12 July 202015 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
15 Ordinary Time

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 13:1-9


            Mark Twain wrote: "Giving up cigarettes is easy. I do it a hundred times a week." Many of us, like Twain, grow easily discouraged from one broken resolution or other. If you do, today's parable has your name on it. When this Gospel opens, Jesus is sitting by the Lake of Galilee. He is getting a tan and much needed beach time.

Leisurely He is reading the sports pages of a week old copy of the Jerusalem Times and sipping a glass of good red wine.  Suddenly out of that famous nowhere appears a huge crowd. He springs to His feet lest He be trampled by these happy friendlies. They clamor for what they think will be an impromptu lecture. The favorite outdoor sport of the Jews was to search out distinguished rabbis and drain them dry. Intellectual gymnastics was the Jewish idea of a good time. Today was the turn of our Jesus. Good-naturedly He obliges the almost playful group.

Remember Teacher is the Gospel term used most commonly of Jesus. Since the microphone system was poor, some of His words were being lost. The crowd was pushing Him into the lake to better hear Him. Since He had showered that AM at the Holiday Inn, He did not need another bath. So, the Teacher nimbly lifted Himself into a large fishing boat drawn up on the sand. He obviously exercised. (Do we? If not, why not?) Seated in the bow, He continued His talk.

Incidentally, when was the last time you were sitting at the beach and a large mob surrounded you? And they shouted, "O great teacher, share your wisdom with us." Do you see now the type of Man we are lucky enough to follow? Have you sold Him short when He has so much to teach you? If yes, reconsider. Put this point into your mental computer. Matthew says this was the first parable Jesus spoke. So, He must have spent hours burning the midnight oil at His Sony laptop polishing it. This was to be His debut on the lecture circuit. Jesus knew one bomb and you were road kill. This is one more reason to pay this parable super attention. There is gold out there in those parable hills. We have to dig it out with some old-fashioned sweat. Even in the spiritual life, there is no such thing as a free lunch.



Many others on the lecture circuit have used the parable method, but no one has matched the Master's skills. A literary critic wrote: "He is one of the world's supreme masters of the short story." How many short stories of de Maupassant or O Henry do you remember? Yet you know all of Christ's.

This is a parable of encouragement. It was meant for the apostles and ourselves. To the twelve, the Nazarene was numero uno. He was an original. Yet they were discouraged that so few were actually buying into Him. "Master, why so much effort and so few gold rings?" His answer was this parable. (William Barclay) Even the dullest gardener among us does not expect every single seed he sows to come up singing roses. He knows the wind will blow some seeds away. The squirrels will grow fat on others. However, even the amateur gardener keeps on sowing. And he certainly does not give up expectations of a generous growth of flowers.

Jesus tells His own troops never to throw in the towel even when one's efforts seem an exercise in futility. People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. (Kent Keith) Think of of John Harvard here. In 1640, he came to the American colonies from England. He was a promising scholar. The New World appeared to be his oyster. But the poor fellow upped and died after but one year. His will gave $3500 and 200 books to a fledgling university. The school became Harvard University. Today it staffs a faculty of 1000 and has a student body of 10,000. It enjoys an international reputation. (Barclay)

John Harvard's death appeared to his contemporaries to be an abomination, but it produced riches beyond anybody's imaginings. So, this parable of the Nazarene teaches that even if much of your labor or your money seems to go for nothing, do not allow yourself to go into a downer. The ballgame may well go into extra innings. Your honorable self may prove to be as much a winner as Christ Himself. Struggle on.   

We mourn that the glass is half empty. With a smile, Jesus fills up the glass. Had Mark Twain taken this parable seriously, he would have ended his nasty cigarette habit.



Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
15 Ordinary Time

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: What To Do With the Seed?


            In the early part of the Thirteenth Century, Giovanni Franceso Bernardone was headed to a prosperous life as a cloth merchant in the Province of Umbria, Italy.  He was also headed to a life of complete self-gratification. He was a young man who loved every sort of pleasure. But,  Francis, as he preferred to be called, didn’t become a merchant. After spending a year as a military captive in nearby Perugia, Francis decided to change the course of his life, radically change the course of his life.  He wanted to focus on serving God and only serving God.  He saw his status as part of the rising merchant class as blocking his ability to experience Jesus Christ.  He gave up his possessions and his future as a merchant, and embraced poverty.  He begged for food in his native Assisi, and spent his days in prayer.


            Francis attracted a few like-minded companions who joined him in courting what he called Lady Poverty.  One day Francis went to pray at a rundown old chapel just outside of the city, the chapel of San Damiano. As he was praying before the icon of the crucified Jesus, he heard a voice calling to him three times: “Francis, rebuild my Church.  Francis, rebuild my Church.  Francis, rebuild my Church.”  Initially, Francis thought that he and his friends should rebuild the chapel of San Damiano, but as time went on, he realized that he was being called to rebuild Christ’s Church on earth.  


            The Chapel of San Damiano still stands outside the walls of Assisi.  The cross of San Damiano was relocated to the Basilica of Santa Clara within the city.  The message that St. Francis heard is as pertinent now as it ever was, “Rebuild my Church.”  The message is addressed to us. 

            Can we do this? Can we build the Kingdom of God on earth?  We have available to us that which we need.   But are we willing to do something with it? It is there.  It is there for us.  There is a lot of it, or to use the biblical terminology, it is abundant.  It is the Word of God.  God pours His Word upon us; He drenches us with His Word as though we were in a rainstorm. The Prophet Isaiah says in the first reading that this is what we need to do God’s work.  He predicts that we will embrace the Everlasting Word.  And he prophesied that the Word of God would be returned to Him.


Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;

my word shall not return to me void, 

but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.


            We want it.  We want the Word of God.   We want the ability to do God’s will. Every fiber of our body longs to be part of His Plan.  St. Paul says in the second reading from the Letter to the Romans, that we groan within ourselves with the desire to have God in our lives, and with the desire to make God real in the lives of others.  Everyone who is serious about her or his Christianity longs to give birth to the Kingdom.  Paul uses the image of labor pains.  A woman in labor experiences her whole being concentrated on giving birth.  Our whole being focuses on giving birth, birth to the Kingdom.  And so, we groan from our inner depths.  We want to make God’s Kingdom a reality in the world.

He gives us all that we need, the Word.  We long to make His Kingdom a reality, we groan in labor pains, but longing is not enough.  It is not enough to come off a religious experience and say, “I want to be an integral part of Jesus Christ’s solution to the world.”  It is not enough to say, “I want to be united with Christ.”  It is not enough to say, “I want others to be united to Christ.”  We have to use the spiritual gift of the Word.  


            But sometimes we construct roadblocks to our embrace of the Word.   The parable in the Gospel says that sometimes the Divine Sower’s seed falls on the pathways through the fields. There is no union with the Word, it is simply there, and it is lost to the birds of the sky.  Sometimes we refuse to make God’s Word the guide 

of our lives.  We refuse to delve into what God is calling us to.  We know we can learn about the Lord by studying the Bible, by praying over the scripture, by keeping a union with God, but sometimes we are just too lazy to pray.  We don’t make time for Him, the Love of our lives, and then we become shocked that His Presence has been stolen from us by the birds of the air.  There is a war being waged for the Kingdom of God.  We need to prepare for battle.  We need to pray every day in our homes as well as unite together in the Eucharist at least every week.


            The parable says that sometimes the seed falls on rocky ground.  It does not develop roots.  This part of the parable really cuts us to the core, because it says that the enthusiasm for the Word, the enthusiasm for the Lord, is not good enough.  All those good feelings will die out with time, unless it is far more than feelings we search for.  St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote that she felt completely dry and abandoned by Christ throughout her life, but she never stopped proclaiming Him with her life.  It is not the feelings that matter.  What matters are the actions we take when we are exposed to the Word of God.  If we do not change our lives after our continual encounters with Christ, then our spiritual experiences are merely feelings, moments of fleeting joy.

            Sometimes the seed falls among the thickets and thorns.  God’s word takes root, but other things take priority in our lives.  All of us have many activities and obligations.  Often, we forget  that our primary responsibility is to Jesus Christ.  We have been given the Word. We cannot allow the concerns around us choke off his Presence within us.  We cannot allow ourselves to become deaf to His Call to rebuild His Church.


            Sometimes the thickets and thorns are the vices of immoral society.  Drugs, alcohol, porn, other areas of immorality are all thorns that choke our grasp of the Word of God.  When we fight immorality, we are not just avoiding sin, we are allowing God’s Word to grow in the world.


            But there are times, many times, that God’s seed falls on good soil.  There are many people who care for the Presence of the Lord, who are more concerned with His Kingdom than their own emotional feelings of His Presence.  There are many people who refuse to let anything the world throws at them destroy the mission they have been entrusted with by the Divine Sower.


            We can be these people, you and I.  We can be the people who  are dedicated to the Kingdom of God.  We can rebuild His Church.  


            We need to be good soil.  We have to cultivate the Presence of the Lord in our lives, and serve God no matter whether we feel His Presence today as we did last week, last month, last year, or whenever we were given the gift of a spiritual high.  We can fight off anything that tries to destroy our determination to live in union with Jesus Christ.   We can be the good soil that returns to the Lord more fruit than we could ever imagine.

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

Glorious Freedom

(July 12, 2020)

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit frees us from the slavery of sin. He enables you and me - and all creation - to share the glorious freedom of the children of God.

This Sunday St. Paul talks about the "glorious freedom of the children of God". What is St. Paul talking about? What is freedom?

First, let's clear up a misunderstanding. Freedom does not mean doing whatever I want, whenever I want. No. When a person loses impulse control, it leads to slavery. We see that enslavement when a person become addicted to alcohol, drugs and pornography. 

Other addictions can take over. People have told me that during this pandemic they have become addicted to the news. Rather than focusing on things right in front of them, they become obsessed with what Trump or Biden or somebody else is doing. These kind of obsessions can lead to the biggest addiction - the sin of pride, that arrogance where a person wants to constantly put others down.

To liberate oneself from sin and addiction we need the Holy Spirit. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, we have become powerless and we need a Higher Power. We need the Holy Spirit to experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. 

The Holy Spirit frees us, first of all, by forgiveness of sins. It's hard for us today to recognize our sins and to ask forgiveness. Cardinal Francis George observed that our society permits everything and forgives nothing. We see people being cancelled for something they did 10, 20 or even 50 years ago. The guilty person apologizes, begs forgiveness, but it doesn't matter. They still get cancelled. Fortunately, God's forgiveness exceeds our own - like the difference between an air force jet and a paper airplane. We forgive some things, some times, but God forgives all things, all the time. Because of God's forgiveness you and I can experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. 

Freedom, in the deepest sense, means to fulfill ones purpose. Our founders had that in mind when they spoke about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. In the classical sense, happiness means realizing your unique purpose. That is task of youth: to ask God, why am I here? What do you want me to do with this life you have given me? Following that plan brings deep happiness. In spite of tribulations we can know the glorious freedom of the children of God.

I ask you to seek freedom not just for own sake, but for the sake of all creation. As St. Paul says, "For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God". Then he explains, "for creation was made subject to futility". In school we learned about "entropy" - the gradual decline into disorder. On its own the cosmos has no future but Paul says, "creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God." The environmental movement springs from a good instinct - that our behavior affects the rest of creation. Pope Francis speaks about our Christian duty to care for the earth, our common home. This planet and ultimately the entire cosmos is destined to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Before concluding, I want to briefly connect this to the Eucharist. At our weekend Masses we say the creed, the profession of faith. It contains the sweep of God's plan - from creation to the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. The Mass places us in God's plan where we find our purpose, deep happiness, true freedom. 

To sum up: The Holy Spirit frees us from the slavery of sin. He enables you and me - and all creation - to share the glorious freedom of the children of God. Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
15 Ordinary Time

Jesus doesn’t often explain his parables but he does so in the case of Parable of the Sower which is set before us for our consideration today. It is a bit more complicated than many of his other parables and the disciples query him. They clearly do not understand its meaning and so they question him asking why he speaks so often in parables when it is obvious that a lot of the people do not understand them.

Jesus knows that not everyone understands the parables and he explains that he employs this way of teaching the people because he wants them to think very deeply about the message he is preaching. He wants them to realise that they need to go below the surface of the words he is using; he wants people to realise that his message is a deep one and that to understand it requires real insight.

Jesus wants his listeners to realise that they need to go to the inner meaning of his words. Yes, the parables can be taken as literal stories but there is much more to them than that. We need to realise that each of them has a symbolic meaning, they each have a deeper purpose and his intent in speaking in parables is to help people to come to more profound understanding of his Gospel.

Christ does not want people to remain on the surface, he wants them to unravel his words and come to a real appreciation of his Gospel of love. When he says to the disciples ‘happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear’ we come to the realisation that there are two ways at looking at his words. Firstly, there is sight; which means that we see what is on the surface. But then there is what we might call insight, which means looking below the surface in order to see the deeper meaning of what Jesus is telling us.

Plain sight is superficial but insight is something much more profound. To come to insight, we need to think very carefully about the words of Jesus, we need to do some real work in order to be able to appreciate the profundity of his message. We need to meditate on the words of Jesus, to turn them over in our minds and gradually to uncover their hidden meaning. The problem with the Scribes and the Pharisees is that they remain on the surface and they fail to unlock the meaning of Jesus’ stories and parables. They take everything at face value and fail to get below the surface of his teaching.

The Word of God is indeed a seed that is planted in our hearts and it will only grow and flourish if it finds in us a certain receptivity and openness to the Gospel of Christ. We need to prepare ourselves so that we are able to receive the Word of God. We want our hearts to be fertile places where the Word can be planted in us and grow to produce a rich harvest. We know very well that if we are not open to the Word it will not flourish. Our hearts can then be compared to that rocky soil and the Word of God will not grow in us; it will be crowded out by the cares of the world.

The Parable of the Sower is a very profound one and it repays deep meditation. We need to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves whether our hearts are rocky ground or whether it is filled with thorns. What we want is our hearts to be rich soil which will allow God’s Word to yield a plentiful harvest.


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