Ordinary Time

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

The parables are always about the practical implications of faith.

The theme of justice seems pretty obvious in today’s Liturgy of the Word. Justice is the rendering of what is due to, or merited by someone. It includes ideas like fairness, equity and impartiality. It doesn’t allow for favoritism, which always divides and hurts some people.

I chose the shorter version of the gospel because the longer version is a very complicated one that I believe requires more time than we have here to really do justice to or develop for proper understanding.

“No servant can serve two masters.” This is very practical advice from Jesus. What are some practical examples from our lives?

We cannot have two “significant others.” If you have two girlfriends or boyfriends, a necessary sorting out will eventually have to occur or, one will be hurt by the lack of attention.

We cannot party and do justice to our studies, one will win out. We will really have a great time and fail, or we will do well in our studies and our social life will have to be somewhat sacrificed.

We cannot have a full time job and be a full time student. One will take over and the other will suffer.

We cannot give total attention to the material things of this life and expect to have a spiritual life as well.

This list could go on and on, and I’m sure you could provide examples from your own personal experiences. It is all about balance, about fairness, about equality.

Theologically, justice is the sorting out what belongs to whom and giving it back to them.

Prophets, like Amos, from which our first reading came, never preached a watered-down justice. For them, justice was passionate, hot-headed, but most of all necessary.

The prophets preached what “grieved” God and themselves in their society and that preaching wasn’t popular. It made people feel uncomfortable. Just think about that question for a moment. “What grieves God?” What would make God cry? What grieves you? What makes you cry? Would we not agree that injustice, dishonesty, unfairness causes us grief?

Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: “The things that horrify the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.” The other evening, I substituted a class for a professor and showed the movie “Romero.” The movie was about Archbishop Oscar Romero’s sensitivity to the suffering caused by injustice in his country. What that movie proved is that the injustices of Amos’ day are all around us still.

Thomas Merton said that we could be overwhelmed when we realize the state of affairs in our world and see so many injustices, but what we should do is look at our lives and make them more just, fair, honest and balanced. We might also raise questions as to why this injustice continues in our day.

The social implication of the gospel is obvious. We cannot sit around and watch injustice, but must move to action if God’s kingdom is going to be evident. This kingdom is not some geographical location far away. The kingdom of God is within each of us. It is the cry we hear in our consciences pleading to us to respond to the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, and which moves us to help.

Justice in the Bible always referred to the restoration of a situation or environment that promoted equity and harmony in a community.

The prophetic challenge we are invited to enter today is to seek justice, to find out what belongs to whom and try and give it back.

We need to ask, “What belongs to God” and seek to develop a real relationship with God.

We need to ask, “What belongs to those around us” especially those who are deprived of the necessities of a dignified life and see what we can do to help them.

We need to ask, “What belongs to me.” Am I giving time for study, work, recreation and prayer? Am I spiritually, emotionally, physically poor because I am not attending to the real needs of my life.

Our core value of respect covers it all. If we have respect for self, others and God there will be order and peace in our lives.

Sister Mary Rose, the former director of the Covenant House, said: “The bedrock principle of Catholic social teaching is that every person, regardless of race, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, employment or any other differentiating characteristic, has a right to life and is worthy of respect. No teaching is more threatened in contemporary society.”

Let us ask ourselves: are we trying to serve more than one master? How’s that working for us? If we are not at peace, it may mean that we have some sorting out to do. Pope Paul VI said: “If you want peace, work for justice!”

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

One of the greatest challenges many of us face in striving to live out our Christian vocation in the real world, it seems to me, has to do with the issue of forgiveness. If the people we often see on newscasts – people who have been aggrieved, against whom some crime or injury has been committed – if such people are at all representative of the population at large, justice rather than mercy often seems to be the prevailing force that moves us.

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

I am pretty sure that all parents have, at one time or another, found themselves in the position of trying to get their child to do something difficult or boring or distasteful, and having their child refuse with these words: “You know, I didn’t ask to be born!” The logic of the complaint seems to be that, by not actually requesting birth, the child must now be held to a lower standard of compliance with parental oversight. If children asked to be born, then it would be their own fault that they were here, and they would have to accept the consequences of mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, and studying algebra. But since they didn’t ask to be here, they expect to be cut some slack.

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

I remember an early morning this spring when I was awoken from a deep sleep by the severe sounds of an approaching storm. There was a tremendous clap of thunder followed by a bright flash of lighting, the intensity of which drew me from my bed instantly and to the window. My immediate reaction was to quickly bless myself, making the sign of the cross, followed expediently by an act of contrition. The violence of the storm combined with the strange light of the morning in these moments just before dawn to frighten me and to wonder if this might be the end of the world! My response to the storm triggered a spontaneous spiritual reaction, readying myself for what might be the end.

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

I imagine the words of Jesus today may seem a bit heavy – especially at this time of year, when the summer heat tends to make many of us feel a little sluggish and lazy. Yet Jesus calls us to vigilance and readiness. Perhaps it’s precisely because it may be more difficult for us to hear this message now that the Church places this Gospel before us today as a reminder of what never fails to be important, namely, that we always be prepared for the Lord’s coming.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

In my family, there are two organized religions: Roman Catholicism, and the Pennsylvania State Lottery. (Some interfaith family members also attend the Church of Powerball.) I recall the first time the jackpot went over one hundred million dollars. It was in the late 80s, and although I was living in Washington at the time, my brother, Matt, was giving me regular updates on the effects of this huge prize. There were long lines to buy tickets; people taking trains from New York, Baltimore, and Washington, others flying in from California and Europe and even Japan; and a level of general excitement that continued to rise every time there was a drawing without a winner. He assured me that he had purchased a fair number of tickets himself, and asked me if I would pray for one of them to win. I dodged the question by asking him what he would do if he won, and he revealed to me a very detailed plan of action. He had obviously given the matter a great deal of thought.

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

In the sixth century, St. Benedict founded a dozen monasteries in Italy that would shape Europe for centuries to come. Carved over the entrance of the first Benedictine monastery at Subiaco is the famous motto, Ora et Labora: “Pray and Work.” In the death throes of the classical world, in the decay of ancient institutions and customs, St. Benedict located the foundation of spiritual growth and endurance in the balance of contemplation and activity.

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

“Let me just answer one more email.”

 “I’ll be right with you. I just have to return one more phone call.”

“Hold on, my cell phone is ringing.”

“Sorry, this won’t take long…”

Sound familiar? All of us at one time or another has said this to a family member or friend who is waiting for us. Some of us make our companions wait quite a long time – the movie has already started, the specials at the restaurant have long run dry, the train has already left the station! Some of us never get out of the office, turn off the computer, or hang up the phone. All of us have been players in this “make ‘em wait’ game;” some of us have even made a career of it!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity • Year C

In my years as a priest, I have witnessed many amazing things. I have heard the sorrow of men and women who have come back to confession for the first time in a quarter of a century. I have watched Catholics rally around parishioners in need, go out of their way to comfort the mourning, struggle and sacrifice to raise their children in the faith. I have seen people’s lives turned around by prayer, watched people come out from under addiction, and witnessed remarkable acts of forgiveness. I have even seen people break years of a bad habit, and start to come to Mass on time.

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

A few years back, on a warm Sunday in August, I was sitting in my sister’s backyard following a family barbecue. (It’s good to think of such things in the midst of a harsh winter, and be reminded that the fine weather will come again.) The rest of the family had gone, leaving me, my sister and her husband, and a young couple from next door. During a pause in the conversation, my four-year-old nephew, Matthew, who was sitting on my lap, slowly leaned over to the neighbor - who was very pretty and, let us say, dressed for summer - looked up into her face, and said in the voice of a twenty-year-old, “You have the prettiest blue eyes.” We all laughed, and the young woman said, “Well, thank you, Matthew! But my eyes aren’t blue. They’re green.” And without missing a beat, and in the same adult voice, Matthew replied, “Green is my faaavorite color!”

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

In general, there are three sorts of questions we encounter daily. First, there are things that sound like questions, but really aren’t. Second, things that don’t sound like questions, but really are. Third, there are real questions.

For instance, when we walk by someone we know in an office hallway or on campus or at the store, one of us says, “Hi! How are you?” Usually, we don’t want a real answer. If the person we have greeted stops and starts telling us about his recent medical exam, or about her mother in Altoona, generally we aren’t happy about it. It wasn’t a real question.

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

Can you imagine what those final words of Jesus that we hear today might have meant to the people gathered in the little synagogue of Nazareth on that Sabbath day two thousand years ago! In fact, if we were to have continued reading we would have heard that initially their reaction was very positive. They spoke highly of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. But they were also a little puzzled, for these were his neighbors; they had watched him grow up; he had played with their children; they knew him well and so wondered what this carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary, could mean by “this passage is now fulfilled!”

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B

Having recently returned to the Gospel of St. Mark, after several weeks of hearing St. John’s discourse on the Eucharist, we discovered in last week’s Gospel that Jesus is attempting to open our minds and hearts both to what defiles us from within and also defines us as children of God. If we were to take last week’s Gospel at face value, we might find ourselves quite depressed over the listing of vices that can come forth from within each of us; vices that arequite prevalent in the very world that we live in.