Homilies for October 2015

The Holy Family, by Bartolome Estaban Murillo.

Empowered to love

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, October 4, 2015

Purpose: God calls us to proclaim the Gospel of Marriage in ways that extend the love God to everyone.

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5,6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16


God looks out of the Scriptures of this Mass, and speaks a blessing to you and to me. That blessing is family, graced by God, fruitful and loving, because it is not good, Scripture says, to be alone.

But so many people, perhaps many of us, hear these readings, but do not hear a blessing. Far from it, some only hear a burden. They do not hear grace, something beautiful, a gift from God, but hear something which asks too much from us, something which, at the very least, sounds unreasonable.

No re-marriage after divorce? Really? In this day and age?

Many people—good people—struggle with this. They struggle with the teaching of no marriage after divorce, with the idea of marriage only between a man and a woman, that marriage is not to be contraceptive, but open to children.

A lot of people just say these teachings are too hard—coming from another time— it is not suitable; it is not realistic for the modern world.

And some people even leave the Church completely over this issue.

If you do not struggle with these things yourself, you may have family, close friends, people who are important to you, and who you love, who do struggle over this teaching.

As faithful and loving people, what are we supposed to do? This Mass points to a way. It tells us two very important things. The first is that even if it seems like a hard teaching, Jesus does not back down:

But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother {and be joined to his wife}, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mark 10: 6-9)

This Mass tells us that even in the midst of the struggle, we should hold onto the ideal of what God wants for us because, in the end, that ideal is God’s blessing for us.

The second thing we learn from this Mass, we heard in the Gospel Acclamation: If we love one another, God will live in us in perfect love. Even as we hold onto the ideal of marriage and family, our Catholic Christian faith calls us to love those who struggle with it and who, for whatever reason, aren’t living up to it.

That is what the Church is doing this month at the Synod of the Family, which starts today. Pope Francis, on the one hand, has called upon the Church to hold firm to the ideal. He said that this synod invites people “to proclaim the Gospel of marriage and of the family.” The teachings are a Gospel—good news—because marriage demonstrates how God loves us unconditionally, indissolubly, and forever. The Church resists redefining marriage as anything else than what God does for us, saying that marriage is not just another disposable commodity in a disposable culture.

But on the other hand, Pope Francis has also called the synod “to experience pastoral proposals in the social and cultural context in which we live” He calls the Church to find ways to extend God’s love and compassion to those who don’t see the ideal that the Church proposes and, instead, have chosen their own path.

You and I are also called to proclaim the Gospel of the family, and to love those who don’t share in it. To do that is not easy. It takes grace. That is why this Mass opened with a prayer to trust in the abundant kindness of God who pours out merits, pardons what conscience dreads, and gives what prayer does not dare to ask.

That beautiful prayer asks us to pray for the synod as it proclaims the Gospel of marriage and family, and extends the love of the Church. It asks us to pray for those who struggle with the ideal of marriage and family proposed by the Church, called for by Jesus. We are asked to pray for ourselves that we will be models of the Good News in what we profess, and in the love with which we profess it.

We get the grace we need to do that at this Mass. This is why the prayer after communion says that having been nourished and refreshed, we can be transformed into what we consume—so we can be a witness to Christ in the world. If the Gospel of marriage, and the love of God to all people is to be carried out, it is to be carried out through us who bear Christ’s name, and who are his voice and his hands in the world. And then, the Gospel Acclamation will be fulfilled—if we love one another, God will live in us in perfect love.


The Floodgate of Grace

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, October 11, 2015

Purpose: God’s grace makes the impossible possible so that we can conform our wills to God’s will.

Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90:12-13,14-15,16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30


If you squirm in your seat when you hear Jesus tell us today what it takes to inherit eternal life, you are not alone. I squirm, too. It is not enough, it seems, to keep all the commandments, as if we could even do that well. Oh, no. Even if we were to keep all the commandments, follow all the rules, never miss Mass—as Jesus said to the young man, it is still not enough because one thing is lacking: “Go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

What are we supposed to do with that?! If you’re not St. Francis of Assisi or St. Clare, who both did just that, your sympathies might lie with the young man who goes away grieving. You might have a lot in life, you might not—but if we are better off than impoverished refugees, people trapped in war—we can’t help but imagine Jesus looking right at us, and then, maybe, squirm in our seats. Okay, sure, we can donate something now and then, help out, we aren’t heartless. But what Jesus asks of the young man today is too much.

And you might be tempted to just think to yourself: “Well, that’s not going to happen,” and just dismiss the whole thing. Maybe we’ll get a nicer Gospel reading next week. We can be tempted to do that because it’s all so unreasonable, even impossible.

But to do that is to miss a very important message in this Mass that needs to be heard. That message is that Jesus agrees with us: it is impossible for us. So impossible that it is as ludicrous as a camel going through the eye of a needle. The disciples themselves despair: Who can be saved? Who can keep all the rules, and sacrifice themselves so totally for others?

And Jesus gives them the answer. What is not possible for people, is possible for God. It is possible for Jesus. It is Jesus himself, who is God, who will follow all the rules, do the Father’s will. And it is Jesus himself, who is God, who will sacrifice himself so totally— giving everything he has, even his life.

That opens the floodgate of grace for you and for me. It makes our salvation possible. That is why the opening prayer of this Mass declares that God’s grace, at all times, goes before us, and follows after us. What Jesus did accomplishes what is not possible, and enables us, the prayer says, to carry out good works.

The good news of this Mass is that we do not have to go away grieving like the young man. We don’t have to tune out the message either. We can embrace the gift of God’s grace that says, of course, we could never earn our salvation on our own. As if we could follow the rules, do all the right things, and then somehow God would owe us. The Church defined that as a heresy centuries ago.

Far from it. Our yearning for God is grace, what we do for God as our response to him is grace, and whatever we do in cooperation with God bears fruit because of grace.

Our good works have merit, but it is God’s grace that saves us, and enables those good works in the first place.

That is why in 1999, The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church was issued resolving a bitter misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants.

The declaration proclaimed the truth of the Church that:

Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

And then it proclaimed:

We confess together that good works – a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love – follow justification and are its fruits.

Christ has won us that grace. He gives it to us in our baptism, and we drink deeply of it in the sacraments. That is why we are here. That is why we will approach the altar to receive that grace in the body and blood of Christ. And that is why the prayer after Communion will declare that God nourishes us so that we might become sharers of his divine life. That we might inherit eternal life after all—and not have to go away grieving.

We go away, not grieving, but rejoicing, in the words of the psalmist, for what God has done for us, and for what he has invited us to:

Fill us with your love, O Lord, that we may rejoice and be glad.


The Mission

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 18, 2015

Purpose: Jesus sustains us in the Church through the sacraments to fulfill our calling to mission.

Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45


James and John wanted places of honor, one on Jesus’ right, and the other on his left. They did not really know what they were asking. There would certainly be a place on Jesus’ right and on his left—on Calvary—but that was probably not what they had in mind.

Jesus looks at them, and lets them in on what a place of glory with him there is, what salvation is all about. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” He tells them that it will take a cup of suffering, a baptism of blood, to be with God, for salvation and glory, because that is just how serious sin actually is. How much it has marred us all.

The Church has taught this for two thousand years, and participated in the baptism of blood, and the cup of suffering, down through the centuries in its mission to the world. Countless saints have poured themselves out in this way because our Church is a mission Church.

That mission, today, is through you and me—with evangelization in the mission field—and now, our popes have called for the new evangelization—a re-evangelization in the mission field—in our own backyards.

Pope Francis reminds us that this is our vocation. His message for this year’s World Mission Sunday declares that being a missionary is “part of the grammar of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers ‘Come’ and ‘Go Forth.’”

That is why, in this Mass we pray, as a priestly people, during the prayers of the faithful for the missions.

But when we pray for the missions, we also pray for ourselves, because missionary work, and the new evangelization, both begin with our own reform, and our own conversion. That is why the Collect, the Opening Prayer of this Mass, begins with the intention that we always conform our wills to God’s will, and serve him in sincerity of heart.

But how hard that is. How hard it is to drink that cup of suffering, to be baptized as Christ was baptized, to conform our wills to his will. Oh, we can make a good try at it—and for a while, even get so far—but sooner or later (but usually sooner), we slip, we fall back into old habits. We choose those things that we know in our heart of hearts that God does not want for us.

And that brings us right back to last Sunday, when we heard the disciples ask: “Who, then, can be saved?”

Last Sunday, Jesus told us that all things were possible with God. Today, we hear St. Paul telling us not to despair, that we have a God who knows how difficult it is for us, how hard it is for us to conform our wills to his: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” St. Paul tells us to go confidently to the throne of Grace, and we will get the grace we need to conform our wills to his will.

That grace is available to us, Isaiah tells us in this Mass, because of what the Messiah did for us. He became a servant, he endured suffering for us, so that “through him the will of the lord shall prosper” and accomplish what he intends for us—that our will be conformed to God’s will, and that we will become cooperators with him in the salvation of the world.

Pope Francis in his message to us on this World Mission Sunday speaks of this so beautifully:

When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which gives us dignity and sustains us. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people and all those who seek him with a sincere heart.

Jesus sustains us in the sacraments. We come to the throne of grace when we come to this Mass— when we come up to the altar, when we receive the very body and blood of Christ, the cup of suffering and the baptism of blood which he shares with us. The Prayer after Communion declares the gifts of the Eucharist cleanse us. They make it possible for us to conform our wills to God’s will, and to answer the call of the Holy Father, of the Church, of Jesus who invites us, empowers us, and sustains us to be missionary witnesses for the salvation of the world.



Take Heart; Get Up, He is Calling You.

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 25, 2015

Purpose: God has done great things for us so we can rejoice on the other side of sorrow.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52


If you have troubles, or suffer from an illness, and don’t know where to turn, you might ask when you hear the readings of this Mass: Why do things in the Gospels so often seem completely unlike what we experience? The blind man is healed instantly—but what about us? We have this or that problem and we pray and we pray—and so many people feel nothing. They don’t see any help coming down the road. The only thing they really feel is powerlessness.

Over the last few Sundays, the readings have struggled with powerlessness: the young man not being able to follow Jesus and leaving in despair; a camel going through the eye of the needle is easier than the salvation of a rich man; the high standards set for us for marriage. Each week, we tend to say: Who can do this? Who can go on? We are powerless!

But over the last few Sundays, the readings of the Mass have countered our powerlessness with a clear, non-negotiable message: Everything is possible for God.

This Mass tells us that the blindness of Bartimaeus, the exile of the Jews from their homeland, our illnesses, whatever trouble we might be in, may, in fact, be impossible for us to handle—but not for God. And the incredible thing, the wonderful thing, is that God does this for us as his gift, out of his grace. Scripture boldly calls to us “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

But then, if this is true, where is the answer to our prayers? Are we not good enough? Do we need to strike a bargain—promise to do something in our lives so that God will finally act?

Bartimaeus did not earn a healing. Scripture doesn’t say he followed Jesus, worked on his life, built up merit, and so was healed. It says instead that he followed Jesus after he was healed. This Mass announces the good news to you and me that God loves first and moves first. He called Israel, he called Bartimaeus, he calls you and me. That is why the opening prayer of this Mass, the Collect, prays that God will move first in making love, hope, and charity possible for us—so that those gifts which come from God can merit what God promises.

He calls us to bring our powerlessness, our burdens, our pain, and our blindness to him—and to trust. It is the kind of trust that just throws off the cloak not knowing if we will ever be able to find it again, because, after all, we are blind, and to wait, expectantly, for the goodness of God.

And, sometimes, that healing, that grace, comes instantly. It was so for Bartimaeus, for so many people in the Scriptures, and for so many down through the centuries. Every saint is canonized with miraculous healings. People are healed instantly in grace-filled places like Lourdes. Miracles are the pledges of God, and they happen.

And sometimes, that healing comes, not instantly, but at the moment it is meant to. It was so for the Jews who heard their promise from Jeremiah in today’s first reading—and they received that promise, they were brought home after a terrible exile, they did sing with joy—but not right away. They had to trust and wait for God’s good time for his purpose. So it has been down the centuries. St. Monica prayed for her prodigal son for years and years—but she did sing in joy when he converted, and later became a bishop, a doctor of the Church, the great St. Augustine. Miracles, after persistence in prayer and building up a habit of prayer, happen.

And sometimes, prayers that seem unanswered are, in the end, answered in entirely unexpected ways. Some people pass through a difficult time, seemingly with no answer to prayer, only to say that, later, they received extraordinary graces that they could not have imagined on the other side of their problem, so that, now, they even bless that difficult time. It was so for Jesus. Jesus prayed in the garden that the cup would pass—that he would be delivered from the pain of what was to come. He wasn’t spared—the cup did not pass him by—but the Father made that awful event into a glorious one, so that through it, Jesus entered his glory; and through it, we enter ours—so much so, that now we bless that horrible day as Good Friday.

That is what this Mass promises us: that nothing is impossible with God. One way or another, whether it is immediate healing, healing after a time of waiting, or a final transformation of what was the worst into what is the best. The Gospel declares that we are to take heart, get up, and go to him.

And when we do that, we will sing with the psalmist on the other side of sorrow, as we sang over and over again today:

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Deacon Peter Lovrick About Deacon Peter Lovrick

Deacon Peter Lovrick holds a doctorate in homiletics from Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis University), is professor of homiletics at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and is director of the diaconate formation program for the Archdiocese of Toronto. His publications include two books on Chinese opera, three books on English dealing with writing, presentations, and editing, and one book on homiletics entitled: Preaching in a New Season, which will be available in 2016.


  1. Avatar rev. fr. joseph m. cacacha says:

    Thank you reverend for the inspiring reflection

    • Dcn Peter Lovrick Dcn Peter Lovrick says:

      Hello Fr.

      Many thanks for your kind remarks. God bless you in your ministry.

      all the best
      Deacon Peter Lovrick