PENTECOST 2021: To Be Remade in the Image of God

Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

READINGS: ACTS of the APOSTLES 2: 1-11; PSALM 104; 1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13 GOSPEL of JOHN 20: 19-23

Spring has sprung; the world is turning green; warmth returns while the breeze is still cool and refreshing.  A NEW BEGINNING. Masks are optional now – free to safeguard ourselves and others as we see fit. The virus’ power ebbs, yet everyone knows (or should know) prudence will prove the ultimate conqueror of the disease once the world is vaccinated.

Prudence is a child of WISDOM, and the disciples gained WISDOM on that great day of Pentecost. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, WISDOM is the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth.  And the Divine Truth is that there is a Patient, Prudent Creator who formed humanity–all humans formed IN GOD’S OWN IMAGE. The God who sustains us Christians in the DIVINE IMAGE through our identification with Jesus Christ, and our openness to all the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT.  That is what our celebration of PENTECOST is all about.

So: what makes us in God’s image?  Every WISE person sitting in a pew should be able to answer this!  We are made in God’s image in that we have been given a

  1. MIND and a WILL just as the Mind of God brought forth creation by an act of Divine Will –GOD’S marvelous INTENTION to share LIFE, and, like God’s own, our WILL is FREE, to do as we may please with choices for good or for ill. Choose GOOD, GOD IS MANIFEST IN THE WORLD. Choose ill, the world experiences God’s absence through us. NEXT, we are made in God’s image because we have LANGUAGE.
  2. LANGUAGE molds us in God’s Image, too– WORDS that expand the Mind, Inform THE WILL, and deepen Understanding. WORDS clarify. They allow us to attain Knowledge and grow in Wisdom. Like GOD’S words, language can be used for good, for hope, for beauty, for truth. So, on Pentecost it is good we repent of those times we use language to harm, to demean, disparage and despair, to lie, to detract from the truth.  
  3. Another aspect of our being IMAGO DEI, is CREATIVITY – as God creates, so, too, humanity creates – inspired by GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT to procreate (if called to the vocation to wed, to parent) and for all: to create what proves necessary for life, and enhances life–utilizing the gifts of earth and our very bodies so that we and others may LIVE fully because the image of God insists that we cultivate:
  4. RELATIONSHIP – because GOD IS RELATIONSHIP, the heartbeat of life itself.  Communion and cooperation is the Divine Essence: FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT –relationship IS what GOD IS, and so, we, too, were made for communion and cooperation, to harmonize our wills, our language, our creativity IN ORDER THAT WE MAY CHOOSE, YES, CHOOSE to LOVE, YES LOVE
  5. LOVE THE CROWN OF THE HUMAN IMAGE OF THE DIVINE.  Indeed, God is LOVE and God lovingly bestowed on us the capacity to enhance relationships and EXPERIENCE GOD HIMSELF/ GOD HERSELF who loves all men and women equally—black, brown, tan and yellow, beige and rouge—with or without deodorant and the accessories of Western Civilization. More than a feeling, LOVE is a daily choice that mirrors God the more IT INSISTS ALL are created in God’s image. And to fully imitate God’s LOVE, our love, too, must comprise—WHAT?  You know! Yes, you do.  Yes, you do! It is FORGIVENESS.
  6. FORGIVENESS – an inseparable, indelible aspect of Love’s reality inherent in God’s relationship with our human species.  Without Love / Forgiveness, life is reduced to survival. Without Love/ Forgiveness our image of God is lost, and we lose our ability to experience God.  

And because we often thwart God’s designed destiny for us, God offers us NEW BEGINNINGS, new starts just as God has throughout the Bible and All Human History. Ultimately our lives must be continually CLARIFIED, and CONFIRMED in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A dying to sin, a rising to compassion that is what love/forgiveness is. There is our 7th IMAGO DEI. COMPASSION. As in the Compassion of God on the enslaved Israelites, on King David, adulterer and murderer, on Die-Hard Saul destined to become Saint Paul, and on all world-weary and, at times, disillusioned disciples.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that like THE FATHER at the beginning, Jesus INFUSED LIFE into his disciples — BREATHING unto them that same HOLY SPIRIT God breathed into Adam and Eve, but this time with a heightened awareness OF LOVE FORGIVENESS as the solution to all that detracts from FULLNESS OF LIFE NOW and FOR ALL ETERNITY.

Breathing on to the disciples, Jesus spoke these words: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

Too often, people have mistakenly maintained that “to retain” is to excommunicate, to dismiss.  Not so.  For “retain” means to hold in place, to arrest and allow for greater attentiveness to TEN COMMNADMENTS, to BEATITUDES. Retain is to TAKE TIME to clarify rights and wrongs, allowing for growth, for instruction, so we and others may return to loving relationships, making amends; undoing any damage that has been done.  Imagine what our world would be like if everyone were given every opportunity to right his or her wrongs, pick up the Cross of Restitution and begin again as LOVE/FORGIVENESS evokes COMPASSION IN US ALL.

COMPASSION is Wisdom, that very same Wisdom the HOLY SPIRIT fired down upon the disciples on that birthday of the Church we call Pentecost. On that day, in a renewed way, the disciples remembered what the Resurrected Jesus did for them. He offered PEACE because LOVE FORGIVENESS is WHO HE IS. Never forget that Jesus confirmed PEACE on the very friends who abandoned him, caved-in to fear, doubted God and God’s plans for them.  We, too, when filled with fear in these changing times, might doubt God and God’s plan for us. But why get defensive when reminded of our sins, OR those of our ancestors, when humility, truth and compassion are what offer us the Peace of Christ?     

On this Pentecost, we can reclaim GOD’S IMAGE IN US.  We may MIRROR JESUS by fostering Love Forgiveness and by RECLAIM the GIFTS of the HOLY SPIRIT –gifts bestowed on us on the day of Confirmation: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (submission to God’s Will), Fortitude (Courage), Knowledge (which is “right judgment”) and Piety (living a prayerful life, communion with Christ and all the Saints) and Fear of the Lord (awe and reverence to God in all things and through all relationships). 

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT are ever ready to offer us FRESH START, A NEW BEGINNING deepening our commitment to LOVE FORGIVENESS –living it and preaching it.  For when Love/Forgiveness is spoken, it is most assuredly the WORD every person understands because every person instinctively yearns for it in every language, every culture, every way of life.  We must yearn for it anew NOW and always if this PENTECOST is to make something new of you and me. Happy Birthday Church!  Time to be born again!

HOMILY FOR 2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER aka Divine Mercy Sunday

11 April 2021 St. Paul Apostle Church 10 AM Fr. James DiLuzio

SHOW ME!  CRIED THOMAS ON THAT FIRST EASTER EVENING!  It is a fair demand.  Rather than call him “Doubting Thomas,” let us call him “Entreating Thomas” – one who calls upon the Lord for blessed assurance.   

Indeed, We NEED SIGNS –evidence that Jesus continues to be present to us, strengthening His HOLY SPIRT in us, repeatedly sustaining us in the grace of our Baptisms and strengthening us through our participation in the Sacraments. Indeed, at every Mass we celebrate, we, like Thomas, call out to Jesus: “Show Yourself! Be present to us!  Affirm our belief!”

John concludes his Gospel with the assurance that what was “written in this book” will assist us in FAITH and having life to the full.”  The Church upholds Jesus is present in reading, sharing, preaching of Scripture. For although the book itself –text on pages—is to be treated with reverence, SIGNS of Jesus as THE WORD incarnate are not in the book but in the PEOPLE as we read it, in the PEOPLE who have shared and continue to share Scriptures with us, the people who first introduced us to prayer, and who pray for and with us still; the people who preach and discuss Scriptures with others with integrity, humility, and an openness to ongoing learning.

Note that Thomas saw Jesus in the company of other disciples/ Only Mary Magdalene and Peter were given private encounters with the Risen Jesus.   As for Thomas, so, too, for us:  Jesus came to him and to us in the presence of other disciples. This is the pattern of the Church and why Thomas’ story is such an essential part of EASTER and Resurrection Faith.

Let us now explore the gift of MEMORY –and how experiences of Resurrected Jesus require continuity of the past with the present.  After all, Thomas recognized the Resurrected Jesus through memory of all he had experienced with Him prior to and including His Passion.  Through the gift of hindsight, we too, recognize holy moments in the present–Jesus’ in another person, in a spirit-filled situation.  Journey with me, here, now, add your memories to mine, open to say, once again, to Jesus, as Thomas did: “My Lord and My God.”

To this day, Jesus comes alive for me in a recurring image of my Mom reading me children’s versions of bible stories. I can see her now at the edge of my bed, holding the book. I remember particularly the nights she read about Michael the Archangel and his battle with Satan.  And then my thoughts flood with the stories of Adam and Eve, the Blessed Mother, The Christmas Story and Jesus’ Passion.  I was so deeply intrigued by the stories, the pictures, and my mother’s faith and her demeanor. A warmth wafted over us as she shared the Christmas Story, and, at the age of 7, I cried hearing about the Crucifixion as the reality of the Passion entered more deeply into my consciousness. All signs of Jesus –all “incarnated word” experiences.

I remember another time: the night my father was in the hospital, in danger of losing his sight due to an accident at work.  My mother, siblings and I gathered for a family rosary, appealing not only to Mary, Mother of God, and for extra measure, Saint Jude, the faithful one also with the name of Judas among the Twelve.

What about your memories?  Your experiences of Jesus?  We can get so caught up in the demands of each day, do we recognize how important we take time, like Sunday Mass, and other occasions, to recollect, to reclaim Jesus in our lives?  Who taught you prayers? Who prays with you still?  Spouse!  Friends! Relatives!  Are you praying together?  This is the way to deepen our relationship with Jesus and others. Time to recognize the people in our lives as reflections of Jesus –the Universal Christ, who daily “comes in the Name of the Lord.” Whatever do we think we are affirming when we pray the Sanctus and every mass: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest!” Jesus came, he arrives now in Word and Eucharist, and continues to appear to us through one another even unto now.

YES, JESUS, SHOW US YOUR FACE!  And HE DOES!  In our renewal of Baptismal Promises which we will continue to do throughout Easter and in every association, we make with our encounters with Water! Whether quenching our thirst, showering, bathing, and, if you are fortunate enough, bathing an infant—a kind of perpetual encounter with Christmas!

How often have my women relatives fought over who would give a new infant his or her bath—mothers, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law. I remember my grandmother running through the house with the bundle of my baby brother in her arms, my mother chasing after her!  “I’m giving him his bath!” My mother calling after her: “No!  It’s my turn!” Now see in every caregiver Jesus washing the hands and feet of the elderly, the sick and infirm. See him at our feet as we soak our weary paws at the end of the day –all experiences of GOD! 

Julian of Norwich was given the gift of seeing in this holistic way. In chapter 9 of the Long Text, she writes: We are all one in love. . .  When I look at myself as an individual, I see that I am nothing. It is only in unity with my fellow spiritual seekers that I am anything at all. It is this foundation of unity that will save humanity.

THIS IS HOW JESUS SAVES – with all of us together. ON THIS divine mercy Sunday, we benefit by praying “Lord Jesus, Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on Us!  Help us to see that we continue YOU, that YOUR BODY includes OUR BODIES, as we humbly acknowledge that as you express yourself through us, the kingdom expands now and on to eternity.” Like Thomas, we, too, must say, “Jesus, My Lord, and My God!”

IS THIS HOW GOD LOVES US?

A Reflection on a Lyric from Stephen Sondheim’s musical play PASSION


I re-watched a DVDI have of Stephen Sondheim’s PASSION. In the play, a man who has run away from a woman’s obsessive love finally surrenders to it. Georgio addresses Fosca with these lyrics by Sondheim. I’ve been thinking we could almost say the same thing to GOD.

Here’s the lyric:


“No one has truly loved me

As you have . . .

Love without reason,

Love without mercy,

Love without pride or shame.

Love unconcerned

With being returned —

No wisdom, no judgement,

No caution, no blame.

No one has ever known me

As clearly as you.

No one has ever shown me

What love could be like until now.

Not pretty or safe or easy.

But more than I ever knew.

Love within reason –that isn’t love.

And I’ve learned that from you. . . “

Commentary on Luke 5:12 to 26

 (To Accompany Luke Live! Online! On YouTube.) 

Now we may reflect on these two powerful healing stories.  In the first we recognize Jesus is fearless in restoring the leper back to health and communion with others, for to allow another to be isolated without a tangible sense of belonging is an affront to the Kingdom.  Jesus in not afraid to touch the leper, to heal him and offer him acceptance back into community—this acceptance confirmed through Jesus’ order the cleansed man get official recognition from the priests.   All of this points to what makes Jesus’ healing unique among other healings: their purpose is not only to remove a sickness in an individual but in society at large.  For Christ, no suffering or illness is to alienate us from others but rather the community is urged to welcome and support everyone especially in his or her time of distress. Only this way can society redeem itself from pride and arrogance and those underlying fears that separate people and exacerbate suffering.  As we have noted earlier, Jesus does not want special recognition for this accomplishment, he thwarts celebrity status because his example is meant to be applied universally to all of humanity.  What may seem “special” in Jesus is meant to be the norm for all peoples.

The healing of the paralytic is significant in that it is the faith of the paralytic’s friends that evokes Jesus’ healing him.  Here we see how the faith of individuals impacts others and the incident evidences the bond that faith establishes between the healthy and the sick.  Furthermore, this healing exemplifies the interconnection of bodily and spiritual health and well-being.  Jesus is concerned with both because the human body and spirit are of one and the same entity, fulfilling the very design and intention of God.  Also, note that although on the surface it may seem there is a direct correlation between one’s sins and physical health, many scholars today interpret Jesus’ words “Your sins are forgiven” not to apply to the paralytic’s personal sins (which would indicate on some level that sickness is a punishment for sins—an ancient concept that Jesus refutes elsewhere in the Gospels) but rather “sins” here refers to the collective offenses of humankind grounded in denial of God and the inter-connectedness of all people and all creatures–all aspects of God’s creation.  It is true that our emotional and spiritual condition (that may encompass feelings of guilt, resentments, and regrets) does, in fact, impact our bodily health, but the Gospel gradually moves us away from that old sense that sickness is a direct punishment for individual sins.   (You may wish to consult Luke 13:1-5, Matthew 5: 45, John’s Gospel 9:1-3 and, of course, the entire book of Job—the innocent man who suffers not as a punishment for sins but simply because suffering exists in this world.)

Here, I would like to remind you of a GOLDEN RULE for encountering Scripture: Never take one passage and keep it isolated from other passages. Every segment of scripture evidences a stage in the people’s spiritual development which grows in sporadic leaps, and, at times, regresses to earlier insights. Therefore, the true value of a passage may only be discerned when segments on similar topics are place in conversation with them. Considering JOB and the Gospel verses cited above, it should be clear that Jesus is speaking about the universal SIN of worldliness devoid of attentiveness to God and God’s ways–something that all of us participate in often without realizing it. That is “the sin that is forgiven.” Moreover, may it not be lost on us that as “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus concretizes what his fellow Jews already knew and should have known better: God wants us to participate in God’s essence. God’s Forgiveness is to be expressed and lived out continually among all who see themselves as children of God. (I will address more on the complexity of the processes of forgiveness and the distinction between offering forgiveness and accepting abuse or tolerating evil in the weeks to come!)

A Homiletic Poem for the First Sunday of Advent 2020 by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

A flickering candle in a darkened room.  The light is golden, the flame, gentle. It beckons.  It even seems to desire us and say, “Come, to my light!”  Still, it does not speak of its own accord, for a candle is but a sign—a sign for something, rather, Some One whose voice spoke long ago, “Be not afraid.” The Light Shines in the darkness and darkness shall not overcome it!  Yes, it is only one candle, but sufficient to point to the One who is humble of heart, who is neither too much, nor too little, who is the Eternal NOW. 

Let’s face it. Without Him, this world is too much for us.  It always was and always will be.  Indeed, right now, some people are too much for us! The stores are too much, the carols too ubiquitous already!  We haven’t even learned our Advent Hymns—not after all these years.  Maybe one. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  But heavens!  There are dozens more, each with a lesson for our souls.  We have 25 days.  Get started!

Advent offers much on its own, insisting that we live with longing for better days while attentive to Christ Past, Christ Present and Christ Future. If we let Him, Christ will cultivate in us a daily receptiveness to grace, fortifying in us perpetual patience to live one moment at a time, one day a time, one difficulty at a time.  Of course, there is temptation to light all the candles now!  But we must not!  One must be sufficient for today. We need the patience of Jesus now more than ever–and only we can choose to cultivate it.  Savor it. Allow the True Light of Jesus to enlighten our minds in one singular, sweet, deep breath—that’s all that matters now.  Breathe! Just Breathe!  And look to the candle!  If you cannot see it, imagine the flame! Let it warm your heart!

From this single flame, let Jesus convey Himself to you. Allow Him to penetrate your very being.   “Be still” but do not be stoic. Be firm in faith but with a faith that is fluid, too, fluid as Creation, as fluid as Advent which moves us backward and forward in time while living “in the moment” at the very same time. 

The First Sunday of Advent insists we embark on a voyage of memory to learn from our ancestors’ mistakes and our own; to admit that, yes, while we would all rather run away from all that bothers us today—and so much bothered us this year, and still does–Christ is behind us, Christ is beside us, Christ is before us perpetually offering the better way.

Allow Christ to take us far, far, farther back in time, to see this single flame as part of the one Eternal Flame, of Time before Time –long before we have had to prove ourselves or defend ourselves to anyone, before we had to make enemies of others to feel better about ourselves or worse, play the victim—for when we compare ourselves to true victims, we are not true victims at all.  But hope abides by going back beyond our pasts to the origin of the molecules that make up the wonder of you, of me, of everybody–of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen that long before we came on the scene, formed stars imploding, exploding!  Stars that in time, so much time—expanded their molecules to mix with molten ash and salty seas, and water ways flowing  from fresh, clear mountain ice –plants convoking convocations of creatures, primitive and primary, who came upon dry land to feast upon leaves, fruits and berries, multiplying, diversifying, evolving until, at last, with beating hearts and expanding brains: humanity . Thus, our ancestors came into consciousness and full human existence.  But not for our sake alone.  Not for aggrandizement, not for power, nor subjugation of fawn, field, or flower, nor to vanquish fellow beings—but to yield through hundreds of thousands of years to the ONE, to YIELD to the one who was and who is the pinnacle, the purpose of all creation—the ONE through Whom We Were Formed who humbly appeared in time —so that we may perceive in time and space–the perfect synthesis of Human and Divine: the Man God: Jesus the Christ.  Let these truths, THIS CHRIST — put all our issues in proper perspective.

Advent beckons back to such great beginnings and thrusts us into present realities. It invites us to marvel at God’s constancy and patience—through the people of the Bible, through the scandal of divisions of our time — precisely to clear our minds of all the cobwebs and shadows that distract us from our humble origins and our divine objectives. Yes, heaven is the goal, but it is to be lived out in harmony with every living thing; in humble gratitude for the distinctiveness that came to us only in time, GOD’S TIME, and with a God WHO IS NOT YET FINISHED WITH US!  We ignore that to our detriment and to our peril.   Sure, we can wallow in the wounds of this year or we can push forward – but let it not be in accordance with our will, our games of “hide and seek,” but in accordance with the Will of the True God revealed through Scripture and Sacrament:  A Living Christ Among Us.

  Too often we refuse to acknowledge how much we forestall, postpone, delay our spiritual, emotional, intellectual growth—yes, all of these in harmony and balance is what true holiness is.   Advent is a Seasonal Gift that says: Stop! Stay! Do not run away! Our problems will follow us wherever we go. Slowly surrender to Jesus so that we may abide imperfect people and recognize that in our own imperfect, unappreciated selves, Christ never abandons us, bestowing on us peace and perseverance through any and every provocation—not so unlike those He himself from infancy to death endured!  Yes, each in our own way and time are unappreciated.  Yet how much more unappreciated was He!   So, again, the Church commits us to a new year to patiently ponder our origins in Christ. May we not make ourselves so important, our guilts and grievances so great that we neglect our humble beginnings or forsake the One suffered for us, suffers with us, and offers something eternally new.  

Look around!  Look around!  Who did Christ intend you to see?  You took a step into this church—a building and a people. One more step forward is all that is needed to find communion.  Soon, and very, very soon, you will be welcomed to walk up the aisle to receive Jesus and to perceive through Him, the true purpose for why we are here: For when you return from receiving the Eucharist, others will be revealed to you:   Christ receivers, all. Christ perceivers, all. Christ bearers —Imperfect, impractical, impudent, nasty, selfish, mean-spirited, awful people—as each of us in turn can be. Welcome to Jesus’ world!  Yet this, too, is meant to be a comfort to us –this vision of others. For truly, we are not alone in our sins. Do not worry! Be happy! Misery loves company!  But more than that, more than that, in Christ, all that is miserable in us remains in a continuous Process of Redemption.  Conversion today! Conversion tomorrow and the next day!  It is Resurrection now! And Our God will never let the transformation stop!   Like with every married couple: for better, for worse, God bestows me upon you, you upon me, and everybody upon everybody else to become a communion of Saints-in-the-making just as sure as Jesus called Disciples long ago. Remember this: Our Savior was not a private tutor.  Our acceptance of Jesus as “Our Personal Lord and Savior” will only go so far because He is a Universal Savior!  The Cosmic Christ!  Remember that.

May we be satisfied this day with waiting for Christ as we attend to Christ in others; enjoying one candle at a time; one good friend at a time; one faithful spouse, one grateful child, niece or nephew at a time; one particular beloved Saint, one relative or loved one already in heaven—Yes, one at a time to remind us of our perpetual communion with Saints and Sinners as Christ affords us the patience to put up with one another until Christ is all in all. Let that be enough to bring Christ to us today, tomorrow and the next day. One Advent at a time, one moment at a time.  One day at a time. Why, “That Day” is TODAY! And let this day, this day, be glorious!   

The Way of Christ toward Friend and Foreigner

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A Highlighting Exodus and Matthew (All Readings featured at the conclusion of the homily)

At the invitation of the Paulist Father’s National Office on Ecumenical and Multi—Faith Relations I have recently become a Board Member for RELIGIONS FOR PEACE, (RFP) USA with its offices here at the United Nations.

This week RFP conducted an online symposium on Immigration and Refugees that was provocative and inspiring.  Is it Providence or coincidence that having participated in the 5-session symposium this week, I found that our Reading from the Book of EXODUS explicitly addresses how we are to treat foreigners in our midst?  You tell me!   But let me tell you, how often I heard representatives of different faith repeat in their own words, from their own faith traditions, words so closely aligned to those of Jesus we heard today “Love of God and Neighbor as ourselves.”  These two commandments are the constants meant to be observed in every Christian’s life.  Still, the purpose for which God bestowed these laws upon us has yet to be fulfilled because along with grace, sin is always in evidence.

Yet, we have come to mass to be humbled—have we not?  We have come to be grateful for charity, generosity.  Indeed, the largess of the human heart continues to pervade our world. Grateful that, wherever we are on our faith journey, whatever our attitudes toward foreigners, immigrants, or any people unlike ourselves may be, God gives us yet another chance for conversion, for transformation, for renewed commitment to the Great Commandments.

I would like to share a story told by Rev. Bill Jenkins, of Christ Ministry Center in San Diego and his alliance with the United Methodist Refugee Assistance Program– a wonderful sign of HOPE for us all: In 2009, a great and terrible Earthquake devasted Haiti. With lives lost, and so many homeless with no signs of constructive reconstruction, all seemed hopeless. Yet through Providence or because of sheer mercenary considerations, Representatives of Brazil’s government travelled to Haiti.  They recruited some 46,000 Haitians to work in Brazil, to prepare for and maintain the 2016 Summer Olympics.

When the Olympics were over, however, the Brazilian economy collapsed, the Brazilian president impeached, and the Haitians who had made their homes there, with babies who were born there, were ordered to leave. Meanwhile, the living situations in Haiti went from bad to worse. Thousands had no reason or justification to return home.  So, the Brazilian Haitians began a march through that country– some by foot, some with carts, and on through Central America to find homes elsewhere. Crossing 11 borders, they were mistreated by each successive country: spat upon, ridiculed, and bullied; women were raped, men were killed.  Despite this, many found ways to remain in one Latin American country after another as day laborers and harvesters.

 It came to pass that 600 Haitian men, women and children made it to Tijuana, Mexico to apply to the US Immigration Court in San Diego.  There, their passports were stamped, and they were told to return in four months’ time for their individual court hearings. Not welcomed back into Tijuana, and not understanding English or Spanish (native language is French and Creole), they kept themselves in small groups and slept in San Diego’s streets and outdoor malls awaiting their turn.   

Now it so happened that there was already a small contingency of Haitians in Rev. Bill Jenkins’ San Diego Methodist Church. When they heard of their fellow countrymen’s plight on the streets, the Haitian church members drove through their city to find them.  Over the course of a few days, the Methodists found all 600, offering them food and shelter in their (fortunately large) church, with space enough for all to sleep in the pews at night. News of the Methodist’s hospitality spread and in five months, 5,000 Haitians came through the Center–not at all at once, of course, but as many as could be assisted at one time as they awaited their Court appearances. Other organizations stepped in to help, although, initially, no one was able to provide decent temporary homes or apartments.  Instead, more church pews and basements were opened for nightly shelter.

         Today San Diego Churches and other organizations have expanded their refugee ministries to include a network of temporary housing– all because of the Haitians’ stories and the witness of the Methodist Church. The biblical mandate from the Book of Exodus was and continues to be fulfilled by people of faith there. And here’s a touching footnote:  five years ago, when all this began, Rev. Bill Jenkins and his wife, at the age of 68, took in an 8-month-old boy separated from his mother somewhere between Tijuana and Sand Diego.  He is now their adopted son, Harry, and recently Harry’s birth mother was able to locate them and now all three adults are raising Harry together.

Beyond the San Diego story, there are legions of stories of compassion from the efforts of our very own Catholic Relief Services, local Catholic Charities in here in New York and in cities throughout our nation and the world.  The number of agencies for immigrants and refugees are legion.  There’s Amnesty International, World Vision USA, Jesuit Refugee Services, and dozens of other faith and secular based asylum initiatives.   I got a taste of some of these this week, but all of them repeatedly impressed upon me this truth: Most immigrants don’t flee their countries of origin because they desire “a better life,” most flee in fear because they just want to be able to LIVE!   

I’m not taking up a collection today for Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities but I think that it is important to remind us that as the governments of the world continue to argue as to what can be done, what can’t be done, what won’t be done for the neglected, the weary, the poor of this world, by the grace of God, people of many different faiths are upholding the Golden Rule.  We may take heart today that Good News is a reality and will continue to be a reality because of us, good people of faith.

So, now you have heard the Scriptures and one example of how FAITH COMES ALIVE! As we approach the altar to receive Jesus Christ again, may this Eucharist inspire us to persevere in making the Good News a living reality. I will close with this passage from the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 4:  

Book of Wisdom Chapter 4

My child, do not mock the life of the poor;
    do not keep needy eyes[a] waiting.
Do not grieve the hungry,
    nor anger the needy.
Do not aggravate a heart already angry,
    nor delay giving to the needy.
A beggar’s request do not reject;
    do not turn your face away from the poor.
From the needy do not turn your eyes;
    do not give them reason to curse you.
If in their pain they cry out bitterly,
    their Rock, (our God) will hear the sound of their cry.

THE SCRIPTURE READINGS

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: EX 22:20-26

Thus, says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
 

Responsorial Psalm

PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2: 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia

JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Reading 1 Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Reading 2: Pault’s Letter to the Philippians 4:6-9: GOSPEL: MATTHEW 21:33-43

Here’s a LIST for us to consider:

  • Cain and Abel.
  • Joseph and the envy of his Brothers
  • King Saul’s paranoia and jealousies against the shepherd David
  • Arguments Among the Apostles as to who is the greatest
  • Peter regarding “the beloved” in John’s Gospel
  • Judas Iscariot personality of constant suspicion, cynicism, pride, and willful attempts to manipulate Jesus to the point of betrayal
  • Centuries of the Promulgation of Anti-Semitism
  • Catholic and Protestant Wars of Religion
  • Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope’s corruption, and greed
  • Original American Constitution -filled with so many foundational goods—yet willfully ignoring the outrage of Slavery
  • The US Supreme Court –remember its dreadful Dredd Scott decision confirming freed slaves as property to be returned to their masters? A decision for political concerns not for what was right.
  • The irrefutable sins that lead to the Great Depression, the suffering of millions of people throughout the world. What resulted from that? The Second World War.
  • The realities of systemic poverty contributed greatly to the rise of ideologies such as Fascism, the Nazi party, and Communist Dictatorship, Terrorism and Radical Islam
  • Egregious greed lead to the economic collapse of 2008. Then banks foreclosed on homes without negotiating with current owners only to re-sell the homes at much lower prices.
  • Scandals in the Church, Sports, Medicine, Scouts, Schools deprived millions of trust in institutions meant to serve and educate the public

Do we not realize that so much of our personal, national and world histories and many of our current crisis repeatedly disavow FOUR of the Great Commandments:  One: “Thou Shall Not Covet another’s possessions,” Two: “Thou Shall Not Steal;” Three: “Thou Shall Not Kill;”  Four:  “I Am the Lord, your God, you shall not have false gods before me.”  ALL who thwart these commandments are INDICTED by today’s Scripture Readings. 

Yes, the parable was meant to reflect how the people rejected Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Covenant, but its application does not stop there. The parable’s vineyard workers offer a paradigm of entitlement, selfishness, and greed –sins every people, every nation are prone to commit, sins that continue to be an offense against Christ and His Body.  We are indicted like these vineyard workers as we continue to reject Jesus and His Gospel. Christ made it clear—just as the Hebrew prophets did before him:  humanity’s advancement is not to be at the expense or subjugation of any person or group.  Furthermore, as we commemorate Saint Francis of Assisi this Sunday, we are not to abuse the earth, its natural resources, and the animal kingdom—for all relationships impact one another.   Still, we have choices.  We have faith to guide us. Yet, the Scriptures urge CAUTION, lest we descend into the Vineyard workers’ selfish rebellion.

It is time we accept how counter-cultural the Gospel is. All of us have put our faith in too many princes, too many idols, too many ideologies that distract us from Jesus.  Jesus, who alone, is “our King and our God.”

Jesus’ tells us that there are tragic consequences for those who deny Faith’s reality: That all we have, and all we are, is a gift from God.  In gratitude we are to cultivate –what Saint Paul wrote – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.”

We pray at Every Eucharist: “Grant us, O Lord, unity and peace” doesn’t that mean we must participate, cooperate, collaborate with all people for a better earth, a more just and compassionate society? That is what UNITY means.

Since Vatican II, the Church finally abandoned its triumphalism (that hell awaits all who are not Catholic) in deference to grace and to God’s mercy offered to people of every ethnicity, faith, and nation. It is time we as individuals, as members of imperfect families, as members of a fallible Church, Nation, and World, that we renew our commitment to advance God’s Kingdom with greater fervor.  If we do not, Jesus’ parable tells us there will be consequences.  Our choices not only impact the poor today but future generations, too, will suffer; not to mention the grave detriment to our souls’ salvation.  

NOW is the time to cultivate our conscience to an extreme daily dedication to love of God and neighbor, lest the words of the Our Father make hypocrites of us all.  Last week our Jewish brothers and sisters observed a day of Atonement. Let today be ours! 

The signs of our times demand greater humility among all Catholic peoples.  Lest we be discouraged, this mandate is not to disavow the good in us, the good and even the great things we as individuals and all humanity have accomplished.  Nevertheless, our goodness requires balancing it with the reality of our sins and our failures. Clearly, we are not achieving the purpose for which God made us.  Enough of pride!  Enough of arrogance!  Enough of resentment, and greed–off to the devil with them all, I say.  It’s time a scrupulous examination of conscience engage us, our Church and nation.  If not for the blessed assurance that a contrite heart will fortify God’s grace in us, we are lost. May today’s Word and Eucharist humble us, inflame our desire for the Holy Spirit’s fire! Re-commit ourselves to Jesus today! Through Him, with Him and In Him, may we become what we are called to be:  LIGHT FOR THE WORLD!  

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

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.