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.”

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. James DiLuzio CSP            27 June 2021

SCRIPTURE: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

The two lines that shout out at me from our Scripture Readings today are these: From WISDOM 1: 13: “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.”

MATTHEW’S GOSPEL: “Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”

In this statement Jesus is clear: death is not an end in itself, but a form of sleep, part of Life’s journey. To sleep and to dream are essential to life itself. We need both sleep and dreams to awaken us every day to something new, a movement toward fullness of life.  

Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” 

SLEEP – How essential is it to our health and wellbeing!  What a mess we would make of life, our history, had humanity kept working 24 seven without the humbling, physical and spiritual values of sleep. From pauper to prince, everyday people to presidents, emperors and kings, sleep must come, dreams will come.

Sleeping.  Both a gift and a revelation.  Why, even from the beginning of Creation, there is night –rest for all beings, all things, even GOD!  Could any statement be more emphatic than what is essential to LIFE than what relates us to GOD?   And remember how God relates sleep to humans!  Recall Genesis 2:  

21 So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, 23 the man said:  “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.”[k]

From this powerful story of our origins – of course, we do not take “Adam’s rib” event literally, but we do have a MAJOR metaphorical implication in it: SLEEP brings forth NEW LIFE. That is the passage’s import.  Many have written that “human beings are closest to death when we sleep AND, moreover, closest to eternity at the very moments we drift off to sleep at night and just before we slowly, awaken into consciousness at morning.  

Furthermore, Sleep is the threshold to dreams which, in their joys and terrors, serenities, and fears, offer us connection to heaven and hell – – – connections with relationships, past, present, and future, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.  So important it is that we pay attention to our own dreams, and our experiences of drifting into sleeping and awakening:

Consider the life-Giving Import of dreams in Biblical Revelation.  Joel 3: 1:  It shall come to pass I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will ream dreams, your young men will see visions.

From Adam’s sleeping to the dreams of Abraham, Jacob (Ladder of Angels), Joseph (who interprets dreams for his brothers and for Pharoah), the Prophet Daniel, the visions of Ezekiel and other prophets:

Dreams are not limited to the Hebrew Scriptures, alone, but prove essential in the life of Jesus and the Church through the dreams of Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul – all of whom have significant revelations in their dreams.

Dream’s depth dynamics invite us to explore the MORE of Life and Faith as we say in the Creed “things visible and invisible.”  Dreams extend our relationships into THE WORLD OF THE NUMINOUS while affirming both body and soul.  Our own experience in DREAMS verifies that the spiritual is fully integrated into the material.  Dreams confirm our relationship with our own bodies as well minds and spirit, and dreams connect us with other people.

Jesus told the crowds: “The child is not dead but asleep.”

He was not speaking metaphorically here but referring to the deep reality that death is a temporary dynamic, that death, like dreaming, keeps us connected to God and to others, to all relationships in our life, both with the living and the dead.

Contemporary Theologian, and prolific writer Gerhard Lohfink wrote this in his book: IS THIS ALL THERE IS? – Meditations on Resurrection and Eternal Life (pp 175) offers us his convictions that all relationships continue after death:

Every individual is linked to others with a thousand threads.  . . . No one can be an “I” without a “you.” Individuality, being oneself, personhood do not exist without a living connection to others. Living as a person means “living in relationship.” Existing means “experiencing others.”

in fact, it is necessary—to call the resurrection of the dead “new creation,” that is, to bring it into relationship with the creation of the world, because that makes it clear that the resurrection of the dead is not something added, something that could be or not be; even though it is pure grace it is part of God’s plan for creation. Creation, from the beginning, points toward its perfection, toward glory, toward being at home in God.

The book of Wisdom relates: “God did not make “death” –that is finality, oblivion, extinction, alienation forever.  In God all is held in the palm of God’s hands.” All relationships continue whether we are conscious of them are not in our dreams or daily lives.  I have noted before, how the DNA of dinosaurs is still living in birds; that we moderns continue to have Neanderthal DNA in our systems. Nothing, and no one, is fully extinct, nothing is wasted.  God who is Relationship itself (Father, Son and Spirit) brings all to fulfillment and calls all relationship onward to eternity.  SLEEP and its bedfellow DREAM offer us insights in the interconnectedness of all things.  

I once read of a scientific experiment in which scientists were able to split an electron (one of the 3 components of an atom).  One half they place in a space capsule with a monitor of some kind and sent it in a satellite beyond our solar system.  The other half they maintained in their earth-bound laboratory. They found that whenever they manipulated the electron in their lab, the electron in space reacted and adjusted in exactly the same way as the earthbound one.  In other words, space dimension made no difference in the intimate connection of one part of an electron to the other.  They were intimately tied, united from earth unto the heavens. Amazing.  In this scientific experiment, faith finds a bedfellow in science, not necessarily “proof,” but an invitation to mystery. We need to be open to connections such as these.

Remember, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is the foundation of the Christian faith. Scholars tell us Resurrection – that in death, life is changed not ended — was the primary motivation for all the early converts to Christianity.  Oh, what Jesus knew and manifested 2000 years ago!  Still, all this is a matter of faith which is why Jairus’ faith and the faith of the Woman cured of hemorrhages are so intricately linked.  Faith saves us. We continue to make Jesus’ Wisdom and these Gospel events to feed us and bring us into communion.  And so, as an act of FAITH, we are welcome to this table of Death and Resurrection:  dying from sin and fear and unto New Life — NOW and forever.

Homily for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

13th June 2021 by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP (Scripture Readings at the end of this post)

Everything has its time.  As we heard from the prophet Ezekiel: a tiny shoot from the great Cedar is taken and planted on the great mountain of Israel to thrive as something new, yet still part of the cedar from which it came. 

Similarly, the ocean is always the ocean, its ebb and flow reminds us that times of health and joy fill our bodies, yet retreat to more sullen, difficult times only to refresh us with a new tide coming in.

“We are courageous,” writes Saint Paul.  We know that our leap of faith requires our recommitment to courage every day.  Seeds are planted by the Eucharists we share, reinvigorating us to be a hearty and loving people, even in the face of suffering. We must believe those who have died in this year and a half of the covid pandemic -no matter the cause of death – are now in communion with the Saints because of the world defying compassion and mercy of God.  And for us who remain, we are here for God’s purpose so that love will grow in this world despite the hate, violence, selfishness, and greed we encounter.

Mozart: recognition in his lifetime but nothing compared to generations after he died in a pauper’s grave.  His music is part of the lifeblood of classical music and many people attribute their healing and hope from playing and/or listening to his music. Who could argue that God’s Holy Spirit is not at work in music?  Mozart planted seeds.  And YOU, whenever you offer healing or peace, you, too, are planting seeds.

Vincent Van Gogh was commercially unsuccessful during his lifetime, and he was considered a madman and a failure . . . His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century. Today there are two major exhibitions in New York City and there is even a little confusion about which is which, and there are considerable deliberations as to one should go to one or both.  Don McLean’s song STARRY NIGHT about Vincent continues to inspire many people to compassion.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. is a lawyer, a political activist, founder and former President of the Hispanic Federation, and his wife, Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda, a clinical psychologist, loved storytelling through music.  Together they planted the seed of the art form called musical theatre to their son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who in time (not instantaneously), after writing short musical works, directing, and performing at Wesleyan University, began writing drafts of IN THE HEIGHTS, a musical.  Eventually, the show caught the attention of producers from Second Stage, an off-Broadway theater company, which optioned the show at their theater, and, eventually, moved it to Broadway.  HAMILTON was still years in gestation and this week, years after HAMILTON opened on Broadway, IN THE HEIGHTS opened and is on its way to be genuine movie hit celebrating the Latino community. All in God’s time.

These three examples, of course, have to do with eventual worldly success which many, unfortunately, calculated in dollars, profits, and popularity.  In faith, however, OUR FAITH, the true success of all endeavor is the ways they bring joy, hope, inspiration to love.  Remember, our talents are not our own, but God-given for the proliferation of the Kingdom:   JOY in God’s presence, reverence that God is with us in all times and circumstances, and reverence toward others.  For just as I am part of God’s plan, so are you, so are they, all, part of God’s plan.  The more we are mindful of that truth, the more we courageously persevere through life conflicts, hurts and challenges.

I will close with three short quotations: 2 biblical, one from a contemporary Saint, to instill these thoughts in her hearts all this coming week:  

Habakkuk 2; For the vision is a witness for the appointed time,
    a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.
If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.

Jeremiah 29:11 -12 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 12 When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.

Finally, this quote from Saint and Martyr Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a country still caught in relentless strife and violence:

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development. . .

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

So, this day, this week, we take courage, once again.  Remember that nothing is wasted once Seeds are planted.  Seeds we plant or our use of seeds that have been planted for us. Trust in their fulfillment—all in God’s time. In God’s time, NOTHING IS WASTED.  God is in control.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Reading I Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
    from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
    on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
    and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
    every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
    that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
    lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
    and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
    to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
    and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
    like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
    shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
    vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
    my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading II 2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him, 
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the Sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.