Saturday, February 18, 2017


Homily for February 26th, 2017: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
         Isaiah 49:14-15; Matthew 6:24-34.
AIM: To show that God=s providential care is experienced most by those who live with generous trust in him.   
AZion said, >The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.=@ Those were the opening words of our first reading. Have you ever felt like that? You pray, and the Lord seems to answer with silence. In that first reading the whole of God=s people ask whether God cares. In one of the most beautiful verses of Scripture, God answers their plaintive question. ACan a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she should forget, I will not forget you.@
Scripture portrays God as our father many times over. God=s loving care for us includes qualities usually regarded as masculine: strength, power, sternness in discipline, and generosity in reward. But God is more than a father. Here he speaks as a mother. His concern for us includes qualities we think of as feminine: gentleness, tenderness, and warm, protective love.
Jesus continues this theme in the gospel. God=s tender concern for us, his children, exceeds that of the best father and mother combined, Jesus says. He knows our needs before we do, even as a good mother senses in advance the needs of her baby. Even nature shows God=s loving care for everything he has created, Jesus tells us. Look at God=s handiwork in the flowers, his care for the birds. Do you suppose for one minute, Jesus is asking, that you are of less value than these? If so, you have little idea of your true worth in the eyes of your heavenly Father.
AStop worrying,@ Jesus says. ADo not be anxious.@ Is he telling us not to work and plan for the future? Of course not. The people to whom Jesus was speaking in today=s gospel lived hard lives. They had to work longer hours than almost any of us. Moreover, they lived close to nature. When they heard Jesus speaking about the wild flowers, and the birds, they understood. They knew that there are few creatures who work as hard for their living as the average sparrow, flying back and forth innumerable times to build a nest; foraging for worms and other food, and then flying back to the nest to feed its young.
What do you worry about? Some people worry about basic necessities. In our rich and comfortable society others worry not about necessities but about luxuries. They think they must have everything bigger and better. They want to Amake it big.@ Some die of heart attacks in the attempt. Others burn out on their way up and never have time to enjoy the fruit of all their worry and toil. 
Has your job or your career become an end in itself? Do you ever take time to relax, to be with your loved ones, to enjoy God=s beautiful world, to read a good book, listen to some fine music B to pray? If not, don=t you think it=s time you started B before you burn out, or burn up?
ANo one can serve two masters,@ Jesus says. AYou cannot serve God and mammon.@ Mammon is money and possessions. Money is a wonderful servant. It enables us to do so much good: for the people and causes we love, to help those in need, to satisfy our own needs. But money is a terrible master. Are you being mastered by what you have, or would like to have? If so, you are not rich B no matter how much you have accumulated. You are poor.
If that is your problem, then start today to put God first in your life. For instance, instead of giving to Church and charities the loose change left over after you have taken care of your necessities and as many luxuries as you think you can afford, how about deciding to give God and his poor the first share of your income B a truly grateful, generous share?
When you do that, you are making a faith-decision. You are trusting that what is left over after giving God Ahis@ share will be enough for you and your loved ones. People who make that faith-decision discover that what Jesus says in today=s gospel is literally true: AYour heavenly Father knows all that you need.@

Lent starts on Wednesday. Here’s a suggestion. Why not think and pray seriously about putting the Lord first in your life – yes, and in your budget as well. I decided to do that over sixty years ago. It has brought me so many blessings – yes, financial ones as well – that frankly, I can’t afford to stop.

Some years ago I submitted a sample of my handwriting to a graphologist for analysis. One passage in his report interested me especially: “You are not particularly thrifty; your plans for conservation and use of money may be somewhat haphazard. But you are certainly not worrying about money, for your debt frustration is one of the lowest I have ever seen.” I smiled broadly when I read that. I knew the reason. God had the first claim on whatever money I received from any source. I found that what was left over for me was always enough, and more than enough.   

Once you begin to put God first in your life, in all areas of life B including the one so important to most of us today, money B you are fulfilling Jesus= command in today=s gospel: ASeek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.@ When you start doing that, you make a wonderful discovery. All the things you previously spent so much time fretting and worrying about are taken care of. And you make another beautiful discovery: God can never be outdone in generosity.

ASeek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.@ That is Jesus Christ=s personal promise to you. And when Jesus Christ promises something, he always keeps his promise. 

Friday, February 17, 2017


Homily for February 18th, 2017: Mark 9:2-13

          Few incidents in the gospels are so difficult to speak about as the one we celebrate today. The Transfiguration is a mystery. Not that we can understand nothing about it; but that we can understand will always be less than the whole. The gospel writers use symbols to describe the mystery. Today we have time to speak only about one: the cloud. 

         Repeatedly in Holy Scripture the cloud symbolizes God’s presence. During their desert wanderings God’s people were led onward by a cloud. Mt. Sinai was enveloped in a cloud when Moses received the Ten Commandments. A cloud received the risen Lord at his Ascension.  

          The voice from the cloud repeats the words heard at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests.” Here, however, the words are addressed not to Jesus, but to his disciples. The concluding words, “Listen to him,”  remind us of Moses’ prophecy: “The Lord your God will raise up a prophet from among you like myself, and you shall listen to him” (Dt. 18:15).

          The Transfiguration is a mystery because it opens a window onto a world beyond this one. For a brief moment, the veil between time and eternity, between earth and heaven, is lifted. Jesus’ friends catch a glimpse of the invisible, spiritual world of God. The concluding words, “Listen to him,” express the significance of the mystery for Jesus’ friends, ourselves included. 

          We, the friends and followers of Jesus Christ, are the company of those who listen to his words. Jesus does not grant to us, any more than he granted to Peter, James, and John, the continuous vision of his glory. We live not on the mountaintop of great spiritual experiences, but in the valley of life’s ordinary duties. There we do not look for dazzling visions from beyond. Instead we listen for Jesus’ voice.

          Jesus speaks to us in many ways: in the Scriptures, in the teaching of his Church, through the circumstances of daily life. He speaks to us in the promptings of conscience, and in the needs of those whom we encounter along life’s way.

          For a moment, before the descent of the cloud, the three friends of Jesus see their friend and Master transformed beyond anything they could have imagined. The Transfiguration is a manifestation of Christ’s divinity, from a moment breaking through the veil of his humanity.

          Today the Lord God is still speaking to us the words first heard by those three friends of Jesus on the mountain two thousand years ago:

          “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Homily for February 17th, 2017: Mark 8:34-9:1

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. Let me give you two examples of people who are denying themselves for Jesus’ sake and that of the Gospel..

The first is a mother with three children, all under six. Their needs keep her busy all day and well into the night. “Sometimes I’d just like to close the door on them and walk away,” she says. “But of course I can’t,” she adds. And she doesn’t. That mother is losing her life for Christ’s sake—for Him who tells us in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “Inasmuch as you do it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me.” In serving the needs of her three little ones, she finds a life filled with joy – the special joy that young children bring to a mother who, with her husband, has given these little ones the gift of life.

My second example is taken from the life I know best: that of priests. There are two kinds of priests: the sheets-to-alb priest, who lies abed as long as he can and reaches the sacristy just in time to throw on his vestments before he goes to the altar. And there is another kind of priest. He is up early, an hour at least before Mass, so that he can spend time waiting in silence on the Lord before he ascends the altar steps. Which of these two do you suppose finds priesthood a rat race? And which of the two finds priesthood a life filled with joy? Clearly it is the one who rises early. He is like the busy mother with her three little ones. Like her, he is losing his life for Christ’s sake. And like her, he finds life: a life so filled with joy that he would not trade it for anything.

What is comes down to is this. There are two kinds of people: takers, and givers. Which are you? If you choose to be a taker, I can promise you one thing. You’ll never get enough. It is the givers who experience a measure of joy that only the Lord God can give.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Homily for Feb. 19th, 2017: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18.
AIM: To help the hearers share with others the forgiveness God lavishes on us.   

          Do you have an enemy? Someone who stands in your way; someone who refuses to understand you; who has cruelly misjudged you; who is convincing others that you are a bad person, when you know you are only trying to do your best? Is there someone who has inflicted terrible injustice on you – or on someone you dearly love – at work, at school, in your family? If you have enemies – indeed, if you have only one enemy – then today’s first reading, and the gospel we have just heard, are for you.   
          How should we treat enemies? There is a cynical answer to that question: “Don’t get mad, get even!” Which of us has never experienced the desire for revenge? Today’s readings tell us something terribly hard for us to accept. “Take no revenge,” our first reading tells us. “Offer no resistance to one who is evil,” Jesus says in the gospel.
          How, we ask, can Jesus demand something so difficult? Because revenge merely escalates the level of level of hatred and the desire for further revenge. We see this in the history of the last century. World War I began in 1914, just over a century ago. It left 20 million dead. Because there no reconciliation when it ended in November 1918, it was followed twenty-one years later by World War II, which cost 80 million lives.
          When we seek vengeance nobody wins. Instead everybody loses. Certainly your enemy loses when you seek revenge. Ah, you say, but isn’t that just the point of taking revenge: to inflict pain and loss on the one who has wronged me? True. But no matter how much your enemy loses through your vengeance, he will never lose the one thing he most needs to lose: his enmity. The more you try to pay him back, the greater his enmity is likely to become.
          When you seek revenge, you also lose. You allow yourself to be dragged down to your enemy’s level. You become like him: a person of anger, bitterness, and hate. Instead of conquering your enemy’s evil, you allow yourself to be conquered by it.
          Is there an alternative? There is, and Jesus gives it to us when he says: “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”
          Suppose, instead of cursing your enemy, you were to pray for him. Suppose, rather than seeking revenge, you were to extend forgiveness. Prayer and forgiveness are the way to heap coals of fire on your enemy’s head, to melt him down from an opponent to a penitent. When you repay enmity not with evil but with good, you are burning away enmity and evil with the fire of love.
          That is the way God treats enemies. We make ourselves God’s enemies each time each time we choose our own selfish desires rather than his holy will – which alone can bring us true happiness, though we often find it difficult to believe that.
          St. Paul tells us that “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8, New English Bible). Long before that, Jesus had been rejected by the pious, “religious” people of his day for fraternizing with his enemies. “This man welcomes sinners,” they complained, “and eats with them (Luke 15:2).
          Isn’t this what Jesus is doing right now, around this altar? He is welcoming us, who have failed him so often; who will continue to fail him; who have denied or betrayed him in a hundred ways: secretly, half-secretly, openly, even brazenly. Despite all these things, and to show us that he loves us with a love that will never let us go, he invites us to his holy table, where he feeds us with his own body and blood.
          When Jesus does this, he heaps coals of fire on our heads: not the fire of vengeance but the fire of love, to burn away our betrayals and to warm our hearts so that we can begin to love him with at least a pale reflection of his fiercely burning love for us.
          And to love not just him: to love one another. That is what the Lord is asking us to do in today’s readings: to share with others the forgiveness and love he lavishes of us, despite all our betrayals of his love. Today’s responsorial psalm reminds us of the gifts we are called to share:
          He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills,
          He redeems your life from destruction,
             crowns you with kindness and compassion.
          Merciful and gracious is the Lord,
            slow to anger and abounding in kindness. (Psalm 103:3-4, 8)

          In trying to share those wholly unmerited gifts with others, especially with those who have done nothing to deserve our sharing because they are our enemies, we are fulfilling Jesus’ demand in the gospel. We are proving ourselves daughters and sons of our heavenly Father, who bestows his life-giving sunshine and rain on bad and good alike. By trying to imitate him who loves his enemies into submission – who will never stop loving us, no matter how unfaithful we are to him – we are being made perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect.


Homily for February 16th, 2017: Mark 8:27-33.

          At his first Mass in March 2013 with the cardinals who elected him, Pope Francis spoke about the gospel reading we have just heard. Here is what he said:

          "The same Peter who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: 'You are the     what he said:
Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross.’

         “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but we’re not disciples of the Lord. I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.”

All of us must walk, at one time or another, through what Psalm 23 calls the valley of the shadow of death, when the clouds of doubt and discouragement seem to shut out the sunshine of God’s love. When we wonder why that should be so, why we cannot have a religion of Easter only, without Good Friday, we need to remember: Jesus could not have that. Neither can we. Take the cross out of our faith, and you have ripped the heart out of it. Good Friday and Easter belong together. Behind the cross of Good Friday, we must see the open portal of the empty tomb. And through that open portal of Easter morning, we must always see the cross, where Jesus offered all for us, even life itself.
That is where all the great lessons of life are learned: at the foot of the cross.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Homily for Feb. 15th, 2017: Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22.

Our first reading today, from the eighth chapter of the book Genesis, tells how Noah and those with him in the Ark, experienced the close of the great flood. This gives me an opportunity to tell you about something that landed in my e-mail in-box many years ago. It was entitled:

“Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah's Ark.

ONE: Don't miss the boat.

TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

FOUR: Stay fit. When you're 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

FIVE: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

SIX: Build your future on high ground.

SEVEN: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

EIGHT: Speed isn't always an advantage. There were snails were on the ark, as well as greyhounds.

NINE: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

TEN: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Homily for February 14th, 2017: Mark 8:14-21

          In yesterday’s gospel reading we heard Jesus’ critics demanding a “sign,” something so dramatic that it would compel belief. Jesus had already given many signs: his miracles of healing. He rejected the demand for further signs because he knew that belief cannot be compelled. His words today, “Guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” are a commentary on his confrontation with the pious critics who were not content with the signs Jesus had already given, and demanded more. “Leaven” is a figure of speech for something with an inward, vigorous vitality. Here it refers to an evil force that can spread, like an infection. Jesus is telling his disciples not to succumb to the hard-hearted mentality of his critics.

          This goes completely over his disciples’ heads. They are in a boat and have started to cross the lake. They discover that they have brought only one loaf of bread with them. They think that Jesus’ words about leaven must have something to do with the bread. As so often in the gospels, Jesus’ disciples are thinking on the material level (in this case about bread and leaven), while Jesus is on the spiritual level.

Aware of their misunderstanding at once, Jesus asks: “Why do you conclude that is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend?” Don’t you remember how I fed a vast crowd in the wilderness with just a few loaves of bread – not just once but twice? Why, then, are you worrying about not having enough to eat? “Do you still not understand?”

What is it that Jesus’ friends do not understand? That he is able to look after them; and that he has ways of doing so which they cannot possibly imagine or understand. We pray in this Mass for the faith which they lacked. Here is an evangelical hymn which beautifully expresses this prayer.

Cast your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace.

Through death into life everlasting / He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more has dominion - For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you - He promised; believe Him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world full of darkness, His perfect salvation to tell.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Homily for February 13th, 2017: Mark 8:11-13.

          “The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” The words show the hostility of Jesus’ critics. They argue with him. They put him to the test. They hope that he will fail the test, and thus lose popular support.

          Jesus has already given numerous signs: his healing miracles. For his critics, however, these are insufficient. They demand a sign so dramatic that it will compel belief. Jesus refuses their demand. Why? Because he knows that belief cannot be compelled, any more than love can be compelled. The greatest sign of all – the empty tomb -- was still in the future at the time of this confrontation. When it came, Jesus’ critics had a perfectly plausible explanation: persons unknown, possibly Jesus’ own friends, had moved his body. The only person who came to belief on the basis of the empty tomb alone was the man always referred to in the gospel which bears his name as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”: the apostle John. All the other friends of Jesus came to belief in the resurrection only after seeing the risen Lord – and most of them were initially skeptical.

          Signs are given to people who already believe, never to people who demand proof as a condition of belief. One of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies is about this: Othello. A rough military man, Othello’s life is transformed when he meets the woman who will become his wife, Desdemona. She brings love into his life, but also beauty, tenderness, and light.

          All is well until Othello’s lieutenant Iago, for reasons which literary critics are still disputing, suggests to Othello that the wife he passionately loves is unfaithful him. Whereupon Othello demands that Desdemona prove she has not betrayed him. But you can’t prove a negative. As long as Othello loved and trusted the wife whose love had lit up his life, he received constant proofs of her love. Once he withdrew that trust and demanded proof, no proof was sufficient. A love, once beautiful, dies; and at the end of the play Desdemona herself dies at the hand of her now estranged husband: a tragedy indeed.

          You want signs that prove the Lord’s love for you? Proofs that Jesus, while completely human like us, is truly the divine Son of God? Then give yourself to him in faith and love, and you will receive signs which prove both these things. But demand proofs before you believe, and like Jesus’ critics, you will go away empty-handed.