11 August 201919 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
19 Ordinary Time
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 12, 32-48

If we live in the past, says one writer, we tarnish the present and forget the future.

If you want to become depressed, reflect that people are constantly telling us that one out of two marriages in the United States end in divorce. And, if you want to reach for Prozac, listen to those who mournfully tell you how many couples are living together without benefit of marriage. Usually the doomsayers end with the line, "Give me the good old Church."

One anonymous Christian calls this mentality a rearview mirror look at the Church. Was there any such phenomenon as the good old days of the Church? The answer is no.

The commentator advises us to check it out with Saints Paul and Luke! In 1 Corinthians 5:1, Paul tells it like it is about sexual immorality. "I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father's wife." He calls the case "unparalleled even among pagans." In 1 Galatians 1:6-7, he takes off after heresy. "I am astonished at the promptness with which you...have decided to follow a different version of the good news." In Acts 15:1-2, Luke refers to the famous circumcision dispute that threatened to tear the young Church apart. Circumspectly he writes, "This led to disagreement..." The bottom line is these surely are not the best of times but neither are they the worst.

Dark pages are being written in the contemporary Church. But so too are splendid ones. Let me tell you about one of the latter. I am certain that were you to think about it, you could tell me of several more. No matter what you are told by your neighbor or read in the press, the Nazarene's Church has not run out of heart. Nor should you run out of hope.

The marriage took place in a school chapel in Baltimore. The handsome couple are Kate and Dave. Each is 23. Both are graduates of New York's Jesuit Fordham University. By choice, she is a teacher of inner city children. He works as a public defender for people without funds. His degree is from the prestigious Columbia University Law School.

Kate's parents, Willa and Brendan, operate a Catholic Worker house of hospitality for the poor in a "bad" section of Baltimore. It is named Viva translated as Alive. They have run it for the past quarter of a century. Husband and wife serve 350 meals daily. Their mentor is the late Dorothy Day.

The rehearsal dinner was held not in a posh country club but at the Catholic Worker house. The wedding couple and guests ate at the same tables where the poor had eaten earlier in the day. The fare was simple and all home-made. Religious brothers in Vermont made the wine. Kate gave to her attendants as gifts articles that she herself had made.

On the wedding day, there was not a tuxedo to be seen. The male attendants wore their Sunday going to Mass suits. The maid of honor and bridesmaids wore any green dress their closets might own. The bride wore her mother's wedding dress. Her father wore a suit and a blue work shirt. The bride's stretch limousine was the van usually used to bring food for the poor.

The couple publicly took a vow of voluntary poverty so that they might become spiritually rich. The bride teared when she received a surprise papal blessing (remember those?).

Eventually they plan to settle in the Baltimore area so that they might assist with the Catholic Worker house of hospitality. They may some day run it themselves. This will be their gift from the bride's parents.

The wedding reception was in the school cafeteria. The caterers were the guests themselves. Each brought food for the feast. As a wedding gift, money was unacceptable.

The bride shared with her guests a poem written for her by a boy in the fourth grade. It was titled My Heart. "If it is far away, I'm lost. If it is split apart, I'm apart. If it is lost, I'm not to be found. If it is in me, I'm peaceful. So far it's where it's supposed to be."

A Church that can produce such young people has its heart where it's supposed to be. Like them, be full of hope.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
19 Ordinary Time
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Living Faith

Today's reading speak about faith and our response to faith. They begin with Abraham, the Father of Faith. Abraham was a prosperous man of his time, living in Ur, located in the fertile area between the Tigris and Euphrates River. He became convinced that God was calling him, directing him. He had faith that God would care for him. He trusted in God to build his offspring into a nation, even though he had no children by his wife, Sarah. Abraham was a man of faith. He had faith in God, and he had faith that what God was asking him to do would be for the good of others, his offspring, and myriads and myriads of people, more numerous than the sands of the shore. Because of Abraham's faith, God's Son, the Savior, would come through these people.

We are people of faith. We are every day, normal people, who realize where happiness can be found. The Letter to Hebrews defines faith: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. We have found hope and joy in that which we cannot see. A number of years ago, after Eucharistic Adoration during our Teen December Retreat, one of the girls sent her mother a text consisting in just one word, "Happy." She found the evidence for that which is not seen in her joy, in her realizing that God loves her, in her experience of love. We share in the Eternal Life of God. We have been given the means to grow in this life. We have been given the Eucharist. We have the Mass. We have the sacrament of penance. The love of God is so strong in our lives that there are times we can feel this love all through our bodies. We know that the Kingdom of God is real even though we cannot see it. We are people of faith who are determined to proclaim the Kingdom of God with our lives. We want to share the Good News with others. We want to fulfill the Lord's mandate to go and proclaim the Gospel to the world. We have been given a gift that we must share with the world.

I want to once more tell you the story of two young girls, just ordinary girls of their time, who were so full of faith, who felt the love of God so strongly in their lives, that they were determined to lead others to Christ, even if this were to cost them their lives.

The year was 202. The place was Carthage, in North Africa, modern day Tunisia. Carthage was part of the Roman Empire. The celebration of the emperor's birthday was coming up and there would be free games in all the major cities of the empire. People could go and watch gladiators fight to the death. Great fun. Between sections of these fights, there would be a break for food, sort of a halftime. Those who stayed in the stadium would get a great show, though. People who were condemned to death would be march out to be killed for the enjoyment of the spectators. Nice folks.

There was a young noble woman in Carthage, 22 years old, and her servant girl, about the same age. Both were pregnant, the noblewoman farther along than her servant. They heard a missionary speak about Jesus Christ and the eternal kingdom. They heard about the Love of God, and the gift of spiritual life. These were all concepts foreign to the materialistic Roman Empire. Just as these concepts are foreign to so many in our world who live only for the fleeting pleasures of life. The two girls decided to take instructions and join these people of Jesus Christ, these Christians. The closer they came to Christ, the greater their joy. They were given Christian names. The noble woman was called Perpetua, Forever Faithful. Her servant girl, Felicity, the Happy One. They knew that becoming Christian could be dangerous. They might even be called upon to choose Christ or death. But they wanted others to experience their joy. And they wanted others to realize the Love of God in Jesus Christ. They were both were determined to give witness to Christ. There was no way that they would keep their joy to themselves.

Perpetua had her baby, a boy, and was nursing the child when someone accused her and Felicity of being Christians. If they did not deny Christ, they would be put to death. Perpetua's father pleaded with her. Perpetua responded that for her to deny Christ would be to deny her very self. “This is who I am, " she said, "I am a Christian," Felicity also was determined to give witness to the Lord. Perhaps others would also find Christ. They were arrested and thrown into a horrible prison, a hole, really. Perpetua wrote in her diary that she could put up with the prison, but her greatest pain was that they had taken her child away from her. But she would not give up Christ.

The games were coming up. A show was needed for between the contests. Perpetua and Felicity and three others were condemned to be thrown to the wild beasts.

Only, there was a problem. Felicity was still pregnant, at the very end of the pregnancy. Strange, but the Romans would not kill a pregnant girl because that would be killing her baby. The situation resolved itself when Felicity had her baby in prison, just two days before the games.

The events were grisly. The Romans dressed the girls up as Naiads, or pagan goddesses, in very skimpy clothes. When they were marched out into the arena, the people realized that the girls were both new mothers. They yelled that they didn't want to see new mothers killed. So the Romans took them away and clothed them both in heavy clothes, then marched them back out. What happened next is detailed. A herd of wild heifers was release into the arena, basically stampeding the girls, goaring them, knocking them both out. After the dust settled, Perpetua regained consciousness. She found herself pushed up into one of the walls of the arena, in a pool of blood. She looked for Felicity. She was also pushed against the same wall, but was still unconscious. And then Perpetua heard the crowd. "We can't see them," they cried, "We can't see." A large part of the arena could not see what was happening against the wall by their seats. They felt cheated. So Perpetua struggled to her feet, and dragged herself over to Felicity. Felicity woke up and asked what happened. "I don't know what that was," Perpetua said, "but we have to give testimony to Christ for all to see." And they dragged themselves to the center of the arena. The people were suddenly quiet. They had never seen such determination. This whole thing went in the wrong direction for the Romans. They wanted to dissuade people from becoming Christians, not have people marvel at these girls' courage. Soldiers quickly came out and killed them both.

"Come out, come out to the center of the arena and give testimony." We are all called to do that. The center of the arena is where those who reject Christ are calling us to suffer for Him. The center of the arena is where we need to go to give witness to the Lord. The proper response to our faith is to lead others to Christ.

Let's picture ourselves as Felicity, or, for the men, as Felix. There is Perpetua waking us up calling us to join her in the center of the arena. We get up to go, but.........but......we are chained to the wall. Something is keeping us from giving testimony to Christ. What is it? Is it a bad relationship? Perhaps, we might say, "I know its wrong, but I don't want to give it up. I'd have to break up the relationship. So we'd rather be chained to the wall than give testimony to Christ." Or we might say, "I'm not just addicted to.......you name it, porn, or other drugs. I like it. I've got my secret stash. I'd have to give that up, destroy it, to give testimony to the Lord." We'd rather remain in chains? We might say, "I don't want to give up my friends, but if I'm not doing what they are doing, I'll lose them." So, we'd rather stay chained to the wall of the arena than give testimony to Christ in the center of the arena? Or perhaps we have been wronged and are so full of hate that we'd rather stew in our own hatred then give testimony to the One who is Love Become Flesh.

We have got to let Jesus break that which is chaining us to the wall. In Him is Freedom.

The readings for today conclude with the warning to be ready for the Lord. He has given us a great deal. He has given us meaning for life. He has given us the opportunity for eternal life. He has given us happiness. The reading concludes: "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." What we have been given, our faith, has been given to us for others. The world needs us so badly. Look at how upset the world is. Look at how upset the country is. The world needs us to proclaim with our lives that there is so much more to life than all the nonsense around us. And, yes, this often takes courage and often costs us friends, our positions in society. We are not concerned with that. We are concerned with our obligation to the world to be who we are: People of Jesus Christ, People of Faith.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
19 Ordinary Time
Recommendation for Homily Preparation

Bottom line: My recommendation to fellow homilists: order the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and use it.

This weekend I have Deacon Pierce Murphy as homilist. Below are links to previous 19th Sunday Year C homilies.

I'd like to take advantage of this moment to make a recommendation regarding a commentary I recently discovered. A commentary doesn't replace lectio divina. Still, a verse by verse commentary is essential for preparing a homily.

A good commentary can save a homilist from embarrassing situations. A friend of mine was preaching on the woman with hemorrhages that Jesus cured. He remarked on how God is concerned with our most intimate conditions. So far so good. As he continued, however, it became clear he didn't understand the exact nature of the malady. (He made a joking reference to Preparation-H.) This happened at a morning Mass with a small congregation that took it in stride.

Like my unfortunate friend I've made many blunders because I simply assumed I knew what the text meant. An everyday dictionary and a good commentary can keep such embarrassment to a minimum.

Much more important than a homilist's pride is what Jeremiah says, "When I found your words I devoured them". Before we preach we want to interiorize the Scripture readings. For example, in today's Gospel, what does "gird your loins" refer to? And what does Jesus mean when he says "at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come..."?

A basic commentary will answer those questions. Here's the new that one I like a lot: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. So far I've used two volumes: Luke and Matthew. Beyond their solid scholarship they have these advantages:

- They use the same translation as the lectionary. While it's good to compare translations for personal study and prayer, you want your homily to flow from the words you actually proclaim.
- They contain side bars that put the verses in the broader context of doctrine and tradition. For example for today's Gospel, it explains "treasure in heaven" without falling into salvation by works or Pelagianism.
- They diligently connect back to Hebrew Scriptures. Bishop Robert Barron speaks about "Re-Judaizing Catholicism", something I have tried to do even before I heard that wonderful phrase. This commentary series will help homilists re-Judaize our faith.

So that is my recommendation to fellow homilists: order the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and use it.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
19 Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The text of the Gospel presented to us today looks like a mish-mash of different sayings by Jesus put together because they are all on the general theme of watchfulness. The Evangelists didn't go around with notebooks writing down whatever Jesus said. In the case of Luke, he most definitely didn't go around following Jesus because he wasn't there at the time. The first we hear of Luke is in Antioch where he became a disciple of Paul.

So, it is clear that Luke was not an actual eye-witness, but this is not to denigrate Luke because in compiling his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles he carried out a very great service to the Church. Probably the way he went about writing his Gospel was by interviewing as many people as he could who were actual eye-witnesses to the various incidents in the life of Jesus. He would also have spoken to many other people who though they were not direct witnesses themselves had met others who were and so could speak with some authority about the actions and teachings of Jesus, if only at one remove.

Luke then must have taken this mass of material and put it together in what he himself called 'an ordered account' of the life of Jesus. There is a theory that Matthew, Mark and Luke had access to another text which has somehow been lost. This is conjectured because there are a lot of similarities between their accounts of Jesus' life. This possible source is called 'Q' which comes from the German word 'Quelle' meaning source.

While there are many similarities between the three Synoptic Gospels, as we call them, there are also many differences. And these differences surely arose because the various Evangelists had access to different witnesses. Sometimes, as in our text today, we get a series of sayings and parables bunched together simply because they are on the same theme.

I suggest that the theme of the various sayings set before us today is watchfulness. Firstly, we get the saying about 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' Then we move on to the short parable about being like men waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast. If he finds them faithful the master will reverse roles and put on an apron and wait on his servants while they eat a meal. We move on to a mention of the householder being ready to intercept the burglar. And we are told that we disciples should be like him and stand ready for the coming of the Son of Man.

We then get a longer parable similar to the first one but which contrasts the behaviour of two servants or stewards put in charge of the household while their master is away. The first carries out his duties correctly and is rewarded, but the other abuses the other servants and is duly punished by his master on his return.

Jesus then draws a distinction between those who know what their master wants but don't do it and those who misbehave yet don't actually know the master's wishes. These will be punished but less that the one who really did know his master's wishes. The passage concludes with the words of Jesus, 'When a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.'

So, we can see how Luke has ordered the material at his disposal all roughly on the same topic but he has put it together starting with a very simple parable, then going on to give a slightly more complicated parable and then coming to a conclusion which is applicable to any serious follower of Jesus. The main point that Luke is leading up to is that we have been inducted into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, therefore we are not in ignorance and so a higher standard of behaviour is expected of us.

A lot of us grew up in Catholic families and ingested our faith with our mother's milk so to speak, And, this might lead us to feel that we had no choice as to whether we would be Catholics or not. We might assume that we absorbed Catholic culture because we grew up in Catholic families and if things had turned out differently, we might have just as easily been Moslems, Jehovah's Witnesses or have no faith at all. And this might lead us to think that it is a bit unfair that a higher standard might be expected of us by God from those who are not Catholics.

Let me suggest that this assumption might not be actually true. Because over the course of one's like we reach certain turning points, certain moments when we make a choice in life. There are built in such moments in the life of any Catholic, the most obvious of which is the Sacrament of Confirmation. A positive decision is required of us when we are about fourteen or fifteen about whether we choose to seriously commit ourselves to the Catholic faith and go ahead with the reception of this important Sacrament. At that point we decide to accept the truths of the faith and the teaching of Jesus. We are given the opportunity to clarify what we believe and have things more fully explained to us. We choose at the moment of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation that we will be one of the Lord's disciples in the world of today.

This means that we are like that first steward in the parable; we really know what Jesus wants, we have certainty about how we should behave as Christians and so we realise that a higher standard will be expected of us than from people who are completely ignorant about the things of God. But we do not regard these higher expectations as any sort of burden. No, we accept these extra responsibilities with great joy because we know that they are in conformity with the will of God.

We realise that carrying out God's wishes is a cause of great joy for us. We realise that by living the way God wants us to live is both a high privilege and a great blessing.
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