About Me

Bilingual Roman Catholic priest of the Southern Dominican Province. The "homilettes" on this website are completely the work of Fr. Mele. He may be contacted at cmeleop@yahoo.com. Telephone: (415) 279-9234.

Homilette for February 29, 2008

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 12:28-34)

Elvis Presley used to sing a song called, “Words.” “It's only words,” he crooned, “and words are all I have to take your heart away.” In the first reading today, the prophet Hosea tells us that God wants us to woo His heart with words. “Take with you words,” the prophet says on behalf of God, “and return to the Lord.” Our words are like rockets that bring us close to God. We don’t have to climb any mountains or cross any seas. We only have to say that we are sorry for having offended Him.

But as we all know words often fall short of reality. Sometimes we use words deceptively or, at least, in ways that do not match our abilities. “I would do anything for you,” a university student would tell his girlfriend. “Would you spend Friday night at the library with me?” she asked in response. “I would,” he said, “but I am busy at that time.” We must also be sincere in heart which is usually demonstrated by self-sacrifice.

The step between words on the lips and sincerity in the heart is all that is missing from the scribe’s entering the Kingdom of God in the gospel. Jesus does not mean to criticize the man when he says that is he is “not far from the Kingdom of God.” He only means to say the scribe’s approval for Jesus’ own great commandments is not enough for salvation. He must take Jesus’ words to heart and put them into practice. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, both confession with the mouth and belief in the heart are necessary to be saved. In biblical times, when speaking openly about faith in Christ might arouse familial or public censure, such speech might have sufficed as proof of sincerity. Certainly today, however, most of us most of the time need to demonstrate our sincerity with actions of self-sacrifice.

Homilette for February 28, 2008

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

(Lk 11:14-23)

In preparing for war, a nation typically demonizes its enemy. It makes the enemy appear as less than civil, often as downright diabolical. It uses preponderantly negative stories to describe the enemy’s character. Exaggeration will take over reality to make it seem that the enemy is a cancer that must be extricated immediately. In Iraq five years ago the U.S. Government emphasized Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the war against Iran during the 1980s. In World War I, the German invaders were first depicted as killing the French and Belgian civilians. Within days, however, they were pictured as chopping off children’s hands and lopping women’s breasts. Such demonization is necessary to move a nation to war. Little short of eliminating a curse that threatens a people existence will do.

In the gospel some people in the crowd literally demonize Jesus after he exorcizes a demon. They say that he can cast out a demon because he is in league with the prince of demons. The normal response to such a positive action as Jesus’ is gratefulness. After all, he has just given someone a new lease on life. But Jesus’ message accompanying his wondrous deeds involves radical reform. The people must, in Jesus’ words, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Perhaps many of us, as well, demonstrate such reservation about reforming our lives. After all, it takes prayerful effort to stop thinking impure thoughts, to speak sincerely with perceived adversaries, and to give generously to the needy. We should look closely to see how much God loves us. He has given us life and called us around the table of His son. He will provide for us in death as well, when the taste of Christ’s body and blood that we have now will be transformed into a full banquet of joy.

Homilette for February 27, 2008

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

(Mt 5:17-19)

When was the last time you ate a ham sandwich or had to work on Saturday? Did you feel guilty for doing it? Of course, you were breaking a tenet of the Mosaic Law which, in today’s gospel, Jesus seems to say is still in effect. Should we start revising our menus and changing our work schedules?

Of course, that is not necessary. But we must reflect on what Jesus means when he tells us, “Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter, not the smallest part of a letter of the law will pass away, until all things have taken place.” Perhaps he is using exaggerated language that he does not mean literally as when he says, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out”? Or perhaps he intends these words only for the Twelve, all Jews, who were quite used to keeping the Law?

There is another, more logical explanation why the Church does not keep the full Mosaic Law. As Jesus predicts, “...heaven and earth (have) pass(ed) away” with his death and resurrection. All things have now been made new. We have been given the Holy Spirit to live a new righteousness that should surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. Is this the case? It is when we find ourselves acting not just to conform ourselves with a law, i.e., not just out of fear of being punished. It is when we do what is right out of love for God who has given us everything.

Homilette for February 26, 2008

Tuesday of the Third Lent of Lent

(Mt 18:21-35)

A year ago in January former President Gerald Ford died. Commentators in the newspapers and on television remembered him with admiration. They said that his singular greatest achievement was to pardon ex-President Nixon for criminal activity in the Watergate cover-up. Even Ted Kennedy admitted that, although he disagreed with the decision at the time, he has come to regard it as a distinctive service to the country. The pardon helped heal a nation badly divided over ideology and shocked over wrongdoing at the highest levels.

Would that politicians be more willing to practice today what they admire in past heroes! Instead we usually hear them demand the resignation, the impeachment, or an apology from those who violate their principles. In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples that it should not be that way with us. We must be ready to forgive when people repent of their misdeeds. Rather than clamor for retribution, we must pray that our offenders take note of their wrongdoing, ask forgiveness, and make proper amends.

Mercy becomes us. Shakespeare writes that an “earthly power doth then show likest God's,
when mercy seasons justice.” It even makes us better appreciated in our society as in the case of President Ford. In forgiving, of course, we must not abandon the norms of justice. Compensation to the wronged is usually due, and the offender must be resolved not to offend again. But practiced rightly, mercy like “the gentle rain from heaven” – as Shakespeare put it -- benefits everyone.

Homilette for February 25, 2008

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

(II Kings 5:1-15ab)

In “Death of the Hired Hand” poet Robert Frost tells the story of a shiftless farm helper. The one remarkable quality of the man is knowing how to pitch hay. Some hay pitchers defeat themselves by standing on the hay they want to pick up. The farmhand, however, knows better than to get in the way of what he wants to accomplish.

Two characters in the first reading stand on, as it were, the hay they mean to pitch. Both the king of Israel and Naaman, the Syrian general, make themselves obstacles to what they wish to accomplish. They worry about not being able to do something when all that is necessary is that they trust someone else. We want to tell them: “No, king of Israel, you are not a god with power over life and death. Your God, however, has exactly that power. Ask him to heal the leper.” And, “No, Naaman, you cannot be cleansed in the waters of your own land. Do what the prophet of God tells you, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

Rather than put our trust in God we sometimes worry and fret over challenges confronting us. We also are not gods. Our resources also cannot resolve every problem we face. We too must trust the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He can and will save us. Let us always turn first to Him for help.

Homilette for February 22, 2008

Homilettes for weekdays since February 12 may be found below.

Friday, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

(Matthew 16:13-19)

Some might think it odd to celebrate the “chair of St. Peter.” “What’s so important about a place to sit?” they may ask. Their question is not surprising as we notice the way many take different seats and postures in front of a television. But, of course, we use chairs in much more formal settings. The one who sits at the head of the table, the chairperson, often wields significant power. It is arguable that the senior Richard Daley had more power as Chairman of the Democratic Party in Cook County than as Mayor of Chicago. Anyway, we are beginning to understand some of the importance of St. Peter’s chair.

The chair that is referred to on this feast is actually the office as leader of the Church. As we see in the gospel, Jesus names Simon, “Peter,” meaning the rock upon which he establishes the Church. Peter is the spokesperson for the twelve apostles throughout the gospel. The Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke and not Matthew, shows Peter with supreme authority for the original community of disciples. When Peter leaves Jerusalem, first for Antioch and then for Rome, he takes his authority for the whole Church with him. This authority, which is as much a responsibility for the welfare of all Christians, has been handed on to Peter’s successors as bishops of Rome. Of course, these are the men we know as the popes.

Today we pray for Pope Benedict XVI. He has an enormous task, especially for an elderly person. The world is increasingly more complicated and more dismissive of religion. True, there are growing numbers of Catholics and other religious adherents. But still secularists, agnostics, and atheists are leading astray many people whose ancestry was firmly Catholic. We pray that Pope Benedict upholds the integrity of our faith while welcoming new Catholics and re-evangelizing those whose families were once firmly religious.

homilette for February 21, 2008

Thursday of the Second Week in Lent

(Jeremiah 17:5-10, Luke 16:19-31)

“The line between good and evil,” the great Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said, “is not drawn between nations or parties, but through every human heart.” He means that every one of us has a partly corrupted heart waiting renewal. Executing that renewal is precisely our Lenten project. And every one of us has in part a heart palpitating with goodness. Experiencing the growth of that vibrant heart is our cause for Easter rejoicing. In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah laments a heart so rotten that it is beyond remedy. In the gospel Jesus gives us an example – the rich man who ignores the beggar at his door.

Certainly the rich man is not punished just for having wealth. That would be like condemning the healthy person for not making herself sick in caring for others. But wealth (and health as well) has responsibilities attached. The rich must share some of their resources so that the needy may not lose their human dignity. Some might object, “What if the rich man never saw poor Lazarus at his door?” Yes, it is true that riches often bloat the face so that one’s eyes are shut to the needs of those around him or her. But surely this is not an excuse after all that Jesus and other prophets have said about compassion.

Donating to the poor carries some risks. A beggar may squander our gift on liquor. Even some highly regarded charities have misused contributors’ donations. But these concerns must not trump the call to generosity. Prudence indicates who deserves our offerings and how much is appropriate to give. We must respond accordingly. Failure to do so will only nudge our heart more to the side of corruption.

homilette for February 20, 2008

Wednesday of the Second Week in Lent

(Matthew 20:17-28)

The great virtuoso violinist Ishak Perlman tells the story of a woman asking him to listen to her son play the violin. When Perlman rather reluctantly agreed, the mother took out a tape recorder and played a cassette. Perlman marveled at the beautiful music. “He sounds just like Ya Ya Haifitz,” Perlman exclaimed. “That is Ya Ya Haifitz,” the mother replied, “and my son plays just like that.”

Parents often exaggerate their children’s talents. Children may allow them to do so if they might gain some advantage for themselves. Evidently James and John do not mind their mother soliciting Jesus for seats ahead of Peter and the rest of the disciples in the Kingdom of God. But the brothers’ exalted image of themselves in the Kingdom does not impress Jesus. He is interested in whether they are willing to suffer for the sake of that Kingdom.

Lent is the season for us to get a grip on our pride. Most of us generally think too much of ourselves. Rather than compare ourselves downwards noting that we may be better than others in some ways, we should compare ourselves with the saints. Then we will see how our concerns about self betray a firm trust in God and how our depreciation of others indicates a failure to love.

Homilette for February 19, 2008

Tuesday of the Second Week in Lent

(Matthew 23:1-12)

The gospel today should hit us church-goers between the eyes. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees, the religious zealots who give religion a bad name. They are pompous about practicing religion, but are hardly charitable toward other people. The passage implicitly asks us if we may not be women and men of the Pharisees. Do we like to be seen in church but afterwards gossip about people? Do we pray at home but then express intolerance for other races and religions? If so, we would be among the biggest of sinners in Jesus’ book.

Of course, not all people who come to church are Pharisees – far from it. But at times someone calls the rectory demanding an apology for something as small as a mass intention that he had requested not being announced publicly. Certainly priests can be among the greatest of the Pharisees. The scandal over sexual abuse of children and adolescents testifies amply to that. When we find Pharisaical tendencies in our behavior, we must seek God’s assistance in prayer. We should also keep in mind Jesus’ constant teaching about humility. The ones who exalt themselves God will humble while those who act humbly, God will exalt.

Homilette for February 18, 2008

Homilletes for weekday masses from February 8 can be found below.

Monday of the Second Week in Lent

(Luke 6:36-38)

Ten years ago Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Montana. Mr. Shepard’s killers assaulted him because he was a homosexual and evidently flirted with one of them. After the guilty verdict Shepard’s parents agreed with the state not to seek the death penalty. His father told one of the killers, “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney, but now is the time to heal.” Although this may sound like half-hearted mercy, it probably took courage to utter.

In the gospel today Jesus calls us to be merciful. It has been pointed out that where in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus calls his disciples to be perfect, Luke shows him emphasizing mercy as if mercy is the perfection of God. When we are called upon to forgive a really serious offense, it certainly seems like a monumental task. As a poet (Alexander Pope) once put it, “To err is human; to forgive divine.

What’s critical is that we don’t dwell too long on how we feel in such situations. Feelings make good barometers of the likes and dislikes of our hearts, but they do not serve well as compasses to where we should be going. Naturally we are upset when someone hurts us deeply. Rather than lash out in anger, however, we should imitate Matthew Shepard’s father and not let our dislike rule our minds. No, as Jesus’ disciples, we must be ready to forgive those who offend us.

Homilette for February 15, 2008

Friday of the First Week in Lent

(Matthew 5:20-26)

Twenty-five years ago Jim had a coronary bypass. It was radical surgery but the discipline that his doctors imposed was even more extreme. A heavy smoker since he was a teen, Jim had to give up cigarettes cold turkey. A professional in a demanding administrative job, Jim had to take time to exercise every day. Overweight, he had to shed excess pounds. In short, if he was going to live much longer, Jim he had to turn around many his life’s habits at the age of fifty. Jim’s brother died shortly before Jim’s bypass reminding him that the doctor’s instructions were not professional drivel. Jim is alive and well today at seventy-eight. He may not be as thin as his doctor would like, but he doesn’t smoke and walks daily.

In the gospel Jesus calls for a change of life-style every bit as radical as Jim’s although on a spiritual, not physical, level. We are no longer to get angry with or make fun of a brother or sister. Here Jesus refers not so much to our blood relatives but to the men and women of our church. If the Christian community is to be “the light of the world,” which Jesus calls it shortly before he issues these commandments, its members will have to constantly give good example. Refraining from demonstrations of anger and from acts of mockery (“Raqa” means empty-headed) are but obvious ways to show respect for others.

Is it then permissible to curse or deride people who don’t belong to our church? Such literal distinctions are what Jesus is steering his disciples away from in this Sermon on the Mount. The Scribes and Pharisees would split hairs in this way so that they might indulge their passions while still sensing moral superiority. In truth Christians through the centuries also have acted in this way. But Jesus is calling for a new righteousness that, as he says, will exceed that of the self-righteous. We are to see in everyone a potential sister or brother and to treat her or him deferentially.

Homilette for February 14, 2008

Thursday of the First Week in Lent

(Matthew 7:7-12)

A man once commented that it is useless to pray that God end a war. He thinks that war involves so many people that God could not have much say regarding its outcome. Many believe that God cannot answer personal requests either. In fact, a whole theological movement known as “process theology” believes that God is powerless over events in people’s lives. Then why pray at all, we might ask?

Process theology adherents would answer that prayer at least lifts a person’s thought from worrying about a problem to imagining a solution. Psychologically, prayer facilitates positive thinking. Such reasoning, however, hardly convinces regular Christians. If we needed to think about solutions, we could do that without directing our hearts to God in prayer. In the gospel, of course, Jesus does not seem to doubt that prayers will be answered. “Ask and it will be given to you,” he says confidently.

Those who doubt the value of prayer to achieve its purpose have an inadequate conception of God. God knows what we need before we express our need, even before we exist. He wants us to pray, however, so that our relationship of faith may strengthen. He will respond to our prayer by providing for our need. His answer may not conform exactly to what we have in mind, but it will see us through the difficulty. Once, a mother brought her son suffering from a brain tumor to Lourdes for healing. Shortly after their return, the boy died. When the mother was asked if she felt God had let her down, she said, “no,” the experience of praying with so many faith-filled people at Lourdes strengthened her to accept her son’s death. The boy died in God’s grace and family survivors live in assurance of God’s love for them.

Homilette for February 13, 2008

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

(Jonah 3:1-10 and Luke 11:29-32)

Last year someone petitioned Congress to award posthumous American citizenship to Anne Frank. She was the Jewish girl whose diary helped move the world to condemn the Holocaust. Before her family’s hiding place in Holland was discovered, her father had requested relatives in the United States to seek his family’s admittance. Since the request was denied, supporters of the Congressional petition say that granting her citizenship would be a sign of repentance of complicity in the Holocaust. Critics of the measure argue, however, that it would be a cheap gesture since it requires no sacrifice on the part of the American people.

Both proponents and opponents have made other good arguments, but Congress has not yet voted on the issue. For now we can note how it illustrates the call for repentance of the Scripture readings today. Jonah announces God’s wrath with Nineveh’s evil ways, and the people repent. The author of the story emphasizes how it is a sincere, communal effort. Not only the common people but the king and even the animals of the city fast and change heart. In the gospel Jesus calls his generation “evil” because it refuses to repent of its sins with his preaching.

We too must repent of our sins, not just symbolically but wholeheartedly. This means that we don’t just say we are sorry or we don’t just go to confession. No, these would be empty gestures if they are not accompanied by a sincere attempt to change our sinful ways. A young woman once confessed of having sex with her boyfriend. “Will you promise not to have sex with him again?” the priest asked her. “No,” she answered, she couldn’t promise that. Then, she couldn’t receive absolution. Just so, unless we promise whole-heartedly to stop taking God’s name in vain or talking about others, we have not really repented of our sins.

Homilette for February 12, 2008

Tuesday of the First Week in Lent

(Matthew 6:7-15)

It is said that while Charles Lindberg was making the first solo flight across the Atlantic, he began to doubt the accuracy of his instruments. Worrying that his compass was off, he was tempted to alter his course. But he kept faith in the compass, thank God, and successfully landed in Paris.

Like a navigator trusts in his compass so we put our faith in the word of God. Isaiah in the first reading tells us God’s word always accomplishes its purpose. Because Jesus utters it, the “Our Father” of the gospel is certainly the word of God. We can utterly rely on its efficacy. The bread we rely on will be provided. The forgiveness we require will be granted as long as we are willing to forgive. Saying it opens us to the mysteries of salvation.

The “Our Father” has been called the Christian Shema. Shema is a Hebrew word meaning hear. The Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy proclaims, “Shema, Israel,” “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God ... you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words.... Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.” So we should pray the “Our Father” as our first words in the morning, our last words at night, and throughout the day. Doing so we will not only find our daily needs met but also be led to salvation.

Homilette for February 11, 2008

Monday of the First Week in Lent

(Matthew 25:31-46)

Not very long ago an old African man spent the first night of his life under a mosquito net. Unfortunately, the net arrived too late to protect him from mosquitoes carrying elephantitis, the disease which had already blinded him. But at least the man might sleep more comfortably. A campaign against malaria and elephantitis spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter provided the net for the old man. The campaign does not have a lot of money; nevertheless, it works to relieve the suffering of the world’s poorest people.

The Scripture readings today call us to help our neighbor by providing relief such as mosquito netting to poor Africans. In the gospel Jesus extends the concept of neighbor beyond those who live next store and even beyond one’s countrymen and countrywomen. He intends that all who show mercy to those who come in his name will receive a heavenly reward. Some understand him to mean here only his apostles and other missionaries. But there is good reason to think that he intends every suffering human being as representing himself.

During Lent we want to give special attention to assisting the poor. Some parishes promote the use of “rice bowls” in homes to collect money for aid to impoverished nations. Toward the end of Lent there will be a special collection for the Bishops’ Overseas Appeal. Contributing generously will surely assist us in gaining a favorable judgment on the last day.

Homilette for February 8, 2008

Friday alter Ash Wednesday

(Isaiah 58:1-9a)

Like Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American farm labor organizer, often fasted. He did not necessarily ask others to accompany him in his sacrifice. Rather, he fasted in order that he himself might be cleansed inwardly. He knew how fasting enables one to focus on his or her objectives. Distractions, at least from food, will not tempt the faster because he or she has already made a decision about them. Also, the sense of inner hunger gives urgency to the faster’s purpose.

The prophet Isaiah in the first reading today scolds Israel for not fasting rightly. Religious fasting should remind the people of their first priority, which is God. However, Israel only exploits its fasting to gain more money. It is as if the money the people save from not eating is used not for the poor or for some necessity at home, but to buy lottery tickets.

During Lent the Church calls us to fast. The ashes we accepted on Wednesday were an explicit recognition that we have sinned. We should have also been asking ourselves, “What are we going to do about our sins?” The answer, of course, comprises the three disciplines of Lent. First, we are going to turn away from the gratification of our appetites. Then, we will pray to God for forgiveness. Finally, we will show greater care for everyone, especially those in need. In these ways, we shall reach our goal, which is no one other than God.

Homilette for February 7, 2008

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)

“Choose life.” We have all seen bumper stickers and tee-shirts with this anti-abortion message. No doubt, people who feel burdened by an unexpected pregnancy find the message ironic. To them life is being liberated from responsibility so that they may care for other needs and pursue their desires. Life, then, is one of those simple words with various levels of meaning.

In the reading from Deuteronomy today, Moses exhorts the Israelites also to “choose life.” He has in mind God’s law that promises to extend the existence of both individual and community. Following these commandments of truth and justice, both present and future generations will thrive. Descendants will remember with gratitude forebears who passed on the law to them and so, in a sense, keep them in existence. Jesus radicalizes the message. As we hear in the gospel, he says that life comes when we choose to follow his way of self-surrender to God’s love. This may even involve a renunciation of biological life. However, its promise extends way beyond immortalization in the minds and hearts of descendants to a new realm of personal existence with God in eternity.

We have chosen Jesus’ way to life. But have we been faithful to that selection? During Lenten we test ourselves and make all necessary adjustments to renew the choice. We foresee ourselves easily back on the road to full life by Easter and happily partaking of full life at death.

Homilette for February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

(Matthew 6:1-6;16-18)

Hester Prynne is the heroine of the famous American novel, The Scarlet Letter. She lives in colonial New England. After marrying an older man who leaves her for long periods, she allows herself to be seduced. When she gives birth to a baby, the town condemns her. Her penalty is that she must wear a big red A, meaning adulteress, on her clothing at all times. She stoically bears the mark of disgrace while she goes about town with her daughter helping others. As the years pass, the townspeople forget Hester’s crime. They see her care for others and come to think the A on her clothing stands for angel.

In a few moments we will have ashes put on our foreheads. Like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter the ashes are a sign that we have sinned. We have loved ourselves too much. We have served God and neighbor too little. Along with wearing ashes today, we should make extra efforts to fast, pray, and help others every during of Lent. Then when we ask God’s forgiveness, He will wipe our sins from the record like the people lose memory of what Hester’s A originally means. Again like Hester, people will recognize us for virtues not for our faults.

So let us take on all the disciplines of Lent willingly. A generation ago some preachers recommended that we “do something positive for Lent” and not give up anything. That advice, though sincerely made, lacked wisdom. We must curb our desire for constant gratification as well as develop a practice of serving others. Efforts on both fronts shall draw us closer to God. Efforts, again on both fronts, shall allow us to rise with Christ on Easter.

Homilette for February 5, 2008

Tuesday, memorial of St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

(Mark 5:21-43)

The eminent psychologist Carl Rogers purportedly gave this breath-taking yet mundane statistic, “One out of every one of us is hurting.” It is true. No one escapes suffering. Not only the poor and the sick need assistance. Conquerors of nations are sometimes insecure. And utterly beautiful women can worry if they are attractive.

Because pain pollutes the world like jet fuel the atmosphere around an airport, crowds besiege Jesus in the gospel today. Could he heal a sick child? Could he stop the chronic hemorrhaging of an impoverished woman? No doubt, he had a hundred similar requests as he steps across the sand. What would we add if we were there? Could he cure my cold? Could he lift me from depression?

Jesus generally takes note of our faith and grants our requests. At some point, however, he will have us stretch our faith into eternity. What we seek will not be immediately granted. Many of will die without experiencing a release from suffering. Then we will await his voice, “Little girl, arise” or “Little boy, arise.” And just like the twelve-year-old in the gospel, we will arise to a new world. We will be finally freed from all hurt because Jesus will be fully present.

Homilette for February 4, 2008

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Mark 5:1-20)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Protestant theologian who taught in the United States in the 1920s and early 30’s. When Bonhoeffer returned to his native Germany, he found himself opposing the barbarism of the Nazi regime. Eventually, he was executed for taking part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Before he died, he wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship explaining that there is no such thing as “cheap grace.” Here is a paradox: grace by definition is free, yet it costs one to be a Christian.

Some are unwilling to pay the price. In the gospel today the people send Jesus packing apparently because he has cost them two thousand head of pigs. Too earnest businesspersons, they cannot appreciate how Jesus has restored the sanity of one of their own but only take note of their losses.

What does it cost us to follow Jesus? Perhaps a half hour’s sleep in the morning to attend Mass? Maybe eating our words rather than lash out at some perceived unfairness? Whatever it is, it is a bargain. What we expend is not ours to begin with, but a gift from God. What we receive, is eternal life – the joy of Jesus’ companionship forever.