Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)


Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Shaking Off the Dust of Failure

Amos 7:12-15

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:7-13

A farmer hired a carpenter to help him restore his old farmhouse. The carpenter’s first day on the job was a rough one. He arrived late to work because he had a flat tire, halfway through the work his electric saw broke, and at the end of the workday his old pickup truck refused to start. The farmer had to drive him home. Arriving home, the carpenter invited the farmer in to meet his family. As they walked toward the front door, the carpenter paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. He then opened the door and was beaming with smiles as he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss. Afterward he walked the farmer to the car. As they passed the tree the farmer’s curiosity got the better of him. So he decided to ask the carpenter about what he had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again. Funny thing is when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

Having a trouble tree is the carpenter’s way of dealing with daily failures and problems which can sometimes seem overwhelming. Because problems and failures are a part of life, we all need a trouble tree. That is why Jesus, as he sends out the apostles to evangelize the world around them, thought it wise to provide them with a trouble tree. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). In other words, if you try to teach the people in a particular village and you meet with failure, do not let the failure get you down. Shake off the dust from that village, go to a new village and start again on a fresh page. Shaking off the dust from their feet is their own way of hanging their problems on the trouble tree.

Like the apostles and the wise carpenter we need a trouble tree. Why? Because, to start with, problems and failures are inevitable in the life of anyone who seeks to make a difference. But sometimes we dwell too long on past failures and allow them to rob our lives of enthusiasm and joy. Sometimes we allow the problems and pressures of the workplace to ruin the peace of our family life. In order not to let this happen we need a trouble tree where we can hang and forget our troubles, at least for a while. We need, at the end of the day to be able to shake off the dust of worry and failure from our feet knowing that tomorrow will bring with it a brand new day with brand new opportunities. It’s like baseball. Even if you lost 10-0 in yesterday’s game, today it is a whole new ball game and the scoreboard starts at 0-0.

What happens when we do not have a trouble tree? If we have no way of shaking off the dust of yesterday’s failure from our feet, the dust clings to us and accumulates and weighs us down. The result is depression and despair. We give up. We quit instead of going on to a new village, to a new project. But Jesus does not want us to be quitters. He wants us to be women and men who begin again each new day. New day, new challenges, new opportunities!

As the people of God, today is a good day to thank God for making provision for our failures, our weaknesses, our imperfections. Faithful men and women of God are not those who are perfect and makes no mistakes, they are those who realize their mistakes, acknowledge them, deal with them, put them behind and move on, beginning again each dawning day with a new hope. God in his mercy has provided us with a trouble tree, Christ. He himself carried up our sins in his body to the tree of the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Through the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, we have access to this tree of life. We can also do it through daily prayer when we do as St Peter tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).


Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Predestination and Free Will

Amos 7:12-15

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:7-13

Did you hear the one about a group of theologians who were having a debate on predestination and free will? The group soon broke into two opposing camps, since they could not find a middle ground. There was one man in the group, though, who could not make up his mind on which camp to belong. Finally, he decided to go with the predestination camp. “Who sent you here?” asked the predestination theologians. “Noone sent me,” he replied. “I came of my own free will.” “Free will?” they exclaimed. “You can’t join us! You belong with the other camp!” So he went over to the free will camp. There the free will theologians asked him, “Why did you decide to join us?” The man replied, “Well, I didn’t really decide, I was sent here.” “Sent here!” they shouted. “You can’t join us unless you have decided by your own free will. You belong to the other camp.”

There are people who read today’s 2nd reading from the Letter to the Ephesians and see nothing but predestination. Of course, the passage talks about God who “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” and who “destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). But we must read this not in isolation but in harmony with other biblical teachings regarding human freedom and responsibility for our eternal lot. The problem is not whether the Bible talks about predestination or not but how we understanding this teaching.

In the history of Christian thinking, the teachings on predestination can be classified under two broad types. The first type holds that God creates two types of people, those He has predestined to be saved (the elect) and those whom He has predestined to be damned (the reprobate). According to this understanding, those who are destined to be saved will be saved, and those who are destined to be damned will be damned, no matter what they do or do not do. This version of predestination is known as deterministic predestination.

The problem with deterministic predestination is that it portrays God as arbitrary in the dispensation of saving grace. It contradicts what we read in Acts 10:34-35, “God has no favourites, anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Moreover, it denies the validity of human effort. If God has already decided our eternal lot and there is nothing we can do about it, why then should we strive to do God’s will? Why then would Paul tell us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?” (Philippians 2:12).

Fortunately, there is a second way of understanding predestination which makes room for human freedom and effort. In this version, predestination simply means that God has created everyone who comes into this world for a purpose. God does not bring us into the work and leave it up to us to determine our purpose. We are brought into the world for a purpose and given the gifts of body and mind necessary for achieving that purpose. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). In this understanding, God creates everybody for a good purpose. God created and destined everybody for salvation. God creates only those He has chosen. God did not create anyone for damnation.

God, however, will not force His blessings on us. He loves us too much to do that to us. So God gave us all the power to say yes or no to Him. This is the mystery of human freedom. We can walk in the path God has destined for us. In His will is our peace. But we can also walk away from God and suffer the consequences of loss of God in our lives. And so we make effort to get back on God’s track for us if we have gone astray, or to continue on the track if we are on it. All our effort is nothing but cooperating with God’s grace freely given.

Today’s reading tells us why God chose us and created us. “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). This is also the reason why God created every other person. Becoming a believer does not change the purpose of our creation, it helps us realise it. As today we celebrate with Paul the amazing grace that we enjoy in Christ, let us pray and work that all humankind may come to know Christ and realise the purpose of their creation just as we have done.


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

…..they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Faith healing has gotten a pretty poor reputation in our country at times. The process seems to often be portrayed in a carnival atmosphere. You have a novel/movie like “Elmer Gantry”. You have the “send money and reach out and touch your television set for a healing” approach and you have evangelists whose lives seem to be right out of the pages of magazines you find at grocery store counters such as Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and the air conditioned dog house built with donor’s funds.


Our own scripture speaks of Jesus sending forth his disciples with the power to cure sickness. We hear it today in Mark’s gospel: “…they anointed many with oil who were sick and cured them.” We do this very action in this parish.  A member of the community is going into the hospital for surgery, they come to the altar, the community prays over them and we anoint them with oil.

Scripture today speaks to us about what should be going on within our hearts and souls when we pray for healing as a community.

First “take nothing for the journey”. For us to be a healing community, to be open to the healing power of our God, we must unburden ourselves. It just makes sense. If your focus is on your own burdens, if your life is encumbered by all kinds of “stuff”, how are you to truly open yourself to the needs of another? It’s always interesting, our personal reaction when we are the one facing a serious medical problem. At that moment in time everything which seemed so important (our house, our car, our job, our money, our weight, our complexion, our nose…) become quickly unimportant. On the reverse side, everything which we took for granted (our health, our friends, our family, the air, the sky, the stars…) all become so critical. It is also quite amazing how, once we are healed, how quickly we revert back the other way and let the “stuff” take over again. When we pray for another’s healing, “take nothing for the journey”; empty yourself what you don’t need and let love fill the void.

Next “whatever place does not welcome you…leave (it)”. Healing takes place in the community of believers. Our Lord spoke that wherever two or more gather in His name there is a special power. We are called to be a welcoming place. Why, in our homes, do we take the effort to make things nice – why do we decorate, put out flowers, let in sunshine, answer the door bell, say hello and smile? We want to welcome people and we want them to feel comfortable with us and like us and talk with us. We crave community. Our place of worship should be no different – decorate, put out flowers, let in the light, say hello, smile and hug. Then we have the other way of expressing the thought in today’s scripture: “whatever place welcomes you, stay there…” because you have found a community which will heal you.

“Preach repentance.” In order to heal another, you yourself have to be one with God. Our sins, the things we have done which pull us away from rather than toward our God, are special burdens which inhibit us from truly focusing on another, from truly seeing and feeling the need of another, and from truly opening our hearts in prayer toward them. The phrase “physician, heal thyself” applies here. Sin turns us inward, upon ourselves, trying to hide ourselves from God like Adam and Eve in the garden. Repentance, the honest awareness of our imperfection, turns us outward again and, bang, we once again realize that our loving God is there and had never left our side.

Jesus gives us one simple plan – travel light, go where you are welcomed and heal those in need.

Homily # 2

We’ve all heard the old axiom that religion and politics don’t mix.  Some people will agree with this and some won’t.  I fall into the group that says that, since politics is about our everyday lives, we shouldn’t leave religion in our churches.  To me, a religion that is unwilling to leave the sacristy doesn’t have a whole lot to say about real life.  Such a religion is irrelevant.  Whenever fundamental moral principles are involved, our church must speak out about what our Lord and Savior has to say.

But, what exactly are the political questions which involve fundamental moral concerns?  Is it abortion?  Is it our involvement in Iraq ?  What about nuclear arms?  Is it stem cell research which involves killing an unborn child so someone else might benefit?  As we can see, things can become pretty complex once we take our faith out of our churches and bring them into the marketplace.

Our first reading today introduces us to a religious man who was severely condemned for his involvement in politics.  His name is Amos and the last thing on Earth that he wanted to be was a prophet.  Basically, he was a shepherd and gardener.  He much preferred tending his sheep and vines to telling people that God would have vengeance on them if they didn’t repent and repent quickly.  But, God called him and said, “Go, prophesy”.  And Amos did—did he ever!

Remember that Amos was a man of the country, not highly educated.  The wealthy city folk considered him to be a country bumpkin, a rube, not worthy of hearing.  When Amos entered the city, he was scandalized by what he saw.  And, what did he see?  Well, he saw the wealthy, overfed and living in the lap of luxury, spending their time thinking up new ways to amuse themselves, usually at the expense of the poor.  He saw the poor peasants, burdened by overwhelming debt, being sold into slavery for no other reason than their superiors could do it at a whim.

In addition, Amos saw this glaring injustice compounded in the Temple .  There he found prosperous worshippers rejoicing in their good fortune, which, of course, they interpreted as proof of their good standing in God’s eyes.  The ‘for hire’ priests soothed their ears with sermons okaying their beliefs that they were the ‘best people’, not unlike some of today’s preachers in wealthier parts of town.

So, as one can well imagine, when Amos prophesied against all of these injustices, his words weren’t exactly well-received.  In fact, Amaziah, one of the religious officials told him to get out of town, the faster the better and to never preach there anymore.

Amos’ message had been ‘officially’ rejected.  So, what else is new?  The message of Jesus was also to be rejected hundreds of years later.  In fact, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to shake the dust off their feet against anyone who will not receive you or your message.  In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells His disciples, “Woe to you when people speak well of you”.  By that, Jesus meant that, if you tickle people’s ears with what they want to hear, you are not proclaiming the true gospel.  Rejection of our words about Christ is almost a criterion for us telling the truth.

After all, what could be less popular than telling everyone that they are on the wrong track and that they have to repent in order to go to heaven?  Repentance, by Jesus’ definition, means more than mere regret for our past sins.  True repentance means a paradigm shift—a fundamental change of direction–180°.  Repentance means turning away from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about God”.  It means putting God at the center of our lives and not somewhere out on the fringe.

So, what do we have to turn away from?  Is it consumerism, where we think that we can buy happiness by amassing ‘things’?  Do we have to repent from hedonism, that mindless philosophy that says, “If it feels good, do it”?  What about our selfishness that ignores the less-fortunate?  It’s the attitude that thinks that our obligation to the poor can be met by a few bucks out of our surplus with absolutely no examination of why they are in their situations in the first place.

Maybe we have to repent of the idea that ‘might makes right’ or from thinking that our precious faith is only between me and God.  In the gospel, Jesus speaks about unclean spirits.  What are some of the unclean spirits in our lives besides the ones that I’ve just mentioned?

Repentance doesn’t begin somewhere else.  It begins with you and me, right here and right now.  You know, with elections not too far in the future, maybe we can begin by standing up, not only with our votes but with our words and actions too, to the culture of death all around us.  Maybe we could be the Amos of our times.  Do you think that it could happen?  I do.

Homily # 3

In today’s second reading St. Paul writes, In Him we were chosen.

He was referring to the fact that while Yahweh had chosen the Jewish people and led them from captivity, so too has Jesus Christ chosen His people.  St. Paul continues, In Him we have redemption by His blood, and forgiveness of transgressions in accord with the riches of His grace that he has lavished upon us.

When we read these words spoken some 2000 years ago we may think that they were only meant for the apostles and those who lived in that time.  We may not consider the possibility that they were meant for us here in 2003.

To be chosen indicates love or a definite preference toward some people or some situations.  We choose our friends because we get along with them.  We choose our automobiles or our homes because the please our tastes.  Normally, a woman will spend time and effort in choosing the right house.  This will often exasperate her husband who might say, “It’s a house, four walls, a roof.  What’s the difference?”  Of course if the men here have gone through that experience you have learned to tolerate the time it takes for her to make up her mind   It does make a big difference.

That’s why it is important to consider how God chose us.  I’m not referring to the deep theological meanings of how God chooses the place and timing in which each of us have been born.  It is interesting, however, that when He chose each of us He placed us ere in America.  Yes, we are here because God chose that we be born here.  I think it’s important to consider what that has meant to us.  I believe it’s particularly important that the young people here consider the ramifications of God’s decision.  It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we could have been born in Iraq, in China, in North Korea or in a poverty area of our world.  But we weren’t!  We were truly chosen by our God to live here in the United States.

And what has it meant to us?
Richer neighborhood   (We are probably never hungry, we are never too hot or too cold, we probably have very adequate housing,)
Poorer neighborhood (“No, we are not as rich as some, our dwellings are not as plush as those of others and other people may have more to eat than we do.)

However, we do have more freedom that many other countries.  We all have religious freedom and we live under a form of government in which we do not experience mass graves of people arbitrarily executed by a fanatical leader.

No matter how difficult our circumstances we would probably rather be here than in many other countries because we do not experience the hunger or atrocities forced upon many other people in this world.

Why have we been so blessed?  Because God chose us!!  No matter how much we may complain about our circumstances we know that we could be living in many situations much worse that being here in this church this morning.   As St. Paul writes, “In Him we were also chosen.”

So, how should we react?  If someone chooses to offer us a better job we should be very grateful.  If your parents choose to take you on  wonderful vacation, or buy you an automobile or to educate you in a fine school, you should also be grateful.  As a wife, if your husband brings you a bouquet of beautiful roses you will be very grateful.  Of course, all the husbands here this morning are probably thinking, “Why did he have to bring that up”?  Probably because there are so many things that wives already do for which the men should be grateful.

Getting back to our main theme, however, while God has bestowed many blessings on us He expects that we respond to His generosity.  We read in today’s gospel that He expected much of his apostles.

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts.

Does He want us to go  out into the world as His disciples did?  I don’t think so.

Jesus asked that His apostles serve others and, specifically, to preach to others … to tell the world about the teachings of Jesus Christ. As we consider all that we have been given, the riches, the freedoms, the safety our government provides us, is it not logical that we conclude that we, too, preach the word of Jesus Christ?  We don’t have to leave our homes or our jobs.  We don’t have to give away all that we have and start walking around the country with no food and no money.  No.  What then should we do?  How do we thank our God for all He has given us?

I believe we do thank Him by giving to others what He has given to us… blessings.  We start with our families.  Husbands and wives loving one another, each filling the needs of their partner and, yes, making some sacrifices in time and attention to make sure we are treating them as God has treated us.  That might mean a long  stemmed red rose for your wife or a relaxing retreat, away from the children, for both us you.  For the children, have you thanked your parents for all the wonderful advantages they have provided for you?  Look them right in the eye and tell them you realize how much you have been given and say the words “Thank you.”  Don’t be afraid to add the most important words, “And I love you.”  I believe Jesus wants you to do that.

By living our lives as Jesus has asked us to live them, we are telling every one around us that we appreciate the blessings we have had.  Helping others, even if it’s just a kind word or recognizing them with friendly greetings, is what he asks of us.  If we know of anyone who is having difficulty, ask is we can help.  Didn’t Jesus do that throughout His public life?  Isn’t He asking to “love one another as I have loved you?”  Again, I say to the young people here, “How has He loved you?”  All the necessities and the luxuries, the freedoms and the love you have received has been given because you were born to your mother and father in a country which has more material blessings than any other.

Give some consideration to the fact that you could have been born in Iraq, or China or one of so many countries where you would have none of the material advantages you have.  The greatest gift God has given you is your parents and your brothers and sisters. God only asks that you thank them.

So, as we come to communion, let’s each of us think of what we have been given: redemption, forgiveness and blessings beyond our comprehension. Let us also use this opportunity to say to our God, “Thank you and I will love others as you have loved me.”

Homily # 4
It seems that throughout human history very little changes.  In educational and formation programs in our own times almost every occupational program includes some form of practicum or on-the-job experience.  In the formation programs for deacons and priests a number of practicum experiences are included.  These include hospital ministry, parish ministry, work with an agency of Catholic Charities, etc.  We all know of medical interns and residents and the apprenticeship programs in the trades.  We could go on and on listing such programs.  All are designed to familiarize the individual in preparation with the requirements of the profession and help him or her determine if this is really what they want.  It also allows those responsible for their education to evaluate their qualifications.

Some two thousand years ago we see Jesus doing the same thing with the Apostles.  Two by two they are performing their practicum in ministry.  It is their opportunity to put into practice all that Jesus has been teaching them, to experience first hand how to preach the Kingdom of God on their own.  We know that they returned full of joy and a feeling of accomplishment.

Some might find it strange that Jesus instructed them “to take nothing for the journey.”  Even today with Wal-Mart’s everywhere to buy the things we forgot for our trip it would be a strange command.  But Jesus has two lessons for them and us here.  God will provide for all we need, if we but put our trust in Him.  We need nothing more.  Also, Jesus wants his followers to concentrate totally on the task at hand, namely, preaching the Good News.  That lesson is true for us, that nothing should come before proclaiming Jesus and Him crucified and risen to our world.  Nothing should come between us and the accomplishment of that task.

At our Baptism, we were all anointed with Sacred Chrism in the titles of Christ, priest, prophet and king.  As prophets we are called to proclaim, just as did the Apostles, the Kingdom of God to our sisters and brothers.  Most of us are like Amos the Prophet in the first reading.  We say as he did, “We are no prophet, nor have we ever belonged to a company of prophets.”  Like him we can say that we are mechanics, accountants, teachers, students, farmers and salespersons.  But also like Amos, the Lord calls each one of us and says to us, “GO! PROPHESY TO MY PEOPLE.”

We might respond, “How do I do that?  I’m no preacher.  I don’t have a degree in theology.”  A young monk once asked St. Francis of Assisi that same question.  Francis took the young man with him on his daily rounds of the slums of Assisi, nursing the sick, feeding the hungry, praying with the dying.  At the end of the day the young monk asked Francis just what that taught him about preaching the word of God.  Francis’ reply was, “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.”  We are all prophets and we preach the Gospel in the way we live out our lives as parents, workers, students, retirees and whatever walk of life we live.  The thing to remember is that the command of Jesus is always there for each and every one of us, regardless of age, education or occupation.


Homily # 5

In our Gospel Reading, Saint Mark describes for us one of the key points in Jesus’ life.  Our Lord began his public ministry in Galilee after Saint John the Baptist was arrested.  Also in Galilee, Jesus chose the twelve who would be his coworkers and companions.

The apostles first spent various months with the Lord witnessing his miracles and learning from his preaching.  Then one day, Jesus decided that it was time to send them out on the mission that he had prepared for them.  So he sent them off two by two to the surrounding hills of Galilee.  He gave them power over unclean spirits and told them that they should live simply.  He said that they should be brave and not be disheartened if where they preached the word was not well received.  Jesus told them what they should take along with them even though they had learned, while they lived together with him, not to worry about where their food would come from.

Why did Jesus send his apostles before him when they had always lived with him?  During the time they were together he had prepared them for their mission because he knew that the hour would come when the apostles would begin their task of evangelization by themselves.

We have heard in our Gospel Reading that the first task that Jesus gave to the apostles was to cast out unclean spirits.  We should remember that, even though he cured many who were sick, Jesus’ true mission was not, of itself, to cure physical illnesses.  The Lord’s fundamental mission was to free the world from the domination of Satan and to save humanity from sin.  All of the healing miracles that Christ performed were specific signs of that liberation.  Years afterwards, Saint Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians blessing the name of Jesus.  Saint Paul knows that it was through the Lord that we Christians receive, every spiritual blessing in the heavens.  And the greatest of those blessings is our redemption and the forgiveness of sins

The apostles had learned from the Master.  They had heard him preach.  They knew that he was a different preacher than those they had known before.  Because of this they knew that the power that they had received from Jesus when they accepted their calling flowed from the storehouse of grace that Jesus himself had given to them.  They were ready to act in accordance with what they had learned from him.  In this way they would give glory to God, through their works.  Saint Paul explained to the Ephesians these same sentiments when he said to them, “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory….”

When the apostles went out to accomplish the mission that Jesus had given them, they knew that there would be failures along the way.  They remembered the problems that the Lord had when he preached in Galilee and in his own hometown when he was not accepted nor could he perform miracles because of the lack of faith of the people.  The Lord tells the Twelve that if they are not welcomed and their preaching is not well received, they should shake the dust off their feet in testimony against those who did not want to hear them.

The apostles knew the importance of the mission for which Jesus had prepared them.  They knew that they preached the truth and that if people did not want to listen and chose to continue in their disbelief those who preach were not at fault nor was it the fault of the word they preached.  The fault was in those who refused to believe, in those who did not want to listen.

Every Sunday, and every day, Our Lord invites us to follow him and to show to the world that we are his followers.  It is up to us either to refuse to accept the invitation as the people in Nazareth did or to accept it joyfully and valiantly, as the apostles did.

Homily # 6

Amos 7:12-12
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:7-13

Long before there were labor unions, there were organized groups of workers that saw outsiders as scabs. The guild of prophets at Bethel was one. As the “official” prophets of Israel , they held the union cards. Then along comes Amos, claiming that prophecy is his job–and he wasn’t even an Israelite. Amos protests that he has no idea why he is there. Being a prophet isn’t his idea. He was happily at work back at the farm when God called him.

The apostles were also at work at their trades when Jesus called them. And today they find themselves sent out to do things they have never done before: to heal the sick and cast out demons. “Why me?” any of them might have asked.

Consider this story.

Upon Jesus arrival on heaven, a host of angels greeted him. After the formalities, they asked him whom he had left behind on earth to finish the work he had begun. Jesus replied, “Just a small group of men and women who love me.” “That’s all?” asked the angels, astonished. “What if this tiny group should fail?” Jesus replied, “I have no other plans.”

Jesus knew we would manage to succeed in spite of ourselves, because he has called us.

Why us? Why has God adopted us, of all people, and made us beloved daughters and sons? Trying to explain to Greek Christians in Ephesus , Paul says that from the beginning God wanted to reach out beyond the first people chosen. God wanted to make everyone holy and fill all human hearts with love.

That is still God’s yearning. Our mission is not of our choosing any more than Amos’ decision to be a prophet or the apostles’ lifelong task of spreading the story of Jesus. Touched by the divine love, we are sent to spread it farther if we consent to our call. We may not travel far, but God wants us to help touch all the people who draw near us, even if all we can do is offer a warm smile or an encouraging word.

One way to express our love is in prayer. We remember the people who have touched our lives with love and give thanks for them. We turn to God with our own needs and with the needs of all who suffer sickness or sorrow; for all the victims of violence in our world; for those who carry God’s word as ministers of the church; for all believers, who with us have been called to holiness.

If we answer our call, Jesus’ plan will succeed!

Homily # 7

I suspect that most of us feel inadequate when it comes to spreading the Good News. Many of us are unsure of what to say or how to say it. It may be that we have already been in discussions about our faith with people who don’t believe as we do and we find that they are not receptive to us. It may also be that these people ask questions we can’t answer and this simply reinforces the idea that we can’t do this. I wonder if the disciples of Jesus felt that way. I would hazard a guess that there were some feelings of inadequacy, but that in going out two by two they could support each other.

Yet, in looking at some of the great preachers of our Church there are certain things that come to mind. Paul, for example, struggled with the Greeks trying to find a way to make the Gospel relevant in their lives. And he failed because the Greeks took his teaching as a philosophical discussion and never allowed it to touch their lives. On the other hand, people like Bishop Fulton J. Sheen were able to speak directly to the people because he kept his message simple, direct, and accessible. He avoided theological terms as much as possible, and it was clear that he lived his life by the very teachings he proclaimed.

There is a real power in example. I know that when one raises children it’s easy to tell them what they should or should not do. But what the parents do speaks far louder than their words. Children learn by example, and if what their parents do does not match what they say, the children will discard the words and keep the example. If we consider the various “heroes” and “role models” that people choose, we find that it is something about them that attracts, be it fame or beauty or money.

You and I are called to spread the Good News. We probably have far more training than did these disciples sent out by Jesus. We know more things and have experienced a life of faith far longer than did these simple men. And, yet, there is a difference. They were filled with experience of Jesus living and walking with them. We can be, but I wonder if we are.

Do we recognize Jesus among us? Do we see His face when we look at other people? Do we recognize him in the homeless person, the man with AIDS, the single mother? Do we hear him cry out in the loneliness of old age? Have we seen him in the face of one who is dying in hospice care? Where are we for these brothers and sisters?

We don’t have to go to strange places to spread the Good News. We can begin in our own homes, where we work, shop and play, and, yes, here in Church. Have you ever noticed that our faith is much like church clothes? We put it on when we come to Church, and take it off when we leave. It’s almost as if there were “faith hangers” at the doors so we could leave our faith on a hook where it wouldn’t get soiled or dirty in the “real world.”

Yet isn’t the real world where we most need our faith? Isn’t it there that the problems of making house payments, maintaining the car, buying food, and paying for utilities can be a real difficulty? How many of us, from time to time, have to decide which bills to pay and which to “let ride” until next payday?

Imagine if our faith allowed us to journey through life without food or money, with few possessions, and yet be fully trusting in the Lord to supply our needs. Our faith can, indeed, allow us to do that. And, if we did, what would our example tell those around us? How would they see Jesus living and active in our lives? I think that the preaching of the disciples did not lead people to Jesus so much as did the example of their lives.

There’s a fascinating story about St. Francis of Assisi. One day a priest came to him and said, “Francis, I know you are a great preacher. Would you teach me how to preach the Gospel?” So Francis agreed. They went off to feed the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless, to take some orphans to a home that would care for them. At the end of the day Francis and the priest had cared for over 50 people. The priest said, “Francis, this is all wonderful work, but when are you going to teach me how to preach the Gospel?” Francis replied, “We’ve been preaching the Gospel all day through how we have lived the day. Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.”

I wonder if the example of our lives tells anyone about the Gospel. We don’t need great training in theology, argumentation or philosophy. What we need are simple lives that speak to the Gospel, to a life filled with the Holy Spirit and lived in faith. Instead of keeping up with the economy we need to keep up with Jesus. Instead of filling our houses and lives with material possessions, we need to be filling our hearts with love for our brothers and sisters. Instead of seeking happiness in material goods we need to rejoice in the Lord. Instead of worrying about our retirement we need to be focused on our salvation.

And, of course, we are called to love. Not a selfish love that enhances us, but a real love that makes a decision to serve the other, to seek the best for the other. It is this love that Jesus showed to the world through his death on the cross. It is this love that impelled the disciples to go into the world. We must reflect that kind of love.

Perhaps we feel like Amos – we’re not prophets. We have jobs and families; we have mortgages and credit cards. We may feel inadequate to the task. And yet, like Amos, the Lord sends us to prophesy to His people. Fortunately for us, His people are all around us. All we have to do is live out the Gospel, we have to be what we claim to be. And, nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, we can do that. We can be those prophets, those disciples, those preachers called to spread the Good News of Jesus who is the Christ.

Preaching the Good News is not about doing great things, it’s about doing little things well.

Homily # 8

As we read in today’s gospel, Jesus began the evangelization of the world by sending His apostles, two by two, to begin the process of converting the Jews. In the long run, that effort was not too successful but the efforts of these same apostles would bear great fruit, eventually, among the gentiles throughout the entire Roman Empire.

In a way, Jesus seems to be a tough task-master. Can you imagine a modern executive of a large sales oriented company sending out representatives and saying to them, “Now, I’m not giving you any airline tickets, no expense money, no suitcase and only the clothes on your back. You won’t be able to stay at a hotel so you’ll have to find customers you have never met and ask them to offer you lodging each night.”

As I look around the congregation this morning I see some successful executives and some very successful sales people. I have to ask you a question. Would you apply to fill the job Jesus gave to his apostles? (pause) I see there is no show of hands leaping at the opportunity. It doesn’t really matter because every person here this morning has already agreed to take this job. Isn’t it our responsibility to continue the work of the apostles and continue the evangelization of the world or, at least, others in our immediate circle?

I know. At the mention of evangelization all of us recoil and say to ourselves, “I could never ask a non-Catholic friend to join the Church. I would never go door-to-door to try to convert other people.” Well, I wouldn’t either although some religions who use this strategy have been very successful. That proves there are others who are interested in joining a religion but no one has ever asked them.

Let me ask another question. Would you respond positively if a friend asked you about the possibility of becoming a Catholic? I think the majority, here, would answer, “Well, of course. If someone asked me about my faith I would encourage them to investigate further.”

Isn’t that what it’s all about? How do you encourage others of no faith or of different faiths to recognize the opportunity that Jesus offers to them? Let’s look back at the very beginning of the Church .. back to the days when Paul was preaching in Rome and converting a number of people seeking what Jesus was offering them. What was the most impressive characteristic of the early Christians, one which attracted others to seek more knowledge of Jesus Christ? Many of the Roman citizens were impressed with the Christians and commented, “See, how they love one another!” The fact that we are loving people can be the most powerful evangelization tool we have. Even the Roman writers of that time were impressed. They realized Christians were different. They really were a part of a new religion. That caused problems because religion was outlawed by the Roman leaders.

But that didn’t stop thousands from learning about the teachings of Jesus Christ and joining this new movement even though they put themselves in harm’s way.

Isn’t that the best way we, too, can attract others to join us. The shining light of our faith, the example of living lives obeying the Commandments and of loving our neighbors and those less fortunate than we is the best way to attract others. I don’t believe that grabbing someone but the coat lapels and saying, “If you don’t become a Catholic you’re going to hell.” I think that might be a bit of a “turn off”.

I do think, however, that we often may miss an opportunity to let others know of why we are members of the Catholic faith. What Jesus offers everyone is something that is far more rewarding than many of the products we see pitched on television every night.

For those who keep His Commandments, He offers a life that seems to be much happier and more fruitful than living a life of selfishness, of self gratification and a life which does not consider sharing with others a real virtue. We could call to mind many examples of men and women who have been powerful, wealthy or famous but got little respect from their fellow man. I can think of a few in our present society that would fill that bill very easily and that’s not a play on words when I use the word “bill”. (Using that line is optional.) But the legacy of Jesus Christ has lasted for 2000 years and will continue to be here until the end of our world. That’s very impressive!

Listen to the words of Paul in today’s second reading.

We have “been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. … In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

Ours is a faith worth sharing with everyone. Not only does Jesus promise blessings here on earth but also goes far beyond what anyone can imagine by offering us eternal life in Heaven. In a world full of promises that never seem to be authentic the prospect of happiness here and of life eternal with God should be very attractive.

So, I don’t recommend we get on a soap box and preach to all the guests at the next cocktail party we attend and remind them of the hell and damnation that may await them. I don’t recommend going from door to door. But I do recommend that we seriously consider what God has given us and that we not be afraid to voice His invitation when talking with others. We discuss our latest stock tips, we offer others our favorite recipe or show them our latest golf swing but none of those concepts can rival His promise to everyone.

As Jesus sent out His apostles He also sends us out each day to spread His good news. So, I believe we should have no trouble saying to others, in a nice way and if it comes up in the normal course of conversation, “I guess the most important thing in my life is my faith in God and my love for Jesus Christ. It has given me happiness, peace and I’m convinced it is the basis on which our family will stay together and continue to love one another as He has loved us.” (Use any appropriate quotation or your own expression of what Jesus has done for you.)

Hey … it worked for the apostles!


Word Alive

You are Christ’s hands


July 10, 2009, 5:45pm

Three friends who had not seen each other after high school graduation met in a class reunion and were engaged in a spirited conversation.

“In our town,” said the first, “people call me ‘Monsignor’ because I am a part-time lay minister.”
* * *

The second said: “Well, I’m now a businessman but I’m an active charismatic elder. I even give spiritual talks so everybody calls me ‘Cardinal’.”

The third classmate, who was silent, had his turn to speak: “Well, I’m a sales representative but I help in church as collector at Mass. Many call me ‘God.’”
* * *

“What, God? How come!” his flabbergasted friends said. “You see, when I knock at the door of my customers,” the sales rep said. “They see me and always exclaim, “My God, my God, you again!”

That funny story might well illustrate the fact that there are, indeed, many lay professionals nowadays who are involved in the work of the Church – not as God, of course.
* * *

Some years ago I celebrated the culminating Mass of a two-day outreach project of the Loved Flock charismatic community at the DPWH chapel, Port Area, Manila.

It was a retreat-seminar participated in by a cross section of teenagers, elders, the masa and government office personnel, many of whom had not gone to confession and communion for years.
* * *

What I considered remarkable about the religious event is that there are generous people who, forgetting their personal needs and comforts, still make time to reach out to people who’re spiritually in need. They don’t just pray and sanctify themselves, but share their three Ts – time, treasure, talent.
* * *

They have understood the Christian calling which the gospel of this 15th Sunday teaches: “Jesus summone the twelve and began sending them out” (Mk 6:7).

Unfortunately many have the idea that the call of Christ to evangelize is addressed only to the apostles and their successors: Bishops, priests and religious. That’s not true. Every Christian is commissioned to a ministry of love and justice by virtue of his/her baptism.
* * *
Listen to these words of the Vatican II Decree on the Laity: “Incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself” (3).
* * *
So whether you are an accountant, a lawyer, clerk, doctor, musician, an executive, a teacher or a laborer you are sent out to “preach, teach, heal and witness to the Good News” by good example and Christian living.
* * *

Towards the end of the Second World War, the German army was retreating and the allied forces entered a badly battered Italian village. Some entered the village church. They saw the statue of the Sacred Heart toppled down from its pedestal and was broken to a thousand pieces.
* * *

To boost the morale of the people, a Catholic soldier reconstructed the statue. Piece by piece he pasted it together with the exception of the two hands, which were so damaged they could not be reconstructed.

In their place, the soldier who truly understood his faith, made a plaque (caratola) on which he inscribed the following words: “You are the hands of Christ.”
* * *

The plaque is there which tells us graphically what it means to be a Christian.

Physically Christ is no longer with us. But His work of evangelization goes on. And it goes on – in and through us. For you and I are the “hands of Christ.”

Our journey

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:11:00 07/12/2009
THE STORY is told about a child who comes crying to his mother and says: “Mama, my playmates tell me I’m ugly.”

The mother looks at the face of her child, embraces him and says: “My child, no matter what they say, just remember that beauty is in the inside, so, just stay inside, OK?”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 6, 7-13) Jesus summons His disciples and sends them to go out to spread the good news and proclaim the Kingdom of God. Jesus reminds us today that what is beautiful and good inside us must be shared outside us, in spite of deprivation, opposition and even persecution. Have you stopped sharing what is beautiful within you? Do you still spread the sweet fragrance of grace in your life, or do you spread the foul odor of sin and lies?

* * *

We who serve or claim to serve the Lord and his people would do well to listen to the Lord’s instructions and marching orders for effective and efficacious ministry. How do we go about our journey for God? First, we must keep in mind that the journey is for the Lord who calls and empowers us. As long as we know and accept that we are just instruments (unworthy ones at that), then, we will stay humble and will not fall into the trap of playing God. Ours is a journey, a journey for and with God.

* * *

Second, we are called to serve as a team. Jesus sent out His disciples “two by two.” There is no one person who has the monopoly to serve or to lead. No one is indispensable in God’s eyes. Those who see themselves as indispensable should look hard, and look again. Hello! The world was turning before we came into this world, and the world will keep on turning long after we’re gone. So forget about becoming a superstar in God’s team. Only He is the superstar.

* * *

Third, we are to travel light. We must not be burdened inside-out, otherwise, we will get trapped, ineffective and experience burnout. In other words, we must learn to sacrifice. We must learn the single biggest lesson in life—to let go, and to let God. If we have not learned this lesson in life, then we have learned nothing at all. The journey may be difficult, but it is light if we do not allow worldly concerns and aspirations to burden us.

* * *

Last Wednesday, I officiated a Mass at Greenbelt Chapel offered especially for President Cory Aquino, and for our beloved country. How many of us will ever have the privilege of being prayed for by so many people, especially for a longer life? On the other hand, there are people whom others are praying for as well—that they be gone, soon. Think about it: Are there people praying that you live a long life, or are there people who wish or wouldn’t mind if you were gone? The answer to this question depends on the kind of life you are living.

* * *

In the same Mass, I mentioned in my homily what my brother Manong Oscar, President Cory’s former executive secretary, pointed out as the 4H of President Cory, which should be emulated by all future presidents, namely, honesty, humility, hard work, and holiness of life. All of us Filipinos would do well to take the path that Cory has shown us by her very life. Sixteen-year-old blind girl Fatima Soriano reminded us in that Mass that President Cory, even in sickness, continued to offer, not only her prayers, but also her sufferings for our country. Let us all pray for President Cory who prayed so much and offered so much for all of us.

* * *

I hope it will not take moments or a lifetime for us to realize that our journey in life is not about the miles but is about the love and the care we left behind, and that the journey is not about going far but about going to the heart.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind us that life is a journey for you and with you. Amen.


Word Alive

You’re The Hand Of Christ


July 13, 2012, 5:44pm

MANILA, Philippines – Three friends, who had not seen each other after high school graduation, met in a class reunion and were engaged in a spirited conversation. “In our town,” said the first, “people call me ‘Monsignor’ because I am a part-time lay minister.”

The second said: “Well, I’m now a businessman but I’m an active charismatic elder. I give spiritual talks so everybody calls me ‘Cardinal.’”

* * *

The third classmate, who was quietly listening, had his turn to speak: “Well, I’m a sales representative but I help in church as collector at Mass. Many call me ‘God.’”

“What, God? How come!” his puzzled friends said. “You see, when I knock at the door of my customers,” the sales representative said, “and they see me, they exclaim, “My God, my God, you again!”

That funny story might well illustrate the fact that today there are many lay people who are involved in the work of the Church.

* * *

Some years ago, I celebrated the culminating Mass of a two-day outreach project of the Loved Flock charismatic community at the DPWH chapel, Port Area, Manila.

What I consider remarkable about the religious activity is that, there were generous lay professionals who, forgetting their personal needs, took time out to reach out to people who needed spiritual renewal. They did not only pray, but shared their three Ts – time, treasure, talent.

They have understood the Christian calling which the gospel of this 15th SUNDAY relates: “Jesus summoned the twelve and began sending them out” (Mk 6:7).

* * *

ALL BAPTIZED ARE APOSTLES. Unfortunately many still have the idea that the call of Christ to evangelize is addressed only to the apostles and their successors: bishops, priests, and religious. That’s not true. Every Christian is commissioned to a ministry of love and justice by virtue of his/her baptism.

The Vatican II Decree on Laity says clearly: “Incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, the laity are ASSIGNED to the apostolate by the Lord Himself” (3).

* * *

So whether you are a lawyer, clerk, doctor, an executive, a teacher, or a laborer, you are sent out; share yourself in the Church’s work. If that’s not possible due to time constraint, you can do it by the testimony of Christian living.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the German army was retreating and the Allied forces entered a badly battered Italian village.

* * *

When some soldiers entered the village church, they saw the statue of the Sacred Heart toppled down from its pedestal broken into a thousand pieces. To boost the morale of the people, one Catholic soldier reconstructed the statue. Piece by piece he pasted the parts together with the exception of the two hands. They were so pulverized that they were beyond repair.

* * *

In place of the hands, the Catholic soldier who truly understood his faith, made a plaque (caratola) on which he inscribed the following words: “You are the hands of Christ.” The plaque tells us graphically what it means to be a Catholic.

Physically, Christ is no longer with us. But his work of evangelization goes on. And it goes on – in and THROUGH us. For you and I are the “hands of Christ.”


MAGPASAYA! MAGPALIGAYA! : Reflection for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – July 15, 2012

Tatlong magkakaibigang pari ang masayang nag-uusap at pinagkukwentuhan nila ang kanilang mga tatanga-tangang sakristan. Sabi ng isa: “Naku, kung patangahan lang ng sakristan eh wala ng tatalo sa sakristan ko! Gusto n’yo ng sample?” Tinawag niya ang sakristan at sinabi “Manong, ito ang isandaang piso, Ibili mo ako ng kotse ha? Gusto ko yung sports car na kulay pula!” Agad-agad namang sumunod ito. Nagtawanan sila at di naman nagpatalo ang isa. Tinawag din ang kanyang sakristan at inutusan. “Iho, ito ang sampung piso. Pumunta ka nga sa Hongkong at ibili mo ako ng masarap na Hongkong fried noodles!” Agad-agad ding tumalima ito. Tawanan na naman ang tatlo ngunit biglang yabang na sinabi ng pangatlong pari: “Ano ba yang mga sakristan niyo? Hindi nag-iisip? Tingnan n’yo itong sakristan ko at sabay tawag sa kanya. “Iho, pumunta ka nga sa labas at tingnan mo kung naroroon ako!” Tumalikod ang sakristan at natigilan. Sa wakas mayroon isang nag-iisip and sa loob-loob nila. “Padre”, sabi niya, “may ipapasabi ba kayo sa inyong sarili?” Malakas na tawanan ang sumunod. Ang hindi alam ng tatlong pari ay nagkitakita pala sa labas ang tatlo nilang sakristan. Sabi ng isa: “Ang tanga-tanga talaga ng pari namin. Biruin mo, binigyan ako ng isandaan piso para bumuli ng kotseng sports car? Eh ni manibela di kasya ito!” “Ay mas tanga, ang pari namin, binigyan ako ng isandaan piso para pumunta sa Hongkong eh Divisoria lang eh kulang ito sa pagbalik!” “Ay wala yan sa pari namin, pinapahanap ba naman ang sarili niya sa labas eh magkausap kami!” hehehe. Datirati, ang mga pari ang “hari” at ang utos nila ay ang dapat masusunod, makatwiran man ito o hindi. Ang laiko, mga karaniwang Kristiyano, ay parang hindi nag-iisip na sunod-sunuran lamang . Kasi nga naman, kapag binanggit ang salitang alagad ng Diyos, agad-agad ang nasaisip ng tao ay ang mga paring nangangaral sa pulpito ng simbahan. Parang sila lang ang may tungkulin at karapatang ipahayag ang Mabuting Balita ni Kristo. Ngunit taliwas ito sa kalooban at plano ng Diyos. Ang pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita ng kaligtasan ay misyon na hindi lamang iniatang sa mga pari. Sa pamamagitan ng Sakramento ng Binyag, ang lahat ng Kristiyano ay nagkararoon ng misyong maging tagapagdala ng Ebanghelyo. Paano ito isinasagawa ng isang laiko. Bukod sa gawaing pangangaral, na kakaunti lamang ang napagkalooban ng ganitong kakayahan, ang bawat isa ay tinatawag na mangaral sa pamamagitan ng pagiging tapat na saksi ng kanilang buhay Kristiyano. Sa papaanong paraan? Ito ang turo ng Simbahan: “… ang kanilang MABUTING GAWA, ay may kapangyarihang makaakit ng tao upang maniwala at mapalapit sa Diyos.” (Vatican II Decree on the Laity, 6) Kaya nga’t ano man ang katayuan mo sa buhay, bata ka man o matanda, may kaya man o wala, nakatalaga man sa Diyos o hindi, ang paggawa ng mabuti ay dapat isapuso ng bawat isa. Matuto tayong magpasaya ng ating kapwa. Nagiging makabuluhan ang ating buhay kung nakapagbibigay tayo ng kaligayahan sa iba. Para tayong mga kandila na may katuturan lamang kung nasisindihan at nakapagbibigay ng liwanag! Nakapagbigay ka na ba ng liwanag ng kasiyahan sa iyong pamilya? Baka naman sanhi ka pa ng di pagkakasundo o kaguluhan sa kanila? Nakapagbibigay ka ba ng liwanag ng kapayapaan sa iyong trabaho o paaralan? Baka naman sa iyo nagmumula ang inggitan at alitan? Ito ang ibig sabihin ng pagiging alagad ni Kristo: ang maging kamay ng pag-ibig ng Diyos para ibang tao.

PAHABOL: Ngayon din pala ang libing ng Hari ng Komedya. Maraming salamat Mang Dolphy sa maraming taon ng pagpapatawa at pagpapaligaya! isinabuhay mo ang pagiging “Kiliti-ng-Diyos” sa maraming taong iyong napasaya. Mabuhay ka! Long live comedy!


See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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