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Homily: Respect Life Sunday
Homily: Spirit of Poverty
Homily: The Battle of Prayer
Homily: Homily for the Oblates
Homily: Homily for Carmel Home
Deacon William Bach
Homily: Respect Life Sunday
RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
October 6, 2013
Habbakuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Since 1972, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that the first Sunday of October will be designated as “Respect Life Sunday.” Why? The answer is hopefully obvious. The Catholic Church has always promoted the sanctity of life.
And we can go back into the earliest Church writings, including a passage from the first century which said, “You will not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” Then, St. Barnabas in the second century AD said, “You shall love your neighbor more than your own soul. You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall you destroy it after it is born.” St. Basil the Great, in the 300s AD wrote, “Women also who administer drugs to cause abortion, as well as those who take poisons to destroy unborn children are murderesses.” Basil made no distinctions that it was ever okay to administer drugs at any stage to cause abortion. So these early Church Fathers made it very clear that abortion was unequivocally the taking of a life.
Following the increasingly huge numbers of abortions allowed by the Supreme Court through the infamous Wade versus Roe ruling in 1973, that decision has polarized our population because it is a moral issue that gnaws at the heart of mainstream America. When enacted by the US Supreme Court the science of fetology was unable to prove then as it can now that a living, fully human and unique individual exists at the moment of fertilization and continues to grow through various stages of development until death. But the majority decision in Roe v. Wade made a startling admission, declaring that if personhood was ever established, the appellant’s case collapsed, for the fetus’right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. So said Justice Harry Blackmun.
Now, modern science has proved that the unborn child is a human being. Dr. Jerome Lejeune referred to as the Father of Modern Genetics said, “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. It is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning at conception.” This very important statement by this expert and certainly backed by other experts, within the pro-life movement has given not only the Church but the world an important initiative to include the pre-born as “persons.” But it has terrified the pro-abortionists because “persons” are protected by a series of God-given rights and constitutional guarantees such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These preborn “persons” have the same rights to life as all Americans!
The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. In fact the church’s teaching is the underlying tenet for its social teaching. As Catholics, we believe that every person is precious, that every person is infinitely more important than things and every institution is measured when it threatens or enhances the dignity of the human person.
The Church has made it clear that abortion is by far the most important Catholic social justice issue. In 1988, Pope John Paul II declared in his Apostolic Exhortation titled (Christifideles Laici) when he said: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” Our blessed Pope John Paul II certainly did not mince his words when he said we must reject any false and illusory ideas about the importance of all persons.
And let us not focus upon just the holocaust perpetrated on those lives in the womb because of legislated abortion. What about the impact and the lasting effects on the mothers of these pre-born infant human beings? Let us not forget the effect on the pre-borns’ fathers, when they are aware that the life entrusted to them to pass on was taken in the womb. Certainly, let us never forget God’s infinite mercy for those who repent for the destruction of life. Similarly those who encourage, aid or abet abortion, or who participate in abortion must never forget God’s infinite mercy when they are fully repentant.
There are many injustices against humanity, so why so much attention given to abortion. The answer is simple: BECAUSE IT IS LEGAL. It is so legal that there is money available to enable it to happen, --- and surely it does. Put bluntly, there is funding for murder!!!! Margaret Sanger and subsequently Planned Parenthood have certainly used incredible amounts of public money and monetary gifts for decades. Some of this funding has diminished but has not stopped.
But we can enumerate other crimes against humanity: rape, sex slavery and child abuse. But the system allows for others to speak on behalf of the victimized. An attorney, through the justice system will advocate for the oppressed, the slain and the violated to see that the responsible party is properly punished and justice is served. In other words criminals have the right to an attorney. Who has fought for the rights of the pre-born? Who has sought justice for them? Hopefully all who understand the gift and dignity of life will seek to stop and overturn Roe vs Wade.
Let us not think and equate abortion solely with politics. No, we must treat abortion for what it truly is. It is mass genocide! It is a human rights violation! It is a tragedy! And it is an evil act! It is not just political! But we must apply political pressure to bring this to an end. Sure, it is an issue in other countries too, but first let us apply pressure here at home for the sake of our unborn.
Let us not ignore the need for restoration of human dignity for those who have been placed on death row. We all can cite cases of executions of innocent people and no matter how developed a justice system, it is always susceptible to human failure. These men and women are also precious in the eyes of God. Once again, Pope John Paul II said in his 1995 encyclical letter entitled Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), “The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.” Let us never allow ourselves to put the cost of maintaining inmates on death row ahead of even a chance for rehabilitation even when the courts have ruled life-long incarceration due to the heinousness of the crime committed.
Now we come to the slippery slope of euthanasia, ranging from the problem of defining “terminally ill” to the very real danger of euthanasia becoming a means of health care containment. Advocates for euthanasia state it is not something forced but voluntary. There is also the issue evident from past experiences. Laws can be broadened and expanded once something is declared legal.
Here again, euthanasia is a rejection of the importance and value of human life. We must never mix our beliefs. Killing someone in self-defense, because we are saving one’s own life or someone else’s life is totally different from euthanasia which supports killing an innocent person or persons. As each of us ages, unless euthanasia is absolutely barred, all of us may be told we have to die, because of the cost to others. God forbid that should ever arise. Let us pray that charity and the virtue of caring for one another override those who do not treasure life and the dignity of the person.
This past July, Pope Francis encouraged the world to let the light of God’s glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognize the inestimable value of all human life. He said, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation , made in his own image, destined to live forever and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
St. Timothy tells us the CHURCH is the pillar and bulwark of TRUTH and has always defended the dignity of the person. But the culture of relativism and materialism has had a serious impact on the Church. To quote Fr. Robert Barron, we have become “beige Catholics”, meaning that many of us have lost the truth and appreciation of the great mysteries of our God and Church and an understanding of the dignity of the human person.
Pope Francis tells us whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is open to destruction and hearts are hardened.
So let us pray for each other so that we center our lives on God’s will. Let us pray fervently to the Holy Spirit to guide our men and women who enact legislation so that all peoples will be protected. Let us pray for and support those who work hard for social justice, especially those here in our own parish, and in our diocese. Amen? Amen!
Homily: Spirit of Poverty
SPIRIT OF POVERTY
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:3
The beatitude promised to the poor in spirit is the possession of God, a possession that clothes us with infinite riches. The goal of the Holy Spirit is to always lead us to God. We will find that the practice of the Gospel spirit of poverty is a very good and wise investment for a pilgrim people, and we are a pilgrim people.
We must never forget that the baptized are all called to imitate Christ according to their state in life. Throughout scripture we find that Jesus taught poverty of spirit by his life, his words and his works. It is not incidental that Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God made Man, could have lived like any king in a palace. Furthermore, He could have had a superabundance of all of this world’s goods. Instead he chose to be born in a stable in Bethlehem and to end his life bereft of all things of this world by his death on a cross. Never, was Jesus self-seeking or stingy. Quite the contrary, he emptied himself of everything so that all of humanity through him might become rich in God. Everything that he was and all that he could do was totally devoted to the love and service of his Father and the salvation of souls. Let us always remember that throughout his life, Jesus lived in a spirit of trustful dependence on the goodness of his Father.
Just a brief thumbnail sketch of his earthly life tells us so very much about him. He helped to earn the livelihood for the Holy Family by laboring as a carpenter beside his foster-father Joseph. At age 30 when he began his ministry, he left home without transportation and nothing stored up for bad times ahead. And he did this to establish the kingdom of his Father. He depended upon the charity of benefactors. Many of these, at least the ones mentioned in scripture were women who took it upon themselves to insure that he could minister to the people wherever he went. So the Son of God made Man, chose a spiritual poverty and simplicity of life while on earth. We are predestined to share the image of Jesus, to become like him.
And we Passionist Oblates are called to strive for this interior virtue of poverty of spirit to which we are all called as Christians.
So let us focus upon an understanding of the poverty of spirit. There are three parts:
1. Detachment from what is not God or of God, and moderation in the use of earthly goods.
2. Simplicity of life, by renouncing waste, excessive luxury and the storing up of material goods.
3. Seeking first the Kingdom of God through Christian stewardship of the gifts of God.
By living the virtue of detachment we use the goods of this earth in moderation, in ways that serve God. We must remember that if we become attached to the riches of this world, it is very easy to get “bloated” or too big for our britches and become unable to pass through that narrow gate that leads to eternal life. In short, we would then live in the world, for the world, for ourselves and not for God.
All things have been created by God and are intended to lead us to God and to help and serve others. The possessions themselves are not the problem, but setting our hearts on them instead of on God is the problem. When our possessions and our love and desire for them interfere with our love of God and neighbor, or our obedience to God’s commandments, then we have abused rather than used God’s gifts. For all of the possessions we have, we must be grateful to God but not hold onto them with all of our fingers and toes, and our possessive attitudes. Possessions are a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves. Our end is heaven, to live forever with our Father.
We are called to be Christ-like. He lived in the world but he did not become attached to it and we must seek to follow his example. To quote from the Oblate Companion (#14, p.7), we find:
“Inspired by the poverty of Jesus which reached its greatest depth in the poverty of the cross, each member (Oblate) in serious prayer discerns his or her personal observance of the spirit of detachment from temporal goods. While exercising prudence and charity, we strive to balance the ideals of simplicity and unworldliness, with the duties of our state in life. We take seriously the Church’s teaching on stewardship, placing our gifts of time, talent and treasure at the service of the Church as far as our duties and obligations allow.”
The next page of the Oblate Companion (#15, p.7-8) give us further direction:
“Most importantly, we focus on interior poverty of spirit, setting our hearts on God’s Kingdom and His way of holiness. While striving to simplify our material wants, we extend our hands in Christian charity to assist others. In all things, we trust in the provident care of our Heavenly Father who knows our every need.”
So I have not said, nor will I say that we must become indigent in order to imitate Christ and serve God. As in every Christian virtue, moderation is the rule. Indeed it is a total misunderstanding of the virtue of poverty to neglect our work or our duties to our families, or to cause them impoverishment. No we have an obligation to provide for them and ourselves. We must be prudent in giving away money or goods. To act otherwise would show a lack of charity and respect for our family.
May we never go to an opposite extreme. We must never divorce faith from our lives so that we allow ourselves any and every imaginable luxury, pleasure and possession while saying, “I am truly poor in spirit in my heart, so these things will have no effect on me.” Yes, we do have to “walk our talk” as otherwise poverty of spirit is emptied of any real content or influence on the way we live.
We need to demonstrate a certain unworldliness that is simple yet sincere that comes from our heart. Jesus said we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Oh how relevant his words are today with rampant materialism and relativism. We are to be his witnesses, we are to show ourselves and others that God has blessed us and that what we have and use is for his glory and the good of others.
At no time do we hear Christ telling us to seek personal destitution. Let me read to you a quotation from Vatican II’s “Document on the Laity, #7:
“God’s plan for the world is that men should work together to restore the temporal sphere of things and to develop it unceasingly. Many elements make up the temporal order: namely, the good things of life and the prosperity of the family, culture, economic affairs, the arts and professions, political institutions, international relations, and other matters of this kind, as well as their development and progress. All of these not only aid in the attainment of man’s ultimate goal, but also possess their own intrinsic value. This value has been implanted in them by God, whether they are considered in themselves or as parts of the whole temporal order….”
Let us remember that Jesus himself did not condemn the possession of material things. He himself had rich friends. Money itself is not the root of all evil; rather, it is the “love of money that is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). Poverty in itself has no intrinsic merit or virtue. However, it is good insofar as it removes the roadblock that impedes our progress on the spiritual path:
1. Poverty helps keep us from becoming distracted by things of this world that don’t matter. Remember,
the poor do not spend hours worrying about the stock market, their Keogh retirement account, or
what kind of home or car to buy.
2. Spiritual poverty allows abandonment to Divine Providence and frees us from the anxiety about the
3. Poverty enables us to understand all things of truth, beauty, simplicity and justice, all values to be
used for our daily needs and give honor to God.
We have all experienced a “poverty in prayer” when things are not going as we planned. In “The Essence of Prayer”, Sr. Ruth Burrows says, “A heart must be really listening, really wanting the truth, really wanting God. The difficuly is that we do not want Him. We want our own version of Him, one we can, so to speak, carry around in our pockets rather as some superstitious people carry around a charm. We can hold endless loving conversations with this one, feel we have an intimate understanding with him, we can tell him our troubles, ask for his approbation and admiration, consult him about all our affairs and decisions and get the answer we want, and this God of ours has almost nothing to do with God” (p. 14). Sr. Ruth Burrows goes on to say that prayer is not a technique but a relationship and when we do experience a “nothingness” in prayer, we must, in faith believe that God’s love is in the deepest recesses of our being and He is bringing about His will and pleasure.
While preparing these thoughts about poverty, I opened up the little book, “HIS CROSS IN YOUR LIFE” by Father Bertrand Weaver, a Passionist priest who unfortunately died in 1973. At one juncture he provided a thought-provoking and charming story about Socrates as he was passing through the marketplace in Athens. Merchandise seemed endless. From the farms they had fruits and vegetables, and there were rich fabrics piled high or spread out for inspection for the potential buyers. In the background were the buyers and sellers, and behind all of them livestock, everything was for sale. Socrates said, “What a lot of things I don’t need.” (p.40)
Is it any different today? The hucksters get into our homes through TV and radio, and you can be sure they have learned the power of persuasion to sell what they have. Sometimes they are accompanied by soft music to lull us into a buying mood. And be sure, they can always offer a better price for the same thing offered by a competitor maybe in just the last commercial. These earthly goods are always presented as essential for our happiness. Can we be as discerning as Socrates and tell ourselves we don’t need everything spread out there before us?
To connect all of this with the life, passion and death of Christ, we find it was no accident that the God who had created all things allowed himself to be divested of everything earthly, even the garments with which he had clothed his sacred humanity. In fact, Jesus was stripped naked showing that he who created the world gave up all his earthly goods. Could there be anything more inconceivable? But – this was his way of teaching the blessedness of the spirit of poverty. Reflecting on the Beatitudes we read, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and subsequently all humankind developed a greed for worldly goods and power. We know that it can be so great that it leads people to lie and cheat, to steal and even kill. As we know, greed often causes both the poor and the wealthy to forget that they too are the stewards of God’s bounty and ignore the needs of their fellowmen.
The material goods with which God stocked the earth must not be considered bad. No, the badness comes only when these good things are abused. All of us can use what God has placed in the world as much as he wishes, but the cross tells us to do it in such a way that the use of these things will not harm but help ourselves and others in time and eternity.
Let us spend a moment or two considering the work of Johannes Baptist Metz, a German theologian born in 1928, who wrote a tiny but intensely meaningful book entitled, “The Spirit of Poverty” published in 1968 and translated into English in 1998. Metz helps us to truly understand the impoverishment that Christ endured. He said, “Everything was taken from him during the passion, even the love that drove him to the cross. No longer did he savor his own love, no longer did he feel any spark of enthusiasm. His heart gave out and a feeling of utter helplessness came over him. Truly he emptied himself (Phil. 2:7). God’s merciful love no longer sustained him. God’s countenance was hidden during the passion, and Christ gaped into the darkness of nothingness and abandonment where God was no longer present. He reached his destiny, stretched taut between a despising earth that had rejected him and a faceless heaven thundering God’s “no” to sinful mankind. Jesus paid the price of futility. He had become utterly poor!!!!!” And Metz continues in the next paragraph: “In this total renunciation, however, Jesus perfected and proclaimed in action what took place in the depths of his being: he professed and accepted our humanity, he took on and endured our lot, he stepped down from his divinity. He came to us where we really are – with all our broken dreams and lost hopes, with the meaning of existence slipping through our fingers. He came and stood with us, struggling with his whole heart to have us say “yes” to our innate poverty.” (pp 13-14)
It is no accident that “poverty of spirit” is the first of the beatitudes. It is also the mother of the three-fold mystery of faith, hope and charity. Only through poverty of spirit do we draw near to God: only through it does God draw near to us. It is where God and humanity encounter each other.
In poverty of spirit we learn to accept ourselves as beings who do not belong to ourselves. It is not a virtue that one “acquires”; as such, it could easily turn into a personal possession that would challenge our authentic poverty. We truly “possess” this radical poverty only when we forget ourselves and look the other way. LET ME REPEAT THIS; Poverty is not a virtue that one “acquires”; as such, it could easily turn into a personal possession that would challenge our authentic poverty. We truly “possess” this radical poverty only when we forget ourselves and look the other way. And to quote Jesus, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God (Lk.9:62). To look back for reassurance is to try to acquire possession and full control over this virtue, which amounts to losing it.
If we have a nice car, a good home and enjoy good health, we should thank God for His blessing on us, as all good
comes from Him. But we should realize that these things do not make us beautiful or rich in God’s eyes. We must
remember always that we are already rich in Jesus Christ and that “for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty
you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Again, I shall say it --- we are already rich because we are baptized sons and
daughters of God.
But let’s look at some of the reasons why people pursue money and material things. Often, they believe it will bring
them a new identity, satisfactions, and security and power. In times when they are struggling, they may find solace and
consolation in worldly things. So very many people suffer from low self-esteem, and believe that a new car, hairdo or
wardrobe will make them different and lift them out of their despair. Probably all of us have had a sense of power, even a
new identity because of money, a job or something materially special. But how long does it last? When the money runs
out, do our friends leave us? So were they really friends? They had the illusion that we were somebody with power and
somebody to tag along with. Wouldn’t we rather have them see our kindness, our joy and beauty in our souls? That is
what really matters.
Getting caught up in what we think makes us important and worthwhile can lead to an endless pursuit of things, particularly material things that have no lasting power. And why is that? Because we never achieve the desired satisfaction because God is not in the picture. Material things are fleeting. They break down or wear out, and the vicious cycle starts over. But that is not the case in our relationship with God. His love for us is constant and never-ending. This is so true. True satisfaction comes only from the Lord, and no material item can bring lasting inner peace. What does Psalm 37:4 tell us? “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “It is a well attested fact that those people who are the most impoverished in their souls try to cover this inner destitution by extreme luxury on the outside. The more naked the soul, that is, the more devoid of virtue, the greater the need of the body to give the appearance of possession through fantastic dress, display and ostentation. The more the soul is clothed with virtue, the less is the need for outer compensation.”
Not surprisingly, Blessed Mother Theresa had this to say: “The spiritual poverty of the West is greater than ours…You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness…They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”
Lately, Pope Francis said, “It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism” which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”
We are at a point in time where THE WORLD tells us what is good: and we don’t hear too much about God and what he desires most for us. As I set out at the beginning quoting Matthew 5:3, “How blessed are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs” this seems like a good time to review the fruits of the poverty of spirit. Let’s list them, or at least some of them:
Happiness and holiness are the first fruits.
NEXT, is peace and joy with a freedom from anxieties, cares, preoccupations and worries arising from
excessive wealth, or from the unrestrained desire for “more and more.”
NEXT, is kindness and goodness which allows us a greater freedom to help others in the service of the
Church. NEXT, is greater freedom from envy and greed; acceptance and gratitude for who I am and what
God has given to me. We count our blessings.
NEXT, is freedom to love God with one’s whole heart and soul and mind and strength and to love one’s
neighbor as oneself.
And FINALLY, there is a freedom for a life of prayer leading to eternal life.
So what does my summary spell out loudly and clearly? FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!! And nothing is impossible for God.
So what does my summary spell out loudly and clearly? FREEDOM!!!!!
Many years ago in a country far across the big waters, in a small village in the center of Africa lived a Mystic who was very beloved to the people. The children loved to gather around her dwelling and listen to her stories. The elders and tribal chiefs would often consult her for her wisdom and guidance. Then one day the mystic went to her people and explained that there just wasn’t enough time for prayer and silence and asked if they might build her a hut somewhat remote from the village. At first her people were disappointed but then did as she requested.
Several months had elapsed when the young people who greatly missed her decided to go and visit her. When they arrived at her hut they sat around on the ground and waited patiently for her to appear. It was a long wait but suddenly she appeared with a sieve and a glass of water and proceeded to pour the water into the sieve. She then dropped the sieve onto the ground and walked back into her hut, never speaking a word.
The young people were confused and asked each other what this meant. After a while they slowly started to turn and make their way back to the village. One young man knew there had to be an answer to this puzzle and stayed. Suddenly the mystic appeared, picked up the sieve and quickly made her way down the path toward a small lake. She took the sieve and threw it into the lake and both of them watched as it disappeared into the water. The mystic then turned and walk back into her hut. The young man went home.
The Battle of
Why should anyone even think that praying is a battle? Isn’t praying about communicating with God, and or with the saints? Why would there be a battle? They are all good. But are we good, and is the battle one-sided?
We’d like to think about ourselves as good, or at least we try to be good. And that is a good beginning. And we are the only creatures called to respond to God in faith and love (CCC 357) .
So why the battle? Let’s look at prayer and our responses, and why there is a battle!
Prayer is a battle against our own wounded nature, the distractions of the world, and Satan. We rely on God to help us pray. A loving perseverance, firm in the hope of our salvation, is essential.
We must never forget about our wounded nature. All of us have been damaged by original sin. Therefore, we are all vulnerable to the wiles of Satan. And yes, God surely gave us free will. Therefore we can go either way: we can do what we know is the right way, or we can disobey God and do something our way, rather than doing what God wants us to do.
And we are so easily distracted. Distractions are all around us. And we need to lean on God to avoid them. I know from my own experience that I am easily distracted: in conversation with someone, even someone I particularly admire and love, my wife being a great example. She will sometimes tell me something and I missed it and she has to remind me that she told me. She is kind and doesn’t tell me I wasn’t listening, but obviously I wasn’t. If I am praying the rosary or my daily office, too often I find that my mind wanders all over the place. I am easily distracted, and likely you are too. Why? Maybe because I think my own personal thoughts and observations are more important, and maybe they are important, but are they when I am trying to pray? I don’t like to think that Satan is messing with me and taking me away from the task at hand, either listening to my wife or praying the rosary. But he is subtle and sneaky and wants to take over and rule me. Oh he knows all about our free will given to each of us by God, and it becomes a victory for him to mess with God’s gifts. We must never forget that Satan lost the battle with God who threw him out of heaven and damned him forever. Being sent to hell does not leave him helpless, but enraged and determined to undermine our relationships with God. He lost, and he wants each of us to be lost too.
So what can we do to make our prayers our ammunition? We must remember, always and without exception, that God loves each and everyone of us, that he has prepared a place for our eternal happiness, and we need to be firm in the hope of our salvation.
We have a goal, something to work towards, namely our salvation, but only God can save us. So what must we do? Praying must become as important as breathing. Praying is as necessary as breathing which keeps us not only in good physical health but is absolutely necessary to keep us alive. I have never known anyone who stopped breathing for any length of time, and survived. Praying is spiritual breathing and necessary for our eternal survival. Fortunately for all of us, God is more patient with our mediocre and even lack of spiritual breathing, i.e. praying, and doesn’t cut us off leaving us physically dead as would be the case if we stopped breathing. God wants us to pray, to be in touch with him, to experience his love, and the promise of eternal life. He died for each of us because he loves us more than we can ever know in this life. But by our free will we can turn him down, turn against him and reject his love and promise of salvation. Yes, he wants to be in communication with us and he has given the saints, those who have gone on to eternity, especially his Mother, to get into action for us. What do mother’s do? They go to bat for their kids. Mother Mary certainly does, and she works even harder at it, when we implore her to help us.
Remember, prayer is always possible despite difficulties (Eph 6:10-18). We need to go to our all loving Father with humility, and ask to abide in Jesus and he in us, so that our prayer is meaningful. We all have some deficiencies, and we must rely on the Holy Spirit to make up for them. We will be given graces to help us persevere in our love for Jesus. We must remember, at all times, that by seeking God’s will and not our own, is the key to how God answers our prayers. Our faith and humility will enable us to give primacy to the will of God over our own hopes and expectations. Another way of saying that is, “God’s will be done, not mine.” By seeking our prayerful relationship with God and turning our wills over to him, is the surest path to holiness. It is something to work at all the time. The more we pray, the more we are transformed into the image of Jesus. Yes, all of us need to pray that we will become Christlike.
Let’s take a few minutes to examine our attitudes toward prayer. Let us never under value what prayer is and what it does. May we never think of it as unproductive. Let us not get into thinking that prayer is of lesser importance than other things. And never conclude that we can pray without God’s grace. And yes, we may be disappointed because God has not given us what we asked. It is easy for us to think we know what is best!
This is an opportunity to remember that Satan is in a battle for our souls. He casts doubt on the usefulness of prayer and even the possibility that prayer has any merit.
Yes, there are many difficulties with which we struggle in our daily prayer life. Why? Because we are weak and prone to:
Distractions: I’ve mentioned mine, and you undoubtedly have your own.
Dryness: sometimes when we pray, or sometimes we stop praying because we do not always experience warm
feelings and the comfort of God’s nearness.
Lack of faith: we may not trust God
Discouragement: nothing seems to have changed, or our prayers seem to have gone unanswered.
Sloth: here I mean that our spiritual laziness weakens our will to pray.
Lukewarmness: when we do not love God enough to pray.
There is a form of prayer called contemplative prayer. There we dwell on the ideas and meanings of our prayer, often allowing ourselves to meditate on a verse or some piece of scripture, attempting to learn what God is trying to tell us. At times, this is very rewarding because it gives us a whole new insight on what we have read from the scriptures. There are many contemplatives, nuns, monks, priests, who spend time daily meditating on a piece of scripture. But we must never consider contemplative prayer as the property of only these named religious, because we can engage in and enjoy contemplative prayer too. An example you may have heard mentioned is called lectio divina: focusing on a scriptural verse and being open to the Holy Spirit giving you understanding and a real awareness of what those verses mean to you. It can be a very rewarding experience; one in which you feel the Holy Spirit shedding a whole new understanding of what you have read. One has to be very patient and let God set the tempo. At times, this form of prayer leaves the individual feeling dry and helpless, sometimes useless. But those feelings may serve as a means of purification – getting rid of something in that person’s prayer life that has held him back from being totally open to the will of God.
So what are some activities we should all cultivate to deepen our prayer life? Of primary importance is the frequent reception of Communion and Confession. If there are activities in our daily lives to which we are attached but are unnecessary, and might be called time-wasters and they are clearly worldly, determine to rid yourselves if they draw you away from God’s loving presence. We need to be vigilant in our thoughts, our words and our actions and look with faith to the efficacy of prayer. When the going gets tough, and it will, each of us needs to humble himself and place a childlike trust in God. It takes perseverance, but it is worth it.
I am going to cite a few scriptural references because reflection on them will deepen our understanding and commitment to prayer. In Ps 4:18 we read that God hears the prayer of those who put their trust in him. Ps 84: 1-12 is about serving God in humility. For those of us who have made the most of the world’s possessions, in Mt 6:19-21 and 24, we read, “You cannot serve both God and the world.” I particularly like what Jesus says in Mt 6:25-34 that we should never be anxious about anything because our heavenly Father will take care of us and our needs if we seek first his kingdom and holiness.
Matthew also records that the apostles had great difficulty staying awake and watching, and essentially praying, while Jesus agonized in the Garden before his arrest. Matthew notes these apostles were willing but they gave into the temptation to rest, to sleep.
If we fail to pray and lack in faith, we will be unable to keep Satan and his minions away from us (Mk 9:14-29). Luke certainly underscores the need to persevere in prayer underscoring that faith is necessary for perseverance (Lk 18:1-8). But, Luke also tells us that God will not listen to prideful prayer: our prayers must be said with humility (Lk 18:9-14). Let us never forget that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray and intercedes for us (Rom 8:26-27). Paul, writing in Ephesians 6:10-18, tells us that God arms us against the devil with whose army we are in battle; hence we must pray in the Holy Spirit to persevere and remain always on the lookout for temptation. Jas 4:1-8 is very clear saying Jesus, our everlasting high priest, intercedes for us and saves all to draw near to God through him. Our inclinations to evil lead to sin and to prayer for the wrong things; we must detach ourselves from the world, approach God humbly, actively resist the Devil’s temptations, and single-mindedly draw near to God.
22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE C
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Let me begin with a question for each of us. What does God want from you, from me? Surely, we have all heard that we are to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But how do we go about this? Suddenly his call to each of us brings up new questions, probably new meanings. And certainly more probabilities and possibilities!
He is calling each of us to look deep inside ourselves to ask ourselves who we are. And so we must. We will find things we like about ourselves, and some things we would rather not bring to the surface. How often do we judge and compare ourselves with others? Someone else is better looking, better dressed, has more money, has some talent, is more likeable, and we wish we could say the same thing about ourselves. We become more curious why he or she is that way, and wondering why not me? Why can’t we be held in as high esteem as we are sure that person is? It is so very easy to get stuck in comparing ourselves to him or her. We can also look down on those we see as not up to our standards. And who created our standards? Why are we certain we are better or worse than the other person?
We all want to make changes in our attitudes, but it takes a lot of work.
So very often, things happen over which we have no control. Let’s not forget that God is in charge. He gives us what we need and when we need it and it is always right, and always at the right time, even when we think he overdoes it, particularly when it is something that corrects us. Can we accept what he sends our way? We will need to spend time thinking and praying about this.
Let’s reflect for a moment on today’s gospel. Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the Pharisee’s on the Sabbath. He knew that those who came wearing rich garments and gold rings would be asked to sit at places of honor, whereas others would be asked to sit apart, even on the floor. He knew these Sabbath meals were not family meals, but meals where others might be invited. There would be class distinction, in short a double standard. And we know from the verses immediately before those read today from the Gospel of Luke, that Jesus had just cured a man with dropsy, a condition where the body is swollen with water. This man was not a guest, so Jesus sent him on his way. Jesus had cured this man on the Sabbath, and by Jewish law he was not allowed to cure anyone on the Sabbath. So who is this Jesus who was been called to dine with the Jewish official but who spoke and acted on his own standard of love and rules? Jesus uses this parable to show that all are equal in the eyes of God. God has no favorites. There is a place for everyone in salvation: the lame, the blind, the leper, the man with dropsy; and there is a place for all sinners. All are called to the banquet of salvation. And Jesus promises to prepare a place for all of us.
So Jesus is calling us to receive and help others in ways they cannot help themselves. And we see these people around us day in and day out: someone in a wheel chair trying to open a door; people at the soup kitchen, or someone needing money to pay the utilities; someone terminally ill but having no family to check on him and desperately needing someone just to spend some time to chat; the recent widow needing a comforting smile, the person in jail who, separated from family could use someone to come and pray and talk with him or her. Each of us can be that person who brings light and comfort to those in need, who exalts and honors the other person.
These kinds of helps for others require our own humility. Are we afraid to be seen with a homeless person? Is it risky to give money to someone in need? Do we know someone at school who is ignored because he is different? And do you think it would not be cool to befriend him? Does sitting down with someone who has had a recent loss bring up too much from our own pasts that are still so painful? In this situation, going forward to provide solace to someone with a recent loss may turn out to be a gift for you, as you allow yourself to relive some of your own pain and gradually overcome it. We are never alone. It does not take away from our self-worth. All of us are dependent on God: without Him we have nothing. No matter who we are or how powerful we may be or seem to be by others or by ourselves, or how many sins we have committed, or how addicted we may be to honor, and how often we show a lack of humility, God still loves us. Many of us will say that’s amazing. But it’s true. He gives each of us what we need, but He also looks to you and me to look beyond ourselves and see the needs of others. Why? In fact, we are the apple of God’s eye. When we acknowledge our true self-worth and all that God has done to free us, then we are freed from having to control everything. Instead we are free to trust God and to love mankind. We need to acknowledge our readiness, seek His mercy and love and be open to see and help in the needs of others. He tells us not to expect payment for our good deeds, as ultimate payment comes from God whether one works one hour or all day.
So it is healing to be humble. In Sirach we heard, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.” Yes, always give glory to God. When you’ve done something well, thank God. When others have told you that you have done something well, thank God. If we live in an attitude of humility, poverty of spirit, and moderation in material wealth, it will free us to reach out to our neighbor in a spirit of justice and mercy. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves. No, it is forgetting ourselves so we can be quiet and listen for God and do what he wants. Certainly scripture reminds us that where our hearts are, there also is our treasure. But we must listen, be humble and admit that God uses our abilities, gifts and talents for our own good and the good of others.
We are the Body of Christ in the world but not of the world. We must remember that all of us came from God and are returning to Him. All of us can live and will live a happier life if we let go of ourselves and see God in those around us. All of us are seeking salvation. By Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and His gift of the Eucharist all of us are called to His banquet of salvation, a foretaste of the heavenly marriage feast.
Today when you hear the Mass is ended, go out --- and invite another to the banquet feast.
HOMILY FOR THE OBLATES
JOHN 3:22-30 Homily:
John’s disciples were fussing, maybe fuming, that this Jew from across the Jordan was attracting more people to himself, than John, and John was the one who started these purifications or baptisms of repentance.
So let’s get an historical perspective on this rivalry coming from John’s disciples. Let us back up and re-examine that John was sent to bring the word of God to the people. For so many years the Jews had been under the heal of the Romans, and before that under the Greeks. Many had abandoned their Judaism, but some recognized their infidelity to God and they knew they somehow had to repent for their fallen natures. John came upon the scene and provided them with a baptism of repentance. And we have the scenes of crowds being baptized in the Jordan River. In John 3:26 the people are telling John, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” And what did John tell them? (John 3:27-30) “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him.” And John goes further. “You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
There is so much embedded in John’s account, and it needs to be heard and understood. He makes it as clear as possible, that he is not the Messiah, not the Christ. They were looking for a prophet, but he is the voice preparing the way for the Lord. And who is Lord? He is Jesus!
And John, felt no reason to be Jesus’ rival. In fact, John said that standing and listening to Jesus gave him reason to rejoice. “So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30).
The complaining disciples of John, remind us how easy it is to come to conclusions about someone and to feel jealousy when we think the other one is getting something that we might deserve. So beautifully, John the Baptist speaks to his own humility. He knew and accepted his lot in life was not to be all in all, a famous person who would bring goodness, happiness, freedom and maybe riches at least to himself, and others too. John was making the way for Christ and his joy was complete. John was the best man, Jesus was the groom and the Church, his mystical body born from his side, would be his bride.
John’s words must get to the heart of the matter. He said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” This is true for all of creation. All of creation shows forth the splendor of God’s plan. A small caterpillar after a period of being hidden in the earth, comes forth to explore, eat and live in the shadowy, musky clumps of its natural world. Then a stirring begins and it feels a call to climb higher, to venture forth up branches and into the trees. There is a time of quiet, of waiting for a call from within leading to a transformation and becoming a butterfly. This call is for each of us, to follow the will of God. If we keep ourselves humble before God, and seek to do his will, He will provide all that we need. Knowing this, we can go through life in love and peace.
HOMILY FOR THE CARMEL HOME
BASED UPON JOHN 6:1-15
Of all the miracles recorded by John and the
other three Gospel writers, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes
certainly captured the attention of a lot of people. Because He was attracting
more and more followers, Jesus was definitely getting under the skin of the
Pharisees and the elders. We heard about their fury and murderous intent in
the first reading. Here in the opening verse of John 6, Jesus intended to sit
down with His apostles but the crowd quickly swelled to 5000. He understood
their hunger and He asked Philip where they could buy enough food for them.
Can you imagine a crowd like that dropping in at a moment’s notice and somehow
you are supposed to take care of them. Andrew mentioned that he knew of only
one person with any food whatsoever and that boy had only 5 barley loaves and
2 fish. Jesus simply said, “Have the people recline.” And they did and all had
more than enough, in fact there was a lot left over. And Jesus told them,
“Gather the fragments so that nothing will be wasted.” And the left overs
filled 12 wicker baskets. What a sumptuous banquet.
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Throughout salvation history God has always provided for his people. To provide for the prophet Elijah, God blessed the woman with flour and oil so that it did not run out. When David and his men were in flight, God allowed them to eat of the show bread in the sanctuary. God used Joseph in Egypt to gather and then ration the food to sustain the people during the drought. God provided Moses with manna and quail when his people were hungry. Today, Jesus will do the same. At each consecration in the Mass, through the power entrusted to his priests, each host becomes the Body of Christ. Those not consumed are gathered to feed those unable to be present. .
Besides giving Himself to us so superabundantly, as Body, Blood , Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, he then sends us out to give ourselves to others. When we are open to His will, He will show us the way. May we receive and accept the graces necessary to be obedient and follow Him.
This reminds me of the story about the elderly woman who entered a butcher’s shop. Her entry interrupted the butcher who was in conversation with a military officer. When asked what she wanted she said she had come to beg for a little meat but had no money. The butcher said, “Only a little meat, but how much are you going to give me?” “I am sorry. I have no money but I will hear Mass for you.” Both the officer and the butcher were indifferent to religion and began to scoff at her answer. But the butcher told her to go and hear Mass for him and when she returned he would give her as much meat as the Mass was worth.
An hour later she returned and approached the counter and the butcher and he said, “All right, then, now we will see.” He took a slip of paper and wrote on it “I heard a Mass for you.” Then he put the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side and nothing happened. Next he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone but again the paper proved heavier.
The captain had stayed on to see what would happen. By this time, both men were looking at each other and feeling ashamed of their mockery.
The butcher placed a large piece of meat on the balance, but the paper held its own. As might be expected the butcher examined his scales but they were all right. Then he placed an even heavier piece of meat on the scale but still the paper outweighed it.
| Exasperated he said kindly to the woman, “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of mutton?” And he tried a leg of mutton. The paper was still heavier.
The butcher converted and promised the woman a daily ration of meat. He kept his promise and his business flourished. The officer left the butcher shop a changed man, and became a daily attendant at Mass and trained his children to follow his example. Two of his sons became priests.
This story was told by the one of those sons, who became a priest -- a Father of the Sacred Heart; -- his brother became a Jesuit.
We know that every Mass is worth as much as the sacrifice of our Lord’s life, suffering and death, and so we too are invited, even empty handed and hungry to sit down and eat not only with the Lord, but of the Lord. He is our Good Shepherd who provides abundantly and leads us by safe paths to be with Him all the days of our lives.