Fr. Tim’s Homily for November 5, 2017

image31st Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

 

Malachi !: 14b-2: 2b, 8-10

1 Thessalonians 2: 7b-9, 13 

Matthew 23: 1-12

 

We all like to look good.  A university study was done about “bad hair days.”  It concluded that when we think we are having a “bad hair day,” we are likely to feel a little less capable and a whole lot less sociable.  And the study pointed out that “bad hair days” affect women and men.

We see the scribes and the Pharisees in today’s Gospel “wanting to look good.”  But their attempts at “looking good” in the eyes of others did not always mean that they were actually “seen as good” in the eyes of God.

Jesus describes them:  “All their works are performed to be seen.  They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, and greetings in marketplaces.”

Phylacteries were little boxes containing verses of Scripture that a devout Jew would wear on the forehead and the arm.  The purpose of these phylacteries was to keep the faithful ever mindful of God.  But, according to Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees had turned them into fashion statements.  Perhaps this is like a contemporary rock star wearing a large cross as part of their costume but not giving evidence of really living the Christian way of life.  The question can be raised:  is this a statement of faith or is this a statement of fashion?

Jesus was saying that appearance was more important to the scribes and Pharisees than authenticity.

In the BBC comedy series, “Keeping Up Appearances,” Patricia Routledge plays the lead character whose name is Hyacinth Bucket – which Hyacinth pronounces as “boo-KAY.”  Hyacinth is always “keeping up appearances” and she fools no one but herself.

Back in the 1980s, when Italy first began to make the use of seatbelts mandatory in automobiles, a man in Naples invented a “security shirt.”  It was a white T-shirt with a diagonal black stripe painted on it, designed to fool the police into believing that the motorist was buckled up.

Those T-shirts with the diagonal black stripe may have sold well.  But they offered absolutely no protection in the event of a real accident.

Many people are more into appearance than authenticity. And sometimes it is hard for us to tell the difference.

A young man was about to become a father for the very first time.  He was very appreciative of the interest that everyone at work took in the news that his wife was soon to deliver their baby.  Every day they would ask him:  “How is your wife doing?”  “Any news yet?”

He did not realize that his colleagues had started an office pool on exactly when the baby would arrive. Their keen interest was only a masquerade for a selfish desire to win the office pool.

It is a common temptation to fake interest in order to obtain personal gain or approval.

An ad appeared in a college-town newspaper before the annual Parents’ Weekend.  The ad was sponsored by a local tavern that many students regularly visited.  It read:  “Bring Your Parents for Lunch Saturday.  We’ll Pretend We Don’t Know You!”

The ad was soon challenged by the college chaplain, who posted this ad on the campus bulletin board.  It read:  “Bring Your Parents to Church Sunday.  We’ll Pretend We Do Know You!”

Appearance versus authenticity.  It is all around us.  Have you checked the labels on your grocery items lately?  It has been reported in the news that some manufacturers are selling similar-size packages with less of their product inside.

How something is wrapped does not always tell us what is actually inside.  This is true with people as well as with packages of detergent.

The Pharisees whom Jesus criticized were more into appearance than they were into authenticity.  Jesus is more concerned with what is found inside the heart than with how things appear on the outside.

And so He teaches us:  “The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.  But whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for October 29, 2017

image30th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

National Priesthood Sunday

 

Exodus 22: 20-26

1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10 

Matthew 22: 34-40

Jenny found fault with nearly everything in the Church.  She resented that her mother and father insisted that she go to Mass every Sunday.  She was angry that they required her to attend religious education classes and participate in the youth group.

In church she refused to sing or even answer any of the prayers.  She looked as bored as she possibly could.  And in class and youth group she always sat in the back of the room, defiantly slouching in her chair.

Then one evening she came home from the library and saw her house in flames, with her parents standing out on the street.  The fire department put out the fire, but everything inside the house was destroyed.  This made Jenny angry too.

A few days later, some members of her parish youth group came to visit where she and her parents were temporarily staying.  They told Jenny how sorry they were that this had happened.  They had all pitched in and wanted her to have the envelope they had brought.  “Maybe this will help you replace some of the things that you lost in the fire,” one of the youths told her.

Jenny was really taken by surprise.  “How could they be so nice to me after I had been so cold and rude towards them?” she wondered.  She realized that, in spite of her aloofness, they had treated her with unconditional love.  And she began to see the Church and her parish family in a brand new way:  that she was loved and that she belonged.

There is a story that comes from Russia, in the days when being a Christian put you at risk for arrest and punishment.  A woman had an illness that had left her crippled.  She only had the use of her right hand.

A neighbor would visit her after dark, out of fear of the Secret Police.  This neighbor would pick up the woman’s right hand and kiss her index finger – and for a very special reason.

You see, this woman, crippled and with only the use of her right hand, used to spend her days at her typewriter.  She would translate the Bible and other Christian books into Russian so that people could come to know God.  And she would do all the typing with only her right index finger.

She came to see her condition as an asset and not as a disability.  “Because,” she said, “no one would ever suspect that a crippled old lady would be doing anything against the government during the daytime!”

So she did her work – her ministry.  And why did she do this?  Because she loved God.  And because she wanted to help other people know and love God too.

Love is a commitment, and not necessarily a warm, cozy feeling.  This applies to our love of God.  And it also applies to our love of our neighbor.  It is absolutely easy to love a neighbor who loves us back.  But to love somebody who gives us nothing in return, to love someone we find difficult – are we really supposed to love them too?

You know the answer to that question as well as I do.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about “which commandment in the law is the greatest.”  And He says:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” [Matthew 22: 36-40].

How can we do this?  By remembering that even when we were still sinners God loved us and sent His Son to be our Savior.  God loved us first, and still does.  And He asks us to imitate His love for us by loving our neighbor.

“Your mere presence should be a ministry.”  That is a quote from Matthew Kelly.  We, who love God, are to carry God’s love to each person who is before us.  Our lives truly are conduits of God’s love to our neighbors.  Matthew’s observation is accurate indeed:  “Your mere presence should be a ministry.”

But let us ask ourselves:  “Do others see my presence as a ministry to them, or as a pain in the neck – or worse?”  Matthew Kelly has it right:  “Our mere presence should be a ministry.”

Ron grew up with a mother who loved cleanliness.  Everyone and everything had to be spic-and-span all of the time.

Later on in life, Ron volunteered to help out in a soup kitchen, feeding people who were poor.  They were serving chili and corn bread that day.  A man came over to thank him and reached out for Ron’s right hand.  Ron noticed how dirty that man’s hand was.  But he shook hands with him anyway, as the man said to him, “Thank you brother.  Thank you very much!”

Ron was serving the next person in line when he dripped some chili on his own right hand.  Without thinking, Ron licked the chili off his hand – the one he had just used to shake the soiled hand of the grateful poor man – and then was horrified due to his antiseptic upbringing.

But it later dawned on Ron that the handsome and well-scrubbed face of Christ that he knew from Christian art was not the only face of Christ in our world.  Ron realized that he had just been serving the poor Christ corn bread and chili.

When we do our very best to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves we can come to a deeper awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ Himself right here among us, and a deeper appreciation for His family, the Church.  And, in so doing, we are giving our neighbor the chance to see the face of Christ in us, and to know and experience His unconditional love and care for them.

Yes, indeed:  “Our mere presence should be a ministry.”

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for October 22, 2017

image29th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

 

Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6

1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5b 

Matthew 22: 15-21

There was a grandfather who loved to play golf, and his little grandson was very interested in learning to play.  One day Grandpa bought a small set of golf clubs for the little boy who began practicing to be like just like Grandpa.

Later that summer at their big family reunion, the little fellow brought his golf clubs. When he had everyone’s attention, he said, “Let me show you how Grandpa taught me to play golf!”  He put down the ball, took a big swing and missed – and let out a stream of profanity! Then he took that little golf club and wrapped it right around the maple tree.

Boy, had Grandpa taught him!

We have the expression that “actions speak louder than words.”  That applies to both good and bad example. Our good example – our embracing stewardship as our way of life – can encourage someone else to become an even better disciple of Jesus.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians about their great example that has inspired and encouraged so many others, including him.  So he writes:  “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith, and labor of love, and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ….  For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”

Good example is something that we are all need to give.  And it is something that we all need to receive.

When Dave Thomas was fifteen, he quit high school and went to work in the restaurant business.   He was very successful, and eventually founded the Wendy’s empire.

But there was something that deeply troubled Dave Thomas.  He worried about the example that he was setting for young people.  He didn’t want to be known as “the high school drop-out who made millions.”

So at an age when most people were retiring, Dave Thomas hired a tutor and earned his GED.  It was important to him that he set a good example.

Rose and her husband lived in Albania and had a large family.  Whenever Rose saw someone who looked hungry or lonely, she would invite them to have dinner with their family.

This happened all the time.   And when the children would ask who that stranger was, Rose would answer, “Oh, they are a member of our family.”

The children grew up thinking that they had a huge family.  Of course, Rose was teaching them that they all belonged to “one family in Jesus Christ.”

One of their daughters, Agnes, from the time she was small, had a real interest in people who were sick or lonely or poor. The seeds that God planted in Agnes’ heart really were nurtured by the example of her mother and father in their home.

You all know Agnes, although by another name.  She became a nun, and took the name of Mother Teresa – and is now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Example is powerful.  I know that, as a priest, a lot of people look to me for example.  I am very aware of this, and I ask the Lord every day for the grace to be Christ-like for you.  But I must also tell you that I look to you for your example too.

There was a mother of five children.  She was trying to finish the housework, and one of her little ones kept getting under her feet.  She said, “Honey, it’s a nice day.  Don’t you want to go outside and play?”  He said, “No, Mommy.  I want to be here with you.”

About the fifth time that she almost tripped over him, she said, rather impatiently, “Will you please get out of my way?”

He looked at her with his big blue eyes and said, “Mommy, my teacher said that I should always walk in Jesus’ footsteps.  But Mommy, I can’t see Jesus, so I’m walking in yours.”

Out of the mouths of babes so often comes wisdom.  “I can’t see Jesus’ footsteps so I’m walking in yours.”

We all have opportunities to give good example and we all need the good example of others.  St. Paul acknowledges this in today’s second reading.  And so I leave you, as I began, with St. Paul’s words to us today, that I ask you to carry in your hearts:

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith, and labor of love, and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ….  For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”

Amen.

 

 

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