We come again to Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan, acknowledging it applies to far more than whether we offer a handout to a beggar on the street. As far as that is concerned, we know we can’t always, but sometimes, we must.  As Pope Francis reminds us, charity must be without judgment, without lectures or reprimands but a surrender to the Holy Spirit—unqualified as it may be quantified.  But we mustn’t settle with only one application of this Gospel.  Our times call for expansion of our faith as it applies to all aspects of our lives.

Some say politics and religion must never interact, but the parable of the Good Samaritan insists we attend to our current immigration crisis–the refugee camps and holding cells for immigrants from Central America and elsewhere.   Witness’ statements are alarmingly conflicted. Some literally weep over the suffering—people in confinement without access to toilets and shower facilities– and others report that all is well, that everyone is treated humanely.  We don’t know truly who to believe. But our faith insists we attend to the side of those who suffer and not look the other way.

Some say charity has no place in government. Charity belongs to the realm of churches synagogues, temples and mosques.  But wait!  We believe in a government by the people for the people, do we not?  If our government does not respond to people in crisis in ways we believe are good, then who is our government representing?

Even if you believe that every undocumented immigrant must return to his or her own country—a stance that the United States Catholic Bishops insist is not fair or compassionate because of the many hostile situations most of the immigrants are fleeing—the very essence of human kindness insists that we treat fellow human beings with dignity, provide them with at least the most basic comforts while we assess their situations before sending them back to their countries of origin.

Furthermore, charity requires we analyze our government and our American Corporation involvement in these countries to see where we help or hinder the local populations. These are just some of the applications the Good Samaritan Parable insists we consider.  Let’s take a brief look at human history and see what insights our pasts offer. 

Kindness to strangers has always been an essentially human value. Indeed, we find it in evidence in ancient documents that predate the Bible.  As the civilizations of Samaria, Mesopotamia and Egypt were being cultivated, most of humanity lived as foragers and wandering nomads with herds of sheep and goats. When they came upon the outskirts of cites, it was customary for citizens to offer them food and rest before they moved onward.  Our Jewish ancestors insisted this practice was divinely inspired and made it an outright obligation. Consider these examples:

  1. Abraham and the Three visitors. Without hesitation, Abram asks his wife Sarai to make a meal. Had they not, the promise of Covenant, children and future would not have cone to them.
  2. Esau forgives and welcomes back his brother Jacob / now named Israel  with Israel’s wives, children, other relatives and many servants and flocks even though Israel had been gone over 14 years.
  3. Joseph, advisor to Pharaoh welcomes All 11 brothers, father and all the Israelites to Egypt when Canaan was plagued with drought and famine.
  4. Moses guides the people to welcome aliens in their midst for the people were once aliens themselves.

In the Greek and Roman empires, hospitality to strangers was a lawful and religious act.  They believed any of the gods or goddesses could be a beggar in disguise.  Christianity affirmed that attributing the invitation to kindness as consorting with angels.  We read this in Chapter 13 of  the Letter to the Hebrews:  “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body.”

Another important aspect of the Good Samaritan Parable is the context of religious fundamentalism, rigidity and scrupulosity in living out the faith. We cannot ignore the fact that Jesus highlights the people unresponsive to the robbers’ victim are religious clerics. Here is an alarming example of legalism trumping a deeper, more universal humanity.  We all know the priest and Levite are following “the letter of the law,”  they cannot be contaminated by the victim’s blood nor by someone who may a member of their clan or tribe if they are to serve at worship at the temple or synagogue. Jesus’ parable questions such allegiance.

We must admit that Catholicism has also had  a reputation, in our past and somewhat in our present, for rigidity in practice and scrupulosity in spirit; in brief:  Legalism. The Good Samaritan Parable reminds us that people can avoid compassion, neglect charity as much BECAUSE of, if not despite our religion.

In the decades prior to Vatican II,  there’s a story of a woman who neglected her toddler – keeping him alone at home in playpen– so she could get to church and not incur mortal sin. Today she would be arrested.  I also know of a band of brothers who cheated a brother out of shares in their business justifying themselves because he no longer was a practicing Catholic.  Hypocrisy for sure.

We used to not be able to attend weddings in Protestant churches or go to church or synagogue with people of other faiths, but today, Holy Spirit has won out just as Jesus broke through the rigidity of religious practices of his time.  Vatican II institutionalized what Catholics sensed and recognized long before, that God is all in all, and that we need to respect faith in all its many forms within and among our families’ relatives in the wider neighborhoods. Such rigidity in rules were always meant to be broken and come of age.

Still, rigidity and legalisms can still hold sway even in our times. There are those who continue to  come to confession, saying, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.  I missed mass on Sunday, but I was terribly sick with flu.”   Confessors assure them that God cares about their health and wellbeing and they made the right decision not to attend–for themselves and for the rest of us.  What makes people still so overly concerned with the Church’s  rules and guidelines?  Must they live in fear of mortal of a wrathful, vengeful God?  That is not the God of Jesus Christ.

A more common question I get concerns whether Catholics should attend a wedding if their children or relatives are marrying outside the church – out in a field or by a swimming pool.  In more serious and much more complicated situations they ask the same about LGBTQ  relatives and friends. Here we must remember the many, many stories of Jesus in the homes of tax collectors and people of ill repute. He never insists that they follow him , but rather gets to know them, affirm their God-given dignity, their loving and life-affirming qualities, always highlighting the good He saw in them at the same time He invites them to a relationship. A Good Samaritan would always celebrate our common humanity by putting love over judgment.  Should you go to these weddings, these homes?  Our answer is irrefutable YES!  Remember:  God says, “judgment is mine,”  and Jesus said many times in many ways, “ be merciful just as your father is also merciful.”

Now that we have reflected on the Word, we are all invited to the Eucharistic table. I assure you, on behalf of Jesus and His Church, I am not going to ask you for your green cards, your passports, your politics or anything else other than your “Amen,” i.e. your assent that Christ is with us, in us, in me and you and all, at work in us, conforming us with patience and unconditional love to break through the barriers of yes,  even law and order,  to acknowledge our common humanity–a humanity which He assumed fully and completely for our sake—to make Good Samaritans of us all.  


Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) Homily

Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20

Responsorial Psalm Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4

Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26

Gospel Lk 9:11b-17

As priests are obliged to do, I spent about a day’s work reflecting on the Scriptures for today and reading Commentaries by noted scholars and Spiritual Writers.  I am happy to share these insights with you.

The first comes from a book entitled LUKE FOR EVERYONE by Anglican Bishop and Scholar N. T. Wright  (pp107-108)

A popular interpretation of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes is that it represents nothing more than an “Inspirational Moment” when , having heard Jesus preach, all the people –the 5,000 men and additional women and children—were inspired to share what food they had so that all were satisfied.  “No!” writes Bishop Wright.  For that version denies us the experience of the Glorious Impossible, the Cosmic God of Surprise.

In defense of his position, he reminds us that the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes occurs right after The Twelve Return from their first commission to preach the Gospel in the surrounding villages.  Jesus had sent them out with the instruction not to take a money bag.  Usually, traveling teachers would keep a bag for the alms they received.  Jesus wanted his disciples to be totally dependent on the kindness of strangers to give them food and shelter—only the barest necessities with nothing to retain, i.e. living hand to mouth, trusting in the Holy Spirit at work in the world, trusting in Providence.  The implication is that they had to relate honestly and openly with other people; they had to project their relationship with Jesus on to their relationship with others.

Today’s Gospel, the Bishop asserts, invites us to the same radical trust in God as it did the Twelve and all the others with them.  For indeed,  IF it was evident that the people in the crowd  had food with them and could share their provisions with other (the “practical” way of interpreting “the miracle”), the Twelve would not have been put-out by Jesus’s order “to give them food yourselves.”  No, there is no mention of food among the masses and the Twelve respond with a touch of irony and sarcasm: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”  So, like their commission to preach, Jesus, once again, invited them and US to “go into the unknown, into a world where things aren’t normally like that, and to trust God completely.”   

Bishop Wright comments: “We aren’t called to believe that Jesus can, as it were, do tricks to order.  He wasn’t a magician.  What he did on this rare occasion was to allow God’s creative power to flow through him in a special way, as with his healings, but more so.”

I will add that this is the same Eucharistic reality are we invited to:  allow God’s creative power to flow through us as Jesus imbues our body with the essence of His Body and Blood in every aspect of the Mass –people gathered, in prayer, engaging the Scriptures, contemplation, hand-shaking, Eucharistic action and real presence, and commissioning forth.

Here is an example of some of the powerful mystery the Eucharist invites us to embrace from a short story entitled “Revelation” by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor.  (I found this in a book entitled A Retreat with Luke (‘s Gospel) by Barbara E. Reid, O.P. (St. Anthony Press)   p. 73-74

          Flannery O’Connor tells of Mrs. Ruby Turpin, a woman who prides herself on being a good woman who helps other people and is saved by Jesus.  Mrs. Turpin had a clear hierarchy of the classes of people.  On the bottom of the heap were (what she called—NOT ME) “colored people.” Then, just next to them, “white trash.” She and her husband, Claude, homeowners and landowners, were far above.

A disturbing incident in a doctor’s waiting room, in which Mrs. Turpin is assaulted by a “lunatic” young woman, who calls her “a wart hog from hell,” is followed by this vision:  She saw herself in the mud clinging to the edge or her very own hog pen:

“Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there . . . she lifted her head.  There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk . . . 

A visionary light settled in her eyes.  She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire.  Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. 

There were whole companions of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black (people) in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.  And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right.

She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior.  They alone were on key.  Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.  She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead.  In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

At length . . . (she got up and left the doctor’s office) . . .  and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house.  In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voice of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”

The Eucharist, this miraculous Body of Christ, CORPUS CHRISTI, is transformed Bread and Wine and transforming You and Me.  In it, with it and through it,  Jesus humbles us, reduces us to common humanity and, I might add, to our connection to the hogs and every other animal, the trees, the waters, the winds, the mountains and our mutual dependence on a miracle-working God.

Bibles and Bible Commentaries Recommendations

by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Start with an Excellent Annotated Bible with Commentaries:

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version –– Truly Ecumenical in scope by Marc Brettler (Editor), Carol Newsom (Editor), Pheme Perkins (Editor)

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible: Hardcover by Catherine Upchurch (Editor), Irene Nowell OSB (Editor), Ronald D. Witherup PSS (Editor)

The Catholic Study Bible Edited by Donald Senior

TANAKH (The Jewish Scriptures): THE JEWISH STUDY BIBLE, 2nd Edition

If the Reader would like an Easy Read acquainting him/her/they a General Overview of biblical events with some good historical context:

DK Illustrated Family Bible by DK Publishing


Excellent Illustrated Children’s Bibles:

THE CHILD’S Bible from Paulist Press (Beautifully illustrated)

The Children’s Illustrated Bible (This one includes Historical Notes)
by Selina Hastings, Eric Thomas (Illustrator), Eric Thomas (Illustrator), Amy Burch (Illustrator)


The Great Themes of Scripture Old Testament By Fr. Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos Cincinnati , Ohio : St. Anthony Messenger Press. 1987, rev. 1999

The Great Themes of Scripture New Testament. By Fr. Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos St. Anthony’s Messenger Press

101 Questions and Answers on the Bible by Ramond Brown

Understanding Difficult Scriptures in a Healing Way by Rev. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis and Sheila Fabricant Linn

THINGS HIDDEN –Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr

Good Goats Healing Our Image of God by Matthew, Dennis and Sheila Fabricant Linn

For more Intensive Study, there’s the new


New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken OSB

(Or one can order a commentary on one book at a time such as:

Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament, Vol. 1 by Gregory W. Dawes (excerpted directly from New Collegeville Bible Commentary)

Genesis, Part One by Joan E. Cook SC, Little Rock Scripture Study staff
(Same commentary as New Collegeville but INCLUDES the corresponding Biblical texts)

Genesis, Volume 2 by Joan E. Cook SC (Same commentary as New Collegeville but INCLUDES the corresponding Biblical texts)

For an Exclusively Jewish Commentary, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has an excellent series entitled COVENANT & CONVERSATION. The first in the series is:

Covenant & Conversation: Genesis: The Book of Beginnings by Jonathan Sacks https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/covenant-conversation-jonathan-sacks/1123484419?ean=9781592640201

Other In-Depth Commentaries for Beginners:

READING THE OLD TESTAMENT by Lawrence Boadt (Revised Edition)

READING THE NEW TESTMAENT by Pheme Perkins (Revised Edition)

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter

12 May 2019

Reading 1 Acts 13:14, 43-52 Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5

Reading 2 Rev 7:9, 14b-17 Gospel Jn 10:27-30

Graduation Ceremonies, First Communions and Mother’s Day merge into sensibilities intimately connected with May, the Month of Mary, Mother of God who continually brings us closer to Mary’s child:  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Word Made Flesh.  All these annual MAY events gain greater significance when placed in conversation with Jesus’ words in today’s readings.

Jesus’ statements as the Good Shepherd make for one momentous Graduation Address: Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” 

In other words, Jesus is saying, “You are mine, just as a child is connected to its mother.”  Just as Graduations are touchstones to a lifetime of graduations growing in wisdom and life experiences, Jesus as Good Shepherd reminds us, we are nurtured by Him, educated by the Holy Spirit through faith and life experiences to grow in Wisdom, Understanding, Courage and more.

What could Jesus be saying to us in this and every Eucharist if not “You are with me always, and everything I have is yours –take and eat, live and affirm life in others.”  We must enlighten the new generations that First Communion is not merely a one-day event, but a point of entry into an expanding House of God that has no walls, no ceilings, no boundaries—a intimate moment with Jesus to strengthen one’s experiences of Jesus, alone, and with and through others for a lifetime.  How else may the  Kingdom of God—Peace on Earth, Good Will to All be accomplished?

But like any good graduation address, Jesus, our deliverer, offers caution.  Remember, Jesus speaks not only in the Gospel but through all the Scriptures. Today’s ACTS of the Apostles reading reminds us that living in the NOW and moving forward with Jesus isn’t easy.  Good News we will continually meet opposition and hardship just as there was “ persecution against Paul and Barnabas,” as they were “expelled them from their territory.”  Yet in Christ we find our courage just as Paul and Barnabas “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

When Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”  He articulates that same Eucharistic reality of JOY in His consistent presence in our lives, no matter the hardships we face. Indeed, people do try to lead us out of the kingdom of loving, forgiving, of humility, patience and kindness encouraging illusions of grandeur instead–why, we even do that to ourselves at times,–yet perseverance will be granted us as we appropriate the sacraments and scriptures as gifts of grace, experiences of Jesus for the journey. 

At one commencement address, Poet Laureate Maya Angelou once said:  “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

The Good Shepherd finds us when we are lost and nurtures us like the best of mothers so that we rise above the loss, the regret, the foolishness of ourselves and others. Praying Mary’s Rosary reminds us of death—not for morbidity but for inspiration to live each day as our last, finding hope even in failures, the little “deaths” of every day.

In one of Steve Jobs’ last commencement addresses, he said: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

What are these statements put reiterations of Jesus’ Good Shepherd poetry?  Eternal life comes to those not afraid of dying in faith, hope and love!   Jesus entire life on earth demonstrates to us that impediments to grace will confront us, but God guides the faithful through each hurt, each betrayal, each failure.  As we allow Jesus’ story to connect intimately to ours, Jesus will deepen our humility, fortify our courage and expand hope illuminating us with Wisdom  This, in part,  is why Jesus died and rose—not eschewing pain and suffering but engaging in it for a greater purpose: transformation through continual dying and rising. 

The Book of Revelation today confirms this wholeheartedly: “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Detective novelist Author Dashiell Hammett once wrote: “There are no great moments unless you have a pile of smaller moments to stand on.” 

Our small moment today is receiving the Word and Eucharist in a new way,  Trust in the virtue of humility, acknowledge we are like sheep, we need a Shepherd, we have a Shepherd, we can trust in our Shepherd.  Recognizing that in every Mass we receive a mighty infusion of grace to live now with a vision of what the future can be the more we cooperate with Jesus and His vision for the world. 

The inspiring abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote: “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”  Is this not a reiteration of the humility embraced by so many Saints?

I quote these secular achievers to demonstrate that what is true and good in Jesus is universally good and true—no matter its source, no matter the faith or the virtue of the ones who articulate it.  Just as the efficacy of the Eucharist is not in any way dependent on the virtue or goodness of the priest who celebrates it. Still, in so many ways, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has determined to shepherd us through others—mothers, fathers, friends, writers, entrepreneurs, teachers, the poor and anyone through whom God wishes to instruct us. May today’s  mass open our eyes and ears to every truth, every grace in whoever stands before us so that both in and through the sacraments and in and through the world we will receive our Good Shepherd with greater authenticity, humility and love. And this is how we enter the realities of God’s kingdom today, tomorrow and for all eternity.

PS: Some other memorable quotes:

“Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” Melinda Gates

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson


Homily by Paulist Father James DiLuzio

Fire, smoke and ash were part of the Earth’s beginnings.  Each made their contribution to the atmosphere and to the land.  Volcanic ash contains various amounts of soil nutrients that eventually allowed the plants to grow.[i]  So from the beginning, ashes represented death but also life, the end of life and the beginning of something new. The message of death to life is primeval in the very heart of nature and in the first tribes of human beings. Initially,  of course, the first impression is that of death alone.  Mourners rolled themselves on the earth to show solidarity with the dead buried beneath them. In early Judaism ashes had two connotations:  grieving the dead and nothingness –the inconsequential realities of all things human in contrast the greatness and glory of God. To these time and experience embossed additional meaning upon ashes:  mortification due to guilt tied to remorse for sins committed. 

All of these understandings echo through our Ash Wednesday rituals for there is nothing so sobering, so humbling, so freeing as recognizing death as the common denominator for all human persons – the great, the small, the powerful, the powerless, the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick. Ashes insist we ask the questions “why are we here?” and “what do we believe?”  Do we embrace all the aspects of ashes—the grieving, the repentance, the cosmic realities that death does indeed give way new life?  Jesus assured us that “blessed are those who mourn” and that repentance is the only proper mindset to appreciate the full weight of God’s mercy, to appropriate the forgiveness that flows freely from a God of unconditional love—REPENTANCE that not only indicates sorrow for the harm we have brought upon ourselves from our thoughts, words and deeds but the harm our words and actions and inactions bring upon others but, in the best sense, REPENTANCE means CHANGE OF HEART, CHANGE OF MIND, THE WAY WE THINK, THE WAY WE LIVE.  JESUS by taking on the fullness of humanity INSISTS WE LIVE AS HE LIVED, THINK AS HE THOUGHT, becoming his eyes and ears, his mind and vision, his words and actions for all people in our lives and in our world.  For today– as it will be in the future–all people—believers and nonbelievers– need tangible reassurance that faith matters, that patience, kindness and forgiveness are earthly realities that reveal heavenly realities. 

In these ashes we die to FEAR and are RAISED to that YOU and I -with no exceptions—are INDEED the MANIFESTATIONS, the INCARNATIONS of GOD IS WITH US and  THROUGH US BECAUSE OF THE ONE WHO LOVES US and came to be ONE WITH US ON EARTH, guiding us onto eternal life.   Yes, today, we die again to the fear that we are not unconditionally loved and RISE to the Courage to BE CHRIST for others and with others.

Are we ready to come “down to earth” as Jesus did?  To BE humble, ever-conscious of the preciousness of life, our lives, thankful for WHO we are and WHAT we are, THANKFUL FOR A LIVING FAITH that sees our sins and failures all within a bigger vision:  that without humility, power is evil, without sobriety,  passions become addictions, without knowledge of and commitment toward THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ALL THINGS–all peoples with peoples, with nature, with God through a cosmic communion,  faith is shallow, life is wasted.  Yes, at times we do  belong on an ash heap but NEVER FEAR:   the Holy Spirit cultivates the SPIRITUAL NUTRIENTS IN US to make faith alive, our lives “ALIVE” and worth living and dying for—because from the beginning, God declared all this –life, death, repentance, dying and rising BAPTIZED IN JESUS, CONFIRMED IN JESUS, IN COMMUNION WITH JESUS OFFERING COMMUNION, PATIENCE, FORGIVENESS, NEW WAYS OF LIVING TO THE WORLD –YES, GOD SAID THIS WAS GOOD.  SO VERY, VERY GOOD. WELCOME TO LENT!  

[i] SOIL ENRICHMENT:  Volcanic eruptions result in ash being dispersed over wide areas around the eruption site. And depending on the chemistry of the magma from which it erupted, this ash will be contain varying amounts of soil nutrients. While the most abundant elements in magma are silica and oxygen, eruptions also result in the release of water, carbon dioxide (CO²), sulfur dioxide (SO²), hydrogen sulfide (H²S), and hydrogen chloride (HCl), amongst others.   Taken from: https://www.universetoday.com/32576/benefits-of-volcanoes/

Other Sources:

online Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1944-ashes

From:  https://sknobloch88.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/ash-wednesday-and-ancient-gods/

Indian beliefs.  Agni was the ancient Indian God of Fire, believed to be the deity to cleanse and purify the body of sins.  The Romans adapted this God’s name in the Latin word ignis,  for fire.  And how we derived the present word ignite.

So, as the Catholics believe………”Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”……….all is connected, and everything returns to its source.

All religion has common links

Homily – Bridge the Gaps –On Faith and Finance

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Who doesn’t dream of winning the lottery with visions of wealth and security, high standing in society?  Money is power in our world, power to influence others.  In truth, I’m as guilty as anyone in taking for granted the simple things and engaging in delusions of grandeur but Jesus began his public ministry asking that we, the people, not isolate and overprotect ourselves physically, emotionally, economically – because that is often what the rich and powerful do–but rather, live as one people devoted to God and one another. The Gospel is our continual wake-up call to more vital dreams. Initially we may begrudge it but ultimately it is GOOD NEWS inspiring the treasures of relationships, friends, family, delights of meals be they simple or exquisite—all with a continual consciousness of God.

What did Jesus mean when he said,  “I am here to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor?”  He’s quoting the prophet Isaiah who, 500 years before, reminded the people that they were to return to the practice of JUBILEE—“years of the Lord’s favor.”  Every 7 years and again, every 50 years, the Torah commanded that debts were to be forgiven and indentured servants were to be freed – grounded on the understanding that God is the only true landowner.  We may quibble over ownership but  everything we are and everything we have belongs to God.  Leviticus 25: 23 “for the land is Mine; you are but strangers, resident with ME.”  This was the collective memory Jesus was evoking as the new “anointed one,” turning the people’s expectations of Messiah on its head for most were hoping not for a reconciler but a Vindicator exacting punishment on Israel’s enemies.  Jesus insists we see the world differently, not accepting it on its own terms but rejuvenating it, inviting it, coaxing it to become closer to God who redeems people. 

Biblical scholars tell us that when Jesus speaks of “liberty to the captives” he was speaking primarily about people in prison or sent to labor camps because of debt or inability to pay taxes.  We recall how the Jews detested Rome’s tax collectors!  In the Roman Empire the average person had no rights and the poor plebeian or slave caught committing theft could be punished with death (sometimes by crucifixion).   We do well to remember the horrific practices of so-called Christian nations from the Middle Ages up to as late as the 18th and mid-19th centuries in Europe:  the horrors of debtors’ prisons,  and worse, innumerable recorded cases of poor people, with no recourse to work, stealing a neighbor’s pheasant to feed a starving family, receiving the death penalty to instill fear in other desperate people.   Tragically, there’s not a big leap from these horrors to the ways our society cultivates ghettos and alienates poor neighborhoods.  Why?  Because we and our leaders tend to ignore the bigger picture, because we’ve allowed our society to slip—we cultivate awe of the rich and famous and powerful and forget to encourage generosity and compassion as ultimate values and part of our true goals in life.   That includes bridging the gap between the rich and poor, the advantaged and the disadvantaged.  Now this isn’t socialism.  I repeat, “this is not Socialism” or what others derogatorily label “the social Gospel.”  All it is, is Christ’s insistence that we LET HIM FREE US FROM GREED and enhance our lives on earth with COMPASSION.  Jesus invites us to know when enough is enough – enough of what we need to be good for a family, for a business, be it money or bonuses or furniture or clothing or toys or retirement or legacy for one’s families—all legitimate concerns but never meant to exclude concerns for others in this world.  Jesus, then and now, insists on “Glad Tidings to the Poor.”   Think of Zacchaeus coming down from his perch on a tree—there’s JOY there!  That’s a JUBILEE embodied in one faithful individual.  Or, if you prefer a more threatening image, think of the parable of the indentured servant who was shown great mercy but refused to show mercy to another—recall his ultimate end.  

Jesus invites us to expand our circles so that all peoples of all walks of life have honest levels of association with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected. True, we as individuals cannot attend to all, but we can strive to insist that all people’s concerns are able to be voiced, to be heard and that all aspects of societies and cultures, including government and finance, offer assurance that no one is oppressed, afflicted, forgotten or neglected because of laws or choices we and others make. How often I find myself repeating this phrase – “God wants us all to get ahead–not at the expense of others but the uplifting of others.”  It’s the second part of that equation that finds humanity lacking; finds Christianity lacking. In contrast, attend to the way in today’s Scripture (1 Corinthians 12: 12-30) Saint Paul reinforces this unity of all people, no matter how diverse –for every part of the body is necessary to for every “body;” — all parts must contribute to the well-being of the whole.  This too, is an extension of the Eucharistic Feast. The Eucharist being an ongoing participation in the advancement of all peoples –blessed assurance we are not alone.  

Happily, these past weeks of the recent Government shut-down have nonetheless given us signs of HOPE:   Neighbors and Churches expanded their food pantries and many Banks granted postponement of major credit payments to the almost ½ million government employees working but without their weekly or bi-monthly checks to pay their bills.  Like the redeemed Scrooge on Christmas morning, may we enthusiastically endorse those acts of kindness while we, today, re-commit our prayer and our choices for specific actions so that such kindness becomes the norm, not an exception to the way we live our daily lives and earn our daily bread.   What Jesus said that day in Nazareth, Jesus proclaims to us today: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . recovery of sight to the blind.”  Must not we, too, see ourselves differently, because of Christ?   I’ve offered you what our theologians and scholars have to say about Jesus’s words.  Coming to this Eucharist today, we must ask ourselves, “What else could Jesus’ words possibly mean?”

The Scripture Readings for Sunday, January 27th are:

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 69

Reading 1NEH 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform 
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, 
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15   

R. (cf John 6:63c) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading 2 1 COR 12:12-30

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, “
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, “

it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God placed the parts,
each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you, “
nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
we surround with greater honor,
and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Or1 COR 12:12-14, 27

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,

and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.
You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

AlleluiaCF. LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus, 
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom 
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me 
to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Homily on The Wedding @ Cana

Readings: Is 62:1-5;  Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10;1 Cor 12:4-11; John 2:1-11  

David Brooks, author, teacher, political and social commentator writes Op-Eds for the NYTIMES and appears on PBS Newshour on Fridays.   Yesterday (Friday), he wrote about Student and Teacher relationships and the necessity of healthy emotional bonds to actualize good learning. He quotes cognitive scientists Antonio Damasio who insists that “emotion is not the opposite of reason; it’s essential to reason. Emotions assign value to things.”  “Furthermore,” Brooks writes, “emotions tell you what to pay attention to, care about and remember. It’s hard to work through difficulty if your emotions aren’t engaged.  Information is plentiful, but motivation is scarce.

“. . . a key job of a school is to give students new things to love — an exciting field of study (AND) new friends (AND MENTORS). . . what teachers really teach is themselves — their contagious passion for their subjects and students. . .  children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another and offering active care for the whole person.”

Feeling cared about is essential for life as well as learning. That’s good instruction for all of us in addressing our relationships with family, friend and foe.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Wedding at Cana is Jesus’ response to Mary, his mother, when she asks him to attend to the lack of wine at the celebration:  “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”  This remark has puzzled scholars for centuries, especially in the older translation:  “Woman, what does this concern of yours have to do with me?”  It sounds abrupt, uncaring, dismissive.  It didn’t help that  Jesus’ words were closely linked to a popular Aramaic and Ancient Greek phrase “What have you to do with me?” –a phrase indicating someone is intruding on one’s private business, as if Jesus didn’t want to be bothered. And by his mother no less!  Some scholars reflected that this interpretation was justified in that Jesus was always in communion with the Father.  However, Jesus came to earth to extend that communion with the Father to the world.  For Him and for us, the relationship with God could not be privatized, must not be privatized to the point it disregards or impairs our relationship with others. 

Happily, Current Ecumenical scholarship now emphasizes a more nuanced translation of this difficult phrase: It translates Jesus’ question as “What is this to me and to you?” meaning i.e. How does this request engage Jesus and Mary in what they both are supposed to be about; the ways they are to live?  The answer = how is this related to their TRUST in God!  In other words, it is God’s timing, not theirs to which they must defer.

In his humanity, Jesus did not sense the time for his public manifestation was to begin.  Yet he knew  he must always defer his humanity to God the Father.  Therefore, he decides to follow Mary’s inspiration placing himself and the situation in God’s hands.  Surprise! The time was now.  The time is NOW.  (It always is for, as Jesus will proclaim frequently throughout his ministry—the kingdom of God is at hand!)  With trust in God, Mary instigates Jesus’ first mission without any further discernment, saying to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

What wondrous love is this?  What confidence in God’s benevolence? In God’s munificence! Only someone who trusts that God cares for him or her, only one who feels he or she is known and understood, only one who knows he or she is loved has the confidence to look out for the needs of others.  Mary’s directions to the servers, “do whatever he tells you,” is her act of faith that she is loved and cared for by Jesus, echoing the words of the people to Moses at Sinai as he delivered them the TEN COMMANDMENTS: “everything the Lord has spoken we will do”  for they knew they were cared for having been led out of slavery from Egypt. Thus, Mary’s FAITH puts Jesus’ miracle into action.  And may we remind ourselves how FAITH is the necessary overture for all the miracles that occur throughout the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles and even the miracles, both great and small, that happen today.  Note, too, how Faith builds upon Faith; one good example sets the stage for greater goodness: Mary’s trust inspires the SERVENTS to fittingly follow Jesus’ direction.  This, in turn, becomes an inspiring example to the disciples.  No wonder Mary was and forever will be the preeminent Apostle, the first and foremost disciple.

May we take this lesson home with us today: Faith and Trust in God brought The Wedding Feast to its fulfillment.  This  Word and Eucharist is here to enrich us in that same Blessed Assurance:  We, too, are known, loved, cared for.  After all, Jesus is the BEST TEACHER—is He not? Indeed! With Love for us beyond all telling. Remember JOY is the outcome at this Wedding Feast.  And with trust in HIM, that JOY will sustain us in good times and in bad, at weddings and at funerals, at work and at home today, tomorrow and on to the future.  We only need to trust.  We merely must believe!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading Excerpts:

 Is 62:1-5

No more shall people call you “Forsaken, “
or your land “Desolate, “
but you shall be called “My Delight, “
and your land “Espoused.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10

R. (3) Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Reading 2 1 Cor 12:4-11

Brothers and sisters:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

Gospel Jn 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.