11 July 202115 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
15 Ordinary Time

15 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 6:7-13

A pastor bankrupt his parish giving away wood to the poor to bring warmth to their homes in bitter winter. When he had no money left, he sold the rectory Chippendale dining room furniture for more wood. He was ridiculed by his peers for being a bad administrator. He was embraced by Christ on his death.

We must accept it as a given that not only does Christ believe in life after death but also He believes just as strongly in life before death. Furthermore, He believes not only in bread for the poor but roses too.

Do check today's Gospel. Mark clearly tells us that Jesus sent the apostles on a two-fold mission. They must preach repentance for people's sins. But in addition they must cure them of their physical ills and wants. Mark in verse 13 tells us today that the twelve did precisely that. Such a job definition is the reverse of the oft-told tale that Jesus is preaching pie in the sky in the bye and bye. The Teacher is interested not only in souls but bodies as well. He is anxious both to develop the spiritual life of people as well as their humanity. To say otherwise would be equal to presenting a counterfeit and plastic Christ to the world. He is in the business of saving people - body and soul.

It is quite true that the Master said, "The poor you will always have with you." But, in the words of Edward McGlynn, He never said that you and I were to do nothing to help them. Our Leader reminds us hunger is one disease that is 100% curable.

God, said one cynic, must have loved the poor. He made so many of them. Arguably He did so to make it easier for you and me to get into Paradise. We accomplish that by holding out a loaf of bread and cherry jam to them along with some substantive assistance. Nowadays that substantive aid goes by the name of empowerment. We must help them to build ovens and grow cherries. It cannot be said that all Catholics accept this as a given. Many do not. I know of one American Catholic college where students bitterly indicted their chaplain in the school paper. They said that they came to the Liturgy to worship God and be inspired. They were fed up with hearing from him about the poor. The latter were living by the thousands in the neighborhood around the college. The priest replied, "I am sorry about that. I did not write the rulebook." Asked one sophomore sweetly, "What rulebook?" "The Gospels," he replied.

If you read through the Gospels, one discovers quickly that the Nazarene spent more hours assisting the great unwashed than He did about speaking of His Father. What would happen if the reader tears out of the Gospels the pages that speak of the needy and His assistance of them? Well, we wind up with a book so abridged that no publisher would publish it.

Many rabbis of Christ's time said religion consists primarily in sacrifice. Some scribes would correct them and say that religion is concerned principally with the Law. And the Christ would buy neither definition. According to Him, it consists in love of God and one's neighbor - especially the ones who finds themselves with empty bellies.Christ's Church must belong primarily to the down and out. If the opposite is the case, the Church has seriously violated its charter. Furthermore, when the Church favors the poor over the middle class, we should not complain like the college students of the above. After all, must of us in the United States are the direct descendants of the very poor. Some of us are their children. Or at the very least their grandchildren. My mother as a child owned no shoes.

Furthermore, when the preacher turns us upside down to shake money out of our pockets for the poor, we should not moan. Rather, we should learn to say, "This is exactly what the Church should be doing. And, if it were not, I should be kicking and screaming till it began to do so."

I found these reflective lines in the Canterbury cathedral of Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas a Becket. "Poverty is carrying your water four miles. Poverty is being old at 40 and dead at 45. Poverty is having no crops to scare birds away from. Poverty is having no money to worry about."

Of the forty two million without health insurance in the United States, eight million are children. This translates into prolonged illness, skipping life saving medical exams, and inadequate medical care. Christ waits impatiently.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
15 Ordinary Time

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Soaring with Christ

Amos was a normal, everyday working man. We hear about him in the first reading. He was an arborist. He ran a tree service. Amos' Tree Trimming, Inc. He lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, just south of the border with the Northern Kingdom of Israel. There were a lot of professional prophets of his day, people who would prophesy for a fee. They even had a professional prophet association. It was the AFT & AOQ, Association of Fortune Tellers and Assorted Other Quacks. Amos wasn't part of that scene. He worked in orchards. But God chose him, Amos, to deliver His Word and truth to the people of Bethel just over the border in the Northern Kingdom. Amaziel, the local authority, told Amos to shut up and get out, but Amos said he had no choice. "The lion has roared, who will not fear? God has spoken, who can but prophesy?" That's Amos 3:8. So this ordinary man, Amos, became the vehicle of God's truth.

Four were fishermen. One was a hated tax collector. One a political zealot. There was nothing extraordinary about any of the twelve that Jesus sent out to preach, to heal and to expel demons. They were ordinary people, given instructions to conduct themselves like prophets. And the Word of God worked through them.

God works through everyday people, including us. The Word of God wants to work through every person here. We have to "proclaim the word, in season and out of season" as St. Paul writes in 2 Tim 4:2.  We have to proclaim the truth we experience within us whether it is a time others want to hear it, in season, or whether it is a time they would rather we just keep quiet, out of season. We need to bring the message, the experience, the very presence of Jesus Christ to the world. I said “we”, not “I” but “we”. Some will listen to you who will not listen to me. Perhaps it is people your age who will say, "I want to be happy with life just as he or she is happy." Perhaps it will be people who respect and love you, such as your parents and brothers and sisters. For the older folks here, perhaps it will be people who look to you for guidance, such as your own children or grandchildren. Many people will hear the message clearer when it comes from you rather than from me or any priest. So proclaim the message.

And yes, there will be people who will reject the message. You may indeed have to move on and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ to others, just as the disciples were told to move on if they are rejected. But don't stop praying for them. And be patient. Joy, happiness and the Presence of the Lord are contagious. Sometimes, though, it takes time for people to allow the Cure for life’s ills to heal them.

I want you to do something now, close your eyes and picture yourself gazing up into the sky. Then in the distance above you there is a huge bird soaring. At first you think it must be a plane or a helicopter, but you don’t hear a motor, what you hear is the flapping of wings and the calling of an eagle. The eagle starts circling down, coming closer and closer to you. You are not frightened, just intrigued. Finally, it lights right next to you. It’s huge. Then it turns its head to you, holds out a wing, and touches its back. It’s inviting you to climb onto its back. It wants to take you for a ride. So you do. And you soar with that eagle. The earth looks so beautiful from its back. The heavens seem so close. It is all rather glorious.

But it is not enough for you to be soaring on the eagles back. The eagle sets down in the middle of your friends, your neighborhood, your workplace, your family. And the eagle looks at you and at them. You realize it is telling you to invite them to climb up onto its back and soar with you. And so we hold out our hands for others to join us. That is what today’s readings tell us to do. We are to call out to others to join us on the amazing journey that is the Christian life. We are to tell them, proclaim to them, that the eagle is Jesus Christ. And the wonderful journey with Him, on his back, is the Christian Life.

We climb onto the Eagle. We hold out our hands. And we invite others to come with us and soar. 

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

Gratitude Week 5: Affliction

(July 11, 2021)

Bottom line: Trusting in God's perfect plan does not does not make suffering disappear. But it can enable us to pray in good times and bad. Because of Jesus, we can have gratitude even in the midst of affliction.

We are at week five in our summer series on gratitude. We've talked about gratitude for small things and gratitude for great things: fatherhood, children and country. Today we shift gears and consider how we can be grateful even when experiencing affliction.

Last week we heard St. Paul say, "a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated." We don't know exactly what the "thorn" was. Some think it may have been a form of depression. In Catholic Guide to Depression, Dr. Keriaty explains that the word depression does not do justice to the affliction. It suggests a slight dip on a flat surface like a depression in the road. Dr. Keriaty responds, "The experience of depression, by contrast, is not just a dip but a dark and miserable pit. It is an intense and serious cause of mental, physical and spiritual suffering."

We know the feeling of helplessness when a loved one suffers depression. Dr. Keriaty and Fr. Cihak show that help is available. Some people think that Christians should just rely on faith. Well, part of faith involves seeking natural remedies God provides - in this case, medicines, doctors and therapies.

At the same time, we recognize that God allows affliction for a purpose. Dr. Keriaty tells about Catholics and other Christians he has treated. He shows how spiritual practices like meditation, Mass attendance, the rosary and Bible reading can be part of a person's recovery. Suffering, when it stops short of despair, can lead a person to God.

In today's Gospel Jesus sends disciples with power to drive out demons and heal the sick. A person suffering depression can receive prayers, including laying on of hands and the anointing of the sick.

St. Paul suffered multiple afflictions including that constant thorn in his flesh. Still, he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens..."

What are these blessings? A big part involves knowing where came from and where we are going. Paul says, "For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible..." And today St. Paul tells us that God has "a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth." No wonder prayer works in good times and in bad. It works when life is a bowl of cherries. It also works when we are in the pits.

In the misery of our world, God is at work in Christ to bring all things together in his perfect plan. Because of that perfect plan, St. Paul can make this declaration: "For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison..."

Besides depression there is another form affliction, that is, conflict. Sometimes conflict can be invigorating. But it can also be stressful, especially if it involves people we care about. Next Sunday we will talk about gratitude in times of conflict. We will explore what St. Paul means when he says, "Jesus is our peace." You will find it helpful. As I say, "don't miss it."

For this Sunday, take home this. Trusting in God's perfect plan does not does not make suffering disappear. But it can enable us to pray in good times and bad. Because of Jesus, we can have gratitude even in the midst of affliction. Amen.

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

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