19 July 202116 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
16 Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday of the Year - Cycle B - Mark 6:30-34

TS Eliot wrote, "Where shall the word be found, where will the word resound.? Not here, there is not enough silence."

William F Buckley, Jr was quoted as saying that he found Jesus "endearing." A critic said, "Nonsense. Buckley does not have enough material to make such a judgment." Who was correct? Let's go to the Gospel record.

Today's Gospel gives us a good start. Jesus must have been exhausted. Presumably He was running on empty. So, He decides on a weekend pass for Himself. Obviously He believed in the law that unless you come apart and rest awhile, you may just come apart. Most of us, someone said, get run down because we stay wound up. It is instructive to know that even the Nazarene took a few days off now and again. He endorses the line that teaches when we are not quiet enough to be mindful of who we are, we never know whom we wish to become.

However, His hiding place was quickly discovered. Mark tells us "a large crowd" gave chase. How did the tightly wrapped Christ react? Did He go ballistic and chase His fans away? Mark tells us that "He took pity on them and set Himself to teach them at some length." I personally find His concern "endearing."

Incidentally, Mark tells us that many in that crowd "hurried" to the spot where the Teacher was hiding. We can compute from clues given that they jogged ten miles to get to His hideout. Surely they would not have done so had they not been convinced that He was an endearing person. When was the last time you jogged even one mile to listen to someone?

How did people, who knew Him best, react to Him? Let's go back to the evidence. "And Jesus grew gaining favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52) The men in question are of course the men and women of His hometown Nazareth. We know He spent His boyhood, teens, and young manhood there. We are talking about many years. Still people obviously enjoyed having Him among them. If you will, they found Him "endearing." Doesn't this point tell us much about Him? Think of the kids in your town to whom you would gladly give money to quit your community.

Or how about Matthew 19:13-15? Psychologists say that children have special antenna to pick out the genuine and the fraud among us adults. "Some people brought children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them." Notice the youngsters did not flee. As a matter of fact, they stayed around the Nazarene so long that the apostles grew annoyed. They attempted to chase them. The Teacher put the twelve in their place. He had seen a need and offered Himself. They had seen the same need and could think of nothing but the cost to themselves. The kids were delighted to get a few extra minutes' with the Lord. When was the last time strange children came to you seeking your company and blessing? An honest answer tells you much about Jesus.

How did the moneyed class judge Him? Turn to Luke 19:1-10 for the answer. The city was Jericho. The millionaire was Zacchaeus. He was anxious to check out the itinerant Rabbi. So, without minding his imported silk toga and handcrafted sandals, he climbed out on the branches of a sycamore tree. He was so carried away by what ensued that he blurted, "I will give half my belongings to the poor." (Lk 19:8) Carefully note that the Master had not asked the fellow for even a dollar. What does this point tell you? I add parenthetically we are talking about the type of parishioner every pastor dreams of having but seldom gets.

How about His effect on cops? John tells the story. The Temple authorities sent the police to pick Jesus up. They came back empty-handed. Their bosses were not amused and laid out the fellows in black and blue. The cops in turn nervously said, "Nobody has ever talked the way this man does." (Jn 7:46) Any alleged perpetrator who can charm cops from arresting Him must have a lot going for Him. If you have any doubts on that point, think of the last time you attempted to con a state trooper from giving you a ticket for doing 65 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone.

I submit the most hard-nosed among us must concur that we have more than enough Gospel evidence to conclude that Jesus was indeed "endearing." I can almost hear Buckley purring, "Why did you ever doubt me?"

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
16 Ordinary Time

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want,” if people only know one psalm, that psalm is Psalm 23, today’s responsorial psalm. Today, I would like to lead you in a reflection on this psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd. God wants to direct our lives. Jesus felt so bad for the people in today's Gospel because they had no one to shepherd them. He mourns also for us. The world can be a confusing place. Life can be confusing. Governments like those mentioned in the first reading, often demand that people violate their consciences for what they claim in the greater good. Historically, this has always resulted in the people participating in hidden, immoral agendas. We witnessed this happening the last century with the two extremes of fascism and communism. Most of the people of Germany did not have full knowledge of what the Nazis were doing to the Jews and others in the concentration camps. But they had a share of the guilt because in the name of national pride, they allowed bad shepherds to guide them. At the same time, there were good shepherds in Germany, people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up for truth and died leading people to the Lord.

What should we do when we are confronted with what is presented as a small moral sacrifice for what is claimed to be a greater national good? This is not an easy question, particularly because we are invested in our country. We love America. But if we truly love our country, we need to shepherd it in ways that are just and merciful. We ourselves need a shepherd to guide us. We have one. The Lord is our shepherd. We should follow God. Right is right and wrong is wrong. We have to let God direct our lives, not politicians. This will protect us from taking the steps that would lead to great evil.

I shall not want. When I was a child, I thought that it is strange to say that I didn’t want God to be my shepherd. No, the phrase means that I will want for nothing. God provides that which we really need in life: a reason for being alive. Following our conscience leads us to rest in Christ, at peace with God and at peace with ourselves. People are looking for peace. The world provides stress. God provides rest. The psalm talks about restful waters. We can look at water for hours. From babbling brooks to the great oceans, it is so peaceful to look at the water. We let go of our stress. We just focus on the beauty before us. The psalm speaks about restful waters where God leads us. We can help others find those restful waters by encouraging them to be who they were meant to be, unique reflections of the image and likeness of God. There is peace in being true to ourselves.

He restores our souls. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should be perfect as His Heavenly Father is Perfect. But how can we be perfect? We are human. We are frail. Sometimes people carry such guilt that they give up on themselves, on religion and even on God. We can be good shepherds for them. We can let them know that what the Lord is saying is that we should be sincere, truthful to our best selves. That is what the word that is used in the Sermon on the Mount really means. Be sincere as my heavenly Father is sincere. When our external actions reflect our inner beings, we are at one with God and with ourselves. We can help others find integrity in their lives by living as sincere people. Our souls can be are restored to God's original purpose for our creation. Then we and they will be at peace. When we are at peace with ourselves and with our God, we want for nothing.

And though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil.  Yes there are continual challenges in life. But the present life is just a part of the totality of our lives. Here, we are in the valley of death. We are mortal. We become sick and die. Worse, our loved ones die. Still, through all the pain, the suffering and the sorrow, we ultimately trust in God. You are with me, the Psalm proclaims. He is. He guides us with His rod and staff. He gives us gentle shoves, and sometimes not so gentle shoves. But we are comforted with knowing that whatever happens, the Lord is in charge. He will take care of us. In fact, even when others attack us for our devotion to Him, when others mock us for our faith, even when other Catholics deride us for our determination to live what we profess, God will win out. We can shepherd others to recognize this present reality: God always wins. Jesus Christ is the Victor. Those who oppose us because we live our faith will eventually witness God's caring for us at the banquet of His Love. He sets a table before me in the face of my foes.

Psalm 23 ends with the great promise: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  If we have the courage to live united to the Lord, we will experience his goodness and kindness in this life and union with Him in the next life.

The world needs good shepherds, and the world needs the Good Shepherd. Jesus was with His disciples when He felt the hurt of so many people without shepherds. He sent the disciples to care for his people, to shepherd them. The Lord still has pity on those in pain. Now we are the disciples. He sends us to bring healing, and mercy, and goodness and truth to the world.

We can be and we must be good shepherds.

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

Gratitude Week 6: Conflict

(July 18, 2021)

Bottom line: Today we see gratitude for conflict. It makes us know our need for Jesus. He is our peace.

This summer, as you know, I am preaching a series of homilies on gratitude. It's easy to be grateful when things are going well, but what about when trials come? Last weekend we talked about gratitude during times of affliction. We focused specifically on the affliction of depression that seems to strike more and more people, especially our youth. Depression can paralyze. It can also bring a person to see their need for God. We've seen that practices such as meditation and Mass attendance, the rosary and Bible reading can help in the context of an overall recovery program. So gratitude even during affliction. Today I want to focus on another type of affliction, namely conflict.

I begin with an amusing story from my seminary days. I entered the seminary in the final year of Vatican II. Turmoil followed the Council, with Catholics dividing into liberal and conservative camps. We seminarians of course thought we would be the ones to bring things back together. I remember one of my classmates in Rome, right before heading back to the United States. "I can hardly wait," he said, "to get home and start working on all the polarization." Another seminarian spoke up, "Well, you can begin by getting a haircut."

Needless to say, we didn't solve the polarization. Resolving conflict involves more than pointing out how the other guy has gone wrong. Sometimes that only makes matters worse. Resolving conflict requires something more. We can that "something more" in today's second reading.

Paul was in the middle of a monumental conflict. The two sides had radically different ways of understanding the Hebrew Scriptures. St. Paul sees the solution in Christ. Jesus comes to break down the dividing wall. "In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace..."

To accept Jesus as our peace is not easy. It begins by recognizing ones own sins. And that our sins - yours and mine - are so serious they have nailed Jesus to the cross. We shrink from acknowledging our sins because that would give our opponent one more reason to write us off - or as we say today, to cancel the other person.

St Paul, however, is not afraid to admit his own sin. He had persecuted the Church. He was responsible for imprisonment and death of innocent men, women and children. The movie Paul the Apostle powerfully portrays Paul's remorse.

Paul's awareness of forgiveness gave him amazing compassion - even for people attacking him. As Paul says, Jesus is our peace.

Now, you and I are not St. Paul, but we can learn from him: gratitude in midst of conflict. Not by scoring points, but by pointing to Jesus. Not by seeing through the other person, but by actually seeing him. It's easy to see through other people. It's hard to see them. We need Jesus. In today's Gospel Jesus says, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." Put away the cell phone. Spend time with Jesus.

When we come to Jesus, we find peace through forgiveness of sins. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Jesus is our peace.

To come to Jesus involves choice. That will be our theme for next week: gratitude for the gift of choice. We take choice for granted, but we shouldn't. The implications are huge. In talking about free choice, I will share how I learned the secret of a smile. That's for next Sunday.

Today we see gratitude for conflict. It makes us know our need for Jesus. He is our peace. Amen.

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

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