What Must I Do for Eternal Life, Homily

Ezekiel 24:15-23

Today in our First Reading we hear Ezekiel wanting to mourn the death of his wife, but the Lord calls him to groan in silence and ‘continue on’ with the work to which God has called him.

As we remember from last week, Ezekiel was calling his people to accept their exile in Babylon where they were taken in 597 by Nebuchadnezzar, and to accept the destruction of Jerusalem which was coming in 587.

Ezekiel believed that the exiles were the hope of Israel’s restoration once the allotted time for the exile had been accomplished.

In our Gospel from Matthew we hear the story of the young man who came up to Jesus asking what he must do to gain eternal life.

Jesus gives him a few examples from the 10 commandments to which the young man tells Him that he has observed all of these, and asks, what more must he must do.

You can almost see Jesus smile as He says, if you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come follow me.

We’re told the young man went away sad for he had many possessions. While that is probably true, it seems Jesus saw him coming a long way off and understood his deeper problem was his Richness of Spirit. Otherwise, Jesus would have increased the load he placed on the young man’s shoulders incrementally without going to the limit that He did.

Jesus knew that the young man’s possessions likely fed into his Richness of Spirit and that it takes a long time in life to reach the level of Poverty of Spirit to be truly useful to the Kingdom. But, since the young man persisted in pushing Jesus to make himself look good to those around Him, Jesus gave him the whole enchilada since nothing less would appeal to him or change him quick enough to be useful to Jesus in His short public ministry here on Earth.

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Reminder of Forgiveness, Homily

Ezekiel 12:1-12

In our First Reading today, we find the Lord calling Ezekiel to perform acts symbolic of going into exile. He has him packing up all his belongings and leaving the city through a hole in the wall.

The Lord is hoping that the people who have so far been oblivious to the prophet’s words about a coming exile, will at last see the symbolism of preparing for exile and take heed.

There are times in our lives, when it seems the same things happen over and over, we jokingly refer to those as Yogi Berra did, by calling those incidents déjà vu, all over again.

But, in fact, it could be the Lord’s way of trying to get our attention about something He wants us to understand.

In our Gospel from Matthew 18, we find Peter trying to ingratiate himself by asking the Lord how many times we are to forgive others, seven times, he asks.

The Lord responds, “Not seven but seventy-seven times.” In other words, we are to forgive an indeterminate number of times just like He forgives us.

The story of the forgiven servant, going out and treating another servant harshly to be repaid a debt he owed, is a look at ourselves and our normal tendencies. We forgot how gracious the Lord is with us when it comes to forgiveness being applied to others.

Eucharist and Poverty of Spirit, Homily

Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:4

As I read the first reading today from Ezekiel, I couldn’t help but think I was reading a very old description say from the OT of a future reality say from the NT, about the Eucharist. The words, “Open your mouth and eat what I shall give you” engenders a graphic to me of receiving communion.

The words, “Eat what is before you and then go speak to the House of Israel” should remind us to fill ourselves with the strength of the Eucharist before we ever go out and try to spread the good news to others.

Otherwise, we find ourselves speaking from human strength only, rather than the Divine.

Our Gospel today from Matthew, with its reference to becoming like little children, reminds us once again of the call to Poverty of Spirit. He says, “Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in the Heavenly reign.”

So, when we find ourselves wanting to be important, more than we really are, we have our first indication of our heart being filled with Richness of Spirit rather than the Poverty of Spirit to which He calls us all.

Miracles of Jesus, Homily

Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c

If any of you are History channel buffs, you will recognize our first reading today from Ezekiel as a passage often used by the program “Ancient Aliens” as a proof text that we have been visited in the past by other life forms.

If we could get as much enthusiasm generated for the coming of Jesus Christ as we do for that program about the Ancient Alien possibility, we could go a long way in converting the world for Him.

Our Gospel from Matthew shares with us the story of the temple tax and Jesus’ miraculous solution. He has Simon Peter catch a fish and take from its mouth a coin that was worth twice the amount required, enough for both of them.

We’ve heard that story and others so many times that we have lost our enthusiasm for some of the physical miracles that Jesus did perform. The impact is that we forget that Jesus said we, today, would perform miracles just like he performed and even more besides, unquote.

Consequently, we miss seeing miracles happen today or worse rationalize them away.

Yet, I would be willing to bet that every living one us here today has witnessed miracles that defy logic and probability. Wouldn’t it be interesting to sit down one day and have everyone share their experiences? But, not today…

We Don’t Murmur, Homily

Homily, Aug 12th, Cyc B 19th Sun Ord Time: Murmuring

Today’s Gospel reading, the third of the five Sundays from the Sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, begins with the Jews murmuring.  That’s a great word, murmur.  It’s a word that sounds like its meaning.

Murmur. Mom makes a large meatloaf on Sunday.  On Monday it returns to the table with red sauce on it.  On Tuesday it’s mixed in with vegetables, and all the family murmurs.  Or school starts on a Wednesday, and on Friday the teacher assigns two hours of homework, and among the students there is murmuring.

The Hebrews of the Bible were world-class murmurers, especially those who lived in the times of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  These people murmured because the Pharaoh increased their work load.

It was all Moses’ fault they said angrily.  They murmured when they camped next to the Red Sea and heard that the Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching.  They murmured when they had no bread, or no meat, or no water.  You would have thought that they would have had faith in God who had cared for their every need, but no, instead of faith there was murmuring.

The murmuring of the Jews of the Exodus was recalled in the murmuring of the Jews in the beginning of today’s Gospel.  They complained about Jesus. He had fed them with loaves and fish, but now He said that He was all the bread they needed.  He was the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.

They were convinced that He did not come down from heaven.  They said that they knew his family.  And they would have been correct if that was all there was to Jesus.  If He was simply human, He could not be the Bread from heaven.

He could not give them that which was infinitely greater than the Bread their ancestors ate, the manna.

To accept the gift of the Bread of Life, they had to first accept that Jesus was more than human.  He was Divine.

This is the same for us.  To understand the miracle and mystery of communion, our starting point must be that Jesus is Divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He gives us who He is, Eternal Life.

Our Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, etc, gave us liberty, but they were not liberty.  Abraham Lincoln gave the slaves freedom, but he was not freedom.

But Jesus gave the Bread of the Eternal Life because He is the Bread of Life. He is not just a great man.  He is Divine. The Bread of Life is Jesus, our Divine Sustenance.

And, we take Him into ourselves.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are united to Him, to each other and to the whole Body of Christ.  It is no wonder that those who wish to destroy the Church begin by attacking the Eucharist.

In England of the Sixteenth Century, France of the Eighteenth Century, Mexico of the Twentieth Century, and throughout the world in the Twenty-first century, wherever ISIS or its affiliates rears its head, Christianity is attacked by attacking the Eucharist as well as those who can provide the Eucharist for others.

Throughout history and continuing to the present-day priests are tortured and killed for saying Mass for the people who long for the Bread of Life.

You can see the hand of the evil here.  In the diabolical battle against God’s people, the devil attacks that which binds them to God, the Eucharist.  His attacks are not just overt, though. The Father of Lies works subtlety.

He tries to convince us that Jesus was a wonderful man, but just that, a man.  When Jesus is equated with other great men of history, then the Eucharist has no meaning.  It then becomes a pious Catholic practice with no real significance beyond that of holy water, a sacramental.

The next time you hear someone say that Jesus was a good man just like, Mohammad, or the Dali Lama remind them that only Jesus died for His people.

The unbelieving, murmur that Catholics are not really receiving the Lord when they go to communion. Some Catholics are swayed by their arguments.

When Mass is celebrated people receive the Bread of Life.  Every Sunday, and for some of us, every day, we enter into the Mystery of the Eucharist.  We receive the One who is the Bread of Life.

This is Jesus who unites Himself to Us with His Body and Blood.

This is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become one of us, to die for us, and then gave the gift of His Life and Death to us in the form to the Blessed Sacrament.

This is Jesus whom we will take into ourselves today when we receive communion.

We don’t murmur.

We proclaim.

Wait for the Vision, Homily

Habakkuk 1:12 – 2:4

In our first reading today from Habakkuk, near the end, we find an interesting passage.

“For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.

“If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

A few years ago, while trying to listen to the Lord about a minor issue, I heard in that small voice, the Lord referring to an entirely different issue. Since it didn’t seem to be of consequence in that I did not care one way or the other, I just noted what He said and forgot about it.

As it turned out, as time went by, I found myself actually warming to the idea and looking forward to it and became somewhat aggravated that the Lord had not done, what I thought He said He was going to do.

That little exchange went on and on for almost two years. And my only recourse was remembering the original words, “If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

As with most of these sorts of things, when it did come, it came with no fanfare. It was just a cold day in February and out of the blue, when least expected, there it was.

When I reflected on it, and looked back over the two-year waiting period, I realized I was not as ready for it then, as I thought I was.

What was that two-year period all about? It was about the Lord expanding my faith. Honestly, if He had completed His vision earlier, it would not have been the blessing it turned out to be.