26 July 202017 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
17 Ordinary Time

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

An old Irish woman was so poor that the parish had to bankroll her. Her son had gone to America and become rich. Her pastor asked, "Mrs O'Leary, do you hear from Bob?" She told the priest, "Bob writes weekly and encloses a picture." "Have you saved them?", asked the priest. "Certainly," said she, "they're in my Bible." The pastor found it stuffed with fifty pictures of Ben Franklin resting comfortably on US $100 bills. (Arthur Tonne)

The problem with treasures, heavenly and otherwise, is they stare us in the face so long before we pick them up. Sometimes unhappily we never do. How disappointed Jesus must be.

The concept of the Kingdom of God seems to be forever before Christ. Jesus refers to the Kingdom in the Gospels about 150 times. In today's brief passage, there are four references.

What does the Kingdom of God mean? What would it be for us right here and now? The Kingdom of God is the good life for all people in the present moment. (Joseph Donders)

In the Kingdom of God here, Christ wants life to be a sunny beach with no jelly fish in the ocean for us all.

How does Jesus feel that 1.2 billion people in the world exist on $1 a day? What does He say when He learns that the share of the US's income, earned by the very wealthiest, has doubled since 1980 while the share of the income earned by the bottom 90% has fallen? 

Jesus is identified with life. He was obsessed with life. When He met a deaf fellow, He shouted, "Stop being deaf. You must listen to Mozart." When He met a blind person, He said, "Cease being blind. How will you enjoy Matisse?" When He found a paralyzed man, He said, "Be lame no more. I want you to travel to Argentina and learn the tango." When He met the mute man, He shouted, "Let your tongue be untied. There are too many funny stories to tell." When He met the dead boy from Nain, the dead girl in Jairus' home, His dead friend Lazarus, He said, "Don't remain dead. You haven't seen Paris yet."

The Teacher restored life, tuned it up, and polished it. He gave His people a money back guarantee on life.

Even Jesus could only take death three days. He found it dullsville. So, He broke out of the tomb like the Superman He is. He returned to life humming Beethoven's Ninth. He never allowed Himself to die again. He put the incident behind Him like a bad dream. He kept insisting, "I am life." He never said, I am death."

Christ came not to rob life but enrich it. Life for us and for those whom we touch should be treasure time from the strong coffee in the AM to the scrubbing of teeth in the PM.

In today's Gospel, the man who found treasure seized the moment for a fresh life when it came. He was willing to gamble with the new cards dealt to him. So must we. Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. (James Lowell)

A famous actress was chided for taking so long to find Christ. She replied, "It doesn't matter if you're a late bloomer as long as you don't miss the flower show." She reminded her friends that a catfish cannot become a swordfish, but we can leave our miserable selves behind, even when old, and become 24 karat.

God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way. He wants us to become just like Him. He wants us to become treasures. (Max Lucado)

What one sentence do you want chiseled on your tombstone to describe your character? Decide. Then go for that virtue.

Will we go for the gold or stay as unattractive as we are? We say mediocrity is only human. But do we Christians have to be only human? Jesus says no.

Here are some helpful hints how to establish the Kingdom of God around you. "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody."

Regarding sharing the Kingdom of God with yourself. "Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Learn and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and work every day some. Be aware of wonder." (Robert Fulgrum)

The Kingdom of God on earth then is a verb more than a noun.

Be a spiritual and material treasure for others today, and don't YOU miss the flower show.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
17 Ordinary Time

Seventeenth Sunday: Wisdom and Bringing Out the Best of the Past

This Sunday’s readings begin with Solomon’s request for Wisdom and conclude with a summation of the Lord’s teaching on the parables. 

At the conclusion of the Dissertation on the parables in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states: “Every scribe of the Kingdom is like the head of the household who brings out from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Jesus spoke to the Jewish people, well versed in Hebrew scripture. The Gospel of Matthew was pointed towards Jewish Christians. Jesus is not replacing what we call the Old Testament with the New Testament. He is combining the best of the Hebrew Scriptures with the New Way, the Kingdom of God. The wise one, the scribe of the Kingdom, therefore, knows how to use what is old and what is new.

It takes wisdom to understand how to deal with the past and the present. There are many people who idealize the past and want to return to life as it was, for example, in the fifties. There are many others who want to reject the past and concentrate only on the advancements of modern life. So, in the area of family life, the first group wants to re-create the Cleaver Family from one of the first sit-coms, Leave it to Beaver, and the second group sees a value in a sit-com like Modern Family. In the area of faith, the first group wants to return to the pre-Vatican Church and the second group wants a Church without a visible structure.

How do we best deal with the past and the present? I believe that it was the Russian poet/philosopher, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko, who had this insight: He said that the trick to handling the past is to know what should be brought with us and what should be left behind. That is wisdom. For example, within the Church, we should bring with us from the past devotion to the sacraments, to the Mother of God, the importance of the Catholic Family, firm standards of morality, a determination to practice the faith. What should be left behind would include the subordination of the laity, the repression of the roles of women in the faith, the glorification of the clergy, and the diminishing of the study of Sacred Scripture.

We should also apply this to our lives. All of us can look back on our lives and note numerous positive and multiple negative aspects of our lives. We have got to stop persecuting ourselves by dwelling on the negatives of our past. When we do this, we are bringing the past into the present. Leave it in the past. At the same time, it is not pride to recognize the gifts we have shown and to be sure that we utilize our potential, or make our talents real in the present.

So, for example, a person went through a period of life when he or she behaved immorally. Then, perhaps due to a religious experience most likely occasioned by love, that person changed his or her lifestyle and became the person he or she is now. He or she said, “I am getting married now. I am having a child now. I need to be a person of integrity.” And that person grew up spiritually determined to live a new, dedicated Christian lifestyle. 

It would be so wrong for that person or any of us to dwell on the mistakes of the past. If sin was involved, well, remember the sacrament of reconciliation is given to us to leave the past in the past and to concentrate on the present. On the positive side, a person can look at his or her past and remember how volunteer work for the poor or sick was so important during high school or college. Perhaps, he or she might remember how others could not deal with a dying person, but how he or she was able to sit down, chat with the sick person, and see that person, not the person’s sickness. Reflecting on this, the person says, “Hey, I can do this. And it is important for me to use this gift God gave me. I’m going to volunteer as an AIDS buddy or as a hospice companion.” This is looking at the past and bringing the best with us to the present. 

You married folks really should do this when considering your relationship. If you are human beings, then you have made mistakes. Leave them in the past. You have also been supportive and caring. Bring this into your present. Sometimes, a couple will see me that is having a crisis in their marriage. Often, I’ll mention that the present situation needs to be dealt with, but don’t let this situation cause you to overlook all the good you have done for each other and the growth you have achieved as a loving couple. Some people are too quick to give up on marriage and end up realizing what they have lost only after it is too late. 

Solomon prayed for wisdom. Not a bad idea. It takes wisdom to combat the challenges of life. It takes wisdom to be a good parent, a good husband, a good wife, a good priest, a good person. It takes wisdom to discern what needs to be brought into the present and what needs to be left in the past.

Where do we get this wisdom? The same place that Solomon received his.

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

Evil is Like the Coronavirus

Bottom line: Evil does not have an independent existence. Like a parasite or like the coronavirus, evil sucks out life, bringing sickness and death. Only Jesus brings goodness that lasts - he is the buried treasure, the pearl of great price. 

The last couple weeks Jesus has given some difficult images: the final judgement which will involve a great separation - good fish from scrap fish, weeds from wheat. The wheat will be gathered for a glorious harvest while the weeds will be thrown into furnace to be burned. 

To understand this image we need to know what evil is. Evil does not have an independent existence. Evil depends on the good in order to exist. Evil is something like the coronavirus. It just hangs in the air, but if it enters a human body with sufficient number it takes over the good cells, causing sickness even death.

In the same way sin takes over something good and causes destruction, even death. Consider the sin of lust. Like the coronavirus lust is parasitical. It takes over something good. Sexuality is very good: it binds two people together and bring about new life. Lust, on the other hand, seeks only pleasure. Instead of bringing union, it brings separation. Think of the girl waiting for the call that never comes.

Evil, whether lust, greed or gluttony, is always parasitical. It destroys something good and in the end, destroys even pleasure itself.

So, what do we do? It's usually not a good idea to confront evil directly. Venerable Bishop Sheen says we have to crowd out evil. Fill your life with things positive. Ultimately we have to do what Jesus says today: find the treasure buried in a field. Go after that pearl of great price.

And what is the pearl of great price? It is nothing more and nothing less that a relationship with Jesus. Jesus himself is the kingdom of God. He contains all good: forgiveness, healing and strength. In him we find pleasure that lasts. 

That's why Jesus speaks to us about heaven and hell. Heaven is a relationship with him that begins now and continues into eternal life. Hell is simply the absence of that relationship. What happens to those who never receive a clear call to come to Jesus I will leave to others to speculate. For you and me the issue is clear: Are we ready to sell all to obtain the buried treasure, the pearl of great price?

Next Sunday we will hear about Jesus taking loaves, blessing, breaking and giving them to feed people in a desert place. It will be a great opportunity to reflect on how Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist.

For today remember that evil does not have an independent existence. Like a parasite or like the coronavirus, evil sucks out life, bringing sickness and death. Only Jesus brings goodness that lasts - he is the buried treasure, the pearl of great price. 

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
17 Ordinary Time

Last Sunday we had the parable of the Sower, this Sunday we have the parable of the Man Sowing Good Seed, next Sunday Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure hidden in a field.

These agricultural images are obviously very appropriate to his listeners who were much closer to the land than most of us are. Jesus uses many other easily understandable images in his parables; for example, today we also have the mustard seed and the yeast in the flour. But there are many, many more very vivid images recorded in the Gospels.

This is a completely different approach from the scribes and the Pharisees who tended to work from the Law. Religion being for them a matter of following sets of laid down instructions: “keep these rules and God will be happy with you!” is what they seem to be saying. And: “if you don’t understand them just ask us—the experts!”

Instead Jesus takes a more figurative approach because it means that all his listeners, from the most sophisticated to the very simplest, can understand them. But that does not mean that Jesus is making things easier for the people. By making things understandable for them means that the moral choices they have to make in life become much clearer, much starker.

This particular parable about the good seed and the darnel certainly presents a very stark comparison between those who do good and those who do evil. Jesus seems to be suggesting that you are either a) virtuous and will shine like the sun or b) are evil and will be thrown into the blazing furnace. He presents no middle way.

That sounds rather unfortunate to us. If you are anything like me you have a bit of good and a bit of bad in you. Not completely bad! But then not completely good either! This puts us all in a bit of a quandary. We want to be good but we find ourselves badmouthing our neighbours; we want to be holy but we don’t say our prayers very often; we want to be trustworthy but, well, if nobody’s looking…!

This is the very human dilemma most of us are in. We want to get to heaven but we are a little nervous of that big book and what St Peter has been writing about us over all these years. We might not like what we find when we get to those pearly gates. Will we gain admission or not? It could be a bit of a moot point! There might be a lot of humming and hawing!

What Jesus is doing is highlighting the fundamental choice all of us must make in our life. Naturally he wants us to choose the good, to follow the way he outlines for us. But, of course, it must be our absolutely free choice and that leaves open the possibility that we might make a fundamental choice for evil, a choice not to go the way he sets before us.

Jesus does not do this to be difficult. He does it so that we see clearly the way we are going in life. He does it to help us make the right choices without ever restricting our freedom. This is, in fact, the most loving and caring thing he can do for us.

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