Homilies for September 2016

September 2016 homilies artwork

“Unless you take up your cross…” Gospel reading, September 4, 2016
(“Christ Carrying the Cross” Painting by El Greco, 1580.)

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 4, 2016
Lectionary 129
Readings:
Wis 9:13-18b; Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17;Phmn 9-10, 12-17;Lk 14:25-33

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom contains many spiritual gems, in which we find the necessity of a spiritual life. In the opening sentence, the author poses a question: Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? Could the answer to this question be no one? If we answer affirmatively, that we possess potential, then we unlock the prayer piece of our reading. We can come to know the counsel of God, or conceive what God intends, through our personal prayer, and the discernment of what God tells us in prayer. The very next line of the reading reveals why we should pray,

For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.

Our timidity and uncertainty give cause to pray and seek direction from God.

The state of our parishionersprayer lives will be different for each person. Some may only pray infrequently, hopefully once a day, and perhaps at meals. Others will be dedicated pray-ers who try to do a holy hour once a week, or pray the rosary daily. Often in prayer, people busy themselves, rather than taking time to listen to God’s voice speaking within their heart. When people pray, no matter its form, people struggle with distractions. The author of Wisdom understands this:

For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.

Our fast paced culture does not lend itself to meditation and contemplation. We are always on to the next thing. Or while a person tries to do something, they are already preoccupied by what is to come. Our minds are filled with todo lists. These burdens of soul and fleeting thoughts take away from meditation. It takes discipline to curb distraction. For example, in praying the rosary, St. Louis de Montfort recommended inserting a phrase after the name of Jesus which would focus a person’s meditation. In this way fleeting thoughts and distractions are minimalized. (I develop this method in my book A Rosary Litany). However, sometimes these distractions in prayer become a means to prayer. It is important to not disregard distractions. If a person comes to mind while we pray, maybe they need our prayers in that moment. Do not ignore the distraction, but also do not dwell on it.

The second reading provides a snippet of Paul’s short letter to Philemon concerning the run-away slave, Onesiums. I would encourage you to read the letter in its entirety (on your own) since only a few verses are omitted. Consider also reading what your study bible has to say about the historical background of the letter. This short reading provides several preaching points if one would like. St. Paul speaks of his spiritual fatherhood; whose father I have become in my imprisonment.” Paul also says he would like to retain Onesiums for the service of the evangelization, but Paul does not have the authority to do this. Paul needs someone to spread the gospel since he is imprisoned. This line draws attention to the current situation of persecuted Christians throughout the Middle East. Lastly, Paul touches on the dignity of all people when he considers Onesiums “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.” Each person has inherent dignity, so a catechetical homily could be possible.

In Luke’s gospel for this weekend, we continue to hear the difficult sayings of Jesus. Only a few weeks ago we heard Jesus say that he has come not to bring peace but cause division. Today Jesus says,

If anyone come to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

The word hate, as used in this case, “is Semitic exaggeration and may reflect an idiom which means ‘love less than’ (Oxford Bible Commentary). Jesus wants his disciples to possess a perfectly ordered love, first of God, then of family, then others.

Three times in our gospel this weekend, Jesus tells us how not to be a disciple: not having love of God first, not carrying our own cross and following Him, and not renouncing all our possessions. Between the first two conditions of discipleship, Jesus inserts two parables, which speak to the necessity of preparation. To be a disciple means we need to prepare to do so, and Jesus tells us how to do this. The notion of preparation can relate to the earlier theme explored in the first reading—namely prayer. The saints talk about remote and proximate preparation for prayer. If the preacher choses to preach on prayer using Jesus’ two parables, he would focus on the necessity of having a game plan when going to a holy hour or prayer period.

The readings for the twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time supply many different ideas for homilies: prayer, evangelization, human dignity, and discipleship.

Suggested Reading: Joseph A Fitzmyer, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 52:1-11 (Philemon)

Catechism Aids from Homiletic Directory:
CCC 273, 300, 314: God’s transcendence
CCC 36-43: knowledge of God according to the Church
CCC 2544: prefer Christ to all else
CCC 914-919, 931-932: following Christ in consecrated life

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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 11, 2016
Lectionary 132

Readings:  Ex 32:7-11, 13-14;Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19; 1 Tm 1:12-17;Lk 15:1-32

The Church offers the option of a longer, or shorter form, of the gospel for this weekend. If one elects the shorter option, the Prodigal Son narrative will be omitted.

As always, a great resonance exists between the first reading, psalm, and gospel for this weekend. The psalm links the two readings together, but unfortunately in many Catholic parishes, a common psalm will replace this weekend’s responsorial. The response comes from Luke 15:18 while the verses are taken from Psalm 51. In the first reading, the Lord tells Moses how people have gone astray from him. The desire here lies in the return of the Israelites back to God, that they will rise and go to their father, rather than worshipping false Gods. Psalm 51 appropriately corresponds to the Prodigal Son account because the son pleads for mercy, acknowledging that he sinned against Heaven, and against earth. The wasteful spending of his fortune on prostitutes, and other fleeting luxuries, allows him to ask God for a clean heart.

In the first reading, Moses, like many others from the Old Testament, seeks to remind God of His favor. We saw this a number of weeks ago when Abraham kept asking God if He would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were just a handful of faithful people. Moses essentially asks God two things: first, be patient with us, and second, do not forget your love and promises to your people. In our world today, we still ask God to be patient with us because even after all of our history, we still do not get it! The gospel corresponds to the notion of God’s patience because the Father patiently waits for His son’s return. The father also expresses patience toward his other son, who becomes jealous regarding the attention His younger brother received.

Many people know the story of the prodigal son. Homilists have tirelessly preached on personal identification with the story: Which son am I? Am I like the Father?

What’s new to say? During this Year of Mercy, any opportunity to preach mercy, especially the sacrament of Penance, would be appropriate, after all, many confessionals don an image of Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son. The confession motif in the parable follows this pattern: a person falls into sin and persists in that state for a while. At one point, there is an awakening moment, a time of conversion; the evangelist tells us the prodigal son came to his senses. He considers his current situation, and considers life beforehand, and the many blessings he had, in a sense, a quasi-examination of conscience. Then a resolution happens, the man returns to his father, during which he expresses his remorse, and receives forgiveness.

Even if a homilist elected not to preach on the prodigal son, the possibility exists to preach on the sacrament of penance. At the end of the shorter form, Jesus says, “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” Every celebration of the sacrament of penance provides an opportunity for Heaven to rejoice. Heaven especially rejoices when a person who was astray for many years returns to the sacrament.

Other points a preacher could consider and develop—
From the First Reading:
God shows people how to live their lives, most especially by the Decalogue. We choose whether or not to follow the ways of God.

  • The Israelites began to worship false idols. What are the false god’s we create and worship in our life?

From the Second Reading:

  • St. Paul speaks of gratitude, “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy.” Invite people to consider ways God has worked in their life, and encourage them to express their gratitude to God. The idea of gratitude pervades in our other readings as well—God relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people. Anyone who loses a sheep, or loses a coin, and then finds what has been lost, is grateful. Same, too, for the father who lost his son.
  • We receive what we do not deserve because God is merciful, and never tires in forgiving.

From the Gospel

  • The notion of seeking and finding. Seeking the lost sheep, or coin, and finding it.
  • The jealousy, envy, and pride of the older son.
    • Both the younger and older son have vices.
      • What are the virtues they need?
      • What are the vices of our modern culture? What are the virtues we need to develop?

Further Reading
Henri Nowen, Return of the Prodigal Son.

Catechism Aids from Homiletic Directory
CCC 210-211: God of mercy;
CCC 604-605, 1846-1848: God takes the initiative in redemption;
CCC 1439, 1700, 2839: the Prodigal Son as an example of conversion;
CCC 1465, 1481: the Prodigal Son and the sacrament of Penance.

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Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 18, 2016
Lectionary: 135
Readings: Am 8:4-7 ;Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8;1 Tm 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13. 

In my reflection for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I encourage a homily based on prayer using the Wisdom reading. If the preacher did not reflect on prayer at that time, today’s second reading from 1 Timothy provides another opportunity. Or, if the preacher wishes, a second installment on prayer could be preached. Last week’s Wisdom reading offered the opportunity to reflect on what we receive in prayer (knowledge of God’s will) and struggles we face in prayer (distraction). This week, St. Paul lists the various types of prayer, supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings. He also speaks to the reality that prayer is not restricted to the holy, but everyone has the ability to pray! Some people might be afraid to pray because they have done something in their past which makes them feel unworthy of praying. Dispel this lie of the Evil One! Another reason people might not pray is they do not know how. The simple acronym “ACTS” provides a good model for teaching introductory prayer—adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Luke’s gospel for this weekend speaks of stewardship. Fr. Michael Schmitz, in his Lighthouse Catholic Media Talk, Beyond Belief: Following Christ Today, argues that many people live as practical atheists. He means that many people believe in God, but they live their lives indifferent to God. He outlines three ways to know if Jesus impacts your life. Just look at your calendar, checkbook, and entertainment and see if Jesus is Lord of your life. In a sense, two of these three criterion hit at the heart of stewardship. Most parishes now use the tagline: stewardship of prayer, service, and sharing.

The rich man asks the steward to “Prepare a full account of your stewardship.” That same task will be asked of us. Two of Fr. Schmitz’s criterion provide an excellent examination of our stewardship. When we look at a calendar, do people know that we are followers of Jesus? Would they know we make time for prayer each day, go to Mass, and attend faithenriching events?   Do I spend some time each week in serving other people, or the Church? How about our checkbook? If someone looked at our checkbook would they notice charitable giving, not only to the church, but to other worthy organizations as well? Preaching a stewardship homily always benefits the parish because people might develop their prayer life, volunteer their time, or donate money. It helps them, because God calls us to be good stewards of our time and resources. Another aspect of stewardship one could explore would be our stewardship of creation.

Other Possible Preaching Points

  • The first reading from the prophet Amos speaks of our care for the poor. This connects to the theme of stewardship expounded on in the gospel.
  • In the gospel, Jesus says: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” It might be possible to develop a homily based on promises and trust. Promises mean something. When we break promises, we become less trustworthy in the eyes of others.

Recommended Study

Listen to Fr. Michael Schmitz’s talk “Beyond Belief.” Available as a paid download here: https://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/beyond-belief-following-christ-today

Pope Francis, Laudato Si (re: Stewardship of the Environment)

Catechism Aids from Homiletic Directory

CCC 2407-2414: respect for the property of others

CCC 2443-2449: love for the poor

CCC 2635: pray for others’ interest, not just for one’s own

CCC 65-67, 480, 667: Christ our one Mediator

CCC 2113, 2424, 2848: no one can serve two masters

CCC 1900, 2636: intercession for rulers

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Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 25, 2016
Lectionary 138
Readings: Am 6:1a, 4-7; Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; 1 Tm 6:11-16;Lk 16:19-31.

Thirty Day challenges are all the craze. As a listener of the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, the Busted Halo crew completes a 30-day challenge each summer. They set goals, typically to lose weight, and strive to accomplish them. Personally, these challenges remind me of Lent. Nevertheless, the premise is good because it is all about bettering oneself. We can use this in the spiritual life. Our people want to make changes in their lives. It is why they return to the sacrament of Penance, in order to refocus, and attain the goal. St. Paul tells us what the goal is: to attain eternal life. In the second reading this weekend, he provides the way to attain eternal life—by pursuing righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, gentleness, keeping the commandments.

A preacher could reflect on the notion of goal-setting, especially in the spiritual life. Is there some vice a person wants to root out? Develop an action plan. When setting goals, it is important that they are attainable and measurable, so a person does not lose hope. Even if a person fails in holding to their goal for one day, they can begin anew the next day. If someone struggles with patience, and were really impatient one day, encourage them to renew their resolve the next day, and begin again. If they are struggling with taking God’s name in vain, the goal would be to try to take it in vain a few times less each day, until it is completely eradicated from one’s life.

This week’s gospel continues where we left off last week regarding stewardship and love of money. In the rich man’s plight, we see what the love of money can do to a person. In telling this account, Jesus makes us witnesses of what happened to the rich man and Lazarus. We also hear the rich man begging to warn his brothers. Abraham responds that they had Moses, and the prophets to listen to. As Christians, we are blessed to know the full story. Not only do we have the teachings of the prophets, but we have the gospels—the teachings of Jesus, and the writings of the early Church.

We have heard the same stories. We know their teachings, and thus, know what we must do to inherit eternal life. What do we do with what we know? Do we live indifferent to it? Does it change our lives?

A homily this weekend could focus on the goal of the Christian life—eternal life—and what we must do to get there. This connects, also, with St. Paul, and the prior reflection on goal- setting. If our goal is eternal life, then we want to set that as our main goal. Do not seek only to go to purgatory, because what happens if you fall short of this goal? Both St. Paul and Luke provide excellent means to attain eternal life.

Additionally, a homilist might choose to preach a homily on our care for the poor.

Catechism Aids from Homiletic Directory

CCC 1939-1942: human solidarity

CCC 2437-2449: solidarity among nations; love for poor

CCC 2831: hunger in world; solidarity; prayer

CCC 633, 1021, 2463, 2831: Lazarus

CCC 1033-1037: Hell

Rev. Edward Lee Looney, STB, MDiv About Rev. Edward Lee Looney, STB, MDiv

Fr. Edward Looney was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin on June 6, 2015. A member of the Mariological Society of America, Fr. Looney publishes regularly on Marian topics, including the approved 1859 Wisconsin apparition. His latest devotional book is A Rosary Litany. To learn more, visit arosarylitany.com or his personal website edwardlooney.com. You can also follow Fr. Edward on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

Comments

  1. Fr. Andrew Stanko says:

    I find these homilies to be very beneficial – keep up the good work