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.