Luke Live! Online: Reflection on Mary’s Prayer THE MAGNIFICAT

The Canticle of Mary. 46 And Mary said:*

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

49 The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

51 He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

53 The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

55 according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Now let’s take a closer look at the words of Mary’s prayer that you have just heard. Tradition identifies this prayer as “The MAGNIFICAT.” “Magnificat” is a Latin word. Its English equivalent is the word “magnifies.”  The Christian tradition translated Luke’s original Greek into Latin and from Latin into English with the phrase “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Scholars who created the New American Bible translation chose the word “proclaims” in this context.  Thus you heard Mary say in this translation, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Other translators coined these phrases: “My heart praises the Lord” (Good News translation), “My soul glorifies the Lord” (NIV), “My soul exalts the Lord” (New English Bible).  The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Versions (NRSV) returned to the more classic English translation “My soul magnifies the Lord” as do all of the King James versions. 

To magnify is to enlarge—i.e., to make God’s greatness more evident. The words “praise” and “proclaim” accomplish the same purpose. The more we praise God, the more opportunity for people to ponder God and God’s greatness.  Both Christians and Muslims see Mary’s willingness to conceive and give birth to Jesus as a perfect witness to God’s greatness.  Her willingness to trust God in this miraculous conception also emphasizes the importance of surrendering to God’s will.   And even though Mary is not part of the Hebrew Scriptures, her cooperation with God, which we call GRACE in this moment, concretizes her Jewish sensibilities inherent in the words of Psalm 79, verse 13: “We, your people, will give thanks to you forever; through all ages we will declare your praise.”   Also Psalm 111: 3: “Majestic and glorious is God’s work, God’s righteousness endures forever.”  Thus Mary can rightfully say, “from now on will all ages call me blessed,” and “God’s mercy is from age to age.”  Remember, Grace has an uncontainable quality that extends far beyond any one individual or group or place or time.  Indeed, many faiths and philosophies uphold that “goodness begets goodness,” ‘truth strengthens truth,” and that “love knows no boundaries.”  

In Mary’s prayer we also find affirmation of the great reversal promised in the Hebrew Scripturestraditionally called TANAKH[1]: “the poor will be exalted, the exalted humbled.” Most notably there is the Song of Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel 2: which contains phrases such as

“My heart exults in the Lord, 

my strength is exalted in my God.

 Speak boastfully no longer nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, 

while the hungry batten on spoil. 

The Lord makes poor and makes rich. He humbles, he also exults. 

He raises the needy from the dust; 

from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.” 

Clearly the Divine Action is to reconcile peoples to their proper state of living:  a celebration of our common humanity—everyone standing before God as equals.  This is a “great reversal,” indeed, for so much of human history progressed—just as our world continues to progress—at other people’s expense.  God’s reversal through prophets and through Jesus insists that we implement checks and balances on progress for everyone’s mutual benefit.  Indeed, the biblical vision obliterates the importance of status and heritage because they distract us from the common vision that we are all one.  Ultimately, social rankings are illusions.  At the end of each and every day, everyone needs air, water, food, clothing shelter, sleep and, yes, toilet facilities.  We must not take any aspect of our humanity for granted.  The Book of Ecclesiastes puts it this way: “As they came forth from their mother’s womb, so again shall they return, naked as they came, having nothing from their toil to bring with them.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:14)

When all social divisions cease, every person is as important as another.  This is humanity’s one, unifying vision: Every individual is an instrument of Providence.  Believers are invited to live daily in awe and wonder that we are able to experience life and love because of God and through God.  The Catholic liturgy proclaims God as the one “In whom we live and move and have our being.”  (This is a direct quote from the Book of Acts 17: 28.) In secular terms, gratitude for life itself breeds humility which, in turn, brings people together.   

INTRODUCTION TO AVE MARIA

         Now I invite you to collect your feelings and thoughts about THE GREAT REVERSAL, AND THE ANNUNCIATION AND VISITATIONS PASSAGES through my song meditation, Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  The words are Latin but they comprise Luke 1, verses 28 and 42.  Verse 28 recalls the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary that preceded the Visitation passage you just heard. Gabriel calls out to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The next line of the prayer and lyric echoes Elizabeth’s words to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  For Christians these words are an affirmation of our belief in the “Incarnation,” God entering into human history as a human being.  We’ll explore that further in subsequent tracks.  I invite listeners from other faiths to meditate on the ways your religions affirm God’s presence in the world through people of good will in all times and places. 

The song’s second verse addresses Mary as Mother of God, that is, of Jesus. Christians believe Jesus to be both fully God and fully human—the complete manifestation of God to the material world.  Both aspects of Jesus are inseparable, therefore Mary is the mother of the ONE who is both God and human. That is followed by a prayer of petition that Mary will pray for us now and at the hour of our death so that we may be with God for all eternity.   These themes also have secular counterparts that can be part of your discussion with relatives and friends who hold other faiths or maintain more secular perspectives.  

“Full of grace” is to be blessed, to be congratulated, to be filled with good news, good thoughts–to be caught up in a life-affirming enterprise.  Prayer, which comprises the second part of Hail Mary, for example, is an active expressions of HOPE in eternal life.  Its secular counterpart is the concept of horizon—a reality that can be seen or envisioned but not fully grasped because, like the horizon itself, it beckons only to recede further into space and time.  Recede though it may, the impact of horizon—magnificent sunrises and sunsets–lingers and we are able to grasp some of its energy and inspiration in the here and now.   Here then is Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  Additional commentary with questions for discussion will follow. 

 Here are links to two of my recordings of AVE MARIE -one Audio Only with Instrumental Ensemble from my CD The Gospel of Luke In Word and Song; The second is a Video with piano accompaniment by Laurence Rosania.

Latin Catholic prayer versionLiteral English Translation 
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Ave, Ave, Dominus,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus,
Et benedictus fructus ventris (tui),
Ventris tui, Jesus.
Ave Maria!

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Ora, ora pro nobis;
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis,
In hora mortis nostrae.
In hora, hora mortis nostrae,
In hora mortis nostrae.
Ave Maria!
Hail Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary!

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray for us sinners,
Now, and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
The hour, the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
Hail Mary!

For more on Schubert’s AVE MARIA, see: 

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ave_Maria_(Schubert)


[1] I want to emphasize the Hebrew word TANAKH in sensitivity to our Jewish friends.  What Christians call “The Old Testament” is actually the writings of The First Covenant, i.e. God’s covenant with Israel—the descendants of Jacob aka Israel.  The Covenant through Jesus for Christians is truly a Second Covenant. The Jews call their books TANAKH and so we respect them by using this title rather than “Old Testament.”  Contemporary Christians affirm the validity of God’s Covenant with Israel grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 11: 29 and in the Catholic Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II (1963-65) in the document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) See

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html  In truth the people of Christian History have been disrespectful of Judaism and contributed to anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people.  Yet, Judaism constitutes the very foundation of Jesus and therefore Christianity.  In that way our ancestors neglected to observe the Fourth Commandment (Catholics) aka Fifth Commandment (Orthodox Christians and Protestants): Honor your Father and your Mother. 

Questions for Luke Live! Online! More on The Annunciation and New Material on The Visitation Luke 1: 39-56

BY Paulist Father James DiLuzio to accompany Luke Live! ONLINE

Commentary on Luke 1: 26 to 56   

The Annunciation and Visitation segments of Luke’s Gospel highlight a number of universal human experiences beyond the specifics of the Incarnation—God as the person of Jesus.  Foremost is the announcement of conception—that moment when women share the news that they have a child to bring into the world.  Echoing many wonderful moments in the Jewish scriptures TANAKH[1] (which Christians call the “First Testament”), this moment shared between Mary and Elizabeth known as “The Visitation,” engages listeners in a timeless celebration of life and hope. At the same time, it acknowledges human vulnerability.  For amidst the joy there is also trepidation as Elizabeth is pregnant in old age and Mary is pregnant out of wedlock.   Because Elizabeth is so advanced in years, she has to “go into seclusion” to care for and nurture her baby in utero.  That little phrase “go into seclusion” is a powerful reminder that even though God may answer our prayers, we must do our part to honor the blessings we receive.  Mary, too, will have to take responsibility for the gift of a child because of her youth and unwed status.  Indeed, both women would have been subject to public scrutiny, judgments and condemnations just as goodness, beauty, even life itself often become objects of ridicule and derision for those rooted in resentments or caught in webs of despair, chains of anxiety, fear or suffering.

Another spiritual message: God enters into human history.  These Gospel events and many like them affirm that human life has a purpose beyond mere survival.  God enters into history by endowing each and every individual with the gift of free will: the awesome capability to discern good and to choose good over evil, life over death. The stories of Jesus and his disciples, beginning with Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah—and all stories like them—offer the blessed assurance that God is with us “from age to age,” accompanying us, supporting us on our earthly journey so that we may cooperate with grace, to choose every possible manifestation of life and what is life-giving.   A secular parallel to these events and themes includes the many ways the stories of our ancestors (i.e., ancestors from our individual family trees and from our larger ethnic and national collectives) can inspire us toward the good in the here and now.  Indeed, history itself offers us innumerable opportunities to keep learning from the past—correcting its mistakes and fostering its virtues for the good of all.  Believers call this “Grace;” secularists might simply call it “the nobility inherent in every man, woman and child.”

[1] TANKAH is an acronym of the first Hebrew letters for each sections of the Jewish Bible: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”)—hence TaNaKh. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh   It comprises the same writings in most of what Christians call “The Old Testament.”  Use of TANKAH is more multi-faith sensitive than “Old Testament” as is “First Covenant” and “First Testament.”

HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

A. Explore the myriad of thoughts and feelings women in your group (or YOU as WOMAN,  or women in your family) may have experienced when You or They first knew or learned they have conceived? Invite them to relate these to the thoughts and feelings Mary and Elizabeth expressed in the Gospel.

B.  Ask women and men who have not had children, their emotional responses to other people’s pregnancies, particularly those of their siblings or close friends or the conceptions of a favored niece, nephew or Godchild.

C. Refer to birth announcements in the Jewish Bible called TANAKH[1] and in the Koran and other faith traditions as well.  Now ask yourself, “How do these add to your discussion of your experiences of pregnancy and sharing the “Good News?” You may wish to follow these links:

The Annunciation to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18: 1-15

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2018&version=NABRE     AND LATER IN Genesis 21: 1-8

The Annunciation to Hannah that she will bring the prophet Samuel into the world:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%201&version=NABRE

And Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

For your convenience, I’ve inserted a selection of texts from THE KORAN.  The website source appears after the text. from KORAN

 SAHIH INTERNATIONAL TRANSLATION

KORAN

3:44  That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muhammad]. And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed. 3: 45  [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ]. 3:46: He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.” 3:47-48 She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.  And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel.

19: 18 – 35 She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah .” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.”

She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’ ”  So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”

But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.  And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.  So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’ “

Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.  O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.”

So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?”

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.  And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.  And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”  That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute.  It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

What the KORAN teaches about MARY

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2015/12/18/what-islam-really-teaches-about-virgin-mary

IF YOU WISH TO EXPLORE MORE OF THE KORAN ON YOUR OWN, GO TO:   https://quran.com/      (Choose ENGLISH  translation on top right of the web page)

D. Can you embrace the concept that whenever two people share the news of a pregnancy with joy (or GOOD NEWS of any kind), they are caught up in the same spiritual and emotional realities of the Annunciation and Visitation and other faith events?   Why or why not?

E. Have you ever made a conscious connection with your own experiences and the biblical ones?  If you have, what has that experience been like?  In doing so now enliven your faith?  If you are a secularist, how might these and other birth stories affirm your own humanity?

F. Explore sharing “Good News” of any kind with significant people in your life.  Include such “Annunciation and Visitation Moments” as opening your first college acceptance letter, or Marriage Proposal, Engagement Announcement, job promotions or the beginning of any new enterprise.  I am sure you will discover a lot of common ground here as the parallels are endless.

G. Now here’s my rationale for these questions:  Moments of “GOOD NEWS” have a universal, mystical quality about them as if we are “suspended outside of time and place.” When, as people of faith, we allow ourselves to be caught up in these moments, we believe we are experiencing God.  This is one of our many opportunities to see Scriptures as our autobiographies.  For those more skeptical about owning moments as “experiences of God,” how might you describe these kind of events and experiences of sharing “Good News?”

[1] I want to emphasize the Hebrew word TANAKH in sensitivity to our Jewish friends.  What Christians call “The Old Testament” is actually the writings of The First Covenant, i.e. God’s covenant with Israel—the descendants of Jacob aka Israel.  The Covenant through Jesus for Christians is truly a Second Covenant. The Jews call their books TANAKH and so we respect them by using this title rather than “Old Testament.”  Contemporary Christians affirm the validity of God’s Covenant with Israel grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 11: 29 and in the Catholic Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II (1963-65) in the document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) See http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html  n truth the people of Christian History have been disrespectful of Judaism and contributed to anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people.  Yet, Judaism constitutes the very foundation of Jesus and therefore Christianity.  In that way our ancestors neglected to observe the Fourth Commandment (Catholics) aka Fifth Commandment (Orthodox Christians and Protestants): Honor your Father and your Mother.

MEDITATION on the ANNUNCIATION

Prepared for YOU by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Let’s focus more on the ANGEL experience and the topic of Miracles. Whether or not you are open to believe in angels, many people have what they call a NUMINOUS experience or an experience of sublime, positive energy that is akin to what is depicted here in what the Christian tradition calls, “The Annunciation,” the great announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary.  However you choose to identify the situation, whether you understand it as a divine intervention or simply a personal, deep inspiration or premonition of what God is capable of, a powerful CHAIN REACTION occurs—an overflow of hope and all of its possibilities.  

For Christians, being designated as “full of grace,” or “full of God’s favor” provides the necessary condition for humanity to be open to the miraculous—that is in this part of the Gospel to angels, to their inspiration and to what God may achieve.  In evidence here is the biblical truth that God loves us First, that God’s love initiates all things.  In this case, Mary’s assent is a response to God’s love that inaugurates the miracle of a virgin conceiving a child without a human male’s contribution. In religious language we call this miracle “INCARNATION”—God becoming fully human in order to identify with the human condition in all of its fullness beginning in and with the fertilized ovum or embryo attaching to a virgin’s womb. Believing in that, of course, is a matter of faith, both faith in miracles and faith in the claims of Christianity.  

Some say that one is either open to the mystery of the miraculous, the suspension of the laws of physics, biology, natural phenomena, or one is not.  At the same time, some miracles can be explained scientifically without in any way detracting from a belief that God is acting in the world.  Still, some phenomena such as Messiah’s conception in Mary’s womb cannot be explained scientifically at all.   

Here are some questions for discussion:

QUESTION 1: To what degree do you feel compelled to insist on explanations for all events of your life or world history? What motivates you to take a leap of faith?  What are your personal obstacles to faith?

QUESTION 2: Does a scientific explanation for an event dismiss the possibility of God’s intervention in history or participation in it?  Similarly, can the “miracles” of modern science –the ability to engage in organ transplants, cure diseases – be also understood as God’s spirit at work in the world?  Are they any less “miraculous,” in being explained in medical terms? 

QUESTION 3Can you agree that “mystery” is a common human experience whether one follows or does not follow a religion? 

QUESTION 4: Discuss the benefits and burdens of each worldview, i.e.

a. belief in miracles

b. the power of God or of “goodness” working through people

c. trust in mystery 

d. rejection of all of the above concepts

QUESTION 5: Whether or not you find yourself open to the miraculous or unexplainable phenomenon, what do you think is the meaning and purpose of Mary’s virgin conception of Jesus?  

QUESTION 6: Christians uphold a belief in the Incarnation — God becoming human in, through and as Jesus of Nazareth, but one doesn’t have to be Christian to explore this aspect of our faith, that is, that “God shares in all dynamics of the human condition.”  To what extent to those upholding other religions and spiritualities uphold or explore that statement? Discuss how or how not “God or “Your Higher Power” or “The Cosmos” share in all dynamics of the human condition.”  In secular terms: “we all participate in something greater than ourselves, be it beauty, truth, hope, justice, mercy, compassion, love beyond all telling.” 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP (Biblical Readings follow at the end of the homily.)

Long before Freud, Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Psychology, there was the Bible with precepts and laws to govern human behavior.  Evidently, we humans think of anything and everything and thus required mandates and prohibitions from on high: Do this, don’t do that!  Then, as now, guidelines remain essential for humanity’s survival.  God mandates that we all get along. 

Moreover, our Covenant with God insists we have a future to build, goals to achieve. From the beginning, God, in God’s infinite Wisdom, desired human participation in building an earthly kingdom to prepare every person for heaven.  Whether we like it or not, Cooperation with God and Reverence for all God’s creation –people, animals, nature, things– have been, and always will be, part of God’s plan. 

The Signs of our Times demand this.  We can no longer perpetuate the sins of our ancestors. Nor can we afford to succumb to neglect of vital issues they ignored. We were baptized into “kingdom building:” Each of us destined to make our mark advancing equality, justice with mercy.  Our Eucharistic Spirituality insists “everyone belongs,” everyone is respected.  Cultures may separate us.  Economies and politics divide us. But Jesus unites us.  Remember, Our Savior never accepted the status quo, never defaulted to convenience and comfort when improvements could be made.  He insisted on new wine poured into new wineskins, knowing full well that, without his help, our fallible nature will keep us cultivating the old.

Yes, Jesus acquainted Himself with temptation for our sake. He understood the allures of self-aggrandizement, and one-upmanship.  He knew well that we prefer comfort and security at the expense of integrity and hope.  He knew we would sin; He knew we cause harm to ourselves and others. Therefore, he insisted that we reconcile with one another—never lording another’s faults or flaws or wickedness over him or her, but instead,  acknowledging our own temptations as we strive to  reconcile wrongdoers to the better way: the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  These are our litmus tests for our behavior and everyone else’s.  We must hold ourselves and others accountable if we are ever to move forward to a true communion of Saints.  But we must not be “holier than thou” for    condescension and condemnation never win over anyone.

Today’s Readings remind us we are to warn the wicked to turn from evil ways while making every effort not to become wicked ourselves.  Who among us has not been betrayed?  Who hasn’t been put down, scorned, unforgiven?  Whose most cherished beliefs and values have not been dismissed or scorned? Evil beckons whenever these affronts occur. We must remember what Jesus knew 2,000 years ago:   Because everyone suffers, deal with the suffering others cause by addressing one problem at a time, one person at a time.   That is the most humbling approach; only true humility will work things out.

Naturally, it is easier to be humble with people we know and love.  When we witness wrongdoing, when we or others we care about get hurt, we usually need to vent first –expunge the anger, the outrage, the hurt so that we may cool off.  It is fitting, then, to vent to God and to loved ones before we address our offenders.  Still, we are obliged to let them know not only that the Church expect better of them, but that we know they are capable of better behavior.  Trusting in another person’s better self is the way to broach wrongdoing.  As disciples In Christ, it is the only way.

Of course, when dealing with people we do not love, Jesus’ prescription is next to impossible to follow on our own.  It is especially difficult with people who have authority over us -a manager, a boss, a benefactor.  In fairness, if we do not feel safe –-emotionally or physically, one-on-one reconciliation can be unworkable without the help of others.  Thankfully, Jesus says, “take one or two along with you.”  Thank God those folks are in our lives!  But even then, the step we often miss, or refuse to take, before we attempt to reconcile is prayer—praying alone and with those who support us. Prayer will fortify us to move forward. Notice how Jesus’ precept on reconciliation concludes with his insistence on prayer.     

Prayer will prepare us to handle uncontrite offenders by placing us in solidarity with Jesus on the cross, who, out of compassion, forgave the unrepentant. And although we may need to start with “pity,” (the lesser cousin of compassion), prayer, and perseverance in prayer, will, in time, move pity to empathy. For isn’t it sad when we are, or anyone is, mean?  Isn’t it a shame that people can choose to hurt, to offend, cause harm to any person, to any animal, to anything on which goodness, truth and health depend?  Isn’t it a pity when we denigrate our being made-in-God’s-image by clinging so tightly to the past that we refuse to move forward to advance human destiny toward the Kingdom of God?

Pity may be the pivotal point of redemption for reconciliation and getting along. Was not compassion for sinners the reason for Jesus’ incarnation?  We must cultivate a daily consciousness that we are always in need of a Savior and embrace the Thanksgiving in this and every Eucharist.   Without Jesus, we have no true humility. Without humility we find little recourse to prayer. Without prayer, we have little pity for the sinner—be it our own sins or anyone else’s.  So, let us pray:  

“For every person our lives have touched, for every person whose life has touched ours, for good and for ill, whether known or unknown to us, Lord, have pity!  Strengthen the gifts of Your Holy Spirt in us.  Nurture us in patience and humility that inspire reconciliation, and sustain us in faith, hope, and love.  Let Your Kingdom come.”

Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. 
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Exploring Feelings of Oppression

Commentary and Questions Prepared for you by FR. James DiLuzio CSP

Reflecting on Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, vs 5 through 25, I invite you to identify with the way they and those hearing or reading Luke’s Gospel were experiencing oppressions.

  • Oppressed as a childless couple, stigmatized in an ancient culture
  • Oppressed as a people conquered by the Roman Empire and formerly oppressed by other empires
  • Oppressed by not having citizenship, deprived of all the rights and liberties thereof
  • Oppressed by fear their religious traditions will be compromised by Rome’s official religions and/or that the religious freedom they enjoyed could be taken away

To feel oppressed is to feel “put upon,” to be denied a say in what impacts you.  It can mean feeling taken for granted in ways that evoke a sense of helplessness and loss of basic human dignity.  It can mean living in fear, under the threat of violence, imprisonment or death. One may be oppressed by the economy, social mores, unjust laws, or oppressed by people in authority—an unreasonable boss, an overbearing teacher or team leader—or even feel oppressed, taken for granted, by family members and friends.   Knowing as we do that marriage in today’s Church and in modern societies is understood as a true partnership of equals—male and female, still, how often we hear one spouse say to another, “Why is it we always have to do things YOUR way . . . DEAR?”  So now, focus your group on these three questions.

1.  What do you imagine it would be like to live in an occupied country, or to live in your own country with lack of citizenship? Explain.

2. In what ways might you feel “oppressed” in your current life situation?”  

3.  What may be some of the most productive ways you and others can address your feelings of oppression?  Some resources such as “Non-Violent Communication Skills” are featured on the web.  You’ll find some suggestions in the footnote below.[1]

4. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to enter into this part of the Gospel and other stories like it?  Please explain.

5. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to empathize with other oppressed people?

6. Explore the topic of Religious Freedom.  How important is “religious freedom” to you?  What about religious expression?  For example, what is your opinion regarding displaying personal, religious symbols in public? And, what feelings are evoked within you as you discuss this topic? It would be best to start with how you “feel,” before you go into the topic.

7. To what extent is a person entitled to freedom of religious expression in the workplace?  What is your opinion? What ethical principle grounds your opinion? For example, you could say, “The Golden Rule,” or “The Platinum Rule,” or “The US Bill of Rights.” Or perhaps you ground your opinion in a political philosophy, or a passage from the Bible, whether it is TANAKH (the formal name for the Jewish Bible) or the Christian Bible, Koran, other religious source, or, perhaps, some combination thereof.

Would you like a PDF copy of these Questions to print out for Small Groups or Personal Reflection? Write to jamesdiluzio@hotmail.com I’ll be happy to send it to you God bless!


[1] http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm

https://www.cnvc.org/Training/10-steps-peace                

http://www.theccnv.org/

https://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Nonviolent-Communication

A Method of Response to Scripture -A New Lectio-Divina for Groups or Private Spiritual Reflection

Created by Paulist Father James M. DiLuzio from LUKE LIVE! See http://www.Lukelive.com

1.Observe a moment of Silence.  Collect your feeling responses to the passage.  For example, you may feel peaceful, sad, intrigued or uneasy.  If you need help identifying your feelings, CONSULT the FEELING BELOW.  Place no judgment on your feelings.  Simply let yourself “be.”

2. Have each participant in your group share (or write in your personal journal) one or more genuine Feeling words. (NO insights or discussion at this juncture.)[1]  Afterwards—after each person has shared a feeling word or two– observe another moment of silence.

3. What aspects of your own life do you associate with the biblical story and the feelings that it evoked?  After you clarify that for yourself, invite each person in your group to share his / her associations.

4. After you share your associations, you are now ready to ask “What does this scripture passage mean to you?” OR “What do you think it is supposed to mean, if anything?”

5. What insights or questions about the passage have not yet been addressed?  Invite everyone to offer their thoughts or questions.  (NOTE: Some questions may be answered in my Commentary Segments in this or the subsequent Luke Live! Session on YOUTUBE.)

6. What stories or events in other faith traditions, literature or world events are similar or in contrast to this segment of Luke’s Gospel? Discuss. Conclude by emphasizing the similarities.

7. Is there a song that comes to mind after engaging in the segment or from your meditation or discussion?  Do the thoughts or feeling evoked in the song match or oppose something in the Scripture?  Reflect / Journal / Discuss.

8. Is there something from the passage or the discussion you can incorporate into your daily life right now?  Has the passage inspired a new or renewed goal?  OR do you need to continue to think, pray,  process, or wrestle with all that you’ve heard and the feelings evoked?  Each person should follow up as needed.

Would you like a PDF copy of these Questions to print out for Small Groups or Personal Reflection? Write to jamesdiluzio@hotmail.com I’ll be happy to send it to you God bless!


[1] To gauge whether you are claiming a “feeling” in opposed to “a thought,” place your word or words in the phrase “I think” instead of “I feel.”   If your word make sense in this context, it is not a genuine “feeling” word. For example, your initial response to a passage may be “I feel this is nonsense.”  You actually are making a judgment, not expressing a feeling because your word (“nonsense”) makes more sense in the phrase “I think this is nonsense.” The appropriate “feeling’ words in this instance could be “uncomfortable,” “alienated,” “put off.”  In that case, try to translate the religious language or context of the scripture in secular terms or find a secular equivalent and share that with your group.  For example, “Miracles” becomes “Unexplainable coincidences.” Then share how you feel about “unexplainable coincidences” with words such as “grateful,” “puzzled,” “dismayed,” etc.

Feelings Vocabulary Chart

FATIMA, The Movie – My Review opens August 28 in theaters and on digital platforms

By Paulist Father James DiLuzio CSP

Wherever you are on the Spiritual Spectrum, in whatever way you evaluate the experiences of visionaries, especially those who attest to visitations from, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the new film FATIMA invites you to a valuable conversation about faith, mystery and the efficacy of prayer.  Catholic and Orthodox Christians will find the film prayerful. Protestants and people of other faiths will be invited to explore ways they understand prayer, define their concepts of heaven, hell, and Divine Mercy. It raises important questions as to the realities of eternal life, the connection between heaven and earth on a day-to-day basis and the very nature of faith.  People with agnostic sensibilities, or, who are confirmed atheists, might treat this meditative film as something akin to the challenges of practicing yoga as the picture highlights the conflicts within human hearts and social structures that challenge ongoing inner peace.

Beautifully photographed and scored, FATIMA is contemplative; it is not hagiography.  It does not reek of piety or rapturous emotion, but it is thoughtful, and, at times, profound. Nevertheless, conflict and drama are evidenced within the Church and in issues of Church and State. All depicted skillfully by director Marco Pontecorvo. Plus, there are well-executed special effects, especially the well documented 1917 “Miracle of the Sun.” FATIMA is also well-acted. Two world renowned actors are featured in small but significant parts: Harvey Keitel as the skeptic professor who interviews Lucia, one of the visionaries in her senior years, and Sonia Braga, international Brazilian star as the elder Sister Lucia.  The film, however, belongs to the three children – Stephanie Gil as ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos, Alejandra Howard as Jacinta Marto, seven, and Jorge Lamelas as her brother, Francisco Marto, nine.  Miss Gil is often center stage, while Miss Howard is especially endearing. Lucia’s skeptic mother, Maria Rosa, played by Lúcia Moniz, is quite excellent, too, as is Lucia’s more sympathetic but conflicted father, Antonio, played by Marco D’Almeida. There is a moment in the film between father and daughter that continues to linger in my mind supporting an image of a better, more caring, sensitive world.

 Although there are a few examples of dramatic license in FATIMA, the film offers authentic storytelling with an almost documentary-like detachment.  Do not let this deter you from engaging in this movie!  It offers numerous opportunities for the faithful and the secular to converse, share feelings and insights. Those interested in Christian-Muslim dialogue will find FATIMA a fine springboard for discourse.  The people of Islam have a strong devotion to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, because of her surrender to God’s will for her. (“Islam” means “surrender.”)  Neighborhood Churches and Mosques would do well to offer ZOOM, SKYPE, or MESSENGER meetings in small groups after watching the film on one of its many digital platforms beginning August 28th.

Note to Young Families: The three children’s visitation from the Blessed Virgin Mary from heaven is contextualized in the world of Portugal in 1916-17.  Various acts of pieties such as strict fasting and willful acts of self-suffering and biblical concepts of an “Angry God” were common.   

More Information at https://www.fatimathemoviel.com

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2197936/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 Father James DiLuzio CSP provides missions and retreats throughout the USA.  See www.LukeLive.com  Through this pandemic, he offers a YouTube series YOUNG AT HEART and Reflections on Luke’s Gospel entitled Luke Live! Both of these are available at  https://www.youtube.com/JamesDiLuzio

HOMILY FOR 18TH SUNDAY OF Ordinary Time

2 August 2020 by Father James DiLuzio CSP NOTE: Scripture Readings are cited below and featured in their entirety at the end of the homily

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3 Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1 Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39 Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

We are into our sixth month of the corona virus pandemic and (to quote the prophet Jeremiah) “our teeth are set on edge.”  We would love it if all our prayer, all the masses we’ve attended sitting in alternate pews, covering our faces with masks or, sharing in spiritual communion online—if all this prayer would keep us centered In Jesus. That is why we are here today, isn’t it? So that Jesus’ love for us and for the world will ground us in SERENITY to prevent us from caving into despair over difficult situations and/or difficult people.

We have so many spiritual resources at our disposal, and yet, reading or watching the news, can fill us with anxieties, fears, and hopelessness. Isaiah cried out “Come to the Waters!” but we feel our thirsts are not quenched.  Not because this pandemic prohibits Holy Water in our founts, but we let the troubles of our times diminish the indelible marks of our Baptisms. Today I propose we reclaim our Baptismal identities as God’s people, empowered by the Spirit to be Christ’s ministers to our wounded world. Today why not re-commit ourselves to God who offers us the equilibrium to be Christ-bearers—a people who, like our Savior offering a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes to a hungry crowd, disciples who care enough to pay attention to our African American neighbors’ cries for justice to join them in establishing a more equitable nation?

Remember Jesus incarnated “Peace Be with You” during the great Roman occupation of half the European, North African, and Middle Eastern world.  Yes, like our nation today, Rome offered history a legacy of centuries of grandeur but centuries of great suffering and oppression, too. And in one among many of thousands of examples of following Jesus, of persevering faith in difficult times, sixteen hundred years after Our Lord walked upon this earth, one of his disciples, Saint Teresa of Avilla wrote:    Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing affright thee. All things are passing. Patience obtains all things. He who has God has everything – God alone suffices.”

Teresa wrote this in the era of the Reformation, of Religious Wars, Political Chaos–the European map was in free fall in her day–and the INQUISITION was reinvigorated to threaten almost everyone –including her!

I suggest we plead with God today for constancy amidst the social movements of our time, so we can collaborate for change.  We can say “Yes,” to gender equality, equal pay for equal work, and school systems and work environments that truly offer equal opportunity for all, and a justice and prison system that offers reform and rehabilitation instead of dehumanizing, soul crushing castigation.  

Everyone in church today and those participating at home have so many Spiritual Gifts bestowed upon us, but let’s admit it:  we do not access these graces enough.  Even though many of us are able to work amid this pandemic; many have resources enough to see us through better days, we don’t let the Spirit enliven us! In light of this Gospel of Jesus’ pity for the crowds, we must THINK of those whose workplaces are closed, who are relying on unemployment (which may soon end) or who are dependent on resources for basic needs that may be withheld. We must see their full humanity akin to our own that acknowledges their inner struggles–wrestling matches of pride with need, dignity with want and the corresponding judgments from within their own souls as well as those outward judgments, condescension and cruelty thrusted upon them by too many sectors of our  society.

Think of those who may have work but are clearly not in a “safe environment”” either due to lack of health precautions or because of sub-standard working conditions; jobs that our government labeled “essential” but exist in un-evaluated conditions. And think of those who are assumed guilty when attempting only to exercise their rights, both God-given and legal.  

The words of former congressman John Lewis’ post-mortem message continually ring in my ears about the terror of racism’s impact on his childhood— America’s racism had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare.” Is not Jesus’ pity and mercy applicable to all those forced to live in a State of the Union such as that?  For what was experienced years ago by Congressman John Lewis continues to be experienced today by all too many people whose skin shades are of a darker hue than most of us sitting in these pews.

Today, Jesus’ pity must motivate us to pity and to the kind of action that mirrors miraculous multiplication of loaves.  We’re so used to making distinctions among peoples based on money, prestige, celebrity, cultural preferences and ethnicities that these way heavy on our national psyches. It’s time we reject this way of thinking! Jesus didn’t divide the crowds into “first class, business class” or any other class. He fed them all. We keep hearing the adage “We’re all in this together,” but, my dear friends, Jesus, the Eucharist and this Gospel have been telling us that for 2,020 years.

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 112

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1

R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,    
    slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
    and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
    and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
    and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
    and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
    to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Alleluia MT

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

Homily for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Fr. James DiLuzio

WISDOM comes with humility — a HOMILY  17th Sunday Fr. James DiLuzio

I watched a film this week that offered a scathing indictment of the American experience. Its plot and its characters make a good case that our nation was founded on violence, ravishment, prejudice, and greed. It reminded me of how these forces remain operative today, permeating the national psyche and our daily lives. 

I also watched a news program about the military interventions in Portland, Oregon these past weeks and the commentator said, “neve have we seen military force use tear gas against American citizens.”  I gasped.  Was he too young to know of the tear gas and violence police and military used against African Americans in Selma and on college campuses in the 1960’s? 

Of course, none of these examples represent the entire story of America, nor do they acknowledge the virtues evident in so many of her citizens.  On the positive side, everyone should know that the US military escorted nine African American students into Central High School in Little Rock AK in 1957 to keep them safe from white natives’ protests. Still, why did this have to happen if not that for somewhere deep in the national psyche hatred, prejudice, inducement to violence and economic oppression lingered still?  

These remain the questions of our times, the context of our lives today in the US of A and they must give us pause. “Why,” you ask?  Because the issues raised by BLACK LIVES MATTER and #ME TOO and the sexual abuse scandals and power plays in the Church, in our government and all realms of power demand it.  And because that is what our parables today invite us to ponder.

Why sell everything one has for a treasure buried in a field, if not to clear one’s life of all that is wrong, sinful, superficial of little or no value and start again, begin anew with treasure that is of immense importance?

Why sell all one’s jewelry business to obtain a pearl beyond price if not to rethink how one lives one’s life better, to nurture and polish what is good and abandon what is wrong?

In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote a song called THE TIMES ARE A-CHANGING but it is very clear that the times have not changed enough, for what goes around, comes around again and again until we finally strike at the roots of evil.

This should come as no surprise to people of faith. From the Fall, to the stiff-necked people who were our biblical ancestors, to the apostles who fled from Jesus in his time of crises, we humans have often sought retreat than the hard work of change. 

And yet throughout our God burned with zeal for our souls, sent the Holy Spirits’ Refining Fire prophesized by Malachi in the 5th century before Jesus, renewed by John the Baptist and fulfilled in Jesus’ Beatitudes–simple extensions of the 2 Great Commandments that we have yet to follow fully. Ultimately, he sent the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to move the Commandments and the Beatitudes forward.

Jesus perpetuates this refiner’s fire, this Pentecost fire, in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. For the Eucharist continues to keep purging us of temptations to the evil of the world—an evil that often rationalizes all the great sins of prejudice, greed, and violence as the bottom line when push comes to shove.

In the heat of this summer, this awful pandemic , when we are prone to thinking ‘every man, woman and child for himself / herself,” and encountering all that is wrong with our society, our economy, our history and are very selves—of course, we can get weary of al the criticism.  But we must not!  We do so at our own peril, at the risk of abandoning the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated.

Today, as every day, we the faithful must resolve to be led by Jesus to engage in prayer and in acts of kindness and compassion. Indeed, I see you before me and I gain confidence, that, YES, we are here to allow the Fire of the Spirit to refine us in faith, hope, and love. Jesus is with us, so we need not ever default to the status quo, but instead throw off our defensiveness to embrace the One Savior who is meek and humble of heart but also strong and courageous to right the wrongs of today. This Eucharist will rekindle the fire of faith in us to accompany Jesus in his quest for true liberty and justice for all. Believe!

Here are the Scripture Reading for Today:

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 109                                

Reading 1    1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial Psalm

PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2    ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-52 OR 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Homily: Listen, Love, Act!

Readings: Hosea 8 HOS 8:4-7, 11-1 ; PSALM115:3-4, 5-6, 7AB-8,-10 ; Gospel: Matthew MT 9:32-3

In the Gospel Jesus drives out a demon who has made a man mute.  We don’t know how the man had become possessed.  We don’t know if he participated in evil or cultivated it. Jesus doesn’t berate him for any of those things. We must then, presume the man’s innocence. He’s was a victim of a demons–Demons who represents all the things that are not of God—fear, hatred, abandonment, neglect. 

Jesus lived his life on earth always in the present moment, attentive to God and the people at hand. Of course, he drives out the demon—no questions asked because he is establishing a Kingdom of the Now and of the Future.  In brief, something was wrong, someone was suffering. Jesus addressed it. 

Our times are a ‘changing.  The wrongs and the sufferings of the African American community are more evident than they have been for decades (although the injustices go back much farther).   Happily, there are signs of true Christianity emerging; Signs that resonate with Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Americans who are labeled “white” – me included–are starting to pay attention; listening and learning in ways most of our Baby Boomer generation and subsequent generations have not.  This is grace in action. The Kingdom of God comes when we open our minds to Jesus who insisted on the Cross that no one who suffers suffer in silence, no victim remains mute.  Why else would he have spoken Seven Last Sentences to us from the Cross? 

As disciples we pledge to listen to Jesus and so we must pledge to hold back any defensiveness, refrain from excuses and listen, listen to the African American Experience, just as we have been listening to the women of the ME-TOO EXPERIENCE. Both are in our midst but the life and death reality is certainly greatest in the Black community right now. 

Matthew literally writes of Jesus’ “Pity for the crowds.” When we get angry and upset, don’t we want people to “have pity on us?”  Don’t we?  We want to be heard and understood, don’t we? We get angry all the time in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods.  And what do we expect?  We want a listening ear, an opened heart, someone with patience, willing to understand? 

Who hasn’t experiences in his or her own home, angry voices even physical anger evidenced by holes in our walls –fist-punched plaster; plates crashed upon the floor?  We all know this just doesn’t happen in the movies.  And haven’t we learned by now that when we focused on the broken materials we never got to the cause of the anger, never got to the root of the dysfunctions displayed? If we cooperated with grace, we learned that only by Listening and/or seeking outside help –objective listeners, concerned, caring listeners—would we / could we prove we loved one another –assuring that mother/ brother/ father/ sister/ didn’t suffer in silence.  No one should.

If we have these expectations within our families and recognize the sources of our own angers come from being neglected, disrespected, put-upon, oppressed—then we must offer what we expect, what we need from our family to others: Listening hearts, open minds. 

We’ve been deaf to the sufferings of the Black communities for too long.  We sequestered ourselves, gated ourselves, segregated ourselves –how few of us have Black Americans among our families and friends, live in our neighborhoods? It’s time we listen and find out WHY and HOW this came to be?  There’s no one easy or single answer, which is we have to listen and, like Jesus, be part of the healing power that can foster the Kingdom of God.   As Catholic we need to ask, how can we expect Jesus to listen to our prayers when we negate or avoid the prayers of others?  Jesus calls us to an all-inclusive communion.  The time for communion is now.