2 August 202018 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
18 Ordinary Time

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus was holding a gigantic press conference at the Jerusalem Hilton. CNN asked, "How will your teachings spread?" Christ replied, "Through my followers." "Supposing they fail you?" Christ replied, "I have no other plan."

As this Gospel opens, Jesus has just read in the obit section of the Jewish Times of John the Baptist's beheading. He is crushed. They were cousins but much more than funeral and wedding cousins. Their mothers had been close. Jesus had walked for days to hear John lecture and be baptized by him. John was a hero of His.

Jesus weeps. He wants to hide from crowds and have time to compose Himself. But also with John dead, He knows police will round up the usual suspects. He will be on their A list. He too may be murdered. So, He has to go into hiding. It is a misreading of the Gospels to conclude that Christ was a loose cannon. He did not look for trouble. He had too much work to do. He planned to disappear into a safe house till the situation calmed and then reappear. Besides, He needed to catch up on sleep. Given His all systems go pace, He had to be nearing physical exhaustion.

He jumped into a water taxi, aka a sailboat, with the apostles. He set the tiller for the lake's other side. He was spotted. Crowds gave chase on foot. You can measure His charisma when you reflect that people walked ten miles in 100 degrees plus heat to hear Him. When was the last time someone walked a block to hear you?

When Jesus arrived at the picnic grounds, he saw field to field people. Clues, given by the Gospels, indicate over fifteen thousand men, women, and kids. Notice He does not get angry at them. He places His desperate need for a swim and nap on the back burner. He forgets about His safety. He puts grief for the Baptist on hold. He makes room for these sheep without a shepherd. He has compassion. He has the willingness to touch

others' pain.

President Ronald Reagan in 1988 approved compensation for victims of a US military mistake. He was advised he was setting a bad precedent. Reagan said, "Compassion is never a bad precedent."

Here is a rainy day project. Study the Gospels. You conclude shortly that Jesus preferred to spend more time easing peoples' pain than talking to them.

The Nazarene tells us we must likewise extend ourselves to those who need us. We must make room in our lives for them. He never found anyone a drag. That is what the Christian mystique is all about. As Christ did, so must we.

Only after filling their stomachs does Jesus proceed to feed their minds. One hopes He took time to eat a fish sandwich Himself. Notice that before preaching He had the apostles clean up the meal leftovers. He was environmentally friendly. Are we? Do we clean up our mess? Better, do we clean up others'? The context suggest He talked for hours. Not a body stirred. There was no microphone. His voice must have been raw and His lean body drained. Was He Himself eating? Again Matthew, who was an eye witness to all this, wants us to note His willingness to put out for others. We know the unsubtle message being e-mailed to us by Matthew.

Underline the point that Jesus was not just in the business of saving souls but of people - body and soul.

We do not preach a pie in the sky Jesus. There are 2000 verses on the poor in the Bible. (Rick Warren) He wants the poor to enjoy the good life not only after death but also today. Do you see now why the Church asks us so often for money for the poor? It is just taking a leaf out of Jesus' plan book. We must get our fingers around those sharp fish hooks in our pockets. Note too He does not make a distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor. The poor do not have to pass a litmus test. He feeds everybody. Should we be different?

Stephen King at Vassar College reminded the graduating class that what we scrape down the kitchen disposal after a family of eight's meal would feed a village in Africa for a week.

The Gospel tells us the role of the disciples in Christ's plan. It was they who gave out the meal to the crowd. He worked through the hands of the disciples and He still operates through us. Are we the messengers Jesus wants us to be? Will we loan Him our hands, feet, and voice today? He has no other plan.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
18 Ordinary Time

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Culture of Life

The Gospel reading for this Sunday begins with Jesus hearing the news of the death of John the Baptist, murdered, as you know, by Herod as part of the plot of his wife, Herodias, to protect her position at court. You know the story. Herod had been riveted by John the Baptist’s prophecy and had been listening to the Baptist’s condemning Herod’s present marital situation. Herod had met up with his brother Philip in Rome and fallen in love with Philip’s wife. He then divorced his own wife, Phasaelis, daughter of a King Aretus of Nabatea, and stole his brother’s wife. Most likely, she changed her name to Herodias. Aretus was threatening to make war on Herod both to avenge his daughter and to acquire some disputed territory. With Herod listening intently to John the Baptist, Herodias’ situation in court was precarious. This is what was going on when Herod gave a banquet for notables in the Kingdom. Herodias seized the opportunity and had her daughter, who tradition would call Salome, dance for Herod. When Herod promised the girl that he would give her whatever she wanted, she voiced her mother’s desire and demanded the head of John the Baptist.

Today’s Gospel says that when Jesus heard the news about John, He withdrew to a deserted place to be by Himself. Jesus often went off somewhere to pray. What must His prayers have been after hearing about John’s death? Perhaps He was trying to understand the will of the Father for John and for Him. Perhaps He was contemplating the meaning of death. Perhaps, Jesus was considering the mystery of evil. John, the greatest prophet to live, had been put to death by pure evil. Evil would attack Jesus also, as well as the people He was gathering to Himself. Certainly, Jesus was grieving over the death of His kinsman, the one who had pointed at Him and called Him “the Lamb of God.

Jesus would not be left alone for long, though. People sought Him out. He could not allow His grief to keep Him from caring for the people. He needed to feed them, in word and in deed. Many of you have behaved the same way. I have witnessed and been edified by so many of you who have suffered horrible crises, such as the death of a spouse, but who refused to allow your grief to prevent you from caring for others, particularly for your children.

Like John the Baptist, Jesus would also be put to death by evil, but He would not allow Himself to be caught up in evil, caught up in the culture of death. Jesus came to bring life into the world, and, as John 10:10 proclaims, to bring it abundantly. He came to invite people, invite us, to join Him in the Culture of Life. 

The Culture of Life is the way of living that celebrates the life we were given at our baptism, the life of God. The Culture of Life chooses the way of the Lord over all other possibilities. It considers how each decision best reflects the Presence of the Lord. St. John Paul II spoke often about the culture of life, but so also did many before him. Remember Bishop Fulton J. Sheen entitled his TV show, the first TV hit show, “Life is Worth Living.” In today’s second reading St. Paul tells us that no matter what the world throws at us, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It was commitment to the Culture of Life that led Blessed Mother Theresa to care for the poorest of the poor. It is commitment to the Culture of Life that transforms humanism into charity, for even greater than reaching out to others out of respect for their humanity is reaching out to them out of respect for their own reflection of the image of God, their share in his divinity.

We are called to the Culture of Life. We are people of life, people of hope, People of God. It is our commitment to the culture of life that allows us to view the events of our physical lives as only part of the story of our lives. We live for God. Our patron, St. Ignatius of Antioch, wrote, “The Christian is not his own master, his time is God’s.” We live for heaven. We live for eternal life. 

And we refused to be destroyed by the culture of death.

The culture of death only sees the here and now. It does not consider the impact of a person’s actions on his or her life or on the world in general. It is the culture of death that says, “Have the abortion.” How many babies are killed? How many great minds were never allowed to develop? How much beauty has the world lost? How much love? And how many girls have their lives destroyed? How many college freshmen and sophomores have been convinced by their parents and others not to change their college plans but to find a supposedly easy solution to their pregnancy? Then they go off to college, out of sight, but devastated for the rest of their lives. 

It is the culture of death that says, “Party on.” It is the culture of death that assumes that high school people, college people, military people, bachelors and others are going to live wild lives, not concerned about the impact of their actions on others or on themselves. It is the culture of death that is so pessimistic that it takes it for granted that people have no choice but to be condemned to a life that is ultimately meaningless. It is the culture of death that speaks to the young about birth control as soon as they announce that they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. The culture of death presumes that the young will not be able to control themselves. It is the culture of death that says that retirees should live together rather than marry because finances are more important than eternal life. Think about it. It is the culture of death that is the philosophical basis of the sex industry. Basically speaking, the culture of death assumes that we are animals, unable to control ourselves. 

But we are not animals. We are sons and daughter of God. We have dignity. We also have a right to demand that others treat us with the Dignity we have been given at our baptism. Whether we are thirteen or Ninety-three, we cannot allow anyone to assume that we are unable to control ourselves, assume that are condemned to live like animals, condemned to the Culture of Death.

And God says in Isaiah 55, our first reading: 

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,

come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.

Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.

We have been called to Life. It is all right there for us. We can choose Christ. We can choose His Way, the Culture of Life. And we can be happy, now and forever.

But we must choose.

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

Last week we heard Jesus say, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field...Again the kingdome of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls."

What is that buried treasure? What is the pearl of great price? Jesus gives us the answer - not so much by words, but by actions. When the people were hungry in a deserted place, Jesus took five loaves and two fish, then, "he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds."

This is the same language we hear at Mass when the priest - acting in the person of Christ - takes bread, blesses, breaks and gives it, saying "This is my Body given up for you." The hidden treasure, the pearl of great price is nothing more and nothing less than Jesus truly present in the Eucharist: the Bread which becomes his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

We saw the value of Eucharist when the coronavirus first started hitting us. Back in March, many parishes closed their doors. Here at St. Mary of the Valley we did not do that. We kept a careful eye on our church, but we didn't close our doors. People recognized that here in Monroe the pearl of great price is Jesus present in the Eucharist. They came to pray before Jesus in the chapel or main body of the church. 

Some people told me that they had gone to other churches and found doors locked. My advice was this: if you find doors looked, consider the whole church a tabernacle. Stay in your care in the parking lot and pray, focusing toward the dwelling place of Jesus. Jesus in the Eucharist is the pearl of great price. 

I know there are people who cannot prudently enter inside a church for Mass. But why not do this? Stay in your car, but make a visit to Jesus. Perhaps you have a family member who is elderly or has some underlying condition. If you could do it safely, you would probably bring that person to see a doctor. Why not bring them to the great Physician? Make a parking lot visit to Jesus. He is the pearl of great price. 

We hear today that when Jesus "saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick." Perhaps you are weary and discouraged. Come to Jesus. Come before Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. He gives his body for the forgiveness of sins, to make a new beginning. We need it so bad. Some people are thinking it will all be better once elections are over. No, the Bible says, do not place your trust in princes. Instead, come to Jesus, the pearl of great price.

Jesus fulfills what we hear today in the prophet Isaiah, 

All you who are thirsty, come to the water!... Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
18 Ordinary Time

Today we consider a text that is crucial to the Church’s understanding of itself. The words of Jesus addressed to Peter, ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ I suppose this is one of the most famous puns in the whole of history, Peter meaning rock. But that aside, the claims that the Church has made based on those few words are very great indeed. And they have provoked a good deal of criticism and have been an obstacle to many.

The claims are these: that Jesus gives authority to Peter and his successors to lead the Church, that the Holy Spirit will keep the successors of Peter free from error in matters concerning faith and morals, and that being in communion with the successors of Peter (i.e. the Popes) is essential to being a member of the one true Church of God.

We must remember the context in which these words of Jesus arise. Peter has just made an extraordinary confession of faith in response to Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter’s reply, as we all know so well, is, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Jesus then declares that this extraordinary statement of faith was directly inspired by God the Father.

So clearly Peter is important, indeed vital, to the work that Jesus was to accomplish. It is clear also that leadership for the Church, for the followers of Jesus after he returned to his Father, was needed and it was the intention of Jesus that Peter should fulfil this role.

An important question arises, one that has caused problems for Orthodox and Protestant Christians for centuries, it is simply this: How is this ministry of leadership to be exercised? Among Catholics those taking a very high view of the Papacy have claimed that the Pope has immediate and overall authority in the Church. While most Protestants would reject any such claim completely out of hand, Orthodox Christians would give the Popes as the successors of Peter a primacy of honour. However, they would see his special role as something that ought to be exercised collegially in communion with all the other bishops.

Historians have noted that the Pope’s authority within the Catholic Church has actually increased over the years. While he has always had the ‘last word’ in important matters of faith he has not always exercised the same level of jurisdiction that he now possesses. For example, these days it is the Pope who appoints almost all of the Bishops wherever they might be. But this was not always the case because for many centuries Bishops were elected or appointed locally, especially in those areas where communication with Rome was difficult. Archbishops usually had to have their appointments confirmed by Rome, but this could take years or even decades because it was something that had to be done personally and involved the Archbishop going to Rome to collect the pallium.

Then there is the question of the Holy Spirit keeping the successors of St Peter free from error in matters of faith and morals. Certainly down through the centuries the Pope’s have been exactly that, the ultimate moderators in matters of doctrine. They have played a crucial role in keeping the faith of the Apostles intact despite all kinds of changing circumstances and new challenges. But again this area is not without its difficulties and our closest brothers, the Orthodox, have some problems with certain areas of what they perceive to be new articles of faith such as purgatory, the filoque clause in the Creed and most of all the 1870 definition of papal infallibility.

And within our Church there is a particular area where many people in the West have found difficulties with the teaching of the Popes and that is on the Church’s attitude towards artificial contraception. The problems associated with these areas which we can describe as authority and faith have obviously had their impact upon the other important role of the successors of Peter, their role as the touchstone of unity. It might appear as if this crucial aspect of the Petrine Ministry has been badly compromised over the centuries and for evidence of this we only have to look at the many divisions among the Christian Churches.

You might think that by now the role of the Popes is so defective that the whole enterprise is flawed and useless. But far from it! Yes, there are some difficulties, as I have pointed out. But if we reflect on what things would be like for Christianity without the Papacy then we quickly realise that it has actually provided outstanding leadership and has heroically maintained the faith of the Apostles for the last two millennia.

And some of those things which I have characterised as difficulties prove to be prophetic stances which contain an important message for the people of today. Which other authority in the world witnesses so well to the values of marriage and family life? Who else speaks up for chastity, purity and fidelity? Who speaks out against the widespread acceptance of promiscuous lifestyles? Who else has the courage to question the wisdom of the widespread reliance on artificial methods of contraception?

We see then that the role of Peter and his successors has shown itself to be a guiding light for all Christians despite the fact that at some points in history there have been movements to completely reject the Petrine ministry. In the modern world even members of those denominations furthest away from Catholicism, when they take their blinkers off, have to acknowledge that the teaching and witness of the Papacy is something that cannot be simply sidelined for it has proved to be one of the most important guides for anyone wanting to live an authentic Christian life today. We should be proud of the Papacy and recognise that it is one of Christ’s great gifts to the Church. But also we should not be surprised that there are some difficulties on this great pilgrimage of faith that the People of God is engaged in.

Christ knew the quality of the man he was choosing. That Peter deserted him after his arrest was no surprise to Jesus, but then so did almost all the other Apostles. He knew better than anyone how Peter was impetuous on the one hand and indecisive on the other. But Christ deliberately chooses the weak to confound the strong. When it comes down to it what have the Popes got? Nothing much, except faith and the promises of Christ. Their power is not based on wealth or weapons because the authority that they wield is not of the worldly kind. Their task is to simply and straightforwardly proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as the one true Saviour of the World. This is the only kind of leadership that the Church could ever want or need. So we are proud of the Papacy, glad to be Catholic, and inspired to be faithful to Christ and his Church.

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.