15th Sunday B: On to Your Mission

In today's first reading, we are told that Amos spoke out against the evil practices that people indulged in daily life, while at the same time keeping up the external religious practices.

The local temple priest Amaziah speaks out against Amos and asks him to go back home. Amos was opposed because his message struck home; he was opposed because he himself being poor spoke of the evil that stemmed from riches and greed. Amos' humble answer was that he was no professional prophet, he was a simple herdsman, but he was prophesying because the Lord called him and asked him to speak in His name. True prophets are not self-appointed, nor are they appointed by popular choice but are called by God alone to fulfill this mission. Today too those who speak in the name of religion are not accepted.

His religion ought to come out of his fingers
A minister was being shown through a section of a Detroit automobile factory by the foreman. Among the workers was a parishioner of the minister, a fellow named John. Knowing that John was a skilled mechanic the minister remarked, "I guess John is one of your best workers." "Sorry to disagree," replied the foreman. "True, he could be one of our best, but John stands around talking about his religion, when he should be attending to his machine. Personally, he is a fine fellow, and he is a good man when he works, but he still has to learn that when he is running that machine, his religion ought to come out of his fingers and not out of his mouth." Msgr. Drinkwater

In the gospel we see Jesus giving instructions to the twelve as he sends them out on their mission. We are reminded that he first called them and then he sent them out two by two and gave them authority as they went forth. Thereby we are reminded that coming to Jesus precedes going out in His name. If we have not come to Jesus then we do not receive His power and authority and Spirit. The rhythm of the Christian life is summarized in the two words: 'Come' and 'Go.' We come in prayer and contemplation to the Lord in order to go out in loving service. As Jesus sends the disciples on their mission he warns them about what to expect, that they will not always be accepted by the people. They have to remember that the message is not to be forced on people. Faith is always an invitation to believe, not a command that has to be obeyed. What is especially noteworthy of the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples before he sent them, is that he does not mention anything of what they were to say, rather, he stresses the kind of lives they should live. What Jesus is thereby driving home is the fact that the witness of their life will be the greatest sermon they will ever deliver. He does not want professionals who have honed in their skills but people who live what they believe. The disciples must give witness to their own faith by what they do, and what they hold precious, thus by their example they will lead people to the kingdom of God. Jesus thus emphasizes the attitudes that they should have in their life and the values that should guide their day-to-day living rather than the doctrine that they should preach. At times we tend to shirk our responsibility to live our prophetic calling saying that we are not good speakers, that we do not have leadership qualities, and that we don't have any experience. God needs us as we are, and where we are now, not our capabilities, and our future plans!

Friend, Lend Me Your Hands!
The Korean war was raging and a little village came under artillery fire. In the village stood a Catholic Church and outside the church mounted on a pedestal, there was a fine statue of Christ. However when the smoke of battle cleared away, the statue had disappeared. It had been blown off its pedestal and lay in fragments on the ground. A group of American soldiers helped the priest to dig out and collect up the bits and pieces. Carefully they helped him to put the statue together again. They found all the pieces except the hands. They offered to have the statue flown back to America and have hands made for it. But the priest refused. "I have a better idea," he said. "Let's leave it as it is without the hands. And let's write on the pedestal for all passersby to see the words: FRIEND, LEND ME YOUR HANDS. In that way we may get them to see that Christ has no hands but ours with which to raise the fallen. He has no feet but ours to seek the lost. He has no ears but ours to listen to the lonely. He has no tongue but ours to speak words of sympathy, of comfort, and of encouragement to those weighed down by sorrow, pain and failure".
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

"We Christians, bishops, priests and people, in our manifold ways are called to be disciples, often as healers and teachers, sometimes as reluctant prophets as Amos. But I wonder if we carry too much baggage. It's not merely the things that we stuff in our luggage or carry along with our entourage. It may be all the excess trappings of power, privilege and money. It may be crusty ideology and pet theories. As an old woman from North Saint Louis used to say: "I'd rather see a sermon lived than talked." John Kavanaugh in 'The Word Encountered'

Be the Prophet!
One winter's day a man came upon a small boy sitting begging on a wind-swept city bridge. The boy was shivering from the cold and obviously in need of a good meal. On seeing him the man got very angry and said to God: "God why don't you do something about this boy?" And God replied, "I have already done something about him." This surprised the man so he said, "I hope you don't mind me saying this, but whatever you did, it doesn't seem to be working." "I agree with you there," replied God. "By the way, what did you do?" the man asked. "I made you" came the reply. -There is nothing wrong in asking God to right wrongs and comfort the suffering. But we must remember that he has entrusted these tasks to us.

Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

My Father Owns the Shop!
There was a programme on American television where three or four people were given trolleys in a supermarket and given a certain time to fill them with groceries. The winner was decided as the one who had the highest bill at the checkout. A whistle blew and the stampede began! They bumped into each other; items missed the trolley as they were thrown from a distance. When the time was up and they made their way to have their goodies checked, they looked into each others’ trolleys, they saw the things they had missed, they were annoyed with themselves at some of their stupid choices etc. Now let me present that scenario again, except this time we give the trolley to a committed Christian. We have the whistle, the stampede and everything all over again, except that our Christian friend is seen to act very differently. He strolls along at ease. He put a loaf of bread, some milk, butter, and sugar in his trolley. He picks up an item that fell from one of the other trolleys and put it in the trolley. The final whistle blows and they arrive at the check point. Immediately our friend gets every one's attention. Their first reaction is a combination of mockery, puzzlement, and anger. One of them said, "Who let you out? Did no body tell you what this is all about? Why are you laid-back, and why didn't you go for it, like the rest of us? The young man smiled and replied, "My Father owns the supermarket!"-Being out there in the world, giving Christian witness, is supposed to make a major difference!
Jack McArdle, in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

Trust in God
Once a knight set out on a long journey. He tried to foresee all the possible problems and dangers he was likely to encounter, and to take precautions against them. He took a sword and a suit of armour in case he met an enemy. He took a jar of ointment to guard against sunburn. He took an axe to chop wood for a fire at night. He took a tent and several blankets. He took pots and pans for cooking. And of course he took a sack full of oats for his horse. Thus heavily laden, he set forth. However, he hadn't gone very far when he came to a rickety old bridge which straddled a deep gorge. He was only halfway across when the bridge collapsed under him, and he fell into the gorge and got killed.- When Jesus sent out his apostles he urged them to place complete confidence in God and not in things. God would take care of their needs. Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

Your Contribution is Important!

The mayor of a certain town decided to hold a harvest festival. All, without exception, were invited. The mayor himself offered to provide the food. To ensure that there would be adequate wine, each guest was asked to bring along a bottle of white wine. The wine would be poured into a huge cask from which all could drink. The day of the festival arrived. Everyone in town showed up. Thanks to the generosity of the mayor, there was an abundance of food. Each guest duly arrived with a bottle of wine and poured it into the cask. When all was ready the mayor went to the cask. An aide tapped it and filled the mayor's glass. Holding up the glass, the mayor said, 'I declare the festival open.' Then he took a drink out of the glass only to discover that it was not wine but water. It seems that each guest had argued like this: 'My contribution won't be missed.' So instead of bringing a bottle of wine they had brought a bottle of water. The festival was ruined! It is a great challenge to us all to be active, not passive followers of Christ; to be not only receivers but also givers. Something is asked of every person. And everybody's contribution, no matter how small, is important. For the forest to be green the individual trees must be green.
Anthony Castle in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

From Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

1: Gideon’s army and Jesus’ fishermen: An angel spoke directly to Gideon, the fourth judge of the Israelites in the 12th century B.C. This two-way conversation is recorded in detail in Jgs 6:11-25 and comprises the commissioning of Gideon to be a deliverer and “Judge” of God’s people. The angel of the Lord came to meet Gideon under the oak tree at Ophrah with specific instructions for a raid on the Midianites who were the controlling force in the land, fielding a unique and fast-moving camel-battalion. The raiders had forcefully reaped all the grain of the Israelites during the harvest season for seven years. Gideon protested that his clan, Manasseh, was the weakest in the nation. But God assured Gideon, “I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them” (v 16). Gideon asked for a sign from God, and God graciously gave it to convince Gideon that it was God who was sending him to fight, and it was God who would be fighting for him. In Judges 7:2-11 God gave additional instruction to Gideon and asked him to send home those soldiers who were afraid to fight a strong, extensive army. That reduced the number of soldiers in Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 10,000. But it was still too many in God’s sight. God further instructed Gideon to conduct a water-drinking test in the river. The test eliminated 9700 more soldiers, leaving behind only 300 soldiers of God’s selection. The story of Gideon’s calling was about strategy: “Go in My strength.” The Midianites had a force of 135,000 men with them when they invaded Israel in the 8th harvest season. But Gideon trusted in the strength of the Lord and through the Spirit of the Lord possessing him, defeated and destroyed the mighty army of the Midianites by his surprise midnight attack. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus selected twelve ordinary men and delegated them for preaching and healing mission trip. Fr. Tony (

# 2: Prophet Amos being chased out of Bethel (First Reading, Amos 7:12-15) The text today is silent about that. Last week I talked about people who were “uncomfortable” in situations where they could control neither events nor the outcome. Today there is a different kind of “discomfort” – but this kind comes from being “disturbed” by hearing the word of God. Perhaps a better way of viewing those times when we feel “uncomfortable” hearing a reading or a homily, is to recognize that we are “being challenged” to become more responsible and just in all of our relationships. Amos was an ordinary lay person from Judah (southern kingdom) who was called by God to speak His word in Samaria (northern kingdom). Prophecy was not the normal “career path” for Amos, who worked in the vineyards and pastures. His message to Northern Israel was simple: the leaders and merchants were engaging in acts of gross injustice. This included cheating customers in the marketplace; being disdainful or inhospitable to strangers (especially females); and above all, disregarding the needs of the poor. The response of the Priest at Bethel in the north was to reject Amos as an “outsider” – after all, Amos wasn’t even a citizen of the northern kingdom! Therefore, his word was rejected, just as the “migrant” himself was rejected. In the Gospel today (Mk 6:7-13) Jesus warned the missionaries that they, too, would be rejected on many occasions. To reject the message and the messenger is to reject the sender, in this case, God Himself. Nevertheless, the duty of every disciple is to “challenge the comfortable” with the Truth. We need these reminders of the centrality of justice, charity, and dignity for all humankind. Otherwise we may, inadvertently, build walls of exclusion. God’s love knows no boundaries; neither must our love. Evangelization (spreading the Good News of God’s love for all) is not an option; it is an ordinary responsibility for each one of us (CCC #905). Justice is the keystone in all of our relationships (CCC #2411), because it is a basic right belonging to both man and God (CCC #1807). (Fr. Mac Namara). Fr. Tony (

# 3: “Bring your daughter to me in three weeks’ time and I will speak to her.” There’s a story about a troubled mother who had a daughter who was addicted to sweets. One day she approached Gandhi, explained the problem to him and asked whether he might talk to the young girl. Gandhi replied: “Bring your daughter to me in three weeks’ time and I will speak to her.” After three weeks, the mother brought her daughter to him. He took the young girl aside and spoke to her about the harmful effects of eating sweets excessively and urged her to abandon her bad habit. The mother thanked Gandhi for this advice and then asked him: “But why didn’t you speak to her three weeks ago?” Gandhi replied: “Because three weeks ago, I was still addicted to sweets.” And there’s the lesson: We must do more than just point out the right road to others, we must be on that road ourselves. For this reason, the integrity of our private lives and private morals, down to the smallest detail, is the real power behind our words. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser). Fr. Tony (


25- Additional anecdotes:

1. Three hundred thousand visits for myself in three months, and 140 visits for God in fourteen years.” Jimmy Carter, the former president, in his autobiography, Why Not the Best? shares an incident that made him aware of his failure in his mission to evangelize by bearing witness to Christ. Each year the congregation of Plains Baptist Church held a one-week revival service. In preparation for the week, the leaders of the congregation would visit the irregular and non-churched members and invite them to the services. As a deacon, Carter always participated in this exercise. He would always visit a few homes, read the Scriptures and have prayer, share some religious beliefs; then he would talk about the weather and crops and depart. One day Carter was asked to speak at a church in Preston, Georgia. The topic he was assigned was “Christian Witnessing.” As he sat in his study writing and thinking, he decided he would make a great impression upon the audience by sharing with them how many home visits he made for God. He figured in the fourteen years since returning from the Navy he had conducted 140 visits. As Carter sat there, he began to reflect on the 1966 governor’s election. As he campaigned for the state’s highest office, he spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day trying to reach as many voters as possible. At the conclusion of the campaign, Carter calculated that he met more than 300,000 Georgians. As he sat in his study the truth became evident to him. “The comparison struck him–300,000 visits for myself in three months, and 140 visits for God in fourteen years!” — Today’s Gospel reminds us that each Christian is sent with a preaching and evangelizing mission. Fr. Tony (

2) “Friend lend me your hands.” During the wind-swept city Bridge-War, a small Korean village came under heavy artillery fire.  When the smoke of the battle cleared away, the pastor of the parish sought the help of some American soldiers in restoring to its pedestal a fallen statue of Christ.  Since the statue’s hands were gone, the soldiers planned to mould two new hands.  The pastor, however, came up with a very meaningful suggestion: “Let us leave the statue as it is and write on the front of the pedestal the words, “Friend, lend me your hands.” — Sending apostles as ambassadors to preach the “Good News” and to heal the sick, Jesus, in today’ Gospel, reminds us that we are, and only have the gifts of — working hands to raise the fallen; feet to seek out the lost; ears to listen to the lonely; and a tongue to speak words of sympathy and encouragement to those weighed down by sorrow, pain and failure — that Jesus may work through us to heal, strengthen, comfort and teach on earth in our day. Fr. Tony (

3) “We will do this.” This is what Francis used as the first rule for his order, the Franciscans. He just took the words of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples on their first missionary journey, and said, “We will do this.” There would be other rules for the Franciscans later on, much more lenient after St. Francis died, but this was the first rule for the Franciscans. And they took it literally. “Take nothing with you on your journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in your belts; but wear sandals and only one tunic.” Incidentally, the robe the Franciscans wear even today, the brown robe, is the robe that they wore in the 13th century. It was the garment of the peasant, and they identified with the poor, with the peasant, not only in dress, but also in poverty. They vowed of absolute poverty: they owned nothing, not even the tunic on their back. So, if they found somebody who had less than what they had, they were to share what they had; they worked and begged for their daily sustenance. They were called “mendicant” friars, which means they begged for their living. — So, we must ask, is that what Jesus had in mind for us in today’s Gospel? The apostles did not take the practice of poverty literally. Paul continued to work at his trade and earn an income –with which he support himself and his companions. The Book of Acts says that in the Church in Jerusalem – the original Church after Pentecost – the members sold all their property, and held all things in common, which is just another way of owning property, not individually, but as a community. Further, the early Church itself called its members to a life of giving to the poor. We know that they took collections for the poor. So, the counsel in the Bible is not that we should get rid of all our property and become poor, but that we should manage our property as good stewards for God, caring for those in need as well as for our own families. Fr. Tony (

4) “Because there is no fourth-class!” This is a story told about Albert Schweitzer who was visiting a certain city. Dignitaries were awaiting him at the train station. But he was not to be found among the first-class passengers. Then they waited while the second-class passengers disembarked. Still no Schweitzer. Finally, they saw him coming out of the third-class compartment, carrying his own suitcase. “Why on earth do you travel third-class?” they asked him. “Because there is no fourth-class!” he replied. — The fact of the matter is that Jesus called his disciples to be apostles (those sent with a message), and evangelists (those who proclaim the Good News), as described in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (

5) “We make Marines. We win battles.” One of the most eye-catching commercials on television, is the one that is sponsored by the United States Marine Corps. They have one that shows a young man fighting, and then slaying a fire-breathing dragon with an Excalibur-like sword. At the end of that commercial, the young man with that sword stands tall, gleaming in the light, decked out in that resplendent dress blue uniform, and the commercial ends with these words: “The Few – the Proud – the Marines.” The mission statement of Marines is, “We make Marines. We win battles.” — That is not only the mission of the Marine Corps; that was the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth, and that is still His mission through the Church today. From the time Jesus began his ministry, to this very moment, Jesus has been looking for “spiritual Marines.” May I be very honest with all of us, including myself? If our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus, were to return today, I believe that our General with the badge of Five-Stars-arranged-in-a-circle would find many, if not most, of his soldiers a disgrace to the uniform. Fr. Tony (

6) “Do you really believe that?” A prison chaplain went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, “Do you really believe that?” “Of course, I do,” replied the chaplain. “Go on,” scoffed the prisoner. “If I believed that I would crawl and hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don’t see you Christians making any big thing of it!” — He had a point. How do we get the Gospel out? By taking it with us when we go! Fr. Tony (

7) “Former TV evangelist.” A few years ago, Pat Robertson got extremely upset when a reporter referred to him as a “former TV evangelist.” In Robertson’s camp, this was considered slander. A cynic said recently in Quote magazine, “Parents used to worry if they caught their children playing doctor. Now they worry if they’re playing evangelist.” — In Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel, Elmer Gantry, a classic portrayal of the yearning of the spirit in battle with the weakness of the flesh, the flesh wins. Lewis saw in a clear and unforgiving way, the potential for abuse that the role of the modern evangelist entails. For many years, the clergy ranked first as the institution in which we placed the most confidence. But those days are gone, according to a recent Gallup poll. Only 57 percent of respondents had “a great deal” of confidence in Churches, down from 66 percent in 1985. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. This was the first evangelistic visitation. But they didn’t travel in Lear Jets. They didn’t beam their message from satellites. Dr. Martin E. Marty recently declared. “Less than one tenth of one percent of the American people who are members of a Church tell the polltaker they joined a particular denomination because of a radio or television message,” he noted. “But 80 percent say, ‘I got there through someone who was important to me.’” Fr. Tony (

8) Lesson from the AIDS patient: Gaetan Dugas is assumed to be the first man to bring the AIDS virus to the United States. A French-Canadian airline steward, he came New York in 1976 for the visit of the Tall Ships. Once he knew he had the disease, he sought sexual contacts with other men, afterward announcing, “I’ve got gay cancer. I’m going to die, and so are you.” Dugas wickedly plotted to spread his misfortune to anyone who was foolish enough to step in his path. (Little over a decade later, one man’s aggressive crusade had impacted the world.) — What a motivation this should be to those of us who have met the One who has power over sin to begin a counter-revolution in our society a counter-revolution of decency, of love and acceptance of all persons, of binding up the wounds of society and declaring the Lordship of Christ over human society. That is your business and that is mine. Fr. Tony (

9) “Why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?” A young boy who had been blind from birth had just been operated on. The new procedure offered the possibility of sight for this young boy who had never seen the light of day. As the parents waited for the doctor to remove the patches which had covered his eyes since surgery, they were uncertain about what his response would be. Blinking his eyes, adjusting to the sights and colors around him, the boy suddenly began to take it all in. Full of excitement, he said to his parents, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?” — This is the work of evangelism. It is the business of helping persons open their eyes and see the world as they have never seen it before. It is not the pressuring of people to come to Church. Such pressure is in the long run nonproductive and basically unchristian. Rather, evangelism is the introduction of persons to a new way of living, a new way of relating, a new way of perceiving the meaning of existence. Fr. Tony (

10) Evangelism deals with causes, not symptoms: The police deal with symptoms. Welfare workers deal with symptoms. Crisis- intervention persons deal with symptoms. When the Church provides housing to the homeless, it is dealing with symptoms. When we provide counseling to unwed teens, families that are splintering, persons who are battling chemical addictions and a host of other problems that people have, usually we are dealing with symptoms. — When we seek to do the work of evangelism, however, we are going beyond symptoms to causes. What is at the heart of people’s distress? What is it that causes them to mess up their lives, betray their values, barter their futures? Fr. Tony (

11) The Haggadah and the Halakkah: Rabbinic tradition divides its teachings into two distinct areas. Both are necessary to the continued life and health of the Faith. The Haggadah refers to the body of narrative or devotional materials which communicate God’s heart to the believer. The Halakkah encompasses all God’s requirements, the laws, for living an obedient life of Faith. The name Halakkah literally means “walking,” and refers to Exodus 18:20, “You shall teach them the statutes and the decisions and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.” — David, sitting prayerfully before his God, represents the Haggadah portion of this week’s texts. Strength and endurance are available to us through prayer. The disciples boldly setting out on their mission embody the spirit of Halakkah, for they know the “way in which they must walk and what they must do.” Jesus has sent them on their mission and has entrusted them with Divine authority. Now it is their responsibility to get out on the road. Fr. Tony (

12) “The first task of the minister is to make people aware of their predicament.” In his sermon to the graduates of a Seminary in New York City, Paul Tillich, the theologian, preached on the theme of healing and casting out demons. He told the graduating seminarians that they would experience two difficulties as they went to their new parishes with this message of healing and casting out demons: (1) Many people will say that they do not need to be healed and (2) Many will laugh at the absurdity of casting out demons that rule their lives; they may tell the proclaimer that he or she is possessed by a demon for saying so – just as they did to Jesus. “Therefore,” Tillich said, “the first task of the minister is to make people aware of their predicament.” [Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963), p. 58.] — The predicament of people’s insensitivity to their own needs and to the forces of evil is further complicated by the fact that we don’t know what demons are. The human predicament of insensitivity and lack of clarity regarding the forms of evil is even further complicated by the fact that every pastor who goes forth to heal the sick and cast out demons is, himself or herself, in need of healing and cleansing. In addition, some of the difficulty with this predicament comes from the multitude of misunderstandings about this ministry — especially the miracle/magic association we often make between healing and casting out demons. Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus commissions his disciples with preaching healing and exorcising ministry. Fr. Tony (

13) “People need no proofs for the existence of God if we are witnesses.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the most influential religious thinkers of our time. In one of his writings, he said these startling words: “If there are no witnesses there is no God to be met…. For God to be present we have to be witnesses… There are no proofs for the existence of God; there are only witnesses.” Did you know that our English word “martyr” comes from a Greek word which simply means “to witness”? The word became associated with death because that was the end result of one’s witnessing during the first centuries of the Christian era. This is not to suggest that God’s existence depends solely on our witnessing. The point here is that God’s Reality for us, God’s relevance in our lives, God’s reality in the world, is dependent upon our bearing witness to Him. So God should not be found at the end of a philosophical or theological argument, but in the midst of life. — But the opportunity to relive some chapters in the lives of Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, and the cover photo of the slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, now Saint (canonized 14 October, 2018, by Pope Francis) shakes me from my two-car garage attitude that Christian suffering and death are confined to the first century. To refresh your memory: Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan were two of the four missionaries slain by “death squads” in El Salvador on December 2, 1980. The transition from “witness” to “martyr” is more than linguistic. It is life. Do you know that the first-century Christians were called atheists, immoral and cannibals by their enemies? They were called “atheists” because they refused to accept the popular gods of the day; “immoral” because they amazed the world by the way in which they loved one another; and “cannibals” because they regularly partook of the Body and Blood of Christ, even at great risk! And it is still going on. Fr. Tony (

14) Our mission is to purify a contaminated world. There are two rivers in Europe named the Roan and the Arf. The Roan is a beautiful, pure river, with fresh clear water cascading down from snowcapped mountains. The Arf River is a muddy waterway, wandering like a slimy dirty brown snake through the countryside. For many miles the two rivers run alongside each other. Even when they finally merge, the two rivers don’t immediately mix, the pure Roan and the filthy Arf still flow side by side for many more miles, until, at last, the putrid Arf consumes its pure brother and the two become dirty. –That is the sort of thing that happens in the real world. The purest and the most loving heart in the land will not stay so very long, working in most offices or factories, attending most schools, living in most communities. We take on the attitudes and the values of the society around us, and our views of others and of ourselves and even of God become distorted. We become weighted down with the burdens of the world without realizing the truth that our mission is to purify the little world around us. Fr. Tony (

15) The undelivered message: George Sweeting, in his book The No-Guilt Guide for Witnessing, tells us of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future. Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died. Ten years went by. Then a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man. Sweeting concluded that story by asking, “Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message—the most important in your life—and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?” — We who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin. Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message? Fr. Tony (

16) Witnessing by living During the American Civil War, President Lincoln had a strapping athletic young man as his secretary. In those days before office machinery, such a man would literally be pushing a pen or pencil. This particular man was not happy about it. He wanted to get out where the action was – on the battlefield. He wanted to go out and do great things for his country. He was quite willing to die for his country. So he kept complaining to Lincoln about the women’s work he was doing, when he could be in uniform confronting the enemy. After hearing the usual complaint one day, Lincoln stared at him, rubbed his hands in his beard and said in his philosophical way, “Young man, as I see it, you are quite willing to die for your country, but you are not ready to live for it.” — Martyrs (just a Greek word for witnesses) give their lives by dying or by living. [Frank Michalic, Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (

17) Saint Oscar Romero (canonized 14 October, 2018, by Pope Francis) is an outstanding example of being a true witness of Christ. When he was made Archbishop of El Salvador in 1997, Romero was a conservative. But he soon changed when he saw what was happening. Every Sunday he preached at the Cathedral. His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs halted when he spoke from the altar. He made public the unspeakable crimes being committed by many agents of the government. He was under constant threat of death. Some of his best friends were murdered. And still he would not be silenced. Nor would he go into hiding or exile. “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. I will stay with my people,” he said. He was shot in March 1980 while saying Mass. According to Romero, staying in the open and bearing direct witness to the Truth Jesus IS didn’t take courage. All it took was the understanding that his enemies dwelt in fear, and the fact that he was not afraid of them, to take away any power they thought they had over him. They might be able to kill his body, but they would not and could not kill his soul. There is also a story of a Protestant minister who, during the genocide in Rwanda (1994), sheltered Tutsis in his house. When a mob arrived at his door and ordered him to release them, he refused to do so. They shot him and took the people away. Even though we may not aspire so such heights of heroism, people like these are an inspiration to us. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (

18) What’s really important? A few years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting point for the 100-yard dash. At the gun they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with the relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, that is, except one boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy’s cry. They slowed down and paused. Then they all turned around and went back. Every one of them. One girl with Down’s syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for ten minutes. [Author unknown; quoted by Fr. Botelho] Fr. Tony (

19) Being a witness: A group of young people from many nations was discussing how the Gospel might be spread. They talked of propaganda, of literature, of all the ways of disseminating the Gospel in the twentieth century. Then a girl from Africa spoke. “When we want to take Christianity to one of our villages,” she said, “we don’t send them books. We take a Christian family and send them to live in the village and they make the village Christian by living there.” [William Barclay; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (

20) Success and failure mean different things to different folks. Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were driving through a city up east and noticed they were low on gas. They pulled over at the first exit and came to a dumpy little gas station with one pump. There was just one attendant working at the place, and as he began to pump the gas, the President went to the bathroom. Then it happened. Obviously, the gas station attendant and Hillary recognized each other. They began to talk and laugh and were having a very animated conversation when the President came out of the bathroom. The President was surprised, and the attendant was embarrassed. The attendant walked away, pretending that nothing had happened. The President followed him, paid for the gas and as they pulled out of that seedy little service station, he asked Hillary how it was that she knew that attendant and what they were talking about. She told him that they had known each other in high school, that they had been high school sweethearts and that they had dated rather seriously for about a year, her first year in college. Well, the President couldn’t help bragging a little and he said, “Boy, were you lucky I came along, because if you had married him, you would be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of the President of the United States.” Hillary replied, “My dear, if I’d married him, you would be the gas station attendant and he would be President of the United States!” — It’s a matter of perspective isn’t it? Success and failure mean different things to different folks. Fr. Tony (

21) “Well, I’m not going to carry this anvil any longer.” A short in stature young blacksmith in a small town fell in love with a tall local girl, but he was so short that he was too bashful to tell her. One day she came into the smithy to call for a tea kettle that he had fixed for her and she had thanked him so nicely that he suddenly found courage to ask her to marry him. She consented, and he got up on the anvil and put his arms around her and sealed it with a kiss. Then they took a walk out through the fields together and after some time he asked her for another kiss. When she refused, he said, “Well, I’m not going to carry this anvil any longer.” [Printed 1978 for Wider Quaker Fellowship with permission of Douglas V. Steer.] Fr. Tony (

22) Rejection: “But for now, we have coffee.” In Margaret Jensen’s book, First We Have Coffee, there is a touching scene of her Baptist preacher father’s being voted out of the congregation. She describes how the news reached her. Called to the dormitory phone, she heard her sister saying, “Margaret, this is Grace.” Then after a momentous pause, “Papa has been voted out.” Margaret Jensen goes on to write: “Unable to share the family’s disgrace with anyone, I went to class, and failed the biology exam for which I was well prepared…I tried to figure out what could have gone wrong with Papa’s call. In my mind, the ministry had somehow been disgraced.” For ten years he had shepherded and loved that congregation, but now they didn’t want him anymore. When Margaret arrived home, she found her sister Leona furious. She explained life as she saw it for the Norwegian immigrant pastor, “They wanted an American pastor, one more geared to the change in times.” “What will we do now?” Margaret asked. Her mother’s answer reflected a Faith that seemed never to change: — “God never fails, but it will be interesting to see how God works this one out. But for now, we have coffee.” (Quoted by Rodney E. Wilmoth, “The Day He Was Rejected”) \ Fr. Tony (

23) Film: A cry in the dark – Evil Angels: In 1980, the Chamberlains, a devout Seventh Day Adventist family is camping at Uluru in Central Australia. When the family is eating supper, Azaria, the baby daughter disappears from the tent. Lindy, the mother hears a cry and rushes to check on the baby. Lindy sees a dingo (wild dog) running away but no trace of the child is ever found. Lindy is charged with the murder of her child, and the father, Michael, a pastor as accessory to the murder. The couple pleads innocent and professes their Faith in God. In the trial Lindy is found guilty and sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. The Chamberlains, supported by friends, lose appeal after appeal. Finally, new evidence is discovered, the Chamberlains win the fight to prove their innocence. A panel of three judges exonerates Lindy and Michael in 1988. –Lindy and Michael were people of Faith who were forced to go through public trial and punishment, and who suffered hostility and calumny. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs the twelve, telling them how to deal with injustice, false accusations, and calumny. He assures his followers that their faith in God will be justified. [Peter Malone in ‘Lights, Camera, Faith’] Fr. Tony (

24) His religion ought to come out of his fingers: A minister was being shown through a section of a Detroit automobile factory by the foreman. Among the workers was a parishioner of the minister, a fellow named John. Knowing that John was a skilled mechanic the minister remarked, “I guess John is one of your best workers.” “Sorry to disagree,” replied the foreman. “True, he could be one of our best, but John stands around talking about his religion, when he should be attending to his machine. Personally, he is a fine fellow, and he is a good man when he works, but he still has to learn that when he is running that machine, his religion ought to come out of his fingers and not out of his mouth.” (Msgr. Drinkwater; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (

25) Your Contribution is Important! The mayor of a certain town decided to hold a harvest festival. All, without exception, were invited. The mayor himself offered to provide the food. To ensure that there would be adequate wine, each guest was asked to bring along a bottle of white wine. The wine would be poured into a huge cask from which all could drink. The day of the festival arrived. Everyone in town showed up. Thanks to the generosity of the mayor, there was an abundance of food. Each guest duly arrived with a bottle of wine and poured it into the cask. When all was ready the mayor went to the cask. An aide tapped it and filled the mayor’s glass. Holding up the glass, the mayor said, ‘I declare the festival open.’ Then he took a drink out of the glass only to discover that it was not wine but water. It seems that each guest had argued like this: ‘My contribution won’t be missed.’ So instead of bringing a bottle of wine they had brought a bottle of water. The festival was ruined! — It is a great challenge to us all to be active, not passive followers of Christ; to be not only receivers but also givers. Something is asked of every person. And everybody’s contribution, no matter how small, is important. For the forest to be green the individual trees must be green. (Anthony Castle in Quotes and Anecdotes; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony ( 

 From Father James Gilhooley

A pastor bankrupt his parish giving away wood to the poor to bring warmth to their homes in bitter winter. When he had no money left, he sold the rectory Chippendale dining room furniture for more wood. He was ridiculed by his peers for being a bad administrator. He was embraced by Christ on his death.
From Sermons.Com:

In the opera Faust, there is a fight to the finish between Satan and the young man Valentine. During the course of the fight, Satan breaks Valentine's sword and he stands poised to slay him. But the young boy takes the two pieces of his sword and fashions them into a cross. Confronted with this symbol of faith, Satan becomes immobilized and Valentine is saved. It is an interesting concept: A dramatic demonstration of faith. Unfortunately such resolution of faith does not always save you. In fact, it might be your deathbed. It was John's. Take a look at the story with me. John has been arrested by King Herod. And why? Because John kept reminding Herod that even the king is not above the law. He said, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."

So this was the king's egregious sin. He had stolen his brother's wife, Herodias. Now, it would be understandable if this were where the story ended. The king didn't like a desert preacher calling him a sinner so he had him beheaded. Simple enough. But life is not always simple...

This summer saw the "resurrection" of an old tale of family rivalry and betrayal. The show that started an industry of prime time "soap operas" is back on the air. Do you know show I'm talking about? . . . . Dallas.
The ever-evil "J.R." Ewing and all his battling, back-biting, embittered family have returned, with new generations, all of whom are admirably carrying on the family tradition of unabated greed and hatred. Added to yet another season of "Kardashians" and the History channel's presentation of "The Hatfields and the McCoys," "family life" is looking pretty grim. That is not even to mention the recent scientific study that put a question mark over the value of nightly meals together as a family. It found that eating together on a regular basis could be bad, not good for teenagers, if the family is dysfunctional. The family routine of eating together is very good for you if the family dynamics are good, very bad for you if the family dynamics are dysfunctional.

l air-wave examples of families operating at "dysfunction junction" cannot hold a candle to the massive relational meltdown that was taken as "normal" within the first century ruling family of the Herodians...
Who's the Boss?

The boss was complaining in our staff meeting the other day that he wasn't getting any respect. Later that morning he went to a local sign shop and bought a small sign that read:

"I'm the Boss!" He then taped it to his office door. Later that day when he returned from lunch, he found that someone had taped a note to the sign that said: "Your wife called, she wants her sign back!"

John loses his head but gains the kingdom. Herod saved his face but lost his soul. Here there is another triumph in the midst of suffering. John's martyrdom is not a defeat. Twelve more preachers are sent in his place. Ironically even Herod suspected that John would ultimately triumph when he said, "John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!"

Soren Kierkegaard said, "The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins." God raises the dead and raises new witnesses to take their place.

Jim Hammond, Christ Rules, Herod Drools!
Evil Does Not Win

Yes, there are times that we wonder about God. It is true there is horrible evil out there. There are evil people - the sociopaths, the mass murders, the vicious child and spouse abusers. There are evil moments when otherwise good people are drawn in - that scene played over and over on TV several years ago of a dozen police officers beating and kicking a wounded suspect. There are evil systems in which we all participate - people going without food and shelter in a nation of abundance, people not getting medical care because of no other reason than lack of money (and greedy insurance companies). There are even evils born of sheer stupidity, like the stupid promise Herod made to Salome. Do you remember the novelist William Burroughs? Burroughs died at age 83. During a drunken party in Mexico one night in 1951, he undertook to play William Tell - he used a pistol to shoot a glass off his wife's head. He missed...and put a bullet in her brain instead. How stupid. How evil. Yes, it often seems that the evil wins.

But the message of our faith says that evil does not have the last word. God does, and the word is "love."

David E. Leininger, When Evil Wins
Vengeance: A Wound on Our Own Souls

When I was in high school, a friend of mine was raped and if I had known at the time who had done it, I would have attempted to beat him within an inch of his life. I even had some terrible fantasies of vengeance that involved very sharp knives. These feelings seem more than a desire for justice. If my friend had to go through life with a deep psychological wound, I wanted the assailant to feel some kind of pain too.

I could convince myself of noble intentions to protect someone I loved, or that the perpetrator would never again harm someone. But in honesty, I felt an inner rage that wanted satisfaction. There was a desire that somehow the pain and brokenness could be healed or assuaged by inflicting it back on the source. Of course, things never work out that way. Hurting another person cannot heal the person we love. It only pulls us down to the level of the perpetrator. The act of vengeance creates wounds on our own souls. It is a great spiritual challenge to live in a world where things cannot always be made right again.

Todd Weir, Head on a Platter

Naming What Is Wrong

Once when I was a little girl, I saw news footage in which grown men and women screamed and ranted at another little girl outside a school in Mississippi. When the newsman said that she was 12, my age at the time, something inside me broke. In my sheltered world, so-called colored children and white children had always gone to the same schools, and grown-ups didn't threaten kids. "Why are they yelling at her like that?" I asked my mother in tears. "She's only a little girl." My mother made the sigh adults make when children learn things no one should have to learn. "Because they're ignorant," she said finally, my family's catch-all phrase for explaining things that will never make sense. It wasn't enough of an explanation, and that was a first lesson, too.

But the real lesson was that doing good and right things cannot protect you from being badly hurt. There is real danger in naming what is wrong in the world and trying to change it.

Why is this awful story even mentioned in the Bible? Well, it just might be that some of us who try to follow Christ have been following too safe a course, sitting in mighty comfortable seats at the banquet, so much so that we need this awful story to help us ask if we are following the One whose way was full of danger and whose final destination was a cross.

Catherine Taylor, Re-Membering Faith

A Christian Understanding of Worth

When we attempt to live a life worthy of the Gospel it is because our understanding of "worth" is far different from the world's. John the Baptist was not beheaded because he went along with the status quo. John gave his life because of his commitment to truth as he understood it, much like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his struggles with Nazism and Hitler. Being a pastor in the German Lutheran Church, Bonhoeffer was forced to choose between his loyalty to God or to an insane ruler. He was executed in 1945 for the opposition he voiced to the satanic rule of Hitler.

As G.K. Chesterton so concisely wrote: "It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but tried and found difficult." Life has many roads to travel. However, we choose the road on which the shadow of the cross falls. It always leads to freedom and to victory when the final lap of the race is run. Some 2000 years later, we speak of the reigns of the Herods and Caesars with pity and disdain, but the names of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ live on as those for whom life was lived with devotion and courage.

Eric S. Ritz, Faith in Conflict

Public Pressure

Lloyd J. Ogilve, in his book Life without Limits, tells the story of a pastor who in the space of one week heard the following comments from various people:

A woman said, "I'm under tremendous pressure from my son these days. I can't seem to satisfy him, however hard I work. He really puts me under pressure."

A young man said, "My parents have fantastic goals for me to take over the family business. It's not what I want to do, but their pressure is unbearable."

A college woman said, "I'm being pressured by my boyfriend to live with him before we are married. You know...sort of try it see if we are right for each other."

A husband said, "My wife is never satisfied. Whatever I do, however much I make, it's never enough. Life with her is like living in a pressure cooker with the lid fastened down and the heat on high."

A secretary said, pointing to her phone, "That little black thing is driving me silly. At the other end of the line are people who make impossible demands and think they are the only people alive."

A middle-aged wife said, "My husband thinks my faith is silly. When I feel his resistance to Christ, I wonder if I'm wrong and confused. As a result, I've developed two lives; one with him and one when I'm with my Christian friends."

An elderly woman said, "My sister thinks she has all the answers about the faith and tries to convince me of her point of view. I feel pressured to become her brand of Christian, but I keep thinking if it means being like her, I don't want it at all. When she calls, I just put the phone on my shoulder and let her rant on while I do other things. A half-hour later, she's still on the line blasting away, but I still feel pressure."

A young pastor at a clergy conference said, "I hardly know who I am any more. There are so many points of view in my congregation, I can't please them all. Everyone wants to capture me for his camp and get me to shape the church around his convictions. The pressure makes me want to leave the ministry."

All of these persons have one thing in common. They are being pressured by other people. We all, at one time or another, experience people-pressure. The question is how will it effect our judgment? That is the question Herod faced. After making an oath to a pretty young girl that she could have up to half of his kingdom, she surprised him and asked for the head of the Baptist. Mark 6:26 indicates that the King was thrown into distress, he knew it was wrong, but because of his oath and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. He sent the executioner and on a platter was delivered the head of a holy man.
Responding to Biblical Mandates

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., who died at the age of 81, was an honored scholar, civil rights leader, antiwar activist, and a prophet. He summed up his faith by saying, "I believe Christianity is a worldview that undergirds all progressive thought and action." He also said, "The Christian church is called to respond to Biblical mandates like truth-telling, confronting injustice, and pursuing peace." His actions and words are evidence that he was able to navigate the tension created by those who would separate power into the categories of church and state, or more accurately, of God and man.

His words are good to reflect upon, particularly given the world we live in, where power and authority are often thought of in terms of personal privilege and gain. Are the choices we make to live our lives progressively seen as authentic demonstrations of Biblical mandates or do these choices simply challenge authority and invite criticism? And what if we are criticized? Should we let that deter our actions and cause us to forsake the Gospel mandate?

Debbie Royals
No Going Back

When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.

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