OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
To Whom Shall We Go?
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18
There is a popular faith revival chorus that goes: “I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back! No turning back!” Critical thinkers find it hard to understand why anyone in their right senses would commit their entire future when one does not even know what new ideas and facts would emerge tomorrow to challenge ones present beliefs. But faith, understood as a total commitment and surrender of one’s life to God differs from faith, understood as intellectual assent to doctrinal statements. One may have problems with certain church teachings and at the same time maintain a firm commitment to Christ and his church.
In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is a Jewish dairy farmer, living with his wife and five daughters in Russia. It is a time of change and revolution, especially in the relationship between the sexes. First, one of his daughters announces that she and a young tailor have pledged themselves to each other, even though Tevye had already promised her to the village butcher. Initially Tevye will not hear of his daughter’s plans, but he finally has an argument with himself and decides to give in to the young lovers’ wishes. A second daughter also chooses a husband for herself, an idealist revolutionary. Tevye is disappointed but after another argument with himself, he again concedes to the changing times. Then Tevye’s third daughter falls in love with a young Gentile. This violates Tevye’s deepest religious convictions. Once again, he has an argument with himself. He knows that his daughter is deeply in love, and he does not want her to be unhappy. Still, he cannot betray his deepest religious convictions. “How can I turn my back on my faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand…” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!”
Critical thinking thrives on the ability to examine the two sides of an argument: “on the one hand…, but on the other hand….” Today’s gospel reminds us not to carry this relativizing thinking too far. In matters of faith, we come to a point where we discover, like Tevye, that there is no other hand, no other option to consider, no other way. There is simply the right way and the wrong way. This is what we see in the response of Peter and the Twelve to the crisis of faith that visited the followers of Jesus in today’s gospel story.
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ … Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:60, 66). Jesus was teaching his followers the doctrine of the Eucharist, namely, that he would continue his presence among them in the form of bread and wine. His followers could not make sense out of this. Does he think they are cannibals who eat human flesh and witches who drink human blood? Failure to understand Jesus’ teaching plunges his followers into a crisis and many of them respond by turning back from following Jesus. Now only Jesus’ most intimate followers, the Twelve, remain. Jesus turns to them and asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter answers for the group, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (verses 67-69).
What is the difference between Peter and the Twelve who stick with Jesus and the other followers who turn back? Peter and his men did not understand the doctrine any more than the others did. They probably had as much a problem with the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood as those who left. The critical difference lay in Peter’s understanding that difficulty with a particular teaching of Jesus is not enough grounds to give up following him altogether. The other followers probably thought of Jesus as one way among so many, therefore, if you disagreed with his teaching you shop around for another one whose teachings you agree with. Peter, on the contrary, saw Jesus as the way, the unique messenger of God. He saw that it was better to follow Jesus even without intellectual enlightenment than to go out in search of intellectual enlightenment and lose Jesus.
Too many Christians today follow the footsteps of the disciples who left because they did not agree with some teaching or the other. We know that faith seeks understanding but there in no guarantee that faith will always find the understanding it seeks. Today’s gospel, therefore, is an invitation to put faith before and above understanding as Peter and the Twelve did, not to put understanding before and over faith like the unfaithful followers who left.
Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Wives, Be Subject to Your Husbands, and Vice Versa
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18
When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Britain, the press was as much interested in her husband, Denis Thatcher, as they were in her. One day, as the Thatchers were moving into the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, a reporter asked Mr Thatcher, “Who wears the pants in this house?” Mr Thatcher’s prompt answer was, “I do, and I also wash and iron them.”
The advice in today’s second reading for women to be subject to their husbands is often quoted out of context. Insensitive men cite it with approval to support exploiting their wives and turning them into foot mats. Angry women cite it with disapproval to show that the Christian religion regards and treats women as second class citizens. When the advice is understood in its proper context, however, we see that these one-sided views of the teaching on marriage in Ephesians are indeed caricatures of the true teaching. There are three reasons for this.
First, the injunction for women to be subject to their husbands is predicated against a more inclusive teaching for husband and wife to be mutually submissive to each other. The first and general exhortation, which every other advice in the passage tries to explain and apply, is found at the beginning of the passage. “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Two things are important here. (1) The submissiveness between husband and wife is reciprocal. The wife is to submit to the husband just as the husband is to submit to the wife. An Igbo proverb says that two dogs can play only by the one falling for the other and the other falling for the one. (2) The submissiveness envisaged here is not a submissiveness borne out of weakness or fear but “out of reverence for Christ.” The service that husband and wife give to each other is an expression of their faith in Christ. Marriage, like priesthood or religious life, is a vocation. It is a God-given mission. When husbands and wife take on the challenges of marriage, the challenge to be a pillar of support to each other as well as to the children God gives them, they are serving the Lord.
Secondly, the injunction for wives to be subject to their husbands is given on the assumption that the husband is a man of faith, who loves and cares for his wife in the spirit of Christ. People are afraid to submit themselves to those who are likely to abuse and exploit them. A man of God, who loves and takes care of his wife would be the last person on earth to abuse or exploit her. The assumption of faith and love on the part of the man is crucial. A man who has neither faith in God nor love for his wife has no right to demand that his wife submit to him. A man has to earn his wife’s submissiveness by his own total submission to the Lord and love of his wife. It is not a right. It is a blessing and a privilege of faith.
Finally, in the world of the New Testament, a woman was treated as the husband’s property. This is equally true in the three dominant cultures of the New Testament: Jewish, Greek and Roman. Given the view of marriage in the cultures of that time, the teaching in Ephesians stands out as an oasis or order and sanity in a desert of marital chaos. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are enjoined to submit to their husbands, but husbands are enjoined to love and spend themselves for their wives, to the point of dying for her, as Jesus did for the church. The demand of the sacrament of matrimony is equally radical on both partners.
Today, marriage is in crisis. So also is the Christian family. Many celebrities of our time are either people who chose to be unmarried, people are many times divorced and remarried, or people who advocate same-sex marriage. Our prayer today is for Christ to enlighten and strengthen his church to uphold the sanctity of marriage and promote the Christian family as the ideal environment for man, woman and child to live out their faith in the perfect harmony of love.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Homily # 1
One Sunday at a California mental hospital a resident was walking out of the building toward the main gate. A breathless attendant caught up with him.
“Mr. Harrison, where are you going?”
“I was told,” replied Harrison , “that I could go to the church of my choice, and that is in New York .”
Choices do present difficulties.
There is a popular faith revival chorus that goes, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back!” critical thinkers find it hard to understand why anyone in their right mind would commit their entire future when one does not even know what new ideas and factors would emerge tomorrow to challenge ones present beliefs. But faith understood as a total commitment of one’s life to God does not altogether depend on the specifics of one’s doctrinal beliefs. One may have problems with certain church teachings and at the same time maintain a firm commitment to Christ and his church.
Critical thinking thrives on the ability to examine the two sides of an argument: “on the one hand, but on the other hand..” Today’s gospel reminds us not to carry this method of thinking to far. In matters of faith commitment to God, we come to the point where we discover, that there is no other option to consider, no other way. There is simply the right way and the wrong way. This is what we see in the response of Peter and the Twelve to the crisis of faith that visited the followers of Jesus in today’s gospel story.
Jesus was teaching his followers the doctrine of the Eucharist, namely, that he would continue his presence among them in the form of bread and wine. His followers could not make sense out of this. Does he think they are cannibals who eat human flesh and witches who drink human blood? Failure to understand Jesus’ teachings plunges his followers into a crisis and many of them respond by turning back from following Jesus. Now only Jesus’ most intimate followers, the Twelve, remain. Jesus turn to them and asks, “do you also wish to go away?” Peter answers in the name of the group, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”
What is the difference between Peter and the Twelve who stick with Jesus and the other followers who turn back? Peter and his men did not understand the doctrine any more than the others did. They probably had as much a problem with the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood as those who left. The critical difference lay in Peter’s understanding that difficulty with a particular teaching of Jesus is not enough grounds to give up following him altogether. The other followers probably thought of Jesus as one way among many, therefore, if you disagree with his teaching you shop around for another one whose message you agree with. Peter, on the contrary, saw Jesus as the way, the unique messenger of God.
He saw that it was better to follow Jesus even without intellectual enlightenment than to go out in search of intellectual enlightenment and lose Jesus.
Too many Christians today follow the footsteps of the disciples who left because they did not agree with some teaching or another. We know that faith seeks understanding but there is no guarantee that faith will always find the understanding it seeks. Today’s gospel, therefore, is an invitation to put faith before and above understanding as Peter and the Twelve did, not to put understanding before faith like the unfaithful disciples and followers.
In today’s gospel Jesus is asking, “ARE YOU WITH ME OR NOT?”
Jesus also suggests that faith is a “gift.” If that’s the case, how are we “responsible” for choosing it? That’s puzzling.
Most of us “inherited” our faith from mom and dad. We’re cradle Christians. In that sense, we can easily see our faith as a gift, bequeathed to us. But at some point, we have to make a personal choice to really own that gift. So, we can’t, even if we’ve been life-long Christians, avoid Jesus’ question in today’s gospel: “Do you also wish to go away?”
Homily # 2
Jos 24:1-2, 15-17, 18
Eph 5: 21-32
Jn 6: 60-69
Lord, to whom shall we turn? When there was great doubt among the followers of Jesus over his teaching that Jesus was the Bread of Life – “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you shall not have eternal life” – many of his followers began to leave him. When Jesus turned to the twelve and asked “Do you want to leave me too?” Simon Peter said “Lord to whom shall we go?”
We too must exclaim, Lord to whom shall we go? For us to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, (receive Holy Communion) we must be free of serious sin. Today, many Catholics because they fail to keep holy the Sabbath are failing to recognize they are committing serious sin, or in knowing it; still do not attend mass every Sunday.
In a recent Pastoral Letter to the Catholic people of the Archdiocese of Omaha Archbishop Curtiss wrote that God formalized in the Ten Commandments “Keep Holy the Sabbath”. This was to be a day of worship, prayer and rest from ordinary activities. This pattern of weekly worship and resting in the Lord which has been observed for centuries has been undermined in recent decades.
In our first reading the people of Joshua’s time promised to follow the Lord, but in time, their resistance to the world around them was gradually worn down – many times by small decisions regarded as “no big deal”, and many of them fell by the wayside.
Archbishop Curtiss reminded his readers that our secular culture, like the air that we breathe, is all around us, taken for granted and we are often oblivious to its effects. Sunday has become like any other day or worse – for many it has become the day to catch up on what was not accomplished in the previous six days. If Sunday is filled with work and shopping how can we still maintain a viable relationship with God, our loved ones and our neighbors? More importantly, how cane we be at peace with ourselves?
God has given us the Day of the Lord not only to worship him, but also to give us a day of rest. The Holy Father urges us to reclaim Sunday as God’s gift to us. The Holy Father in a recent encyclical (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) locates the Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus at the center of he Sunday celebration. Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event, it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people.
God loves us as individuals but we are called a people of God – that’s a community and for the presence of God to be properly proclaimed and lived, it is not enough for us to pray as individuals and proclaim Christ inwardly as in the secrecy of our hearts, but as members of the Mystical Body, to come together as an assembly and proclaim the passion death and resurrection of Christ. We gather to share the Eucharist, the center of our Catholic lives.
Sunday Eucharist is both a privilege and an obligation and that obligation extends also to our neighbors, for without one another we worship as individuals – we need one another. So when we are not present for Sunday Eucharist (or the Saturday vigil) we not only commit serious sin against the Third Commandment we also fail to support the baptized community.
When possible we should come to worship as a family; husband and wife, children if there are any and even extended family – to attend mass together , to pray together, to celebrate as a family … a family among the many families of our community. We ought to extend that to other activities … to eat together, to play together, to celebrate the Lord’s Day together … for in that unity we will grow closer to each other and God.
One of the most common intercessions one hears at any mass or prayerful gathering is to ask the Lord for more vocations to the priesthood and vowed religious life. Jesus promised to never leave us orphans, but ARE WE creating our own shortage? Look around us; even in crowded churches a large majority of the parishioners are NOT PRESENT each Sunday. Why have three priest in a parish and have six weekend masses, when all who do attend regularly would only fill the pews of two or three masses … the other masses are just providing more convenient times, they are not really necessary. Is Jesus saying to us … “I’m providing what you really need … come EVERY Sunday … I’ll provide more vocations … more priest? It’s a thought to ponder. As we fail to gather each Sunday our faith is weakened, our spiritual priorities are undermined and we grow tepid in our love of Jesus and one another. Just the opposite happens when we attend Mass every Sunday, we grow in our love of Jesus and one another. The obligation to attend mass fades and the knowledge of the privilege to attend grows.
When we attend Mass every Sunday the sacredness of Sunday grows in our awareness. Shopping will become less desirable, we’ll plan shopping on the other six days that the stores are open 24 hours, we won’t have a need to shop on Sunday…more other folks will be able to spend Sunday with their families. We’ll have more time for other members of our family … we might even find ourselves sharing two or three meals on Sundays – meals in our own homes where we can truly enjoy the presence of one another.
Let us take back Sundays … so that Sundays will once again become the Lord’s Day … a time we worship as family, we play as family, we rest as family – we BECOME FAMILY. Sunday the day we celebrate all that
God has given us, a day we celebrate and cherish with gratitude and joy … the day that becomes a wonderful opportunity to encounter the living Christ and through him, the Father of Life.
Homily # 3
The most significant event in the history of the salvation of the human race was the covenant that God made with his people. It is through this covenant that each member of the People of God reaffirms his or her promise to be faithful to God and to serve him. At the same time God reaffirms his fidelity and his promise to protect his people, as long as they remain faithful.
Abraham made the covenant with God for the first time in the history of humanity. During the generations that followed, the People of God continued to renew this covenant with God. When the tribes of Israel reached the Promised Land, Joshua gathered them together and told them that the most important moment of their long pilgrimage was about to occur. He told them that before they took possession of this land, they would have to decide whether to follow the pagan gods of their ancestors, and of those who inhabited the land they would live in, or the true God. Then he told them, “As for me, my family and I will serve the Lord.” And the people responded as one, “Far from us to abandon the Lord to serve other Gods! … we will also serve the Lord, because he is our God”.
In the Gospel Reading, Saint John tells us about an important moment in the lives of the Apostles. Jesus said to those who were gathered about him, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” These words surprised many of those who were gathered there. They thought that these words were hard to understand, incomprehensible. They could not believe what they had heard. Their faith in Christ, in what he said, was not sufficiently strong. And some of them decided not to follow him anymore. It could be that they did not know the Lord long enough or, maybe, they did not know him well. The reality is that when it came to believing and following Christ, they decided not to do so. On the other hand, Peter, and the other apostles, knew the Lord better and had been with him longer. Their faith was probably greater. They probably did not understand what Jesus had said but in contrast to the others who left, they stayed and decided to follow him.
The Lord reads thoughts, in those times and, also, today. That is why he knew that among his followers there were some who criticized him and did not accept what he said. He knew that many would leave him when they heard his words. Jesus saw that the apostles also had doubts about what he had just said. He wanted to hear, from their own lips, what they were thinking. The Lord asked them, “Do you also want to leave me?” Peter, spontaneously, as always, and with faith and love in Christ, said, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life….” With these words, Peter responded for himself and for the other apostles. The Lord was surely pleased. The apostles knew that if they left Christ they would stop hearing his life-giving words. They had already come to know that Jesus was someone special and that they could not leave him because, without him, they would be lost.
Many times we also have gone through moments of doubt and crisis in our lives and, maybe, in our faith. At these times, like the apostles, we have to ask, “To whom can we go?” What should be clear in our minds is that Jesus is the only one who can help us to resolve our problems. Let us remember that Our Lord abides here, in this church building, in the Blessed Sacrament, and that he is waiting for us to ask for his help.
Jesus always exhorts us, as he did to his apostles, to follow him and to believe in his teachings. When we ask for his help we should have faith in him. If we do not, then how can he help us? Let us remember the words of Saint Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
Homily # 4
On the whole, people can be divided into 2 groups-those who welcome a challenge and those who don’t. From my experience, people avoid challenges because of the risks involved. God has been offering challenges to His people (us) since the Garden of Eden.
Basically, God’s challenge to us is this. Are you going to follow me or not? Are you truly committed to me or not? Do we have a ‘personal’ relationship-a relationship based on trust-no ifs ands or buts-no strings attached? God asks only 1 thing of us-unconditional commitment to Him. We are not to “keep our options open” when it comes to following Him.
Many people from all ages have found this message of Jesus too hard to take-too unrealistic, if you will. After all, God’s teachings about chastity and fidelity and meekness and forgiveness, etc. are all concepts that sound real nice, but they just aren’t very practical in our society today, are they? And so, people leave God and His church. For some, they have found a different god-a god more to their liking-a god more like themselves. You know, the god of materialism or the god of power or the god divorce and remarriage without an annulment. Whatever the reason is that they left God’s true church, the church that Jesus personally set up for us, they still left. So, when Jesus asks them, “Will you, too, go away”? Their answer is “yes”.
All of us have met people-some very nice and some not so nice-who have left the church. We also know people who still are members of the Catholic Church who, basically, are Catholics in name only. The question to these people ought to be, “Why are you still here”? For some, the answer is, “I was born a Catholic”? For others, the answer might be, “I meet a lot of business contacts after Mass” or “It keeps peace in the family”, etc. So, when people ask you, “Why are you a Catholic”, how do you answer them? I hope that your answers are a whole lot better than the ones I just mentioned.
As most of you know, I gave up a lot to become a Catholic. Losing most of my practice, family and so-called friends wasn’t much fun. I suppose, if someone pushed me, I could try to offer up some lofty philosophical or theological reason about why I became a Catholic. However, I think that our life experiences are the reasons why most of us either join the church or stay in it.
We’ve seen God work in our lives or the lives of other people too often to leave Him. We are part of a heritage of true believers that goes back to the beginning of time. We’re part of a heritage of sinners who became great saints. We’re part of a heritage of people, just like you and me, who faithfully do our best to try to follow Christ. We try to raise our kids right. We give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. We go to Mass. And, down deep, we really believe in God and His message of love and hope for us.
Let me give you an example or two about who I resonate with in the church. One of my favorite saints is St. Catherine of Siena. Although, because of her brilliance, she was declared to be a doctor of the church, she was one of the most practical people who ever walked the Earth.
One day, one of her nuns asked St. Catherine, “How can I pay God back for all of His goodness to me? How can I give back to God some glory for all of His compassion, mercy and generosity”? St. Catherine answered, “It won’t do you any good to do any more penances. It won’t do you much good to build a great cathedral. It won’t do much good to add more quiet time in prayer. But, I’ll tell you something you can do to really pay God back for the love He gives you. Find someone as unlovable as yourself and give that person the kind of love that God has given you”. Don’t you just love it?!! How good is it to stand in her heritage? She, and people like her, are one reason why I’m a Catholic.
When I look to the future, I’m inspired by what I see for our church. Young people, on the whole, are turning their backs on the hedonistic ideas of the 60s. They’re sick and tired about so much divorce. They see the emptiness of casual sexual encounters and working only for the almighty buck. They realize that the “this-is-all-there-is” philosophy is really the work of Satan.
20 years ago, who would have ever thought that millions and millions of young people would flock to see an old man with Parkinson’s Disease everywhere he goes? They realize their need for God-and our beloved pope delivers this message-straight up-wherever he goes. This truly baffles the ‘sophisticates’ of our time. The people in Hollywood who make the movies and TV shows just don’t get it and it’s sad-very sad.
So, all of us who have remained faithful to God, who haven’t left His church because of hard sayings or troubled times, you too are part of God’s heritage. You are faithful witnesses to God. You are a reason why I am a Catholic. And, don’t be fooled. Young people are noticing your peace and joy. They’re beginning to see that we’re on to something great-something eternally great!
When people ask you, “Why do you stay in the church”?, tell them, “What!, and leave all of these great people?–Not on you life”. Like St. Peter, people like yourselves have shown me that Jesus, and only Jesus, has the words of eternal life.
Homily # 5
The word was out, the new superintendent of schools said that for at least the high school level, two hours of homework each evening would be the expectation for next year.
The editorial in the local newspaper the following Sunday, listed the proposed teen’s day as; rush to school, school ends, rush to extracurricular activity or sports, home at 6 or 6:30, dinner at 7, talk to family and help clear the dishes, ready to do home work at 8:00, shower or leisure time to 11:00 fall in bed to sleep and start over the next morning.
High achievement doesn’t just happen. Education is all about expectations, the editorial went on to say.
What was not said, was that the expectations were not hard to understand; the question was would the students submit for the sake of improvement?
In today’s first reading Joshua had it figured out. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We will submit. Even the people who evidently having second thoughts, reflected on what the Lord had done for them and said, “us too.”
In the gospel, Jesus had just completed His discourse on the Eucharist and the fact that he is the very life of God come down from heaven and no one can live this life or eternal life with out him. They must submit and eat his flesh and drink his blood.
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” The Greek word in this gospel is skleros which means not hard to understand but hard to accept. The people from old had understood the bread of life and the importance of blood and the symbolism being presented. What was hard to accept was submitting to Jesus and the height to which Jesus was raising the moral bar–moral standards. Surrender and change your life to reach the highest levels of morality. “Do you also want to leave?”
Jesus in effect says, I am essential to your life- the very bread of your life. This is a truth that cannot be denied in the heart of the believer. How we react to this is at the heart of today’s gospel.
First, we could defect–Turn and walk away as many did in the gospel today. They knew Jesus was headed for big trouble if he kept challenging the authorities. So fair weather followers left him.
Second, we can let life wear us down. We can try to face life, forgetting the true bread of life and try to do it without him, knowing full well he is the answer and in a lukewarm way we can use the bread of life as an insurance policy for when we get into trouble.
The third choice is to confess as Peter did and in determination base your life on your personal relationship with the bread of life–Jesus.
The truth is you and I have chosen the bread of life. The further truth is it is not enough. Our flesh chooses but it is the Spirit of God that allows us to achieve the joy of the relationship—.We too must constantly submit to the power of the Holy Spirit– We must constantly accept in a world that tells us we make our decisions, we determine how we live , we choose and face the consequences —we must not accept that we are in totoal control. We must open ourselves up to Christ by giving that over to the Holy Spirit and listen for his prompting–our flesh is free to make the choices or we can submit to God and be really happy–that “is hard” that “is shocking” at least to the flesh.
The prompting of the Spirit comes to us in the Word- the scriptures, the teachings and the tradition of the church, through the sacraments and in our personal prayer life–be still and know that I am God–submit. “Do you also want to leave?”
You and I do everything we can to make our flesh happy– good relationships, nice home, car, vacation, retirement account. Yet we never quite get the happiness that we seek unless we do what God wants us to do. “Do you also want to leave?”
Need examples? Check out the Mother of Jesus, the saints. Want someone closer? Check out the most loving married couple you know, as today’s’ second reading suggests– husbands who love their wives as Jesus loves us the church. With a love as big as his unselfish love. We are asked to love all people the same way , is that skleros?–to hard to accept? “Do you also want to leave?”
As the students of the high schools in that district were being challenged to a higher level of excellence we too are challenged by today’s gospel to a higher level of relationship with Jesus and others. The really great thing is, we can’t do it, but he who is spirit and life can do it in us, if only we submit to the joy that is in the total acceptance of God in our lives. Skleros easy to understand, but hard to accept, to submit to.
Homily # 6
On several sundays of the year, there is a single common theme running thru all 3 of the readings. Today is an example. The theme of Josuah, of the letter to the Ephesians, and of St. John’s Gospel is fidelity, faithfulness, keeping a promise one has made, a word one has given.
Here is the setting for the 1st reading, from the book of Josuah. After the hebrews escaped from slavery in Egypt, Moses led them for 40 years wandering through the desert, searching for the promised land. Moses never got to see that land of milk and honey. He died on the last stage of the journey. The great warrior Joshua was chosen to succeed him. Josuah fought & won the last of the battles against the enemies of the hebrews, then led his people into the promised land–the country roughly equivalent to today’s Palestine. Each of the 12 tribes was assigned an area which they were to settle and cultivate.
Before they disperse to their new homeland, Josuah gathers them together. He reminds them of how they enjoyed God’s protection in their long journey, tells them that from now on they will be surrounded by pagan nations, and says to them “decide today if you will or will not serve the lord who saved you so many times. Decide today whether you will follow him & be faithful to him, or whether you will follow the gods of the pagan nations.” Their answer was “he is the one who saved us. Therefore we will serve him.” They promised fidelity to the lord.
In the second reading, St.Paul counsels the fidelity of husbands to their wives. “Husbands, love your wives as you love your own bodies.” Fidelity in marriage is graphically shown by the wedding ring, an unbroken circle that promises unbroken faithfulness of the spouses. And by the way, that is one reason why it makes sense for both husband and wife to have a wedding ring. Fidelity is not simply the province of the wife.
In the gospel,Jesus has just spoken some hard things to his followers. First, he told them that the torah–the sacred body of jewish law and literature, is going to be replaced by the living word of Jesus. That was hard for the Pharisees to accept, because they had been taught that the Torah was unchangeable. But then comes an even harder statement: “If you will have eternal life, eat my flesh and drink my blood.” His unspoken question to the disciples is this: “i have cured your sick and raised your dead to life and taught you the truth in the synagogues. Will you now remain faithful to me, or will you leave me because I have tested you? The answer, apparently by all except the 12 was: “how can anyone take this seriously.” And they walk no more with him. They have rejected the fidelity he asked for. Only the 12 remained faithful.
When we hear the word fidelity we are apt to think about the faithfulness of spouses to one another. But the concept of fidelity is much broader than that. Fidelity is present when I pay my bills, when I keep my promises. Your son shows fidelity when he takes out the garbage because he promised he would. Your daughter shows fidelity when she returns from a date on time because you asked her to. I am faithful when I keep an important promise like observing the terms of a will, or when I simply come on time for an appointment.
Unfaithfulness, breaking one’s promise always brings sadness. I remember a long time ago when I broke a promise to my dad. I thought it was a simple thing. I promised to stay home and do some work on the yard, but went fishing instead. I won’t ever never forget his anger & his disappointment when he found out what I did. He wasn’t angry that the work wasn’t done; I could do that another time. He was angry because I was not faithful to my promise. The anguish of Caesar when he was stabbed by the Roman senators was doubled because of of them was his friend, Brutus. You expect a lack of fidelity from enemies, but not from friends.
Fidelity and trust are companions. You always find them together. That is because fidelity creates trust in the people to whom I have been faithful. Fidelity is somewhat like the breeder reactor, which, when it makes use of plutonium, actually produces more fuel than it consumes.
There are very few human values rated more highly than fidelity and the trust that fidelity creates. Fidelity is the key to anyone’s reputation. Label a man or woman untrustworthy, and they have lost the respect that is the basis of all human relations. We see either a claim for fidelity or a plea for trust in almost every area of our lives. Banks & other financial institutions often have the word “trust” in their corporate name. We set up trust funds to protect the rights of those unable to prosecute their own interests. The scout oath begins with a promise to be trustworthy. Every dollar bill has printed on it the words: “in god we trust.” Without fidelity and trust, all commerce would come to a standstill. I once saw the title of a corporation that called itself the “Mutual Trust and Fidelity Company”–a classic case of overkill in the use of these respected words.
If love is the queen of virtues, then fidelity must be a close second. And when love and fidelity are combined in one person, we have what surely must be the greatest human force for good that is possible in this world.
Both love and fidelity are found in the person of Jesus. He gave his life for us. And he never broke a promise to his followers, even to his enemies. Because of his fidelity, his apostles trusted him completely. And when he promised such an unbelievable thing as his body to eat and his blood to drink, their only response could be: “lord, to whom shall we go; we love you and trust you, for you have the words of eternal life.”
Homily # 7
“How can you take these words seriously?” The question in the Gospel is actually a complaint about Jesus’ claim that he is food and drink, but it appears to serve as a wry comment on the passage from Ephesians heard before the Gospel. Talk about words hard to endure!
“Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be submissive to their husbands as if to the Lord because the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of his body, the Church, as well as its savior. As the Church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. He gave himself up for her ….Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
“Does it shake your faith?” It probably shakes many of us. Deference and reverence, first of all, are not prominent nouns in our contemporary lexicon of privileged words.
More troublesome yet, “wives should be submissive to their husbands.” This sounds like fingernails on a blackboard. Feels like sandpaper on wounds. Tastes like abuse. Smells like patriarchy. Submission has been the problem. Why pose it as a solution?
Clearly there is a hierarchical context for Paul’s words to the Ephesians. Christ is compared to the husband, the church to the wife. The man is the head; the woman is the body. This analogy has been acclaimed by some, who want to legitimate the privileged imaging of the male for Christ. But it has been roundly condemned by others, who see it as a devaluation of women. Both positions are worth examining, but what is the real theme of the Ephesians text? “Deference” and “reverence” are its context. All the rest is application. We must all defer to and revere one another. Then Paul provides applications that may or may not be historically bound.
But is deference that we have trouble with , “submission.” It sticks in the craw. Why should any of us have to submit to another or put someone else first? What is worse, Paul seems to commend obedience only to the woman. He tells the wives to be submissive. What about the men?
Well, what about them? This is what Paul says: Give yourself up for her. Love your spouse as your own body, your very self. If husbands were to hold such an attitude, it would subvert all dominance and hierarchy. Paul’s is a radical statement of equality, albeit in his own contemporary context. It is self destroying to abuse, hurt,. degrade the spouse.
The point is this: there may be suggestions of male dominance in our second reading today, but this conclusion collapses from internal contradiction. Both husbands and wives are to put the other first.
What of this rankles us the most? The very idea that we must give ourselves to another, defer to another! If we love each other as we propose, we assuredly must die to ourselves. The first casualty of real commitment is the imperial ego we are so reluctant to tame.
“Decide today whom you will serve.” In marriage, as in life, we serve not only each other, but our very God, who wants of us not slavery, but the free gift of our love.
|21st Sunday Ordinary (B)/Lord whom shall we go.|
|Jos 24:1-18/ Ps 34:2-21/ Eph 5:21-32/John 6:60-69|
| The popular song “Do you know where you‘re going to?” is full of hope. It asks us about the things that we hope for and reminds us to look to the future with hope.
But now that we are facing many hardships like war, terrorism and disasters both natural and man-made, we have to pause and re-think the direction that this world is leading us into. We need to ask the same question, do we really know where we are going to?
|Oftentimes the real motivation deep within ones heart matter’s most|
|It is very easy to answer that question if we still have trust and confidence to our leader. If we still believe that he can still lead us to a better life. Otherwise the experiences of crisis and challenges in life can create doubts to our future.|
|In the first reading, God invited his people in the Old Testament to become his partner in a covenant. Joshua, the leader of God’s people after the death of Moses understood the importance of this covenant. He challenged the people: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua had made his decision.|
|In today’s Gospel, the disciples thought that Jesus was unaware of the negative reactions of the people to his strong teaching. In fact many people already made the decision to leave. For them this message of Jesus was just too much. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you.” His apostles were afraid that his mission to change the world would stall if it loses its grass root’s base. They want to convince Jesus to tone things down. They think that it was time for Jesus to become more politically practical and give the people what they wanted to hear.|
|But Jesus was firm. He was not interested in compromising the truth. He was not incline to eliminate the gift of the Eucharist because it would take a great deal of faith to accept this belief. When the disciples reported the reaction to his teaching on the Bread of Life to him, his answer was simply: “Do you want to leave me too.” Then Peter made his greatest profession of faith: “Where else are we to go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”|
|Man is always searching for meaning. He may have all the material things in this world but if he can not find meaning in them, they are worth nothing. Without meaning, “you can feel alone in a crowd.” No wonder many rich people and famous celebrities committed suicide or fell into drugs, because of meaninglessness in life. But there are those who have not much but can still survive, I think the words of the philosopher Victor Frankl is true, “he who has “why” to live can bear almost any “how.””|
|Peter did not find meaning in catching fish. He found the real meaning in being with Jesus (by “catching men”) No wonder why Peter has the courage to say in today’s Gospel, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”|
|In fact how can you find meaning in temporal things if you know that they will not lasts? Since only the love of God can lasts until eternity. Therefore it is in believing in God, and by giving food to the hungry and extending charity to the poor that we can find the ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. In the words of St Augustine, ‘My heart is restless until it rests in thee.”|
|In the second reading we heard about the beautiful advice of St Paul to married couples. But sometimes it is also very hard to give counseling to the widows and widowers for no kind words can ever replace the love and sweetness of their late husbands/wives. No amount of words can filled up that emptiness deep within; aloneness that could lead to loneliness and loneliness that could lead to fear. I always tell them to keep themselves closer to God and to the activities of the Church.|
|And this could happen not only to them, but even to any of us. Even how hard we try to be happy we always come the point that we feel there is “something missing,” “something is lacking.” It happened to Peter and to the rest of the apostles and it could also happen to all of us. But we all believe that only God – with his ineffable love – can fill up that “vacuum” deep within our hearts.|
|Faith is a decision. Any decision takes a risk. And we usually take risk only for the things that we believe are more valuable. We also believe that the bigger the risk you entered into, the greater the value of the reward you deserve.|
|Peter sacrificed many things already. He gave up his wife and children; he left behind his boat and nets, and followed Christ totally. He even surrendered his security, the words of Jesus in the last two Sundays were very strong, “eating flesh and drinking blood.” Those words can endanger even his life. But nonetheless, he decided to stay, and continue believing in Jesus.|
|What are the things that you already sacrificed for Christ? And what else can you still afford to sacrifice for him? And how far can you go walking with him?|
|His apostles were ready to follow Christ up to the Cross. By counting all our blessings and his goodness to us, I hope we can also do the same for Christ because we believe that ultimately…he is really worth dying for.|
Jesus’ hard teachings
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
August 21, 2009, 6:55pm
The Jews had been very much impressed by Jesus’ words and actions. They had gone to great lengths to seek Him out wherever He went, the gospel for this 21st Sunday says.
* * *
But when He started talking about “eating His body and drinking His blood as food for eternal life,” they were having second thoughts. “This is intolerable language,” they grumbled. “How could anyone accept it?” A sad note follows: After this many of His disciples left Him and stopped going with Him.
* * *
Aren’t we very much like the skeptical Jews to some extent at times? Not consciously perhaps, but when we hear some “hard teachings,” we grumble and may even turn our back on Christ?
Once a priest was delivering a homily with much gusto and enthusiasm.
“Thou shalt not kill!” he boomed as his right hand made a sweeping cut through the air.
* * *
A fired-up mass goer in the front row exclaimed in agreement, “Amen, Father, amen.”
“Thou shalt not steal!” the priest fulminated. “Amen!” Again the parishioner on the front row practically shouted.
* * *
With the tension rising to electric pitch, the preacher paused and declared with his full voice, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Now, now,” said the parishioner.
“You have stopped preaching, Father. You are now meddling with my life.”
* * *
It’s easy enough to accept the teachings of Christ as long as they don’t go against our grain or don’t apply to us. But once they do (“tinamaan” in local parlance), we say with that parishioner, “Now, now you are meddling with our lives.”
* * *
“Don’t murder! Don’t steal! Don’t commit adultery! Don’t worship false idols!” That’s not so hard to take, perhaps because for most of us they don’t apply.
But “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? That’s tough to swallow!
* * *
“Forgive your enemies – and, mind you, not seven times but seven times seventy!” “How can I forgive a husband who’s unfaithful, a friend who’s betrayed me or an officemate who keeps back-biting me?
“If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” How many of our leaders would really practice that? Yet we call them public “servants.”
* * *
For a poor wife with three kids abandoned by her irresponsible, two-timing husband, for a young girl discovering an unwanted pregnancy, for the Customs men or BIR officials entrusted with millions, the teachings of the Church on divorce, abortion, or honesty can be “hard to endure.”
* * *
They may be tempted to cop out or to take the more “practical” solution but a stout faith, a strong conviction should make them resist the temptation to give in. It’s not only a sin but also undermines society’s moral foundation.
* * *
As Simon Peter professed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That’s faithful commitment to the Lord.
When there are serious problems and trials we encounter and we can not understand why a good God does not help, do our faith falter? How far are we willing to go with Him especially if His laws are hard to take?
No turning back
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:44:00 08/22/2009
WHAT IS more valuable, money or spouse? To this question, someone responded: “Money, because as time goes by, money earns interest, while a spouse, as time goes by, loses interest.”
* * *
In today’s gospel (Jn. 6, 60-69), after sometime, especially after Jesus stood firm on His teaching that His flesh is food and that His blood is drink, a lot of His disciples lost interest and “returned to their former way of life.” Do we also lose interest in the Lord and His teachings as time goes by?
* * *
We all have experienced how it is like to be surrounded by “fair weather friends” who support us and abide with us in good times but are no longer there in bad times. It is a painful experience, but such is the human condition. Loyalty is fragile in this world, but such is life. We cannot, and we should not expect unconditional, much less, undying loyalty from fellow mortals.
* * *
On the other hand, neither should we become cynical about love. As “Desiderata” puts it: “Love is as perennial as the grass, and everywhere life is full of heroism.” There are and there will always be true friends. Real friends are few and they are God’s gift to us in this life. Take time today to remember, thank and pray for them.
* * *
I am writing this column in Bangued, Abra. Today, exactly a hundred years ago, our first two SVD missionaries arrived at their mission station in Cagotungan, Pilar, Abra. It was a long journey for Father John Scheiermann, SVD and Fr. Ludwig Beckert, SVD, who traveled by boat from Hong Kong, arrived in Manila on Aug. 15, 1909, then proceeded to Vigan, and then traveled by bamboo raft on Abra River to Bangued, and finally by horse to Pilar – all the time in their black woolen cassocks. We can never imagine the sufferings and sacrifices of these two pioneers who remained loyal to the Person, the vision and the mission of the Divine Word.
* * *
Humble and difficult beginnings … this is how Father Scheiermann described their church and living quarters: “A bamboo building, 18 meters long and 5.6 meters wide, without windows, since light and air have entry into the church from all sides anyway … our living quarters consist of one room in a private home and a small adjacent room which has no windows.”
* * *
Barely six months after he set foot in his Abra mission station, Father Scheiermann, one of the SVD pioneers, died at the young age of 27. He was ordained priest on Feb. 14, 1909, and five months later he left his beloved homeland Germany for the Philippines. From early morning to late night, he tried to learn Ilocano, and started his mission trips to nearby villages. On the Wednesday after his first (and last) Christmas in the Philippines, he went on a mission trip on foot (since their horse was sick). On New Year’s Day, he had severe headache and fever, but continued on his mission trip, finally arriving at the SVD headquarters in Pilar, exhausted and sick. It was his final mission trip for the Lord and for his people whom he loved.
* * *
His last words to his fellow SVD pioneer Father Beckert: “Now I am happy, now I am at ease dying. In heaven it is beautiful. It is better for me that I die now than later; I am only sorry that I have to leave you here behind all by yourself, but rest assured, in heaven I will pray for you and all the inhabitants of this country.”
* * *
Father Scheiermann was buried on the top of a hill overlooking his beloved Pilar, Abra on the evening of Jan. 5, 1910. Father Beckert wrote: “Lonely and grieving I am now standing at this grave … yet I hope that this good confrere who so joyfully offered his young life to the Lord, will also have found in Him the One who rewards generously. May he not forget us, but may he, as he promised, be from heaven a powerful intercessor for us all, and particularly for the young mission. Requiescat in pace.”
* * *
The young mission is now a hundred years old. What a journey it has been, and the journey goes on. Yesterday a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Joseph Adams, D.D., with 20 bishops and SVD superior general Antonio Pernia, and about 200 priests concelebrating at the Bangued Cathedral to “remember, rejoice and renew” SVD presence in the Philippines. In the same Mass, the provincial superior of the SVD northern province, Fr. Jerome Adriatico, SVD expressed his centennial wish for the province of Abra: peace, good services and good leadership.
* * *
It was a beautiful gesture of the people of Abra to welcome to their homes and host the visitors from all over during these days of centennial celebrations. It was their way of saying to the Philippines and to the world: “The seed that was sown by the SVDs a hundred years ago is now bearing fruit in our hearts.” To this we add St. Arnold Janssen’s prayer: “May the Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all.”
* * *
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, remind me that in following you, there is no turning back. Amen.
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
August 24, 2012, 6:46pm
THE Jews had been very much impressed by Jesus’ words and actions. They had gone to great lengths to seek Him out wherever He went, the gospel for this 21st Sunday relates.
But when He started talking about “eating His body and drinking His blood as food for eternal life,” they were having second thoughts. “This is intolerable language,” they grumbled. “How could anyone accept it?” A sad note follows: After this, many of His disciples left Him and stopped going with Him.
* * *
Aren’t we very much like the skeptical Jews to some extent at times? Not consciously perhaps, but when we hear some “hard teachings” of Jesus, we grumble and may even turn our back on Him?
Once a priest was delivering a homily with much gusto and enthusiasm. “Thou shalt not kill!” he boomed as his right hand made a sweeping cut through the air.
* * *
A fired-up parishioner in the front row exclaimed in agreement, “Amen, Father, amen.”
“Thou shalt not steal!” the priest fulminated. “Amen!” Again the man on the front row practically shouted.
With the tension rising to electric pitch, the preacher paused and declared with his full voice, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Oops, oops, Father,” said the parishioner. “You’re no longer preaching. You are now meddling with my life.”
* * *
It’s easy enough to accept the teachings of Christ as long as they don’t go against our grain or don’t apply to us. But once they do (“tinamaan” in local parlance), we say with that parishioner, “Now, now, you are meddling with our lives.”
“Don’t murder! Don’t steal! Don’t commit adultery! Don’t worship false idols!” That’s not so hard to take, perhaps because for most of us they don’t apply. But “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? That’s tough to swallow!
“Forgive your enemies – and, mind you, not seven times but seventy-seven times!” “How can I forgive a husband who’s unfaithful, a friend who’s betrayed me, or an officemate who keeps back-biting me?
* * *
“If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” How many of our public servants would really practice this?
For a young girl discovering an unwanted pregnancy, for the Customs men or BIR officials entrusted with millions, the teachings of the Church on abortion or honesty can be hard to endure. Or for our Christian lawmakers to pass an unethical House Bill like the RH 4944, they may be tempted to cop out, to take the more “practical” solution. But a stout faith, a strong conviction should make them resist the temptation to give in.
* * *
As Simon Peter professed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe that You are the Son of God” (Jn 6,70). That is faithful commitment to the Lord.
When there are serious problems and trials we encounter and we can not understand why a good God does not help, does our faith falter? How far are we willing to go with Him?
May we have the faith of Simon Peter or Job in the Old Testament, who despite numerous trials ,continued to believe in His love and goodness. For this, they were rewarded eventually.
SUNDIN ANG LOOB MO: Reflection for 21st Sunday in Ordinary time Year B – August 26, 2012
May isang pari na nangangaral tungkol sa sampung utos ng Diyos. “Huwag kang papatay!” ma-emosyong sigaw ng pari. Bigla na lamang may sumagot ng “AMEN, Father! AMEN!” Ginanahan ang pari at nagpatuloy, “Wag kang magnanakaw!”AMEN! Father! Masama talaga ang magnakaw!”, sigaw muli ng parehong lalaki. Mas lalo pang ginanahan ang pari at isinigaw: “Wag kang makikiapid at ‘wag mong pagnasahan ang di mo asawa!” Sa puntong ito ay biglang sinabi ng lalaki, “Aba! Father… dahan-dahan ka sa pagsasalita mo! ‘Wag mong panghimasukan ang buhay ng may buhay! Pabayaan mo na lang kami!” Bakit nga ba ganoon? Bakit parang pinipili natin ang gusto nating maintindihan? Bakit namimili ang ating tenga sa mga gusto lamang nating mapakinggan? Bakit maraming Katoliko ang lumalaban sa aral ng Simbahan tungkol sa abortion, contraception, live-in, same-sex marriages, at marami pang usapin tungkol sa moralidad? Bakit may mga Katolikong sumasalungat sa turo ng Simbahan kapag ang pinag-usapan na ay RH Bill? Kasi nga ay hindi ito sang-ayon sa kanilang gusto. Para sa kanila ay panghihimasok ito sa kanilang personal na buhay! Totoong mahirap maintindihan ang pag-iisip ng Diyos at mas mahirap isabuhay ito. Nang sabihin ni Jesus na Siya ang Tinapay ng Buhay at ang kumakain ng Kanyang laman at uminom ng Kanyang dugo ang magkakamit ng buhay na walang hanggan ay marami sa kanyang mga tagasunod ang tumiwalag sa Kanya. Marami ang hindi na sumunod at nagsabing “Mabigat na pananalita ito; sino ang makatatanggap nito?” Ngunit hindi nagpatinag si Jesus o binawi man ang Kanyang mga binitiwang salita. At ang tanging tanong Niya sa mga alagad ay “Dahil ba rito’y tatalikuran na ninyo ako?” Sa mga pagkakataong nalalagay tayo sa pag-aalinlangan at kinakalaban ng ating pag-iisip ang “pag-iisip ng Diyos”, sana ay masabi rin natin ang mga salitang binitiwan ni Pedro: “Panginoon, kanino po kami pupunta? Nasa inyo ang mga salitang nagbibigay ng buhay na walang hanggan!” Ang buhay na walang hanggan ang katumbas ng tunay na kaligayahan at kapayapaan ng pag-iisip tuwing sinusunod natin ang kalooban ng Diyos. Maisabatas man ang panukalang RH Bill ay hindi pa rin ito naayon sa kalooban at utos ng Diyos, at dahil diyan ay hindi pa rin mararanasan ng tao ang kaligayahan at kapayapaan ng kanyang pag-iisip. Tanging si Jesus lamang ang “Daan. Katotohanan, at Buhay!” Hindi masama ang magduda. Hindi kasalanan ang mag-alinlangan sapagkat ito ang paraan upang marating natin ang katotohanan. Ang kinakailangan natin ay “bukas na pag-iisip” at mas malawak na pananaw na pinaghaharian ng kalooban ng Diyos. Sa mga sandaling pinangungunahan tayo ng pag-aalinlangan at hindi matanggap ng ating kalooban ang aral at turo ng Diyos na matapat namang ipinapahayag ng Simbahan ay ipahayag natin ang ating pananampalataya sa Diyos at sabihin nating: “Sundin ang loob Mo, dito sa lupa kapara ng sa langit!”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B