Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Father James DiLuzio CSP

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-2

During my 6 years as Associate Pastor in a parish in Los Angeles, I had the privilege of being chaplain to 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  The experiences provided me with numerous Spiritual Highs. I was filled with a deeper conviction of my faith–our faith–and a liberating joy. Even when we entered Gethsemane and stood on the places of sorrow and recalled Jesus’ and the Blessed Mother’s agonies and pains, the pilgrims and I meditated on the tragic aspects of sin and Christ’s sacrifice with a foundational hope.  What we discovered, in a new, visceral way, was that as we engaged ourselves in the Holy Family’s sorrows, we more readily united our personal sorrows with those of others.  Stories of sadness and hurts surfaced among us, and as we attended to each one, we found ourselves released from our own hurts, disappointments, fears, and disappointments. Christ was with us.  On the Mount of Olives, or on the meadows where Jesus preached, Compassion overwhelmed us and engaged us in Resurrection experiences –the foundation of our Christian faith.

I need to remind myself of these Holy Land experiences, for now, some 20 years ago, I can detach from those feelings and insights all too readily.  Time and time again I find myself struggling with the Paschal Mystery. 

When Jesus ridicules the religious leaders for rote observance of laws and rituals, for not having conversion of heart, there are times I see myself as one of those Scribes and Pharisees.  It’s not all so bad, this identification.  I imagine they were struggling with the same inner tension so many of us have -conflicts between engaging in outward signs and not always feeling the intellectual and emotional commitment to worship. Am I giving of my true self—in all that I am and am not—as an offering to God, a genuine gift of thanksgiving for my very life? We subsist in God’s life, no other. Our Sacraments engage us in outward signs, yes!  Yet they offer something more: active participation in the life of Jesus and the Apostles. Woe to all when our participation becomes an empty ritual, devoid of conversion of heart. Confident in God’s compassion and infinite patience with us, we must have the courage to be honest that we are not worthy, but we are loved. Who among us isn’t guilty of some aspect of hypocrisy when walking the path of LOVE?    

Moses was recorded in Deuteronomy saying, “Observe (the Laws, the Covenant) carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people,” Today, let’s face it “the nations could care less what we do, what we believe,” for the world is exceedingly secular and humanistic. Clearly, our society is most attentive to signs of our sins and is quick to call out “hypocrisy!”  We have no control over the ways people perceive us as people of faith. We know we cannot be compassionate 24 – 7.  Nevertheless, we are called to public witness.

In the end, the greatest gauge of true faith are not our rituals or prayer practices but our embodying the 2 Great Commandments: “Love God, Love Self (not because of our family tree, our personal talents, and accomplishments but) because each of us are part of God’s design, God’s plan for the generation in which we live — Destined to find our fulfillment in loving others.” It always comes down to that. As disciples of Jesus, Our Lord, it must always come down to that.

As we strive for sincere hearts of faith, genuine commitment to participation in Christ, the true sacrament, we must “Pick up the Cross,” and, essentially, that Cross is The Golden Rule. Ask, “What do I really want from each and every other person in my life?”— Understanding, respect, loyalty, compassion, acceptance?   Well, then, offer each and everyone what we ourselves need. If not, we’re prone to all the dark, inner resentments, the ugly desires Jesus enumerates in Matthew’s Gospel—greed, malice, envy, and the like.

I consulted the Paulist Biblical Commentary on today’s readings, and I found this: “In the Biblical Tradition, the heart is the center of a person’s life, the seat of actions and emotion, (the seat of human) will, and thoughts, and conscience . . .  The heart is the determining factor in one’s standing before God.” 

So, to respond to what we’ve heard today, may we continually pray, “Change our hearts, Lord, change our hearts! Bless us with an ever-deepening conversion.  Ground us in pure and sincere worship, so that your Divine Heart, will secure for us all the joys of faith, in good times and in bad times, for ourselves and for others.  Oh, // Lord, Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us, for we are sinners. // May this humble, honest prayer (modeled for us by Saint Matthew, the tax collector) bring us all to Life, to God, to the Resurrection and all the promises of Christ.”

Consider Faith in God

This article by Ross Douthat MUST BE READ by anyone who engages in questions about God — no matter your religion or struggle with faith in a God who willed Creation into being. So engaging! So beautifully, logically and amazingly articulated! WOW. I welcome all Comments and subsequent Conversation on this piece! God bless!

HOMILY on the ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY 2021

By Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

I enjoin you today to contemplate with me the beauty of this weekend’s commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption beginning with this recent quote from Bishop Robert Barron’s writings.  Bishop Baron is an Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Director of WORD ON FIRE ministries.

“When we speak of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother’s body, we are not envisioning a journey through space, as though Mary moved up into the sky. The “heavens” are a rich and consistent biblical symbol for the transcendent, for a manner of existence that lies beyond our familiar dimensions of space and time.

He goes on to say: “The Assumption of Mary means that the Blessed Mother was “translated,” in the totality of her being –

This means she achieved the fullness to which God intends for all humanity –imaged in the Resurrected Body of Jesus Christ –a complete unity of body, soul, and spirit free from all the limitations of biology and physics as we know it. 

Bishop Baron goes on to write that this fulfillment is what we mean when we use the term “heaven.”

He explains further: “Mary, who exists now in this other world, is not so much somewhere else as somehow else, and this helps to explain why we can speak of her, especially in her heavenly state, interceding, helping us, and praying for us and with us.”

Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language.  This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist.  In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what Saint Thomas Aquinas said long before him. Not surprisingly, Pope Emeritus Benedict and our current Pope Francis affirm the same.

In this way, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is inviting us to expand our minds and imaginations and our prayer life with more mystical dimensions, allowing us to become more comfortable with MYSTERY – a primary component of what it means to have a MATURE faith.  

Such Mystical Mystery concepts confirm our communion with all the Saints and all people of faith and goodwill who have gone before us.  The Feast of the Assumption of Mary, All Saints, All Souls, and all the Saints Days give us the assurance that we can, in fact, pray with them and ask for their intercession with God because we are united with them in Christ Jesus, all part of His One, Mystical Body.

We who are Jesus’ disciples have the significant privilege to know and embrace a foundational Christian truth – that through the Holy Spirit CHRIST is extensive, expanding His Essence from Age to Age in people of faith that whether we may deem people as “living “or “deceased,” all are and always shall remain alive. 

Therefore, although we use the language of metaphor to engage our imaginations to try and capture a bit of the profound mystery Jesus’ Resurrection and Mary’s Assumption and the promise of Eternal Life, our faith and our ongoing reception of the Sacraments confirm this reality.  Furthermore, today’s Feast reminds us that Mary is the first great and magnificent disciple leading the way promised to all who live by the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Beatitudes.

Thus, to pray to Blessed Mary is to pray to CHRIST in her –who not only held the Christ in her womb and in her arms but who lived the WORD OF GOD as Scripture says, as Jesus said, and thus epitomizes Christ LIFE in all of us, just as the Eucharist instills in us not only a consciousness, an image but a deep reality that we are continually being transformed into a CHRIST extension, if you will, in our place and our time.

It’s time we confirmed once again the essential connection between the Eucharist, JESUS and Mary and the Saints because they manifest for us what we are — a priesthood of all believers destined for a new reality which Scripture calls “A New Heaven and a New Earth.”   Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is within us, Christ is among us, Christ inspires us to full cooperation with Him.  Applying His Will, God’s Will, to our hopes, dreams, and goals, just as Mary did, we will join Mary in the pattern of Resurrection Transformation that Jesus set for all.  Thus, Mary’s Feasts are our celebrations of Christ in Us, too. Mary lived the reality of heaven in her life and remains in that heavenly peace now and forever.  So, too, may we!