Homilette for january 2, 2008

Wednesday, Memorial of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory
Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church

(John 1: 19-28)

Today the Church recognizes two holy theologians, Basil (called “the Great”) and Gregory Nazianzen. It honors them together not just because they were contemporaries but also because they were close friends. It seems as if the Church wants us to begin the New Year with a reflection on friendship.

Gregory Nazianzen once preached about his friendship with Basil. He said that both came to Athens as students where they competed with one another to learn as much as possible. But, he went on, their rivalry never resulted in envy over each other’s achievements; rather, out of love, each gladly yielded highest honors to the other.

Aristotle sees various levels of friendship. We like some people because they are useful for business purposes. We enjoy others for their good humor or interesting viewpoints. But we reserve our deepest love for virtuous people in whom we see reflections of ourselves. They possess the goodness that we wish to attain. More than that, they help us achieve virtue by their honest and caring conversation.

At the end of the Gospel According to John, Jesus tells his disciples that they are his friends. He loves them deeply and wants them to share in the unity which he enjoys with God. One worthwhile resolution for the New Year is to strive to better friends to our acquaintances and to seek a closer friendship with Jesus.

Homilette for January 1, 2008

The Octave Day of Christmas: the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

(Luke 2:16-21)

We call the first month of the year January after Janus, the pagan god of gates or doors. Statues of Janus have two heads like a door has two sides -- one looking backward and the other forward. Certainly in January we look in these two directions. We repeatedly refer to the old year, sometimes mistakenly writing it on checks. But as the month moves along, we think more of the possibilities lying in the year just begun.

The last verse of the gospel reading today similarly looks backward and forward. It says that Mary’s child “was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel...” The word of God spoken in the past has thus been fulfilled. The name Jesus, of course, means God saves. In the rest of the gospel we will hear how Jesus fulfills the destiny related in his name.

Preachers sometimes chide listeners, “Put Christ back into Christmas.” If this call means nothing else, it reminds us that we are to look both backward and forward when contemplating Jesus in the manger. He, like all babies, has delighted us with his soft flesh and warm blood. In the future he will reveal his glory as the son of God with his triumph over sin and death.

Homilette for January 31, 2007

Monday, the Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

(John 1:1-18)

Some people may find it curious that the Church ends the calendar year with a reading from the beginning of one of the gospels. However, those who remember the so-called Tridentine Mass will recognize the passage as the “last gospel.” It is read at the closing of every mass celebrated according to the Tridentine rubrics.

The passage itself summarizes the story the whole gospel is about to tell. The Word of God, Jesus the Christ, existed before creation began and is the source of all creation. Although he is one with God, he came to live with humans so that we might share in the life of God. But like coyotes returning to their dens at sunrise, humans often reject the light of Christ. To those who brave the embarrassment of having their sins exposed, however, Christ confers the grace to repent and be forgiven.

Today is a choice day for going to confession. We want to end the old year reconciled for the mistakes we have made. And we want to begin the new year with a resolve to live in accord with the light of Christ.

Homilette for December 28, 2007

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

(Matthew 2:13-18)

In Europe you might find your car’s tires without any air today. Or perhaps there will be three unordered pizzas delivered to your door. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is Europe’s equivalent to the American April Fools Day. It is a time to play practical jokes on good-natured people.

We may be shocked by the European frivolity on a day that memorializes the slaughter of children. But perhaps Holy Innocents Day jokesters just take to heart the belief that the infants have gone to God. “So why not rejoice?” they might ask. Somehow, however, that is just too casual an attitude. It does not recoil at the grotesque injustice of the blood of children. It would mock, for example, the outrage at a public policy which permits abortion on demand. It also begs the question: why live at all?

All Catholics born before Vatican II should easily recite the answer to this last question. We live to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with him in the next. If this is so, the tragedy of children dying is the irreversible condition of their minds being wasted. Dead children cannot come to know God very well. Yes, they should receive the beatific vision. And there might be something marvelous about seeing God through children’s eyes. But just as the art connoisseur will appreciate aspects of a Rubens painting that completely escape the uncultured so growing in wisdom should make us more enthralled at God’s glory. It is good to grow old then if we accordingly grow in wisdom. Reciprocally, it is a tragedy when one dies young.

Homilette for December 27, 2007

Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

(I John 1:1-4)

Once a disillusioned pilgrim to Bethlehem returned home lamenting the conditions he encountered. Not only was there strife between Jews and Arabs, but hawkers constantly besieged him with their trinkets. The situation in the Holy Land, the pilgrim concluded, has certainly deteriorated since Christ’s time.

Although the Gospel of Luke depicts a tranquil setting for Jesus’ birth, there is much evidence in the New Testament of conflict. In John’s gospel Jesus conducts a running debate with the Jews who try to kill him. The Letters of John report a feud between the community of the beloved disciple and a secessionist group who apparently believed that morals do not matter. We can add to the evidence that strife abounded in New Testament times all we know from history about the Roman occupation and Jewish liberation efforts.

In spite of all this conflict, the writer of the First Letter of John offers a testimony of hope. Much more than a vision, the testimony involves a real human being – one looked upon with his eyes, heard with his ears, and touched with his hands. He is saying that in the midst of the turmoil, Jesus, the Word of life, has promised everlasting life to his followers. For those who follow Jesus’ commands – not just that of love in the gospel but also what the Spirit since Jesus’ ascension – he will give an eternal reward. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we should be asking ourselves if we have been true to the Word of life.

Homilette for December 26, 2007

Wednesday, Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-martyr

(Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59)

The play Murder in the Cathedral tells the story of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. Half-way through the play, the archbishop delivers his Christmas sermon. He tells the congregation that in the Christmas mass not only the birth of Jesus but also his passion and death are remembered. This dual remembrance indicates that the Christian life is neither pure joy nor pure sorrow. We live both on every occasion. Thomas goes on to ask, “Is it an accident … that the day of the first martyr follows immediately the day of the Birth of Christ?” No, the Church deliberately places the martyrdom of Stephen on the day after Christmas to temper our celebration. We must keep in mind the dual sentiment of Christian life.

Unless people think that the dual sentiment is solely the invention of the Medieval Church, we can point to the same duality in both Luke’s and Matthew’s Nativity accounts. In Luke after Jesus is born his parents take him to the Temple where the holy man Simeon makes the foreboding prophecy that Jesus will be a sign to be contradicted. In other words, Jesus’ enemies will do him in. In Matthew the horror is more obvious. Jesus’ birth occasions the jealousy of King Herod. To eliminate his rival Herod has all male infants of the area two years and under murdered.

We must take to heart the traverse sentiments of Christian life. Our happiest celebrations like a dear friend’s birthday should not ignore the fact that fellow humans are suffering often dire need. Similarly, our most intolerable burdens like the loss of a loved one should not go without faith in Christ’s victory over sin and death. Christians are neither rosy-eyed optimists nor unrelenting pessimists. No, we live both the death and the resurrection of the Lord deep in our hearts everyday.

Homilette for Decembe 25, 2007

Christmas Day

(Lk 2: 15-20)

Christmas may be fulfilling or disillusioning depending on how we respond to the occasion. God provides us a golden opportunity. With the supreme gesture of goodwill, He sends His son to us. What are we going to make of it? In the gospel this morning we find three groups of people all reacting differently to God’s offer. The shepherds hear the favorable news, investigate the claim, and recognize their savior. They represent the people who really do appreciate the value of God’s gift. They are much like us at mass this morning. We know that our Savior has come and we must follow him by letting go of our own troubles to serve others. We will do this for awhile and perhaps make it through New Year’s without becoming overly perturbed. But then, we will be sorely tempted to cuss the old man driving slowly or the young woman speeding between job and family.

The second group we meet in the gospel passage are those whom the shepherds tell of all that they have heard and seen. These people are said to be amazed by what they are told. But this, even in biblical times, means little. Many in the Gospel are amazed by Jesus’ miracles but fail to respond with true discipleship. Their faith has little root like, perhaps, the majority of people celebrating Christmas. They buy and buy, party and party. But somehow the motive behind the celebration gets lost. Is it not telling that on the day after Christmas radio stations stop playing Christmas carols, department store decor changes, and tinseled trees wind up in empty lots? Christ, the prince of peace, the savior of the world, has precious little practical effect on this lot.

The third group in the Gospel story is actually just one person. Mary is said to reflect on the events of Jesus’ birth in her heart. She is the model Christian who not only hears but also meditates on the word of God. In Luke’s gospel she also is pictured as putting that word into action. We find people like Mary running to Elizabeth when the angel tells her that her cousin is pregnant. She gives us a model of how to live out our discipleship of Christ. The young bachelor who teaches catechism even though the majority of catechists are married women with children is acting on God’s word. Also, the elderly woman who on Sundays cooks for her family, listens to the problems of her neighbors, and prepares the monitions and intercessory prayers for Mass clings to God’s word like Mary.

Homilette for December 24, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

(Luke 2:67-79)

A boy returned home from school recently to tell his grandmother that Jesus was not born in December but in March. The date, he explained, was changed for commercial reasons. It is likely that the lad is partly right. No one today knows exactly when Jesus was born. It may have been during the month of March or any of the other months.

The indications that the gospels give regarding a Jesus’ birthday – a census decreed by Caesar Augustus and a strangely moving star – appear to be more theological than historical markers. The Church (not Macy’s) placed the date at the end of December because this too conforms to what we believe about Christ. As Zechariah refers to him in the gospel this morning, Jesus is “the dawn...that shine(s) on those in darkness and the valley of death and guide(s) our feet into the way of peace.” In other words, Jesus is like the sun that appears every morning and especially like the sun of late December that reverses, in the northern hemisphere at least, the trend of decreasing daylight throughout summer and fall.

Comparing Jesus to the sun helps us appreciate his significance. Just as the sun provides heat and light so that we may live naturally so Jesus provides us love and truth so that we might have a relationship with God. Without Jesus our love would be like a firecracker that sparkles for a moment and then fizzles until it becomes cold ash. Without Jesus we would wander in the darkness of sin choosing to do, like a dog feasting on rotten meat, what can harm us. The date on which Jesus was born is not important. What is important – indeed absolutely necessary – is that Jesus is with us.

Homilette for December 21, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

(Luke 1:39-45)

In October of 1964, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta when the news reported that he would receive that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The archbishop of Atlanta, Paul Hallinan, took advantage of his stay in a Catholic hospital to personally visit the newly named laureate. He congratulated King for the honor and asked if he might give him his blessing. The great peacemaker readily accepted the offer. Upon finishing the sign of the cross, the archbishop sank to his knees begging Dr. King’s blessing in return.

This meeting between the two religious leaders resembles the movement in the gospel today. The elderly woman gives a blessing to her young counterpart. But it was not the press that informed Elizabeth of Mary’s distinction as mother of God, however. No, it was the divine interplay between the Messiah in Mary’s womb and the prophet in leaping in her own that tipped Elizabeth off. Mary then issues her own blessing, not on Elizabeth but on the Lord who has honored her so graciously.

We might suspend our seasonal activities for a few minutes to meditate on the divine player in this gospel. Who is he whose birth we are about to celebrate? Jesus, son of Mary, claimed by us Christians to be son of God as well. Sure, but what does all this mean? The appropriate clues to answer these questions may be found in the antiphons that we use before the gospel the eight days before Christmas. These are the same as the verses to the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He is the Wisdom that makes sense of our lives. He is the Radiant Dawn and Sun of Justice that illumine the way to salvation. Reflecting on these antiphons, we know why John leaps for joy when Jesus approaches.

Homilette for December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

(Luke 1:26-38)

It is said that a military commander may not send troops on a “suicide mission” without their consent. A society can conscript a person into the army as a matter of the common good. Also, the common good may dictate that the military then order the conscripted soldier to battle with the possibility, but not the surety, that he or, we should add, she may die in action. If, however, there is near certainty that the soldier will be killed, the military should obtain his (her) permission because soldiers are enlisted to give their service not their lives.

In this gospel of the annunciation, God gives to the Virgin Mary a similar prerogative to withdraw from his plan of salvation. Although the passage uses the declarative mode “you will...,” the angel waits for her consent. She is free to refuse to cooperate with the heretofore unheard of plan of conceiving by the Holy Spirit to give Israel its long-awaited Messiah. In a famous homily, the great medieval preacher St. Bernard of Clairveaux pictures the world hanging on Mary’s word. Of course, she expresses her willingness to set in process the Incarnation.

As God does not force Mary to participate in His plan, He does not force salvation on us. We are free to accept or reject it. Although it is an entirely free and gratuitous gift, it does involve some effort. We have to heed the words of Mary’s baby Jesus when he grows up. But his commands are not so much burdensome as they are liberating. We may think of them as directions from MapQuest. They provide us the best possible way to get us to where we want to go.

Homilette for December 19, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

(Luke 1:5-25)

It is said that for Jews the first commandment is not: “Thou shalt have no strange gods before me,” or even: “Love God with all your heart…” No, their first commandment comes from the initial words God speaks to humans. In Genesis 1:22, God tells them, “Be fruitful and multiply.” We can thus appreciate the disappointment of Zechariah and Elizabeth – two people recognized as God-fearing -- in never having given birth. Probably, there were some less edifying reasons for their feeling “disgrace.” People might have snickered at them as somehow inadequate in sexual relations. Perhaps, also, they might have wanted a child just to bear their name, to take up their profession, and to take them to see their doctors.

We can speculate a bit on how the couple felt when they saw John grow up. He evidently did not take up his father’s priesthood. But more peculiar, surely, was his moving to the desert to live on a diet of locusts and honey. Is this just another example of a kid failing to live up to his parents’ expectations? But all this goes way beyond Luke’s purpose in narrating the story of the holy couple.

Luke punctuates the fact that Zechariah seeks a sign from the angel who bore the news of his son’s unlikely conception. The evangelist reminds us here of the people in the gospel seeking a sign from Jesus. They were not sure that they could trust him even after he demonstrates his divine authority time and again. What God calls forth from Zechariah -- and from us as well -- is trust. He gives his word to Zechariah that Elizabeth is going to bear him a child. “Enough; believe it, Zechariah, and give praise to God,” a wise person would admonish the priest. Jesus speaks similarly to us. “Prepare for my return.” He tells us in the early days of Advent. And so we are to practice his virtues without grumbling. We are to care for the needy, to pray for those who would persecute us, and to thank God continuously for everything we have.

Homilette for December 18, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

(Jeremiah 23:5-8)

Listening to the children of the poor, we may receive an entirely new concept of “Christmas gift.” Once, a missionary went to the highlands of Honduras to celebrate mass on the night after Christmas Day. Arriving early in the evening, he attended the meeting of the youth group. The group’s leader asked the missionary to say something. He only inquired about the children’s Christmas gifts. But the children didn’t seem to understand. Rather than describe any toy or clothing they might have received, they only mentioned how they would be more obedient and prayerful. Then the priest realized that he was the one who lacked comprehension. The children’s parents were too destitute to provide material gifts for them. “Christmas gifts” were what they all did to show Jesus how much they love him.

In the reading today from Jeremiah, the prophet provides us with a similarly new concept of “the Promised Land.” He foretells all the descendants of Israel taking up residence on their own rightful land. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by giving us, the new Israelites because of our relationship with him, the Promised Land. But the lot that Jesus has in mind is not real estate in the State of Israel. No, Jesus will provide a place in heaven for those who are keep his commandments.

This promise of heaven may sound like a shady deal. But I suspect that the more chastened among us will gladly take it. We realize that those Honduran highlander children have better Christmas gifts than kids receiving the latest Nintendo issue. We also believe that a share in heaven, which begins with true love in this life, is better than any place on earth.

Homilette for December 17, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

(Matthew 1:1-17)

On first seeing the genealogy in the Gospel either of Matthew or of Luke, we want to skip through the list. “What importance can they add to our understanding of Jesus?” we ask ourselves. “Much more than a normal person imagines,” is a just answer to our question. The two lists differ in places so it seems impossible that they both are historically accurate. But each relates important truths that the Church holds concerning Jesus and that has become part of our faith. They are like DNA codes that reveal something of a person’s innate character.

Since the gospel today relates Matthew’s genealogy we will limit our focus to its contents. Obviously, the list tells us that Jesus is indeed the son of David, the great king of Israel, and also the son of Abraham, to whom God made the promise of a blessing to all nations. Jesus is, we may say, the royal Messiah whom has God has sent to save the human race.

The list conveys a sense of the world’s readiness for salvation as it divides Jesus’ ancestors in three groups of fourteen generations. Matthew uses the convention of lists of seven or fourteen (two times seven) to give a sense of fulfillment, as seven is a full week and is said to signify perfection. Jesus represents the conclusion of three sets of fourteen, the conclusion of history. As the Christ, Jesus also ushers in a new age of grace.

Finally, the series refers to five women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (“the wife of Uriah”), and Mary, the mother of Jesus. These remarkable women show how God works in unexpected even, given the truth of the virgin birth, unheard of ways to accomplish His ends.

Today we begin the final part of Advent, the immediate preparation for Christmas. We notice in the gospel acclamation the first of the great “O” antiphons which Israel used as titles for the Messiah and we adopt to call upon the Lord. Now more than ever we should take time from the hustle-bustle of the season to meditate. “Why do I need a savior?” each of us needs to ask. we might also contemplate, “How does the `wisdom of the ages’ (from today gospel acclamation) respond to my need?”

Homilette for December 14, 2007

Friday, II Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

(Matthew 11:16-19)

In an illustration of a Bible drawn when Bibles were laboriously copied by hand and illustrated with gold leaf, the angels are announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds around Bethlehem. Most of the shepherds are listening to the message, but in the corner two -- a young man and his maiden -- are merrily dancing off. The illustration forthrightly depicts what we know by experience -- the good news is intended for all but some choose not to heed it.

In the gospel today Jesus expresses his frustration with those who deliberately ignore the gospel. He says that it has been preached in varied tones – the sternness of John the Baptist and the festiveness of himself; still, most of those in his generation find objection to it. Could it be that the idea of a God who is so close to us – nearer to us than we are to ourselves, says St. Augustine – is too much for these people to bear? Apparently for them life is easier to deal with if God would be distant and not so caring.

In less than two weeks now we will be celebrating the feast of God’s closeness. More than anything Christmas tells us how much God loves us – so much that He gives up His place in the heavens, as it were, to accompany us in our need. Our response must only be one of attentiveness to what He has to say. Like Mary in Luke’s portrayal of the Christmas story, we have to meditate on the events “reflecting on them in (our) heart(s).”

Homilette for December 13, 2007

Thursday, II Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

(Matthew 11:11-15)

When I suggested that the pious elderly Italian woman might enjoy some spiritual reading, she dropped her head in sadness. Then she confessed that she only went to school for a couple of years and never learned to read well. Most of the world is fortunate to have at least a basic education. We might not read much but we have been taught to read well enough. Likewise we are privileged to live in this era when one can count on growing old. Medicine and hygiene have inverted the average age of death over the last hundred years. In 1900 people died on the average at forty-seven years; in 2000, that number was seventy-four.

If we count our blessings in this way, we can understand why Jesus calls “the least in the kingdom of heaven” greater than John the Baptist. The “least in the kingdom” refers to his disciples, not limited to the inner twelve but all who follow him, including ourselves. We are blessed in a way that John wasn’t because we have experienced the fullness of the Kingdom in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Of course, we were not there to witness these events but the graces that have flowed from them have been manifested in achievements of Christianity from the apostolic community’s holding everything in common to the sister’s of Mother Teresa picking dying people off the streets this morning.

Although John did not witness the Kingdom in its fullness and could not appreciate the love of God that it brought, he was very aware of the effort that it demands. His constant message was repentance. We must change our sinful ways if we are to benefit from the Kingdom’s riches. John is the central figure of these middle weeks of Advent because he reminds us that the king who is to come will require sacrifice of his subjects as he transmits to them the fullness of life.

Homilette for December 12, 2007

Wednesday, The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Luke 1:39-48) – an alternate reading

It is no secret that most women want to have children. Although it is a small embarrassment, it is also true that women prefer to have male children. So Elizabeth’s greeting Mary with the words, “Most blessed are you,” should not be unexpected. Of course, only an inspired woman could have interpreted the jumping of the baby in her womb as the recognition of the presence of the Messiah in the womb of another. God has indeed blessed Mary enormously, but this fact alone does not make her what we believe her to be.

Later on in the gospel a woman calls out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus’ replies significantly, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28). Jesus is not slighting his mother here. He knows better than anyone how Mary has always acted graciously on God’s word. For this reason she hurries to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth when the angel informs her that the latter is with child. The inspired Elizabeth recognizes this truth as well when she tells Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

We find Mary acting on the word of God when she meets the Indian Juan Diego hurrying to mass in Mexico City. The Virgin orders Juan Diego to tell the bishop that a church must be built on the site outside the city. Mary is displaying God’s love for the poor, defeated Indians by conveying the mandate that their conquerors assist the native people where they live. In the gospel reading, Mary praises God for this same compassion when she responds to Elizabeth, “...He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness.”

Poverty, experts say, is relative. Today’s poor, usually with food sufficiency, are better off and fewer in proportion than the poor of a century ago. Also, even the wealthy sometimes are worrisome and miserable – qualities that we associate with destitution. Having desires that leap past our means, we are all poor in a way. It is precisely here that God shows His compassion. He sends His son Jesus Christ not just to share our human nature but to lift us up to His divine one. Guadalupe’s message to Juan is meant for all of us. God loves us and acts to meet our needs.

Homilette for Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday, II Week of Advent

(Isaiah 40:1-11, Matthew 18:12-14)

When God calls the prophet to comfort His people, He is referring to the many exiled Jews in Babylonia. After the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah, they carried off a portion of the population to what is now eastern Iraq. There the people languished many years until God sent a liberator in the person of Cyrus of Persia.

Like the Jews in Babylon, forty-five million people today live outside their native areas because of violence or threats of violence, according to the United Nations. Fourteen million of these are bona fide refugees residing outside their native lands and twenty-one million are internally displaced persons dwelling away from their homes but still in their countries of origin. We may know refugee families in our neighborhoods who have a house and access to social services. Most displaced people are not so fortunate. Many reside in camps which provide little opportunity for productive lives.

Perhaps we know another kind of refugee. In wealthy countries like the United States many men, women and children live on the streets. Perhaps drugs alienated some of them from their families. Maybe not having grown up in a conducive environment allowed many of them minimal education so that many are virtually unemployable. These people too are included in God’s call of comfort.

Jesus answers God’s call when he brings comfort to the nations living under the captivity of sin. In the gospel today he instructs his disciples to search out still another kind of displaced person. He wants them to bring back Christians who have strayed from the practice of the faith. We too should assist former Catholics return to church by our example, prayer, and encouragement. Just as important we could support relief efforts to the many refugees and displaced persons in the world. And we should not neglect the street people in our communities often struggling to survive.

Homilette for Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday, II Week of Advent

(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)

Once I went to a party where no liquor was served. I felt a little disappointed because I was looking forward to relaxing with a glass of wine or bottle of beer. Then I was told the motive of celebration. My friend Bill, as gracious a man and loving a father as one could find, was celebrating his sobriety. Fifteen years to the day, Bill gave up drinking and never looked back.

Of course, drinking in itself is not bad. Nor can alcoholics be accused of sin for every drink they take. As Alcoholics Anonymous teaches, compulsive drinking is a disease that diminishes moral responsibility. But at some point alcoholics must take responsibility for their actions under intoxication. When alcoholics repeatedly become careless on the job and abusive at home after drinking, they must stop committing what for them has become a serious sin. Then their refraining from sin becomes the source of their total healing.

In the gospel Jesus forgives the sin of the paralytic as the first step to his total healing. As Jesus hints, his saving of the man’s soul is an even greater claim to his being the Messiah than his healing of the man’s lameness. But to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah as well, Jesus makes the lame man “leap like a stag.”

Jesus comes to save all of us from our sins. He brings forgiveness when we repent and confess our wrongdoing. As we turn away from our vices – whether obvious ones like drinking too much or more subtle ones like looking at others as objects of desire – Jesus will provide us the grace to live, like my friend Bill, gracious and loving lives.

Homily for December 8, 2007

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Luke 1:26-28)

What makes Mary so great? Is it that she has eyes of blue and wears dresses of gold? No, we know that these features are only products of our imagination and, in any case, accidentals. Then is it because Mary is the mother of Jesus that makes her stand out among all the people of history? Not really. Listen to how Jesus responds when someone cries out to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” “Rather,” Jesus responds, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

That’s it! Mary’s greatness lies precisely in her listening to the word of God and putting it into practice. In the gospel passage today, God sends Mary a message though the archangel Gabriel. Mary listens carefully asking questions of clarification. “Why does he call me ‘full of grace’?” she seems to be asking herself. “How can this be, since I have nor relations with a man?” she queries God’s messenger.

Even more importantly Mary acts on the word of God. She consents to what the angel says will happen to her. And in the verse following the present passage Mary sets out to visit her relative Elizabeth who, Gabriel tells her, is about to give birth.

How can she do otherwise, cynics among us might ask, if she herself was immaculately conceived? But Mary’s preservation from original sin is not completely different from our salvation from sin through Baptism. They both proceed from the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection. She, like the rest of us, must choose whether or not she will do what God asks of her, whether or not she will follow her son Jesus.

Of course, she follows God’s will. By saying “yes” to the angel Mary becomes the first disciple of the New Testament. Our response to her fulfilling the word of God should not be so much praise of Mary as imitation of her. We too must carefully listen to the word of God and put it into practice. In these initial days of Advent the message is quite clear. We are to prepare for Christ by converting from the vices we indulge in. How do we sin? Perhaps by lying for convenience? Or maybe we look on others as inferiors made for our satisfaction? Or we may simply fail at generosity? Now is the time to rid ourselves of these bad habits.

We used to repeat frequently all the titles given to Mary through the centuries. “Seat of wisdom,” we called her, and “refuge for sinners.” We might add to the litany “first disciple.” She is Jesus’ first and, we can say, foremost disciple. Especially during Advent we would do well to imitate her by dispelling our vices. We would do well to dispel our vices.

Homilette for Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday, The Memorial of St. Ambrose

(Isaiah 29:17-24, Matthew 9:27-31)

In explaining why they think random evolution is an adequate theory for explaining the complexity of life, intelligent design advocates often point to an eye. They say that such an intricate organ is not likely to come about by chance no matter if it had a zillion years to develop. The eye’s sight is not only wonderful, it is also useful. For this reason the blind men of the gospel passage are obviously asking Jesus to allow them to see when they cry for pity.

The two men lack physical sight, but they possess faith which is another way of seeing. The men may have heard that Jesus is in the line of David, which is only a fact of heredity. More significantly, they believe that he is the son of David whom God has chosen to restore His people to the glory that Isaiah predicts in the first reading. He is the one who will open the ears of the deaf, restore sight to the blind, and bring release to prisoners. Jesus rewards the men’s faith in him with a super twenty-twenty vision. They see as well with their eyes as with their souls.

This Advent those of us who see well enough with our eyes might, like the blind men, beg Jesus for increased sight of faith. We want to look to him as the one who will save us from all that threatens us. Also, we need faith so that we might never be blind to the inviolable dignity of every human being. We do not want anger or prejudice that rises in us at times against individuals and groups to ruin our respect for them.

Homilette for Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday, I Week of Advent

(Matthew 5:21.24-27)

The gospel passage today ends Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount.” The evangelist Matthew has pictured Jesus as the great lawgiver surpassing even Moses. The new morality which Jesus has just taught forms the basis of a righteous people who will shine as brightly as New York at night.

Jesus’ new morality judges the Old Law not so much defective as deficient. Simply trying to conform to the set of ideals prescribed in the Old Law, the people will always fall short of the mark. They need internal refortification even more than external norms if they are to standout as righteous. To supply what is lacking Jesus infuses us with the Holy Spirit’s compassionate love. We might compare the development to the building of modern skyscrapers. Previous ages knew multi-storied buildings but only with the use of a steel framework could the super-tall highrises that characterize the famous constructions of the twentieth century be built.

For some of us the word righteous does not settle well. We hear it as self-righteous which is not what Jesus has in mind. Once again, it is his Holy Spirit that Jesus infuses within us that provides the new righteousness. During Advent we turn up our antenna for opportunities to express this new righteousness emanating from within. There are always needy people to assist. There are always people surrounding us to encourage. We can be sure that our expressions of compassionate love in Advent will result in our overwhelming joy at the Lord’s coming.

Homilette for Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wednesday, I Week of Advent

(Isaiah 25:6-10, Matthew 15:29-37)

Some day take note of the mass readings during ordinary time. You will almost always find divergent ideas in the first reading and the gospel. The two were not selected for their correspondence but to give us exposure to different expressions of Scripture.

Uncoordinated mass readings are not found during Advent, however. During this season the first reading always anticipates the gospel selection. Together they show how God’s promise to Israel was fulfilled with the coming of Christ. Today, for example, we hear from the prophet Isaiah how God will prepare a banquet for all nations which will exalt lowly Israel for keeping faith. In the gospel passage Jesus, symbolically at least, does just that. First, he assists those who are usually left out – the blind and the lame. And then he feeds the whole crowd large portions of bread and fish.

We can always count on God to keep His promises. Because Christ has promised to return with salvation for his faithful, we ready ourselves to receive him during the season of Advent. In a sense it is like an emergency drill. We prepare ourselves for an eventuality so that when it takes place, we will know what to do. But in the case of Advent the preparations themselves convey many blessings. Garrison Keillor tells a story that illustrates what I mean here. In the rural Minnesota town where he grew up, a zealous principal once assigned houses in town to all the schoolchildren from the country in case a snowstorm ever prohibited buses from taking them home. Keillor himself remembered the house to which he was assigned because of the statue of the Blessed Virgin on its front lawn. One afternoon with nothing to do, he went to meet the family of the house. He introduced himself to the woman at the door simply as her “snow child.” The woman asked him in and to sit down while she called her husband. In the meantime, she brought him cookies and milk.

As Minnesotans in winter are sure to get heavy snow, we can be sure of Christ’s eventual return in glory. Just like them we prepare for the day in the season of Advent. And again like the child Garrison Keillor, in our preparation we experience a moment of grace. Something happens that will be a sure sign of God’s love.

Homilette for Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday, I Week of Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10, Luke 10:21-24)

The fact that secular historians at the time virtually ignored Jesus Christ causes a bit of embarrassment to Christians. After all, we must ask, how could people not take interest in such an extraordinary event as the resurrection?

However, beyond the first centuries of Christianity, the world did take notice. Historians began to measure time in two great epochs: “before Christ” (B.C.) and “in the year of the Lord,” which is the English translation of the Latin anno domini (A.D.). True, many writers today out of deference to non-Christians use “before the Common Era (B.C.E.) and “in the Common Era” (C.E.). But such a distinction only underscores the universal knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel today Jesus openly acknowledges his relationship with God. He is the son of the One who abides outside His own creation but maintains the dominant role in it. The learned, Jesus adds, cannot see this perhaps because the compassion that would allow anyone to offer his son to the world to be manhandled is beyond human reckoning. Jesus also intimates, however, that simple people do not notice the scandal and accept gratefully the presence of God’s anointed one in their midst.

Even though people know that time is generally portrayed with reference to Christ, some may not be aware of the unimaginable love which he came to reveal. Our role as Christians then is to testify to that love by our actions. Isaiah predicted the coming of Christ by a remarkable peace among natural enemies – wolves and lambs, lions and calves, cobras and babies. Our lives should witness to him by a similar goodwill to those whom others are leery of. We speak to the troubled and welcome the stranger. In these ways we let the world take notice of God’s love in Christ.

Homilette for Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier

(Isaiah 4:2-6, Psalm 122, Matthew 8:5-11)

During Advent we are to wait patiently and purposefully but also with anticipation for the coming of the Lord. Because many busy themselves in commerce and revelry, it is hard to appreciate the import of these adverbs.

We wait patiently by reflecting on the significance of Christ’s coming. He will show himself to be what we have claimed all along – the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and the Lord of history. All nations will recognize him as “Lord” as the centurion does in the gospel passage today.

Of course, we want to be regarded as his faithful subjects. Thus, we purposefully follow his commands day-by-day. Isaiah the prophet envisions those who remain faithful to God’s law being distinguished as “holy” like the Lord Himself. Christians see that Law revised to become essentially the grace of the Holy Spirit enabling us to conform to Jesus’ inestimable charity. Certainly St. Francis Xavier demonstrated this Spirit enhanced love as he labored tirelessly for the salvation of souls.

Waiting with anticipation may seem to conflict with waiting patiently. After all, when we anticipate something, we are ready to see it come about now. But there is a congruency about the two terms. After twenty centuries it would only be natural for Christians to give up the wait. We might conclude that Jesus erred when he said he would return or that we have mistaken his intent. However, his “com(ing) again in glory” is an article of faith that we cannot dismiss. So we tune up our ears and enlarge our radar screens to discern how exactly Jesus comes among us today, although not yet in full splendor. This uplifting creates an anticipation in us much like the holy people ready to enter Jerusalem in the responsorial psalm.

Homilette for Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday, the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

(Matthew 4:18-22)

Although we know very little about St. Andrew, Christians remember the date of his feast before that of any other apostle. November 30 is etched in our minds because of its closeness to the beginning of Advent. The feast does not really commence the season, but the Sunday nearest the date always is its beginning.

As Advent marks a new liturgical year, St. Andrew represents the newness of Jesus’ preaching. Andrew is considered to be the first disciple whom Jesus’ preaching attracts. Today’s gospel shows Jesus calling the fishermen Andrew and his brother Peter to follow him. They do so unreservedly by leaving their fishing nets “at once.” In John’s Gospel Jesus likewise encounters Andrew along with another man (not Peter) – both of whom are disciples of the Baptist. The two begin to follow Jesus when Jesus bids them to share his life. In both gospels Jesus precipitates a radical choice. His authority is totally irresistible like nothing ever before experienced.

The Church celebrates saints as models of the Christian life and as heavenly intercessors for our salvation. On this Feast of St. Andrew when we still await the beginning of Advent, we might keep in mind the twofold objective in a unique way. First, we might make the radical choice this year of contemplating during Advent the meaning of Jesus’ coming and not indulging in pre-Christmas revelry. Then we might pray to this saint, whom it is said suffered an agonizing death on an X-shaped cross, for the strength to see our decision through.

Homilette for Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday, XXXIV Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 21:20-28)

In 1960 when the first of the baby-boomers were growing up, the popular entertainer Pat Boone addressed himself to them. Twixt Twelve and Twenty was the title of both a song and a short book Boone wrote. In these works he gave sound advice for navigating these often difficult years between childhood and adulthood. The song asks whether teenagers are old enough to understand the devotion that love entails. Of course, it answers its question positively but also notes how faith and trust must accompany love to avoid calamity.

When Jesus speaks of “the times of the Gentiles” in the gospel, he is also referring to in between years. He sees the time of the Jews as passing away with the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, an event which takes place in the year 70. But we should not take this to mean that God has abandoned the Jews. Rather, Jesus’ envisions what his apostle Paul writes to the Romans: God has turned His attention to the Gentiles or non-Jews so that their conversion will move the Jews to also recognize Jesus as Lord.

In these in between years before the fulfillment of time with the coming of Jesus, we are also to love faithfully as Pat Boone suggests. When we truly care for others, we do not have to worry about getting mud on our faces from the difficulty of it all. Indeed, we can lift our heads high at the signs of Christ’s coming because he means to save us.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday, XXXIV Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 21:12-19)

Non sequitur” is a Latin expression that means a conclusion does not follow from the evidence given. Listening carefully to Jesus in the gospel, we might think that “not a hair on your head will be destroyed” is a non sequitur from all that he says before about betrayal, trial, and execution. But Jesus has something else in mind when he adds the assurance about one’s coiffure. He means that we will have an eternal, glorified life when we give testimony to him in the world.

The passage helps us understand the crucial difference between optimism and hope. We may think that the two words are synonyms; that is, that they carry the same meaning. Although optimism and hope share a similar confidence in a positive outcome, the two words are distinct. Optimism is an attitude expecting every situation to turn out well. It overlooks the possibility of harm to find a solution to every problem and a remedy for every threat, largely because of the person’s upbeat disposition. Hope, in contrast, admits the possibility of suffering for awhile but sees deliverance, in the long run at least, outside the self in the person or thing in which the person hopes. Hope is not as self-reliant as optimism, nor is it so sure that relief is just an instant away.

In facing trials – whether persecution for the faith, debilitating sickness, or other threat to well-being – Christians hope in Jesus Christ. He promises to deliver us when we cling to him. The deliverance may not exclude our suffering, but in the end he will save us. Jesus’ promise is confirmed by his resurrection from the tomb.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday, XXXIV Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 21:5-11)

The poem “Ozymandias” tells the story of finding a statue of an ancient Egpytian king. The statue sits in the desert shattered from top to bottom. Ironically there is a sign on part of the statue informing its viewer that this is a representation of the mighty “king of kings” Ozymandias. The poem reminds the reader that the greatest works as well as the greatest people are all time-bound. They do not last for centuries, much less until the end of time.

In the gospel Jesus relates to us the same prophetic message. People gaze starry-eyed at the wonders of the Temple, but Jesus tells them not to be impressed. The Temple, he says, will fall as it indeed did barely a generation after his death. Jesus also warns his disciples not to follow unreservedly the great personages who may claim to be him or like him. These men and women will also pass away.

We Christians give our allegiance to God alone. As the psalms tell us, his law is eternal and so we follow it. Yes, we try to make of the earth the best possible place to live. But our purpose here is not to become complacent. No, we want a friendly environment in the world so that we might come to know and love God more.

Homilette for Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday, XXXIV Week of Ordinary Time

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20, Luke 21:1-4)

A friend, who has a doctorate in biology, enjoys telling me about the diet of Chinese peasants. He says that since they are dirt poor, Chinese peasants can afford little meat and dairy products. Rather, he explains, they mainly eat vegetables and receive the protein that their bodies require from beans and other legumes. My friend is convinced that the Chinese peasant diet is not inferior but significantly superior to richer, western diets. He says that the fats that we consume from eating meat not only threaten our hearts but also are related to cancer.

The results of the vegetable only experiment related in the first reading today, then, should not surprise us. Although the chamberlain believes that Daniel and his companions would be undernourished by a vegetarian diet, actually they eat more healthily than the others. But, of course, good nutrition is not the prophet’s point in relating this story. Probably he, like the chamberlain, considers the diet wanting nutritionally. He means to tell us that when we abide by the Lord’s will, things always work out better. We do not need to worry, as Jesus says, about what we eat and drink or about what clothes we wear when seek first God’s kingdom.

Jesus reaffirms this lesson in the gospel today. He praises the poor widow for her generosity which is precisely the virtue he has extolled throughout this Gospel According to Luke. Sometimes we think that we might ignore God’s will as expressed by Jesus in order to secure more of a desired good. Some people argue, for example, that it would be all right to take the life of a patient suffering from incurable cancer so that she does not suffer. But such an action would violate the sanctity of human life, one of the highest principles of God’s law. No, we go out of our way to comfort and console those in agony, but we never take their lives.

Homilette for Friday, November 24, 2007

Friday of the XXXIII Week of Ordinary Time

I Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59, Lucas 19:45-48

The first reading today describes the origins of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. Many people, especially in the United States, see this feast as a Jewish Christmas because it is celebrated around the same time of year. However, its significance to Jews seems as slight as a pencil in comparison to the meaning of Jesus’ birth to us.

As we might have heard yesterday if it were not Thanksgiving, the Maccabee family started a rebellion against the Seleucid (Syrian) kings. For years the foreigners had occupied Israel with relative peace until Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to the throne in 175 B.C. The new king tried to impose pagan customs on the people desecrating the Temple with an altar to Zeus. By 167 B.C. Mattathias Maccabeus and his sons had enough. They rallied faithful Jews behind them to oust the occupiers. In the passage today Mattathias’ son Judas leads the rededication of the Temple and declares an annual celebration which Jews observe today as Hanukkah.

In the gospel we find Jesus performing a vaguely similar cleansing of the Temple. The situation, of course, is very different but it is the same zeal for the holy that impels Jesus to drive out the vendors. Both readings remind us of the centrality of a consecrated place to worship. We might praise God anywhere and should pray wherever we find ourselves. But the Temple and synagogue for Jews and the church for Christians have a unique importance. They are the designated places of encounter with God hallowed by the prayers of our forbearers in many cases for ages. They testify to the truth that Judaism and Christianity are not fads but vibrant avenues of communication with the living God.

Homilette for Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Luke 17:11-19

Why is Jesus annoyed that the other nine lepers do not return to give him thanks? Can he not appreciate how their first reactions after being so completely marginalized might be jubilation, not thanksgiving? Since he healed ten, does he feel personally offended that all do not recognize his power? Or is there another, explanation, more characteristic of Jesus?

The fourth preface for weekdays provides an intriguing answer to these questions. The preface is the prayer of thanksgiving that the priest makes on behalf of the people at Mass just before the consecration of the bread and wine. One option of the many prefaces available uses these words: “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.” In the gospel Jesus is not upset because he is slighted by the nine lepers who do not return. Rather he is sorry that they do not take advantage of the gift that God extends by our giving thanks. Jesus reveals God’s inestimable gift when he tells the grateful leper, “...your faith has saved you.” As terrible a curse as leprosy is, it cannot compare to the oblivion of eternal perdition. The tenth leper has found his way to salvation, the greatest of God’s graces.

Today we pause to thank God’s for many gifts, but especially prosperity to our nation. Although salvation has a radically personal element, still the environment in which we find ourselves contributes to it. God has blessed Americans with universal education, an over-abundant food supply, and almost limitless opportunity to practice virtue while securing for ourselves and our families a good life. Like the good leper we seek our salvation as we turn to God in thanksgiving for all these blessings.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 19:11-28

In his Confessions St. Augustine asks, “What then is time?” He says that he knows what it is if no one asks, but when prompted to explain it, then a sufficient answer escapes him. In the gospel today, Jesus does not attempt to explain what time is. But he compares it to gold coins that a rich man might give to his servants to be invested shrewdly. Like the coins, time is not a gift and much less a luxury. Rather it is an article of trade that humans are to use for producing the tender care that is pleasing to God.

In Jesus’ parable, as we just heard, one servant returns the coin to his master with no interest at all. He has not squandered his time but has not taken advantage of it either. We can imagine him getting up in the morning, going to work, eating dinner and watching television before going to bed – a cycle that is repeated thousands of times in a long life. What we might find innocuous, God finds deplorable. He condemns the man’s life as worthless and sends him packing.

If the judgment sounds harsh, we should take note of the last line of the passage. Jesus is off to Jerusalem where he will lay down his life for our welfare. We must read this as more than preparing a place for us in eternity. It means also that he releases for us the graces to make much of our time. We too can follow his way of selfless love that restores sight to the blind and sets captives free. Such acts make life – the time we have – worth living.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday, XXXIII Week of Ordinary Time

II Maccabees 6:18-31

Our word scandal comes from the Greek skandalon meaning a trap or stumbling block. Scandals are moral potholes into which weaker individuals may fall and injure themselves. Certainly President Clinton’s indiscretions a decade ago left the impression for many in society that matrimonial infidelity is commonplace if not commendable. Similarly, the many instances of sexual abuse of minors involving Catholic clergy left many people distrustful of the value of the Church.

In the first reading today we find a counter-example. Eleazar, a ninety year old Jew, refuses to give scandal in order to strengthen those who might be inclined to compromise the integrity of their faith. Rather than leave the impression that he is eating pork, Eleazar rejects the idea that he substitute kosher meat for it. His stand will cost him his life but has distinguished his name in history as well as provided him a place of glory in heaven.

We look to the elderly as examples of what truly matters. They serve the critical function of reminding the rest of us that God counts above all and that we ought to love our neighbors as much as ourselves. In the upcoming holiday season they will hopefully show us again that our first obligation is to give thanks to God for all that we have. Then they should demonstrate how our caring presence to one another outshines diamonds that might be received in gifts.

Homilette for Monday, November 19, 2007

You will find homilettes for all weekdays from October 29 below. I hope that they assist your meditation on the Word of God. cm

Monday, XXXIII Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 18:35-43)

Faith, we sometimes say, is another way of seeing. Rather than perceiving color, faith ascertains the nature of spiritual realities. Faith is aware of a God who loves us. In the gospel today faith enables the blind man to recognize Jesus as the “Son of David” or, in other words, the long-awaited Savior. Indeed, this faith would have saved the blind man even if Jesus did not bless him with physical sight.

Determination characterizes the blind man almost as much as his faith. When the people rebuke him -- evidently for bothering Jesus -- he calls out all the louder. Only with this insistence does Jesus take notice of him. We might ask if the blind is actually making a pest of himself as many do when they wish to attract the intention of a famous personality. Evidently, however, Jesus does not think so as he treats favorably the man’s request.

The blind man immediately follows Jesus giving glory to God. That is, he becomes Jesus’ disciple. We can take him as a model disciple. His faith, determination, and also forthrightness to ask for what is helpful in service show us how we might better follow Jesus.

Homilette for Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday, XXXII Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 17:26-37)

There once was a rich man who wanted to defy those who claimed, “You can’t take it with you.” This rich man arranged that he be buried in his Cadillac. He might have gone out in style but he likely did not get very far. He should have heeded Jesus’ words presented in the gospel today.

The words have an ominous tone. When asked about where the Son of Man will be revealed, Jesus answers, “`Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.’” This line alone could chill the back of a polar bear. It means to say the separation of the good from the bad will happen everywhere, but that is not important. What is critical is that all take note of the message he has made throughout his ministry and repeats here: “`Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.’” Money invested in 401(k) plans will not save us when Jesus is revealed. Rather, if we have been generous with those in need, he will find us wherever we are.

Some perhaps have not taken notice of the words because, it seems, many generations have come and gone without Jesus being revealed. Yet every person’s death may just be that revelation. We certainly believe that God judges each of us at death. He will decide whether we have lived first and foremost for ourselves or whether we considered Him first and put ourselves a distant second.

Homilette for Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, bishop

(Wisdom 7:22b-8.1)

The poet T.S. Eliot in 1934 felt the anxiety that grips many in our Information Age. He wrote back then, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Wisdom tells how to live happier, more meaningful lives. Yet too many people today lack it as the multiple medical problems attest to even as medical knowledge has allowed us to live longer.

In the first reading the sage who wrote the Book of Wisdom finds twenty-one attributes of wisdom. The number is considered absolutely perfect because that it is the product of the perfect number (seven) and the number of divine attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence). Of these attributes he includes “loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil” – qualities that we might use to describe a wise person.

Such a person was St. Albert the Great. Although he lived in the thirteenth century, Albert was canonized in the twentieth as a patron for scientists. He performed scientific experiments and developed a system of classification for the plants and animals he studied. He also taught philosophy and theology, served as a diocesan bishop, and later advised kings and popes. Very significantly, he recognized and encouraged genius in his student St. Thomas Aquinas whom he later defended against charges of heresy. But he may be considered a saint because he was “loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil.”

Homilette for Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday, XXXII Week of Ordinary Time

(Wisdom 6:1-11)

During the Viet Nam War President Lyndon Johnson once was given a memo concerning the pros and cons of using tactical nuclear weapons. According to Johnson’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the memo stated that use of such weapons would move China to enter the war with its own nuclear weapons and so begin a full-fledged nuclear war. Rusk reported that the words popped out of the page to Johnson who as President of the United States felt responsibility for not just his country but the world.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us that princes and kings, and we can surely add presidents and prime ministers, should indeed feel grave responsibility for their actions. It emphasizes that the burdens of their offices will not exempt them from divine scrutiny but intensify judgment. The wisdom to which the reading refers is practical wisdom or prudence. Leaders of the people must develop the virtue of taking the timely measure for the good of all. Along with justice, prudence is a prerequisite for governing.

The Church recognizes the responsibility and the difficulties of civil leaders. Together with prayers for Church needs, the General Instructions for the Eucharist specify that the faithful pray for “public authorities and the salvation of the world” in the intercessions after the homily. Although we frequently think that we might perform better than our political leaders, we should pray for them more than envy their work.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday, XXXII Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

(Luke 17:7-10)

If the current generation of young adults expects instant gratification, it is not difficult to understand why few are willing to commit themselves to the Catholic Church. A recent survey of Catholics shows only 17 percent of those born between 1961 and 1978 and 0 percent of those born between 1979 and 1987 having a high church commitment. The reason for some of this lack this lack of commitment is that Christ asks much of his disciples, sometimes apparently no promising any reward at all. The gospel today makes it quite clear that Jesus does not pander to his followers. Expect to be told that you will have to wait at table, he tells them, after they come in tending the field.

Why then does anyone bother to follow him? Of course, we hold in our hearts the promise of eternal life. The wise person realizes that this hope trumps instant gratification any day. Perhaps though our reason involves coming to know the person we serve. Expert university professors, although demanding much work, often have their classrooms overfilled. When students know that they will learn deeply, they do not mind working especially hard. So we follow Jesus who teaches us deeply, who promises eternal life, and who helps us all along the way.

Homilette for Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday, XXXII Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, bishop and martyr

(Luke 17:1-6)

Jesus is not only addressing his apostles in the gospel passage today. His words touch all people with responsibilities for others. Parents, teachers, supervisors, government servants, military officers should take notice.

Those in leadership must never give scandal since the penalty they will pay would drown a Navy frogman. The apostles, who will become heads of local churches, already feel the weight of their selection and ask Jesus for more faith. They sound like teachers seeking a raise because we entrust them with our children. Teachers may deserve an annual increase, but Jesus assures the Twelve that they have enough faith. Even if it appears small, their faith can produce an orchard of fruit!

We share the apostles’ burden. We feel that our faith is insufficient to carry out our responsibilities when God does not immediately meet our needs. The recent revelations about Mother Teresa might give us courage. The world has come to know that Mother Teresa experienced the darkness, dryness, and depression of grave doubt. Yet every morning before the sun came up she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. During the day she went into the streets of Calcutta to tend to the humblest of people. Fortunately, few of us know the bleakness that plagued Mother Teresa. Nevertheless, we would do well to imitate her habit of prayer and care for the needy.

Homilette for Friday, November 9, 2007

You can find homilettes for weekdays between October 29 and today below.

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

(John 2:13-22)

Today’s feast, the Dedication of St. John Lateran, is somewhat of an anomaly. That is, it is somewhat unusual. We seldom celebrate the anniversaries of churches. But the Lateran Basilica, as it is called, is also known as the “mother church of Christendom” or “the pope’s church.” In celebrating it we celebrate all Christian churches.

Today’s gospel shows Jesus driving money-changers from the Temple area. Speaking of anomalies, we see Jesus in this scene, which is repeated in each of the four gospels, using force. We should not conclude that he regularly resorted to arms or that he would tolerate their employment as much as our society does. Jesus remains the Prince of Peace who warned us that the one who “lives by the sword dies by the sword” and commanded us to “love your enemies.” He takes us the whip as an extreme act to show necessary regard for God’s house.

We should have a similar reverence for our churches. God can encounter humans anywhere He chooses. But we build churches to His glory so that He might choose to meet us there regularly. As we enter church we customarily dip our fingers in the holy water font and make the sign of the cross. This signifies our cleansing ourselves of the contaminants of the world – the inordinate desire for fame, fortune, and fun – so that we might listen to God talk to our hearts.

Homilette for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday, XXI Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 15:1-10)

Dominicans tell a story about St. Dominic that corresponds in a way to the gospel today. Once when Dominic was traveling in southern France, he stopped at an inn whose keeper was an Albigensian heretic. Dominic engaged him in a discussion that lasted the whole night. In the morning the innkeeper was ready to convert to orthodox Christianity. The story indicates how difficult it is to turn one who has defied the Church back to the faith.

Certainly Jesus has as large a challenge when preaching to tax collectors and sinners. Yet he seems to change their hearts with all the facility of a potter molding clay. Evidently the Pharisees are scandalized by his associating with these people. But knowing the duplicity of our own hearts, we may suggest that they also resented Jesus for his success. After all, if he was bringing back people from contempt of religion to religious observance, there is certainly Scriptural precedent to rejoice. But either they thought the conversions insincere or, more likely, they could not tolerate Jesus accomplishing such difficult transformations. So they find reasons to undermine his efforts.

We must take care not to give in to envy of others’ successes. We might criticize the achievement of the head salesperson by saying that her territory is easier than ours. We might carp at the “teacher of the year” by saying that he concentrated too much on test scores. Perhaps we have a point, but it is also possible that another has more talent than we or worked harder than we. We should be ready to congratulate the person and to thank God for the benefits her work attained for others.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wednesday, XXXI Week of Ordinary Time

(Romans 13:8-10, Luke 14:25-33)

Gospel commentators call Jesus’ saying that his followers are to hate their families a “Semiticism.” This term means a way of expressing oneself in the Semitic language that Jesus spoke. Evidently his language did not use comparatives. For Jesus to mean that his disciples have to love him more than their families, he has to say that they love him and hate their families. He does not mean that they are to scorn their loved ones. After all, how could Jesus, who taught about the primacy of love long before St. Paul wrote about it, mean that we are to literally hate those who mean the most to us?

But still some of us may have trouble with the idea of loving Jesus more than our children and our parents, to say nothing of our spouses. “How could we do that?” we might ask. The answer is both simple and promising. First, we can love Jesus above all because he is so good – really perfect. Then it is true that by loving Jesus above all, we actually love our children, our parents, and our spouses not less but more. Allegiance to Jesus means doing what is truly good for all. We will not confuse indulgence with care and give in to the whims of our children. We will not accept the prejudices that lived in our parents’ home but treat all people with respect. We will not allow communication with our spouses to shrivel when we become aware that they think differently but always make an effort to express our thoughts and feelings.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday, XXXI Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 14:15-24)

There is an old story about an African-American who meets God outside of a church. He apologizes to the Lord saying that he wants to enter the church but the people inside won’t let him in. God responds that He too has been trying to get inside that church for years but the same people won’t let Him in either.

The story represents a valid way to read today’s gospel parable. At one time, not that long ago, American churches were segregated. African-Americans were either prohibited from entering a white congregation or forced to sit apart from whites. This might not have but the pastor’s wish, but it was in many places a de facto practice. Jesus, of course, would never accept such a policy. We can rightly hear him comparing the segregationists to those who were invited to the great Eucharistic banquet at the end of time but who refuse to attend. Blacks and the poor will then take their places in heaven.

Today, however, we see the parable in a very different light. As everyone knows, church attendance has dwindled in the United States. People give various excuses that may sound similar to the ones in the parable – they are too busy; they are working; they are expecting company. Others then will receive the call to fill the churches. These people will also occupy places at the Eucharistic banquet in heaven. In American Catholic churches the newcomers are largely immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Homilette for Monday, November 5, 2007

You will find homilettes for weekdays since October 29 below.

Monday, XXXI Week of Ordinary Time

(Romans 11:29-36)

In the reading from Romans today St. Paul speaks quite optimistically about good coming from evil. The disobedience committed by Jews and Gentiles, he says, is bound to end in salvation for both groups. We may wonder if all evil has such happy endings. Perhaps everyone has at one time or another witnessed the proverbial “cloud with a silver lining”– maybe meeting one’s future spouse while sick in a hospital bed. But what about monumental catastrophes like the 9/11 hijackings; has any commensurate benefit developed from those horrors?

We are pondering the mystery of suffering which, by definition, will not yield a completely satisfactory answer. One approach to understanding human suffering is to recognize that we often do not view reality from a sufficiently distant perspective to see what good comes forth. If we lived in 2107, we might notice much human advancement as a result of 9/11. Another approach, which seems closer to the mark, is to accept suffering as part of the mystery of God. Just as we cannot understand the purpose of all the suffering humans endure so God will always remain incomprehensible to us. It is precisely in accepting suffering and not railing against God as unfair or unendurable for allowing it that that we show our love for God.

Acknowledging that the mystery is suffering is part of the mystery of God, however, does not mean God is capricious or evil. He still loves us beyond reckoning and provides us all we need for eternal life. We only need to cultivate trust in Him by faithfully listening to His word and responding attentively in both prayer and action.

Homilette for Saturday, November 3, 2007

You can find homilettes for weekedays between October 28 and November 2 below.

Saturday, XXX Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres

(Luke 14:1.7-11)

Sometimes in reading the gospels we may think that Jesus develops strategies for satisfying egotistical desires. When he says, “turn the other cheek,” for example, one commentator opines that he gives the formula for embarrassing one’s opponent and reasserting one’s dignity. Today’s gospel offers a more obvious example. We might wonder whether Jesus advises us to take a back seat in a banquet hall so that the host will escort us to a place of honor. This instant return would be the “good news” that preachers of worldly payoffs propagate.

But we must rid ourselves of such delusions. Jesus is not a financial consultant. He preaches true humility as a way to follow him. He turns the other cheek when his guards beat him after his arrest. In his becoming human, he humbles himself utterly in that he does not cling to his throne of power. The rewards which he brings do not follow as premiums from a bullish stocks. No, they are accrued in heaven where we might enjoy them forever.

Few saints demonstrate Jesus’ humility like Martin de Porres. With a sense of unworthiness, which we should see as a comparison to Christ rather than to his contemporaries, he did not believe himself fit for religious life. Fortunately, the Dominicans of Lima, Peru, convinced him to live with them. From their monastery Martin untiringly taught the poor better farming techniques, cured their sicknesses with self-developed remedies, and fed the famished among them. As Jesus might have predicted, when Martin died, the bishops and nobility of Peru carried his body to the cemetery. More wonderfully still, angels carried him into Paradise!

Homilette for Friday, November 2, 2007

You will find homilettes for all weekdays since October 29 below.

The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day)

(John 6:3-9)

Today we pray for those whom we traditionally call “the souls in purgatory.” With scientific terms such as DNA becoming part of household conversations, the word “soul” sounds passé. “Purgatory” also may seem out-of-date in these ecumenical times. It is not found in the Bible, and many Protestants may not appreciate its significance.

Yet are there any better terms to convey our hope for eternal life? The human being is certainly more than a complex of atoms. Our experiences, attitudes, and desires must register somehow to make us the persons we are. It may be ridiculous to say the soul weighs so many grams as some self-styled theologians claim. But it is as good a term as any to describe what makes us who we are beyond the raw components (which, it has been said, are worth only a little change money).

The more we know about ourselves and others, the more we realize that our hearts are not pure enough to look at God at death. For some the fault lines are long and deep. They may not have been fully responsible, but they made some poor choices. For others there may be no more than slight fissures on their souls, i.e., oversights or mistakes that need reckoning. We know ourselves as not ready for heaven yet believe ourselves too close to Christ to be damned to hell. “Purgatory” expresses our predicament as well as any term. It is not so much a place of punishment as of purgation. There we have the possibility to reconsider the ways in which we lived so that we might become loving like Christ. Our prayers for those already in this intermittent realm catalyzes the process of their perfection.

Homilette for Thursday, November 1, 2007

You will postings for weekdays October 29 - November 1 below.

Solemnity of All Saints

(I John 3:1-3)

When the church celebrates saints like Andrew Kim of Korea or Paul Miki of Japan, I wonder if the feasts are relevant to most of the people at Mass where I live (in northern Mexico). I don’t think it is prejudice against Koreans and Japanese that drives my reservation. It seems more a question of the possibility of people in the West identifying with saints from a far-off culture. Today’s Feast of All Saints, however, indicates that my difficulty is really a near-sightedness of vision.

We rejoice today over how God has brought people of every culture together in an intimate union through Jesus Christ. With Koreans and Japanese as well as with Africans, Arabs, Indians, and Catholic Christians everywhere we share not only the same genetic structure but also the same core values and beliefs. More than that, we all consume the Eucharistic food and drink that transforms us into one body and one spirit. In the communion of local churches from the far corners of the earth the hope of global peace shines.

Some will say that the best peoples of the world can do is to tolerate one another. By our participation in the universal Church we say much more is possible. Although the day of global unity may be far off, in proclaiming “all saints” – that is the holy ones from every culture and time -- we dedicate ourselves to the realization of that end.

Homilette for Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You will find all postings for weekdays between October 29-31 below.

Wednesday, XXX Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 13: 22-30)

Pupils in Catholic schools used to ask many questions of religion teachers to satisfy curiosity and to waste a little time. A typical question was, “Sister, if you are killed walking to church for confession, will you go to heaven or hell?” The sisters knew how to play along and may have responded, “What do you think?” In the gospel today we meet Jesus responding as adroitly as the sisters to a tough question.

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” someone in the crowd asks Jesus. Perhaps the Pharisees trained the questioner to think that most people are lazy, no-good hell-bounds. People today, aware of God’s mercy, might ask a question to the opposite effect, “Doesn’t God save everyone?” Even if we try to keep the faith, all of us have loved ones who ignore some of the commandments. “God surely cannot just condemn them to hell, can He?” we wonder.

Jesus sidesteps the issue. Whom the Father will save or damn is up to Him to decide. Yet Jesus seizes the opportunity to impart wisdom. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” he advises. He means that we must discipline ourselves to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. There is no place among his followers for slouchers who say, “A peek at pornography or a little lie won’t hurt anyone.” Nor are we truly Christian if we consistently ignore those in need.

Some of us may still think that going to Mass on Sundays alone will win our salvation. Not so, Jesus makes clear when he says, “And you will say, `We ate and drank in your company...’ Then he will say to you, `...Depart from me, all your evil doers!’” No, Jesus expects the Mass to serve as a launching pad where we receive fuel and guidance for the pursuit of good.

Homilette for Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You will find postings for weekdays October 29 and 30 below.

Tuesday, XXX Week of Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:12-17)

Hope has been compared to a little girl walking between her two bigger sisters – faith and love. At times it seems that faith and love have to drag hope along. That is, believing and giving we can find enough satisfaction in life that we do not consider the reward of heaven. Still at other times it is just the opposite. Hope seems to run ahead leading faith and love along.

A woman has cancer that may be incurable. She has unfailingly practiced her faith, and it has provided many blessings. Her husband loves her deeply. Her three children respect her sincerely. Her five grandchildren provide her consolation for the future. For a long time then faith and love have dominated any consideration of eternity. Now, however, hope has to take over.

The possibility of imminent death rivets our attention on the great questions of faith. Is there life after death? When will I experience it? Is it possible that I am not worthy? Hope moves us to believe in God and to use the rest of our time to serve Him. As St. Paul indicates in the first reading, we are not sure of what eternal life consists. We do not see it like we might see pictures of the city where our company is sending us to work. We can only trust in God that the sufferings we now face – whether it be the trials of cancer or the loneliness with which that many old people live -- will end in glory.

hokilette for Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday, XXX Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 13:10-17)

The way we talk about each of the four evangelists makes one think that we know well who they were. However, we actually have little hard evidence about the background of any gospel writer. None of them puts his or her name to the work. We are dependent on secondary sources appearing decades later to identify these writers. The author of the third gospel is no exception. Although this gospel begins with a bit of autobiography, only second century witnesses tell us that he is Luke, whom Paul calls the “beloved physician” in his Letter to the Colossians.

It is interesting to note that Luke is critical of physicians as sometimes the other evangelists are but is just as hard on lawyers. Earlier in the gospel Luke tells of another woman with a debilitating hemorrhage whom Jesus heals. Unlike Mark writing of the same incident Luke does not mention, at least as recorded in some ancient manuscripts, that the woman spent a small fortune on doctors. More significantly, however, Luke presents Jesus as a beloved physician of body and soul. In the passage today Jesus gently removes the burden that has had a woman bent over for eighteen years. Not quite so gently but just as remarkably he opens the eyes of the synagogue official, a lawyer of sorts quoting the law, to the fact that his interpretation of the Law is punitive not life-enabling.

With the success of modern medicine to cure disease and extend life many have developed a dualistic attitude toward healing. They rely on doctors to take care of their physical health and prayer to attend to their spiritual welfare. Such an outlook misses the religious belief that God is the author of life. He regularly heals our bodies through medical proficiency. We should pray for medical personnel, not necessarily that they convert to Christianity but that they seek truth and goodness in their work. As a matter of fact, we believe that in the quest for truth and virtue they will likely come across traces of the divine.

Homilette for Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday, XXIX Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 12:54-59)

Everyone has heard of climate change. For the last thirty years the average temperatures around the world have increased. Meteorologists have linked these increases to fiercer tropical storms and longer draughts. The temperature increases certainly have brought about the melting of the polar ice caps altering the habitats of both artic animals and humans. Most people believe that we humans have triggered the increases by burning too much gasoline in cars and coal in electric power generators. However, a few scientists argue that the earth’s atmosphere heats up naturally every few hundred years or so but then cools down again.

What would Jesus do about climate change if he were here in flesh and blood? He perhaps would comment as he does in the gospel reading today. He would chastise the people for being keen preceptors of climate but blind to their own faults. He would urge us to consider seriously our sins and to change our ways. He would warn us that if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness now, it will soon be too late.

When Jesus mentions the case of an opponent turning a person over to a magistrate, he means that unless we make amends with God now, God will turn us over to Jesus who is to judge the world at the end of time. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that Jesus cannot be severe with us. We remember the parable about the five foolish virgins who were not around when the bridegroom came back and were wailing outside the wedding banquet. Jesus regularly warns us in the gospels that the something similar could happen to us.

Homilette for Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday, XXIX week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 12:49-53)

With wildfires blazing in San Diego County as we hear this gospel, some may think that Jesus’ words about bringing a fire to earth are presently being fulfilled. But, of course, burning homes and destroying nature are not what Jesus has in mind here. Nor should we take him literally when he says that he has not come to bring peace to the world. Jesus remains the “Prince of Peace” whose coming was foretold by Zachariah as guiding the people into “the path of peace.”

The fire that Jesus starts is the desire in us to be morally good. Touched by his Spirit, we will no longer content ourselves with sexual gratification, monetary reward, or people snapping to our command. Instead, we will seek to be like God Himself who bends down to lift up the lowly. The division that Jesus envisions is not only the break-up of households into those who are for and against him but also the struggle that goes on with ourselves. We will resist the passionate call of our corrupted nature to sin.

Taking up the struggle to imitate God’s virtue, we begin to see how Jesus really does bring peace. With continued effort we are no longer divided within. Passionate craving disgusts us more than entices us. Seeking the good becomes our objective at every moment. We can even extend an olive branch to our family members who alienated themselves from us in our pursuit of righteousness. We see that the fire that Jesus has set in the world is the flame of love purifying us so that we might enjoy eternal life.

Homilette for Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday, XXIX Week of Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:12-18)

In the Letter to the Romans St. Paul deals with a question that plagues many people today. He knows that Christ has freed humans from the necessity of following the Law of Moses. The question that arises then concerns the extent of our freedom. If there is no law telling me contrary in any particular situation, we might ask, “Am I free to do what I want?” This situation mirrors what we might call “the crisis of freedom” in western society. Although there are plenty of laws, nevertheless freedom to do whatever brings one satisfaction is increasingly coveted. The situation has become critical because in the quest for freedom, many have forgotten their responsibilities.

Paul answers the question of being free to do whatever one likes negatively. He reasons that if there is a slavish attention to the Law, there is also a slavish freedom. People cannot stop themselves from doing what is harmful for themselves and others. We see this reality in addictions. Drug, sex, or alcoholics addicts hurt themselves and others. They did not have to involve themselves in these traps but chose to voluntarily. Likewise, they can opt out of the vices although doing so they will likely need some help.

Later theologians will clarify the nature of true freedom. It is not only a lack of restriction but also an orientation to do what is good. Paul awkwardly calls this freedom “becoming slaves of righteousness.” It consists of practicing virtue so that doing what is right becomes as natural as eating breakfast. True virtue requires effort. To play a Beethoven piano sonata naturally necessitates hundreds of hours of practice. Likewise, always providing a word of inspiration or extending a helpful hand requires repeated attempts not all of which hit the mark.

Homilette for Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday, XXIX Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 12:35-38)

It is more than a coincidence that later in this Gospel according to Luke Jesus asks his disciples which of them would serve at table a servant who comes in from the fields. Perhaps none of them at that moment could answer positively, but Jesus tells us here that he intends to do almost exactly that at the end of time. Luke shows that Jesus is truly the servant of the servants of God. A pastor at a large urban church tries to imitate Jesus by cooking a sumptuous Seder Supper in Holy Week for his parishioners.

Jesus will attend to those whom he finds waiting for his return with burning lamps and loins girded. It is easy enough to understand what he means by “burning lamps” although we should remember that this image is used in the gospels to express having done good works. “Girded loins,” however, is not so easily intelligible to us. It refers to wearing one’s loose-fitting outer garment tied at the waist so that one may work unimpeded. More and more, Catholics are waiting on the Lord by praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the middle of the night. This is a worthy and time-honored custom. Rather than replace, it should assist this gospel’s more general vigil of serving others’ needs.

Homilette for Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday, XXIX Week of Ordinary Time

(Luke 12:13-21)

Go into the houses of poor people as well as rich, in Mexico as well as the United States, and you are likely to see a lot of stuff. We live in an age of mass production when manufactured goods like leaves on a tree multiply beyond many persons’ belief. The gospel today serves as a warning about over-concern with material wealth, with stuff. It proposes that we should store up our treasure in heaven.

Admittedly the farmer in the story is an egotist. As one commentator says, “He talks to himself; he plans for himself; he congratulates himself.” But is he really so different from many people today? Too often people think primarily of themselves. Even children are planned and nurtured to fit their parents (often a single parent’s) designs. The barns which the farmer builds to store grain for the future serve the same purposes as savings portfolios today. They do not make the person bad; they make him or her rich. When pursued without a thought about others, they also make him foolish.

Of course, Jesus is not condemning prudent people with retirement plans and savings for emergencies. But he is criticizing severely non-attention to the needs of those having little to merely survive. Before we spend all that we have on “stuff” or invest all that we have for “tomorrow,” we must assist those who lack bread today. Ironically, this kind of concern proves to be the best plan for the future. Jesus makes clear throughout the gospel that sharing with the needy deposits a treasure where it counts the most.

Homilette for Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday, XXVIII Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Saint John de Brébeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

(Luke 12:1-7)

At a Catholic boys’ high school a religion teacher used to sit outside the chapel with his grade book. When his students entered for Mass, the teacher apparently checked their names. It wasn’t long before Mass attendance spiked. A few of the cockier students did not stay very long but exited the chapel as soon as they were assured that their teacher had gone. We might say that these students were hypocritical like the Pharisees in the gospel today – that is, people who feign religion. We should note, however, that hypocrisy can run the other way as well. Hypocrites are also people who feign non-religion. This second type of hypocrisy is what Jesus warns his listeners against in the rest of the reading.

In all four gospels there is a sterling example of feigning non-religion. When Jesus is taken into custody, Peter denies that he is his disciple. Most of us will never be in such a situation where we feel our lives threatened if we profess faith in Christ. But we may be tempted to feign non-religion when declaring what we believe will make us appear different from the other folks present. Far from being scarce, such situations occur with frequency in this age of coarseness in entertainment. We should show our faith in God by walking out of erotic movies and turning off profane television. We are not “acting like babies” when we express how such grossness offends our faith-formed sensibilities. On the contrary, we are behaving like mature women and men who act on their convictions.

Homilette for Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday, the Feast of St. Luke, evangelist

(Luke 10:1-9)

In New Mexico we find in pottery shops a stylized statuette called “The Story-teller.” It shows a woman with a pot on her head and one in her hands. Her mouth is wide open, obviously telling stories. Hanging onto the woman and all about her, children play animated by her words. In a way the woman represents St. Luke the Evangelist. More than any other evangelist, Luke features Jesus telling beautiful stories known as parables.

Most people are aware that the parables of the “Prodigal Son,” or as preachers prefer to say nowadays the “Prodigal Father,” and of the “Good Samaritan” are found only in Luke. Also, only Luke writes of Jesus telling the memorable stories of the “Rich Fool” and of “Lazarus and the Rich Man.” If Luke is exclusive in that he has unique parables to tell, we may point out that he is inclusive in a significant way as well. Luke frequently has a story featuring a woman juxtaposed with a story featuring a man. For example, after Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep, Luke shows him speaking of the woman sweeping her home to find a lost coin.

But we must not think that Luke’s intention was only or mainly to portray Jesus as a story-teller. Like the other three evangelists Luke’s purpose is to show how Jesus is the son of God who has taken on human nature to save us from sin and death. The gospel passage today ends with Jesus instructing his disciples to tell the people, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” In time that message will change. After Jesus rises from the dead, the apostles will preach Jesus as the incarnation of the Kingdom. As Peter tells the people of Jerusalem, “God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”