Homily for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what we are about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading II 2 Cor 5:6-10

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

Alleluia

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

Gospel Mk 4:26-34

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

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

PENTECOST 2021: To Be Remade in the Image of God

Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

READINGS: ACTS of the APOSTLES 2: 1-11; PSALM 104; 1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13 GOSPEL of JOHN 20: 19-23

Spring has sprung; the world is turning green; warmth returns while the breeze is still cool and refreshing.  A NEW BEGINNING. Masks are optional now – free to safeguard ourselves and others as we see fit. The virus’ power ebbs, yet everyone knows (or should know) prudence will prove the ultimate conqueror of the disease once the world is vaccinated.

Prudence is a child of WISDOM, and the disciples gained WISDOM on that great day of Pentecost. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, WISDOM is the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth.  And the Divine Truth is that there is a Patient, Prudent Creator who formed humanity–all humans formed IN GOD’S OWN IMAGE. The God who sustains us Christians in the DIVINE IMAGE through our identification with Jesus Christ, and our openness to all the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT.  That is what our celebration of PENTECOST is all about.

So: what makes us in God’s image?  Every WISE person sitting in a pew should be able to answer this!  We are made in God’s image in that we have been given a

  1. MIND and a WILL just as the Mind of God brought forth creation by an act of Divine Will –GOD’S marvelous INTENTION to share LIFE, and, like God’s own, our WILL is FREE, to do as we may please with choices for good or for ill. Choose GOOD, GOD IS MANIFEST IN THE WORLD. Choose ill, the world experiences God’s absence through us. NEXT, we are made in God’s image because we have LANGUAGE.
  2. LANGUAGE molds us in God’s Image, too– WORDS that expand the Mind, Inform THE WILL, and deepen Understanding. WORDS clarify. They allow us to attain Knowledge and grow in Wisdom. Like GOD’S words, language can be used for good, for hope, for beauty, for truth. So, on Pentecost it is good we repent of those times we use language to harm, to demean, disparage and despair, to lie, to detract from the truth.  
  3. Another aspect of our being IMAGO DEI, is CREATIVITY – as God creates, so, too, humanity creates – inspired by GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT to procreate (if called to the vocation to wed, to parent) and for all: to create what proves necessary for life, and enhances life–utilizing the gifts of earth and our very bodies so that we and others may LIVE fully because the image of God insists that we cultivate:
  4. RELATIONSHIP – because GOD IS RELATIONSHIP, the heartbeat of life itself.  Communion and cooperation is the Divine Essence: FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT –relationship IS what GOD IS, and so, we, too, were made for communion and cooperation, to harmonize our wills, our language, our creativity IN ORDER THAT WE MAY CHOOSE, YES, CHOOSE to LOVE, YES LOVE
  5. LOVE THE CROWN OF THE HUMAN IMAGE OF THE DIVINE.  Indeed, God is LOVE and God lovingly bestowed on us the capacity to enhance relationships and EXPERIENCE GOD HIMSELF/ GOD HERSELF who loves all men and women equally—black, brown, tan and yellow, beige and rouge—with or without deodorant and the accessories of Western Civilization. More than a feeling, LOVE is a daily choice that mirrors God the more IT INSISTS ALL are created in God’s image. And to fully imitate God’s LOVE, our love, too, must comprise—WHAT?  You know! Yes, you do.  Yes, you do! It is FORGIVENESS.
  6. FORGIVENESS – an inseparable, indelible aspect of Love’s reality inherent in God’s relationship with our human species.  Without Love / Forgiveness, life is reduced to survival. Without Love/ Forgiveness our image of God is lost, and we lose our ability to experience God.  

And because we often thwart God’s designed destiny for us, God offers us NEW BEGINNINGS, new starts just as God has throughout the Bible and All Human History. Ultimately our lives must be continually CLARIFIED, and CONFIRMED in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A dying to sin, a rising to compassion that is what love/forgiveness is. There is our 7th IMAGO DEI. COMPASSION. As in the Compassion of God on the enslaved Israelites, on King David, adulterer and murderer, on Die-Hard Saul destined to become Saint Paul, and on all world-weary and, at times, disillusioned disciples.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that like THE FATHER at the beginning, Jesus INFUSED LIFE into his disciples — BREATHING unto them that same HOLY SPIRIT God breathed into Adam and Eve, but this time with a heightened awareness OF LOVE FORGIVENESS as the solution to all that detracts from FULLNESS OF LIFE NOW and FOR ALL ETERNITY.

Breathing on to the disciples, Jesus spoke these words: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

Too often, people have mistakenly maintained that “to retain” is to excommunicate, to dismiss.  Not so.  For “retain” means to hold in place, to arrest and allow for greater attentiveness to TEN COMMNADMENTS, to BEATITUDES. Retain is to TAKE TIME to clarify rights and wrongs, allowing for growth, for instruction, so we and others may return to loving relationships, making amends; undoing any damage that has been done.  Imagine what our world would be like if everyone were given every opportunity to right his or her wrongs, pick up the Cross of Restitution and begin again as LOVE/FORGIVENESS evokes COMPASSION IN US ALL.

COMPASSION is Wisdom, that very same Wisdom the HOLY SPIRIT fired down upon the disciples on that birthday of the Church we call Pentecost. On that day, in a renewed way, the disciples remembered what the Resurrected Jesus did for them. He offered PEACE because LOVE FORGIVENESS is WHO HE IS. Never forget that Jesus confirmed PEACE on the very friends who abandoned him, caved-in to fear, doubted God and God’s plans for them.  We, too, when filled with fear in these changing times, might doubt God and God’s plan for us. But why get defensive when reminded of our sins, OR those of our ancestors, when humility, truth and compassion are what offer us the Peace of Christ?     

On this Pentecost, we can reclaim GOD’S IMAGE IN US.  We may MIRROR JESUS by fostering Love Forgiveness and by RECLAIM the GIFTS of the HOLY SPIRIT –gifts bestowed on us on the day of Confirmation: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (submission to God’s Will), Fortitude (Courage), Knowledge (which is “right judgment”) and Piety (living a prayerful life, communion with Christ and all the Saints) and Fear of the Lord (awe and reverence to God in all things and through all relationships). 

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT are ever ready to offer us FRESH START, A NEW BEGINNING deepening our commitment to LOVE FORGIVENESS –living it and preaching it.  For when Love/Forgiveness is spoken, it is most assuredly the WORD every person understands because every person instinctively yearns for it in every language, every culture, every way of life.  We must yearn for it anew NOW and always if this PENTECOST is to make something new of you and me. Happy Birthday Church!  Time to be born again!

Our Cosmic Christ

HOMILY by Fr. James Diluzio C.S.P.

Readings: ACTS 9: 26-31; PSALM 22; 1 LETTER OF JOHN 3: 18-24 AND The Gospel of John 15: 1-8 The metaphor of Jesus as the Vine with We as the Branches

I have been meditating on the image of the VINE and the BRANCHEs and how extensive they are through time and space and beyond.  Extensive because of Christ and God’s plan for all creation. 

In focusing on the COSMIC CHRIST, I invite us to journey with some facts of science filtered through the eyes of FAITH.  We do not talk enough about the convergence of their respective truths. May our reflection open our eyes to the deep reality that all is COMMUNION, a celebration of relationship that is God’s plan for us all.  

The Bible says God created Adams (Hebrew for HUMANS) after a long process of essential elements coming together and becoming the material world. Science says In the Beginning, there were ATOMS, and, after a long process of essential elements coming together, this COMMUNION contributed to LIFE and humanity’s existence. Science starts and ends with humanity.  FAITH begins and ends with CHRIST. 

Science says all this started with a BIG BANG! Scripture says, all began with God’s word: LIGHT! But God did not create light for its own sake, but to anticipate and to bring forth Jesus in materials’ time and space; LIGHT to propel humanity into deeper communion with God, with others and with the elements from which we came.  

Science tells us the FIRST ELEMENTS from the Big Bang were hydrogen and helium .  As the cloud of cosmic dust and gases from the Big Bang cooled, stars formed, and these then grouped together to form galaxies.   AND RIGHT THEN AND THERE, creation was formed in the Christological Pattern of Dying and RYSING.  It is in everything because all is all in Christ. Stars explode. Stars die. DYING STARS contributed to life. When a star’s core runs out of hydrogen, the star begins to die out, but the dying star expands into a red giant, manufacturing carbon atoms by fusing helium atoms. 

  • Carbon – A component of ALL CREATION the carbon of dying stars is still in us because they were made for CHRIST and through CHRIST remain in us. 

Next, came OXYGEN as more massive stars began a further series of nuclear burning or reaction stages. Oxygen — necessary for LIFE be it in water or on land. Oxygen came to exist for Jesus to come into existence and, through human evolution, to bring us closer to GOD. 

And, as oxygen communed with hydrogen, water emerged colliding with the cold of space, becoming ice to melt on forming planets– particularly our own. NOTHING ON EARTH CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT WATER.  NOTHING!  Why did this water come to be? 

As it was CREATED FOR LIFE, it was CREATED FOR CHRIST, to bring about new forms of creatures first in water, and ultimately on dry land that prepared for humans to evolve so that humans would evolve to bring forth THE CHRIST who baptizes us with water and the essence of the FIRE of the HOLY SPIRIT. FIRE was also an essential element in Creation.  We need to remember that.   

I could offer more details, but I think you get the picture now. CHRIST IS COSMIC and the COSMOS is part of us because we are One in CHRIST. 

Rooted in our Relationship with Christ, we are compelled to extend that relationship with Christ by reverencing Christ in all our fellow human beings, all wildlife, and the earth itself, participating fully in GOD’S GRAND COMMUNION DESIGN. In this design, NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  Remember that when we are tempted to become defensive in hearing the suffering of people of color, people of different cultures, countries, and orientations. Remember: the old is contained in the NEW in everyone, and what is NEW will become old only to be part of an ongoing transformation THAT GOD destined US to participate in –the FULFILLMENT of Christ as HIS BODY in history transforming the world in HIS IMAGE.  AGAIN: NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  

Science tells us our UNIVERSE is expanding. WE MUST NOT FALL BEHIND!  Allow Christ today to expand our minds, evolve us, transform us, to the NEW HEAVEN and a NEW EARTH that is our destiny but that is accomplished in fostering COMMUNION with ALL –EVERY PERSON, EVERY CREATURE until all are one in Christ.  THIS COSMIC VISION MUST put our LIVES in perspective:  Always a MOVEMENT FORWARD, never a “dead end,” no matter how much like a “dead end” we may feel.  Our challenges, our difficulties, our conflicts, even the sickness and the death of our loved ones–or in our own sickness and anticipation of our own deaths—must be confirmed in SEEING THE WORLD AS GOD SAW IT FROM THE BEGINNING AND AS GOD INTENDS IT TO BE: an ongoing consecration into Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. 

No matter how we may be participating in COMMUNION today, physically, virtually, we pray our sensibilities of “TAKE AND EAT will erupt a new consciousness in each of us, offering us COURAGE to advance the KINGDOM Jesus inaugurated.  Yes, one day we shall day, but with Christ’s blessed assurance, future generations will see us in themselves, and we will remain part of what is to come because we have communed with the COSMIC CHRIST leading us on to COMMUNION with God and all the saints not for just a moment, not just for today, but tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day.  In fact, forever and ever and ever. A World without End.  

HOMILY FOR 2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER aka Divine Mercy Sunday

11 April 2021 St. Paul Apostle Church 10 AM Fr. James DiLuzio

SHOW ME!  CRIED THOMAS ON THAT FIRST EASTER EVENING!  It is a fair demand.  Rather than call him “Doubting Thomas,” let us call him “Entreating Thomas” – one who calls upon the Lord for blessed assurance.   

Indeed, We NEED SIGNS –evidence that Jesus continues to be present to us, strengthening His HOLY SPIRT in us, repeatedly sustaining us in the grace of our Baptisms and strengthening us through our participation in the Sacraments. Indeed, at every Mass we celebrate, we, like Thomas, call out to Jesus: “Show Yourself! Be present to us!  Affirm our belief!”

John concludes his Gospel with the assurance that what was “written in this book” will assist us in FAITH and having life to the full.”  The Church upholds Jesus is present in reading, sharing, preaching of Scripture. For although the book itself –text on pages—is to be treated with reverence, SIGNS of Jesus as THE WORD incarnate are not in the book but in the PEOPLE as we read it, in the PEOPLE who have shared and continue to share Scriptures with us, the people who first introduced us to prayer, and who pray for and with us still; the people who preach and discuss Scriptures with others with integrity, humility, and an openness to ongoing learning.

Note that Thomas saw Jesus in the company of other disciples/ Only Mary Magdalene and Peter were given private encounters with the Risen Jesus.   As for Thomas, so, too, for us:  Jesus came to him and to us in the presence of other disciples. This is the pattern of the Church and why Thomas’ story is such an essential part of EASTER and Resurrection Faith.

Let us now explore the gift of MEMORY –and how experiences of Resurrected Jesus require continuity of the past with the present.  After all, Thomas recognized the Resurrected Jesus through memory of all he had experienced with Him prior to and including His Passion.  Through the gift of hindsight, we too, recognize holy moments in the present–Jesus’ in another person, in a spirit-filled situation.  Journey with me, here, now, add your memories to mine, open to say, once again, to Jesus, as Thomas did: “My Lord and My God.”

To this day, Jesus comes alive for me in a recurring image of my Mom reading me children’s versions of bible stories. I can see her now at the edge of my bed, holding the book. I remember particularly the nights she read about Michael the Archangel and his battle with Satan.  And then my thoughts flood with the stories of Adam and Eve, the Blessed Mother, The Christmas Story and Jesus’ Passion.  I was so deeply intrigued by the stories, the pictures, and my mother’s faith and her demeanor. A warmth wafted over us as she shared the Christmas Story, and, at the age of 7, I cried hearing about the Crucifixion as the reality of the Passion entered more deeply into my consciousness. All signs of Jesus –all “incarnated word” experiences.

I remember another time: the night my father was in the hospital, in danger of losing his sight due to an accident at work.  My mother, siblings and I gathered for a family rosary, appealing not only to Mary, Mother of God, and for extra measure, Saint Jude, the faithful one also with the name of Judas among the Twelve.

What about your memories?  Your experiences of Jesus?  We can get so caught up in the demands of each day, do we recognize how important we take time, like Sunday Mass, and other occasions, to recollect, to reclaim Jesus in our lives?  Who taught you prayers? Who prays with you still?  Spouse!  Friends! Relatives!  Are you praying together?  This is the way to deepen our relationship with Jesus and others. Time to recognize the people in our lives as reflections of Jesus –the Universal Christ, who daily “comes in the Name of the Lord.” Whatever do we think we are affirming when we pray the Sanctus and every mass: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest!” Jesus came, he arrives now in Word and Eucharist, and continues to appear to us through one another even unto now.

YES, JESUS, SHOW US YOUR FACE!  And HE DOES!  In our renewal of Baptismal Promises which we will continue to do throughout Easter and in every association, we make with our encounters with Water! Whether quenching our thirst, showering, bathing, and, if you are fortunate enough, bathing an infant—a kind of perpetual encounter with Christmas!

How often have my women relatives fought over who would give a new infant his or her bath—mothers, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law. I remember my grandmother running through the house with the bundle of my baby brother in her arms, my mother chasing after her!  “I’m giving him his bath!” My mother calling after her: “No!  It’s my turn!” Now see in every caregiver Jesus washing the hands and feet of the elderly, the sick and infirm. See him at our feet as we soak our weary paws at the end of the day –all experiences of GOD! 

Julian of Norwich was given the gift of seeing in this holistic way. In chapter 9 of the Long Text, she writes: We are all one in love. . .  When I look at myself as an individual, I see that I am nothing. It is only in unity with my fellow spiritual seekers that I am anything at all. It is this foundation of unity that will save humanity.

THIS IS HOW JESUS SAVES – with all of us together. ON THIS divine mercy Sunday, we benefit by praying “Lord Jesus, Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on Us!  Help us to see that we continue YOU, that YOUR BODY includes OUR BODIES, as we humbly acknowledge that as you express yourself through us, the kingdom expands now and on to eternity.” Like Thomas, we, too, must say, “Jesus, My Lord, and My God!”

EASTER 2021

A Homily by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Easter Sunday 2021

For the first generations of Christians, the heart of the faith, the central purpose for their Conversion: Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead.  The teachings, the miracles, the Passion Narratives were told and repeated because Jesus’s Resurrection confirmed the Primordial Longing of humanity at the very time we came into existence: the desire for Eternal Life.  The need to know that death’s finality was but an illusion came early in human history because people experienced a divine spark in the human condition that made us part of something greater.

Indeed, before any religions were formalized, before any rituals was ritualized, our Humanoid prototypes left evidence of memorials commending the dead to another world. Indeed, something erupted in the human condition that allowed our ancestors’ brains to expand, to seek a power, a spirit beyond ourselves, to ponder the stars and heaven as an essential goal.

Once Homo sapiens came on the scene, but long before the experiences that brought the Bible into a literary reality, Sumerians and Babylonians, Far Eastern cults of Zoroastrians and others attended to beliefs in the afterlife. Once Judaism became a tribal cult, the Hebrews eventually distinguished themselves and the true God by emphasizing this life and progeny as the central focus of life with God. They began with only vague ideas about life’s end–a kind of shade and shadowy existence in a place or state they called Shoal. “The living, only the living give you thanks, O Lord,” the psalmist cries. And that was and is an essential truth.  How we live from day to day is of great importance!

Yet through the experience of exile and the prophets, particular Ezekiel who insisted on a return to the land of Israel and Judah in images such as dry bones returning to life, Judaism evolved to reclaim a belief in resurrection of the dead. From the time of the Maccabees and the Writing of the Wisdom Literature, some two hundred years or more before Jesus’ birth, belief in the resurrection became a standard of the Pharisaic movement in which Jesus Himself was a part.

Ultimately, as hostility built toward Jesus, and premonitions of death consumed him, Jesus came to see that God would confirm Resurrection of the Dead and the Promise of Eternal Life through Him. But first, he would expose the sins of the World through the Wood of the Cross, compelling compassion and humility as the foundation for life in His Image as the antidote to death and dying, to sin, and violence, and hatred. Only such a dying would lead to a rising to New Life – to a kingdom of faith, hope, and love.  In His Image, as extensions of His Body in time and space, Jesus’ disciples would carry on His commission to transform the earth and everyone and everything in it.  HOW?  By trusting in the ETERNAL PATTERN, JESUS’ design of living, dying, and rising that all life entails.  The world may rage against such a paradigm, yet, ironically, it continually proports it as the circle of life:  Life, Death and Renewal.  But Judaism and Christianity, while acknowledging the Circle, also maintain a forward thrust moving Creation toward a New Heaven and a New Earth. A circular dance moving toward a HORIZON, beckoning renewal in faith, hope, and love, and trust in God.

Why even modern Science echoes this same truth. From the Big Bang, bursts of energy, combustion, then dying flames and embers contribute to something new, but not yet entirely new, for essential elements remain; some modified, others not, but keeping everything, and ultimately everyone, in relationship.  Past is present, and present becomes future all through Living and Dying and Rising. Consider the Dinosaurs—extinct, dead, YET a remnant remains in the composition of the birds of today – seemingly different, and totally new, yet not unconnected with their predecessors from the past.   We humans today are still composed of carbon and waters that formed life at the very beginning.  That is how we can say we are made from the very make-up of stars.  This scientific recognition brings a deeper understanding to our faith as we perpetuate the words of our everyday Trinitarian prayer:  “As It was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!” 

This day, this HOLY DAY confirms for us again: Life, Death and Rebirth is God’s design. All in the Pattern of JESUS. Just as Jesus’ Resurrected Body was the same as his historic body–still in relationship with his ancestors, his mother, his disciples yet something new, beyond the confines of biology and physics.  An expanded reality akin to the expanding of the universe in circles and in straight, forward, and, at times, crooked lines. Old and New converging, becoming, dying, and rising.

 As Christians we are invited to trust in God’s Eternal Design. Sure, there are time we wish to rage against the night, yet, when we are disappointed or we fail, or become sick and feel worthless, Jesus gives us one another to support and sustain us the ought the dying times. His is a Living Body, active from age to age through every generation of believers. Together in Faith, we remind ourselves we are part of a greater story that includes suffering for a greater gain.  Trusting in God, our ongoing little deaths offer conversion to compassion for ourselves and others that will transform all suffering to redemptive suffering. Yes, there is a time to stay still, and a time to keep healthy, to stay alive, and there is a time to let go, to surrender to what we cannot control or fully understand.  This, too, is part of the Easter Story.  We are not afraid to die to resentments and hurts, to die to egos that must be continually affirmed. We may joyfully die to living for anyone’s approval but God’s, surrendering to the Gospel in which we do not need to see ourselves as better than anyone else (although we may be better at certain things) because we accept that all are equal to all, related to all; admitting our sins and failings as joyfully as we celebrate our accomplishments due to God’s generosity to us, the talents and interests God has endowed us individually, culturally, and religiously. Rising with Christ, forgiveness comes easy, the Spirit endows us with courage to change, to learn, to grow in wisdom.

What wisdom have we gained from this year of pandemic? How have we grown in compassion through Covid? Five-hundred Americans died this year, and yet millions rose to the occasion to offer care and social responsibility.  We are growing, too, in care for our environment, respect for our fellow creatures with whom we share this sacred earth.  Best of all, our solidarity with people of all ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures is on the RISE, even as some slip back into an old world of prejudice and violence.

The TRUTH of Faith is this: Easter invites us to die and Rise with Jesus.  Through Him and with Him, our Communion becomes COSMIC, moving us on toward a future with God, brighter than any past.  Alleluia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Homily: Jesus cleanses the temple area circa 27AD.

Anger. S0 many things make us angry. Anger is a very natural human emotion.  Anger is not a sin.  What we do with our anger–how we express it– brings us into the realm of morality and sin. Still, far too often people justify temper tantrums and inappropriate expressions of anger citing Jesus’ banishing merchants and moneylenders from the temple.

But what Jesus exemplifies here is different from what happens when we get angry.  We must distinguish Jesus’ righteous anger from what we demonstrate due to wounded pride, selfishness, jealousies, or when we desire to intimidate, manipulate, or seek revenge. A careful study of the Scripture shows what appears as anger on Jesus’ part, is His ZEAL FOR GOD. That is why the disciples recall the passage of Psalm 69 and that is the difference.  This Gospel shows Jesus acting as God’s abiding Spirit insisting people internalize the outward sign of the temple to make their very lives temples of continual worship to God.    By the way, the reference here to “the JEWS” here, is not about an entire ethnic group. The ONLY way to interpret the phrase today is to apply it to anyone and everyone not concerned with deepening their relationship with God and others. It is a scandal that the Church did not emphasize this formally until Vatican Council of 1965.  But thankfully, we know this now, and we are obligated to assure that others know this, too. Now: back to Jesus’ Zeal for God and a properly God-oriented humanity.

Zeal for God is intimately aligned with the TEN COMMANDMENTS – the heart of restoring humanity to right relationship with God and others.  That is why we included a Reading of the Ten Commandments today. To become superficial with prayer, rites and rituals deprives us of the foundation of our true dignity –that everyone, all Creation belong to God.  Thus, business of temple sacrifices in 27 AD mirrors the business and activity in our 2021 lives, highlighting the sad truth that we often ignore our relationship with God.  The result:  superficial, hypocritical religion. Today’s Gospel insists we take note of “ROTE” and make a change!   

It is not that the money changers and animal merchants were so awful. Money exchange from Greek and Roman coins to Temple coins devoid of objectionable images was reasonable.  In fact, Jesus would have approved of not having coins with images that tempted people to make gods and goddesses of emperors, public officials, and civic leaders. We remain tempted to make gods and goddesses of many public figures today in all realms of government, sports, and the arts. We, too, must be on our guard!

And, as for the animal sacrifices, everything has its proper time. It was clear to Jesus that the time for animal sacrifices had come to an end.  The people had stayed too long in an early stage of their faith—substituting animal sacrifices in place of cultivating contrite hearts, repentant, humble ways of living. How often did the prophets of old proclaim that!  Jesus declared time to advance to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God and others had arrived because, the Christ was in their midst. 

When God is not the foundation of life, when we do not daily cultivate humility, thanksgiving, spiritual growth, repentance, and reconciliation, we must pray for ZEAL: the righteous anger of Jesus to be incarnated in ourselves.  Jesus’ ZEAL reflects an anger without judgement, an anger without hate, anger without condemnation—all the inappropriate ways to which we are so prone.  Although our angers often do not, Jesus’ Zeal always invites transformation, and spiritual renewal for everyone.  The ZEAL of Jesus is anger built on compassion—to orient people back to God and our genuine human dignity.

Today, therefore, this Gospel invites us to participate in the very justified movements such as Black Lives Matter; the LGBQT movement, ME TOO, Equal Rights, Equal Pay for Equal Work, and other important, transformative endeavors.  Not to have zeal for other’s rights is to devalue our won rights and dignity. Not to want to perpetuate the Kingdom of God for all, to cultivate Right Religion (freeing our faith from hypocrisy, superstition—and modeling ways for others to do the same), Right Government (freed from lies, illusions, arrogance, partisanship, and greed) makes prayer and religious observances superficial.  Rote religion deprives us of receptivity to the Grace Jesus offers freely, for GRACE and gratitude for grace are the true source of our human dignity.  

In these times of turmoil, as we strive to return to our true dignity, we must remember, too, that transformation may evoke violence in others because society is so threatened by transformative change. As it was in Jesus’ time, so it continues until now. In joining any just cause, we must first evaluate our personal angers in relation to Jesus’ ZEAL and, ultimately, patiently invite others to evaluate their angers and frustrations so that together we may explore healthy ways of converting our anger to cooperation for positive change. Still, confronting wrongdoing may require cracking a whip across a pillar –never upon human flesh and bone—because people must be called to attend to righteousness.  Otherwise, we all just go about our busy lives.  

What we know about Jesus throughout the Gospels and in centuries of faith development is that he while He used the whip to sound an alarm, he did not, could not inflict on others what was-and would-be inflicted upon him.  Note, John’s Gospel places Jesus’ Zeal at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Once he exposed hypocrisy of superficial religion, he left the temple to heal, perform miracles, to preach with the blessed assurance, that everyone can belong, everyone can be mutually cared for. Indeed, spiritual ZEAL comprises patient endurance and compassion, saying to the corrupt, the defensive, the selfish, those who live in fear: “We know you were brought up this way!  We know fear and anger is evidenced on all sides.  Still, we know what is right, and what our God-given rights are. In our hearts, we think you know that, too.  Take responsibility for your past, join in a coalition for lives of faith, hope and love.” Things do not have to stay the way they are. Our past does not have to dictate our present or our future.  Today’s Eucharist offers Grace to you and me to restore us to the ZEAL that is Jesus’ mission.  Take and Eat. Go and do likewise.

Take Action Against Inhumane Conditions in Meat Packing Industries

* I am inviting you to make a phone call on behalf of abused poultry and meat packing Workers, many of whom are immigrants and don’t have a voice in government. They are striving to work hard to support themselves and their families in hazardous working conditions.

  1. Watch John Oliver’s Sunday EXPOSË: Meatpacking: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhO1FcjDMV

2. If you don’t have time to watch, just ake my word for it, phone

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee 503 Cannon House Office BuildingWashington, DC 20515Phone: (202) 225-2095

Tell his rep that your are phoning regarding his role as Chair of the House Education and Labor. URGE Congressman DeSaulnier to get the USDA to set universal SAFE SPEED LINES for workers in the poultry and meat packing industries. Conditions are currently inhumane and workers’ injuries are frequent and all too commonplace.

In addition, universal base lines for WORKERS’ COMPENSATION need to be put in effect as the variances between individual states’ requirements are unjust and in some cases, requirements are nonexistent.

Factories featured in John Oliver’s HBO series LAST WEEK TONIGHT need FEDERAL intervention as it is clear individual states are doing nothing to address the situations on both counts. Regarding Poultry: Tyson Poultry, Sanderson Farms, Perdue and Pilgrims. Regarding Beef and Pork: Tyson Meats, JBS, Cargill and National Beef.

In addition: please follow up with OSHA (OCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT) It is imperative you implement FEDERAL EMERGENCY WORKPLACE STANDARDS for SOCIAL DISTANCING (i.e. specifically workers distancing themselves along the poultry / meat conveyors) because of the tragic number of COVID cases and Covid death related cases in the poultry and meat packing industries Clearly, Individual State Legislatures have done nothing to protect workers not only in regard to Covid transmissions but the high incidents of accidental cuts and other injuries. Furthermore, many workers are penalized for taking necessary bathroom breaks – a practice that is offensive as well as inhumane. I would appreciate a reply to know how best to assist you in following up on these concerns. Thank you.

Tell him or her that you would appreciate a reply to know how best to assist in following up on these concerns.

IS THIS HOW GOD LOVES US?

A Reflection on a Lyric from Stephen Sondheim’s musical play PASSION


I re-watched a DVDI have of Stephen Sondheim’s PASSION. In the play, a man who has run away from a woman’s obsessive love finally surrenders to it. Georgio addresses Fosca with these lyrics by Sondheim. I’ve been thinking we could almost say the same thing to GOD.

Here’s the lyric:


“No one has truly loved me

As you have . . .

Love without reason,

Love without mercy,

Love without pride or shame.

Love unconcerned

With being returned —

No wisdom, no judgement,

No caution, no blame.

No one has ever known me

As clearly as you.

No one has ever shown me

What love could be like until now.

Not pretty or safe or easy.

But more than I ever knew.

Love within reason –that isn’t love.

And I’ve learned that from you. . . “

Homily for Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 February 2021 by Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

“The ‘Boss,’ the Pope, a church in Lebanon, and our True INHERITANCE”

An article on MSN website came to my attention this week.  Entitled “The ‘Boss,’ the Pope and a church in Lebanon,” by Boyd Matheson, it described the synchronicity of 3 events worthy of world attention:  In a unique Super Bowl ad, Bruce urged Americans to put aside our differences and foster mutual respect, reconciliation, and collaboration for a better future. Using the symbol of a little church in Lebanon, Kansas, located at the literal center of the continental United States, his message was meant to empower a coming together figuratively, spiritually, physically, of all Americans to “the Center,” the heart of what our nation is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope Francis, in the annual assembly of ambassadors to the Holy See, issued this statement: “The democratic process,” he said, “calls for pursuing the path of inclusive, peaceful, constructive and respectful dialogue among all the components of civil society in every city and nation.”  The Pope went on to say, ““I am convinced that fraternity (I’ll add the implied “sorority”) is the true cure for the pandemic and the many evils that have affected us. Along with vaccines, fraternity and hope are, as it were, the medicine we need in today’s world.”

And listen to this title of an article from AMERICA magazine: “For the first time, Pope Francis appoints a woman with the right to vote as undersecretary of the synod of bishops” Her name is Nathalie Becquart, a member of the Xavière Sisters, Missionaries of Jesus Christ, in France.

And, as if this were not GOOD NEWS enough, I found this series entitled INHERITANCE published online by ATLANTIC magazine filled with articles on all that we have missed in African American history to advance common knowledge, empathy, and dialogue among Americans of European and African descent.  I highly recommend you look it up.  Here’s the link:

How W. E. B. Du Bois Changed Black Childhood in America – The Atlantic

Within the INHERITANCE project, I read about the great humanitarian and civil rights activist W.E.B. du Bois’ 1920 efforts publishing a Magazine for Black Children called THE BROWNIE BOOK with this goal: 

“It aims to be a thing of Joy and Beauty, dealing in Happiness, Laughter and Emulation, and designed especially for Kiddies from Six to Sixteen. It will seek to teach Universal Love and Brotherhood for all little folk—black and brown and yellow and white. Of course, pictures, stories, letters from little ones, games and oh—everything!

The effort lasted only two years because of lack of subscriptions but it is the kind of thing that this 21st century needs. We still do not live in a world, or a country, in which every child, especially minorities whose skin is dark, brown, copper, yellow receive this kind of affirmation with freedom from fear of being who they are and who God calls them to be.  This is urgent as we address the goals of BLACK LIVES MATTER and to address the related issues, we read in today’s news headlines “A Tense Lunar New Year for the Bay Area After Attacks on Asian-Americans.”  Tragically, yet another minority continues to be scapegoated through violence not only because of pre-existing, lingering prejudices but because of the irrational blaming for a peoples’ proximity to the place where the corona virus originated.

And here’s another NEWS ITEM: God Is On Your Side: A Statement from Catholic Bishops on Protecting LGBT Youth: “As Catholic Bishops in the United States, we join with the Tyler Clementi Foundation in standing up for at-risk LGBT youth in our country.  . . As we see in the Gospels, Jesus Christ taught love, mercy and welcome for all people, especially for those who felt persecuted or marginalized in any way . . . The Catholic Church values the God-given dignity of all human life and we take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you. . . Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.”

God Is On Your Side: A Statement from Catholic Bishops on Protecting LGBT Youth • Tyler Clementi Foundation

Taking all these things into account—we must trust that the Holy Spirit is indeed active in the world for all of these news items to come together in a single week! — we must embrace the goal of affirming all peoples, all children –with ministries and programs to support them – as the necessary objective of our age.

Why do I focus on this insistence on TRUE COMMUNION among all peoples?  Because we are the JESUS’ FOLLOWERS WHO INSIST ON COMMUNION and because today’s Gospel involving Jesus curing the leaper is as much about restoring an individual back into his family and neighborhood as it is about his individual healing.  

In the Book of Leviticus, Moses and Aaron are cited as preaching the need to separate the lepers from the community to preserve the health of the larger group.  But this separation did not exclude care, delivery of food and necessities to the leper camp. As then, and now, the mysteries of illnesses and diseases require caution, prudence, and support.  Jesus, however, extends the care to freedom from fear and solidarity in suffering – that is the meaning of the CROSS and the fact that Jesus touches the leper. The medical community continues to be exemplary in responding to the COVID-19 virus and inspired compassionate treatment of family members and friends even as they need to stay in isolation.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that ultimate goal, however, always was and always will be INCLUSION and that HEALING includes liberation from whatever separates us, be it physical illness or the diseases of prejudice, fear, hate and violence.

What a gift that Jesus welcomes his followers to Communion. What a privilege to know that the sacrament we participate in today strengthens us with courage and wisdom to persevere in offering true communion to the world.