30 June 201913 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
13 Ordinary Time
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 9, 51-62

Pope John XXIII told us, "You may be the only Bible that someone may ever read."

Dag Hammarskjold, the late Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote but one book. And even then it was not published until after his death in an airplane crash in Africa in 1961. But what a volume it is! It will be read and prayed over up to a day after the Parousia. It is titled Markings. In it, Secretary Hammarskjold wrote, "The longest journey is the journey inwards of him who has chosen his destiny."

As the Gospel of Luke opens, an unknown writer points out that the Christ is about to begin His own "longest journey." It is a trip by foot, but also it is a "journey inwards" as he moves without hesitation to complete the destiny marked out for Him by the Father.

But our mystery writer wants us to realize that St Luke has the Teacher constantly on journeys. Mary, while bearing Him in her womb, journeyed to spend time with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary and Joseph of course journeyed to the city of Bethlehem for His birth. Subsequently they journeyed with the Infant to Jerusalem to present Him in the Temple to the Father. Then faithfully they journeyed with the Boy to the capital city to celebrate the solemn Passover.

But all these trips, outlined by the skillful and clever Luke, are comparatively speaking but sidebar journeys. Luke has been preparing us all this time for THE GREAT JOURNEY which begins in today's Gospel. That momentous journey, beginning here in chapter 9, will close out in chapter 19. There we will read of His arrival in Jerusalem ready to begin the processions of Palms. With that entry, Luke wants us to reflect that the Master is preparing Himself for His death, resurrection, and ascension.

For obvious reasons, scholars call Luke's long account of THE GREAT JOURNEY the Journey Narrative. It occupies a third of the Lucan Gospel and is found in his Gospel alone.

Luke lets us see that the Teacher is about to commence THE GREAT JOURNEY in the first line of today's Gospel. "Now as the time drew near for Him to be taken up to heaven, He resolutely took the road for Jerusalem..."

My unknown author assures us that the GREAT JOURNEY is a type for the journey that each Christian and Catholic must take. All of us should be walking resolutely on the road that will take us to the heavenly Jerusalem. Obviously we will need instructions for such an important march. And happily we will find them in the ten chapters of the Journey Narrative. They make up a textbook of pilgrim instructions. They are a how-to manual of Christian discipleship. They tell us how we shall walk with the Nazarene on this none too easy and slippery road.

In the Lucan manual, the words retreat or defeat will never be mentioned. At all costs, we must keep advancing. And, if we stumble and fall, we must like our Master pick ourselves up and move forward once again.

The type of disciples that Jesus the Christ is looking for is illustrated in a story told by a preacher. The Church was undergoing persecution in a certain country. The Catholics of one village gathered together for the Eucharist in their church. Suddenly their door loudly burst open. Standing before them was a soldier menacingly brandishing a machine gun. He shouted, "If you do not really believe in your Christ, get out immediately to save your lives." A number of people slinked out one by one. The soldier kicked the door after them. Then he said to those remaining, "I too believe in Jesus. We are better off without those people."

None of those terrified people who remained in that church had looked back. They had no intention of retreating. Rather, they wanted to move forward at all costs into the Kingdom. None of them believed in good weather discipleship. Each was in for the long haul. And, as they were, so must we be in our own GREAT JOURNEY.

Do not be one of those many who, as the preacher says, talk cream and live skim milk.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
13 Ordinary Time
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Freedom

Throughout our lives, we often have a thought that a time will come when we will finally be free, free of the authority that keeps us from doing what we want to do. When we were little, we viewed each stage of school as a step to greater freedom. For example, we thought that once we got to high school, we would be free to do all the things that Middle School wouldn't let us do. But then we found out that high school demanded so much work that our freedom was limited. We thought that when we got our driver's license, we would be free to come and go as we want. Then we were introduced to the concept of paying for gas, insurance, a car; and, yikes, we had to get a job. So much for that freedom. Similar things happened when we got to college, when we started our lives independent of our parents. Those who married took on a deep responsibility towards their spouses, a responsibility that limited their actions in favor of caring for another. Selfless love. And then children came, and real responsibility hit. You married may have thought that life would begin after the kids moved out and the dog died, but it didn't. You still had to work hard. Those who retired may have thought that they would finally be free to do whatever they wanted, but they aren't. They have responsibilities to others. They are increasingly limited by their own health or the health of their spouse. There is always some force, something over us that limits our freedom.

We are wrong if we define freedom as the ability to do whatever we want without having to bend to any sort of authority. All societies demand authority, whether that is the society of the family, where the good of the marriage determines the actions of the spouses, where the parents guide, or civil society where respect for others and their property determines what we can and cannot do, or the society of God, where our reverence for the Lord motivates our actions.

The Christian defines freedom in a different way. For the Christian, freedom is the ability to be the unique person that God created each of us to be. We all know this and experience this. We are at our happiest when we are at our best. Yes, we have responsibilities, and, yes, we have authority over us, but this does not limit our freedom. Our freedom comes from being our best selves.

Francesca Battistelli, one of my favorite contemporary Christian songwriters, wrote a wonderful song expressing this: She goes back to her youth and realized that she may have thought that she had the world figured out, but needed God to understand it. She comes to the conclusion:

Sometimes I believe that I can do anything
Yet other times I think
I've got nothing good to bring
But You look at my heart and You tell me
That I've got all You seek,
Perfection is my enemy
And on my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me and You're free to be You. ©CCLI License #2368115

And that is where freedom leads us. When we are free to be our true selves as God created us, then we allow His reflection to be viewed by the world.

The freedom to be God's reflection to the world is what gave Maximilian Kolbe freedom as he sat in the starvation cell of Auschwitz. You know his story, but you may not realize that he was a respected spiritual writer, a leader of the Marian movement as well as a Franciscan missionary founding monasteries in Japan and India. He returned to his native Poland where he helped shelter thousands of Jews. The Nazi's caught up to him and sent him to the concentration camp. When a prisoner escaped, ten others were chosen to die. One man, Francizek Gajowniczeek cried "My wife, my children." Fr. Kolbe said, "Take me instead." No greater love. He was imprisoned, he suffered, and yet he was free. The world saw Christ on the Cross in a unique way through St. Maximillian Kolbe.

There are so may others, be they canonized saints, or members of your own families, and many of you who are continually at your best because you are always giving to others. If at any time in our lives others can see Christ in us, even if it is only a glimpse, then we are free, free to be who God meant us to be.

We cannot let our freedom be destroyed by licentiousness. This is what St. Paul is speaking about in the second reading. We cannot allow anything to keep us from being our best. When we confuse freedom with licentiousness, we bind ourselves to our sins. For example, a wild bachelor may think he is free to use girls as he sees fit. But he renders himself incapable of forming a relationship with a woman as a person who can lead him to God and whom he could lead to God in the sacrament of marriage. Many young girls make the same terrible mistake, living loose and then being incapable of making a lasting commitment. How many people are chained by their sins! They embraced a sinful life to spite others, to exercise in what they thought would be freedom. Instead, they ended up incapable of being themselves.

Jesus Christ sets us free. We need to treasure this freedom. We need to treasure our lives in Him. But this takes courage. This takes determination. We cannot just say we are Christian. We have to be determined to live the Christian life. Think of Elisha in today's first reading. He was so determined to heed God's call and follow Elijah that he slaughtered his twelve head of oxen and burned their yokes. There would be no turning back. We can have that determination. We can conquer anything that is holding us back from being our best selves. Like Jesus in today's Gospel, we can set our faces like flint towards Jerusalem to do whatever the Father's will is for us. We can be our best selves. We men can be Men of God. You ladies can be Women of God.

We seek the grace, the wisdom and the courage to be whom God calls us to be.

We seek freedom.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
13 Ordinary Time
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
(July 30, 2019)

Bottom line: Keep me from a temptation that would overwhelm me. I know my weakness. Do not send a trial that would break me. Even so, like Bishop Vasile, I trust you.

You probably notice I am wearing green. It doesn't mean I am supporting the presidential campaign of Governor Jay Inslee. No, green is the color for Ordinary Time which runs between now and the end of November.

I love Ordinary Time. It gives a chance to follow consecutive readings from the Gospel - this year the Gospel of Luke. We will be on a kind of road trip. Maybe you notice that the first verse of today's Gospel says that Jesus "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." The Greek says "He set his face..." This phrase echoes Isaiah's Servant Song, "I set my face like flint..."

I'd like to illustrate this determination by looking at a controversy surrounding Pope Francis. The pope has been subject to many controversies - some real, some manufactured by the press. Maybe you saw headlines about Pope Francis "changing the Our Father". They made it sound like the pope woke up one morning and decided he didn't like the way the Our Father sounds and that he could make a better version.

Well, Pope Francis did approve a new translation not for the universal church, but for Italy. The change relates to the 6th petition, "lead us not into temptation". That translation goes back to the Latin, et ne nos inducas in tentationem. Literally, don't induce us into temptation. Now, as Pope Francis points out God doesn't literally lead someone into temptation. The devil does that. St. James says that when tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me". (1:13) The Catechism states that the Greek verb in the sixth petition is "difficult to translate by a single English word: The Greek means both 'do not allow us to enter into temptation' and 'do not let us yield to temptation'". The Spanish translation may be closer to the original Greek. "No nos dejes caer en tentacion". Don't let us fall into temptation.

So God doesn't literally lead into temptation, but he does allow temptation. Here's the reason: If, by God's grace, I resist a temptation, I take power from it. If instead I give in, it takes power from me. Either way it should lead to humility. If I fall, I ask forgiveness. If I resist, I give God the credit.

There's something more. The word for "temptation" can also refer to trials or tests. I'm asking God to not allow a trial greater than I can bear. Overall I've had it pretty easy. I think of Christians in other places and other times undergoing persecution. Recently I read about the seven martyr bishops that Pope Francis beatified when he visited Romania at the end of May. One of them, Vasile Aftenie, the Communists arrested in 1948. They offered him a comfortable life as a puppet bishop. Vasile responded, "neither my faith nor my country is for sale."

The communists know how to break a man. Putting Bishop Vasile into isolation, they deprived him of food, water and sleep. They kept telling him he was the enemy of the people, a tool of oppressors. They tortured, mutilated and crippled him, breaking him physically and also mentally. Bishop Vasile died on May 10, 1950.

I ask myself if I could endure such a trial. I honestly doubt it. When we say "lead us not into temptation" we are praying to be spared something so horrific.

Still I don't have to look to Communist Romania to see trials I could not endure. I think of some of the people I served in Peru facing terrible poverty. They would envy even the poorest people here. And here people have shared trials that I would find difficult to bear: the death of dear child, the betrayal of a trusted spouse, a crippling accident. Or Maggie Beatte - her painful cancer, just when new vistas were opening for her life.

But you know rather than worry what might happen tomorrow, it's best to pray "give us today our daily bread...lead us not into temptation". Please, don't send a trial beyond my endurance. Yet we also pray, "thy will be done".

As I pointed out at the beginning we are on a journey to Jerusalem. You know what happened there. But let's take this journey one step at a time. Next Sunday is 4th of July weekend and we will have some powerful Scriptures. And at the end of the month we hear Jesus teaching the Our Father so we will have opportunity to see other aspects of that basic prayer.

For today Jesus tells us to set our hands to plow and not look back. Above all, we want to persevere. A Gospel song says, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back". Keep me from a temptation that would overwhelm me. I know my weakness. Do not send a trial that would break me. Even so, like Bishop Vasile, I trust you. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.


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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
13 Ordinary Time
Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Today we celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the most crucial saints of the early Church. They each had very different personalities and indeed quite different vocations. And both of them were also rather flawed characters. But as we know from the Old Testament, God has a way of choosing people who are completely unworthy to carry out his plans for the world.

We only have to look at Moses; who else but God would choose a murderer to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land. King David was also a very flawed character; his lust for Bathsheba and his effective murder of her husband is not something anyone would be proud of. But this is what God so often does, he chooses the most unlikely people to carry out his wishes. Of course, one of the reasons he does this is to show that his ultimate desire is that every single person will have their sins forgiven and the way to eternal life opened up for them.

In the case of Peter, we know that he loved Jesus and he wanted to please him whenever he could but then when push came to shove, he let Jesus down badly. On that fateful evening after the Last Supper when the cock crows Peter realises that he has denied Christ thee times. And not just deny Christ, but deny him at the worst possible moment. We also note Peter's constant misunderstandings and his impetuosity. After Christ's death on the Cross what does Peter do? He goes back to his old occupation of fishing. It is as if now that Christ was no longer with them he just goes back to doing what he had always done as if nothing had ever happened.

Paul, as we know, was a noted persecutor of Christians. At the stoning of Stephen Paul was present and we are told that he entirely approved of the action of the crowd. He then is sent to Damascus to root out Christians there and put them to the sword. Paul has something of the fanatic about him and is an implacable opponent of Christianity until the moment when he is thrown of his horse and struck blind.

Peter has the experience of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit comes upon him and transforms him into a fearless Christian and qualifies him to lead the Church into an uncertain future in the face of severe persecution. And with Paul, his conversion experience completely changes the direction of his life and he becomes one of the most effective Evangelisers the Church has known.

The trajectory of the lives of Peter and Paul is utterly changed and they both in their different ways consolidate the Church and enable it to make rapid progress in those crucial early days. They both end up in Rome where their efforts to spread the faith lead them both to suffer a martyr's death; Peter being nailed upside down on a Cross and Paul being beheaded.

Both Peter and Paul are the author of important letters to the various Churches in the ancient world. There are two letters by Peter and thirteen by Paul, they address the concerns of the various groups of Christians spread through the Empire. For example the First Letter of Peter addresses the question of persecution which many of the Churches are experiencing. He urges them to emulate Christ and to love their enemies and to keep faithful to Christian morality. In the Second Letter of Peter he answers questions about how long will Christ's Second Coming be delayed. He reminds them that to God a thousand years are like a single day.

Paul's letters are more extensive and are addressed to specific Christian communities in Greece, Asia Minor and Rome. He answers particular questions that have arisen in these Churches and covers a very wide range of topics. The early Christians greatly valued these letters and preserved them carefully and read them aloud in the liturgy just as we do today.

You may have heard the Quo Vadis story. It is an account of Peter fleeing Rome to escape persecution. As he travels down the Via Appia who should he encounter walking resolutely towards the city but Jesus himself carrying his Cross. He asks Jesus, ‘Domine, Quo Vadis?' Literally, ‘Lord, where are you going?' And Jesus replies that he is going to Rome to be crucified once again. Peter is ashamed that he is escaping from the city and turns around and goes back to Rome where he is soon arrested and Crucified.

If you go down the Via Appia on the way to the Catacombs of St Sebastian you will see there the Quo Vadis Church. Supposedly there is a stone in the centre of the Church with the imprints of Christ's footprints there for all to see.

In the case of St Paul, it is said that when he was beheaded his head bounced three times and three springs suddenly appeared. There is a Trappist Monastery the Church of which was built around these three springs. The monks there keep a flock of sheep and the wool from these sheep is used to weave the pallium which the Pope gives to Metropolitan Archbishops on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul each year as a sign of their office.

You will also see in St Peter's Square on either side of the Basilica two rather fine statues, one of Peter and the other of Paul. The current statues are five and a half meters tall and where placed there in 1847 to replace two rather smaller statues. These two statues placed in such a prominent position indicate the importance of these two wonderful stains who played such a crucial role in the development of the early Church.

Of course, our job as Christians in the world of today is to try and emulate these two extraordinary men. Like them our task is to unify the Church and to spread the faith. It is to encourage those around us who may be losing heart and to model the Christian virtues so that others may be strengthened in their faith. We do not know whether we will be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives as they did, but it is something that each one of us should prepare ourselves for.
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