Jesus’ Take on “The Grasshopper and The Ants”


Gospel: Lk 12:32-48

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

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

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

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

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Woe to the family that does not anticipate retirement, make provisions for health care and reduce its credit card debt.  Practicality entreats us to model ourselves on the squirrels.  In summer and fall, they gather nuts for sustenance in winter and spring.  We, too, must prepare prudently investing in annuities and 410Ks, or, if those are not available to us, we try to go without some luxuries today so we may expand our savings accounts for tomorrow.  Forthright foresightedness is  a top priority for all–or, at least for those among us who don’t have to live hand-to-mouth on a weekly basis.  Either way, we’re probably befuddled by Jesus’ parable.  No precautions for the future? Are there not retirement scenarios we can dream about?  Goals for creative hobbies, lengthier leisure time, Church and community involvement?  Hmmmm. 

We mustn’t see today’s Scripture readings as a threat to these very human concerns,  but we must engage in conversation with the Bible to assess our priorities among our passions, properties and possessions.  

Jesus isn’t against us having things—in fact, he’s not against us at all.  He is the Savior who is FOR US, WITH US and IN US.  He invites us to celebrate life as we allow Him to diminish our worries and anxieties.  He does that, in part, by endowing us with faith, intelligence and talents to make our way in this world including our relationship with things. Jesus invites us to honor the gift of work to procure for ourselves, our children and dependents the necessities of food, clothing and shelter.  Beyond that, the Holy Spirit engages us in what we buy in the way these things reflect our personalities, our likes and dislikes.  What we own—and how we take care of what we own– is an expression of ourselves and even our beliefs.  For all that, Jesus invites us not to take our money, our belongings or ourselves too seriously.   He bestows on humanity intelligence and the ability to cultivate a sense of humor.  Here are a few jokes that might put us at ease:  Who was the world’s first stockbroker? Noah.  Noah?  Yes, he floated his stock while the world was in liquidation.

Once an investor asked his advisor: Is all my money truly gone?
No, of course not. It’s just with somebody else!

Dear Friend,  I’ve come to realize Money can buy a House…But not a Home; Money can buy a Bed…………..But not a Good Night’s Sleep; Money can buy a Clock…………But not Time; Money can buy you a Book….But not Knowledge; Money can buy you Medicine…….But not Health; Money can buy you Sex…………But not Love.  So you see money isn’t everything. It often causes pain and suffering. I tell you all this because I am your Friend, and as your Friend I want to take away your pain and suffering.  Send all your money to me and let me suffer for you.

The cynicism of Qoheleth in the Book of Ecclesiastes offers helpful insights as well. The things we treasure, what we work hard to have and appreciate, may not be treasured or appreciated by those who inherit what we have, what we saved for. Some people prioritize a comfortable home, others money for travel.  Some value collections of books or recordings, paintings, momentos, Nativity sets and Statues of the Saints –others prefer large screen smart tv’s and sound systems, others gardening and landscaping. IF the next generation doesn’t love what we love, what do we leave them?  Do we owe them anything at all?

Jesus says the key is to know that for all that we value, know what matters most to God.  Scriptures make it clear that God cares about relationships –ours with God and others.  Clearly God delights in every human being, all animals and all creation because God sustains all with a life force that engages all.  As Saint Paul once said to the Greeks at the Areopagus: “In God we live and move and have our being.” This is the concept that grounds all faith and therefore must be the foundation of all our lives’ choices: Thanksgiving for life itself and responding to God’s graciousness by consciously reminding ourselves that our lives are not our own; that ownership is always and forever will be temporary; that what we can or cannot afford has nothing to do with our innate dignity or the place or state of being that Christ offers us here and now and what Christ reserves for us in heaven.  Practically speaking, what we think we own are God’s gifts to us to be shared– to learn from and to engage with others. 

Our pray for today is for Prudence.  The more commercials and pop up adds on our computer bombard our psyches, the more we need the Spirit of Wisdom. We must not throw caution to the winds but exercise cool judgment.  Our culture readily cultivates jealousies and envies, manipulating us to equal or exceed our neighbors’ buying power. It tempts us to assess  ourselves and others on the quality of our clothes, cars, homes or apartments.  None of these things last, but our relationships will.

An act of love resounds unto eternity. Today we recognize that what we buy and recycle has a much greater impact on others and future generations than we may like to acknowledge.  The Spirit of God and Jesus’ love will guide us if we attend to their Holy Spirt.  Remember, our Eucharists direct us to cultivate community, to care for ourselves and others without material excess so that not only our futures but future generations can benefit from what we own, what we accomplish, what we recycle, how we care for the air and water and the animals with whom we share them, and , equally important,  how we may inspire them to allow Jesus to expand their lives with faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.

Reading 1 Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities!  All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17

R. (1) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
 are as yesterday, now that it is past,
 or as a watch of the night.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
 the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Teach us to number our days aright,
 that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
 Have pity on your servants!
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
 that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
 prosper the work of our hands for us!
 Prosper the work of our hands!
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 Col 3:1-5, 9-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Alleluia Mt 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) Homily

Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20

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

Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26

Gospel Lk 9:11b-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibles and Bible Commentaries Recommendations

by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Start with an Excellent Annotated Bible with Commentaries:

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

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

The Catholic Study Bible Edited by Donald Senior

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

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

DK Illustrated Family Bible by DK Publishing

Excellent Illustrated Children’s Bibles:

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

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


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

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

101 Questions and Answers on the Bible by Ramond Brown–answers-on-the-bible.aspx

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

THINGS HIDDEN –Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr

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

For more Intensive Study, there’s the new


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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant & Conversation: Genesis: The Book of Beginnings by Jonathan Sacks

Other In-Depth Commentaries for Beginners:

READING THE OLD TESTAMENT by Lawrence Boadt (Revised Edition)

READING THE NEW TESTMAENT by Pheme Perkins (Revised Edition)

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter

12 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS: Some other memorable quotes:

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

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