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.

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time –Invest in Faith: There’s a Great Pay-Off!

Reading 1:   Wis 9:13-18b     Responsorial Psalm   Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17  

Reading 2     Phmn 9-10, 12-17    Gospel    Lk 14:25-33

By this time in our history, what Catholic doesn’t know when Jesus states “You must hate your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister if you are to follow me”  he used hyperbole / exaggeration to express that we must love God first above all others.  If not, we tend to love family and friends selfishly, manipulatively, with jealousy or envy or with inflated pride or too much criticism.  Following Jesus first, we see our loved ones as Jesus sees them, love them as Jesus loves them, support them as much as we can mirror Jesus’  support—i.e., loving them while insisting on the Two Great Commandments which foster honesty, humility, forgiveness, and courage to repair any damage that we’ve done.   As for “hating even our lives,” of course, we must always be GRATEFUL for our lives, for being invited to share in Jesus’ life, his mission, cultivating his perspectives in how we interact with the world.  What we need “to hate”  is our tendency to default to society’s ways of valuing us – our looks, our possessions, our neighborhoods, our needs for other’s approval.  Grateful that we may have these things but not resentful that we may not.

In the NYTIMES Sunday Arts section today, there’s an insightful interview with Linda Ronstadt, a very popular recording artist of the 1970 and 80’s , now retired and, it seems, living gracefully with Parkinson’s disease.  Regarding her unique recordings of Mexican songs when bringing Spanish into mainstream pop was extremely rare, her interviewer asked her:  ““When critics talk about the pop artists who brought music from outside the U.S. or U.K. to the pop mainstream, they mention Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, not you. Is that frustrating?  HER RESPONSE:  Who cares? My music is not curing cancer. It will be gone soon enough.

That, my friends is a shining example of being thankful for our lives and talents while being humble and keeping the big picture –whether we ever get our name in a newspaper or our YouTube posts go viral. 

Following Jesus, picking up our cross—i.e. accepting trials and conflicts and difficulties as challenges, opportunities for grace, and being “ever-ready,” “prepared,” “prudent,” eager to learn is the theme for our Eucharist today.  And, I know, how often we may not feel any of that.  Remember, each Mass is here to return us to hope, to courage—to trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I know that not all family, friends and co-workers support us in these beliefs and endeavors.   Many chide, or ridicule us for going to Mass, or for remaining Catholic, or for believing in God.  Others are quick to lord it over us when we do something harmful or indulge our tempers or hurt ourselves or another human being. It is then that we must humbly acknowledge how dependent we are on Christ and His Story of forgiveness, for reconciliation, for courage to admit our wrongs and make amends.  Today’s Eucharist offers us that, too.  Thank God!

And yes, the Church as institution has given us plenty of reasons to judge it, to even hate it.  Yet today and everyday Jesus gives us the grace to hold it accountable with faith and hope, loving it back to its true self and reinstating it to its primordial purpose. Hey, if not  you and me, who?

So, may we not despair that only some of us among family, friends and neighbors have chosen to celebrate Jesus in us and for us today. We never know when the deposit of Grace bestowed on in any given Eucharist will bear fruit  — even when we may not be conscious of it.  I’ll close with what I hope is for you a shining example –an inspiration—as to the possibilities, the grace in store for us precisely because we’re here, cultivating our friendship with God and all that entails.

One day, a certain dad indulged his dark side in ways that were deeply demeaning to his adult daughter.  She found herself brimming with rage.  But a voice within, however, pleaded with her: “Postpone your wrath!”  “Postpone your wrath!” What Eucharist do you think that came from?  “Anyway,” she pacified herself with this thought, “I’ll plot my revenge at a later date.“

As the days went by, the incident replayed repeatedly in her mind, evoking the worst of all her childhood and adult memories.  She’d see her father’s face before her and cringe and craze.  And then it happened!  A realization that she didn’t have to live this way.  She had a choice.  Yes, she could indulge these thoughts and feelings, or she could release herself from unending trauma. She must recall the good times, the pleasant moments with her dad or she’d make herself sick and kill her kinship with her father forever. 

She decided to throw him a party. She hadn’t prayed to Jesus for deliverance, but faith is active even when we’re unconscious of it. Her preparations brought good memories forward to balance the bad ones. Her dad was not a determinedly daily tyrant. No, not at all.  She recalled moments of kindness, patience and generosity. Grace happened!  The party was a singular success and none of those who attended, especially dear dad, would ever know all that transpired in her heart.  She was free, her heart restored, and she thought, “Thank God!” Remember, friends, Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus’ Take on “The Grasshopper and The Ants”

HOMILY FOR 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2019

Gospel: Lk 12:32-48

Five Hundred or so years before Jesus, Aesop recorded a Fable entitled “The Grasshopper and The Ants.”  It went like this:

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

“What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”

“I didn’t have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

“Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

Moral:  There’s a time for work and a time for play.

Sound a little bit like Jesus’ parable, doesn’t it?  BE PREPARED! Folk wisdom can be found throughout the ages in Ancient and Biblical literature alike.  WISDOM is a gift from the Holy Spirit, guaranteed in the Church and Synagogue but never limited to it. And we well know how wisdom builds on wisdom from one age to the next. So, what did Jesus add to the sagacity of his time for our time?  He says,  “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  His listeners knew full well He was speaking about the End Times—the End of All Things.  But they also knew that Promise of the Ages could be experienced in aspects of their lives in their day.  In our day, we know that Christ attends to us, is with us, guides us through Sacraments and all acts of faith, hope and love.

Jesus also says, those who are “prepared”– those who live open to Christ and His Spirit–will have great rewards in the here and now and future.  He also says those who are not prepared will be “beaten” – an image not to be taken literally but understood as “beaten down,” discouraged, despaired, debilitated by doubts, fears, vengeance, greed—the results of a faithless life.  

In the ensuing years, the fable of “The Grasshopper and the Ants” has evolved into one with more Christian aesthetics in the just the same way we have come to interpret what sounds like Jesus’ harsh sayings in newly inspired ways.  In the more recent rendition, the Ants have compassion on the Grasshopper, invite him into their colony for the winter to entertain them with his fiddle. Everybody eats to the sound of music, and afterward, dancing ensues, celebrating a kind of heavenly banquet!  The implication here is that with compassion comes a new consciousness that there’s a unique work for everyone to do –many gifts but one Spirit.

This vision of all working, living and playing together, adds much to how we read Jesus’ parable of the Faithful and Prudent Steward.  To get right down to it:  Why put us through the suffering of being without Christ, living in despair, hurt, anger, begrudging what we have or envying what we don’t have–when Jesus offers abundant hope, solace, energy and grace-filled resources as needed.  The Gospel reminds us that although Jesus is ever-present at our door, we are tempted not to open it, or we can’t or won’t because we’re more focused on our fiddling than on God who gave us the ability to fiddle in the first place!   On the surface Jesus’ parable threatens us with punishments for failing to live the Gospel.  More importantly, Providence inspires us to acknowledge our weakness and fallibilities not to cultivate guilt but to strengthen our resolve–if we let it–to hear Jesus knocking at our door and let him in!

HOW shall we keep the LIGHT of faith burning in our hearts and homes to let Jesus in?   We may do so by cultivating an ever enthusiastic “Yes”  to living with integrity, honesty, fairness in our work and leisure. We can cultivate a deeper Christ Awareness in what we choose to read, how we speak, engage in dialogue regarding family matters, news, politics or local community matters.  We do these things not to “please Jesus” who loves us unconditionally but to grow in solidarity with Him, to allow ourselves to experience His friendship more fully, conscious He is HERE and Comes to Us Continually.

Furthermore, we may live faith, hope and  love daily by saying “No” to lies, by refusing to ignore the deep realities of issues, people, places and things; by saying “No” to blaming others and saying “Yes” to exploring and sharing in solutions to daily dilemmas and wider woes of city, state and world. 

In Christ, and through Communion with Him, we allow ourselves to be Enlivened, energized by the Holy Spirit for all the work at hand, balanced by proper “sabbath” rest and leisure – all in a proper balance of time and place exemplified by the Change of Seasons, themes and ideas supported by fable and parable alike.    Humility offers Heaven on Earth as we affirm and live-out Jesus’ words: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Keeping Us God-centered – a Homily for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reading 1:IS 66:10-14C Responsorial Psalm   PS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 Reading 2  GAL 6:14-18 Gospel   LK 10:1-12, 17-20 

Jesus said Satan was being conquered by the Gospel. How did that happen then?  How does it happen now?  Are we still applying the Gospel to advance the good and limit if not eradicate the bad by the grace of God?

There are many ways to live and many different foundations of faith to stand on.  Christianity and Judaism are rooted in worship (which teaches us humility, reverence and awe in God’s presence). Faith assures us that God willingly shares a divine spark and spirit with every member of the human race.  Faith invites us to see each other differently than  the world views us—i.e., as consumers, numbers, quota or constituencies.  

With many abandoning organized religions these days, the most popular “alternate religion” is humanism, which, although it denies God and the need for worship, continues to reverence the human being. As it abandons the Jewish and Christian belief in the Divine Spark, the soul in every person, humanism maintains the importance of people as individuals.  It champions “free will” not as a God-given right but a right, nonetheless.  It values “liberty” while softening its tendency to selfishness by borrowing the biblical ideal of unity among peoples for the common good. 

Yes, Humanism promotes tolerance and good will, respect for differences but without the profound Eucharistic dimensions of true acceptance.  Humanism has difficulty with Jesus’ insistence on forgiveness and reconciliation rooted in the Jewish Covenant.  Humanism promotes a vision of the future in which everyone gets along but that lacks the profundity of the Biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth guided by cooperation with a loving God.  

Why are these distinctions important?  Because without God there is no true humanity.  Without God there is no true humility;  no deference to a wisdom and  love greater than our own.  Humility rooted in submission to God acknowledges human weakness, limitations, tendency to selfishness –what we call “sin”—without which we see ourselves as little gods, tribal leaders, kings and queens  or their modern counterparts, presidents and prime ministers of our own design. The Bible does say, at times,  “You have made us little less than a God,” but the emphasis is on “less than.” 

 In contrast, humanism trusts not in the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit but in a trinity of its own inventions—commerce, science and technology.  It is time we realize that, more and more,  humanism surrenders human dignity to these newly created gods making “Progress” the greatest good.  If not kept in check, progress will advance at the expense of all religions and even humanist values.  

Saint Paul insisted on humility as a faith foundation, an essential ingredient in true goodness when he wrote: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Covenant with Israel insisted “”Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,  sing praise to your name!”

And Jesus saw evil being conquered through the efforts of 72 disciples (both Jews and Gentiles at this juncture) participating in His Gift of the Holy Spirit when he said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. … Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,  but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  i.e. God is at work through you.  That is the faith that will bring you to eternal life.  Life is not about us, but God in all.  We view ourselves as “masters of the universe” at great peril.

Jesus’ commandments to the 72 disciples emphasized God, not humanism, not commerce, nor science.  Jesus sent the 72 abroad to experience God through deference to the kindness of strangers, requiring disciples to see every individual and family as members of God’s family.  Jesus’s instructed them to “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals”  Why?  He did not want them to find their confidence in material things but in the Spirit alive in them.  Jesus said, “Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.” Notice the “payment” is not gold or riches or social advancement but a sustaining meal; meals in which people truly listen to one another, attend to each one’s feelings and share questions that evoke conversation of values, of faith, of rights and wrongs.  And, since no one is always “right,” but all are sometimes wrong, with forgiveness and hope.   Today’s counterpart to the 72’s experience would be meals without cell phones and private texts, meals without tv, computers or other distractions, meals where monetary concerns are put aside.

Today’s Scriptures offer lessons that teach us how to engage in the modern age.  We must be consistent in posing critical questions to our neighbors, employers, politicians, doctors and heads of corporations and technological conglomerates:

“Who will benefit from these business decisions, from these economic standards, these political views and who will be left out? Will these new technologies advance the health and wellbeing of all or a select few?  Who may be harmed by these decisions and advances?  Do we want to repeat the sins of the past or learn from them instead?

Commerce, science and technology offer amazing possibilities but without God, without you and me and other people of faith, they have no motivation to value a common humanity over a privileged humanity;  no value system to nurture mother earth for the common good.  Instead they will nurture advancement for its own sake, over and above everything and everyone.

Building on the Jewish prophets, Jesus has empowered us to keep commerce, science and technology in check. We must align ourselves with the 72 disciples as we approach the Eucharistic table today.  We must ask the Lord to strengthen our faith -filled convictions, to expand our reverence for God, for all God’s people and God’s good earth.  If  we do not leave this church today with that kind of reverence, what will become of our world? To which Trinity will we have allegiance?  Whose people will we truly be?

Homily for Baptism of the Lord Sunday – the conclusion of the Christmas Season

Excerpts from Today’s Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 42: 1-4 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; . . .

to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Isaiah 40: 11 Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Psalm 29:  R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

ACTS 10; 34 Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.


Luke 3: 15-16;21-22  The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

Note the difference between these two scenarios.  Who do we want to be?  

A man wakes up early in the morning.  The cool morning air on his face contrasts pleasantly with the cozy warmth under the blankets.  The old clock radio clicks on to play a sad, sweet, silly song he loved as a teenager and hasn’t heard for years.  It evokes sweet, sad nostalgia interrupted by a bit of static.  This  thirty-year old AM Clock radio was a gift from his parents when they could hardly afford anything.  Amazing it still works at all.  It broadcasts another song he has never heard before.  He listens intently, focused and attentive and looks lovingly at his wife still asleep at his side. With each passing year he loves her more and more, marveling how they, though no longer fit and trim, still delight each other. He whispers a prayer of thanksgiving to God filled with hope for the future.

Another man wakes up early that same morning. The cool morning air on his face is an affront to his comfort. The old alarm clock radio starts and stops with static before the morning broadcast begins. He recalls how  disappointed he was getting this piece of junk for Christmas when he was young.  Cheapskate parents –they never appreciated the finer things of life, nor did they fill him with ambition and tools for success. “Fool that I am,” he says, “you’d think after all these years I could at least have bought myself a Cd player alarm but who could afford it on the lousy salary I make?” His wife stirs beside him.  She’s gained too much wait.  Their relationship isn’t anything what it used to be.  What hope is there for the future? *

Today we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord.  In doing so we must recognize everything about the life of Jesus is meant to tell us about our own.  We follow Him into baptism so we may lead our lives as close to Jesus as we can be, embracing His Vision that we are beloved and wonderfully made.  No exceptions.  If we accept that we can see ourselves and others differently, not as the world sees us.

Many people think Baptism is only about freedom from Original Sin—our compulsion toward a “ME” centered world instead of a God-centered world.  However, Baptism offers us something more.  Our baptisms (bestowed upon most of us when we were mere infants) consecrated us into the truth that God loves us first –before we were even old enough to do anything good, bad or indifferent to ourselves or others.  Remember, in this fourth great event of the Christmas Season (After Christ’s Birth, His Consecration of All Families as Holy Families and His Offering Friendship to the World via the Magi on Epiphany) God called Jesus his “beloved” before he performed any miracle, before he preached any sermon, before he picked up his cross.  So,  too, God calls us his beloved sons and daughters, before we put any of God’s grace and goodness into practice.  Accepting the truth that God loves us first offers us ample opportunities to  love God, ourselves and others more readily, more spontaneously– out of gratitude, awe and wonder.  Thanksgiving for God’s Love, for the life God bestowed upon us constitutes the heart of a good life consecrated in God’s grace.   Baptism insists that we see that.  Jesus underwent Baptism to insist that we understand that.

Baptism and all the subsequent sacraments of the Church inaugurate in us a Heavenly Vision here on earth.  Jesus turned societies’ rules upside down – refusing to judge others in comparison or contrast to Himself.  Instead, He offered Himself in relationship to all—seeking friendship for the sheer enjoyment of being known and knowing others, confident that relationships of honesty, of quality and integrity are the heart of earthly life and the heart of heaven.  Why even the difficult relationships–and Jesus had many of them, including conflicts with his own disciples—yes, even difficult relationships offer opportunities for growth, for patience, courage and transformation.  Jesus literally didn’t care if people were of his stature, wealthy or poor, socially or religiously educated or even disciplined in their behavior.  He made no such judgments. He only desired to engage, to share Himself, His Being and HIS VISION—GOD’S VISION—an alternate way of living, engaging the world for all it CAN BE rather than taking the world on its own terms which all too often (although not always) eschews spiritual truths and values.  

Jesus may have accepted, for example, that it is inevitable that there will be rich and poor in this world, but while society insists that “Progress is King,” that those who succeed are superior beings to those who don’t measure up to its standards of success,  Jesus insisted such disparities never be perpetuated.  Rather, in communion, He invites us to bridge the gap of “the haves” and “have nots” by affirming our common heritage as children of God. If we believe we are “beloved” as Jesus in his humanity was beloved by God, then our task is to affirm the beloved-ness of all including those outside of our “set,” beyond our circle of friends, including those with whom we disagree—even they who are hostile to our vision of communion, those who intentionally thwart cooperation among peoples or refuse to see each and every one as a saint-in-the-making. 

By inaugurating us into a people, a Church, Baptism and the Sacraments support us in helping one another, struggling with one another, conflicting with one another insisting differences can be overcome because of The ONE who first Loved Us.  Sacraments insist we remain thankful for every opportunity we have, and that through Grace, we begrudge no one the same opportunities.  May our commemoration of the  Baptism of the Lord rekindle our lives with the fire of our Baptisms and this Eucharist, confirming our identities as followers of Christ Jesus in whom the Great Commandments to love God, self and others as ourselves continue to hold sway. Christmas may be over,  but its Spirit can perpetuate and enhance our faith, hope and love today, tomorrow and always if we let it.  God Bless us, everyone!

*These scenarios adapted from the book “How To Want What You Have” by Timothy Miller, PH.D. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Copyright 1995 pp 44-46