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.

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!”

“BLESSED ARE THE MEEK WHO CALL OTHERS TO MEEKNESS.” A homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent 2021

Biblical Readings may be found at Fifth Sunday of Lent | USCCB

There is a Young Adult Novel frequently assigned to Junior High School students in 7th and 8th grade throughout our country. We need to know what the new generation is reading and discussing, don’t you think?[1] Thankfully, this book is truly noteworthy: Mildred Taylor’s ROLL of THUNDER HEAR MY CRY, the 1979 Newberry Award winning novel about her African American family in Mississippi during the great depression.  What made me think of it?  The Gospel’s reference to “thunder:”

“Then a voice came from heaven — The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.”

Like Jesus’ teaching, and Jesus’ miracles, Taylor’s novel ROLL OF THUNDER reveals deep truths about family, friendship, prejudice, fear, and redemption.  In one episode, nine-year-old Cassie is repeatedly demeaned by a slightly older and far more privileged girl of European extractions, who treats her as if slavery were still in vogue. With threats and beatings, she forces Cassie to carry her books and run errands.  One day, Cassie decides to take on the role of servant with fervor—not only to stave off the slaps but as part of a more noble goal to bring this girl back down to earth.  In a sense, “blessed are the meek who call others to meekness.” And so, under the guise of a “change of heart,” Cassie eagerly volunteers to carrying the girl’s books without being asked.  Tenderly she combs the girl’s hair, straightens the girl’s wrinkled clothes as they take the path to their respective schools—one for blacks, one for whites. As a result, Cassie becomes the girl’s confidante, learning about her girlfriends – who is loyal, who is deceitful, who she really likes and really cannot stand, her crush on a certain boy, and about her less-than-ideal life at home, including her fears concerning her father.  Nevertheless, the girl’s arrogance and condescension did not abate. Having a confidante and a supportive companion was not enough for her to see the light of what true equality and true friendship was. Cassie had to put her original plan, “a great day of reckoning,” into action.

Fully armed with a treasure chest of knowledge of her adversary, and, with no one else in sight, Cassie pushes the girl to the ground, besmudging her smirks, soiling her selfish, self-satisfied soul.  When her victim threatens to tell the teacher and all her friends, Cassie counters with the knowledge she has gained about her adversary, her conceits, and fantasies, and offers a realistic prediction of all what lies in store for the girl should these confidences come to light.  Stunned into silence, the girl rises. With Cassie helping her, at last they stand together.  The girls get along royally after that.

Sometimes it takes a push, a shove, to get the attention of the ignorant, the blind.  The mighty must be overthrown and brought down to earth.  Jesus surrendered to the Cross to hold a mirror up to the world: SEE HOW YOU HARM YOURSELVES AND ONE ANOTHER!  SEE HOW YOU OFFEND GOD!  We need thunder to see ourselves and fellow human beings as God sees us: sinners in constant need of redemption.

Society today offers innumerable signs that transformation is in order.  Interestingly, John’s Gospel is known as THE BOOK OF SIGNS.  Seven signs have preceded the conversation quoted in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ fellow Jews had witnessed:

  1. Changing water into wine at Cana in John 2:1-11 – “the first of the signs”
  2. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
  3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15
  4. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
  5. Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24
  6. Healing the man blind from birth in John 9:1-7
  7. The raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

Yet, for all this, people preferred the ordinary to the extraordinary: the complacent to the dynamic; climbing, climbing, rising without the corrective dying and submission to deeper truths, beauty, integrity, charity, humility. So, of course, only some would believe in Jesus, although, interestingly, some outsiders, “Greeks,” came to believe not from what they themselves had seen, but from the faithful testimonies of Jewish witnesses.   Together, this assembly of believing Jews and Greeks began to transform the world in Christ’s Paschal Mystery. 

In John’s Gospel, “the ruler of this world” is Satan who builds walls amongst people, inflates egos and illusions so we think that “we are not like others,” and, worse, “better.” Often, we think we are “better” than others because we do not have the same set of problems others have. But, in truth, all problems are interrelated due to the principle of “cause and effect.” Jesus tears down walls, solidifies humanity through identification with suffering that invites investigation of what causes suffering. Saying that Jesus died because of our sins is far too simplistic.  The passion insists we follow Jesus into the grave to specify and innumerate the sins that cause death even unto this very day.  Dying with Jesus is what RAISES US UP!  As the Gospel says, God spoke in Jesus and through Jesus, announcing God is glorified through the SON and through all who follow Him.  His is the sound of thunder.

Today, we must ask, what kind of push do we need to see Jesus at work in us? To see Jesus in others?  To honor others as ourselves? When push comes to shove, we can return to the “safe haven” in which we take care of ourselves and let others suffer-as-they-will. Or we can follow the One who said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 

Jesus draws us to himself in this Eucharist, he draws us into compassion through broken bread tied to that same broken body we ponder on every Crucifix. He continually reminds us that he took on human suffering so that we would not isolate ourselves from other people’s sufferings, nor fail to address the roots, the causes of their fears, the deprivations, the indignities inflicted upon them.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”   Jesus literally allowed himself to be buried to show the transforming power of dying and rising.  To what “OLD ways,” must we die for Jesus to awaken us to something new?  MOREOVER, “Who are the people in our lives we need to invite into the Paschal Mystery?”  Are we content to be the ones who strive to transform the world OR do we want company?  Who among our friends and relatives need to be “brought down to earth?”  Who needs to consider Jesus? Who needs to know dying and rising as the only way not only to enter eternal life but to have experiences of heaven on earth?  Elsewhere Jesus said, “be cunning as serpents and gentle as doves.” Some people will respond to a simple invitation; others need a push. Jesus is like that little girl Cassie pushing us down to earth, so we approach every aspect of life rooted in our common humanity and dependence on God’s Holy Spirit. ROLL of THUNDER HEAR OUR CRY!


[1] Take a look at what is recommended reading for 7th Graders these days: 7th Grade Reading List Books | Goodreads   Many of these books were assigned to me in high school! 

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!  

Homily for Sunday 19 January 2020 -KEEP MINDFUL OF “WHY” JESUS

Must it take me an entire day to consult commentaries and write a homily for Sunday? One would think after almost 27 years of priesthood an hour or two would be all that I would need! Nevertheless, I’m dependent on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit will utilize me and so I surrender and God keeps me humble. Here’s what I came up with:

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary TimeFr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.
Every family seems to comprise an individual or two who love to brag about certain relations, be they sons or daughters, nieces or nephews. Oddly, they rarely praise the individual in person, only to other relatives. They weary us with the list of this one or that one’s virtues and accomplishments and we wonder, “how could anyone be so wonderful?” We begin to look at the objects of these effusive accolades with suspicion, discomfort at best, resentment at worst. The result: now there are two people we try to avoid: Uncle Charlie, Aunt Petunia AND poor cousin Mickey.


Who are these patriarchs, matriarchs trying to impress? Don’t they know goodness doesn’t lie in any individual alone, but that all is grace, and all good abilities and accomplishments are God’s gifts? No one is greater in God’s eyes, all belong, all are invited to salvation in which all good works are providential for God’s purposes, far greater than our own satisfaction or advancement.


That’s what makes John the Baptist’s words about Jesus so different. This isn’t bragging. This is acknowledging God is with us, God’s plan for humanity is in evidence. Prior to this moment, John simply knew Jesus as his cousin. Yes, he had heard of the prophecies, no doubt, but Remember there were many different interpretations of who and what MESSIAH would be. “I did not know him” refers not to John’s human knowledge but rather recognition and understanding of Jesus’ true role of redemption, Jesus’ salvific purpose. As John sees the Dove, the Spirit descend upon Jesus, he is inspired to see Jesus as God reveals Him, as God intended John and all of us to see.


As we return to the Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time,” we do well to see what John saw, to recognize the true Jesus, His true purpose; how the confirmation of eternal life in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection saves us from harming ourselves and others.
Christmas Season may be over, and Lent and Easter are not quite near, but in our everyday life we must carry the images of Christmas and Holy Week forever in our hearts. We must not ever stop being nurtured by the scene of Infant Jesus in the manger, surrounded by humble parents, poor shepherd and lowly animals. The symbols of the Nativity, the Crèche scene, must forever compel us not only to be in awe of Jesus, the Incarnation but suffer us to be in awe of every infant, every child, regardless of his or her social status or inheritance. Let the manger maintain in us reverence for all life, be it animal, vegetable or mineral, for all witness to God’s immeasurable Wisdom that divined the interconnectedness of all people and all things.


Of course, it’s easy to love every infant –well, for most people, it is. We do have a number of curmudgeons among us who value peace and contemplative silence above all things at home, at church, at supermarkets and elsewhere, forgetting that they once, too, screamed during the offertory, mother’s favorite tv program or giggled at the teacher trying so hard to achieve some sense of decorum. Still, our love and gratitude for children, must easily be extended to the beauty of the earth, the majesty of the animals domestic and wild, the necessity of trees—their gift of oxygen, the waterways—especially fresh water to drink, the honeybees pollinating the fruits we eat and everything else that contributes to our being. After all, all played their part in bringing humanity into being, furnishing the elements on their way to their consummation and fulfilment in Christ Jesus, the WORD INCARNATED that initiated creation and continues to sustain it and all of us unto eternity.
Gratitude for Jesus is Gratitude for all, and thankfulness is the best way to get through this day and any day. Yet, life also is suffering and that’s why we must keep the Cross and Easter balanced with our Christmas inspirations.


Seeing Jesus on the Cross we must not only be reminded that He died for us, be convinced of His love for us, but to see how we individually and collectively as a society perpetuate suffering – suffering of the innocent as He was—and by extension, the weak, the lonely and vulnerable (there’s that baby in a manger again) but all suffering– be it among the good or the wicked, for as Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel, “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” never causing evil but alleviating it for all who turn to him and cooperate with His grace. Yes, the crucifix does expose the sins of the world but remember, exposed in order to forgive them –mercy being the only antidote to sin, the only way life is rejuvenated, resurrected, redeemed, the only way earthly life continues toward eternal life. As we explored last week, Jesus insisted John baptize him, saying, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” —revealing righteousness as the Mercy of God toward all, not just an elect few.


Do we recognize all this in Jesus as John the Baptist did on that holy day? Do we intend through meditation and prayer and thanksgiving and participation in the Sacraments to see every day as holy, every person, every aspect of God’s good earth holy and precious and important? When we do, we join with John the Baptist in recognizing Christ With US and witnessing to the truth that Jesus as the Son of God makes a difference for us in how we think, how we see, how we live, what we eat and how we eat it on a daily basis, not just particular times of the year. We need to see more than bread and wine when we come to the table this morning. That’s for sure! Welcome back to “Ordinary Time.”

Homily for The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 12 January 2020

Here’s the Scripture Readings:

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smouldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R/ (11b)  The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Alleluia  MK 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened, and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We’re leaving a Season of Symbols – Evergreens representing God’s eternal, undying love will be grounded into mulch or used to stabilize sand dunes in beach communities; twinkling lights that witness to Christ as the light of the world withdrawn to attics and corner closets; candles, the burning fire of the Holy Spirit– snuffed out. Poinsettias–plants with striking red leaves branching out in star-like fashion akin to the Star of Bethlehem—perhaps lingering longer in homes and churches than the other signs, might provide us with a remnant of  Christmas Spirit to carry us through the mischief of March and the coming of Lent.  Oh, Lent!  Those perennial forty days that annually insist we repent for not keeping Jesus close, not letting Jesus guide us in all aspects of our lives, asking, “Why is your manger vacant?”

Yes, the Christmas Season concludes this weekend, but not without offering one more Christian symbol, this one perpetual and unchanging: Baptismal water. The Baptism of the Lord is the fourth and final of the “First, Initial Epiphanies” of Jesus’ manifestation to the world.  First: His birth set before lowly shepherds and innocent of animals. Second:  his presentation in the temple to people of faith—Simeon and Anna who lived, longed for rejuvenation, “new hope” in “God. The third Epiphany: Magi, models of the world’s Wisdom figures seeking eternal truths worshiping Jesus. The Magi—representatives of all discontented Gentiles drawn to Judaism’s God—THE GOD who created the cosmos not through the riotous and ravenous warfare as in most pagan world’s religion or atheism’s accusations through some cruel and indifferent power, but out of infinite, all-consuming love.  The fourth “First” is Jesus’ Baptism through which the Christ inaugurated his public ministry.   

That Jesus submitted to Baptism is but an extension of his submission to human nature.  So deeply united to humankind, Jesus identifies fully even with human sin, though He Himself was completely innocent and without sin.  Through Baptism, Jesus attested to the power sin holds over humanity while offering a way out–a remedy to sin’s oppression. And what are these “sins,” rooted in the primordial evil pulling humankind away from God?  Nothing more or less than the world’s compulsion to advance at the expense of others; arrogance and pride that denigrates the weak and the lowly; hate and prejudice leading to violence and murder, sacrificing others—often innocent others—to manifest human will against God’s will.  Jesus enters the waters to show that  in the words of the prophet Hosea, “God desires mercy, not sacrifice,”  i.e., mercy toward the guilty and innocent alike for only mercy, only compassion will establish the reign of Peace that is God’s justice, not human justice. Remember when all humanity’s sins were exposed on the Cross, Jesus offered mercy.

Through Baptism Jesus offered the fullness of God’s mercy to the nations. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, Jesus is “the Chosen One,” in complete possession of God’s spirt – a spirit that does not demean or diminish anyone.  That is the meaning of Isaiah’s words “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smouldering wick he shall not quench”  In modern parlance, Jesus would never kick a dog when its down, or prey upon the weak to make Himself powerful or give himself advantage.  Through Baptism He invites us to trust in compassion as God’s reality–THE Christian reality– and to participate in it.  It’s time we face it: most of the worlds’ history is a story of the powerful sacrificing the weak – be they children or women or people with darker skins or people who don’t fit any consensus of attractiveness or conventional wisdom.  It’s time we repent.  We must re-appropriate our Baptismal charism and start over.  This is the great challenge of the 21st century.  It’s now or never.    

And it is our Baptism that give us hope, assuring us God’s mercy is forever.  Baptism invites us to be courageous and humble.  Let God’s will, not our will, win out–not populism, nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism, antisemitism or any other “ism.”  God puts people first. God puts Mercy first. It’s time we are shocked into Baptism’s deeper reality and submit to it.  This is how the fullness of the Christmas Story will brace us to face the new year. 

Whether it’s the teacher unkind or cruel to a student, a manager demeaning his crew, a spouse impatient and unfeeling, a politician snidely dismissing one ethnic group or another, world leaders out for themselves and their constituencies with no consideration for their neighbours, businesses with no concerns for their impact on local communities, Church leaders who protect themselves against the innocent and  the poor–ONLY REPENTANCE AND SURRENDER T0 GOD’S MERCY WILL TRANSFORM MINDS, HEARTS, NEIGHBOURHOODS AND NATIONS.

Follow Jesus through the water of life again and again, a life force perpetuated for us through frequent Eucharist and, when needed, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, offer us the grace to let go of our resentments, humble ourselves to offer mutual repentance for society’s sins and invite reciprocal learning and shared responsibility.  Of course, we must hold people accountable for their sins yet not without supporting them in mending their ways, helping them accept the consequences of their actions, remedying the situations together without blame, malice or rancour. Why?  Because no wrongdoing emerges from a vacuum but rather erupts from a convergence of many personalities and many situations left un-mended, unattended to or outright ignored.  That is why we needed a Saviour and still need one.

The more we participate in mercy –putting ourselves in the place of others, walking in their shoes, patiently working towards understanding and exploring choices of genuine mutual benefit and sacrifice (for all live by God’s mercy)—the more true Christianity becomes a viable way of life for the world’s consideration.  

The Gospel insists that Jesus fulfilled this righteousness (right way to live/ God’s way to live), inaugurating it through His Baptism because only Mercy empower us to start our lives over, beyond guilt, remorse, regret, revenge to live in the present moment with hope.  Baptism and our Sacramental life provide us with the grace we need to let God’s will work through us to make a better present, a better future. Yes, the Christmas lights have dimmed, but remember Jesus has made you light for the world. Think of that each time you dip your fingers into the Holy Water fonts—for that water is the water of our Baptism, the water of fullness of life and peace and joy, the true Spirit of Christmas.

Christ Now!

Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time November 2019

6 AM New York City. Wednesday November 13th. Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill well below that found a hundred or more  young women and teens lining along Avenue of the Americas at 48th Street in Manhattan.  Back packs stuffed and overflowing; sleeping bags and suitcases at their feet, these adventurous folks were forming a queue for standby tickets for Saturday Night Live at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It was only Wednesday morning, but unreserved tickets and cancellations won’t be available until 7 AM Saturday November 16th.  The queue gets longer as the day wears on. Temperature rises to 36 degrees, but nighttime drops to 23. Thursday’s temperatures: 28 low; 45 high but nighttime drops to 37; Friday warmed up to 50 at noon; 36 at night. Saturday at 6 AM: 34.

Great Expectations. Awe inspired Anticipation. Why?  Harry Styles, British pop star will be the host.  He looks a little bit like a young, vibrant, drug-free Mick Jagger. Neither wind, nor chill, nor sleeping bags on frigid sidewalk concrete deterred the anxious throng. 

How prepared are we–how undeterred– to keep our sights on Jesus not only through the vagaries of weather, but sickness and health, good news and bad news?

A glance at the news evokes images not unlike those Jesus offers in Luke’s Gospel:  wars and insurrections, famines —starving children and families still cry out in Yemen due to Saudi Arabia and Syria’s political interventions, and the  protests in Hong Kong may have abetted a bit, but there’s no true reconciliation in sight.   And then, of course, there are our contemporary tragedies analogous to earthquakes:  Fires and school shooting in California and melting glaciers on the poles.

All these things require people of faith to center ourselves more fully in Christ.  When fundamentalist Christians challenge us by asking “Have you accepted Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior?” it’s time we, too, shout “YES!” And , insist that we are striving to develop the relationship every day. 

Every age has its challenges and every age requires Christians to understand Jesus as Sacrament –the Sacred Manifested in the world and in us.  Our sacraments cultivate the relationship but are not ends in themselves –never were, nor were they intended to be but confirmation of a 24/7 relationship. 

Without Jesus and our attentiveness to prayer to and through Him and with and through His Very Own Communion with His Saints –expressions of Jesus Himself in different epochs, different situations—each offering some inspiration of cooperation with grace—without these, how can we possibly navigate the challenges of our times?

 False prophets are everywhere–asserting prosperity beyond our imagining, “consequence-free” gratification of all kinds or, conversely,  cataclysmic doom.  How easy it is, at times, to give into these fears or try to escape from realities and abandon Jesus because we think He asks much of us!  But what he asks of us, is what he freely gives: the grace to cultivate  honesty, truth, forbearance, hope, trust.  And more than that, He is ever ready to heal and support us when we fail.

It is time that we let Jesus be enough for us –allow Jesus to be all in all in us. Seeing Him as our friend, our patron, our mentor, linking the events of our lives with the events of His life and that of the Saints. As Saint Paul wrote “imitate me” because he imitates Christ. May the Anima Christi prayer be our mantra, today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives.  Then we have nothing to fear. Moreover, we have the courage to engage one another in making this a better world, all in Christ’s name.   And so we pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.