25 October 202030 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
30 Ordinary Time

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A - Matthew 22:34-40 

When one elephant in a herd is hurt, other elephants will help the injured animal stay on its feet. They crowd about the injured elephant and provide a shoulder for him to lean on. Can we do less for people?

The Herodians, Pharisees, and Saducees, pursuing Jesus in today's Gospel, were wannabe jailers. They had hunted Jesus for three years. They wanted Him out of their lives. Each time out they came up not with His scalp but with empty air. They were losers.

Today's strategy was foolproof. Or so they thought. They took turns baiting Jesus with thorny legal questions. They hoped to reel Him in like an exhausted fish and gut Him.

Today the Pharisees' attorney was the leadoff batter, "Master, which is the Law's greatest commandment?" The question appears harmless to us, but it was a ticking bomb. For centuries, the Jews argued this question. They had 600 laws. If it was His enemies' lucky day, the Christ would give an unpopular response. The crowd would grow angry. He'd become history.

Jesus' answer rings out clear even today. You must love God and neighbor. Neither of these concepts was news to the lawyer. Both were taken by Christ out of the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But He put a peculiar spin on His response. We see three firsts.

For the first time in Jewish theology, Jesus had taken the two concepts and made them two sides of one coin. Also He was the first to argue that "on these two commandments hang the whole Law..." Finally, He was a complete original in telling His audience one must love Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles were the ones the Pharisees loved to hate.

Jesus had proved to be the Lord of Surprises. No wonder the editors of Time, Newsweek, and the US News & World Report chose to place His picture on their front cover in the same week. He was front-page news in His time and remains so in ours.

The attorney from the firm of Dewey, Cheetem, & Howe, who was fronting for the hostiles, called time out. He found himself holding a gun shooting backwards. Fighting Jesus was unproductive. We cannot beat up on His enemies for not marrying the concepts of God and neighbor. Their inability to do so reflects a centuries old dispute in our Church.

Some Catholics, especially many young, argue, "I come to church to worship God. Spare me the message on the poor. I get that on the TV all week." This is telephone booth theology: just me and God and nobody else. Here they obey the first great commandment and forget the second.

Other Catholics operate on social worker principles. They put out for the poor not because it pleases God but because it pleases them. Jesus is squeezed out of the package. They obey the second great commandment and disregard the first. Such people are humanists but not Christians.

Maximilian Kolbe was a Nazi prisoner. He heard his fellow prisoners badmouth their jailers. The priest, who would be executed by the Nazis in 1941, urged them to forgive their captors. "Hatred only leads to more of the same. Only love," he said, "is creative." Kolbe, now a canonized saint, loved his jailers because of today's Gospel. He had learned that when you look for good in others, you discover the best in yourself. (Unknown)

Karl Barth wrote volumes on God. Still he tells us his definition of God is summed up in three words: One who loves. Since God is a tremendous lover, should we be less? When you fail to see God in people, you come to see others as a lost cause. If you forget today's Gospel, people appear to be unteachable. You become a misanthrope or cynic.

This week give time. Give a friend flowers. Share a cake. Perhaps a phone call. Give hope. Hug a child needing affection. Speak praise to a teen-ager. Forgive an enemy. Use humor to defuse an argument. Smile. Say thank you. (Unknown)

A Hindu proverb sums up the above: "The narrow-minded ask, 'Are these people strangers or members of our tribe?' But to those in whom love dwells, the whole world is one family."

Meditate today on the aphorism that people with a heart for God have a heart for people.

If you find yourself a lousy lover, don't grow discouraged. Many bad lovers are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up? (Unknown)

If the elephants can show love for each other, why can't we?

Reaching out and aiding your neighbor is excellent exercise for the heart. (Unknown)

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
30 Ordinary Time

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Teach the Children to Love

People always say that it is more difficult to be a child or Teen these days than back when they were young. People said that way back when I was young and drugs started dominating lives. They said that when birth control and abortion led many to think that they now had a green light to unbridled sex. They said that a few years later when VCR’s brought porn into many homes. And they say that now as we are facing three epidemics that have become national health crises, addition to opiods, addiction to porn, and, of course, the Covid pandemic. 

With all this stated, I want to shock you by telling you that it was easier to be a parent five years ago than it is now. What has changed in the last five years? Anger and hate have become acceptable to some in our society. You see, five years ago parents did not have to be that concerned with their children being caught up in anger and in hate. Five years ago, parents did not have to be concerned that their children would be exposed to large numbers of influential adults who point at whole groups of people and call them criminals and rapists. Five years ago, parents did not have to be concerned that their children would be immersed in a society that has posited hatred as a valid reason for action.

Our children are our treasures. We need to protect them from the terrors of this fallen world. We need to teach them that as followers of Jesus Christ, they cannot participate in the work of the devil, the work of hatred. 

The basis of our education in Christ must be the fundamental teachings of the Lord as expressed in today’s Gospel: Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. Children and Teens can learn to withstand hatred if they are taught to ask themselves, “Are people loving God when they say such horrible things about other people?”

I also suggest that parents educate their children by absolutely refusing to allow the word “hate” to be used in their house, by anyone, children or adults. Even if a child say, “I hate brussel sprouts,” parents should say, “We don’t say that word here. You can say ‘I can’t stand brussel sprouts,’ but the word hate is not allowed in this house.” And if the child asks, “Why?,” respond, “Because this is not just a house, it is a home. A home is where Jesus is present. He is here uniting us into a family.” And if your pre-Teen or Teen asks, “So, is it OK to use the word hate outside our house?,” you could respond, “No it is not OK. Remember, we each have Jesus dwelling inside of us. He will not remain within us if we turn from His Love and turn to hate.”

We might not be able to protect our children from exposure to those elements of society driven by hate, but we can teach them why they need to fight against being caught up in the hatred. We cannot allow our children to become haters.

Begin with that teaching of the Lord in today’s Gospel. Loving God with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind means that our lives must revolve around God. We must love him with every part of our lives. Children and Teens may not be able to define love, but they understand love. They know that their parents love them with every part of their being. They also know that they love their parents with every fiber of their being, even when they are upset with Mom or Dad those times when they don’t get their way. Teach your children that the love that they experience from Mom and Dad and the love that they have for Mom and Dad are just small reflections of the love that God has for them, and that they must have for God. God created us to love us. He fills us with His love. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, in a crowd or alone, every one of us has received the infinite gift of God’s love. “Know that I am with you always,” Jesus said to the disciples before He ascended into heaven. He is here. He is with us. He is loving us. And He is waiting for our response. Our response is our love for Him, a love that is all embracing, a love that emanates from our whole life, our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. Every action of our lives must display the love of God. We are people of God. We are people of love. If we are ever anywhere or involved in anything where the love of God is not evident, then we have no business being there.

Teach your children that we love God because He first loved us, and teach your children the second part of today’s gospel, love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps this is clearer to us in an earlier part of Matthew, Matthew 7:12. We call this passage the Golden rule, “Do to others what you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”  Many ancient philosophers stated a negative law, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” Only Jesus was positive, “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” We need to teach our children to be active lovers of other people. We need to teach them to reach out to others in love, particularly to those who need their help. We need to teach them to fight against hatred with the one weapon that destroys hatred. That weapon is love. It is the weapon that Jesus used when from the cross He destroyed the devil’s hold on the world.

I am convinced that it is more difficult to be a parent now than it was five years ago because hatred is now acceptable in some areas of our society. But, there is this wonderful positive: parents are being forced by all this to become even greater lovers of God, of their family, and of each other. We can beat the devil at his own game. He provides hatred. We counter with love. When we come upon hatred, we can use this as an occasion to grow in love. By fighting against hatred, from the use of the word hate in our homes to reaching out to the victims of hatred in our society, we become more loving. We beat the devil at his own game.

Parents have the wonderful responsibility of raising children for God. But you parents are not alone in this battle for the Kingdom. We the Christian community all share in your responsibility. We are gathered here this morning to pray for our parents and to pray that we all might have the courage to withstand evil. We pray that we might have the courage to be people of love.

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

As Yourself

(October 25, 2020)

Bottom line: Love God with all you being and he will enable you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Today Jesus gives the two great commandments: Love of God and love of neighbor. Let's focus on love of neighbor. "Love your neighbor as yourself".

C.S. Lewis asks the question: well, how do I love myself? He observes that he might detest something he has done, but that does not cause him to stop loving himself. C.S. Lewis concludes: "Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."

Let me tell you about a man who gave a powerful example of Christian love. He's one of my heroes. You may have heard of him: Daryl Davis. As a black musician he played various gigs. Once at a country gig he was the only black man present. A man approached him and invited him for a drink. Daryl accepted, although he only ordered cranberry juice. It was the man's first conversation with a black man. It led to other conversations where the man admitted his racial prejudices and Daryl refuted the stereotypes one by one. It turned out the man was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Because of his friendship with Daryl he left the white supremacist organization. Well, in the last decades Daryl converted over 200 Klansmen - including Robert Kelly the Imperial Wizard of Maryland - who gave his robe and hood to Daryl. 

Daryl Davis illustrates the basic principle of Jesus' love: Hate the sin, but love the sinner. In his case he hated the sin of racism, but he loved the sinner enough that the could draw racists out of their miserable life.

Now, you and I may not do something as dramatic as Daryl Davis, but we can live Jesus' precept. We don't have to look far. G.K. Chesterton said, "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people."

St. Therese shows us the way. As a young sister in a Carmelite monastery, one of the older sisters irritated her very much. She decided whenever she was tempted to run away or speak unpleasantly, she would give the sister her best smile. This continued for weeks. One day the older nun asked her, "Sister Therese, will you please tell me what attracts you so much to me? You give me such a charming smile whenever we meet."

I can see you are smiling even under your mask. Maybe you have someone in your life like that unpleasant sister. And maybe you are asking: how was Therese able to love that person? She gives the answer:

"Ah! It was Jesus hidden in the depth of her soul who attracted me, Jesus who makes the bitterest things sweet!"

The truth is, in order to love ones neighbor, we need God. Even two people deeply in love, at some point, find that they need a Higher Power in order to persevere. If you are living with a narcissist, it may require some counseling, but ultimately you need God.

That's why Jesus said the greatest and the first commandment is: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." And "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Follow those commandments and, like Daryl Davis, you will help heal our society. Follow those two commandments and like Therese of Lisieux, you will become a saint.* Love God with all you being and he will enable you to love your neighbor as yourself. Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
30 Ordinary Time

By the time of Jesus the Law had greatly expanded from the original ten commandments. One writer says that there were 613 actual Laws as well as 365 prohibitions (one for every day in the year) and 268 prescriptions (one for every bone in the body).

Obviously not all these rules and regulations were of equal weight and the rabbis constantly disputed which of them were more important than the others. So we can see where the question of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel comes from. It is not just a matter of curiosity but a point of contention among the lawyers and religious figures of the day, something which was of real importance to them.

Today we might find such a question a bit abstract and not very relevant but you have to understand that the ancient world was a very different place and their concerns were quite other than ours. They lived in a religious world dominated by the Temple and the various factions gathered around it. What to us seem obscure matters of religion were of vital importance to them.

However, the purpose of the question in today’s Gospel is not to find the answer but, as we are told, to disconcert Jesus. His questioners want to wrong-foot him; to try to find something which they can use against him.

In this and in the previous few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, extracts of which we have had read to us over the last few weeks, the Pharisees have been trying hard to catch Jesus out. They have put questions to him like the one last week about whether taxes can be paid to Caesar. Their purpose is to look for a chink in his armour so that they can find something to use against him.

On each occasion Jesus outsmarts them. He either gives an answer they do not expect or he responds with a parable which puts them in a bad light. By now they are a bit exasperated and running out of things to ask him so they pose this question about which is the greatest commandment. In our text today Jesus gives the answer that there are two great and interrelated commandments: Love God and love your neighbour. The Pharisees perhaps seeing that they cannot get the better of him simply back off.

It is interesting that, true to form, Jesus does not use the same categories as the Pharisees in their disputations about which is the greatest commandment. They ask which one commandment is the greatest and he gives them not one commandment but two. He does not place the first above the second but says that the second is like the first.

What is interesting is his follow-up statement that it is on these two commandments that the whole Law and the Prophets hangs. In other words, this underpins the whole body of Jewish teaching. From this remarkable statement we see that the Jewish belief system is based not on rules and regulations, as the Pharisees would have us believe, but on love.

This is something that they do not expect. Yes, I am certain that the Pharisees love their wives and their children but it is obvious that their personal religion is not based on love; rather it is based on the observance of rules and regulations. In a word, their religion is mechanical: according to their way of thinking if you observe this set of rituals or that set of behaviours then you will be righteous in the eyes of God.
What Jesus proposes is something that they have completely overlooked. For all their study of the scriptures the Pharisees have failed to notice the great pillar on which their religion is based, namely love. They have not understood what the true nature of God really is. They do not realise that the sole motivating force of God is love. They do not understand that what God wants from us is for us to simply love him and our fellow creatures.

The Pharisees did not understand this simple equation. We realise that their failure to appreciate this important point is very reason why Jesus came into our world. He came to make sure that we perfectly understand just what God is like and what we need to do in order to live with him forever. The message of Jesus, to use the beautiful phrase of St John, is that ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them’.

The task then of anyone who wants to be one with God is to learn to become a good lover in the very broadest sense of that term. What we ought to be striving for is to deepen our care and concern for and our appreciation of all those around us and to be constantly reaching out to God in our prayer as well as in our good works.

What we need therefore is profound passion in our lives, a deep and warm and powerful love for our God and our fellow human beings. This word passion is very interesting because its roots are in the word suffering. When, for example, we speak of Christ’s Passion we mean his suffering on the Cross but we recognise that the motivation for his suffering is his great love for us and his concern that we should have the way to heaven opened up for us.

There is no room for a cold Christian; there is no space in the Church for a stony-hearted Christian. These concepts are complete contradictions. What we are long for is passionate, warm and loving Christians; members of the Church who care deeply about the welfare of those around them. We want Christians whose hearts are moved by the sufferings that they see and who want to do whatever they can to help to build a better world.

When we describe someone as passionate we mean that they are excited and ardent about whatever it is that gets them going. In society at large we can see many passionate people in sport, in the arts, in politics and many other areas of life. It is hard for anyone to achieve a measure of success in a particular sphere without being passionate about what they do.

However, what we are considering here is Christianity. And what we are talking about goes far beyond a particular sport or a political viewpoint. What we are talking about is the most important thing that exists; namely God himself. We are speaking about the greatest kind of love that there is, the love of God and flowing from this the love of our neighbour.

If we can harness a deep passion for the things of heaven in our lives then there is nothing we cannot do; no place we cannot go; no door that can ever be closed to us, least of all the door of heaven.

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