Archive for the ‘22nd Sunday’ Category

A 30-Second Homily 9-2-2018

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

An elderly priest made a retreat. In the course of it he was struck deeply by three things that he’d always been aware of but never had really taken to heart.
First, there are millions of people in the world who are hungry and homeless. Second, he had spent his entire priestly life preaching comfortable sermons to comfortable people. Third, he had bent over backwards to avoid disturbing or alienating people.
In other words, the priest found himself to be much like the priest played by Jack Lemmon in the film Mass Appeal. He preached only about those things that didn’t disturb his parishioners and made them feel good.
And now, like the priest in Mass Appeal, the old priest suddenly realized that he had been more worried about pleasing his people than about preaching the Gospel. He had been more worried about rocking the boat than about challenging his parishioners to look into their hearts to see if they were satisfied with what they saw there.
The week following his eye-opening retreat, the old priest looked up the Scripture readings to prepare his Sunday homily.
As he read the Gospel, these words of Jesus leaped right off the page: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
The priest resolved, then and there, that he was going to share his soul-searching with his parishioners. So he began his homily by saying:
“My homily this morning will be exactly 30 seconds long. That’s the shortest homily that I’ve ever preached in my life, but it’s also the most important homily I’ve ever preached.”
With that attention-grabbing introduction, the priest gave his 30-second homily. He said:
“I want to make just three points. First, millions of people in the world are hungry and homeless. Second, most people in the world don’t give a damn about that. Third, many of you are more disturbed by the fact that I just said damn in the pulpit than by the fact that I said there are millions of hungry and homeless people in the world.”

With that the elderly priest made the sign of the cross and sat down.

That homily did three things that many homilies don’t do.
First, it caught the attention of the people.
Second, it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the gospel.
Third, hopefully it made the people look into their hearts.

The story of this priest and the gospel reading make the same point.
Religion is not something we do on Sunday. It’s not primarily, observing certain laws, saying certain prayers, or performing certain rituals.
That’s what many people in Jesus’ time had turned religion into. To observe these rituals was to please God. Not to observe them was to sin. In short, observing rituals became identified with being religious.

To illustrate the hypocrisy of such legalism, William Barclay tells this story – about a Muslim pursing an enemy to kill him.
In the midst of the chase, the Azan, or public call to prayer sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down, and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him.
It was precisely this kind of legalism that Jesus opposed so vigorously in his time.
Jesus made it clear that religion isn’t something you do at certain times on certain days. It’s not saying certain prayers or performing certain rituals. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s a thing of the heart called love – love of God and love of neighbor. Love in action.

Today’s Scripture reading invites us to look into our hearts and to ask ourselves to what extent the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading apply to us: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The Scriptures also invite us to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves to what extent the words of James in today’s second reading apply to us:
Act on (God’s) word.
If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.”

I hope this homily today did 3 things:
First – it caught your attention.
Second – it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.
Third – it makes all of us look into our hearts!

Jesus Needs Our Hands 9-4-2017

Monday, September 4th, 2017

On this Labor Day weekend I would like to share with you a powerful meditation written about hands.
First look at your hands. You carry them around with you all the time. But now, take the time to look at them. Look at the backs of them. Your hands are an evolutionary miracle, an enormously complicated collection of bones and sophisticated joints and muscles.
And now look at the palms of your hands. Look at the lines, the sores, the calluses, and the soft places. There’s a whole history written on the surface of your hands.
Think of the hands of a newborn child, so tiny, so delicate. Once upon a time your hands were the same size.
Hands are fascinating. Think of all that your hands have done since then. Almost all that you have learned has been through your hands – turning yourself over, crawling and creeping, walking and balancing yourself, washing and bathing, dressing yourself. At one time your greatest accomplishment was tying your own shoes. Think of all the learning your hands have done. Think of how many activities you have mastered. The things they have made. Remember the day you could write your own name.
Our hands were not given just for ourselves but for others. Remember the tears they have wiped away, our own or another’s, the blood they have bled, the healing they have experienced. How much hurt, anger and even violence they have expressed, and how much gentleness, tenderness and love they have given.
Remember for a moment all the hands that have been reached out to you. The hands of your family, the hands of your friends, the hands of the boys and girls you dated as you were growing up. Think for a moment of the most unforgettable hands you have known – the hands of your father, your mother, and your grandparents. Think of the oldest hands that have rested in your hands. Think of all the hands opened to you for help. Did you answer them? Or the hands held out to help you. Did you accept them and love them?
There is a mystery about hands. A hand extended in love is not just skin and bones. It carries the caring heart within it. A handshake is the real heart transplant. Think of all the hands that have left their mark on you. And think of the all the places that carry your handprints and the people who bear your heartprint.
The most beautiful hands God ever made were the hands of the Lord Jesus. They were strong hands, callused well by many years of toils and struggles. But there was something indescribably gentle and caring about them. How often they softly probed into the sick parts of minds and bodies and brought healing. How often they brought light into darkness, eternal life into what was dead and cold and unresponsive.
Those hands of Jesus were bruised and aching at the end of long days. I saw those hands on Good Friday when rough nails were cruelly driven through them. I saw them tremble when nerve and muscle and bone and flesh were torn and slashed. But those same hands opened again with forgiveness and with a blessing.
Even the hands of Jesus were not strong enough to extend around the whole world. There are many people, places, and situations in life needing to be touched. On this Labor Day we need to be reminded that the Lord Jesus needs our hands.
Yes, the Lord Jesus needs our hands. Hands that have sinned yes, hands that have betrayed, hands that have hurt in a thousand ways. Yes, the Lord Jesus needs our hands to love the world through. Let us offer our hands.

Easy Does It? 9-3-2017

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

A young man, eager to make it to the top, went to a “success in business” seminar taught by a wealthy tycoon. “What’s the reason for your phenomenal success?” he asked.
Back came the answer, in a gravelly voice: “Hard work!”
“Uh, well, what’s the second reason?”
It’s natural to find the easy way to do things. Book stores sell thousands of “easy” books. Spanish Made Easy, Five Easy Steps to a Better Vocabulary, Easy Does It, Eat What You Want and Lose Weight. Looking for the easy way may be natural, but today Our Lord warns us that about really important things, the easy way isn’t the best way. The easy way isn’t always the right way.
Perhaps the harshest words that ever came out of the mouth of Jesus were aimed at his friend for counseling him to take the easy way. The scripture says Jesus turned on Peter, turning on someone…what a phrase, and said, in new Testamentese: “Simon, get the blank out of here. Your advice of taking the easy way, avoiding the cross, eliminating pain at any cost, is a dangerous temptation that might make me fall. I don’t need people around me that only judge by the world’s standards. The easy way is not always the right way.”
Many of you here with some years experience know that what Jesus says is true! Success in life requires a willingness to resist the lure of the easy way. A sound body requires that you exercise, eat the right foods, and conquer bad habits. A sound mind requires that you read, that you observe, that you continually learn, instead of resting on a handful of pet convictions handed down from grandma and grandpa and never expanded or enlarged. A sound marriage requires that each partner goes into it with the understanding that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, but a 70/30 one, in which both partners give 70. A sound family means that we will take the time to be sensitive to the needs of our children, that we provide not only for their physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual needs as well. Such goals require sacrifice, they require perseverance…Every one of us knows that the path to personal success is the path of self denial. And why should we do this unnatural thing, take the hard way, pick the cross, say no to our inclination to ease. Because our Lord has loved us the hard way, the godly way, the right way; no one who looks on that cross would ever complain when God asks us to sometimes take the hard way. After all, Jesus did not come to make life easy. Jesus came to make human beings great People of Faith!