25 October 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

25 October 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Romans 6:12-18

Psalm 124

Luke 12:39-48

 

How often do we make choices?

How often are our choices good or bad?

 

Paul sees that we serve or are slaves to sin or obedience to the good.

“Slaves” were people without rights or decisive power in their lives.

“Servants” had at least the hope of being free at some future time.

 

Paul sees we ought to choose our slavery well.

Being free of the “Law” does not mean being free to choose slavery to sin.

Paul would have us be “slaves” not to self or sin but to “righteousness”. That is free to respond to the promptings to goodness and justice.

 

Peter’ question in the Gospel today  is quite honest and uncomplicated.  Peter knows Jesús has reacted to the abusive actions of the religious leaders.

Peter finds Jesús teachings ambiguous.

Peter wonders if Jesús’ teaching applies to “us” or others.

We are after all pious, good and religious.

Are we to believe we are need of conversion, change of heart, even great sacrifice?

Knowing the master’s will and not doing it is more offensive than not knowing and not doing the master’s will.

Jesús is saying to us who have been touched by the gift of faith:

“Realize what it is you have been given and become that which you have been given, oneness with Christ.”  

“Become what you eat at this meal.”

“ Live what you believe.”

 

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24 October 2017 Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

24 October 2017 Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

Romans 5:12,15,17-19,20-21

Psalm 40

Luke 12:35-38

 

Paul struggles to explain how through one man sin could enter the world and how on other man “Jesús Christ” sin and death could be overcome in Christ.

 

“Condemnation” came to all in one man Adam.

“Justification” , “Pardon” and “Peace come to all in one man “Jesús the Christ”.

 

Sin, darkness and death came as a result of the disobedience of one man.

Grace, light and life come as a result of the “obedience of one person Jesús.

 

“Sin increased” but “grace overflowed all the more”. Grace not only justifies it gives “eternal life.”

 

Jesús could adopt as his motto and ours “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

 

If we come to the will of the Lord we will be prepared, ready and eager to welcome the master on his arrival.

 

May we be eager, prepared and ready when the Master arrives in bread and wine and word.

 

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23 October 2017 Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

Romans 4:20-25

Luke 1

Luke 12:13-21

 

Paul speaks about Abraham’s faith today.

Paul says Abraham’s faith was “credited as righteousness”.

Paul believes that Abraham’s  “faith” is a gift and “is counted” as making Abraham “righteous” as in “just” or “justified”  before God.

 

Paul further insists that Abraham’s “belief” was not “credited as righteousness” just for Abraham. The “righteousness is also “for us”.   This to me sounds like the mutual assistance, found among the “Communion of Saints”.  The “Communion of Saints” is not limited to “canonized” Saints.  Paul addresses his letters at times to the saints alive in the world, in individual communities as in: “To the saints of…..”

Paul states: “Jesús was handed over for our transgressions

and was raised for our justification”.

Our “justification” is our being made “right” before God as was Abraham.

 

Jesús wants us to “guard against all greed”.

“One’s life does not consist of possessions” Jesús declares.

Our life may seem all about “possessing and possessions”.

 

There may come a time when our possessions “possess” us rather than that we possess them.

 

The rich man in the parable thinks his possessions will guarantee him happiness,  God asks in a way, “What happens if you die to all the possessions that “had”  you”?

 

Jesús invites us to be “rich” in what “matters” to God.

 

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21 and 22 October 2017 Twenty Ninth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

21 and 22 October 2017 Twenty Ninth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

 

Isaiah 45:1.4-6

Psalm 96

First Thessalonians 1:1-5

Matthew 22:15-21

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ

 

The question put to Jesús in the Gospel has been a dilemma for believers of all time.

 

The followers of Jesús have had to wrestle with this issue throughout our history as a community.

 

The question posed to Jesús is this:

 

“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

 

The census tax was a “head” tax that certain people had to pay to the Roman government.

 

There were two schools of thought among the Jewish people regarding this tax.

 

The Pharisees were “strict” religious observers and thought this tax should not be paid to “pagan” Romans who ruled (unjustly they thought) over God’s chosen people.

 

The second group represented by followers of King Herod thought it was necessary to pay the tax to keep the peace. King Herod was considered a “puppet” king by the Pharisees.


It is telling that the Pharisees and the followers of Herod could unite in this “entrapment” of Jesús.  

 

Jesús asks to see the Roman coin used to pay the tax.  

They immediately hand Jesús the coin.

The Pharisees and followers of Herod produce the coin immediately meaning the “strict observers” (the Pharisees) as well as the “Herodians” have handled this supposedly blasphemous Roman coin.

 

The coin has an image of Tiberius Caesar and a written inscription saying that he is “The Son of the Divine Augustus.  

The other side of the coin had the words: “Pontifex Maximus” which declares that Caesar is “Most High Priest”.

 

There is little wonder about why the coin was considered blasphemous to the Pharisees.

 

Jesús’ answer: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

and to God what belongs to God”  does not “entrap” Jesús.

 

It simply puts the responsibility to decide what to do on the persons and future persons asking the question.

 

We believe all creation “belongs” to God.  

We believe that we have is only what has been “given” to us by God.

God then can and does make demands on us.

 

Caesar, or more gently put, the “society” or “group” we live in can also make demands on us.

Society can demand that we consider the “common good” in contributing to our society.

We owe it to Caesar (or our fellow “citizens”)  that the most vulnerable among us are cared for without discerning if they are of a

particular faith,

ethnic group or

speak a certain language.

 

On our money it says “In God We Trust”.

 

If the God we trust in is the God of Jesús, we owe to God everything

we have,

are and

hope to be.

 

You could say all we owe to God is a blank check we have signed.

Date and time to be determined by the needs of the Kingdom.

 

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14 and 15 October 2017 Twenty Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

14 and 15 October  2017 Twenty Eighth  Sunday Ordinary Time A  Homily

 

Isaiah 25:6-10

 

Psalm 23

 

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

 

Matthew 22:1-14

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

Jesus continues to instruct the  “chief priests and elders of the people” using parables.

 

The parables generally take a common human experience:

lighting a candle,

harvesting a crop,

planting a seed or

as in today’s parable, being invited to a wedding feast.

 

A parable tells us that this experience is like something else.

 

Today’s parable tells us about being invited to or into the Kingdom of God is like being invited to a wedding feast.

 

A parable helps us think about and puzzle out what is similar between a wedding feast and a banquet like the one described in the First Reading today from the prophet Isaiah.

 

There is often at a wedding “rich food”, “choice wines”, few reproaches and great joy.

 

There is also the matter of inviting family and friends and friends of friends to the wedding and the wedding feast that follows.

 

In some cultures the wedding feast takes a week or more to be properly celebrated.

 

When I hear today’s parable it reminds me of the invitation to all of the priests in Oklahoma in early 1984 to minister in Santiago Atitlan, Solola Guatemala which had been without a resident priest for three years since the death of Father Stanley Rother.

 

I received  the same letter every other priest did.

The letter asked “Would you be willing to serve?”

 

I wa acquainted with Father Rother and had visited with him.

I  had visited Santiago Atitlan for a few days in 1983 after Father Rother was killed.

 

I stayed in the Rectory with Stan’s parents and served as translator for Stan’s  parents. My Spanish was of rusty high school vintage but I managed to do more good than harm as I translated for people who came to greet the parents of “Padre Apla’s” (Father Rother).

The truth is the people did not speak much Spanish either so we mostly used sign languages and embraces to communicate.

 

I really thought long and hard about saying yes.

I decided to throw my hat in the ring.

As it turned out there was already someone from outside Oklahoma who was chosen to go to minister in Santiago Atitlan.

I was very upset but figured at being invited and offering to serve and finding the Archbishop had hired an  “outside gun” to come to take Father Rother’s place.

I did remember however that I still owed the Archbishop obedience.

 

As it turned out Father Bruce Natsuhara came to serve in Oklahoma and I was suddenly able to go to work in Santiago Atitlan.

 

I really thought a lot of my priest friends who spoke Spanish fluently, who were younger or older or wiser or were good friends with Stan had volunteered to go to work in Santiago Atitlan.

 

By the time I left for Guatemala I had heard many reasons for refusing to come to the feast:

“My parents are too old.”

“It is not my thing.”

“Don’t you know they killed the last priest there.”

“I am very comfortable where I am.”

 

I was really surprised that people were not fighting for the job.

 

In short, most of us were like the people who “refused to come” to come to the feast.

 

I share this is by way of saying,  the opportunities of the Kingdom are not discovered by making excuses or having other priorities or waiting for someone else to  accept the invitation and certainly not realized by “refusing to come”.

 

You don’t eat the “rich food”,  or drink the “choice wines” or share the joy by letting someone else go in your place.

 

In the parable the second group of messengers sent are not only told the invited guests will not come they are mistreated and killed.

 

The king executes those who refused to come and burned their city.

 

The king sends messengers a third time to the “roads” and “main streets” and they “filled the hall with guests….good and bad alike”.

 

But there is a catch.

One guest decided to come to the feast but he did not really want to participate.

He was indifferent, lazy, or perhaps having a bad day. For whatever reason he decided to “show up” but not “suit up”.

He assumed “showing up” was enough.

He perhaps knew he was not worthy to be invited but thought he could get by with half measures, a non caring attitude or that the expectations to “suit up”  applied to others but not to him.

 

The king is nobody’s fool and  “throws the bum out” of the assembly.

 

Jesus is telling the leaders, the religiously strict observers, chief priests, the elders, those who judge others, impose burdens and expectations on others that, they are invited and called.

 

They are not chosen because they refuse to come or they come half heartedly.

 

This is a hard parable.

 

It is especially hard for those of us who lead, who teach more by example than by our words.

I know I am invited but often I  feel like refusing or giving what is convenient and not what is needed.

 

Yesterday afternoon I was invited to visit a sick young person in the Hospital. This was not a convenient invitation to respond to.  I could have waited. The person could have waited. I chose to visit, to serve, to be “inconvenienced” in response to this call to serve the needs of the Kingdom and not my own needs.

 

Jesus invites us to give our whole heart, soul, self, mind and body.

 

Jesus chooses us when we are open to listen, respond and participate in the great feast that is a central part of entering the kingdom of God.

 

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9 October 2017 Monday Twenty Seventh Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

9 October 2017 Monday Twenty Seventh Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

Jonah 1:1-2: 2:1-2,11

Psalm Jonah 2:,,4,5,6

Luke 10:25-37

Jonah is known as the “reluctant prophet”.

Jonah hated the Ninevites.

Jonah hopped on a ship to flee the Lord’s insistence that he preach repentance to the Ninevites. The furthest place he could go to was Tarshish. It was a Phoenician city in Southwestern Spain and signified and really was for Jonah and people of his time and place “the end of the world” as they knew it.

Jonah is thrown off the ship as a storm comes up and the sailors divine that Jonah is the reason they are in danger.

A large fish swallows Jonah who is brought to, you might guess, his least desirable destination: Nineveh.

Many of the saints fled from the Lord’s will but Lord in time brings them to accept and embrace the Lord’s plan rather than their own carefully thought life project.

 

Jesús challenges a scholar of the law who tests him. Jesus uses a kind of parable, in riddle form.  The scholar must figure out the answer to one question.

A man fell among robbers and is lead ‘half dead”.

A priest passed him by. To touch an open wound make the priest impure and unable to participate in religious rituals.

A Levite passed him by on the opposite side for the same reason.

A Samaritan, embraced and cared for the wounded person.

The scholar is taught a lesson by the “country preacher” Jesús the Nazarene.

Can we accept this teaching?

Who is your neighbor?

Who is my neighbor?

Can we see the poor, wounded, the refugee, the immigrant and vulnerable person as our or my “neighbor”?

Can we learn from the “self justifying” scholar and the “itinerant preacher” from the country?

Does our salvation depend on living the answer to this one question?

“Who is my neighbor?”

 

 

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7 and 8 October 2017 Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time A Homily

7 and 8  October 2017  Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time A Homily

 

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80

Philippians 4:6-9

Matthew 21:33-42

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

The scriptures today again address the issue of our appreciation of the gift of salvation.

Matthew’s Gospel again uses the image of a vineyard.

It is important to recall who Jesus is addressing.

If anyone is “assured” salvation or any group or groups think they have a “lock” on entrance into the kingdom it is very likely precisely the groups that Jesús addresses today.

“The chief priests and elders” are the people addresses. These are the religious leaders of the day. Jesús wants them to understand, in the tradition of the prophets, like Isaiah, that the gift of salvation is not a right, or deserved and not something we “earn”.

Isaiah in the first reading “sings” his message about his friend who, worked so that his  vineyard would produce “choicest wines”.  

Despite his friend’s hard work “choice” vines the vineyard produced “wild” that is bitter grapes.  The “vineyard” Isaiah tells us is “the house of Israel”.

The “cherished plants”  the “friend”  planted  produced not justice but bloodshed. Instead of justice  an “outcry” was produced!

The Gospel today is eerily appropriate.

 

Last Sunday night before I went to bed I heard there was a shooting in Las Vegas.  I heard one person was dead and that there were some wounded.

 

Monday morning I learned many more had died and there were many wounded.  My shock as the numbers grew and prayed for the victims. I included the victims of the shooting. I included their families, the first responders. Eventually, I included the perpetrator because he surely was a victim of some kind of sickness.

We discovered once more as a nation what one sick person can do.

Given the time, money and will, one person  massacred and wounded  many people in a relatively short time.

I would like to share with you one of my occasional religious practices. I have on my electronic calendar a repeat  entry that is quite simple it reads “Mosque”.

There is a story here. Several months ago I was invited to go to the local Oklahoma City Islamic Center.  The invitation was to participate in a project benefitting  homeless women and children in Oklahoma City.

The center is next to the Mosque.

While I was there I met an Imam (a muslim prayer leader). We visited and he invited me to come on Fridays for their twenty minute “teaching”.  I have gone two times before and decided that this Friday (yesterday) was a good time to go.  

I expected there would be some mention of the shooting but did not expect two main points of the “teaching” which we would describe as “the preaching”.

First:

The Imam who lead the prayers spoke about the prophet (I assume Mohammed) in his early teaching counselled non violence.  The prophet taught  that oppressed people and “banned” people had a special place before God and could always rely on God for protection, comfort and solace.

Second:

The second thing he said was very fascinating, moving and news to me.

The Imam said every Muslim in America has an automatic reaction to news of a shooting or especially a mass shooting anywhere in the world.

The reaction is deep and continuous and emotional. It is this: “We pray that the person who did this horrible action is not a Muslim. We are relieved if we hear, as we did Monday that the person was not a Muslim.”

I had no idea of the fear our Muslim brothers and sisters live in each day here in Oklahoma City.

 

The Gospel parallels last Sunday’s events in that it is a story of sickness, selfishness, greed and injustice, which left unchecked, escalates into the violent death of the son of the owner of the vineyard.

Jesús plainly makes the case to the chief priests and elders that:

“The kingdom of God will be taken from you

And given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

 

What this Gospel conveys to us is that our confidence that we are “just”,

“fair”, “pious”, “good” does not make it so.

 

We may be delusional about how  accurate our “image” of ourselves really is.

Father Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, taught and spoke about the “false self”.  

Our “false self” is the “persona” or “person” we would like others to think we are. We might suspect, when we are honest,  that we are putting on a good imitation of the “ideal” me. In our heart of hearts we may know what we present is not always what is truly who and how we are.

Thomas Merton, invited others to discover their “true self” through prayer and contemplation.

The chief priests and elders at the time of Jesús  externally “acted” the part of just and pious agents of God but inwardly they were false, deceitful and took advantage of the people they were charged with serving by leading them.

Saint Paul gives us some insight today about what the “true self” is like once we have been “taken” into the Kingdom of God.  

In other words once we “empty ourselves” of selfishness, self seeking, self importance  we can be possessed by and possess the Kingdom of God.

Paul tells us when we empty ourselves  “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesús”.

I would like to conclude with the words Paul concluded with today:

“Keep on doing what you have learned and received…..

then the God of peace will be with you.”

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4 October 2017 Wednesday Twenty Sixth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

4 October 2017 Wednesday Twenty Sixth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Nehemiah 2:1-8

Psalm 137

Luke 9:57-62

 

Nehemiah goes to the KIng and is given permission to go to Judah.

 

Nehemiah wishes to restore the city since his ancestors are buried in the ruins of Jerusalem.

 

The King gives Nehemiah permission and he goes after the reconstruction project  with great eagerness.

 

“The journey” in Luke’s Gospel is focused on Jerusalem.  The city and Temple had been restored since the time of Nehemiah.

 

Going on the journey means following after Jesús.

 

One  person ask Jesús if he can follow him.

Jesús is clear about the journey’s rigorous aspects.

“…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

 

Jesús say “follow me” to one person and the person answers: “Let me go first and bury my father.”  Jesús reiterates the primacy of the journey. The Kingdom cannot wait.

 

Another person wants to say farewell to the family at home. Jesus declares we cannot be looking back if we wish to do the work of the Kingdom.

 

Francis Rother and Francis of Assisi and Francis of Rome did and do not look  back.

Their concerns were and are living and proclaiming the Kingdom.

 

Are we able to join them?

 

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27 September 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

27 September 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Ezra 9:5-9

Psalm Tobit 13:2-3,4.7-8

Luke 9:1-6

 

The “remnant” theme is one that reminds the people that God’s mercy comes to his people even in times of exile and sinfulness.  

God even “turned the good will of the Persians” toward God’s people.

With the help of the Persian kings the temple is restored and God’s protection is given to Judah and Jerusalem.

 

Jesús sends the disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Jesús wants the disciples to go without “baggage”.

The mission must be undertaken with trust only in the Lord.

Rejection is to be recognized and the disciples are to move on to another town.

The disciples have two tasks:

They proclaim the good news and

Cure diseases everywhere.

We share in this work of proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom and

the healing of diseases.

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20 September 2017 Wednesday Twenty Fourth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

20 September 2017 Wednesday Twenty Fourth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

First Timothy 3:14-16

Psalm 111

Luke 7:31-35

 

Paul wishes to reassure Timothy, even if he is delayed in visiting him, that the centrality of Christian conduct in the church of Ephesus is necessary.

This “living in Christ” is the only way to demonstrate the importance of Christ in the life of a person who follows Christ.

It appears that Paul borrows an early Christian hymn when he speaks of Christ reflecting the flesh- spirit contrast, the being seen- proclaimed, the contrast of the world- glory of the resurrection.

 

Jesús encounters various responses to his asceticism compared to that of John the Baptizer.

John was an ascetic who was responded to by being accused of being possessed.
Jesús’ less strict asceticism opens him to the accusation of being a “glutton and drunkard”.

Jesús knows both he and John follow the wisdom of God. John’s asceticism prepares for  Jesús who is the One who is to come, the One who fulfills the law and the prophets.

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