Friday, January 29, 2016


Homily for January 30th, 2016: 2 Samuel 12:1-7a, 10-17.

          We heard yesterday about David’s grave sin. A good man, a man of great courage, but also a man of deep compassion for the old king Saul, who both admired David and deeply envied him, David has grown soft. He sends others out to fight for him, while remaining in his splendid palace in Jerusalem. There he has an affair with Bathsheba, wife of the Gentile soldier Uriah, who is fighting in David’s army. When he learns that Bathsheba is pregnant, he tries to cover his tracks by summoning Uriah from the front and encouraging him to sleep with his wife, so that when Bathsheba’s child is born, all will assume that Uriah is the father.

When Uriah says he cannot sleep with his wife while his comrades are risking their lives in battle, David is desperate. He sends Uriah back to the front with a sealed letter ordering his arranged death in battle. David breathes easier, thinking he has had a narrow escape from disaster. The chapter describing all this ends with the verse: “But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.”

          He had every reason to be displeased. David’s adultery with Bathsheba was a sin of passion. His order for her husband to be killed was cold, calculated murder.

          At this point the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to David. Rather than rebuking the king openly, which would put him on the defensive, Nathan tells him the heart rending story we have just heard, about a rich man with great flocks of sheep, and a poor man with nothing but a ewe lamb to which he is so attached that he keeps the animal with him always, like a dearly loved pet.  When a guest visits the rich man, he is not willing to sacrifice even one sheep from his vast flock, but instead steals the poor man’s lamb to satisfy the duty of hospitality for a visitor. David is outraged. “The man who has done this merits death!” he declares.

          With those words David is convicted out of his own mouth. “You are the man!” Nathan tells David. Moreover what he has done will have consequences, Nathan says. Struck to the heart – for despite his grave double sin he remains a good man – David confesses: “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan assures him of God’s forgiveness. This will remove the guilt of David’s sin -- but it does not remove its the consequences. The first consequence is the death of the child David has sinfully fathered. We shall learn next week that there are other consequences as well.


Thursday, January 28, 2016


Homily for January 29th, 2016: 2 Samuel 11:1-41, 5-10a,13-17.

          “David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel. David, however remained in Jerusalem.” How often had he taken the field against Israel’s enemies, and emerged victorious. Now, however,David has gone soft. He prefers to let others do the fighting for him. It proves his undoing.

          Rising from his afternoon nap, David goes out onto the roof terrace to take the sun and air. In a walled pool, but from that height clearly visible, he sees a young woman bathing. She is beautiful. Summoning a servant, he asks who that is. “That’s Bathsheba, Sir,” the young man tells him, “the wife of the Hittite Uriah, who’s off fighting for you.”

          “Shall I?” David thinks. “Uriah will never know: oh, just this once.” David is powerful now. He can have whatever he wants. He sends for Bathsheba. She comes, and David fulfills his desire.

          “That’s the end of it,” David thinks. Some weeks later, however, Bathsheba sends word that she is pregnant. “I must act fast,” David thinks. He sends orders to have Uriah return to Jerusalem to report on the siege of David’s enemies. Upon Uriah’s arrival David debriefs him, gives him a good dinner, and sends him home to his wife. “That’ll do it,” David thinks. When the baby is born, Uriah will assume that the child is his.

          At breakfast the next morning, the servants report that they’ve had an unexpected overnight visitor. “Who was that?” David asks. When they tell him it was Uriah, David knows he’s in trouble --  big trouble. When Uriah comes to take his leave, David asks him why he has not slept at home. “My companions are sleeping in the open, Sir” Uriah replies. “How can I sleep with my wife when they are daily risking their lives for you?”

          David has Uriah stay the rest of that day, gives him an even more lavish dinner at which the wine flows freely, and again sends him home to his wife. Learning the next morning that Uriah has once more bedded down with the servants, David sends him back to the army carrying a sealed letter ordering Uriah’s arranged death in battle.

          In coming days we shall learn the consequences of David’s crime. For now we note three things. First, David’s adultery was a sin of passion. Uriah’s arranged death was far worse: cold, calculated murder. Second, Uriah was a Gentile. He did not have the Ten Commandments. Yet he was on a far higher moral level than David, who enjoyed all the benefits of the Jewish law. Third and finally, all this happened because David had let himself go soft. Temptation to sin is lifelong. To withstand temptation we must remain faithful in self-discipline, good works and above all in daily prayer.e did not hve the Ten Commandments. Yet

.. et he wa.., who hd all the benefits of the Jewish law. . … …. Once we let up, we’re lost

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Homily for January 28th, 2016: Mark 4: 21-25.

          The short sayings which Mark gives us in today’s gospel immediately follow the parable of the sower and the seed, which we heard yesterday. Much of the seed the farmer in that story sows never comes to fruition. The parable describes the Church’s work in every generation. Despite the failure of so many of our efforts, some of the seed we sow falls on good ground, puts down roots, and produces not only an abundant harvest, but a super-abundant one. Jesus told the story as an antidote to discouragement.  

          In today’s brief reading Jesus continues to speak about the good news of the gospel. It is like light, he says, set on a stand at the entrance to a house for all who enter to see. Jesus is telling us that the light of God’s truth is given to us, like all God’s gifts, to be shared. If we don’t share the Lord’s gifts, we lose them. We can’t keep them unless we give them away.

          How do we share the light of God’s truth? We do so first of all and always by the way we live. St. Francis of Assisi used to say: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” People must be able to see that we live by higher standards than those of the world around us, with its emphasis on getting rather than giving; and on repaying injuries according to the slogan, ‘Don’t get mad, get even!’

          Jesus’ final saying seems terribly unfair: “To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Jesus is saying that if we truly walk by the light of God’s truth, sharing that light with others – at least by the way we live, when necessary and possible with words as well – we shall receive more light. But if we keep the light of God’s truth for ourselves, we shall gradually lose that light until we find ourselves walking in darkness.

          Remembering how the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ friends at the first Pentecost in the bright light of fiery flames, we pray in this Mass: “Lord, send us your Holy Spirit. Help us to be messengers of your Spirit’s light to others.”


Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Homily for January 27th, 2016: Mark 4:1-20.

          Jesus’ favorite form of teaching was through stories. We call them parables. Most of them are so simple that they can be understood even by children; yet so profound that scholars are still writing books about them. The parable of the sower and his seed occurs in three of the four gospels. At the most basic level, the story is encouragement in the face of failure. It is Jesus’ answer to the rising tide of opposition which his teaching and ministry provoked. Most of the seed which the farmer sows is wasted. Despite this waste, the story promises a “hundredfold” harvest. A modern commentator writes: “A 20-to-1 ratio would have been considered an extraordinary harvest. Jesus’ strikingly large figures are intended to underscore the prodigious quality of God’s glorious kingdom still to come.”

          Today’s gospel reading gives the story another interpretation. By speaking about the different kinds of soil on which the farmer’s seed falls, Jesus directs our attention to our role in the harvest. It comes from God, yes. But it requires our cooperation.

          The different kinds of soil symbolize the many kinds of people who heard Jesus’ message: in his lifetime, and still today. “Those on the path are the ones who have heard,” Jesus says, “but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved.” There are people like that in every parish, the world over.  

So also for those on rocky ground. They receive Jesus’ words with joy. But they have no root, so in times of temptation, they fall away. The seed falling among thorns represent people unable to bring any fruit to fruition, because they are so busy with other things: anxiety, and the pursuit of the false gods of pleasure, possessions, power, and honor.  

The super-abundant harvest of which the story speaks comes only for those who internalize Jesus’ words, praying over them, and making them the foundation of their lives. In response, then, we pray: “Take hold of me, Lord. Help me to know that you are always with me; that I can find happiness only by fulfilling the purpose for which you fashioned me in my mother’s womb: to praise, serve, and glorify you here on earth; and so to be happy with you forever in heaven. Amen.”

Monday, January 25, 2016


Homily for January 26th, 2016: Mark 3: 31-35.
          “The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house,” we heard at the start of today’s gospel. His brothers? The Church has always believed and taught that Jesus had no siblings. His mother Mary had only one child; which is why she is called “ever virgin.” Why, some people ask? Others ask, what difference does it make? It makes all the difference. Here’s why.
          Having given herself completely to God, when she told the angel Gabriel, “I am the servant of the Lord – be it done to me as you say,” it was impossible that Mary could give herself completely to a human husband. That is why Mary is “ever virgin.” The Greek word used by Mark and translated “brothers” was used in biblical times to designate not only siblings, but other relatives as well.
          More significant are the words Jesus directs to those sitting with him in the house: “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus widens his family circle to include all those who try to do his will – ourselves included.
          That too, friends, is part of the gospel. That is the good news.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Homily for January 25th, 2016: Acts of the Apostles 22: 3-16.

          “Why are you persecuting me?” the voice from heaven asks the zealous defender of his Jewish faith, Saul, as he approaches Damascus. He is armed with letters from the religious authorities in Jerusalem authorizing him to track down and arrest members of this heretical sect who follow and worship a mere man, Jesus of Nazareth.

“Persecuting me?” Persecuting “my Church,” we could understand. But“me”? The words that Paul heard from heaven that day are the origin of his teaching that the Church is Christ’s body. What does that mean? Simply this. Since his return to his Father’s right hand in heaven, Jesus has no body on earth but ours. We are hands, arms, feet, eyes, ears, and voice for Jesus Christ. What a tremendous responsibility! But a tremendous opportunity a well.

Paul’s conversion is yet another of the Lord’s surprises. Which of us would have chosen an arch persecutor of the Church to be the first great missionary of the gospel to those outside the Jewish world in which Jesus was born, nourished and died?

Unlike Jesus’ other apostles, Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ deeds and teaching. There is no evidence that Paul ever saw Jesus. In time, however, Paul became convinced that he had seen the risen Lord there outside Damascus. Here is what Paul writes in his first Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.

“I handed on to you first of all what I myself received, that Christ died for us in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day; that he was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the Twelve. After that he was seen by five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Next he was seen by James; then by all the apostles. Last of all he was seen by me, as one born out of the normal course.” And then, remembering the man he had been before he saw the risen Lord, Paul adds: “I am the least of the apostles; in fact, because I persecuted the church of God, I am not worthy of the name. But by God’s grace, I am what I am.” (verses 3-10)

As we celebrate Paul’s conversion today, we pray that like him, we too may give ourselves completely to the Lord. And we pray too that one day we may hear the Lord speaking to us tenderly, and with great love: “Well one, good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy.”