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27 Sunday C - Faith and Responsibility - Homilies

Video Messages at the Bottom: One for 27th Sunday and the other for Pro-Life Sunday
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The Church works best we are advised when we see ourselves not as spectators but as participants.

Arthur Tonne tells about the seventeenth century St Francis de Sales. As a young man, Francis was seriously ill. It was felt certain he would die. He begged his professor, "Sir, arrange my funeral as you see fit. I only ask that after my funeral you give my body to medical students." The professor demurred.  Bur de Sales persisted. "It is very consoling to me, as I lie dying," said Francis, "to think that if I have been a useless servant during life, I will be of some good after death."

Incidentally, it would be wonderful if we were useful in life and also after our deaths. Why not copy the style of de Sales? We need not be as generous as the saint. We can give our families the consolation of burying our bodies in the family plot. But why not make provisions now to donate our organs after death? Why not enjoy two resurrections? The auto decal correctly instructs us, "Heaven knows we need your organs here."

I have already made arrangements. In New York State, it is a very simple matter. One signs the back of a Driver License in the presence of a witness. Why not today find out what the law is in your own state? Surely, by the time the second resurrection of our respective bodies comes about, God will have figured some way to put us all back together again. In the meantime, we shall hear from a smiling Christ, "Well done, good and useful servant."

Unhappily, the Church of Jesus is filled with people who are not pulling their weight. Their style is described in this piece by that scribbler Author Unknown. "There is a story named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry at that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

It is of course a badly kept secret that a small percentage of every parish largely carries the entire operation. Money is one important factor of course. Another is time invested in church enterprises whether they be participation in the parish council, ushering, lectors, social functions, etc. If everyone did his or her part, what a difference this parish would be!  Yet, should anyone be moved to thank us for our participation, all of us would have to still borrow the last line of Jesus from today's Gospel. Without sounding like Charles Dickens' Uriah Heep, we must say of ourselves, "We are unworthy servants. We have done what it is our duty to do."

Many of us are less than useful servants not from malice but from procrastination. Such a defect robs us of a get up and go spirit. It is something which today's Gospel would have us correct if we are to become useful people. There is a story told of a man who received a suit from a soup kitchen. In a pocket he found a fifteen year old receipt for a pair of shoes left at a shoemaker. The shop was still in the neighborhood. On a hunch, he went to the store. He handed the ticket over to the owner. He went to the back of the store and returned in a few moments.  He said to the man "Those shoes will be ready next Wednesday." ( Fr. James Gilhooley)

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The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.
John Emmons.
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Thomas O’Loughlin,
Introduction
 

Life is a journey, and for us who follow Jesus Christ it is a journey to the fullness of life, but also a journey of faith. We live our lives and walk in the footsteps of the Christ knowing that there is a great mystery surrounding us, but knowing also that we walk by faith and not by sight. As we begin to celebrate these sacred mysteries, let us pray for an increase in faith and a new energy to follow in the path of the Son of God.

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Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments


 This Sunday’s passage is in two clearly distinct sections:
- verses 5 to 6 – a teaching on faith; and
- verses 7 to 10 – a parable on humble service.

If you decide to meditate on the first section, enter into the movement of the story, identifying with the request of the apostles as well as with Jesus’ response. Be careful how you handle the obvious exaggeration in the saying: remain faithful to the dramatic promise, but at the same time let your meditation be rooted in actual experience.

If you are meditating on the parable, remember the kind of teaching a parable is (see page…). This warning is especially important here as we could draw wrong conclusions from this parable – that God is a harsh taskmaster, for example, or that employers should treat their employees as the parable suggests.   

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Gospel Commentary

The gospel today is made up of two distinct items handed down in the kerygma which have no irtherent link; and in this the lection is no better than the gospel text that simply puts them together. The problem is that those who hear the gospel read assume unconsciously that this is a well-formed distinct item where all the ideas follow one another in a narrative or logical sequence. Since this is the assumption, they then either find the text perplexing and confusing, or create some rationale, however bizarre, to explain the sequence they imagine triust be there.

What we have is a ‘saying’ by Jesus on faith (17:5-7) which is also found in Mt 17:20, but which (as often happens in Luke) is not given as a saying but as the reply to a question from the apostles. Verse 6 has to be read as a single statement and remembered as such — the context is simply glue to hold it in a place within the overall gospel narrative. The second element in today’s readings is a parable, found only in Luke, on the Servant’s Wages. The parable has one point: the disciples are to do their work and expect no reward. The text has been a problem since the earliest exegesis of Luke and it is still wholly obscure what the original message of this parable was. Today’s gospel is a good case for shattering the fundamentalist assumption that the gospels are perfect documents.

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Sean Goan
Gospel Notes

Given some of the difficult teaching of Jesus that the disciples have been listening to, it is not surprising that they should now turn to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. Once again, however, they find themselves on the receiving end of another comment that is hard to grasp. Instead of telling them how to increase their faith Jesus simply says that if their faith was the size of a tiny mustard seed then they could do amazing things. In the parable that follows we might have an explanation as to why he gave them such an answer. The parable indicates that a servant’s place is to serve and it is foolish to think of their role in any other way. Here Jesus is not be seen promoting systems that oppress; rather he is using an example from daily life to say to the disciples be careful that your attitude to God is not one of asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ Again and again the gospel of Luke makes it very clear that the way of the disciple is hard but that is only because dying to yourself is hard. The paradox is that this is the only way to be really alive and at peace with the world.

Reflection

We know that Paul was familiar with the writings of the Prophet Habakkuk since he quoted him in the letter to the Romans. ‘The righteous person will live by faith.’ Paul knew that his faith in Jesus had brought him to a new and dynamic relationship with God. This was ‘righteousness’ in his eyes, and his life had become a witness to it. He worked long and hard and suffered much so that people of all religions and no religion could come to understand what God had done for them in Jesus. Now he is urging Timothy to a similar faithfulness, one that is based not on his own strength but on his awareness of the gift of the Spirit within. Habakkuk had wondered where the absent God was. Paul had come to know through faith in the crucified Christ that God was never absent but endured our suffering with us. 

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Homily notes

1. The first saying in today’s gospel gives an opening to preach on the topic of faith, although, in effect, this is really only using the gospel as a peg on which to hang a sermon rather than in any sense giving a homily on the readings. However, there is just not enough time in a homily to look at a question like ‘what do we mean by “faith”?’; or, at least, to look on it in any satisfactory way. Indeed, given what we know about how adults learn, trying to address serious human questions in any format that is like that of a homily is at best of only marginal value because the homily does not permit any ex­change of ideas or questions. However, there are many for whom the homily is the only form of instruction to which they are exposed or to which they are prepared to expose themselves, so we have to try to formulate complex ques­tions in snippets of five to ten minutes, and just hope that in such situations we do not betray our riches in order to deliver them in bite-sized chunks (and in a situation where we have no way of knowing how people are ‘hearing’ what we are saying).

2. ‘Faith’ is not a word that is widely used in everyday convers­ation. When it is used it tends to be a synonym for religion as in ‘She follows the Jewish faith’; or ‘He kept the faith’ meaning that he held onto those values of a time long past; or else ‘She was acting in good faith’ which is just a translation of the technical legal phrase ‘bona fides’. What is interesting is that in most uses it is something that another has, rather than a quality of one’s own life. When religious people use the word it often means simply acceptance of the doctrines of their reli­gion, and faith ‘without doubts’ is equivalent to full convic­tion. By contrast, when people say they have ‘lost faith’ they mean they no longer ‘buy into’ the stories, doctrines, prac­tices, or moral vision of the religion to which they once be­longed. Faith is religion or a quality of adherence to religion.

3. But is this what faith means within Christianity? Faith is a quality of life, a way of living, and a way of seeing. To be able to see the world and all its bits and pieces from pebbles to galaxies is the faculty of normal sight. To be able to imagine it as beautiful and to see it as having order and goodness is to ‘see’ in another way – this ‘seeing’ is faith. To see human lives with all their ups and downs is normal seeing, but when we commit ourselves that humans must be loved, cared for, and not treated as ‘things’ then we are seeing far beyond material structures, and this seeing, which imagines the whole human words of love and care, is part of faith. The gathering that we are presently taking part in may contain some siblings, but to see all of us as somehow related as sis­ters and brothers is to ‘see’ far beyond sibling groups and to be able to imagine bonds that are invisible and reach beyond the universe.

4. Faith is the ability to imagine life at its fullest. Faith is being able to imagine it as proceeding from God, proceeding under his care, and returning to God.  In such a view of faith, doubts are not like faults in a motorcar – first indications that it is all going to break down – but part of normal life. Indeed, doubt is the growing edge of faith. Doubt forces me to ask questions of myself, others, the tradition, and of my own and others’ ways of acting. Faith sees the big picture, but the big picture is never as clear as our view of the details.

5. But, when we form that big picture we are then confronted with the question: is this just a pretty picture or is it the truest grasp on the whole of life that I can find? If it is the truest grasp, if it has the ring of truth and solidity about it, then We must commit ourselves to it as The Truth, and then pattern our lives within that vision seen ‘in a glass darkly’.

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Scriptural Reflections

       Lord, one of the marks of our modern culture
       is that we are always looking for more things,
       more knowledge, more money, and more energy,
       so naturally we look for more faith as well.
       But you teach us that true faith is based on reality
       and this means accepting our lack of courage,
       our regrets and our fears,
       and that in fact our faith is as small as a mustard seed.
       With this kind of honesty we can achieve great things,
       even to say to a mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,”
       and it will obey us.

       “One person who can express himself  in life exercises a force superior to
       all the forces of brutality.”             … Gandhi

        Lord, nowadays when people want to move trees they call in a bulldozer,
       and when they want to influence people they call in armies;
       so we end up thinking that all life’s problems can be solved
       once we have machines that are powerful enough.
       We thank you for the great people of our time,
       people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Danilo Dolci,
       who remind us, as Jesus did, that virtue has greater power than any machine,
       and that if we have faith we can say to great trees,
       “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and they will obey us.

       Lord, we remember with gratitude people we have known
       who have done good work without any fuss:
       – good neighbors,
       – those who care for the sick and the retarded.
       – parents,
       the kind of people who when they had worked hard all day and returned home,
       took it for granted that they must get supper laid,
       make themselves tidy and wait on others while they ate and drank,
       content that they themselves would eat and drink afterwards.

       Lord, help those of us who are involved in training young people not to pamper them,
       giving them the illusion that in life we get quick rewards for our efforts.
       Help us rather to challenge them as Jesus has challenged us,
       showing them that if we want to do anything worthwhile in life
       – and that includes being good fathers and mothers –
       we must be ready to work hard, and at the end of the day
       not expect to have anyone say to us “Come and have your meal immediately.”
       We are more likely to hear that we must get supper laid,
       make ourselves tidy, and wait on others while they eat and drink
       and only afterwards we will be able to drink and eat ourselves.

       “There is another manner of loving which is when the soul seeks
       to serve our Lord for nothing in return, for love alone,
       without demanding to know the reason why,
       and without any reward of grace or glory.”           Beatrice of Nazareth

       Lord, forgive us that we turn our prayer life into bargaining with you,
       expecting that because we have done your will, you will tell us,
       “Come and have your meal immediately”.
       Lead us to that prayer where we leave ourselves totally in your hands,
       and when we have done all we have been told to do,
       we say, “We are merely servants who have done no more than our duty.”

 

HOMILIES
 
1.     Fr. Carles Irvin: 

During the last sixty or seventy years there has been among us a tremendous loss in our willingness to trust others. Beginning with the Vietnam War and immediately thereafter with Watergate, our confidence and faith in our governmental leaders has demonstrably diminished. The huge increases in divorce are symptomatic of our general loss of trust in others. It was once believed that science and technology would make our world a better place, and education was supposed to be the key to making us better people. Education was supposed to cause us to respect others and treat others better than had been the case in past human history. But they all have failed us; we don’t trust them much any more to improve our human lot.

 Presently we find ourselves with diminishing faith in our political institutions. Both the Congress and the Presidency are at all-time lows in terms of polls measuring the confidence that American voters have in them. In recent years there has been a crisis of faith in our Church leaders although that seems to be turning around due to the leadership of Pope Francis. Everywhere we hear of elevating hopes because of Pope Francis and his vision. Truly he is a good father figure for all Catholics… and some non-Catholics as well. 

Then there is the faith required for successful human relations. Our everyday dealings with others depend on trust. Unfortunately, people betray that trust, either by momentary weakness, or by premeditated deception, or when they run hidden agendas on us. The corporate scandals of recent years show us that humans can deceive in monstrous ways. Because of such sad experiences, as we grow older, we become more circumspect and tend to have only a few really close friends. If we are not to wind up completely isolated we need to deliberately cultivate trust and refuse to abandon faith in others and have greater faith in God’s providence. 

The prophet Habakkuk lived about 600 years before Christ, around the time of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem. The Jews were in desperate shape, threatened by their enemies and falling apart internally. Their moral fiber was unraveling. Corruption beset them. Their religious practices had diminished to the point where they were only empty and formal rites which they merely externally observed. Spiritually they were in near collapse. 

Habakkuk had the temerity to call God into an accounting, crying out:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.
 

How many of us have heard those words in our own day? How many of us have heard them whispered in our own hearts and souls? 

If we mature enough spiritually to cast cynicism aside, if we reject constant mistrust of others, and if we throw away our perpetual attitudes of disbelief, life will quickly change for us. We will begin to see others, reality and life in a whole new way. Light will enter into our dark world. We will have moved mountains, the mountains of darkness that smother our hearts and souls. 

One of the wonderful gifts that comes with being a priest is the continual encounters we priests have with people of faith. Many times I go into a home or into a hospital room where a person is dying. You might think that this would be a terrible scene, something very difficult to do. Usually, however, it is not. People of faith, in the midst of tears, are most often ready to let go and trust God to care for their loved ones. Many times the dying person himself or herself has such a deep faith that he or she radiates a peace in what would otherwise be empty despair and paralyzing fear of death. Many a priest realizes that he is among people whose service to the Lord is so strong that they serve the Lord even in crises, particularly in their own personal sufferings and crises. So often I realize that these same people have spent their lives saying their prayers, performing acts of Christian charity, coming to Mass, and receiving the Sacraments and living beautiful lives in their confidence and their faith in God. Their faith life is so strong in their daily lives that it is their sure support in all of their times of crises.  

Let’s you and I now stand in the shoes of the apostles who in today’s gospel account said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And let’s also hear Him say to us “If your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” In other words Jesus is telling them, “Don’t let yourselves off the hook! You have plenty of faith to accomplish all I ask.” This text is often misinterpreted as meaning, “O ye of little faith!” as a put-down of the disciples for not even having the faith of a tiny seed. On the contrary! The disciples are suggesting that God needs to give them more faith. Jesus tells them that they have plenty of faith already. The text of the original Greek is clear that the sense of the “if” clause is the one that implies that the situation is already true. “If you have faith – and you DO!” is its meaning. It takes a faith just the size of the teensiest mustard seen to move aside mountains of cynicism and despair. Jesus is telling us, “You have plenty of faith to accomplish all I ask, so stop making excuses for yourselves.” 

Today we need to take hold of the truth that we do have faith and that if we dare to use it we can change our lives. He’s telling us that we really don’t need more faith, we simply have it; it’s God’s gift to us and we should rely on it. If we do, we will be useful and productive. 

 If Republicans and Democrats recover faith in each other’s best intentions and if the President and the Congress do likewise, then there are no limits to the mountains they can move and to what they can accomplish. Do we believe in ourselves and in God, or do we rely only on our own power and our own politics?
 

2.     Connections:

 THE WORD:
Faith is not something that is won, bought or earned.  Faith only becomes genuine in our lives when we realize in all humility that faith is a gift freely given by God.  The two images in today’s Gospel point to this mystery of faith:
The gift of faith is like the mustard seed, among the tiniest of seeds.  The seed of faith needs to be nurtured or else it will wither and die; but allowed to grow, it yields the greatest of harvests.
In the light of real faith, we realize our total dependence on the providence of God.  To God’s graciousness we owe everything.  We recognize ourselves as God’s “useless servants,” deserving nothing by our own account.  The only adequate response we can make to God's unfathomable and immeasurable goodness is to live lives of joyful gratitude and humble servanthood.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
Quite literally, the tiniest seed can accomplish great things.  With “mustard seed” faith, we can bring the presence of God into the most ordinary dimensions of our lives and the lives of those we love.
Christ calls us to embrace “mustard seed” faith -- to believe that even the slightest act of goodness, done in faith and trust in God's presence, has meaning in the reign of God.  The mustard seeds that each one of us plants will yield not only the greatest harvest but the most enduring and rooted harvest. 
Faith begins with the gratitude and humility of the servant in today’s Gospel: to realize that the gift of faith requires justice, compassion and forgiveness; to realize, in the light of God’s love, how blessed we have been and to see ourselves and others as brother and sister “servants” at the table of the Father.
 

4.     RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY (Fr. Dwight Campbell)

 Purpose: On this first Sunday of October, Respect Life Sunday, we can make the words of Habakkuk our own in light of the violence which continues to be perpetrated upon innocent preborn children in our country through abortion. This past January 22nd, we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the horrible Roe v. Wade decision which, as the current law of our land, permits the brutal murder of children in the womb of their mothers throughout the full nine months of pregnancy.

  “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not intervene.” These are the words of the Prophet Habakkuk who prophesied in the southern Kingdom of Judah in the years prior to the Babylonian invasion, and who condemned the idolatry in the land, which included the sacrifice of children to pagan gods who really were devils (cf. Ps. 95{96}:5, Douay-Rheims trans.).

Whether it be ancient Israel or modern-day America, ideas have consequences.  Today, we live in a land where we are legally guided by our Supreme Court, their decisions, and the laws they interpret. The majority in Roe v. Wade claimed to find a constitutional right for a woman to kill the child within her womb, based upon a so-called “right to privacy” which, in fact, is found nowhere in the Constitution. In decisions decided in the decades following Roe, the Supreme Court upheld the so-called “right to abortion” – and this in the face of mounting scientific evidence which proves, without a doubt, that human life begins at the moment of conception.

Justices Byron White, in his dissenting opinion in Roe, called the majority’s ruling an exercise of “raw judicial power.” Truly, it was just that, for it not only overturned every state law in our country, but also reversed 2,500 years of medical ethics which, beginning with Hippocrates and the oath he formulated, assured that medical doctors would not abort an unborn child.

This “collision,” so to speak, between the Court’s decision in Roe and reality has resulted in schizophrenic thinking: after a child is born our law recognizes that it is a human being with a constitutional right to life; but one minute before birth, or even when the child is only partially born, it is legal to kill the child.  Upon what basis can a mother kill her child before birth? Simply by her subjective decision that she does not want to bring another child into the world, or that she considers this human life not worthy of living (e.g., if the child has some deformity, or has Downs syndrome). Justice Anthony Kennedy’s frightening words in the Supreme Court’s 1993 Planned Parenthood v. Casey abortion decision are worth repeating here: “At the heart of human liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Ah, yes, we are now like gods; we are the ultimate arbiters of good and evil, of who shall live and who shall die.

Some time ago, I recall driving behind someone who had two bumper stickers, side by side. One said “I support Planned Parenthood” (the largest provider of abortion in the U.S.); the other portrayed a panda bear – in other words, protect the lives of these cute animals who (it seems) are an endangered species. Why is it that so many, if not most, of those who champion protecting the environment – the earth, its natural resources, its fish and animals, etc. – are strident supporters of abortion?

Perhaps, the answer lies in the words of our Psalm (95) today, which extends to us this invitation: “Come, bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.” The willingness of those in our society to permit the killing of unborn children under the banner of “choice” – like the willingness of those who would allow marriage to be redefined so as to allow legal unions between people of the same sex – is rooted in a failure to accord to God the worship due to him, and the obedience which flows from that worship. One of the marks of a pagan society, of a paganized culture, is child sacrifice. Today, children are sacrificed to the golden idols of self-worship and self-love.

State sanctioned abortion is nothing else than legalized murder, performed for the convenience of those who do not wish to be burdened with children. Abortion violates the rights of God, who creates human life in his image and likeness, thereby endowing it with an eminent dignity and value. No one but God has the right to take an innocent human life. And, as the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, S.J., points out, a great evil of abortion is that God is denied the glory he would have received from the love that would have been given to children aborted.

In our battle to defend the rights of God and innocent human life, we must turn to Our Lady, who is both Virgin all-pure, and Mother – Mother of Christ Our Savior, and our spiritual Mother in the order of grace. Satan’s attack today is directed especially against both virginity and motherhood: against virginity and purity of mind, heart and body, as seen with rampant promiscuity, immodesty, pornography, and assaults on marriage and moral values in general; and against motherhood, especially with the killing of innocent children in the womb. Satan, Jesus tells us, “was a murderer from the beginning.” I am convinced that the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to overcome the culture of death, and bring about victory with a culture of life, is through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by praying her Rosary. Mary leads us to Jesus, the Author of all human life; the Immaculate Heart of the Mother is the gateway to the Sacred Heart of her Son, that Heart of the Redeemer which overflows with love for us.

In the Gospel today, the Apostles plead with Jesus, “Increase our faith.” As Bl. Pope John Paul II teaches in Redemptoris Mater, Mary is the great woman of faith who, on the one hand, is our supreme model in believing, in giving God the worship he deserves, and in that obedience which flows from authentic faith. On the other hand, she is our Advocate and our Mediatrix before God, who intercedes on our behalf and, thereby, obtains for us the graces we need to be faithful followers of her Son, and examples to others in the obedience of faith that God demands of us.

Let us turn to Mary in this Respect Life Month, asking her to mould us, more and more, into the image of her Son, that we may be examples to others, leading  them to true, authentic worship of God as found and as lived in his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which Christ founded on Peter, the Rock. Let us petition the Mother of God to intercede for all the people of these United States, that they may come to a knowledge of the true Faith,  thereby giving God the worship due to him, being his obedient servants, and respecting  human life from conception until natural death.

 ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.     ANDREW GREELEY: 

Background:

Luke combines two parables in today’s Gospel, that of the mustard seed and that of the useless servants. The former is perhaps the better subject for a homily because its meaning is clearer. However, the second is deeper and richer. There is no such thing as a little faith any more than there is a little pregnancy. Faith is an overwhelming power no matter how weak it may seem.   

 Given half a chance it will take over and direct our lives, comforting us when we are discouraged and challenging us when we are complacent.   

 The second parable is at first glance hard to reconcile with Jesus’ claim that his apostles are friends, not servants in St. John’s Gospel. Perhaps he is being ironic here: you can’t earn my love, it’s already given to you. Respond to my love with love of your own, but don’t run around trying to impress me with how diligent you are.

Story:

Once upon a time it was a mother’s fiftieth birthday (oh, horror of horrors!). Her children who loved her very much were determined to make the birthday party truly spectacular. The rented a hall, hired an orchestra, invited a huge crowd, and ordered dinner from the best caterer in the neighborhood. Each one of them presented a little speech about how wonderful their mother was. So hard did they work to make the party a complete success that they wore themselves and bickered through the whole evening. Each one tried to outdo the others in professing love for their wonderful mother.  

 The mother cried through the whole party she was so happy. Well, said her husband, after it was all over, now you know how much your children love you. Oh, she said, with a sigh, I knew that all along. They didn’t have to prove it to me. I’m very grateful to them. Still, wouldn’t it have been much nicer if was only you and me and them sitting around a table and enjoying ourselves and the love we all have for one another.

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2.     CONNECTIONS: 

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke 17: 5-10

Knowing what to say

After church one Sunday, a parishioner pulled the pastor aside.  He was a dedicated member of the parish’s ministry to the sick and homebound.  Just the day before he had visited the local hospital and discovered that a young couple in the church had just had a baby: a little girl with Down Syndrome. 

“I didn’t know what to say,” the man said to the pastor.  “We visited for a few minutes.  They let me hold her and I told them she was beautiful . . . I didn’t know what to say.”  He went on to describe how he had prayed with the couple, thanking God for their child and asking God’s peace and blessing on the family.

The pastor assured the man that he had said exactly the right thing and that his words and gestures were appropriate and kind.  The pastor said he could not have done better himself.

A couple of weeks later the man again pulled the pastor aside and showed him a note from the young mother.  She thanked him for his visit and prayer and then concluded her note:  “Thank you for not saying what so many people said and telling us how sorry you were.  We are so happy to have our baby.  Thank you for sharing our family’s joy.”

“That’s great,” the pastor said.
“But can you imagine people telling them how sorry they were?” the man wondered.
“Well,” the pastor replied, “I guess they just didn’t know what to say.”

[From “Living by the Word:  What to say” by Patrick J. Wilson, The Christian Century, June 26, 2007.] 

In his heart, the visitor knew exactly what to say even though he didn’t realize it.  He knew how to speak a simple word of gratitude for the gift of this child and speak a word of peace to her family.  That is “mustard seed” faith: the conviction that even the smallest act of compassion, done in faith and trust in God’s providence, has meaning in the reign of God.  May we embrace the spirit of the Gospel mustard seed: that our willingness to be vehicles of God’s compassion for the sake of others enables us to overcome our own doubts and self-consciousness in order to plant and reap God’s harvest of peace, justice and reconciliation in our own small corner of the Father’s kingdom.   

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3.     Jump! I will catch you

 One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters." 

4.     Here is a similar illustration: “I can’t see you”

During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father's voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, "I can't see you!"

The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, "But I can see you. Jump!" The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. 

Donner Atwood.
 

5.     "There is an angel in there and I must set it free."
One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, "What are you making?" He replied, "There is an angel in there and I must set it free."

Every Christian at their confirmation or conversion is handed a large cold white marble block called religion. We must then take the mallet in hand and set to work. Religion is not our goal but we must first start there. Now there are many names for religion. At times we do call it religion but we often use other words and images to describe it. Sometimes we call it our faith. Jesus spoke in terms of the Kingdom of God. We say we are the Church, Christians, or Disciples. There are many names with varying nuances of meaning but in the end they all describe the same thing. We are a people of Faith, faith in Christ to be sure, but faith nonetheless.

We are not a business or institution. We do not sell or produce anything. We advocate no earthly cause. We serve no worldly authority. We come to a church building made by men. And to do what? Practice our faith. But we just as well could have met on a hillside or cave...
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6.      "Get away from it all"

Urbanites and suburbanites might have very different definitions of a "neighborhood," but both daydream about the gladed landscapes and bucolic beauty of a truly rural setting.  

Who wouldn't like to "get away from it all" for a while?
Who wouldn't want to experience a refreshing dose of peace and quiet?
Who wouldn't prefer a two lane gravel road instead of an eight lane "freeway" parking lot?
Who wouldn't trade fields of green for acres of asphalt?

The only problem with this rural respite is that we really cannot ever "get away from it all" anymore. We always "take it with us." In our smart phones. On our lap tops. With our tablets. We are constantly connected to it "all" - all the time - regardless of our actual geographic location.

Except. 

Except in those isolated patches of the planet where getting connected to the internet is like watching paint dry - an agonizing sit-and-wait period that is limited by the power of whatever broadband is available in that area. The endlessly blinking cursor on pc's, or the ceaselessly "spinning wheel of death" on Macs, advertises that we aren't connected to anything or anyone "yet" and might not be ever.

If it takes longer than five seconds to connect, to get online or get access to any website, we go into meltdown mode.  

Repeating commands.
Refreshing.
Re-entering.
Re-booting.  

If there is any yet undeclared "endangered species," it would have to be the human attention span. We need online and we need it right now. We pay big bucks in order to slice away seconds. Super satellite hook-ups or muscle-bound bandwidths are the new gold standard. We cannot sit and wait while information is downloaded. We cannot live with a weak or wavering signal. We crave full power and instant access to the online world all the time-wherever we are. 

Jesus' mission and ministry was also all about trying to connect disciples to a new world... 
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7.     Go Ahead and Do It

 Slowly I have realized that I do not have to be qualified to do what I am asked to do. That I just have to go ahead and do it, even though I can't do it as well as I think it ought to be done. This is one of the most liberating lessons of my life.

 Madeleine L'Engel
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8.     For Lovers, Duty Is Only Natural

Ask any parent who gets up at 2:00 a.m. and then at 3:00 a.m. and then at 3:30 a.m. to answer the cry of a sick baby. Lovers never ask, "What's the least I can do?"

Ask any man whose income is so limited that after he pays his rent and buys his groceries he has only pennies to spare. But his sweetheart has a birthday the next month and he has his eye on something that means he'll have to go without lunch for three weeks. So he buys it.

Boys' Town near Omaha has made capital of a poster showing a little guy toting a tyke nearly as big as he is, saying, "He's not heavy; he's my brother."

Are any of these lovers looking for a medal? No. They're only doing their duty. And it's only natural.

Our relationship to Christ is like that. For although Jesus may have been cracking a small joke when he portrayed how ludicrous it could have been if the master served the slave, yet that ridiculous reversal of roles is just what took place in the Upper Room when the Master served the disciples, washing their feet. It was symbolic of his entire ministry, including the cross. 

Alvin Rueter, Freedom to Be Wrong, CSS Publishing Company
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9.     Accept the Fact 

The great theologian Paul Tillich used to say, "Accept the fact that you're accepted." And we might add, "When you do, you will accept all others too and serve them. And no one will owe you anything." And you won't mind that at all.

Richard W. Patt, All Stirred Up, CSS Publishing
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10.  The Size of Faith

The size of faith doesn't matter because God is the one doing the moving.

If it is my faith that moved the mountain, then the bigger the mountain the more faith I would need to move it.
The bigger the obstacle the more strength I'd need to climb it.
The more serious the illness a faith even greater would be required to overcome it.
The more serious the sin the more faith I would need in order to have it forgiven.

That kind of thinking kind of makes sense, but that's not how faith works. In fact, faith doesn't do the work at all. And thank God for that.

God is the one doing the work through faith. Think of faith as the key that opens the door to God acting in our lives. If I have a bigger key ring than you do, does it matter? The size of a key ring doesn't matter - key rings don't open doors but it's that little key on the ring that opens doors. Even a little faith opens the door for God to move the mountains and trees and even our hearts.

Vince Gerhardy, Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed
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11.  Excuses, Excuses 

I have read that Dorothy Day, a co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and an extraordinarily faithful laywoman, was often approached by people who said things to here like, "You are a saint," "You are so special - a true gift of God as a person." She hated that! She was quite gruff with those who suggested these things. She'd say, "No, I'm not! I'm no different from you. If you value what I do, go do it yourself. You could, you know." She detested any language that set her apart from others because she saw it as a cop-out, a way for people to rationalize why they were not more devoted to easing the suffering of the poorest. 

The disciples were this way - they saw before them what their faithfulness would require and declared that they didn't have enough faith to consider such choices. "Excuses, excuses," Jesus tells them. We say "I don't have enough faith to be that kind of person, the kind of person who..." Jesus says, "Sure you do."

Alison L. Boden 
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12.  Daily Forgiveness 

I once visited on online greeting card website to send an electronic anniversary card to some friends. As I was glancing through the website's menu of choices, I noticed they had a separate category of cards devoted to "Forgiveness." Most of these cards were humorous ones intended to be used for relatively minor hurts. "Forget about it," "Don't worry about it" were the sentiments of two cards. Another expressed forgiveness by saying, "Everybody is a work in progress."

Curiously, forgiveness cards were categorized right along with birthday and get well cards. That is, they were what could be called "occasional cards." You don't send a "Get Well" card just any old time, but occasionally you need such a sentiment and that's when you purchase and send just such a card. So also you may not need a forgiveness card very often, but once in a while such a thing may be handy.

Seen this way, forgiveness becomes a "now and then" matter. But it is precisely such an understanding of forgiveness that the New Testament calls us to resist. Forgiveness is an ongoing necessity, and so the church will never be done with needing it. Maybe that is why in that most famous of all prayers, the Lord's Prayer, Jesus puts the need to forgive hard on the heels of the request for daily bread. Have you ever thought of that? The request for bread and the plea for forgiveness are yoked with the word "and." "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others." You say these two petitions in the same breath. Why is that important? Because perhaps it is Jesus' way of telling us that there is a connection between daily bread and forgiveness--we need both every day!

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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13.  Faith Needs Daily Exercise 

One day my wife brought a jar and asked me to open it for her. I tried and tried to open that jar, but my hands just weren't strong enough to hold the jar tightly and turn the lid. It is a little embarrassing to a man when a woman asks him to open a jar and he can't do it, so I decided that I needed to increase the strength in my hands. I got this hand exerciser to help me. You have probably seen one of these. You just squeeze the two sides together, like this. If you don't have one of these, you can do the same type of exercise by squeezing a rubber ball. By exercising my hands every day, they will get stronger and stronger. Then maybe I won't be embarrassed the next time my wife asks me to open a jar for her. 

Faith is believing and trusting in God. Faith is like a muscle, you have to exercise it every day to make it strong. Sometimes we say that we have faith in God. We say that we believe that He can do anything, but then we act as if everything depends on us. That isn't a very strong faith, is it?

Jesus told his disciples that if they had as much faith as a tiny mustard seed, they could tell a tree to move from one place to another and the tree would obey them. Now, that is a strong faith, isn't it? I wish I had as much faith as a mustard seed. Maybe I will if I keep exercising it. I do know my faith will grow stronger if I exercise it by trusting in God each and every day. How strong is your faith? Does it need a little daily exercise?

Charles Kirkpatrick, Exercising Your Faith
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14.  How My Light Is Spent 

One of the greatest poems in the English language was written by John Milton as he dealt with the onset of his blindness. "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent" has eleven lines with seven subordinate clauses. When the dependent clauses are stripped away we are left with their sense: 

When I consider how my light is spent,
I fondly ask (so he won't scold me)
If God demands day-labor light denied? 

John Milton's contention with himself as he thought on his blindness was not simply a complaint and a chastening. Clearly he was in anguish not only at his loss of sight but at his inability to serve God as he thought he should. But, Milton found through his loss not only the resignation to abide it but turned his mind with a startling clarity of thought and vision to writing his most memorable work: Paradise Lost.

Adapted from Miller Williams, "Touchstones, American Poets on a Favorite Poem" Robert Pack and Jay Parini, Editors, Middlebury College Press 1996.
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15.  Ralph Waldo Emerson on Duty 

There is a time in every mans education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion... 

It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds... 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance," in Essays (First Series 1841).
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 16.  The Priorities of a Servant 

A young boy by the name of James had a desire to be the most famous manufacturer and salesman of cheese in the world. He planned on becoming rich and famous by making and selling cheese and began with a little buggy pulled by a pony named Paddy. After making his cheese, he would load his wagon and he and Paddy would drive down the streets of Chicago to sell the cheese. As the months passed, the young boy began to despair because he was not making any money, in spite of his long hours and hard work.

One day he pulled his pony to a stop and began to talk to him. He said, "Paddy, there is something wrong. We are not doing it right. I am afraid we have things turned around and our priorities are not where they ought to be. Maybe we ought to serve God and place him first in our lives." The boy drove home and made a covenant that for the rest of his life he would first serve God and then would work as God directed.
 
17. Burning Truck
 
In the late 1990’s, CNN, the American news channel, ran an ad in the print media that made a deep impression on me: not necessarily to watch CNN – which, of course, I do sometimes, but about the spirituality of daily life.  The two page ad had this large truck in the foreground which was on fire.  At one of the corners of the photograph there was this elderly person who was throwing a bucket of water on the blazing truck in an attempt to put off the fire.  And the caption read: “History is not made by kings and presidents; but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” (Fr. Selvam, sdb)
 
18. St. Francis de Sales
 
 
St Francis would write to ‘Philothea’, in his classical, An Introduction to the Devout Life:
“It is not merely an error but a heresy to suppose that a devout life (holiness) is necessarily banished from the soldier’s camp, the merchant’s shop, the prince’s court, or the domestic hearth” (Chap. III).
 
19. Don Bosco and Dominic Savio
 
This spirituality of daily life was lived out in an exemplary manner by St John Bosco (1815-1888), who lived in Turinin the 19th Century.  He also passed on this simple spirituality to his boys, for whom he gave his life. A story is told of St Dominic Savio (1842-1857) who was the student of St John Bosco.  When he entered the home run by Don Bosco (which was called the Oratory), the little Dominic Savio wanted to become a saint.  Initially he thought, one became a saint through asceticism and penance. So Dominic used to put stones on his bed and sleep on them.  When St John Bosco came to discover this, he gently told him: “Dominic, in my school becoming a saint is very simple.  Sanctity consists in fulfilling your daily duties.”  The young Dominic Savio began to cheer up, and indeed he did become a saint. (Fr. Selvam, sdb)
 
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From Fr Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1) Blondin the French tight rope walker became world-famous  in June of 1859, when he walked on a tightrope stretched over quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls. He became the first person to accomplish this amazing feat.  He walked across 160 feet above the waterfalls several times, each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once even carrying a stove and cooking an omelet! A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oooooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another -- blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically shouted, "Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!" "Okay," said Blondin, "Get in the wheelbarrow....." The Blondin story goes that no one did although all had faith in his ability! Later in August of 1859, his manager, Harry Colcord showed his faith in Blondin and did ride on Blondin's back across the Falls. (http://www.creativebiblestudy.com/Blondin-story.html). In today’s Gospel Jesus challenges his disciples to have such a faith in him so that they may work miracles in their lives.   

2)  Pavarotti: My Own Story: Luciano Pavarotti was the charismatic successor of the legendary opera tenor, Enrico Caruso.  In his autobiography, Pavarotti: My Own Story, he describes how he was trained by a great master, Arrigo Pola. “Everything Pola asked me to do, I did, – day after day, blindly. For six months we did nothing but vocalize and work on vowels.” Pavarotti worked hard under Pola for two and a half years and then worked just as hard under Maestro Ettore Campogalliani for another five years. Finally after putting so much faith and trust in his mentors, Pavarotti made a breakthrough at a concert in Salsomaggiore in Northern Italy where he thrilled the audience and was catapulted into fame. This story about faith and trust leads us into today’s readings which focus on the same themes. As Luciano Pavarotti put his trust in his teachers, today’s gospel instructs that we too must put our trust in our mentor Jesus Christ. (Albert Cylwicki in ‘’His Word Resounds").

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Pro-Life Sunday:


27 Sunday: