3 Sunday C - Homily and Stories

Introduction:

U. S. Presidents' inaugural speeches: On Jan 21, 2013, Americans heard the inaugural speech of Barak Obama, opening his second term as the 44th president of the United States. You may not know this, but every single Inaugural Address from George Washington's to Barak Obama’s has been preserved. In these speeches, presidents have laid out for the country their dreams, goals, and aspirations.
Here is a part of the first president George Washington’s speech (April 30, 1789), when he bravely acknowledged the role of God in his administration: He said, “It would be improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect.” Franklin Roosevelt said on March 4, 1933, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Americans remember the role of citizens outlined in President John F. Kennedy’s speech (January 20, 1961), “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” No doubt you were able to identify several of the presidents by the historical references or by the famous lines, and while all of these Inaugural Addresses are important, some are moving, inspiring and worthy of remembrance. Today in the gospel of Luke chapter 4, we have listened to an inaugural address delivered not to a Nation but to a synagogue congregation; not in an American city but in a poor village, Nazareth, in Galilee; and not by a man elected by the power of the people but by the God-man Jesus, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus outlines his mission, vision and dreams in this famous  speech.
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Today’s gospel, presenting Jesus’ inaugural speech in the synagogue of Nazareth and outlining his theology of total liberation, marks a great moment of Jewish history. The scripture readings for today focus our attention on the importance and liberating power of the Word of God as "sacramental," making God present in our midst. The readings challenge us to listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, then put it into practice as we live out our lives, liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages.    

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John Littleton

Gospel Reflection 

We live in an era of manifestos, especially election manifestos from political parties hoping to persuade us to vote for them so that they will be able to implement their vision for society and fulfil their promises. Manifestos generally provide a coherent summary of policies, strategies and evidence which, afterwards, can be used to measure achievements and failures.

In the synagogue at Nazareth, his home town, Jesus presented the manifesto or mission statement for his ministry when he read an extract from the prophet Isaiah and then commented on the text. It referred to being anointed by the Holy Spirit and to preaching the Good News of salvation to the poor. It also prophesiedi that prisoners and others who were downtrodden would be liberated and that the blind would have their sight restored. According to Isaiah, all these changes would happen with the future coming of the Messiah.

Reading that particular text in the synagogue was not unusual, but Jesus’ commentary on the text was truly amazing because he stated clearly that ‘this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen’ (Luke 4:21).

This could only have one meaning: Isaiah’s prophecy’ was being fulfilled there and then in Jesus’ person and preaching. In other words, Jesus was the Messiah (that is, the one anointed by God to be the Saviour) for whom generations of God’s people had been waiting. The time-of-waiting was now ended.

The implication of Jesus’ commentary is that those people who are the least in this world will be the greatest in his new kingdom of peace and justice. There is a well known saying: ‘You should always begin as you intend to continue.’ Jesus certainly did that as he spoke to his listeners in the synagogue. There, at the outset of his ministry, he told them that he was the Messiah. His mission statement was very clear: ‘I am the Messiah.

The Church continues Jesus’ work of bringing the Good News of salvation to the world. The example of his ministry encourages us to be humble in our service as we care for the needy and underprivileged in our society, and as we share the message of God’s compassion, forgiveness and healing.

As we begin to listen to extracts from the Gospel of Luke being read during most of the Sundays of the current liturgical year, we know that the time of redemption has come because Jesus the Messiah is finally here. We thank God for sending him. In bringing salvation, he acknowledges the dignity of every human being and teaches that God’s grace is equally available to all people. 

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Thomas O’Loughlin

Homily Notes  

1. The sermon/ homily/ address is very often the least popular part of the liturgy. There are many reasons for this especially when preaching takes place in the context of the Eucharist. Where time is limited and one does not have a pre-selected audience with a particular interest in what might be said on the occasion. However, it is also the case that many people have never even thought about why there is a sermon at all. So why do we preach? The answer requires some preaching about preaching.

2. The starting point is to look at both the principal readings today: in each of them an earlier text is read, and then it is converted into a message that makes it something living for all who are there listening. The act of preaching is this act of converting, of translating, of making sense of text in our im­mediate situation as believers.

3. So we have to ask by what criteria do our audience judge our performance of this task that was once carried out by the prophet Ezra, then by Jesus in Nazareth, and now by minis­ters across the world? Is it that the sermon is easy to under­stand? Is it that it is amusing? Is it that it is challenging? Is it that it addressed’ questions of the day’? Is it that it is persuas­ive? Or is it simply that it is short and not too boring? All of these are used, but they are all limited.

4. Some people can explain difficult matters simply, but the is­sues of faith are not simple because life is not simple. Simple messages, easily appropriated are usually the work of those who want to bluff us. Propaganda is always simple. An ability to amuse is a gift, but reflection on the meaning of faith in our moment in history is not usually the stuff of entertainment. The sermon itself is not where any challenge to someone should appear: the gospel challenges the sin of the world of sin and the homily is there to help the individual to see any challenge that it might pose to them as individuals or as members of groups. The sermon is exposition rather than a tongue-lashing. There are always questions of the day and urgent issues towards which Christians should be directing attention, but at the Sunday Eucharist the normal course of events is that we hear the gospels in sequences and then see what each passage has to say to us. Lastly, persuasion may be the result of the preacher’s work – some people have the gift of being persuasive without looking like salesmen – but if someone is persuaded it is because they have been helped to see what is the Word of God by the preacher, then her or his faith has given them the acceptance of that truth, and God’s help has enabled them to bring it to fruitfulness in their lives.

5. Here is an example: Jesus says that the acceptable year of the Lord has now come. What does this mean? It means that Jesus says that the time for the renewal of the creation is at hand as in one of the special Jubilee Years that were held every fifty years. On those occasions there was to be a rebal­ancing of wealth and resources between the rich and the poor, and a re-creation of a just society. This is the gospel message: the Father is not happy with any situation where his gifts given to all are so tied up with one group in his cre­ation that others are suffering and downtrodden. Whether you see this as the truth or not is now a matter for faith: down the centuries there have been Christians who have worked with the poor and who have sought the just distribution of wealth. Others have rejected this and seen it as Christianity nosing into politics. However, it is a matter of whether one believes Jesus is the Son of God or not. And, if one does, then his message is the Word of Life, and one has to ask for the strength to do something about it. However, it is not the ser­mon that persuades: the sermon has done its job when it points out the significance of the gospel and notes that the situation is still the same: if Jesus enters our community, then it includes interest in poverty, injustice, and hunger for these do not come from the Father, but from us. 

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Prayer reflection

“Such is the force and power of the Word that it is the church’s support and strength, imparting robustness to the faith of its daughters and sons and providing food for their souls, a pure and unfailing fount of spiritual life.”  Vatican II, Dei Verbum
Lord, we thank you for the biblical renewal,
your precious gift to the church in our time.
- Other Christian Churches initiated this great movement of the Spirit;
- it was recognised and welcomed by great popes like Leo XIII and Pius XII,
- and was given further impetus by the Second Vatican Council
with this wonderful document on Divine Revelation.
We pray that a love for your Holy Scripture may continue to grow in your church,
with the Liturgy of the Word as its source and summit,
so that the story of Jesus when he first returned to Nazareth
may be relived each week in church communities all over the world,
wherever your people assemble on the sabbath as they usually do,
in their places of worship – great cathedrals, parish churches
and chapels of religious houses, classrooms, community centers and homes,
or in the open air.
We pray that when celebrants stand up to read
and the book of readings is handed to them
they will open it with the utmost reverence
and accept with humble gratitude whatever text they find written there,
read it clearly and deliberately,
conscious that your Spirit is being given to them and they are being anointed
to transform this ancient writing into good news to the poor,
liberty to captives and new sight to the blind,
to recognise that our modern age, for all its shortcomings, is a time of your favour.
When they have read the word, may they maintain their reverence
as they close the book and hand it back to the assistant,
spend some moments in deep meditation,
aware that the eyes of all are fixed on them, hungering and thirsting for a word of life,
and when eventually the time comes for them to begin to speak
may the present the Bible text not as an abstract message,
a story about the past to be remembered with nostalgia,
an impossible utopia that con only be dreamed of,
but being fulfilled among them even as they are listening.
Within the reality of their daily lives, their pains and their joys,
they will see your glorious story of grace triumphing over sin.

Lord, we pray that our church may help men and women of every culture
To unroll the sacred scrolls of their tradition,
Read attentively and reverently what they find written there,
Sit down and meditate deeply on it
And recognise that this text is being fulfilled among them as they listen.

Lord, our Western education system sometimes contradicts the word of your prophets
- brings bad news to the poor telling them that they deserve what they get.
- plunges captives into deeper captivity,
- keeps people blind so that they cannot see the opportunities for grace
in their situations,
-encourages the downtrodden to be resigned to their fate.
We pray that, like Jesus returning to the place where he was brought up
and discovering his calling, so we your church may return to our beginnings,
receive the Spirit you have sent us,
and the anointing with which we have been anointed,
and the oppressed people of our time will hear us proclaim the good news
that they are born to be free and a new year of favour will begin for them.

“My cell will be not one of stone or of wood, but of self-knowledge.” St Catherine of Siena
Lord, when we find that our reputation has spread throughout the countryside,
do not let us becomes pretentious or lose the sense of who we really are.
Give us the grace to follow in the footsteps of Jesus when he came to Nazara
where he had been brought up
so that we too will discover the truth of ourselves fulfilled in the texts of Scripture.

“In your book all human beings are written.”   Bruno of Seguin, medieval monk and bishop
Lord, one of the great sufferings of people nowadays is a sense of isolation,
the feeling that we are the first generation to experience our problems;
and one of the great ways we follow in the footsteps of Jesus
is to help one another recognise that the ancient scriptures are fulfilled in us.

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1. The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and "gofer" to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet.

Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you? Mother Teresa looked at him. "You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?" she asked.

Yes, he replied eagerly. "Then give that money to the poor," she said. "You'll learn more from that than anything I can tell you." Mother Teresa understood that Jesus' ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. She knew that they more than anyone else needed good news.

On a Saturday morning, in Nazareth, the town gathered in the synagogue to listen to Jesus read and teach. It was no big surprise. He was well known in the area; it was his hometown. He was raised there. They wanted to learn from him. So when he read from the Isaiah scroll, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" everyone understood these words to be the words of Isaiah. It is how that prophet from long ago defined his ministry.

When Jesus finished that reading he handed the scroll to the attendant and sat down. In that day you sat in the Moses Seat to teach to the people. Today preachers stand in a pulpit. So all eyes were on Jesus, waiting for him to begin his teaching...
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2. "Antiques" and "collectibles" have value because they have survived intact for a long period of time. With the exception of those few things that are made of gold or silver or precious gemstones, the value in most "old stuff" is mostly found in the simple fact that they are still around. Except for the ravages of the plagues like the Black Death pandemic, which killed between 75 million and 200 million people, the biggest and most frequent destructive force in civilization has always been fire.

Alexandria burned.
Rome burned.
Paris burned.
London burned.
Washington D.C. burned.
Chicago burned.
San Francisco burned.  
For "stuff" to survive these infernos was no small feat. And it makes them valuable. 
Then there is the human factor.

Is there anyone who doesn't have this shuddering memory: you're drying a dish, moving a knickknack, or blundering into a piece of furniture -- and suddenly it happens: you watch almost in slow motion as some precious bit of china, some heirloom brick-a-brac, some priceless treasure goes sliding into the abyss. As it slipped from your hands or went sliding off the table, you knew what was about to happen, but were helpless to stop it. Gravity doesn't negotiate. Crash! In an instant a treasured family heirloom is reduced to pathetic pieces.

In today's throwaway culture of planned obsolescence, with instantly outdated plastic and cardboard, "broken stuff" gets routed to the "round file" (the trash can) as quickly as last year's electronics. Artisans of restorations and repair craftsmen are increasingly hard to find. Unless whatever has been damaged was extremely valuable, it is usually not worth the investment to fix it.  

Thankfully that has not always been the case...

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3. He Came to Help Us See 

Besides freeing us from fear and guilt, Jesus came to help us see. He wasn't talking about physical blindness, but rather, spiritual blindness. We can't see because we are trapped by habits, addictions and illusions of happiness. Therefore we are trapped, oppressed by our own choices and situations. Some of us are in denial. Others of us are reinforced through the enabling of other people. Consequently, we are not free.

One night a tiger trainer was performing at a circus. He went into the cage with the tigers and a huge hush came over the crowd as the doors were locked behind him. Skillfully, the trainer put the tigers though their routine, entertaining the crowd. But, suddenly there was a "pop" and the all the lights went out under the big top.

The trainer was locked inside the cage with the tigers in complete darkness. They could see him with their night vision, but he could not see them. All he had was a chair and a whip for protection. Finally the lights came back on and the trainer finished his performance.

Later in a TV interview, the trainer admitted how scared he was. Then he realized that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. "I just cracked my whip and talked to them," he said, "until the lights came on." (from "Tigers in the Dark," God's Little Lessons on Life for Dad, Honor Books)

Keith Wagner, Liberated and Free
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4. Fulfilling Others? 

And the marvel is this: Jesus somehow fits the void in all the far flung instances of human longing. When medieval European artists painted the Holy Family, they usually painted them with typical German, Italian, or Flemish features. It was not imagination or prejudice which made them do so, but the instinctive feeling that Jesus belonged to them; he was one of their people. In our time, Christian artists in Africa and Asia paint the Holy Family with features and coloring appropriate to their world. Again, it is because they feel that Jesus belongs to them.

The mountain church, where a duet twangs out country-western music on a guitar, may seem to have little in common with a Bach rendition from a four-manual organ; but each is seeking to show its adoration of Jesus in its own best way. Here is the common bond between a ghetto storefront church and the massive Gothic structure some miles away: they both bear the name of Jesus Christ; and they each seek, in their own way and setting, to fulfill the human longing. What about you and me? What is the longing in our lives which Christ has filled? "Today," Jesus said, "this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." For you, for me? To what degree are we in the business of fulfilling the scripture in the lives of others?

J. Ellsworth Kalas, Sermons on the Gospel Readings
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5. Hope 

Do you remember the story of Pandora's Box in Greek Mythology? The lovely Pandora was sent by Zeus to be the bride of Epimetheus. One of Pandora's more endearing charms was her curiosity, but that quality also proved to nearly be her undoing. One day Mercury, the messenger, sent a box to the young couple. It was meant for them to enjoy, but under no circumstances were they to open it. Well, of course, it is the old story of the forbidden fruit. Told that she could not do it, it became the thing that she desired to do the most. So one day she pried it open and peeked inside. Suddenly out flew swarms of insects that began attacking them. Both lovers were stung with the poison of suspicion, hatred, fear and malice. Now the once happy couple began to argue. Epimetheus became bitter and Pandora wept with a broken heart. But in the midst of the quarreling, they heard a tiny voice cry out: Let me out, to sooth your pain. Fearfully they opened the box again, and this time a beautiful butterfly flew out. It touched the couple and miraculously their pain was healed and they were happy again. The butterfly we are told was hope. It is hope that sustains us; it is hope that sooths our pain.
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6. Called to Action 

At Christmas I received as a gift the book, Holy Sweat, by Tim Hansel. I enjoyed it very much. He tells of a guest preacher in a rather large church who began, "There are three points to my sermon." Most people yawned at the point. They'd heard that many times before. But he went on. "My first point is this. At this time there are approximately two billion people starving to death in the world." The reaction through the congregation was about the same, since they'd heard that sort of statement many times before, too. And then he said, "My second point..."  

Everybody sat up. Only 10 or 15 seconds had passed, and he was already on his second point? He paused, then said, "My second point is that most of you don't give a damn!" He paused again as gasps and rumblings flowed across the congregation, and then said:

"And my third point is that the real tragedy among Christians today is that many of you are now more concerned that I said 'damn' than you are that I said two billion people are starving to death." Then he sat down.

The whole sermon took less than a minute, but it is in many ways one of the most powerful ones ever given. He was reminding us we are called not to mere piety but to genuine morality. We are called to action, not to fancy words. Jesus preached a short sermon. But what a sermon! He clearly denotes the kind of ministry he came to pursue. It is to be a ministry to the poor and outcast, the blind and unaffirmed. 

James T. Garrett, God's Gift 
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7. Love Is an Action 

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me." 

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you're getting a divorce. That will really hurt him." With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting "as if." For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn't return, Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?" 

"Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.

J. Allan Petersen  

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 8. Act As If You Do Love

 In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity  

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9. The Opening Moments of Jesus' Ministry 

Every four years the new president of the United States gives his inaugural address. In it, he articulates his program or his plan of action for his term of office. See if you recognize the President who made the following remarks:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." - Abraham Lincoln, 1865.

"This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." - Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933.

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." - John F Kennedy, 1960.

Today's Scripture is Luke's version of the opening moments of Jesus' public ministry. We might call this his inaugural sermon.

Mickey Anders, Jesus' Mission and Ours
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10. The Future is God's Gift 

Let me tell you about a commencement speech that was addressed to Harvard's Senior Class. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave "the Yard" to take their places in the world.

The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible. Doctor Gomes took no prisoners that day. He began: "You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren't ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and, (and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis) you know just - how - dumb - you - really - are." The senior class cheered in agreement.

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11. Archbishop’s Romero’s “option for the poor.”  

Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission.  Jesus said he had been sent, among other reasons, “to bring good news to the poor." The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in his crucifixion.   The Christian gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice.  This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered when, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador.   The story begins in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador.  His "crime" was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande's great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Archbishop Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador.  His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador.  Archbishop Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as Romero was offering Mass in a hospital chapel, a shot from the back of the church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly.  Thus, Archbishop Romero died a martyr for the gospel of Christ.  As we reflect today on Jesus' words about his mission, let us remember Archbishop Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully, in our world and in our daily lives, the “dangerous” truths of the “good news” which is Jesus’ gift to us today.

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12. Princess Diana’s “liberation theology”:  

Before her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana was championing the cause of those who had been victims of land-mine explosions. In the weeks following her funeral, the video footage of her last visit to Bosnia ran again and again on televised news programs. Featured in the footage was the Princess, reaching out in compassion to those who had survived the explosion but who would have to live the rest of their lives maimed by the loss of one or more of their limbs. Her care for these wounded members of society was a poignant reminder of what Paul teaches in today’s second reading. Just as every part or member of the human body is necessary to the well-being of the whole person, so is every member of the human family necessary to the well-being of the body of Christ. Therefore each member must be cherished, valued, respected and protected by all the other members.

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13. “Liberation theology” of obesity:  

And God populated the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetable of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. And Satan created McDonald's.   And McDonald's brought forth the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, "You want fries with that?" And Man said, "Super-size them." And Man gained pounds. And God created the healthful yogurt, that woman might keep her figure that man found so fair. And Satan brought forth chocolate.  And woman gained pounds. And God said, "Try My crispy fresh salad." And Satan brought forth ice cream.  And woman gained pounds. And God said, "I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them." And Satan brought forth a chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained pounds and his bad cholesterol went through the roof. ………..And Man went into cardiac arrest. And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan created HMOs.
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14. The Shoemaker:
A shoemaker, says Edwin Markham, through a dream was told that he would see Jesus the next day. He waited in his store all day. The only one who came in the morning was a senior citizen. His shoes were worn out. The shoemaker gave him a fresh pair at no charge. In the afternoon came an old woman. She was hungry. The shoemaker promptly gave her his own lunch. As evening approached, a child came in crying bitterly. She was lost. The shoemaker took her home to the other end of town. Returning, he was certain that he had missed his rendezvous with the Christ.

Then he heard a voice. "...I kept my word. Three times today I came to your door. Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was the lost child you took home."
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15. The Pregnant Young Girl:

One day I had a particularly beautiful experience that demonstrated the joy that following God's way brings.  I was scurrying about the front office when I noticed a teenage girl standing behind some people getting Mass cards.  She looked pretty shy.  She also looked pretty pregnant.  I said to her, "Can I help you, honey?" (OK, so I'm not politically correct.)  She told me that she was wondering if this is the Church where she could get some food.  I walked her outside and asked her if she was pregnant.  She said, "Six months," with a big smile and then told me, That's why I need food, I'm eating everything in sight."   I brought her over to the Community Life Ministry where our wonderful volunteers took good care of her with the food you folks bring in.   I also brought her to our Pregnancy Center.  I asked her if she had everything she needed for the baby.  She said she had nothing.  So I told her that the people of St. Ignatius have help for her and her baby.  She got in touch with one of our counselors and was able to get all sorts of baby furniture, and clothes, and infant toys and general stuff.  Before she left she said to me, "You know, I could have had an abortion like some of my girl friends.  But I know it is not right.  I know there is a baby in me, and I just couldn't live with myself." I'm relating all this to you because I want to emphasize this point: It is not guilt that kept her from having an abortion; it was the joy that she would be doing the right thing by having the baby.
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Another homily Based on the Second Reading:

There are many members, yet one Body. [1 Cor. 12:20] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass in honour of the glorified Lord Jesus.

During the Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus proclaiming, today the year of the Lord's favour as it was written in the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. [Lk. 4:19, 21] What did Jesus mean by the words that the year of the Lord's favour had been fulfilled? He meant that the long awaited messianic jubilee had finally arrived. The promised messianic salvation had finally arrived. Jesus affirmed that He was the long awaited Messiah that God the Father had promised to His people throughout the days of the Old Testament.

Two thousand years ago, on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, [Acts 1:4, 2:2] Jesus established the visible Church to which we belong. At the same time, He established the invisible Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Both together, the visible Holy Catholic Church and the invisible Kingdom of God compose the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Holy Catholic Church, visible in nature, is part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of members who share in the life of the Risen Christ. The invisible Kingdom of God is also part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of all the saints who have persevered in their living faith in Christ, therefore receiving their just eternal reward and salvation. The visible is our first step; the invisible is our final step. The visible is our journey and blessed hope towards the invisible; the invisible is our eternal joy and peace in the continuous Divine presence of our Lord God and all His heavenly creations.

In His proclamation, Jesus said that He had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, He had been sent to release the captives, for the recovery of sight of the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Literally taken with a worldly approach, these words imply that Jesus had come to bring abundance to those who were poor, to free the slaves and the prisoners, to heal the blind and to stop all worldly oppression. But this was not what Jesus meant.

Embracing a spiritual approach, it becomes clear that the proclamation of the Lord Jesus was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God was the good news that Jesus was proclaiming. For the arrival of the Kingdom of God to be fulfilled, it meant the arrival of the promised Messiah. It meant that those who were spiritually blind would be enlightened, now being able to see the way, the truth and the life. It meant that those who were captives of sin, slaves of Satan, would be free, first through the Sacrament of Baptism and then through the Sacrament of Confession so that they could instantly enjoy eternal life after their physical death.

It meant that those who were spiritually poor would finally have a living hope in Christ. We as Gentiles, had we been born prior to the coming of Christ on earth, we would have been spiritually poor. We would have had no living hope of the eternal glory that comes with salvation because we would not have been part of God's chosen people, the Jewish nation. Before our new birth in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we were poor; now, we are spiritually rich.

The way of life [Acts 2:28] that has been made known to us through Jesus Christ requires our humility and our obedience to the Lord God.

As Christians, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, we are commanded to clothe ourselves with humility. [Col. 3:12] Whoever becomes humbles like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. [Mt. 18:4] He who humbles himself before the Lord, the Lord shall exalt him. [Jas. 4:10] For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [1 Pet. 5:5-6]

As Christians, we are also commanded to obey God's Commandments. Today's First Reading from the Book of Nehemiah tells us how much importance was placed in those days on knowing and obeying the law of Moses. In the days of Nehemiah, anyone who had reached the age of reason and could hear with understanding, he was required to be present and to listen to the reading of the law. I can assure you that there was more than one law. It took from early morning until midday to hear them all while they were being read. That would be equivalent to listening to a three or four hour sermon.

Jesus must have known that some of us Gentiles can be very impatient when it comes to long sermons. So, He summarized the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses into two simple Commandments for us. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first Commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Mt. 22:37-40]

Those two laws are for the benefit of the one Body of Christ. Jesus did not say, "You shall love yourself and your ways." He said that with all your might, you shall love God first. Secondly, you shall love your neighbours. Why so much emphasis on love? It is because "God is love. [1 Jn. 4:8] Love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:22] "Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." [1 Jn. 4:7] "All who obey His Commandments abide in Him, and He abides in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us." [1 Jn. 3:24]

Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians revealed to us how important it is for the members of the Body of Christ to be united. Each of us has been called to serve the Lord Jesus. While I serve as a priest, you may serve in the choir as a musician or as a singer. Some are called to be Deacons, others as Extra-Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers. Still others may serve as Altar Servers, as Gift Bearers, as Lectors, as Ministers of Hospitality, as Secretary, as Knights of Columbus, etc... And let us not forget those who have the spiritual gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, of interpretation, of leadership, etc... With each calling comes spiritual gifts to equip each and everyone of us for the benefit of the Body.

If everyone said, "I want to be the musician" or "I want to be the Altar Server," we would have a very serious problem. There is a limit as to how many musicians or Altar Servers we can use during the celebration of one Holy Mass. (Optional: That is when Church Committees are very beneficial. In such situations, the pastor can delegate the authority to the Church Committee to resolve the problem.) As such, in His Divine Wisdom, the Holy Spirit has taken care of this potential problem. He made sure that each and everyone of us are equipped with a variety of gifts that would meet the diversity of needs within the living Body of Christ.

All of this tells us that while there are many members, there is but one Body in Christ in which all its member are indispensable. If someone neglects his functions as a member of the Body of Christ, all the members suffer. Why? Because there is something missing. It is like trying to point a direction to someone with a missing index finger. No finger, no pointing!

Some may choose to say, "Well, I am a part-time member. I am busy with my worldly affairs and so I go to Church once a year." To this, Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." [Mt. 6:24]

Another one may say, "I go to Church every Sunday but I do not want to commit myself to anything." To this, the Book of Revelation tells us, "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." [Rev. 3:15-7]

Now some may not like the previous answers and say, "I quit!" Sorry, but you cannot quit the Body of Christ. You see, when you received the Sacrament of Baptism, you were born again in water and Spirit. [Jn. 3:5] You received your new creation of the godly seed [1 Jn. 3:9] in fulfillment of the promises of the Heavenly Father that are found in the Old Testament. During your admission in the Body of Christ as a new creation, you received as "first instalment," [Eph. 1:13-4; 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5] the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit for the purpose of your sanctification.

To quit the Body of Christ, you would have to totally and freely reject the grace of God and the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. You would have to reject the Advocate that the Father and the Son have sent to sanctify you in Christ.

So belonging to the Body of Christ is not the same as working for a Company. As an employee, if you do not do your job, the employer fires you and replaces you. Then productivity resumes with the new employee. But in the Body of Christ, it is different. If the index finger decides that it will not become actively involved in the ministry of the Church, then I am afraid that the Body of Christ will have to go without a pointing finger.

So you see, when you have a fallen-away Catholic who has shipwrecked and abandoned his living faith in Christ, he is still a Catholic. He still belongs to the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ shall suffer as long as the faithful members of the Church do not commit themselves to evangelizing in their Parish to ensure that all the members of the Body of Christ are active participants of their local Church. That is what St. Paul was teaching to the Corinthians.

The Body of Christ cannot be divided. No one can say, "There are Catholics and then there are Catholics." For there is one Christ, one Spirit, one faith, one Baptism and one Body. When a small part of the Body of Christ isolates itself from the remaining of the Body, it creates disharmony that can lead to division. Such action is not of the Spirit of Christ.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, with a sincere heart, let us reflect upon our commitment to the Body of Christ. Let us ask ourselves, "Am I actively involved in my Parish?" "Am I making an effort to draw to my Parish those that I know who have shipwrecked in their faith?" Or, "Am I the cause of division within the Body of Christ?"

As we continue the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for one another, that through our Christian Unity, the Body of Christ may come to its fullness so the Lord God may be glorified in all things.