes the Lord as saying, simply, "Blessed are the poor." To St. Luke the poor are blessed became they have no choice but to trust in God.

St. Luke addressed his gospel to the downtrodden, the lowly. He sees a tremendous virtue that the poor have: Because they recognize that what they have comes from God, they are generous with others believing that God will provide for them if they give the little they have to those more needy then themselves. Consider your generosity to the poor and also here to your own parish. These are times when everyone has serious needs, yet you sacrifice from the little you have to provide for those who have even less. Blessed are you poor. St. Luke also quotes Jesus as saying, "Woe to the rich." Jesus is not concerned with the amount of money a person has. He's concerned with the false sense of security that money often gives people. Many people are tempted to trust in their possessions instead of trust in God. The Scrooge McDucks of the world have no joy, no hope and no future. Jesus told a parable about a man who had such a great harvest he just built a bigger barn instead of distribute his surplus to the poor. The man died that night. His wealth did him no good. If our consolation is our material possessions, we have nothing to take with us when we attempt to enter the world of the spiritual. More than this, if we trust in our stuff, we have little room for God in our lives.

We act as though we do not need him. Just like the people acted in Jerusalem in Jeremiah's day and in Europe at the end of World War I. St. Paul sums up this message in today's second reading: "If our hope is limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of people." 1 Corinthians 15:19. Here is a mystery of our faith: Jesus died to reunite mankind to God for all eternity. Jesus did not live and die for the physical. He lived and died for the spiritual. We have been created to provide our brothers and sisters in this world with the experience of the presence of the eternal love of God, the presence of Jesus Christ. We live in an age of expanding technological marvels. We can hit a few keys on our computer and read documents in libraries from around the world. We can buy tickets to events across the country choosing the seats we want in the theater from our iphones. We ask Alexa, or Siri, or Google, and get an immediate answer.

The next thousand years will be a time beyond the imagining of the science fiction writers of the past. It will also be an empty age. It will be empty unless we are determined to put the spiritual in the center of our lives. Jesus Christ is our only true hope and our only lasting refuge. We treasure our relationship with the Lord. Rich or poor in material possessions, Jesus Christ is the reason for our being. We can harness the advancements in technology to serve the Lord in this Life. We can be secure in our Hope to be with Jesus forever in the next life. "Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold your reward will be great in heaven."

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
6 Ordinary Time

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There are two quite different accounts of the Beatitudes in the Gospels, one in Matthew and the other one presented to us today in the Gospel of Luke. The one more usually quoted is Matthew's version while the set given to us by St Luke is much less well known. Matthew's account of the Beatitudes marks the beginning of his rather long Sermon on the Mount while in contrast Luke's version is set on a Plain and although it is followed by a sermon this is much shorter than the one given to us by Matthew. Another difference is in the structure of the Beatitudes; Matthew gives us eight blessings but Luke gives us a group of four blessings followed by four opposites sometimes called 'woes'. Here in the Jerusalem translation we say, 'Alas to you who are rich', but most other translations render it as, 'Woe to you who are rich.' The Beatitudes are often regarded as the very heart of Jesus' teaching.

In the Beatitudes Jesus sets out the most radical part of his Gospel. He presents to his disciples and his other listeners a vision of the world turned upside down. He presents his values as being the direct opposite of the values of this world. In the Kingdom of God, he is telling us, it is the poor, the hungry, the mourners and the persecuted who are valued while it is the rich, the satisfied, the jovial and those who are lauded that are at the bottom of the heap. The values then of the Kingdom of God are the direct opposite of the values of this world. And with a few adjustments it is pretty much the same today as it was at the time of Christ. The values of this world are the acquisition of wealth, power and influence. Those who are admired by society at large are those who have single-mindedly risen to the top of the social elite. Usually this has meant them having become extremely self-centred, if not utterly selfish. It has often also meant them disconnecting themselves from their families and friends in the single-minded pursuit of what they regard as excellence.

Such people often end up becoming totally dysfunctional as human beings; they frequently become detached from ordinary life experiences and the stresses and strains of normal human relationships. They end up being in thrall to fame and excitement; they commonly become obsessed with their own self-image and often get hooked on such things as cosmetic surgery and other treatments with the aim of presenting to the world the perfect body. The more we think about people who live their lives like this the shallower we realise that they have become. In their case image has triumphed over reality. The truly committed Christian cannot live like this. A dedicated follower of Jesus realises that there are more important things in life than celebrity and achievement. An Apostle of Jesus understands that true fulfilment is only to be found in acquiring the virtues of goodness, faith, hope, kindness, trust and so on. It is only by embracing the Christian virtues that we can ever achieve real and lasting human contentment. The disciple of Christ realises that true achievement in life only comes about through becoming more authentically human and that the best way to do this is to embrace the values of the Gospel.

Of course, no one wants to be poor, or to be hungry, or to mourn, or to be persecuted. No one in their right minds would actively seek out such a state in life; unless, of course, they were truly a great saint. And we can think of certain saints who have embraced complete poverty such as Anthony of the Desert, Francis of Assisi, Benedict Joseph Labre or, in more recent times, Charles de Foucault. These are truly great saints who adopted the life of a hermit or mendicant and became utterly dependent on the kindness of others while they whole-heartedly devoted themselves to a life of prayer and penance. Their lives were tough but they won the admiration of God and man. Most of us, however, cannot adopt such a life because we have families to feed, houses to maintain and jobs of work to do. We are not cut out to be a wandering saint who sleeps in a hedge. Instead what we should concern ourselves with is acquiring the virtues, focussing on the maintenance of our relationships and living our lives in a truly unselfish way.

We should aim to live our lives for others in accordance with the Gospel values and, in this way, we will acquire virtue and so become great in the eyes of God. If we live our lives in this way but then find ourselves experiencing some of those things that Jesus is talking about in the Beatitudes, such as periods of poverty or hunger or bereavement or persecution, we will not see these things in a negative way. We will see them rather as gifts from God which are intended to strengthen us. We will realise that they have been given to us for the furtherance of our spiritual growth. Of course, we will still suffer privation and perhaps even extreme need but we will know that these outwardly negative things actually have a true and lasting spiritual value. What we should be attempting to achieve is true authenticity as human beings. What we should be striving for is to live real and genuine lives. What we should be cultivating is human warmth, generosity and goodness. We might not end up as people with fame or wealth but we will most definitely end up as people who are appreciated by others. We will most definitely end up as well-rounded human beings who are making a real and effective contribution to our families and to society at large. We will most definitely end up as people who have a real and deep spirituality and find ourselves being led into an ever-closer union with our loving Saviour.

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