Monthly Archives: July 2016

Homily for July 24




If you get a job with a new company, I would imagine you’d be quite pleased to have the boss himself come up to you and tell you, “Now if there’s anything you need or any problems you’re having, just come right on into my office and we’ll talk about it.  Or, you can relay your message through my secretary or one of my assistants.  We thrive on communication around here.”  Now, many places of business SAY they act that way, but in practice it’s quite different.  Imagine your delight if you found out that the boss wasn’t setting you up, but that it really happened the way he had described.

Jesus doesn’t want to be our boss.  He’s so, so much more:  Savior, Redeemer, Eternal Friend and Companion, Image of the Father.  But sharing as he does in the work of our creation, he is in a position to give us direct instructions about how to communicate in this great Kingdom of God.  And we find some of those direct instructions today, in the lessons the Lord gives us about prayer.

Who better to tell us how to pray than the one to whom we are praying??!!  The Lord Jesus gives us these very practical lessons and considerations about prayer.  It’s clear from these lessons that our prayers do not INFORM God of anything that he doesn’t already know.  But he makes it clear that he loves to hear us say it.  He loves to have us talk to him, not because he’s lonely, not because he’s needy in any way, but because it’s good for US.  Expressing our love for and dependence upon God is marvelously enriching.  We are not demeaned by prayer, as though we are incapable of doing anything for ourselves.  In prayer, we acknowledge what God tells us in his holy Word, that he is interested in everything and anything that is of interest to US, that he is both our creator and our life’s companion, and that there is nothing so insignificant about our lives that it is of no significance to him.  God who knows the number of both the sparrows and the hairs of our head is eager to hear about anything we bring him.

We don’t have to get into bargaining with God, like Abraham does somewhat amusingly in the first reading.  But pray always.  Whether it’s praise, thanksgiving, repentance, or petition, our prayers are a joy to God and do honor to our high vocation as his priestly people.

Homily for July 17 2016



When I went to Italy as a student many years ago, two of the Italian words I quickly learned were familiar from English, only they each dropped an initial “H.”  The two words were ospiti (pron. AWSS-pee-tee) and umiltà (pron. oo-mill-TAH).  Ospiti means “guests.”  Think of the letters after “h” in our word hospital, where patients are the guests – PAYING guests, to be sure, but still there to benefit from hospitality, which is what we all offer to guests.

Then there’s the word umiltà, which means “humility.”  You might have guessed!  These two words really have a lot in common.  The root of the word “humility” is “humus,” or soil, ground, earth – the same as for the word “human.”  Humans display humility to the degree that we are in touch with where we came from.  And when we remember where we came from, we are the most capable of receiving guests, recognizing that we share COMMON GROUND.  Hospitality and humility go hand in hand.  Humility is necessary if hospitality is to be sincere and successful.  Our guests will sense immediately if they are there more for our benefit or use than for their enjoyment.

The Scriptures give us a couple of examples of humility and hospitality, and how they come into play with each other.  St. Luke tells us that Mary’s words when she understood what God wanted her to do were humble words:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”  Her humility was such that even the tremendous announcement of the Incarnation could not keep her from thinking of others.  Off she went into the hill country to care for her aging and unexpectedly pregnant cousin, Elizabeth.

Much later on, St. John lets us know that Mary’s personality hasn’t changed.  There is a wedding at Cana, and she is there.  When she notices trouble brewing in the kitchen, she doesn’t engage in chatter and gossip.  She quietly goes directly to Jesus and presents the impending crisis of the young couple and their family.  She turns to the servants and humbly directs them to Jesus:  “Do whatever he tells you.”  And then she recedes into the background while the waters behold their Creator and blush.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary is there, humbly suffering the agony of watching her beloved Son pour out the last drop of his blood for us sinners.  Not a word of complaint escapes her lips.  Later, when she gathers with the infant Church, the Apostles and other disciples in the upper room, she prays with them, but she does not demand attention nor expect special privilege.  She is the model disciple.

Now, in whose home would you be more comfortable as a guest?  The home of Mary, the Mother of Jesus?  Or the home of Mary of Bethany, whose sister Martha, in today’s Gospel, is quite forward about her expectations of her sister?  Martha, attentive to the details, the minutiae of hospitality, does the UNTHINKABLE:  she asks their guest, the Lord Jesus, to get involved in her family squabble with her sister!  Can you imagine how uncomfortable you’d be, going to someone’s house and having them demand that you take sides in a family argument?  But Jesus of course, never loses his cool, with Martha or with us and our fretting and pouting over all sorts of hurts, real or imagined.  “Martha, Martha,” he chides her gently, “you fuss, fuss, fuss, but you miss the most important thing, the one thing really necessary.  Mary has chosen the better part.”  Mary of Bethany, at this point at least, demonstrates humility.  She sits with their guest.  She listens.  The guest is more important than the details.  She exemplifies the faith and hospitality of Abraham, our father in faith about whom we heard in the first reading.

The second reading from the Letter to the Colossians is just a continuation of last week’s second reading.  It doesn’t HAVE to fit in, but it does, beautifully.  That famous verse 24 is for all of us Christians.  The Apostle says, “I make up in my own body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his Body, the Church!”  What, pray tell, could be lacking?  Only our participation in those sufferings, my friends.  We might not have to suffer the agonizing death of crucifixion.  But we shall have plenty of opportunities every day of our lives to live hospitably and humbly, to remember that everyone whom God sends into our lives is a GUEST, even for a few moments.  And that we share with them common ground, humus, the stuff of which we are made.  We both come from it, we’ll both go back to it.  And THERE is how we shed our pride and our arrogance, which can separate us from the common ground which God is so eager for us to share with him and with one another in the Kingdom of heaven.


Homily July 3 2016


Why 72?  Why did Jesus select a further 72 disciples and send them out?  The Gospel says that he sent them to every town and place that he intended to visit.  Let’s see, 72 disciples, they went in pairs – that would make 36 places Jesus was intending to go, on foot, to preach the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  That’s quite an ambitious road trip!  That would be quite a tour even for Lady Gaga, or for the Gaither Family Homecoming Extravaganza.

It could be that Jesus was sending out a symbolic number of disciples with reference to Genesis chapter 10, where the list of all the nations on earth numbers 70 or 72, depending on the language used.  So already the proclamation of the gospel can be seen as something that is for everyone on earth, not just for a chosen few.  Remember, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives the great commission to the Eleven apostles to “Go, teach all nations.”  This fits in very nicely with the invitation from God to all people through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading:  “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her!”  EVERYONE on earth is called and intended by God to be part of his people.  This is not just to get names on the rolls or fill the collection baskets, as some cynics would have us believe.  God wants to give LIFE to all people, not just here, but in his Kingdom, forever; and that ETERNAL life begins here and now for those who hear his call, accept his invitation, and strive to live as his children.

Now remember that Jesus sent the 72 out in pairs – you know, just like the Mormons, only he had the idea about 1900 years earlier!  THAT significance is clear:  no one of us is a Lone Ranger for Christ out there in the world, nor here at worship.  We are Church, we are members of the Body of Christ, we are not baptized just for our own personal salvation because Christ calls us to be formed into his People, with a capital P !  It’s one reason why the Church has for centuries built the greeting of peace into the liturgy just as we’re preparing for Holy Communion.  Sure, we receive Christ individually, but we worship together, we make our preparation together, we come up together, and we leave together.  Those who say they don’t like the greeting of peace because it’s a distraction are perhaps still thinking that the second great commandment, love of neighbor, distracts us from the first, love of God.  That’s the point:  You can’t have one without the other!  So stop wishing that Jesus would just pick ONE and be done with it.  You might as well try to clap with just one hand.

So Jesus the Lord is kind of floating a trial balloon, sending out these disciples.  They come back giddy and babbling like seminarians or novices returning from their first work on the “apostolate,” whatever it might be, recounting things that happened, swapping stories.  How Jesus enjoys their enthusiasm!  How significant that he remarks that even their modest beginnings are a defeat for the evil one!

And what about us?  Our prophetic ministry begins here in church, in the waters of baptism; but it continues out there, when the shoe leather hits the road.  Even the little things we do can be a proclamation of the Good News.  It’s important to show others that Christianity, our Catholic faith, is as normal as the air we breathe.  I’m thrilled when I drive down a country road and see images of the Sacred Heart or of the Blessed Mother enshrined, whether in brick, block, or the buried shell of an old bathtub.  It speaks faith!  I’m delighted when I come to a parishioner’s home here in town and find some symbol of faith on the OUTSIDE of the house as well as our familiar crucifixes and other images on the INSIDE.  It speaks FAITH!  My heart leaps for joy within me when I see fellow diners in a restaurant pausing to make the sign of the cross and pray before and after their meal.  It SPEAKS FAITH!  And I go into a spiritual swoon when I overhear another Catholic patiently and fluently explaining some point of Catholic belief or practice to a friend or acquaintance.  IT SPEAKS FAITH!  All of these are examples of discipleship at work!  The 72 are multiplied hundreds and thousands of times in our wide variety of missionary labors!  Don’t be left out.  You can begin again any time.  Make it today.  Remember, like St. Paul in that second reading, you bear the marks of Jesus on your body.  At least, that’s what it says in the baptismal register.