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.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 9:1-13; Mark 8:27-33)

 “’Who do you say that I am?’” Jesus asks his disciples in today’s gospel.  We should make the question our own.  In our own way of thinking, who is Jesus?  Some may answer, “One of the great men of history.”  Surely as far as the answer goes, that is correct.  In fact, it may be shown that no other human has had the impact that Jesus of Nazareth has had.  But he is still being defined as a human being.

Peter’s answer to Jesus query does not really admit more than that.  Peter understands Jesus as “the Christ,” which is to say that he is like David and the other kings of Israel.  With this idea in mind Peter sees Jesus as cleansing Israel of Roman rule and being installed as king in Jerusalem.  But he is still far from all that may be said to disclose Jesus’ identity.

It took almost three hundred years for the Church to come to an adequate conception of who Jesus is.  He is God, one of the Blessed Trinity.  This distinction is a mystery that we cannot really understand.  But it does reveal that he is the Creator and Lord of all.  It also calls us to worship him.  Finally, as his followers, it assures us of safety and well-being. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 8:6-13.20-22; Mark 8:22-26)

Perhaps you have wondered about why Noah sends out a raven first and then a dove.  And maybe you have asked why the dove but not the raven comes back to the ark when land cannot be found.  And then, what is the purpose of Noah’s animal sacrifice to God?  We should not think that these actions are arbitrary or, much less, that they comprise a historical record.  As in much of Genesis the author of the story is telling us something of nature – both human and non-human.  These questions have answers which may be ascertained through attention to both the Scripture and the environment.

A raven is a scavenger bird which is particularly fond of rotten flesh.  Evidently the raven was having a difficult time onboard the ark where there was only vegetative food.  It waited out the drying of the land rather than go back to a vegetarian diet.  The dove, which is content with eating vegetables, does not mind returning to the ark.  Noah burns animals as a sacrifice because he too enjoys the taste of flesh.  But God has always frowned on animals tearing apart one another and also on humans doing it.  He accepts Noah’s sacrifice but is not pleased with it.  He realizes that the plan to renew creation with both humans and beast living in harmony will never work.  So He makes a covenant with humans.  They can eat the flesh of animals and even offer Him sacrifices with it, but they will have to obey His law.  They may not eat the blood of animals and, most importantly, may not spill one another’s blood.

In time God will give humans other laws, but none will calm their hearts.  That will come only when God sends His Son to make up for humanity’s sins and to bestow on humans the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will bring about the new creation that turns women and men into true daughters and sons of God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 5:5-8.7:1-5.10; Mark 8:14-21)

On top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, stone statues of the twelve apostles look over the world that they have struggled to win for Christ.  Each member of the band appears so magnificent in wisdom and power that we are challenged to reconcile these figures with the fumbling characters we meet in the gospel today. 

The twelve have twice witnessed Jesus distribute a thousand times more bread than they had at hand.  Yet they worry about having enough food in the boat when they have one loaf – that is, the Lord himself!  Like most people, they cannot get over the human condition of scarcity.  They cannot see that in Christ’s company they have more than enough.

Bumpkins as they are at this point, Jesus has to warn the disciples about thinking themselves greater than they are.  He uses the example of leaven or yeast to give them the message.  Put a bit of yeast in a little dough and in a short time you find a full loaf of bread.  Yeast or leaven puffs up making something appear more massive than it is.  “The leaven of the Pharisees” and “the leaven of Herod” puff up their carriers to the extent that they cannot recognize God’s messengers.  The Pharisees think that they are defending God as they demand signs on the spot from Jesus, even after he has repeatedly given witness to his divine commission.  In decapitating John, Herod pretends to have authority over innocent life.  Jesus warns his disciples against both kinds of arrogance.  They and we are neither to worry about what is lacking nor to think of our own virtue as sufficient.  Rather, they and we must trust in Jesus.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 4:1-15.25; Mark 8:11-13)

The seven deadly sins capture most imaginations.  Sin appeals to egotistic self-interest.  The deadly or capital sins have greater attraction because they imply great risk and big payoff.  The seven are not so much sins as tendencies to sin.  They may be helpfully classified as run-away passions causing people to act contrary to the law and their real interests.  In today’s first reading God counsels Cain to keep these passions in check.

God acts benevolently toward Cain.  Rather than ignore him after He chooses Abel’s sacrifice rather than his, he gives Cain good advice.  He admonishes him to, in effect, let go of envy and anger.  God tells him that these passions need not control Cain.  Rather with the development of virtue Cain can control them.

Passions in themselves are not evil.  They may even lead to some good.  There is a righteous anger, for example, and erotic love may lead to marriage and a family.  But even in these instances, we want to control their power.  Developing virtue through prayer, patience, and persistence in doing good we can harness our passions to serve us and our community. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 3: 1-8; Mark 7:31-37)

It is a classic axiom that humans do not choose evil because it is bad.  Rather they choose it under the aspect of some good that it brings.  In today’s first reading the serpent tempts the woman by mentioning apparent advantages of eating the forbidden fruit.  First, her “eyes would be opened”; that is, she will have gained insight or knowledge.  Then it adds that she and her mate “will be like gods.”  They will not only know more but will decide for themselves right and wrong.  Once the woman’s reason has been stirred by the serpent’s ideas, she imagines other benefits.  The fruit becomes “pleasing to the eye” and apparently to the palate.

The story is reflected in every sin.  The thief prizes another person’s treasure more than the person’s right to keep what she has legitimately obtained.  The fornicator thinks little of the harm he creates by satisfying his lust but mostly of the pleasure it gives.  Even people who know well of the evil that sin incurs may commit it anyway for the sense of autonomy it brings.

In today’s gospel as everyday Jesus is proclaimed as doing the Father’s gracious will.  He restores hearing and clear speech to the man as a sign of God’s love.  Such love is manifested in every judgment of conscience that some act would be evil.  In refusing to sin, we acknowledge that God forbids evil acts because He loves us.