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.

Fun and Insight with Disney/Pixar’s INSIDE OUT – a movie review and spiritual reflection

the-first-look-of-pixar-s-new-film-inside-out-left-to-right-fear-sadness-joy-anger-disgust

Disney/Pixar’s INSIDE OUT is a joyous ride through Psychology 101 fitting for children of all ages.  Well, I’ll qualify that: 8 or older.  I think it is a little too complex for the Pre-School and Kindergarten set, although it is colorful to an eye-popping degree  The heart of the story concerns an 11 year old girl adjusting from a family move from Minnesota to San Francisco.   Encouraged to be the family’s “happy girl,” as an anchor for her parents’ anxieties, Riley has nowhere to go with her feelings of loss of place, friendships, school and those deeper ones evoked as she tries to renegotiate her relationship with her parents and her new surroundings.

Enter the film’s central conceit: Riley’s” Interior Self” is personified by characters representing primal feelings: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear.  Empowered by Riley’s parents and our cultural compulsions to be “Happy, Happy, Happy,” the effervescent Joy works overtime in limiting the impact of the others–all to Riley and her families’ detriment.  Sadness in particular demonstrates through heightened dramatic conflict a truth that Joy tries desperately never to acknowledge:  all feelings need to be acknowledged.  Meanwhile, audiences can enjoy the affirmation of our interior feelings being exposed along with all their associated thoughts and impulses in such a playful, conflicted arena as the human heart and brain.  I give INSIDE OUT an A + for originality, cleverness and success in accomplishing its noble goals.  Indeed, INSIDE OUT is a wonderful movie that will surely evoke laughter and tears most readily in most viewers.

As for the spiritual dimensions of the film, I invite you to consider the many ways psychology and spirituality intersect.  The tremendous benefits of psychology and the advances in the behavioral sciences notwithstanding, there are deep spiritual roots in the value of tears.  After all, the phrase “It’s alright to cry” didn’t have its origin in the 1960’s.   Jesus conveyed this 2,000 years ago in his admonition “Blessed are those who mourn.”  For those who take the scriptures beyond their face value (I hope we all do), it is clear Jesus is highlighting here far more than basic grieving of the death of our loved ones, important though that is.  Building on his Jewish heritage as recorded in the PSALMS, Jesus acknowledges the benefits of lament, complaint and frustration over all kinds of “deaths” – failures, tragedies, disappointments.  His statement makes evident that tears, in fact, are prayers.  Tears also are indications of healthy bodies and healthy relationships—two essential LIFE criteria!

To cry with and for others reflects the reality that we all belong to one race, one humanity.  When we cry with others, we may find gratitude in the fact that we have cultivated relationships of trust and that there are those with whom we can express ourselves freely. When trust brings forth a wellspring of tears, we have a little bit of heaven on earth, a deeper experience of God’s compassion for the human condition through one another.

When we cry alone we are in fact reverencing our bodies and the way God made us; tears shed in solitude invite us to embrace the outright loneliness that is a universal aspect of the human condition.  In the great paradox of being, even experiencing loneliness unites us to everyone on the planet.  To quote an ancient Native American proverb: “Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth and the great silence alone.”  Ironically, accepting our aloneness can bring us to a place where we are more humble and more compassionate in the company of others.  Loneliness is not alienation unless we make it so.  Being alone offers opportunity to encounter God Himself/Herself.

However and wherever we find release of our emotions through tears, we increase our ultimate capacity for JOY.  As we and/ or others acknowledge our hurts, fears, angers and all of their composite sadness without judging or dismissing them, Joy is in the offing.   “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of JOY.”  (Psalm 126: 5)  You will experience both watching INSIDE OUT.

To explore the film’s psychological dynamics further, read this excellent article in the NYTIMES SUNDAY REVIEW, July 3, 2015:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-inside-out.html?rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

BEGIN AGAIN — my personal film review

Even more than the lovely Irish film ONCE, the stage version of ONCE on Broadway (and on tour) celebrates the Spirit. Not just the human spirit but what Christians call THE HOLY SPIRIT. For both film and stage show revel in depicting joy in the creative process of music-making when the creators love, respect and reverence one another When I attended the Broadway show, I was taken aback with it’s almost mystical honesty. I found the experience akin to a Eucharistic celebration in the way it manifested all that we long for: belonging, solidarity and hope. The penultimate and culminating scenes of the current movie BEGIN AGAIN (now in movie theaters) impacted me in a similar way. Not surprisingly, BEGIN AGAIN has the same writer and director as the film ONCE: John Carney. Although it is not as perfectly crafted as ONCE (BEGIN AGAIN is loose and rambling in structure), the new film has many moments that are sweet, charming and just right. And yes, unlike ONCE, other scenes represent far too easily resolved tensions and succumb to cliche. (I.e., NOT a realistic representation of alcoholism). With that said, I recommend it to you particularly for its Eucharistic moments when the characters manifest HOPE struggling through the pain of broken relationships via their collaborative music-making. Like ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN explores the joy and comfort we feel expressing our deepest feelings through music as we strive to love with integrity. Here are some other reasons you may want to see this movie:

1. For the simple pleasure watching these appealing actors-at-work: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightly, relative newcomer James Corden (of THE HISTORY BOYS and soon to be seen as the Baker in the movie INTO THE WOODS premiering in December), Catherine Keener, and the extremely popular and talented singer/ musician Adam Levine (lead singer of Maroon 5 and judge on the TV show THE VOICE) who is making his film debut. True, he ‘s best when he sings and not quite so effective as an actor. Still, he makes for a solid screen presence amidst the seasoned screen stars. For her part, actress Keira Knightly has a lovely singing voice and performs her songs appealingly.

2. Really good soundtrack. I downloaded it.

3. R rating is misleading. Some foul language but no nudity or violence or evidence of casual sex. The subject matter is clearly about adult relationship and dysfunction. ONCE also received an R rating with the same profile. Fine as they are, these are not family films. Fine for high school level students with an adult to explore the themes and dysfunctions.

4. A lovely little escape film for all adults engaged in making music in any way, shape or form and those who enjoy watching music-in-the-making.

5. For reference, IMDB.com gives BEGIN AGAIN. A 7.8 rating compared to 2006 ONCE with an 8.0 favorable rating. ROTTEN TOMATOES posted an 83% / 86% critics / general audience positive rating.

Homilies and more film reviews forthcoming!