14 Sunday B- 2-Several reflections

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 6:1-6

Homily from Father James Gilhooley

The bishop asked the monsignor, "How was my homily?" The msgr: "You were brief." The bp: "I try never to be tiresome. The msgr: "You were tiresome too."
The nineteenth century English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Was that a cute throwaway line or did Lord Tennyson know something we do not? The answer to our question is to be found in the prayer life of Jesus.

 During boyhood, Mary and Joseph annually took the Child to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in the Great Temple. It was a costly journey for this working class family. And don't forget exhaustion. We speak about a five day walk over ninety miles. The sun would blister them in the day and the nights would deep freeze them. But each year, faithful as the sunrise, they loaded the old donkey and moved south. When He became a Man, Jesus continued to go to Jerusalem for the solemn feast.
Furthermore, every Saturday in Nazareth the Master picked up His weekly contribution envelope and took Himself to His synagogue or parish. Like most Jews, He was tithing 10% of His income. Anything less He would consider a tip. There He  worshipped publicly and received instructions. This procedure He followed till He knocked the dust of Nazareth off His sandals for good at about age 30.
But the Gospel record shows He continued weekly public worship after leaving His home town. Today Mark explicitly mentions His presence in a synagogue. The next time you want to skip weekend Mass, you might want to dwell on this point. Perhaps a line from Saint Padre Pio might help: "If we understood the Eucharist, we would risk our life to get to Mass.
With the above as evidence, one must conclude the Teacher has little patience with many self-deceived men and women. These are the folks who say that, while they do not go to Sunday Liturgy, they do worship God at home in their own way. If such worship was not kosher for the Christ, how can it be acceptable for any of us today?
Some wannabe intellectuals say, "If the homilies were better, I would go." The only answer for that is the response of the grizzled old pastor, "If it's laughs you want, catch a TV comic. If worship, I'm your man."
Can you imagine the number of dull sermons Jesus of Nazareth must have been subjected to over thirty-three years? How many times must He have put His knuckle deep into His mouth to stifle laughter at some theological gaffe from a well-meaning rabbi?  Yet, He faithfully went each Saturday.
"I don't go to church because there are so many hypocrites there." Do you really think there were no such deadbeats around the Teacher during His public worship days? Incidentally, we always have room for one more hypocrite. And, as Andrew Greeley puts it, "If you can find a perfect church, join it. But realize that as soon as you do, it ceases to be perfect."
 Deadly homilies and hypocrites notwithstanding, the Nazarene felt obliged to go to public worship. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he wanted to tune into the secret wireless of God. If Christ did all this, so of course should you and I.
An even careless reading of the Gospels reveal that the Teacher invested His time in private prayer as well. It was a given that every Jewish family would have a schedule of daily private prayer. This would be particularly true at meals. This custom Jesus continued to the end as the Last Supper indicates.
His public ministry had to be very busy. Yet, He put aside quality time for private prayer. Check it out in Luke. He writes: "Crowds pressed on Him. But He retired to a mountain and prayed." In Mark: "In the morning, He got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place, and prayed there."
If the Master had not spent so much time in public and private prayer, He could have cured so many more hundreds, if not thousands, of their physical ailments. 
One must thereby conclude He considered prayer not a luxury item but a necessity. It is a must-do for us. Matthew and John tell us the servant is not greater than the master and the pupil not greater than the teacher. Given the example of the Nazarene, why then do we assign prayer to the fringes of our lives? Why is it not one of the essentials of our brief existence?
"To pray is," as Ralph Sockman wrote, "to expose the shore of the mind to the incoming tide of God."
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino

Fourteenth Sunday: A Prophet Among Them
“You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, shouted in court in the 1992 classic movie, A Few Good Men.  “They can’t handle the truth,” is really what the Spirit is telling Ezekiel in this Sunday’s first reading from the beginning of this prophetic book. But that didn’t stop the fact that they would  know there is a prophet among them.
And the people of Nazareth questioned Jesus’ teaching.  They didn’t want to handle His Truth, so they formed an ad hominem argument.  An ad hominem argument is the weakest, argument possible.  It is an attack on the person not on the question presented.  For example, you go into a person’s room and see that person watching porn.  You say, “You’ve got to get away from that stuff.  It will destroy you and keep you from having a relationship with those around you.” The person responds, “Oh yeah, well who do you think you are?” That is an ad hominem argument.  “So,” the people in today’s Gospel asked, “Why should we listen to Jesus’ teaching.  How could he have anything significant to say to us?  We know him, his family, his home.”  Politicians do this all the time.  They don’t like their opponents stance but can’t prove it wrong, so they attack their opponents background, character, etc.  We do this all the time.  We hear our parents, or our children, or our neighbors say something that we really don’t want to hear because we know it is right, so we discredit the argument by attacking the person making it.  So a Teen comes back from a deep spiritual experience, and is committed to following and proclaiming Christ.  He or she says to his or her Mom or Dad, “I love you.   And because I love you I have to tell you that you need to be joining us in Church every week and receive communion.” And the parent responds, “Who are you to tell me what to do?  You’re only 16.”  How does a Teen being 16 change the facts?
Ad hominem arguments are pathetic.
C. S. Lewis wrote that we live in a society that has replaced “I believe,” with “I feel.”  We live in a society where personal values has replaced objective morality.  When a prophet comes, a prophet being someone who proclaims the truth, society looks to discredit the prophet.  We should realize that if Jesus Christ were walking the earth right now, once more teaching in the synagogues as well as in His own churches, He would be crucified again, most likely through slander, but possibly even with nails.  Let’s face it, the leaders of the Temple had Jesus crucified because it kept them from running around with their hands to their ears and screaming, “La la la la la,”  so they did not have to hear what He was saying.
Many  people in our society would rather that Christ stayed in the tomb then have to listen to His confronting them with the Truth.
All this leaves us with two questions: First, do I have the humility to handle the truth? And second: do I have the courage to proclaim the truth?
First question, do I have the humility to handle the truth? Objective morality tells us that we are not the creators and arbiters of Truth.  Truth is not what we say it is.  Two plus two is going to be four, no matter what we feel it could be.  It takes humility for us to agree that some matters are right or wrong regardless of our feelings.  For example, some people feel they have a right to steal from work because they put in extra hours.  The humble person would say, “God’s law, the moral law is quite clear.  It is a sin to steal. Theft is theft. End of story.” Many people say that it is OK to have sex outside of marriage, be it infidelity or any form of pre-marital sex, because it feels right. The humble person would say, “Right is right and wrong is wrong, no matter how I feel.” It takes humility to realize that there is a Higher Authority that keeps us from justifying anything, rationalizing our way to agreeing to anything. It takes humility to be a person of faith, a person who lives his or her faith.  It takes humility for a person to say, “As much as everything within me wants to do this, it is as wrong for me as it is for anyone else.”  It takes humilty to handle the truth.
Second question: do I have the courage to proclaim the truth? The proclamation of the truth demands tremendous courage.  Proclaiming the truth means being crucified, figuratively and literally.  So you say to others something like, “It is wrong to get drunk, whether you are driving or not.  It is just worst to be drunk and driving.”  That will get you insults from your so-called friends.  That will result in your being left off the list of those who are invited to a party.  And that will have you pigeon-holed as a religious fanatic.  It takes tremendous courage to accept the cross.

 We need to remind ourselves, Jesus Christ is Truth Incarnate.  Those who reject the truth, reject Him.  But those who have the courage to proclaim His Truth, proclaim Jesus Christ.

Back to Ezekiel.  The prophet is told,  “You shall say to them, ‘thus says the Lord God.’  And whether they heed or resist, for they are a rebellious people, they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”  People may attack the proclamation of the truth. Certainly many will.  People may attack the one proclaiming the truth.  That is the behavior of those with an infantile view of life.  But nothing can diminish the force of the truth.  And in time, perhaps over centuries, people will realize that there was a prophet among them.

 That prophet is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Truth we have been called to proclaim.


 Homily from Father Phil Bloom

Mary Opens a Window

(July 8, 2012)

Bottom line: When we face offenses and unkind words, it's easy to start brooding. The devil tells us to throw in the towel. But Jesus shows a different way. And when a door closes, sometimes Mary opens a window.

 The great Catholic televangelist Bishop Fulton Sheen used to tell this humorous story: One day the Lord says to St. Peter, "How are all these people getting into heaven?"

"Don't blame me," St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, your Mother opens a window!" (smile)

I don't know about you, but if it comes down to that, I won't be too proud to climb through a window. And I would be grateful to the Virgin Mary for opening it.
Today's Gospel refers to Mary. The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as the "Son of Mary." But the Gospel also raises a question. It refers to Jesus' "brothers and sisters." Are they physical children of Mary or is someone else their mother? The Gospel doesn't give a clear answer. A good place to start is this book I am holding: The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here is what the Catechism says:
"Against this doctrine (of Mary ever Virgin) the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus." The Catechism admits that a debate exists, but it goes on to say, "The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary."
So why does the Church believe that these passage do not refer to physical children of Mary? Well, there are other Scripture passages we need to take into account. Again I quote the Catechism, "In fact James and Joseph, 'brothers of Jesus,' are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls 'the other Mary.' (Mt 13:55 & 17:56)"
There's a lot a person could say based on the Bible, but here's the bottom line: "They (the 'brothers and sisters') are close relations of Jesus according to an Old Testament expression."
If someone tells you that Mary was not "ever Virgin," I encourage you start from the Catechism. Paragraph 500 - it's easy to remember! It will give you a number of Biblical verses including Matthew's reference to "the other Mary" who is mother of James and Joseph. The Catechism also cites early Christian writers: When they speak about Mary, they take for granted her perpetual virginity - just a simple, plain fact. It is for me - and I hope it is for you.
More important than the debate about Mary's perpetual virginity is what the Catechism says in the following paragraph: "Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual mother extends to all men." (#501) St. John represents all Christians when he hears the words, "Behold, your mother!"
We get a tiny glimpse of Mary's spiritual motherhood in today's Gospel. It happens in the context of a controversy not about her, but about Jesus. I am now going to speak about that controversy and then we can ask how Mary fits into it.
The Gospel says, "They took offense at him." And they did what people do when they "take offense." They tried to put Jesus down.
I don't know about you, but I have had people "take offense" at me. In my case, I have to assume at least some blame on my part. I am not innocent like Jesus, but like him I sometimes I experience a "put down." I imagine you also have had heard unkind words. They may have been said sweetly, but they contained a barb. What should we do? How should we respond? Jesus shows us the way:
The first thing that Jesus does is acknowledge it. Jesus is so deep in Scripture that he is able to put the attack into a biblical context. Okay, these people are taking offense at me. They are making some cutting remarks. But look what the prophets suffered. Why should I expect anything different?
For sure, this pained Jesus, but he also thought about how it affected others. It cut them off from grace and healing. So Jesus reached out to the people he could, but then sought others that needed him.

In my years as a priest, I have seen many people give up the apostolate because they suffered some humiliation. Somebody says a word that hurts them; they start brooding and the devil is right there telling them to throw in the towel. That is not Jesus' way. He keeps going.

 Jesus suffered rejection not only from his townspeople in general, but also from his own extended family. But he eventually came back to them. It is significant that after Peter, the man who became bishop of Jerusalem was "James, the brother of the Lord."
James, remember, is the son of the "other Mary." We don't know exactly who she is - perhaps a sister-in-law of Mary so that James is Jesus' first cousin. The Hebrew and Aramaic languages did not make a sharp distinction between brother and cousin.* They became part of a big extended family. And like every family, they had fallings-out, but also (thanks be to God) reconciliation - coming back together.

 And can we not imagine Mary having some role in that reconciliation? A beautiful woman of faith, she surely worked in the background: praying, talking with the individuals, helping them see the other person's point of view. When someone shuts a door, Mary quietly opens a window.

To sum up: When we face offenses and unkind words, it's easy to start brooding. The devil tells us to throw in the towel. But Jesus shows a different way: Acknowledge the hurt, but turn to the Bible and to prayer. Think about the other person - and that many people may need you. As Jesus had a mission, so do you. And when someone closes a door, know that you have a heavenly advocate: Mary opens a window. Amen.


Homily from Father Andrew M. Greeley

14 Ordinary Time
 Mark 6:1-6
"Jesus marveled because of their unbelief"
The passage today is advice to the early Christian followers of Jesus to travel light, to keep a distance between themselves and their material possessions. It is undoubtedly based on advice Jesus gave his followers during his public life when he sent them forth to prepare the way in the towns and cities he was planning to visit. It was not meant to be taken literally, but it was not meant to be dismissed as rhetoric either.
Jesus and his band had a treasury, we know, because Judas the treasurer  was a thief and stole from it.  The apostles appointed deacons to handle administration.
The church today has enormous goods at its disposal, which generally are used well. Yet there is a terrible danger that financial administration will be confused with religious leadership – from the parish society on up to the Vatican. 
Once upon a time a mommy and a daddy were preparing to take their two children for two weeks vacation in the country. They had, as do most mommies and daddies these days, a sports utility vehicle (SUV). They figured that they would travel light. For two weeks you don’t have to bring the whole house, do you?
Since the SUV was big, it was easy to pile things into it. First of all, they packed clothes. Because you can never tell what you might have to do or where you might have to go at the Lake or what the weather will be like, they didn’t really pack any more things then they would need for, let us say, a trip to Paris. Moreover they wanted their kids to look their best. So they packed comprehensive wardrobes for them too. You can never tell what might happen on a vacation, can you? Then there was the matter of toys and similar stuff. The weather might be bad so they had to pack enough toys to keep the kids happy if they were imprisoned in a cottage for two weeks. But the weather might be good, so they had to pack enough toys that the kids wouldn’t be bored on the beach.  Then each of the kids had their favorite toys without which they could not survive. Did I forget the family dog?

Eventually the SUV was fully loaded and there was room for everyone except the mommy and the daddy. So they rearranged things. There hardly was room to breathe in SUV. When they got to the lake, they had to unpack all their stuff. When their vacation was over (as alas vacations tend to be) they repacked everything to drive home. Then when they arrived home they had to unpack everything. No one was talking to one another for three days.


Homily from Father Cusick Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

14 Ordinary Time

 "And on the sabbath [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! And they took offence at him. And he could do no mighty work there... And he marvelled because of their unbelief." (Mark 6: 2.3.5)

Jesus is saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the little faith of his own disciples (Cf. Mark 6:6; Matthew 8:26) (CCC 2610)

 The miracles and signs withheld from the people because of their lack of faith are a sign only of the more dire effect of the impossibility of salvation without the virtue of faith. Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. (Cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:36; 6:40 et al.) "Since 'without faith it is impossible to please [God]' and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'but he who endures to the end.' " (Dei Filius 3:DS 3012; cf. Matthew 10:22; 24:13 and Hebrews 11:6; Council of Trent: DS 1532.) (CCC 161) Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16) (CCC 183)
Just as all faith comes through the graces of the Church, so also the Church, through which comes the faith by which we are saved, is necessary for salvation. The Catechism discusses the oft-quoted and much-misunderstood teaching: "outside the Church there is no salvation."
How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? (Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21: PL 3, 1169; De unit.: PL 4, 509-536.) Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (LG 14; cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5) (CCC 846)
Some mistakenly take this for a blanket condemnation of anyone who is not a "card-carrying" Catholic. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one is condemned for sincerely following his conscience, for this itself is a grace from God.
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience-those too may achieve eternal salvation. (Lumen Gentium 16; cf. DS 3866-3872) (CCC 847)
We would do well to remember the words of St. Thomas More when, implored by his friend the Duke of Norfolk to consent with him to the headship of the Church by, and the divorce and remarriage of, King Henry VIII "for fellowship's sake" he responded, "When you go to heaven for following your conscience and I go to hell for not following mine, will you come along with me for fellowship's sake?"
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(Publish with permission.)