LIBRARY OF HOMILIES
October 3rd - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (English)
October 10th - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (English)
October 17th - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (English)
October 24th - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (English)
October 31st - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (English)
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Parables are funny things. Just about the time you think
you have it down you listen to it again and an entirely different understanding
comes from it. Most of us have heard the parable in Isaiah and Matthew
and interpret it one way. We see the evil tenants as unworthy of
the charge they have been given. We agree that they should be displaced
for their evil. Let me tell you the Gospel story in a slightly different
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He could feel the impending doom coming. He knew that the officials were looking for a way to destroy Him. He felt that his disciples still werenít grasping the mystery of the Kingdom. He knew this was true when they were traveling through Samaria. One day they didnít receive a welcome from the people. The Samaritans discovered that Jesusí destiny was Jerusalem. The apostles came to Jesus asking if they could pray to the Father to send down destruction upon the Samaritans. Jesus had to reprimand the apostles again. They just didnít get it. So Jesus told this parable to his disciples.
There once was a landowner that was very clever. He had been able to pick up the land of unfortunate people. He got their land for a fraction of what it was worth when they went through bad financial times. Now this owner had control of the entire valley. He hired the former owners of the property to work the land. They were expected to provide the labor and effort to produce grapes for the owner. Naturally the peasants resented this. They began talking with one another and decided they would not tolerate the injustice being done them. They were going to take matters in their own hands.
When the owner of the land sent servants to the property to get his share of grapes the peasants saw their opportunity. They seized these slaves and beat them, even killing some, they were so angry. Finally the owner of the property sends his son, figuring that surely they will respect the son. Instead they kill him expecting that he has come to dispossess them completely from the land.
Now, Jesus asks, ďWho is the bad guy in this story and who is the good guy?Ē Now the tenants are the good guys. They are the ones who deserve a break. The evil landowner gets what he deserves. Things are different now. The hearers realize that their gut reaction to overturn injustice by violence is futile. It only ends in further destruction. No one wins. Now Jesus must go to Jerusalem and face the ultimate injustice. What should he do?
Certainly injustice and oppression must be dealt with. One should not tolerate evil being done. But the answer isnít doing more violence. It must be a different path. That can only be the path of righteousness. It must be putting on the mind of Christ.
If we want to understand Christ we must understand the cross. The cross says that when injustice comes you fight it with forgiveness and peace, even if it looks like defeat. For God, who sees all things will make it right. He alone will act with justice, so trust in Him and let His justice be your shield and strength.
Today is Respect Life Sunday. Bishop Dorsey has asked that we read a letter he has written which spells out how our church tries to live the message of the cross today.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Many of you have seen the movie Titanic. If you havenít
you certainly know that the Titanic was the ship of its day. It had
all the luxury one could imagine. It was considered the best of its
time. Along with the appointments one could imagine that the food
would be the best too. Those who were the rich could eat the finest
meal imaginable. You might ask, ďI wonder what that was?Ē What
did the wealthy eat aboard that ship?
I found a Website that supposedly has the menu for the Titanicís last meal. In first class they would have had Hors Doeurves, Oysters, Cream of Barley soup, Salmon, Filet Mignon, Chicken Lyonnaise, mixed vegetables, Lamb with mint sauce, roast duck, Beef sirloin, peas & carrots, rice, and new potatoes. That sounds like a wonderful meal. Then I realized that I have enjoyed each of those items at one time or another. I have been fortunate to have eaten nice meals in restaurants, in peopleís homes, and in my parentís house. I know that many of you have been on cruise ships. You have had buffets that had these things on them. You may have been to Las Vegas or to Biloxi and been served these kinds of things too. In other words, for most of us, this meal isnít terribly special.
So, when we try to imagine what the heavenly banquet will look like when we get to heaven we have a difficult time imagining that it would be anything that we canít already get on earth. We might think, ďWhat is the big deal about waiting for the heavenly banquet when I can enjoy all the benefits now?Ē That is a legitimate question. I believe that what is behind that question is the essence of the parable.
Jesus suggests that heaven isnít so much what is different, but what kind of relationship we have with the giver of the banquet. When the king invited the guests to his sonís wedding he expected they would be overjoyed. Yet they found plenty of excuses to avoid coming. They didnít have a relationship with the king or the prince that would have made them want to come. They missed out on an opportunity of grace because they didnít see anything special in coming.
Those who came to the feast realized that they were coming to something special. They knew they were invited to a wedding banquet. Yet, there was one person who didnít quite get it. He figured that he could come into the banquet and partake in the kingís hospitality without anything changing on his part. He soon discovered that wasnít so. You canít come to a wedding feast without the proper garment.
We might think that this is rather harsh. This king invites all sorts of people to the feast but then kicks out one guy because he isnít wearing the right clothes. Whatís the big deal? Remember this is a parable. Recall last week I said that parables have a way of capturing us.
What does one do when they know they are invited to a wedding? They send back their RSVP. They buy proper clothes. They get a gift and a card. They may even have to make travel plans and take time off from work. Why would a person do that? Itís because they have a relationship with the person getting married or with the parents of the bride or groom.
Now, why did the guy get kicked out of the banquet? He didnít have a relationship with the groomóJesus, nor did he have a relationship with the hostóGod. He was invited but the invitation didnít change his life. He didnít act upon that invitation. He wasnít changed by it.
We are members of the household of God. Each week we are invited to the house of the Lord for His banquet. What is the reason that we come? Do we come here out of obligation? Do we come out of fear? Do we come because we have a relationship of love with the King and with His Son, Jesus? In what ways are we not dressed properly for the feast? Do we cling to the soiled garments of anger and bitterness? Do we place money or pleasure ahead of our love for God and His people? My hope and prayer is that we develop our relationship with the Lord to such an extent that we would go to great lengths to serve Him.
We know that God loves us. Do we love God? Do we want to be part of His eternal banquet? Our response to Christ is shown in many ways. Certainly our presence at Eucharist is a sign that we have said yes to God. But how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ also says something about our relationship to the King. The Lord wants us to love and honor Him and all of His people. That takes faith and courage. Let us pray to have the courage to be united with Him on earth so to share in the heavenly banquet forever. Amen.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have you ever noticed that the teachings of Jesus often leave
us with more questions than answers? The religious officials ask
Jesus whether it is legal to pay the tax to the emperor. They think
that a yes answer will discredit him with the people who hate Romeís domination
of Israel. If he says no, they figure they can tell the political
authorities that Jesus is advocating rebellion. It seems very simple.
Jesus responds by asking a simple question: Whose head is on the coin? It is Caesarís, of course. Well then, if it belongs to Caesar, give it back to him. But, Jesus is quick to add, give to God what belongs to God. Now the dilemma is in the Phariseeís court. What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God? How do you know?
Jesus did not answer that question. Every age has had to ask that same question and try to determine how to answer it. During the time of the persecutions in the first few centuries giving to God meant risking persecution and maybe death. Later, giving to Caesar during the Middle Ages meant giving loyal allegiance to your king or prince. He kept you safe from the barbarians and warring bandits. During war most people knew that giving to Caesar meant fighting for your country. But should one give to Caesar if the king or leader is corrupt? What if the political system itself is corrupt? Can one truly divide their loyalties to God and king? That has been the question Christians have had to ask who lived in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Cuba, and other communist and fascist nations.
There are two questions that have to be asked. The first one is what belongs to Caesar? In other words, what do we owe to the state and to civil rulers? In a society that is benign or supportive to our faith we are required to be good citizens. We should support the efforts of the state to provide roads, schools, and police for public safety and well being. It is necessary to have a military to defend the country. In times of national emergency it would be necessary to join the military for national defense. These things can only happen by the state raising money through taxation and fees. It is necessary to pay just taxes for these enterprises. Likewise, it is not lawful or moral to incite riots, do violence, or commit arson to get our way.
In those states that are hostile to religion or are hostile to basic human rights and dignity the Christian has a moral obligation to care for and support life. If the nation does not uphold life and protect it then it is moral to disobey the state. It was right for citizens of Nazi Germany to sabotage their war effort so that justice and human rights could be restored to the German people. In our nation it is good for people to organize town meetings, marches, and civil disobedience, short of violence, when the rights of people are not protected. That happened in the civil rights marches of the 50ís and 60ís. Today we do this to secure the rights of the unborn. Yet, even in those cases it is not right to harm life or cause murder or mayhem to change laws. That is not acceptable. We always look to the cross and realize that evil can only be toppled with goodness, not more evil.
What do we owe to God? That is more difficult for God has given us everything. We realize that God has given us life. He has given us our family. Love, friendship, and kindness are gifts from God. Therefore, it is necessary that we preserve life and family. That means we should not abuse food, alcohol or drugs. It means that we should not destroy our family through violence. It means in marriage couples should strive to work through problems rather than seek divorce.
God gave us all of creation. We have been entrusted with the natural world. We are to protect the environment from pollution and needless waste. We should look for opportunities to recycle and reuse rather than to discard things. That is very difficult in our society of plenty. Itís often more cost effective to buy something new than to have it fixed. That makes it very difficult to justify the expense. But if we are seriously trying to give to God what is His, then we have to care for the natural resources of the planet.
God also has given us time. This is probably our most precious gift. Since none of us knows how much time we have we should use it well. Giving time to God is so critical. We need time for worship. An hour a week is not a lot. But hopefully we also spend time each day in prayer. This is very necessary too. Then our time is needed in ministry and service. We are never done with Godís work. Yet, all he asks is for just a bit of time back from the 24 hours we get every day. So, look to give back to God time in ministry, prayer, and worship.
See, I told you this is trickier than it first looks. Jesus always gets us to see things in a new way. So, be good citizens of the earth, but more importantly, be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are a lot of ďwhyĒ questions in the world. There
are many things that defy logic or understanding. Have you ever wondered
why they call it a TV set when you only have one? Why do we park
on the driveway and drive on the parkway? Why do they have interstate
highways in Hawaii? Why do tugboats push barges? Why do they
put Braille dots on the keypad of the drive-up ATM? Why do Christian
people who come to church every Sunday have a difficult time loving others?
There are lots of questions like this that we have often thought about or laughed about. But to answer why people havenít learned to love each other is at the heart of every relationship.
Maybe one of the reasons is that we assume love is a feeling. We equate love with the feelings of warmth, tenderness, and affection. If we like someone or something then we are loving. If we donít like something, we canít possibly imagine loving that. Likewise, if we have once felt close to someone, but those feelings are no longer present then we no longer love and are not obligated to do so.
Perhaps we believe that we love naturally. We think that every human being is born with the ability to love. So, itís not necessary to teach love or to work on being a loving person. I would also venture a guess that most people believe they love well. Who would want to admit that they donít love others? Yet, when we see the disintegration of so many families and the loneliness of many people it seems likely that not everyone loves well.
In fact, I believe that the first step in being a truly loving person is recognizing that it is not easy and that I donít do it well. I have found through my work with Marriage Encounter that many couples are amazed at how or why their spouse loves them. Healing is possible in a relationship when the participants can honestly, humbly, and openly confess; ďI donít know how to love this person. To be honest I donít even want to love this person, at least not to the degree that they want or need from me. But because You, Christ, have commanded me I pray that you fill me with your love.Ē
In Encounter we tell couples that love requires hard work and daily work. There are so many things that can get in the way of true loving. It might mean work. Most of us find that work is ennobling and gives us meaning and purpose, to say nothing of the food it provides for the table. Yet, we can easily become workaholics. We can find that itís easier to stay at the office, especially when there is a conflict at home. Sometimes to love properly means that we need to sacrifice the overtime to spend time with spouse and children.
Sometimes the sacrifices to love mean altering what personal hobbies and enjoyments we have. If a person spends endless hours on the computer, working on the car or in activities that take time away from oneís spouse and children they will have to be altered.
I think that there are other challenges to loving too. It is the constant challenge to seek the good of the other over my needs and wants. Jesus tells us that we should love others as we love ourselves. I think most of us have turned that command around to read, ďOthers should love us as we love ourselves.Ē If we truly loved other people with the kinds of attention we spend on our own pursuits and wants, what a great world we would have. How many of us would honor the appearance of others, for instance, as much as we worry about our own appearance? I know many people are health-conscious, trying to diet and exercise properly. What if we put even a small portion of that same energy in trying to work on our relationships? What would the world look like?
One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that it is very simple. Jesus gave us two commands that sum up everything. He told us to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Thatís it. The problem with that simplicity is knowing how to love God first and foremost. How do we put God first? Is God first in your life? Really? What do you sacrifice to attend Mass, go to a ministry gathering, or eliminate for prayer time?
All of us would like to think that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet, when our neighbor is someone we donít like or someone that we have trouble with itís hard to have the same degree of care and concern for that person as we do for ourselves. Yet, neighbor isnít someone we often choose. Itís the person near us, good or bad. Likewise our neighbor is also people we donít know personally. To love our neighbor means having respect for the poor and lowly even when they speak a different language or are of a different race. This is a constant challenge.
So, maybe we will never figure out why there are interstate highways in Hawaii, but you can understand why those around you donít seem to be very good at loving. Then, YOU can be the light that will demonstrate what true love looks like.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Once upon a time there was a tiny village on the rocky coast.
They had a small lighthouse to warn ships to stay away from the shore.
Unfortunately, many ships would not heed the warnings and wreck on the
rocks near the shore. The people of that village would always help
the survivors of the shipwrecks. When they fished the people out
of the ocean often they were wet and dirty. The people would bring
them to their own homes, give them warm clothes and something to eat.
This occurred often enough that the townspeople decided that it would be a good idea to build a center where they could bring the survivors of the wrecks. It was agreed that a center be built. The people pooled their money and talent and built a fine place. Then when there was a shipwreck they could bring the survivors to the center where there would be a kitchen, blankets, and extra clothes.
Over time the people thought that since they had this center they could use it for their own use too. It would make a fine place to hold meetings, dances, and community celebrations. So, they put in carpeting, bought nice things to hang on the walls, and put lots of tables and chairs in the center. The people enjoyed their center very much.
But, when there was a shipwreck the people were brought there. They soon found that the survivors muddy feet and all the seaweed and ocean water running on the floor and carpeting was really making a mess of the hall. It was decided that it was too much bother to care for the survivors of the wrecks anymore. So, from that time on, many times the ships that wrecked would find no help. Eventually, a few of the townspeople saw that this was happening and decided to move to a neighboring village and take care of the shipwreck victims in their houses.
There seems to be a tendency in human nature to make life more complicated and more sophisticated. Have you ever noticed that we buy more and more expensive cars which need car alarms and greater insurance. Then we need to put more time and effort into caring for those cars. We have all sorts of laws designed for the use of cars, their sale, what occurs if they are stolen, etc. You can look at anything that we own and realize how over time the simplest things get more technical and expensive.
The same is true for leadership and ministry. In our country the founding fathers didnít want to have a king. They believed that it was important for the president to be answerable to the people. He would be elected by the people and would return to life as a citizen after his term of service was up. It was originally thought that the president and the Congress shouldnít get paid. They should do their service out of love for the country and the people they represented.
Now, the president has Secret Service around him all of the time. Whenever he speaks at a ďtown hallĒ meeting there are platforms, bands, banners, etc. The White House is almost like a fortress now. When the president retires from office he is still kept at a distance from people by the Secret Service. I realize a lot of this has to do with security issues, but it has had the effect of making the president more distant from the people.
Likewise the Church has gone through stages like this. Peter and the apostles were humble fishermen. When Jesus entrusted the Church to them they were people like you and I. Yet, over the centuries with the privileges and perks afforded the popes by the emperor and people the papacy has grown more and more regal. By the time of St. Francis the pope lived in tremendous luxury. If you have seen Brother Sun Sister Moon, recall the scene where Francis walks into St. Peterís with his bare feet and the Pope is dressed in the finest silks and linen. He comes down to Francis and realizes this little man of Assisi has retained the Gospel call of Jesus.
Whether it be the presidency of the USA, the papacy, the priesthood, or life in corporate America, we all face the tendency to lose contact with people through titles, honors and special privileges. Jesus warns us not to forget that titles and honors can get in the way and blind us to humble service. He spoke of only three: rabbi, teacher, and father. We could add dozens more. We could add the roles of leader, coordinator, facilitator, commentator, etc.
The Gospel message is very clear. Unless we model our lives and our leadership after the master, Jesus, we risk the sin of pride. Let us pray for each other to do our ministries in service and love. Amen.