MEDITATION on the ANNUNCIATION

Prepared for YOU by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

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

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

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

Here are some questions for discussion:

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

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

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

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

a. belief in miracles

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

c. trust in mystery 

d. rejection of all of the above concepts

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

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

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

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

Responsorial Psalm

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

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

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

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

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

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

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

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

Exploring Feelings of Oppression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

http://www.theccnv.org/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Feelings Vocabulary Chart

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

By Paulist Father James DiLuzio CSP

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOMILY FOR 18TH SUNDAY OF Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 112

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3

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

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

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

Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39

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

Alleluia MT

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

Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

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

Homily for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Fr. James DiLuzio

WISDOM comes with humility — a HOMILY  17th Sunday Fr. James DiLuzio

I watched a film this week that offered a scathing indictment of the American experience. Its plot and its characters make a good case that our nation was founded on violence, ravishment, prejudice, and greed. It reminded me of how these forces remain operative today, permeating the national psyche and our daily lives. 

I also watched a news program about the military interventions in Portland, Oregon these past weeks and the commentator said, “neve have we seen military force use tear gas against American citizens.”  I gasped.  Was he too young to know of the tear gas and violence police and military used against African Americans in Selma and on college campuses in the 1960’s? 

Of course, none of these examples represent the entire story of America, nor do they acknowledge the virtues evident in so many of her citizens.  On the positive side, everyone should know that the US military escorted nine African American students into Central High School in Little Rock AK in 1957 to keep them safe from white natives’ protests. Still, why did this have to happen if not that for somewhere deep in the national psyche hatred, prejudice, inducement to violence and economic oppression lingered still?  

These remain the questions of our times, the context of our lives today in the US of A and they must give us pause. “Why,” you ask?  Because the issues raised by BLACK LIVES MATTER and #ME TOO and the sexual abuse scandals and power plays in the Church, in our government and all realms of power demand it.  And because that is what our parables today invite us to ponder.

Why sell everything one has for a treasure buried in a field, if not to clear one’s life of all that is wrong, sinful, superficial of little or no value and start again, begin anew with treasure that is of immense importance?

Why sell all one’s jewelry business to obtain a pearl beyond price if not to rethink how one lives one’s life better, to nurture and polish what is good and abandon what is wrong?

In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote a song called THE TIMES ARE A-CHANGING but it is very clear that the times have not changed enough, for what goes around, comes around again and again until we finally strike at the roots of evil.

This should come as no surprise to people of faith. From the Fall, to the stiff-necked people who were our biblical ancestors, to the apostles who fled from Jesus in his time of crises, we humans have often sought retreat than the hard work of change. 

And yet throughout our God burned with zeal for our souls, sent the Holy Spirits’ Refining Fire prophesized by Malachi in the 5th century before Jesus, renewed by John the Baptist and fulfilled in Jesus’ Beatitudes–simple extensions of the 2 Great Commandments that we have yet to follow fully. Ultimately, he sent the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to move the Commandments and the Beatitudes forward.

Jesus perpetuates this refiner’s fire, this Pentecost fire, in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. For the Eucharist continues to keep purging us of temptations to the evil of the world—an evil that often rationalizes all the great sins of prejudice, greed, and violence as the bottom line when push comes to shove.

In the heat of this summer, this awful pandemic , when we are prone to thinking ‘every man, woman and child for himself / herself,” and encountering all that is wrong with our society, our economy, our history and are very selves—of course, we can get weary of al the criticism.  But we must not!  We do so at our own peril, at the risk of abandoning the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated.

Today, as every day, we the faithful must resolve to be led by Jesus to engage in prayer and in acts of kindness and compassion. Indeed, I see you before me and I gain confidence, that, YES, we are here to allow the Fire of the Spirit to refine us in faith, hope, and love. Jesus is with us, so we need not ever default to the status quo, but instead throw off our defensiveness to embrace the One Savior who is meek and humble of heart but also strong and courageous to right the wrongs of today. This Eucharist will rekindle the fire of faith in us to accompany Jesus in his quest for true liberty and justice for all. Believe!

Here are the Scripture Reading for Today:

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 109                                

Reading 1    1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial Psalm

PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2    ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-52 OR 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Homily: Listen, Love, Act!

Readings: Hosea 8 HOS 8:4-7, 11-1 ; PSALM115:3-4, 5-6, 7AB-8,-10 ; Gospel: Matthew MT 9:32-3

In the Gospel Jesus drives out a demon who has made a man mute.  We don’t know how the man had become possessed.  We don’t know if he participated in evil or cultivated it. Jesus doesn’t berate him for any of those things. We must then, presume the man’s innocence. He’s was a victim of a demons–Demons who represents all the things that are not of God—fear, hatred, abandonment, neglect. 

Jesus lived his life on earth always in the present moment, attentive to God and the people at hand. Of course, he drives out the demon—no questions asked because he is establishing a Kingdom of the Now and of the Future.  In brief, something was wrong, someone was suffering. Jesus addressed it. 

Our times are a ‘changing.  The wrongs and the sufferings of the African American community are more evident than they have been for decades (although the injustices go back much farther).   Happily, there are signs of true Christianity emerging; Signs that resonate with Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Americans who are labeled “white” – me included–are starting to pay attention; listening and learning in ways most of our Baby Boomer generation and subsequent generations have not.  This is grace in action. The Kingdom of God comes when we open our minds to Jesus who insisted on the Cross that no one who suffers suffer in silence, no victim remains mute.  Why else would he have spoken Seven Last Sentences to us from the Cross? 

As disciples we pledge to listen to Jesus and so we must pledge to hold back any defensiveness, refrain from excuses and listen, listen to the African American Experience, just as we have been listening to the women of the ME-TOO EXPERIENCE. Both are in our midst but the life and death reality is certainly greatest in the Black community right now. 

Matthew literally writes of Jesus’ “Pity for the crowds.” When we get angry and upset, don’t we want people to “have pity on us?”  Don’t we?  We want to be heard and understood, don’t we? We get angry all the time in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods.  And what do we expect?  We want a listening ear, an opened heart, someone with patience, willing to understand? 

Who hasn’t experiences in his or her own home, angry voices even physical anger evidenced by holes in our walls –fist-punched plaster; plates crashed upon the floor?  We all know this just doesn’t happen in the movies.  And haven’t we learned by now that when we focused on the broken materials we never got to the cause of the anger, never got to the root of the dysfunctions displayed? If we cooperated with grace, we learned that only by Listening and/or seeking outside help –objective listeners, concerned, caring listeners—would we / could we prove we loved one another –assuring that mother/ brother/ father/ sister/ didn’t suffer in silence.  No one should.

If we have these expectations within our families and recognize the sources of our own angers come from being neglected, disrespected, put-upon, oppressed—then we must offer what we expect, what we need from our family to others: Listening hearts, open minds. 

We’ve been deaf to the sufferings of the Black communities for too long.  We sequestered ourselves, gated ourselves, segregated ourselves –how few of us have Black Americans among our families and friends, live in our neighborhoods? It’s time we listen and find out WHY and HOW this came to be?  There’s no one easy or single answer, which is we have to listen and, like Jesus, be part of the healing power that can foster the Kingdom of God.   As Catholic we need to ask, how can we expect Jesus to listen to our prayers when we negate or avoid the prayers of others?  Jesus calls us to an all-inclusive communion.  The time for communion is now. 

Playing with PETER PAN amidst Pandemic 2020* Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

* PLAYING PLAY DOCTOR (or Lyricist Doctor if you prefer)

*See Endnote

Back in 2014, I was anticipating NBC’s live presentation of the 1954 musical PETER PAN (December 4, 2014). The original cast with Mary Martin as well as the original story of PETER PAN by James M. Barrie was a childhoot favorite. Valuing my childhood memories, I reviewed and researched the score.  I found that the original composers of the musical, Mark Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, wrote a beautiful song for Peter Pan in Act 2 when he, Wendy and the boys are in their underground sanctuary. Entitled “When I Went Home” it tells of Peter’s one and only attempt to return to his home in London. That song was replaced in previews with a song by Jules Styne/Comden/Green “Distant Melody” – a response to Wendy’s request for Peter to sing a lullaby. 

Unlike “Distant Melody” (lovely in its own right), “When I Went Home” provides a significant insight into Peter’s ongoing rebellion toward home, family and growing up.  Although the melody to “When I Went Home” is strikingly haunting, I sensed the lyrics (featured below) a bit awkward, although consistently poignant. You may listen to a rendition of the song sung by Allison Williams on the NBC broadcast:

Here are the original lyrics so you may follow along with Ms. Williams’ performance:

WHEN I WENT HOME Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh Music by Mark Charlap

Lovely, right?  Still, I found a more haunting, instrumental version of the song onthe DELOS compact disc entitled AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE (Songs from various Peter Pan productions).  Track 12 features a stunning new arrangement by Donald Fraser.  I think Fraser’s choice of key signature (A flat) is far more affecting than the key of A –the song’s original setting.

Now for some fun:

When I heard Donald Fraser’s arrangement, I thought to myself: “This is perfect!” so, I composed a revised lyric based on some of the subtle changes Fraser made in the melodic line.  If you can get hold of the Delos CD then my lyric changes will make even more sense.

Here is my “Revised” version (Without permissions I may add!): Footnotes explain my choices.

WHEN I WENT HOME

Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Music by Mark Charlap

New and Additional Lyrics by James M. DiLuzio

INTRO (These words set to the Instrumental Intro that was not featured in the song): 

  • PETER: I shall tell you about what happened when I flew back to the house in London —
  • When I went home,
  • I thought that certainly
  • The nursery window would – for sure![1] – be opened wide for me[2]
  • And there would always be A welcome light[3] 
  • When I went home
  • I counted so upon
  • A mother waiting up to question me just me where I’d gone.
  • And we’d talk on and on –
  • I’d be all right.[4]
  • You see, when I went home,
  • I found that, sad to say, 
  • You must expect to be forgotten once you’ve run away[6]
  • And so I couldn’t stay 
  • That lonely night
  • When I went home.[7]
  • REPEATS
  • When I went home I counted so upon 
  • Somebody waiting up to ask me questions on and on 
  • To ask me where I’d gone– 
  • Was I all right? 
  • But the window was barred, and the door was barred And I felt such an awful dread 
  • And – for sure – there he was! That other boy 
  • Was sleeping in my bed! 
  • Oh yes, (you see), when I went home, I found that, sad to say, 
  • You must expect to be forgotten once you’ve gone away, 
  • And so I couldn’t stay 
  • That awful night When I went home. 
  • I was forgotten. 
  • When I went home.

Now, if this song were to reappear in the play, where would I place it?  I am thinking of two possibilities:

  1. Directly after “Distant Melody” in Act Two. The two ballads back-to-back would present a distinctive contrast. “Distant Melody” fills the scene with nostalgia for one of Peter’s actual infant experiences; “When I Went Home,” builds on that by providing an experience of an older (but not ‘Old”) Peter impacted by the consequences of his desertion.
  2. In the penultimate point of Act Two as a poignant “11 o’clock” number (i.e. the second to last song of the musical).  This would become a newly-created scene in which, after Wendy, her brothers and the Lost Boys have returned to the Darling’s home for good (but before we return to the Darling’s home / the final scene) we find Peter alone with Tinker Bell in Never Land filled with anger and disappointment, he sings “When I Went Home” to Tinker Bell, after which, she surrounds him with her light to comfort him.  Then the story picks up in the closing joyful scene in Mr. and Mrs. Darling welcome home their children and adopt the Lost Boys.  Of course, we would still have the Epilogue in which Peter returns to find Wendy grown-up and whisks her daughter, Jane, away to Never Land.  

Any thoughts? 

NOTE: I have a secret vocation of wanting to be a “Play Doctor” (i.e. one who alters texts, dialogue, song lyrics in a play to improve it).  I have enjoyed tinkering with a song that was dropped from the 1954 musical PETER PAN.  If you would like to see how and why I changed the original lyric and where I would place the song back into the show, see my latest blog. 

[1] “For sure!” is phrase Peter repeats throughout the play’s dialogue.

[2]  The original melody ascends here on “wide” to a “C” then “B flat” on “for me” (if in the same key as the instrumental).  Fraser, however, lowers the note on “wide” to a “A” then “G.”  I think his using descending notes is more appropriate as it anticipates Peter’s ultimate disappointment.

[3] The instrumental version lowers the note for “light” an octave.  I think that is preferable for the same reason noted above.

[4] Mr. Fraser departed from the original melody line here. Instead, he substituted a measure of lower notes to anticipate the bridge; therefore, I would suggest this lyric: “But that was not what happened.”  This line may be spoken instead of sung.

[5] Peter always flies to windows first.  By going to the door after trying the window, he would reveal his desperation. Thus, I reversed the order of the original lyric.

[6] Peter ran away from home.

[7] Fraser’s instrumental repeats the final line “When I went Home,” thus the additional phrase “That lonely night” and the repeat of “When I went home.”

The Times Are A’Changing –BECAUSE THEY MUST!

Today I invite us to consider the number “40” as part of our hope not only to recover from the pandemic but for substantial change in our world, especially to let economics SERVE THE PEOPLE, not the people serve economics . It’s time.

We have approached or are approaching (depending where you live) the 40th day of Quarantine. 40 is a number worth contemplating. What follows is a portion of a Reflection sent to me by Goddaughter Veronica DeFeo:

A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “change”. It is the time of preparing a person, or people, to make a fundamental change. Whenever the number 40 appears in the Bible, there is a “change”.

The flood lasted 40 days.40 years Moses fled Egypt.40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments.Exodus lasted 40 years.Jesus fasted for 40 days.

40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth.Optimum number of weeks for human gestation is 40.

The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”. Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because of less pollution, there is less theft and murder, healing is happening, and most importantly, people are turning to Christ. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly transforming.

Remember we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40. Also, 2020 is the year of the United States Census. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, was born during a census.

Lastly, 2020 is perfect vision. May our sight focus on the Lord and living according to His perfect vision for us knowing He holds us in the palm of His hand.May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual liberation to our souls, our nation and our world.

1Celeste Kenney Maiello1 ShareLikeComment

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