LUKE LIVE Online Session 8: CHAPTER 2: 1 – 7 accompanied with the Song Meditation: NIGHT OF SILENCE / SILENT NIGHT

Begin by going to my recitation of this passage with the accompanying Song Meditation. Simply copy this link and paste in your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X0Qw_Dq4T8 As you listen, you may follow along with the following text

The Birth of Jesus. [a]In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus[b] that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.[c] She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Night of Silence / Silent Night Counterpoint CREDITS

Kantor, Daniel © 1984 by GIA Publication, Inc. 7404 S., Mason Ave. Chicago, IL 60638;  http://www.ocp.org/compositions/30161

This arrangement by Paulo J. Almeida http://www.pauloalmeida.com/

Piano: Laurence Rosania http://www.ocp.org/artists/1268

Violin: Christiana Liberis  http://www.christianaliberis.com/

Cello: E. Zoe Hassman

Flute: Matthew Wright http://facebook.com/matthewalanwright

Oboe: James Mobley  https://www.facebook.com/jmdesignstudio

Glockenspiel / Bells: Paulo J. Almeida http://www.pauloalmeida.com/

Night of Silence / Silent Night Counterpoint

Cold are the people—winter of life

We tremble in shadow this cold winter night

Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping.

Will they ever echo the sunrise?

Fire of hope you’re are only warmth—

Weary!  You’re flame may be dying soon.

Silent Night, Holy Night,

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round young virgin, mother and child,

Holy infant so tender and mild—

Sleep in heavenly peace!   Sleep in heavenly peace!

Voice in the distance calls through the night

On wind you enfold us, you speak of a light!

Gentle on the ear you whisper softly

Echoes of a dawn so embracing!

Breathless love awaits darkened souls

Soon we will know of the morning!

Spirit among us, shine like a star!

Your light that guides shepherds and kings from afar.

Shimmer in the sky so empty, lonely

Rising in the warmth of your son’s Love!

Star unknowing of night or day

Spirit, we wait for you loving son!

You have just heard part of the traditional Christmas proclamation including Daniel Kantor’s Night of Silence with Franz Gruber’s Silent Night in counterpoint. 

  1. What feelings are evoked?

I love the fact that Kanter’s NIGHT OF SILENCE was composed as a counterpoint to SILENT NIGHT.  If you like, repeat the track, with your group singing verses of Silent Night to my singing NIGHT OF SILENCE. That experience, or just knowing about the song’s complementarity, offers a visceral understanding that unity and diversity can and must co-exist in our world for Peace to be realized. 

Luke Live Online Session 7: More Reflection on Zechariah’s BENEDICTUS

I am often asked why Luke was inspired to include the story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist’s birth in relating Jesus’s story to his primarily Gentile audience.  Luke had to make evident to them that Jesus were rooted in Judaism which alone, among all other religions at that time, had identified one, true God. Furthermore, Luke’s listeners had to understand that God willed Jesus to manifest Israel’s prophetic teachings: the importance of an honest, reverent relationship with God over and beyond the temple cult, the insistence that we improve the quality of our relationships with others especially those who suffer from society’s neglect, disrespect or prejudice, those who lack opportunities for work and livelihood, and those who suffer from being sick and/ or disabled.  Also Luke’s Gospel will affirm the central Christian witness that God intended Jesus to inaugurate the Pharisaic belief in resurrection from the dead. The Jewish sensibility that the Messiah required a forerunner was an essential link to all of this.  Here ‘s my commentary on Zechariah’s Canticle “Blessed be, the Lord,” also known as “The Benedictus” (Latin for ‘Blessed’).   The same insights gleaned from Mary’s Magnificat apply here.  Moreover, Zechariah’s Canticle highlights even more dramatically how the vision of prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Malachi and others was about to be realized in a way. 

Since the Exodus, Israel professed God as the great Liberator, the One who frees people from oppression.  Ever after, faithful Jews insisted that what God had done for their ancestors, God would continue to do for them and for all who seek God with a sincere heart.   Zechariah embodies this belief as he rejoices that his people will now be “free from the hands of enemies” and “free to worship God without fear” i.e., without interference from worldly powers.   When Jesus began his public ministry in Nazareth, he, too, embodies this truth by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “God has anointed me … to let the oppressed go free.” 

Continuing with the Canticle, Zechariah makes clear that FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION IS part of a progressive movement in which ultimately the entire world will accept God’s invitation to treat all people as equals–all peoples as children of God.   Each in their own way, the Hebrew prophets insisted that God had invited Israel to become the world’s leader in this progression that would ultimately achieve harmony and peace for peoples everywhere.  Through Judaism, and, for Christians, through Jesus, God invites humanity to return to the glory of Eden–the world as God intended it before free will turned much of humanity against God and God’s ways.  As Zechariah’s canticle continues, this concept becomes clearer. 

“Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Zechariah looks upon his son John and declares that this forerunner to Messiah will “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God.”  This statement puts all peoples, all nations and all religions on equal footing.  Indeed, one common denominator for humanity is that “everyone needs forgiveness.”  Life and Hope cannot be sustained without it.   It is this honest and humble recognition that will move the world out of its tribal sensibilities (the “us” against “them” mentality) toward a universal brotherhood and sisterhood working out conflicts with equanimity.  

Of course, to forgive and receive forgiveness presents many challenges for us today as then.  The choices as to the degree of accountability that each act of forgiveness must include wreak havoc with our souls.  After all, it is not easy to decide how much, how little to exact from those who have harmed us or harmed others.  Indeed, there are times when making demands on offenders is fitting, just and right.  For example, there are times to insist that money lent to a relative or friend be paid back in full.  Such accountability empowers the relative or friend to mature, to take responsibility for his or her actions.  Other times, however, it may be best to wipe the slate clean and grant complete clemency.  In the case of abusive relationships, it is right and just to abandon the relationship altogether—especially when the abusive party makes no attempt to change or proves incapable of improving. Forgiveness, like all human values, requires faith, dialogue and discernment with others.

Taking all of this into account, we need to note that the Bible offers a progression in its examples of how and when forgiveness is offered.  One of the oldest biblical writings, for example, comes from Leviticus 24: 20 in which we find justice expressed as “an eye for an eye” which began to put limits on exacting justice.  Genesis, however, (stories and events documented generations after the older “legal texts” of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy[1]) offers us “the mark of Cain”—evidence of an even greater mercy.  You will remember God does not kill Cain for murdering his brother Abel.  Moreover, God’s mark on Cain forbids others to take revenge upon him (Genesis 4:8—16).  These sensibilities deepen over time throughout TANAKH and Jesus builds on these as evidenced n Matthew’s Gospel’s Sermon on the Mount (MT: 38—42) and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6: 27—42).  These prescriptions reach their ultimate manifestation through Jesus himself when he cries out on the Cross “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”   Note that there is no exemption clause here—every one and all are forgiven.   Ultimately, when we take the Bible as a whole, it insists that accountability always leaves hope for the offending party, even as it grants us some satisfaction in terms of justice.  Hope is embodied in the opportunities it offers offenders to change, to make amends so that he or she can reclaim their inherent, basic, common human dignity.  Humanity’s survival is dependent on a universal commitment to forgiveness for genuine love to manifest itself and grow in the world. 

For Discussion:

  1. What biblical stories exemplify the importance of Zechariah’s pronouncement of the necessity for forgiveness of sins?  Consult the ways all world religions, world literature, drama, films, television stories offer catharsis through forgiveness. How do you relate to these stories?  How do they impact your understanding of forbearance, patience with yourself and others, mercy and forgiveness of yourself and others in your life?
  2. Recall your childhood experiences of forgiveness and accountability.  Was there a proper balance? How have these experiences informed your adult sensibilities?
  3. What are your personal experiences of forgiving and being forgiven as an adult?  How do you balance forgiveness and accountability in your life now? What criteria do you use? To what extent do the Golden Rule and Platinum Rule apply?
  4. In what ways might you be struggling with forgiveness and accountability today?  (Apply this to yourself as well as toward others.)
  5. What historical and contemporary world events challenge your faith tradition or alter your convictions about forgiveness and the balance of mercy and justice?

There are abundant resources that help us engage in the process of forgiveness—forgiving yourself, forgiving others.  See the corresponding page on the website for some suggestions:

There are abundant resources to explore forgiveness in your life.  Here are just a few:

Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn:

DON’T FORGIVE TOO SOON  (New York: Paulist Press, 1997)

http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/3704-6/dont-forgive-too-soon.aspx

HEALING LIFE’S HURTS: Healing Memories Through Five Stages of Forgiveness (New York: Paulist Press, 1988)   http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/2059-3/healing-lifes-hurts.aspx

Paulist Father Frank Desiderio’s Forgiveness Retreats: http://www.forgivenessretreats.org/

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201403/forgiveness-4-helpful-strategies-do-it-better

The Center for Non-Violent Communication: https://www.cnvc.org/

[1] Genesis: Introduction by Jon D. Levenson in The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 11

Other sources include http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Book_of_Genesis:  composed “just before or during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period or soon after.”  FYI, scholars consider the OLDEST book of the Bible, the first to be recorded in writing is JOB.

EXPLORE Parallels between Zechariah’s Canticle and the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The Canticle of Zechariah parallel lines:
69 [t]He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, 70 even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
72 to show mercy to our fathers
 and to be mindful of his holy covenant
73 and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, 74  rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him 75 in holiness and righteousness
 before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lordto prepare his ways,
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God
    by which the daybreak from on highwill visit us
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
    to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL VS. 5 TO 7  Verse 5: O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;

make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain
  (Verse 4 has this line: “O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem (i.e. David), from every foe deliver them.”                             Verse 6: O come, O Day-Spring from on high And cheer us by thy drawing nigh Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadow put to flight.  Refrain   Verse 7:
O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all humankind;
O bid our sad divisions cease,
And be for us our King of Peace.  Refrain

1. What feelings are evoked by listening to this portion of the hymn?

2. You’ve noticed that the hymn makes reference to the importance of Davidic descent in ancient Judaism and this concept of a “royal family” exists in many times and cultures. From ancient times up to the late middle ages, the world valued ancestral blood lines in leadership and revered them.  Of what benefit is that to us today?  Can we translate the importance of an ancestral line to a modern mindset?  If so, how?  If not, why?

3. Invite discussion on the many ways religious and spiritual leaders build on their predecessors’ lives and actions.  What can we learn from this dynamic? 

Luke Live! Online: Reflection on Mary’s Prayer THE MAGNIFICAT

The Canticle of Mary. 46 And Mary said:*

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

49 The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

51 He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

53 The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

55 according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Now let’s take a closer look at the words of Mary’s prayer that you have just heard. Tradition identifies this prayer as “The MAGNIFICAT.” “Magnificat” is a Latin word. Its English equivalent is the word “magnifies.”  The Christian tradition translated Luke’s original Greek into Latin and from Latin into English with the phrase “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Scholars who created the New American Bible translation chose the word “proclaims” in this context.  Thus you heard Mary say in this translation, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Other translators coined these phrases: “My heart praises the Lord” (Good News translation), “My soul glorifies the Lord” (NIV), “My soul exalts the Lord” (New English Bible).  The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Versions (NRSV) returned to the more classic English translation “My soul magnifies the Lord” as do all of the King James versions. 

To magnify is to enlarge—i.e., to make God’s greatness more evident. The words “praise” and “proclaim” accomplish the same purpose. The more we praise God, the more opportunity for people to ponder God and God’s greatness.  Both Christians and Muslims see Mary’s willingness to conceive and give birth to Jesus as a perfect witness to God’s greatness.  Her willingness to trust God in this miraculous conception also emphasizes the importance of surrendering to God’s will.   And even though Mary is not part of the Hebrew Scriptures, her cooperation with God, which we call GRACE in this moment, concretizes her Jewish sensibilities inherent in the words of Psalm 79, verse 13: “We, your people, will give thanks to you forever; through all ages we will declare your praise.”   Also Psalm 111: 3: “Majestic and glorious is God’s work, God’s righteousness endures forever.”  Thus Mary can rightfully say, “from now on will all ages call me blessed,” and “God’s mercy is from age to age.”  Remember, Grace has an uncontainable quality that extends far beyond any one individual or group or place or time.  Indeed, many faiths and philosophies uphold that “goodness begets goodness,” ‘truth strengthens truth,” and that “love knows no boundaries.”  

In Mary’s prayer we also find affirmation of the great reversal promised in the Hebrew Scripturestraditionally called TANAKH[1]: “the poor will be exalted, the exalted humbled.” Most notably there is the Song of Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel 2: which contains phrases such as

“My heart exults in the Lord, 

my strength is exalted in my God.

 Speak boastfully no longer nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, 

while the hungry batten on spoil. 

The Lord makes poor and makes rich. He humbles, he also exults. 

He raises the needy from the dust; 

from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.” 

Clearly the Divine Action is to reconcile peoples to their proper state of living:  a celebration of our common humanity—everyone standing before God as equals.  This is a “great reversal,” indeed, for so much of human history progressed—just as our world continues to progress—at other people’s expense.  God’s reversal through prophets and through Jesus insists that we implement checks and balances on progress for everyone’s mutual benefit.  Indeed, the biblical vision obliterates the importance of status and heritage because they distract us from the common vision that we are all one.  Ultimately, social rankings are illusions.  At the end of each and every day, everyone needs air, water, food, clothing shelter, sleep and, yes, toilet facilities.  We must not take any aspect of our humanity for granted.  The Book of Ecclesiastes puts it this way: “As they came forth from their mother’s womb, so again shall they return, naked as they came, having nothing from their toil to bring with them.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:14)

When all social divisions cease, every person is as important as another.  This is humanity’s one, unifying vision: Every individual is an instrument of Providence.  Believers are invited to live daily in awe and wonder that we are able to experience life and love because of God and through God.  The Catholic liturgy proclaims God as the one “In whom we live and move and have our being.”  (This is a direct quote from the Book of Acts 17: 28.) In secular terms, gratitude for life itself breeds humility which, in turn, brings people together.   

INTRODUCTION TO AVE MARIA

         Now I invite you to collect your feelings and thoughts about THE GREAT REVERSAL, AND THE ANNUNCIATION AND VISITATIONS PASSAGES through my song meditation, Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  The words are Latin but they comprise Luke 1, verses 28 and 42.  Verse 28 recalls the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary that preceded the Visitation passage you just heard. Gabriel calls out to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The next line of the prayer and lyric echoes Elizabeth’s words to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  For Christians these words are an affirmation of our belief in the “Incarnation,” God entering into human history as a human being.  We’ll explore that further in subsequent tracks.  I invite listeners from other faiths to meditate on the ways your religions affirm God’s presence in the world through people of good will in all times and places. 

The song’s second verse addresses Mary as Mother of God, that is, of Jesus. Christians believe Jesus to be both fully God and fully human—the complete manifestation of God to the material world.  Both aspects of Jesus are inseparable, therefore Mary is the mother of the ONE who is both God and human. That is followed by a prayer of petition that Mary will pray for us now and at the hour of our death so that we may be with God for all eternity.   These themes also have secular counterparts that can be part of your discussion with relatives and friends who hold other faiths or maintain more secular perspectives.  

“Full of grace” is to be blessed, to be congratulated, to be filled with good news, good thoughts–to be caught up in a life-affirming enterprise.  Prayer, which comprises the second part of Hail Mary, for example, is an active expressions of HOPE in eternal life.  Its secular counterpart is the concept of horizon—a reality that can be seen or envisioned but not fully grasped because, like the horizon itself, it beckons only to recede further into space and time.  Recede though it may, the impact of horizon—magnificent sunrises and sunsets–lingers and we are able to grasp some of its energy and inspiration in the here and now.   Here then is Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  Additional commentary with questions for discussion will follow. 

 Here are links to two of my recordings of AVE MARIE -one Audio Only with Instrumental Ensemble from my CD The Gospel of Luke In Word and Song; The second is a Video with piano accompaniment by Laurence Rosania.

Latin Catholic prayer versionLiteral English Translation 
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Ave, Ave, Dominus,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus,
Et benedictus fructus ventris (tui),
Ventris tui, Jesus.
Ave Maria!

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Ora, ora pro nobis;
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis,
In hora mortis nostrae.
In hora, hora mortis nostrae,
In hora mortis nostrae.
Ave Maria!
Hail Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary!

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray for us sinners,
Now, and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
The hour, the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
Hail Mary!

For more on Schubert’s AVE MARIA, see: 

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ave_Maria_(Schubert)


[1] I want to emphasize the Hebrew word TANAKH in sensitivity to our Jewish friends.  What Christians call “The Old Testament” is actually the writings of The First Covenant, i.e. God’s covenant with Israel—the descendants of Jacob aka Israel.  The Covenant through Jesus for Christians is truly a Second Covenant. The Jews call their books TANAKH and so we respect them by using this title rather than “Old Testament.”  Contemporary Christians affirm the validity of God’s Covenant with Israel grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 11: 29 and in the Catholic Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II (1963-65) in the document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) See

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html  In truth the people of Christian History have been disrespectful of Judaism and contributed to anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people.  Yet, Judaism constitutes the very foundation of Jesus and therefore Christianity.  In that way our ancestors neglected to observe the Fourth Commandment (Catholics) aka Fifth Commandment (Orthodox Christians and Protestants): Honor your Father and your Mother. 

Questions for Luke Live! Online! More on The Annunciation and New Material on The Visitation Luke 1: 39-56

BY Paulist Father James DiLuzio to accompany Luke Live! ONLINE

Commentary on Luke 1: 26 to 56   

The Annunciation and Visitation segments of Luke’s Gospel highlight a number of universal human experiences beyond the specifics of the Incarnation—God as the person of Jesus.  Foremost is the announcement of conception—that moment when women share the news that they have a child to bring into the world.  Echoing many wonderful moments in the Jewish scriptures TANAKH[1] (which Christians call the “First Testament”), this moment shared between Mary and Elizabeth known as “The Visitation,” engages listeners in a timeless celebration of life and hope. At the same time, it acknowledges human vulnerability.  For amidst the joy there is also trepidation as Elizabeth is pregnant in old age and Mary is pregnant out of wedlock.   Because Elizabeth is so advanced in years, she has to “go into seclusion” to care for and nurture her baby in utero.  That little phrase “go into seclusion” is a powerful reminder that even though God may answer our prayers, we must do our part to honor the blessings we receive.  Mary, too, will have to take responsibility for the gift of a child because of her youth and unwed status.  Indeed, both women would have been subject to public scrutiny, judgments and condemnations just as goodness, beauty, even life itself often become objects of ridicule and derision for those rooted in resentments or caught in webs of despair, chains of anxiety, fear or suffering.

Another spiritual message: God enters into human history.  These Gospel events and many like them affirm that human life has a purpose beyond mere survival.  God enters into history by endowing each and every individual with the gift of free will: the awesome capability to discern good and to choose good over evil, life over death. The stories of Jesus and his disciples, beginning with Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah—and all stories like them—offer the blessed assurance that God is with us “from age to age,” accompanying us, supporting us on our earthly journey so that we may cooperate with grace, to choose every possible manifestation of life and what is life-giving.   A secular parallel to these events and themes includes the many ways the stories of our ancestors (i.e., ancestors from our individual family trees and from our larger ethnic and national collectives) can inspire us toward the good in the here and now.  Indeed, history itself offers us innumerable opportunities to keep learning from the past—correcting its mistakes and fostering its virtues for the good of all.  Believers call this “Grace;” secularists might simply call it “the nobility inherent in every man, woman and child.”

[1] TANKAH is an acronym of the first Hebrew letters for each sections of the Jewish Bible: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”)—hence TaNaKh. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanakh   It comprises the same writings in most of what Christians call “The Old Testament.”  Use of TANKAH is more multi-faith sensitive than “Old Testament” as is “First Covenant” and “First Testament.”

HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

A. Explore the myriad of thoughts and feelings women in your group (or YOU as WOMAN,  or women in your family) may have experienced when You or They first knew or learned they have conceived? Invite them to relate these to the thoughts and feelings Mary and Elizabeth expressed in the Gospel.

B.  Ask women and men who have not had children, their emotional responses to other people’s pregnancies, particularly those of their siblings or close friends or the conceptions of a favored niece, nephew or Godchild.

C. Refer to birth announcements in the Jewish Bible called TANAKH[1] and in the Koran and other faith traditions as well.  Now ask yourself, “How do these add to your discussion of your experiences of pregnancy and sharing the “Good News?” You may wish to follow these links:

The Annunciation to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18: 1-15

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2018&version=NABRE     AND LATER IN Genesis 21: 1-8

The Annunciation to Hannah that she will bring the prophet Samuel into the world:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%201&version=NABRE

And Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

For your convenience, I’ve inserted a selection of texts from THE KORAN.  The website source appears after the text. from KORAN

 SAHIH INTERNATIONAL TRANSLATION

KORAN

3:44  That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muhammad]. And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed. 3: 45  [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ]. 3:46: He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.” 3:47-48 She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.  And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel.

19: 18 – 35 She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah .” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.”

She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’ ”  So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”

But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.  And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.  So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’ “

Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.  O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.”

So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?”

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.  And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.  And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”  That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute.  It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

What the KORAN teaches about MARY

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2015/12/18/what-islam-really-teaches-about-virgin-mary

IF YOU WISH TO EXPLORE MORE OF THE KORAN ON YOUR OWN, GO TO:   https://quran.com/      (Choose ENGLISH  translation on top right of the web page)

D. Can you embrace the concept that whenever two people share the news of a pregnancy with joy (or GOOD NEWS of any kind), they are caught up in the same spiritual and emotional realities of the Annunciation and Visitation and other faith events?   Why or why not?

E. Have you ever made a conscious connection with your own experiences and the biblical ones?  If you have, what has that experience been like?  In doing so now enliven your faith?  If you are a secularist, how might these and other birth stories affirm your own humanity?

F. Explore sharing “Good News” of any kind with significant people in your life.  Include such “Annunciation and Visitation Moments” as opening your first college acceptance letter, or Marriage Proposal, Engagement Announcement, job promotions or the beginning of any new enterprise.  I am sure you will discover a lot of common ground here as the parallels are endless.

G. Now here’s my rationale for these questions:  Moments of “GOOD NEWS” have a universal, mystical quality about them as if we are “suspended outside of time and place.” When, as people of faith, we allow ourselves to be caught up in these moments, we believe we are experiencing God.  This is one of our many opportunities to see Scriptures as our autobiographies.  For those more skeptical about owning moments as “experiences of God,” how might you describe these kind of events and experiences of sharing “Good News?”

[1] I want to emphasize the Hebrew word TANAKH in sensitivity to our Jewish friends.  What Christians call “The Old Testament” is actually the writings of The First Covenant, i.e. God’s covenant with Israel—the descendants of Jacob aka Israel.  The Covenant through Jesus for Christians is truly a Second Covenant. The Jews call their books TANAKH and so we respect them by using this title rather than “Old Testament.”  Contemporary Christians affirm the validity of God’s Covenant with Israel grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 11: 29 and in the Catholic Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II (1963-65) in the document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) See http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html  n truth the people of Christian History have been disrespectful of Judaism and contributed to anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people.  Yet, Judaism constitutes the very foundation of Jesus and therefore Christianity.  In that way our ancestors neglected to observe the Fourth Commandment (Catholics) aka Fifth Commandment (Orthodox Christians and Protestants): Honor your Father and your Mother.

MEDITATION on the ANNUNCIATION

Prepared for YOU by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Let’s focus more on the ANGEL experience and the topic of Miracles. Whether or not you are open to believe in angels, many people have what they call a NUMINOUS experience or an experience of sublime, positive energy that is akin to what is depicted here in what the Christian tradition calls, “The Annunciation,” the great announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary.  However you choose to identify the situation, whether you understand it as a divine intervention or simply a personal, deep inspiration or premonition of what God is capable of, a powerful CHAIN REACTION occurs—an overflow of hope and all of its possibilities.  

For Christians, being designated as “full of grace,” or “full of God’s favor” provides the necessary condition for humanity to be open to the miraculous—that is in this part of the Gospel to angels, to their inspiration and to what God may achieve.  In evidence here is the biblical truth that God loves us First, that God’s love initiates all things.  In this case, Mary’s assent is a response to God’s love that inaugurates the miracle of a virgin conceiving a child without a human male’s contribution. In religious language we call this miracle “INCARNATION”—God becoming fully human in order to identify with the human condition in all of its fullness beginning in and with the fertilized ovum or embryo attaching to a virgin’s womb. Believing in that, of course, is a matter of faith, both faith in miracles and faith in the claims of Christianity.  

Some say that one is either open to the mystery of the miraculous, the suspension of the laws of physics, biology, natural phenomena, or one is not.  At the same time, some miracles can be explained scientifically without in any way detracting from a belief that God is acting in the world.  Still, some phenomena such as Messiah’s conception in Mary’s womb cannot be explained scientifically at all.   

Here are some questions for discussion:

QUESTION 1: To what degree do you feel compelled to insist on explanations for all events of your life or world history? What motivates you to take a leap of faith?  What are your personal obstacles to faith?

QUESTION 2: Does a scientific explanation for an event dismiss the possibility of God’s intervention in history or participation in it?  Similarly, can the “miracles” of modern science –the ability to engage in organ transplants, cure diseases – be also understood as God’s spirit at work in the world?  Are they any less “miraculous,” in being explained in medical terms? 

QUESTION 3Can you agree that “mystery” is a common human experience whether one follows or does not follow a religion? 

QUESTION 4: Discuss the benefits and burdens of each worldview, i.e.

a. belief in miracles

b. the power of God or of “goodness” working through people

c. trust in mystery 

d. rejection of all of the above concepts

QUESTION 5: Whether or not you find yourself open to the miraculous or unexplainable phenomenon, what do you think is the meaning and purpose of Mary’s virgin conception of Jesus?  

QUESTION 6: Christians uphold a belief in the Incarnation — God becoming human in, through and as Jesus of Nazareth, but one doesn’t have to be Christian to explore this aspect of our faith, that is, that “God shares in all dynamics of the human condition.”  To what extent to those upholding other religions and spiritualities uphold or explore that statement? Discuss how or how not “God or “Your Higher Power” or “The Cosmos” share in all dynamics of the human condition.”  In secular terms: “we all participate in something greater than ourselves, be it beauty, truth, hope, justice, mercy, compassion, love beyond all telling.” 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP (Biblical Readings follow at the end of the homily.)

Long before Freud, Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Psychology, there was the Bible with precepts and laws to govern human behavior.  Evidently, we humans think of anything and everything and thus required mandates and prohibitions from on high: Do this, don’t do that!  Then, as now, guidelines remain essential for humanity’s survival.  God mandates that we all get along. 

Moreover, our Covenant with God insists we have a future to build, goals to achieve. From the beginning, God, in God’s infinite Wisdom, desired human participation in building an earthly kingdom to prepare every person for heaven.  Whether we like it or not, Cooperation with God and Reverence for all God’s creation –people, animals, nature, things– have been, and always will be, part of God’s plan. 

The Signs of our Times demand this.  We can no longer perpetuate the sins of our ancestors. Nor can we afford to succumb to neglect of vital issues they ignored. We were baptized into “kingdom building:” Each of us destined to make our mark advancing equality, justice with mercy.  Our Eucharistic Spirituality insists “everyone belongs,” everyone is respected.  Cultures may separate us.  Economies and politics divide us. But Jesus unites us.  Remember, Our Savior never accepted the status quo, never defaulted to convenience and comfort when improvements could be made.  He insisted on new wine poured into new wineskins, knowing full well that, without his help, our fallible nature will keep us cultivating the old.

Yes, Jesus acquainted Himself with temptation for our sake. He understood the allures of self-aggrandizement, and one-upmanship.  He knew well that we prefer comfort and security at the expense of integrity and hope.  He knew we would sin; He knew we cause harm to ourselves and others. Therefore, he insisted that we reconcile with one another—never lording another’s faults or flaws or wickedness over him or her, but instead,  acknowledging our own temptations as we strive to  reconcile wrongdoers to the better way: the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  These are our litmus tests for our behavior and everyone else’s.  We must hold ourselves and others accountable if we are ever to move forward to a true communion of Saints.  But we must not be “holier than thou” for    condescension and condemnation never win over anyone.

Today’s Readings remind us we are to warn the wicked to turn from evil ways while making every effort not to become wicked ourselves.  Who among us has not been betrayed?  Who hasn’t been put down, scorned, unforgiven?  Whose most cherished beliefs and values have not been dismissed or scorned? Evil beckons whenever these affronts occur. We must remember what Jesus knew 2,000 years ago:   Because everyone suffers, deal with the suffering others cause by addressing one problem at a time, one person at a time.   That is the most humbling approach; only true humility will work things out.

Naturally, it is easier to be humble with people we know and love.  When we witness wrongdoing, when we or others we care about get hurt, we usually need to vent first –expunge the anger, the outrage, the hurt so that we may cool off.  It is fitting, then, to vent to God and to loved ones before we address our offenders.  Still, we are obliged to let them know not only that the Church expect better of them, but that we know they are capable of better behavior.  Trusting in another person’s better self is the way to broach wrongdoing.  As disciples In Christ, it is the only way.

Of course, when dealing with people we do not love, Jesus’ prescription is next to impossible to follow on our own.  It is especially difficult with people who have authority over us -a manager, a boss, a benefactor.  In fairness, if we do not feel safe –-emotionally or physically, one-on-one reconciliation can be unworkable without the help of others.  Thankfully, Jesus says, “take one or two along with you.”  Thank God those folks are in our lives!  But even then, the step we often miss, or refuse to take, before we attempt to reconcile is prayer—praying alone and with those who support us. Prayer will fortify us to move forward. Notice how Jesus’ precept on reconciliation concludes with his insistence on prayer.     

Prayer will prepare us to handle uncontrite offenders by placing us in solidarity with Jesus on the cross, who, out of compassion, forgave the unrepentant. And although we may need to start with “pity,” (the lesser cousin of compassion), prayer, and perseverance in prayer, will, in time, move pity to empathy. For isn’t it sad when we are, or anyone is, mean?  Isn’t it a shame that people can choose to hurt, to offend, cause harm to any person, to any animal, to anything on which goodness, truth and health depend?  Isn’t it a pity when we denigrate our being made-in-God’s-image by clinging so tightly to the past that we refuse to move forward to advance human destiny toward the Kingdom of God?

Pity may be the pivotal point of redemption for reconciliation and getting along. Was not compassion for sinners the reason for Jesus’ incarnation?  We must cultivate a daily consciousness that we are always in need of a Savior and embrace the Thanksgiving in this and every Eucharist.   Without Jesus, we have no true humility. Without humility we find little recourse to prayer. Without prayer, we have little pity for the sinner—be it our own sins or anyone else’s.  So, let us pray:  

“For every person our lives have touched, for every person whose life has touched ours, for good and for ill, whether known or unknown to us, Lord, have pity!  Strengthen the gifts of Your Holy Spirt in us.  Nurture us in patience and humility that inspire reconciliation, and sustain us in faith, hope, and love.  Let Your Kingdom come.”

Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. 
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Exploring Feelings of Oppression

Commentary and Questions Prepared for you by FR. James DiLuzio CSP

Reflecting on Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, vs 5 through 25, I invite you to identify with the way they and those hearing or reading Luke’s Gospel were experiencing oppressions.

  • Oppressed as a childless couple, stigmatized in an ancient culture
  • Oppressed as a people conquered by the Roman Empire and formerly oppressed by other empires
  • Oppressed by not having citizenship, deprived of all the rights and liberties thereof
  • Oppressed by fear their religious traditions will be compromised by Rome’s official religions and/or that the religious freedom they enjoyed could be taken away

To feel oppressed is to feel “put upon,” to be denied a say in what impacts you.  It can mean feeling taken for granted in ways that evoke a sense of helplessness and loss of basic human dignity.  It can mean living in fear, under the threat of violence, imprisonment or death. One may be oppressed by the economy, social mores, unjust laws, or oppressed by people in authority—an unreasonable boss, an overbearing teacher or team leader—or even feel oppressed, taken for granted, by family members and friends.   Knowing as we do that marriage in today’s Church and in modern societies is understood as a true partnership of equals—male and female, still, how often we hear one spouse say to another, “Why is it we always have to do things YOUR way . . . DEAR?”  So now, focus your group on these three questions.

1.  What do you imagine it would be like to live in an occupied country, or to live in your own country with lack of citizenship? Explain.

2. In what ways might you feel “oppressed” in your current life situation?”  

3.  What may be some of the most productive ways you and others can address your feelings of oppression?  Some resources such as “Non-Violent Communication Skills” are featured on the web.  You’ll find some suggestions in the footnote below.[1]

4. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to enter into this part of the Gospel and other stories like it?  Please explain.

5. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to empathize with other oppressed people?

6. Explore the topic of Religious Freedom.  How important is “religious freedom” to you?  What about religious expression?  For example, what is your opinion regarding displaying personal, religious symbols in public? And, what feelings are evoked within you as you discuss this topic? It would be best to start with how you “feel,” before you go into the topic.

7. To what extent is a person entitled to freedom of religious expression in the workplace?  What is your opinion? What ethical principle grounds your opinion? For example, you could say, “The Golden Rule,” or “The Platinum Rule,” or “The US Bill of Rights.” Or perhaps you ground your opinion in a political philosophy, or a passage from the Bible, whether it is TANAKH (the formal name for the Jewish Bible) or the Christian Bible, Koran, other religious source, or, perhaps, some combination thereof.

Would you like a PDF copy of these Questions to print out for Small Groups or Personal Reflection? Write to jamesdiluzio@hotmail.com I’ll be happy to send it to you God bless!


[1] http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm

https://www.cnvc.org/Training/10-steps-peace                

http://www.theccnv.org/

https://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Nonviolent-Communication

A Method of Response to Scripture -A New Lectio-Divina for Groups or Private Spiritual Reflection

Created by Paulist Father James M. DiLuzio from LUKE LIVE! See http://www.Lukelive.com

1.Observe a moment of Silence.  Collect your feeling responses to the passage.  For example, you may feel peaceful, sad, intrigued or uneasy.  If you need help identifying your feelings, CONSULT the FEELING BELOW.  Place no judgment on your feelings.  Simply let yourself “be.”

2. Have each participant in your group share (or write in your personal journal) one or more genuine Feeling words. (NO insights or discussion at this juncture.)[1]  Afterwards—after each person has shared a feeling word or two– observe another moment of silence.

3. What aspects of your own life do you associate with the biblical story and the feelings that it evoked?  After you clarify that for yourself, invite each person in your group to share his / her associations.

4. After you share your associations, you are now ready to ask “What does this scripture passage mean to you?” OR “What do you think it is supposed to mean, if anything?”

5. What insights or questions about the passage have not yet been addressed?  Invite everyone to offer their thoughts or questions.  (NOTE: Some questions may be answered in my Commentary Segments in this or the subsequent Luke Live! Session on YOUTUBE.)

6. What stories or events in other faith traditions, literature or world events are similar or in contrast to this segment of Luke’s Gospel? Discuss. Conclude by emphasizing the similarities.

7. Is there a song that comes to mind after engaging in the segment or from your meditation or discussion?  Do the thoughts or feeling evoked in the song match or oppose something in the Scripture?  Reflect / Journal / Discuss.

8. Is there something from the passage or the discussion you can incorporate into your daily life right now?  Has the passage inspired a new or renewed goal?  OR do you need to continue to think, pray,  process, or wrestle with all that you’ve heard and the feelings evoked?  Each person should follow up as needed.

Would you like a PDF copy of these Questions to print out for Small Groups or Personal Reflection? Write to jamesdiluzio@hotmail.com I’ll be happy to send it to you God bless!


[1] To gauge whether you are claiming a “feeling” in opposed to “a thought,” place your word or words in the phrase “I think” instead of “I feel.”   If your word make sense in this context, it is not a genuine “feeling” word. For example, your initial response to a passage may be “I feel this is nonsense.”  You actually are making a judgment, not expressing a feeling because your word (“nonsense”) makes more sense in the phrase “I think this is nonsense.” The appropriate “feeling’ words in this instance could be “uncomfortable,” “alienated,” “put off.”  In that case, try to translate the religious language or context of the scripture in secular terms or find a secular equivalent and share that with your group.  For example, “Miracles” becomes “Unexplainable coincidences.” Then share how you feel about “unexplainable coincidences” with words such as “grateful,” “puzzled,” “dismayed,” etc.

Feelings Vocabulary Chart

FATIMA, The Movie – My Review opens August 28 in theaters and on digital platforms

By Paulist Father James DiLuzio CSP

Wherever you are on the Spiritual Spectrum, in whatever way you evaluate the experiences of visionaries, especially those who attest to visitations from, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the new film FATIMA invites you to a valuable conversation about faith, mystery and the efficacy of prayer.  Catholic and Orthodox Christians will find the film prayerful. Protestants and people of other faiths will be invited to explore ways they understand prayer, define their concepts of heaven, hell, and Divine Mercy. It raises important questions as to the realities of eternal life, the connection between heaven and earth on a day-to-day basis and the very nature of faith.  People with agnostic sensibilities, or, who are confirmed atheists, might treat this meditative film as something akin to the challenges of practicing yoga as the picture highlights the conflicts within human hearts and social structures that challenge ongoing inner peace.

Beautifully photographed and scored, FATIMA is contemplative; it is not hagiography.  It does not reek of piety or rapturous emotion, but it is thoughtful, and, at times, profound. Nevertheless, conflict and drama are evidenced within the Church and in issues of Church and State. All depicted skillfully by director Marco Pontecorvo. Plus, there are well-executed special effects, especially the well documented 1917 “Miracle of the Sun.” FATIMA is also well-acted. Two world renowned actors are featured in small but significant parts: Harvey Keitel as the skeptic professor who interviews Lucia, one of the visionaries in her senior years, and Sonia Braga, international Brazilian star as the elder Sister Lucia.  The film, however, belongs to the three children – Stephanie Gil as ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos, Alejandra Howard as Jacinta Marto, seven, and Jorge Lamelas as her brother, Francisco Marto, nine.  Miss Gil is often center stage, while Miss Howard is especially endearing. Lucia’s skeptic mother, Maria Rosa, played by Lúcia Moniz, is quite excellent, too, as is Lucia’s more sympathetic but conflicted father, Antonio, played by Marco D’Almeida. There is a moment in the film between father and daughter that continues to linger in my mind supporting an image of a better, more caring, sensitive world.

 Although there are a few examples of dramatic license in FATIMA, the film offers authentic storytelling with an almost documentary-like detachment.  Do not let this deter you from engaging in this movie!  It offers numerous opportunities for the faithful and the secular to converse, share feelings and insights. Those interested in Christian-Muslim dialogue will find FATIMA a fine springboard for discourse.  The people of Islam have a strong devotion to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, because of her surrender to God’s will for her. (“Islam” means “surrender.”)  Neighborhood Churches and Mosques would do well to offer ZOOM, SKYPE, or MESSENGER meetings in small groups after watching the film on one of its many digital platforms beginning August 28th.

Note to Young Families: The three children’s visitation from the Blessed Virgin Mary from heaven is contextualized in the world of Portugal in 1916-17.  Various acts of pieties such as strict fasting and willful acts of self-suffering and biblical concepts of an “Angry God” were common.   

More Information at https://www.fatimathemoviel.com

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2197936/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 Father James DiLuzio CSP provides missions and retreats throughout the USA.  See www.LukeLive.com  Through this pandemic, he offers a YouTube series YOUNG AT HEART and Reflections on Luke’s Gospel entitled Luke Live! Both of these are available at  https://www.youtube.com/JamesDiLuzio

HOMILY FOR 18TH SUNDAY OF Ordinary Time

2 August 2020 by Father James DiLuzio CSP NOTE: Scripture Readings are cited below and featured in their entirety at the end of the homily

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3 Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1 Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39 Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

We are into our sixth month of the corona virus pandemic and (to quote the prophet Jeremiah) “our teeth are set on edge.”  We would love it if all our prayer, all the masses we’ve attended sitting in alternate pews, covering our faces with masks or, sharing in spiritual communion online—if all this prayer would keep us centered In Jesus. That is why we are here today, isn’t it? So that Jesus’ love for us and for the world will ground us in SERENITY to prevent us from caving into despair over difficult situations and/or difficult people.

We have so many spiritual resources at our disposal, and yet, reading or watching the news, can fill us with anxieties, fears, and hopelessness. Isaiah cried out “Come to the Waters!” but we feel our thirsts are not quenched.  Not because this pandemic prohibits Holy Water in our founts, but we let the troubles of our times diminish the indelible marks of our Baptisms. Today I propose we reclaim our Baptismal identities as God’s people, empowered by the Spirit to be Christ’s ministers to our wounded world. Today why not re-commit ourselves to God who offers us the equilibrium to be Christ-bearers—a people who, like our Savior offering a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes to a hungry crowd, disciples who care enough to pay attention to our African American neighbors’ cries for justice to join them in establishing a more equitable nation?

Remember Jesus incarnated “Peace Be with You” during the great Roman occupation of half the European, North African, and Middle Eastern world.  Yes, like our nation today, Rome offered history a legacy of centuries of grandeur but centuries of great suffering and oppression, too. And in one among many of thousands of examples of following Jesus, of persevering faith in difficult times, sixteen hundred years after Our Lord walked upon this earth, one of his disciples, Saint Teresa of Avilla wrote:    Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing affright thee. All things are passing. Patience obtains all things. He who has God has everything – God alone suffices.”

Teresa wrote this in the era of the Reformation, of Religious Wars, Political Chaos–the European map was in free fall in her day–and the INQUISITION was reinvigorated to threaten almost everyone –including her!

I suggest we plead with God today for constancy amidst the social movements of our time, so we can collaborate for change.  We can say “Yes,” to gender equality, equal pay for equal work, and school systems and work environments that truly offer equal opportunity for all, and a justice and prison system that offers reform and rehabilitation instead of dehumanizing, soul crushing castigation.  

Everyone in church today and those participating at home have so many Spiritual Gifts bestowed upon us, but let’s admit it:  we do not access these graces enough.  Even though many of us are able to work amid this pandemic; many have resources enough to see us through better days, we don’t let the Spirit enliven us! In light of this Gospel of Jesus’ pity for the crowds, we must THINK of those whose workplaces are closed, who are relying on unemployment (which may soon end) or who are dependent on resources for basic needs that may be withheld. We must see their full humanity akin to our own that acknowledges their inner struggles–wrestling matches of pride with need, dignity with want and the corresponding judgments from within their own souls as well as those outward judgments, condescension and cruelty thrusted upon them by too many sectors of our  society.

Think of those who may have work but are clearly not in a “safe environment”” either due to lack of health precautions or because of sub-standard working conditions; jobs that our government labeled “essential” but exist in un-evaluated conditions. And think of those who are assumed guilty when attempting only to exercise their rights, both God-given and legal.  

The words of former congressman John Lewis’ post-mortem message continually ring in my ears about the terror of racism’s impact on his childhood— America’s racism had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare.” Is not Jesus’ pity and mercy applicable to all those forced to live in a State of the Union such as that?  For what was experienced years ago by Congressman John Lewis continues to be experienced today by all too many people whose skin shades are of a darker hue than most of us sitting in these pews.

Today, Jesus’ pity must motivate us to pity and to the kind of action that mirrors miraculous multiplication of loaves.  We’re so used to making distinctions among peoples based on money, prestige, celebrity, cultural preferences and ethnicities that these way heavy on our national psyches. It’s time we reject this way of thinking! Jesus didn’t divide the crowds into “first class, business class” or any other class. He fed them all. We keep hearing the adage “We’re all in this together,” but, my dear friends, Jesus, the Eucharist and this Gospel have been telling us that for 2,020 years.

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 112

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1

R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,    
    slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
    and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
    and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
    and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
    and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
    to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Alleluia MT

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.