21 July 201916 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteen Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 10, 38-42

The story is told of the father who after work would take a long walk with his teen-age daughter. He took great pleasure in her company. Suddenly she began to offer almost daily excuses as to why she could not accompany him. He was hurt but held his tongue. Finally his birthday arrived. His daughter presented him with a sweater that she had knitted. Then he realized that she had done her knitting when he was out of the house for his walk. He said to her, "Martha, Martha, I do appreciate this sweater. But I value your company infinitely more. A sweater I can buy in any store. But you I cannot buy. Please never abandon me again."

From the record, we can establish the Teacher stayed at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany outside Jerusalem many times. He stayed there in the last three months of the year 29 when He was busily working the Jerusalem territory. He would stay in this house the first four days of Holy Week.

The sisters were not only generous hostesses but also bold ones. At this point, Jesus was walking about with a price on His head. He was an outlaw. His picture was in every post office. They hardly would find themselves in good favor with the police, the Temple authorities, and probably the Romans. Surely they were liberated women. They would have no need to join a feminist support group.

But I am certain that they were quite aware that the Master was running a risk Himself in being their guest. Accepting hospitality from women was clearly forbidden by Rabbinic law. In addition, He had from their first encounter taken great pains to offer them instruction. This would not make Him popular with the male world in general or with the authorities. The Christ was no doubt the only man in their circle who did not patronize them. He treated them as equals. What a welcome change that must have been for these intelligent women! They must have been so tired of being treated like children. No wonder Dorothy Sayers writes, "Perhaps it is no wonder that women were the first at the cradle and the last at the cross. They had never known a man like this Man..."

Do check out that Martha saluted the Teacher as "Lord" in verse 40 of today's Gospel. So, quite obviously these women realized they had a tiger by the tail. Walk carefully then. The Gospel is clearly talking about divinity.

We all know the story. Martha is exhausting herself putting together a meal worthy of a five star restaurant for the Lord. She is setting out the Irish linen, the Wedgewood china, the Tiffany silver, and the Steuben crystal. She has arranged a spray of anemones from her garden as a centerpiece. She is chilling the Dom Perignon champagne.

All this time of course her sister Mary is enjoying the company of their guest in the air-conditioned coolness of the family room. Martha is hardly amused. She storms into the room. There is Jesus with His worn sandals off and His feet up on the barca lounge. Mary is drinking in every word the Teacher speaks. She looks as though she wished she owned a Sony tape recorder. However, the Japanese had not yet reached Palestine. It is a pity for us that they had not.

Martha loses her cool and sounds off with a bitter indictment of Mary the shirker. For her pains, all she gets from the Christ is a wrap-around smile and a healthy chuckle. It does not improve her mood when she hears Him say in verses 42, "It is Mary who has chosen the better part."

Many of us have been seduced by what has been called the heresy of good works. We neglect Jesus' company. Our prayer life grinds to a screeching halt and goes off the boards. We disregard His invitation to come apart and rest awhile. We forget the sage who advises that if Christians do not come apart and rest awhile, they may just come apart. As the man says, if we are too busy to pray, we are too busy. After all, he goes on, God speaks only to those who take time to listen. We should reflect on Thomas Merton's line that "it is becoming increasingly evident that the only people in the world who are happy are the ones who know how to pray."

And, as Joseph Donders observes, Mary knew Jesus needed company that day. He needed not a housekeeper but a listener.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday: Life in the Presence of Christ

In this Sunday's second reading from Paul's Letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks about a mystery, "a mystery that has been hidden for ages is now manifested to God's Holy Ones. The mystery is this: Christ is in you."

Usually when we use the word mystery, we think of a story that has an ending we try to solve before we get to the last page of the book or last five minutes of the movie. When the Church uses the term mystery, it goes much deeper. For the Church a mystery is a truth that is incomprehensible to the reason and knowable only through divine revelation. The Early Church referred to the sacraments as the mysteries. When adults are about to come into the faith they are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens so they may have the strength and the grace to be open to Mystery. The main events of the action of Jesus Christ in our world is called the Mystery of Faith. At the most solemn time in the Mass, after the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called upon to proclaim the Mystery of Faith, and we respond something similar to: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

Paul, therefore reminds the Colossians and us that we have received Mystery, the Mystery that Christ is in us.

Sadly, when it comes to this Mystery many people, and many times we ourselves, are clueless.

We go about our day, so busy that we overlook the purpose for our actions. We overlook the reason for our being. We forget about the presence of Christ. Like Martha in the Gospel we are concerned with doing instead of being. Martha was busy doing this and that in her valiant efforts to prepare for Jesus. Mary, her sister, was concerned with being, with being with Jesus.

A number of years ago, someone came up with a great idea as a guide for making decisions. The idea was WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? People still wear wrist bands with WWJD to remind them to choose the course of action that Jesus would choose. I think that is wonderful. But I want to propose an even better guide. Instead of focusing on Jesus out there somewhere, focus in on the presence of the Lord right here, right now, in your lives, in that of your family and others, in the Church, in the world. WWJD is wonderful, but even better is WIJSWM, What Is Jesus Saying Within Me. This is the mystery that St. Paul is speaking about. Jesus Christ is here. When we are attuned to the presence of the Lord, we will force ourselves to consider if a particular action or inaction will strengthen or weaken the Divine Presence.

For example, sometimes people will say, "Well, the Church says this or that, regarding some situation or other, but I disagree." Well, it is not a matter of what the Church says; it is a matter of the presence of Christ. It is not merely a matter that the Church says it is wrong to get drunk; it is a matter of considering what this action is doing to the presence of Jesus in our lives. A wise young priest once said to me, "A good way to judge whether an action is moral or not is to ask yourself whether or not you can pray better after the action." Interesting. And true. If after a course of action, we find prayer difficult, then we have probably have driven the Lord out of our lives, or at least we have diminished His presence.

We need to pray. We harbor, we treasure the presence of Christ within each of us, within our homes and in our community. We need to make time every day to recognize this presence within us. We need to stop and hear the Lord in the silence. We cannot allow the many concerns of our lives to hide the only thing that matters, the presence of Jesus, His presence within us, His presence in those we love, and His presence in those who reach out to us. We cannot allow anything to dull this presence, His Presence.

When we make the time to be in His presence, when we join Mary of Bethany in just enjoying the Lord in our lives, we will find ourselves walking a road less traveled, a road of serenity in the middle of hectic activity. When we choose to nurture the presence of the Lord within us, we, like Mary, will be choosing the better part.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
16 Ordinary Time
Diabolical Masterpiece
(July 21, 2019)

Bottom line: While rightly condemning abuses of power, we can also see how pride creeps into our own lives. Like Martha we can becoming preoccupied with ourselves and what we are doing - and miss the big picture.

This summer we are on a road trip with this destination: Jerusalem. On the way Jesus sends out disciples to gather people to himself. "The harvest is abundant," he says, "but the laborers are few".

Disciple making involves work, but not frenetic activity. Jesus takes time to pray, sometimes hours at a time. He also accepts hospitality. As we see today, two sisters, both beautiful and good, but with their weaknesses: Mary perhaps a little indolent. Martha on the other hand, agitated, perhaps a bit hyper.

Jesus gives Martha a mild rebuke. "Martha, Martha," he says, "you are anxious and worried about many things". Martha seems too involved in herself and what she is doing. She misses the big picture. Her hyperactivity is a form of pride. Not pride like we saw last week - the smug superiority of the scribe, but pride nonetheless. Of all sins pride is the worst because it sets us against each other - and against God. Remember what C.S. Lewis said: "each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride."

God goes to great lengths to combat pride. As we saw a few weeks ago he allows temptations and trials. In that context I want to address the greatest trial we have faced in the American Catholic Church. You know what I mean: the scandal of clergy abuse of children and young people.

There have been thousands of articles and books about this crisis but few have put the scandal in a spiritual context. Well, we have a great gift this summer. Bishop Robert Barron has written a book titled "Letter to a Suffering Church". He describes the scandal as a "diabolical masterpiece". This language surprises some people. They have come to think of the devil as a literary device, a symbol for evil.

Bishop Barron responds that "the storm of wickedness that has compromised the work of the Church in every way and that has left countless lives in ruin is just to ingenious to have been the result of impersonal forces alone or merely human contrivance...in the ordinary run of history bad things happen but this scandal is too exquisitely designed".

This scandal, Bishop Barron says, "has corroded Catholic credibility so completely that the Church's work in evangelization, catechesis, preaching, outreach to the poor, recruitment of vocations, and education has been crippled. And most terribly, members of the Church, especially the most vulnerable have been forced to live through a nightmare from which it seems impossible to wake."

In calling this a "diabolical masterpiece" Bishop Barron is not implying that human beings have no responsibility. As he says, "the devil works typically through suggestion, insinuation, temptation and seduction. He is essentially powerless until he finds men and women who will cooperate with him."

After the opening chapter showing how the devil has orchestrated this scandal, Bishop Barron considers the scandal in light of Scripture and Church history. Then he addresses the fact that the crisis has tempted many to pull away from or leave the Church. He argues that "there is simply never a good reason to leave the Catholic Church". I'll talk more about that in coming weeks.

For today we recognize that at root the scandal involves the sin of pride. It has been rightly identified as a widespread abuse of power. We see that in the McCarrick corruption. We see it detailed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. Bishop Barron analyzes those horrific sins in his Letter to a Suffering Church. Now, for us: while rightly condemning abuses of power, we can also see how pride creeps into our own souls. Like Martha we can becoming preoccupied with ourselves and what we are doing - and miss the big picture. We do need to be more like Mary. As Jesus says, "Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
16 Ordinary Time
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We have for our Gospel text the very brief and simple story of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy serving the meal and getting things ready for her important guest while Mary sits at the Lord's feet listening to him. When Martha complains that Mary is not helping to get the meal ready Jesus tells her that she shouldn't fret so much and he informs her that Mary has chosen the better part.

What Jesus is saying is that spending time listening to him is more important than anything else. These lines are often used when describing the Contemplative Life. To the outsider, nuns or monks don't seem to do very much; they seem to live a simple but leisured life. While they might do some work such as gardening or writing or looking after the house, they actually spend much more time in quiet prayer than the rest of us.

Most of us are not called to live such a life. We tend to prefer to earn a living and bring up our own families. Often, we have little time to be alone with the Lord. We mostly don't have several hours a day that we can set aside for silent prayer. We simply can't find the time to spend several hours in Church each day; we are much too busy with our daily work and the pressures of family life. The shopping has to be done and the children need to be got ready for school; and the house needs cleaning and the washing and cooking have to be done. Once our household chores are out of the way there isn't much time for anything else.

We might even find ourselves envious of monks and nuns who are living in monasteries where there seems to be plenty of time for reading, study and prayer. We might think that these religious people have it much easier than the rest of us particularly as they are relieved of financial responsibilities and the cares of the world.

Actually though, to live the life of a monk or a nun is not at all easy. It is, first and foremost, a very specific calling. It is necessary to have a religious vocation and it is a way of life to which God calls only a few people. Most of us wouldn't be very happy living in a monastery, most of us wouldn't really want to make the sacrifices of celibacy, living life as a single person and foregoing the raising of children of our own.

​ While the story of Martha and Mary can certainly be applied to those called to the Contemplative Life we shouldn't thing that it is restricted to just that. Actually, according to me, it is a teaching that applies just as much to the rest of us. What Jesus is telling us is that we have to make space in our lives for prayer and contemplation. He is telling us that being busy about the things of this world isn't enough. There needs to be space in our lives for God too. There needs to be time for prayer and the spiritual side of things.

We are not merely physical beings who are preoccupied with the world and all that needs to be done. We are actually spiritual beings living in a physical world and indeed when our life here on earth comes to an end we will be called by God to live with him in an entirely spiritual way for ever in heaven. With this in mind we would be foolish to ignore the spiritual aspect of our lives; indeed, the spiritual side of our nature is something that we ought to deepen whenever possible.

Developing our spiritual nature is something that each of us ought to commit ourselves to. Actually, I think that a lot of us haven't moved on very much since we acquired the faith in our childhood. We are probably praying in exactly the same way as we did when we were at school. We are probably thinking of God in the same way as we did when we were children.

If you think about it the prayers of a five-year old are not the same as the prayers of a fifteen-year old. And the prayers of a fifteen-year old are not the same as those of a person in their thirties or forties. And the prayers of a person in middle age should be different to those of an elderly person. As we change and come to maturity then so should the quality and nature of our prayer-life.

A five-year old has simple needs but a fifteen-year old is more complex and is emotionally much more developed. There is more for them to pray about. Yes, they might need to ask God for different things but they should also be deepening that internal dialogue that we ought to have with God. They should be asking God for help with their feelings and with their relationships and with the choices that face them. They need God's help to cope with the pressures of living in a family and with the responsibilities that they are gradually acquiring. They need to talk to God about the opportunities that are increasingly being presented to them and the difficulties they might be facing in living in the world of today. In particular, they will want to confide in God their hopes and fears as they may their way in life.

The forty-year old will have other things to pray about. They will be concerned about how to make progress in the world of employment and how to rear children in a fast-paced modern world. They will want God to help them with their relationships and with the moral choices that they are presented with each day. They will want to unburden themselves and entrust their cares to the Lord asking his help to cope with financial pressures and all the other things that preoccupy them. There may also be issues concerning health or the problems of a troublesome child or relative. All these things will form part of their prayer life. And as we get older again there will be plenty more that we need to bring to the Lord in prayer, there will be other concerns that preoccupy us and above all we will be preparing to meet God face to face at the moment of our death.

We can see from this that prayer is a complex business but also that it is something that we cannot do without. We realise that it is something that changes and deepens as we pass through the course of our lives. We come to new understandings and we realise that prayer takes time and needs to include listening as well as talking. We discover that prayer is the proper expression of our relationship with God and that just as with all our other relationships it thrives on trust and openness and love and concern.
These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.