1 August 202118 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
18 Ordinary Time

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - John 6:24-35

Three laborers were dragging massive stones. The first was asked by a reporter what he was doing. The reply was terse, "I'm dragging a big stone and it's breaking my back." He put the same query to the second fellow. His reply was, "I'm helping to build a wall and I need your help right now." The journalist politely declined. He moved on to ask the third man. He replied with a smile: "Sir, I'm building a cathedral for God."

We are living out our own lives in an epoch in which work has fallen on hard days. It was said of a USA town where they assemble autos: "Never buy a car built there on Fridays or Mondays." On Friday, serious drinking began to salute the opening of the weekend. On Monday, many of the workers, if they came at all, were nursing hangovers. They kept their eyes open with toothpicks. The owners finally closed the plant.

I worked as a chaplain with college students. Many of the students matched the work habits and life style of the above auto "craftsmen." Thursday evening began party hearty time on campus. Their weekends were Missing in Action.

Unhappily these work habits touch just about every industry and college in our country. We are talking about a national and, I suspect, international problem. Is this not why so many United States citizens look for products made in Japan? I went car hunting. The first point the salesman made without my query was, "I can tell you, Padre, this car was made in Japan from start to finish and I have the papers to prove it." Incidentally, I drive a Japanese Honda.

As Catholics, we have to examine our attitude to work. Are we working for the food which lasts and which gives eternal life as John today suggests? Or are we part of the problem? Are we giving a fair day's work for a fair day's pay? Are we as careful about our job responsibilities as we are about our salary? If negative, we are sinning against justice. And we are talking about confessional matter.

God has given each one of us a task and role to do. "God," said John Newman, "has created me to do Him a definite service. He has committed a work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission." It can be as lofty as a president of a company or as humble as this scribbler. Whatever it be, it is our vocation. Do we look upon this assignment as an onus or a privilege? Stalter sums up this thought in verse. "No matter what my daily chores might be to earn my livelihood, still may I see the real position that I hold is bringing others to the

Master's fold." So, as the proverb advises, in a world that couldn't care less, Christians should care more.

Was not this the motivation that prompted the founding of the Young Christian Workers among miners in Belgium by Joseph Cardijn in the 1930s. Its counterpart was begun in France among students. Not surprisingly, it was called the Young Christian Students. Both movements were lauded by Pope Pius XI. The YCW and the YCS have fallen largely into disfavor. And yet there was never a period when we need them more. Perhaps a resurrection is in order for both groups. We need such groups to remind us of Robert Gibson's advice that we should shine like stars in a dark world and that we are keyholes through which others can see God.

Why Be Catholic? by Rohr and Martos bring the same thought to the subject under discussion. They write, "Living the Bible does not mean memorizing Bible passages or attending prayer meetings any more than it means memorizing the catechism...It doesn't mean having the answer and going to church but living the answer and being the Church."

The ideal attitude to our work is summed up in a few words of doggerel, "God, where shall I work today? Then He pointed me out a tiny garden and said, `Tend that for me.'"

And, if our garden proves to be a bust, think of this thought from Dorothy Day. "Jesus met with apparent failure on the cross. But unless the seed fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest. And why must we see results? Our work is to sow. Another generation will be reaping the harvest."

The monk said, "We're not meant to do great things for God, but we are meant to do small things with great love."

The composer JS Bach began and ended all his compositions with prayer. We know the result. Should we copy his style?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
18 Ordinary Time

Eighteenth Sunday: The Gift of the Eucharist

The Gospel reading this week is the second of five Sundays on the Sixth Chapter of John, the chapter on the Bread of Life. The Church presents every three years. Why? All so we can have a deeper insight and appreciation for the Eucharist. The Gospel of John was completed the last decade of the first century. By then, the Church had a clear way of putting into words the miracle of the Eucharist. 

Last Sunday's Gospel from the beginning of chapter 6 presented the miracle of the loaves and fish with a special slant added by John's community. The multiplication took place as the Passover approached. This pointed to another Passover when Jesus would also provide bread, His very Body and Blood, the Bread of Heaven. It also noted that different from the unused manna which would be destroyed, the fragments of unused bread were to be gathered up. This is the biblical basis for the care of the Eucharist so that it might be brought to the sick and worshiped in our tabernacles.

In today's reading Jesus spoke to people who came looking for Him. This took place the day after the multiplication. Jesus had sent his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat. Later that night He joined them on that boat, walking on the water. When the people who had eaten the loaves and fish went looking for Jesus, they heard that his disciples had gotten into a boat, but that Jesus wasn’t with them. That’s why they were shocked when they searched everywhere for him and then learned that he was on the other side of the water. They asked, “Rabbi, how did you get here.” He didn’t answer their question. Instead he addressed the reason why they were looking for him: they were looking for another free meal. He tells them to seek Bread that will last forever, the Bread He will give. 

We, you and I, spend a lot of energy seeking various things that we want. But do we spend enough energy seeking that which we need?

We need Jesus Christ. He is the joy of our lives. He is the One who gives meaning to life. He is the Truth. We need Him

John 6 points to our need for the Lord in the Eucharist. Recently, I've heard about some people who had been active in Life Teen or in other high school youth programs who in college or after college have left the Catholic faith to join a nondenominational church. They say the music is great, they feel the presence of the Lord, and there is less talk about morality. Perhaps they had not been as active in the faith as they should have been when they went to college. Maybe they met someone who encouraged them to join them in a non-Catholic worship. Or, maybe, they did not want to be challenged to live a Catholic life-style. 

It is wonderful that people worship the Lord in so many different churches. It is wonderful that you can look through the Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor area and see so many churches of so many denominations. God bless them all and may they continue to praise God and do his work. But for a Catholic to leave the Catholic Church, would be leaving the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Some people will say that this or that Church have communion services; so they have not left the Eucharist. Actually, they have. The various denominations with communion services do not view the bread and wine as the real presence of the Lord. If they did, they would not destroy whatever is left over after their service. Or, as a priest friend of mine puts it, “They begin the service with bread and wine and leave the service with bread and wine.” That is why they do not have tabernacles. For a Catholic to leave the Church and be satisfied with non-Catholic communion rites would be turning from a truth that they have been given. 

Similarly, the worship and lives of devoted Jews is wonderful, but for a Christian to leave Christianity to become Jewish would be to leave the truth of Jesus Christ he or she has been given.

One lady told me that she was no longer Catholic, but she had not left Jesus. Actually, she has left the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. As a Catholic she was given the special presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. She was allowed into the mystery of having Jesus Christ's Body and Blood within her. She has left the Eucharist, the Food that the Heavenly Father has given. Every sincere non Catholic Christian would agree that if a person truly believes in the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, that Catholic cannot leave the Church. 

Some non-Catholics have a communion service, but these Churches do not believe that the bread and wine has been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. That is why left over bread is discarded after the service. Yes, their communion service symbolizes the union of the Christian community with Christ, but for them the bread itself is not Christ. Some Catholics attend these services and think that they are receiving communion just as they do in the Catholic Church. They are not. What they are doing as Catholics is rejecting the special gift we celebrate every time we receive communion.

We celebrate the Eucharist and have a deep encounter with Christ at Mass and at the reception of communion. We also have a deep encounter with the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in our Services of Eucharistic Adoration, be they the ones that we in Life Teen refer to as XLT, or benediction services, or other times that the Eucharist is adored. All Catholic Parishes celebrate Eucharistic Adoration in some form or other. All Catholic Churches have times that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed all day for adoration, just as we do here on First Fridays, on Thursday after the 9:00 am Mass, and during Forty Hours at the beginning of Lent.

And we value the gift of the Eucharist. For centuries, Catholics have embraced death rather than give up their devotion to the Eucharist. Priests and lay people were routinely tortured to death in England for the crime of celebrating Mass or receiving communion. 

Towards the end of his life, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was asked who was the greatest influence on his life. To everyone’s surprise he said two young women, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus and Little Li, the Eucharistic martyr of China. Li lived at the time the Communists overtook China, the early 1950's. One day the Communist police made a sweep of Li’s village, and crammed all the inhabitants into the tiny Church. The Inspector ridiculed their beliefs. He told them they were tricked into believing that God is present in the tabernacle. The people watched with disbelief, as with a thundering voice, he ordered the soldiers to fire at the tabernacle. He grabbed the ciborium and threw all the Sacred Hosts onto the tile floor. “Now get out!” the inspector yelled. “And woe to anyone who returns to this den of superstition! He’ll answer to me!” Before they left, the Communists locked the priest in the large coal bunker in the church, where a small opening helped him to see through to the sanctuary where the Hosts lay strewn on the floor. He was shocked to see that the next day, Little Li snuck by a sleeping guard and came into the Church. She found one of the hosts on the floor and knelt in adoration before it for an hour. Then she bowed over it and took it into her mouth. She did the same the next day, and the day after that. The priest knew that there had been 32 hosts in the tabernacle, and sure enough every day for 32 days, Little Li snuck into the Church, knelt before the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for an hour and bent down to receive Communion. But on the 32nd day, the guard changed his routine and inspected the Church while Li was there. Seeing her he beat her and then shot her, making her China’s little martyr for the Eucharist.

Like Li we treasure the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord. We pray today that we might have a greater understanding of the marvelous gift of the Eucharist. We pray today that we might grow so strong in our love for the Eucharist that the thought of leaving the Blessed Sacrament for any reason would be unfathomable.

We Catholics have been given a great gift. But with that gift comes the responsibility to reverence the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ. May we all remain faithful to the Bread of Life. 

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

Gratitude Week 8: The Duty of Happiness

(August 1, 2021)

Bottom line: We have a duty of happiness. It's part of putting away the old self and putting on the new self - which is your true self.

As you know, this summer I am doing a homily series on gratitude. It coincides with my fiftieth anniversary of priesthood. For that I am grateful to God and to you.

We began with things we take for granted like hands and eyes and feet - and the fact that when we woke this morning, we have them for another day. We saw gratitude for the gifts of fatherhood, children and country. We also explored how we can be grateful in the midst of affliction - even terrible afflictions like depression and conflict. In all this we have the gift of free choice. We can choose, for example, to smile.

Well, this Sunday I want to take it a step further. We can choose happiness. This is part of what St. Paul means when he says: "you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth."

Our deceitful desires make us unhappy. For example, I might envy Bishop Tyson. Why did Pope Benedict choose him as bishop of Yakima and not me. That's the old self speaking. The new self says I am exactly where God wants me to be. In fact, I cannot think of a better place than St. Mary of the Valley. Sincerely, these past twelve years have been the best years of my life. Jesus saves the best wine till the end.

As your pastor I have duties - to administer the sacraments and preach the Gospel. One of the most important duties is the duty of happiness.

How can happiness be a duty? Well, one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is happiness. I know children who hurt because dad always seems angry and sad. Likewise, parents suffer when a child never seems happy or grateful.

I know this is difficult. Some children seem born with a little cloud over their head and it follows them all their life. These souls have a special role. I will talk about them in the final homily. Most of us, however, have the duty of happiness - both inside and outside.

Paul tells us to put on a the new self. We have a choice. Did you notice last week when we talked about the secret of a smile. The very act of smiling brings happiness. To put on Christ means to think and act like him - or at least try. And when we stumble, let him pick you up.

We need to recognize that happiness has different levels. The lowest level is sensual pleasure which passes very quickly. The highest is transcendence: the desire for the true, the good and the beautiful, which is ultimately the desire for God - the union with God that Jesus opens up for us.

A person who walks with Jesus can be grateful in all circumstances. C.S. Lewis wrote: "We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country."

We can see this gratitude in the life of Mother Teresa. In 1984 I had the chance to meet her. I was part of an international group of priests making a retreat in Rome. Mother Teresa spoke to us. She radiated joy and happiness. I was shocked when after her death, news came out about the terrible darkness she suffered. Dr. Keriaty and Fr. Cihak talk about this in Catholic Guide to Depression. They write about the difference between dark night of the soul and clinical depression. It's worth reading.

Next week our Scripture readings lay out a two-step strategy for living a life of gratitude - which is the key to happiness. It's the second to the last homily in our ten-part series of gratitude.

Today take home this: We have a duty of happiness. It's part of putting away the old self and putting on the new self - which is your true self. Amen.

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

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