Homilies for July 2017

Paintings of St. Francis of Assisi by Francisco de Zurbaran, Christ Crucified by Titian,
and St. Dominic in Prayer by El Greco.

July 2, 2017 – 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070217.cfm
2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16aPs 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42

The gradual conversions of pious saints pale in comparison with the radical conversions of some of our most famous and noteworthy saints. Let’s be honest: the radical and sudden conversion of a scoundrel or a murderer to a rock star saint is much more interesting than the slow, continual conversion of a simple nun or father. For instance, St. Dominic was a pious man from his earliest years. His contemporary, St. Francis was anything but. They both had a tremendous impact on the Church in their time and even into our time. However, if you go to a Catholic goods store, you might have a pretty hard time finding a St. Dominic statue.

Today’s Gospel seems to be asking each of us to make a radical conversion. Who among us would dare say they love anyone or anything more than their mother? I have given my entire life to God as a priest and a religious. I, too, would hesitate when asked by the Our Lord if I love Him more than my mother. Isn’t Our Lord asking too much of us? To love God more than mom and dad; to take up our cross; to lose our lives for His sake. This is a lot to ask of us.

As tough as this is for us, there is good news. Great news, in fact. St. Paul tells us today Jesus already paid the price for us and each of us has already bought in through our baptism. We don’t have to worry about losing our life for His sake. We already have. We don’t have to worry about taking up our crosses. We died with Christ in Baptism. Though the challenge of following the prescriptions of Jesus today are daunting, St. Paul again reminds us, “You must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

The reality of our death with Christ in the waters of baptism helps each of us to realize how our conversion and continued conversion as a disciple of Jesus Christ is both radical and simple. In other words, we should have a little Dominic and Francis in us; we should continue the challenge of giving more and more of ourselves to God every day and the hard work of changing those ugly, stubborn sins and habits that prevent us from giving our life fully to Him. If we are already dead (and we are), every moment is a grace and blessing of incalculable worth. Having given the ultimate, we are now able to receive and live the ultimate with Our Lord.

Furthermore, in both the first reading from 2 Kings and the Gospel, we are explicitly shown where to begin our service of God and His people. In 2 Kings, the woman provides the prophet Elisha a simple room. She has the means and, in all likelihood, giving him a room was not much of a challenge. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink… he will surely not lose his reward.” He reiterates the importance of firstly offering to God and to God’s servants what is easy and simple.

In other words, give wholeheartedly to the Lord and His Church today what you already have and what you are already willing to give. If I can’t give to the Lord what I already have excess of, how could I possibly take up my cross, give Him my life, or love Him more than my mother and father?

Here again, we see the importance of our conversion and the similarities of all conversions: it starts with what we give the Lord now and grows into our whole life. The conversion of heart must be matched by a conversion of life. Our growth in holiness is commensurate with our growth in virtue.

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July 9, 2017 – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070917.cfm
Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

We live under a tyranny of noise. Maybe, just maybe, I am a little jaded and biased. As a campus minister living in the middle of a major university campus, we live in the middle of the Greek houses, and immediately adjacent to a stadium. During the school year, the ambient noise from endless fraternity parties, or stadium events, echo in our house. Additionally, when I get out on-campus, I see students around campus moving like drones glued to their screens, with their headphones or earbuds firmly affixed.

This, however, is not a phenomenon unique to a college campus. If I go to the doctor, or the mechanic, television news blasts in the waiting room. We are a culture seemingly addicted to noise and distraction.

It should not surprise us then when our relationships and friendships are also tyrannized by noise. We feel the need to fill all of our time together with empty, idle chatter. If we dare to dive into social media, our worlds are further filled with abrasiveness, contempt, and confusion, even among people with whom we generally agree.

Consequently, meekness and humility are almost forgotten virtues in our world. What’s even more troubling is each of us are called to become another Christ, to be Christ to one another. Yet, when Jesus tells us today that he is “meek and humble of heart,” our noise-fueled world, filled with continual chatter, and vapid Twitter arguments make it hard for us to relate. We have hidden from Christ, as well as who we truly are, behind a wall of sound. Therefore, God remains and/or becomes a greater mystery because He is found not in wealth or power, not in erudition or political correctness, but in humility and meekness. He speaks not through the noise of the world, but in the silence of hearts turned toward, and opened to Him.

There is a great paradox to silence, to prayerful silence for us as Christians. As Christians, we are called to serve the poor, evangelize and make disciples of unbelievers, practice virtue, and combat evil. A lot is expected of us and our lives. As important as all of this work is, we are all first called to silence, to prayer, to communion with the uninhibited love of the undivided Trinity dwelling in our hearts. This struggle between the active and the silent, between the outer and the inner man is real. However, as the Catechism tells us, we can win, and there is a way forward: “The battle against the possessive and dominating self requires vigilance and sobriety of heart. When Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day, and every day: today. The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; the light that must not be extinguished is that of faith: “‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!'”(CCC 2730)

When we seek the face of Christ in prayer, in silence, we can become not only a holy person, but we can do even more powerful, important, world- and life-changing works. In the last century, two of the most important Catholic figures were Sts. John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Each in their own way changed the world, and left it a better place through their works and ministry, yet, each was a devoted child of God, and a lover of silence with their Beloved.

St. John Paul told us, “Life changes when the heart has been ‘conquered’ by Christ. The most generous and lasting choices are the fruit of a deep and prolonged union with God in prayerful silence.” (Sunday Angelus, 24 February 2002) This came from a man who helped defeat Communism, and combatted a culture increasingly set against Christian virtues and values.

Mother Teresa, in echoing her friend, Pope John Paull II, was a woman who, along with her sisters, served the poorest of the poor in almost every conceivable way. She once remarked, “The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us.”

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit.” So when Jesus tells us to take up his yoke, he is not asking for our bodies, our works. He is asking for our spirits, our hearts, our souls. In order for us to be meek and humble like Jesus, to be at peace, we need the yoke of Jesus, we need to walk with Jesus silently, listening to him, and learning from him.

In his recent book, The Power of Silence, Cardinal Robert Sarah writes:

In the presence of God, in silence, we become meek and humble of heart. God’s meekness and humility penetrate us, and we enter in a real conversation with him. Humility is a condition and a result of silence. Silence needs meekness and humility, and it also opens for us the way to these two qualities. The humblest, meekest, and most silent of al beings is God. Silence is the only means by which to enter into this great mystery of God. (48)

The world, with all of its noise, is crying out for silence. Jesus, in all of his meekness and humility, is crying out for union with us. We can live in subjugation, and abide under this force of distraction, white noise, bluster; or we can walk yoked together in silence with Love, and abiding in love. Be still. Be silent. Become one with God.

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July 16, 2017 – 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071617.cfm
Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8: 18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus is an indefatigable sower. His love for us is so great that this parable of the sower and the seed is not a simple one of opportunity. It’s not as if Jesus offers us faith once, and we either accept it, or reject it. On the contrary, Jesus comes to us again and again. Not only that, but because we are made in the image and likeness of God, even without the gift of the Holy Spirit, our hearts, minds, and souls yearn for Him.

Thus, a soul with the gift of the Holy Spirit is never truly happy until that soul becomes like the fertile soil in today’s Gospel. Even the most hardened sinner, a person who hates God, is never incapable, never without hope of conversion to the Truth. As Isaiah tells us, the Word of God never returns void. If our hearts are even the least bit open to God’s Word, in fact, if we are just simply in the presence of his Word, God sows his seed, and cultivates our hearts.

A great example of this is Blessed Bartolo Longo. Bartolo lived in the 19th century in Italy, and was raised in a Catholic family. However, as a young man, he adopted a radical form of politics, became an activist, left the Church, and, eventually, became a satanic priest. He tried to kill the seeds God had planted in his heart. He tried with all of his might to be “the barren ground.” But after an encounter with a Dominican priest, and his hearing the priest’s teaching, and starting to say the Rosary, Bartolo heart was gradually softened. Our Lord, being gracious and merciful, kept sowing seed there. Bartolo kept cultivating his heart. Finally, he was able to return to the Church and, not only that, he spent the rest of his life teaching and evangelizing.

This is what we are made for: sin and evil make us dry, or fill us with weeds, but we are made to be the rich soil into which God comes,transforming our lives. The two great Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, each in their own ways, came to this same conclusion. St. Augustine wrote of his own experience with a restless heart that only rested when it rested in the Lord. St. Thomas Aquinas acquired knowledge of God (wisdom) which he felt to be the perfection of the intellect. He said that by our very nature, we desire this knowledge, and seek it out at all times. (ST I, 12, 8)

Yet, as St. Paul alluded to in today’s second reading, we are often enslaved by sin and suffering. These realities can cripple us, and leave us with little hope of change or growth. However, if our God truly loves us, even these things can be overcome. Christ encourages us by saying: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Sin and death are real, but in comparison to the great things we are able to do through, with, and in Christ Jesus, they are dross.

It is important to remember, however, we are always free in all of this. Even though it is God who sows, God who waters, God who causes the growth, we are always freely choosing to walk with the Lord. Unlike a plant that grows because it must, we grow in grace and freedom; we grow because our cooperation with the seeds of grace make us better, stronger, freer. This freedom, and this opportunity, come with a cost, a challenge to each of us.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council teach us in Gaudium et Spes:

… man’s dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse, nor by mere external pressure. Man achieves such dignity when, emancipating himself from all captivity to passion, he pursues his goal in a spontaneous choice of what is good, and procures for himself, through effective and skillful action, and helps to that end. Since man’s freedom has been damaged by sin, only by the aid of God’s grace can he bring such a relationship with God into full flower. (Gaudium et Spes, 17)

Therefore, the challenge for us is to cultivate our souls, purify our motives, and change our lives. God has planted, through our Baptism, his gift within us. Are we willing to do the work necessary in our lives to ensure providing the best and most hospitable ground for this seed? Farmers agonize over water, soil acidity, herbicides. They do whatever they can to yield the best, earthly crop. We are challenged today to do the hard work of prayer, penance, pursuing moral and faithful lives, for a supernatural, eternal yield.

If a satanic priest can change his life to the point the Church declares his life worthy of veneration and emulation, so, too, can all of us achieve such transformation in Christ.

__________

July 23 – 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072317.cfm
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

Disaster always seems to strike at the end. Just when we think we have something figured out, it falls apart. Right when that term paper or homily is (finally) coming together, we fail to save it. The devil, in today’s Gospel, does the same thing to the field about to be planted with seed. He waits until after the seed is sown in order to sneak into the field, thereby assuring he does maximum damage.

From experience, we also know this to be true. Right after a major spiritual or moral breakthrough, we find ourselves under attack. Prayer is no longer enjoyable. Our newly, hard-won virtue causes great difficulty in our lives. We are tempted, like the intrepid slaves in the Gospel, to yank it all out, and start over again. We convince ourselves it will be better if we just start from scratch.

Sometimes, however, as the master in the Gospel shows, we must grow with the weeds, spend time in difficulty, learn how to grow, while everyone around us is trying to bring us down. Though I would never promote sin or evil, we can also see in our own lives how our sins can become a source of our conversion because, as we heard from the Book of Wisdom, God is the master of might who judges with clemency.

In fact, we know sin to be false because it oftentimes leads us away from itself to the good. In medieval theology, especially in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, there is a phrase: bonum diffusivum sui est (“the good is diffusive of itself”). For St. Thomas, it is readily apparent from nature that what is good is diffusive. For instance, a good act, an act of kindness, leads to other acts of goodness and kindness. Sin does not have this capacity. However, the absence of good in our sin, the noticing of the weeds in our lives among our wheat, can cause us to convert, to see the light, to recognize the power of goodness, beauty, and truth. All it takes is a small act of faith.

In the book, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lady Galadriel, a powerful elven queen, says to Frodo, the hobbit, a man half the size of everyone else, “The smallest person can change the course of history.” As Jesus teaches us today in the Gospel, all it takes is the smallest act of faith for the world to be changed.

The Church Fathers interpreted the “mustard seed” and the “yeast” as representing the preaching of the Gospel. Thus, a simple Word can change the world. Think about it: A ragtag group of men (the Apostles), with no education, who hailed from Galilee, changed the world. They did this not because of anything they had done on their own, but because they received the Word of God from the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

In our own lives, we, too, can help others recognize the Word of God in their lives, through our preaching of the Gospel. This means using direct evangelization by inviting others to a deeper knowledge and communion with Our Lord. It also means we are called to preach the Gospel at all times. The simple smile to a stranger, the random act of kindness, these can change everything. If the smallest person can change the world, so to can the smallest act of kindness.

As good, and as hopeful, as this message is for all of us—and it really should be—Jesus reminds us today of the precariousness of our path. There are real consequences to our actions. We are either wheat or weeds, there is no in- between. As the first reading from Wisdom also reminds us, God rebukes temerity and, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, the weeds will be burned.

As powerful as these small acts of goodness and kindness are, we need to constantly assess who we are, and who we are becoming. We might do great acts of charity, but the challenging thing is the weeds often look a lot like the wheat. Consequently, we must listen to St. Pau,l and call upon the Holy Spirit: “the aid of our weakness.” This takes the form of a regular prayer life, meditation on, and study of, Sacred Scripture, frequenting the Sacraments, and regularly, if not daily, examining our conscience.

When we are daily and regularly on our guard, when we check the state of our interior crops, the littlest seed of our faith in Christ Jesus helps us realize our baptismal vocation to do great things, to change the world, to preach the Good News to all we encounter, just like the Apostles did.

__________

July 30, 2017 – 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/073017.cfm
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

The level of discourse right now is staggeringly low. People have a hard time sitting down and conversing with one another about difficult topics, or areas in which they clearly disagree. Social media, especially on hot-button issues, makes this communication effort worse. As much as this is a challenge, a greater threat is the erroneous idea of anthropocentrism which is infesting our culture.

Anthropocentrism is the belief that the human person, individually, is the most important element of existence. This leads to a lot of problems. In our Church, and in our moral life, it is absolutely devastating. The challenge, however, is not that it exists in our world, but how subtle it permeates our culture and mindset. For instance, in morality, a basic argument people make now for doing anything is that “I feel this way,” as if my emotions, or any emotion, justifies any behavior. People with good intentions, people who are believers, are easily enticed by this, even with matters of faith. “Why do you go to Church?” “It makes me feel good.” Recourse to God, real study of Divine Truth and Sacred Scripture, even the acknowledgement I might be wrong, are all sorely lacking in our thinking.

As Christians, as believers in the Most High God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we must, at all costs resist the temptations to relativism and anthropocentrism. As Solomon clearly shows us in the first reading, the best thing we can ask from the Lord is not power, riches, or fame. It is to know the ways of God, and to think and act in accord with that knowledge. Of all the creatures God created, we are the only ones with the freedom to both know and choose God repeatedly, to grow ever closer to God through our knowledge and love of Him.

In the second reading, St. Paul writes: “Those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” What does it mean to be in the image of his Son? To be the image of the Son is to know God, and to freely choose to serve him; to put God at the center of our lives continually; to recognize my salvation and justification is His work; to understand my best self is the imago Dei, the image of God.

When God—his will, his ways, his essence—is not the center of my life, even if I am, at least in practice, a model Catholic, my faith in Jesus runs the risk of becoming something that glorifies me. Yet, when we take the time to know God, to ask God for his help, to trust in the Lord’s will and way, we become less the central figure of our salvation—who is Jesus—while simultaneously becoming a better, and better person. Our salvation is not self-actualization; it is deeper and deeper dependence on the Lord.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the images of the treasure buried in the field, and the pearl of great price. In both parables, the person finding the item, sacrifices a great deal in order to take possession of it. Last week, Jesus, from the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, taught us how powerful even the smallest amount of faith can be. This week, we are being challenged to recognize the absolute necessity of sacrificing for this faith, for our salvation, for the building up of the Kingdom of God.

Though it would be great for each of us to sell everything we have, and to lead lives of complete and total commitment to the Gospel—we, frankly, need more men and women following Jesus this way in religious life and the priesthood—most people need to ease into the decision, and give up a little at a time. You might not give up everything for God today, but you can give a little.

Those people who disagree with you politically? Instead of disparaging them, find areas of agreement.

The moral decisions that aren’t quite in keeping with the teaching of Christ and His Church, but make you feel good? Give them up this week. Better yet, take them to Confession.

Each one of us desires the Kingdom of God, the “pearl of great price,” that heaven is, and will be for us, and we need to start getting rid of things, actions, and ideas now so we can one day afford to buy it.

Every day—although obviously not in the same way—God comes to us as he did to Solomon:

  • Every time we are confronted with a moral dilemma, God says to us: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
  • When we are trying to figure out the next step in our lives, God says to us: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
  • At the beginning of a difficult day and the end of a long day, God says to us: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”

We know what our answer should be. May it be so today, and all the days of our lives.

Fr. Patrick Hyde, O.P. About Fr. Patrick Hyde, O.P.

Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP, is a member of the Province of St. Albert the Great (Central Province). He was ordained a priest in May 2016 and currently serves as associate pastor and campus minister at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University. A native of St. Louis, he holds a BA (Latin and Journalism) from the University of Richmond, and an MA and MDiv from the Aquinas Institute of Theology.

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  1. […] Here again, we see the importance of our conversion and the similarities of all conversions: it starts with what we give the Lord now and grows into our whole life. The conversion of heart must be matched by a conversion of life. Our growth in holiness is commensurate with our growth in virtue. – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/06/homilies-for-july-2017/ […]

  2. […] If a satanic priest can change his life to the point the Church declares his life worthy of veneration and emulation, so, too, can all of us achieve such transformation in Christ. – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/06/homilies-for-july-2017/ […]

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