Homilies for June 2016

Homilies for June 2016 artwork 3

Elisha Raising the Son of Shunammite by Frederick Leighton, and Jesus Healing the Widow’s Child by Tissot.

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 5, 2013

 Readings: 1 Kgs 17:17-24; Ps 30:5-6, 11, 12, 13; 2 Gal 1:11-14A, 15AC, 16A, 17, 19; Lk 7:11-17.


The accounts today from our Gospel, and 1 Kings, are startling in their contents. God, through the Christ, and a Hebrew prophet raises two people from the dead. In our current age, where supernatural events are hardly looked for, or claimed when apparent, these two raisings might appear as “myths” or fantastic wish projections from the depths of grief. For people of faith, however, they are simply signs of the demonstrable love God has for his creation and creatures. Today, we live in a “closed” world, puny, suffocating, and without wonder. In a world of our own creating, only segments of reality exhaust its current definition (e.g., science, math, entertainment, and politics).Due to such superficial living, we asphyxiate on boredom, and gasp for air, placing hope in escapist dreams. God, however, is still real, in fact, God is Reality, and as such he startles with an authentic newness of one who contains all truth within his mind and heart. Such a God who is so alive, pulsating with goodness, truth and love, can be an embarrassment to our superficial age. He comes across as a delusional uncle, muttering about, and presenting one cockamamie idea after another. “Oh that is just Uncle Pete” it is quietly said. And just so, we all our turn our back on this “delusional uncle,” securing our emotional safety within the daily routines we fabricate, and count on to keep us unconscious to divine intervention, to new life.

St. Paul said today that “The gospel preached by me is not of human origin.” But in fact over the centuries we have, in our embarrassment over the supernatural, reduced this gospel to one of only “human origin”—here an ethics book, there an “alternative philosophy.” Even some clerics don’t expect the preaching of this living word to bring life to others, to heal them, to restore them to dynamic engagement with reality. No, the Gospel is to soothe and confirm… it is to never awaken the dead to the unthinkable! The unthinkable is that God lives, and he intervenes to raise us from the dead, if we let him.

The “deadest” part of us, of course, is sin. This is the part that we wish to hide and cover over with rationalizations and justification. These are the actions we excuse about ourselves so that we do not have to allow him, who is light, to expose these vices to healing, and so endure the “rising” through pain that is moral and spiritual conversion. To keep our world solely about my motivations, my routines, my actions, my calculations, my entertainment, my exercise of power relieves me of the inevitable encounter which silence, and humility, and limit, finitude and suffering introduce; the sacred Presence. Reaching out from this humbling silence and touching our suffocating self-involvement like he did the coffin in today’s Gospel, Christ endeavors to break our relations with dead and dying things. He longs for us to suffer his coming, and relinquish our fascination with self, and trust that there is more to this life than what our senses can confirm, and our minds understand. In fact, many a theologian has testified that the greatest truth the mind carries is that our reason is limited, and its scope does not exhaust reality.

To invite Christ to breathe life into our dead places is to embody the very truth of what trust is. Paradoxically, only those who first trust, receive the evidence that life comes from dead things. To continue to be consoled by the superficial pleasures of sin is to continue to choose a life of fear, even as trust beckons, promising greener fields, and the bluest of skies. Many a person has chosen the puny way of sin, even in the face of God himself, promising the “new” things we are really craving. This is the tragedy of human life: some do not trust, and some, therefore, remain in airless rooms of decay. Christ wants to throw his body upon our lifeless forms, even as Elijah leapt upon the widow’s son, bringing him to life once again. This is God’s deepest desire for us all, “let the life-breath return to the body of this child.” At times, he wants us to know this, so badly, that he literally raises people from the dead, but these miracles exist as a sign pointing to the deeper desire still—God’s will that we derive our lives from him, that we participate in his supernatural life poured out, and accessed in a holy communion of faith in his son Christ. Let us ask Christ to touch our coffins, and remove us from the “closed” worlds of our own making, and the suffocating world of sin and skepticism. Jesus frees us to trust you, and receive life and Life Abundant. Even now you are stretching out your hand….


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 12. 2016

Readings: 2 Sam. 12:7-10, 13; Ps. 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11; Gal. 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19;  Lk.7:36-50.


“Why have you rejected the LORD and done evil in his sight?” This question of Nathan’s to David is probably the most profound question of all human life. Why, indeed, do we do evil in the face of the goodness of God? Even now, in the time of God’s clearest intentions toward us, the time of the revelation of Christ’s love upon the cross, and the shared hope of the resurrection, we still do evil. God’s intentions toward us are fully known. He does not, and never wanted to, inflict evil upon us. In fact, this is the greatest demonic lie: Do not trust God’s intentions toward you, he wants to hurt you.

No, in Christ, we push against this lie. God’s intentions are to take evil upon himself, to carry all human sin, and empty it of all power as he relates it to the Holy Communion of love which is his life in the Trinity. God’s intention toward us is to disarm evil of this power, to render it toothless, enervated and wasted. He accomplishes this by entering into our world, suffering the effects of sin in his own innocent body, and offering this great act of love to the Father so that “things can be made right between us” (Is 1:18). In light of all this, we still choose the self, and its transitory satisfactions, over the depth of communion with God, who is all good. Such is the tragic drama we are in. Will we ever truly behold the cross, and allow it to affect us? Will we ever come to let it melt our coldness toward such divine suffering love?

Jesus says this of the woman, “her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.” Of course, Christ is the “ordinary means” of our sins’ forgiveness. It is his power of love and life that even affords us the possibility to forgive ourselves and others. Due to our sins, we “naturally” wish to sever ties with sinners, with those who hurt us. Worse, we seek revenge upon our enemies as a natural course. “In Christ,” all this is reversed as his spirit beckons us to forgive, and to reconcile, and to remain in communion with all. In order for this Spirit to abide in us we need to “show great love” toward God and our fellow man.

God forgives the sins of those who love. What might this mean? We continue to sin and continue to “punish” those who have sinned against us because we are in psychic and emotional pain, and do not know where relief is to be found. But the woman from today’s Gospel knows where relief is found, and it is wondrous in its simplicity. In order to be forgiven, to be set free from the prison of sin, adore the Lord in love and repentance. As we gaze in love upon the actions of Christ toward us—his cross, his healings, his miracles, his teachings—our eyes are open, and our hearts increase in both recognition and joy over the intention of God toward us. All God wants is for us to desire his love. He wants us to want to be taken up in the circulation of love that is his trinitarian existence. The woman of tears in today’s Gospel wanted to be in this circulation of love, she desired to love, and be loved. And in so desiring, she repudiated her sins. This breaks Christ’s heart, and flowing from this heart toward her, is all the mercy of the Trinity itself.

Further, in the first reading from today, Nathan confronts David with all the gifts that God’s love has poured upon him. Nathan points out in horror that such a donation from God was insufficient for David, and he had to take more—take more to satisfy what only God can satisfy: the restless human heart. No adulterous affair, no wealth, no possessed power—no, nothing that we TAKE will ever satisfy the heart, only what we receive will give us peace. For what we receive from God is molded just so, satisfying our real needs. It is God who knows us, and send to us what is fitting. If we don’t lovingly contemplate the Lord—as did the tear-filled woman—and all he is, and all he gives, we will only know restlessness. In this restlessness is our temptation to stray, wander, take, and become thieves against the providence of God. We have “done evil in his sight” but if we would only behold his actions toward us more deeply, such evil will diminish as we come to see, in love, that all we seek is from his hands.


Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 19, 2016

Readings: Zec.12: 10-11, 13-1; Ps. 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Gal. 3:26-29; Lk. 9: 18-24.


In the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is said that Jesus took them through a journey of the Old Testament and the prophets, and “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures” (Lk 24). Surely the passage from Zechariah today was a centerpiece on that journey through the Word of God: “…they shall look on him whom they have pierced” and “On that day there shall be open to the house of David … a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” After 2000 years of reflection, the Church surely knows that Jesus is the one we behold in love, and the one from whom we draw “living water” as from a fountain (Jn. 4:10). These images are spiritually potent, and need to be taken seriously. As Christians we are called to behold Christ and to drink Christ. We are to behold him mostly upon the cross, the epicenter of all reality and time.

To neglect contemplating the cross and its action of indescribable love is to miss the very reason for our existence, and to be exiled into identity confusion for the length of life. Of course, there are hints of the meaning of existence in God’s creation and creatures, and even in other faiths, especially Judaism. But only the cross carries the clarity needed to awaken the heart, and purify the intellect, to receive human dignity at its revealed source: love from the Christ upon the cross. To “behold” the cross, whether in lectio fashion, while praying with Scripture, or displayed visually as one holds a crucifix, is to be drawn into God’s utter vulnerability, his humble offer to give such love, and his hope that such an offer will be returned as love.

When this circulation of love is entered, we simultaneously possess and deepen our true identity. Yes, our dignity is known in responding to crucified love. This response is to be one of awe and joy and generous obedience. Within these characteristics, a Christian ignites and maintains intimacy with God, and continuous meaning for his own existence. “Who do the crowds say I am?” We know that answer with each succeeding epoch; Christ is a liar, Christ is a mad man, Christ is a philosopher, Christ is a god within a pantheon of gods, and so on. But then Christ demands a response from us that costs: “Who do you say I am?” An answer to this question can only be correctly given upon entering the Paschal Mystery in trust: “Jesus, you are the one who died for me out of love, you are the one who thought more of my life than you did your own, you are the one who offers divine love to humans who knowingly or unknowingly seek it above all else.”

To behold the cross, to look upon him whom our sins have pierced, is to finally begin the journey to emotional and spiritual maturity. Immature people cast their eyes to the ground when truth pierces their conscience, when love gazes upon their face, when a mission is issued from the courageous. All of these realities—truth, love, mission—emanate from the cross, and our lives only reach their apex if we receive them from the eyes, the heart, and the will of the crucified. Planted deep within the Hebrew prophetic tradition was a seed of life so rich that it heralded the way God was to reach the human heart, by way of the wounded, lacerated heart of his Son. What we look upon when we behold the cross is not a dead body, but a way into living. This way is to pour the contents of our hearts into the Sacred Heart which now lies open and accessible to us, since all of its love was emptied upon the Church. Beholding the cross is to gaze upon the way out of slavery. It is the new and fulfilled path through the Red Sea, the walk of Abraham between the dead animal carcasses, the dance of David before the Ark. To gaze upon, to pour out our hearts in response to, and then to receive his love from the cross, through the Word and Sacrament, is to be taken up into the ageless mystery of God looking for us here on earth. But this time, in his culminating pilgrimage among us, God went to the place that is more frightening than slavery, that dark effect of human sin itself, death. Here, God shows his true love for us, making the odyssey into that experience which is the exact opposite of his own nature. Such love! Yes, let us look upon him whom we have pierced, and in so doing, let us receive both his boundless love, and our true and lasting dignity. Jesus, give me the grace to behold how much I needed salvation, how much my sins tore at the very beauty of divine holiness. Jesus, forgive me! Jesus, bring me to life!


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 26, 2016

Readings:  1 Kgs. 19:16B, 19-21; Ps.16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; 2 Gal. 5:1, 13-18; Lk. 9:51-62.

In our imaginations, our understanding of freedom has been co-opted almost exclusively by politics. To be free is to be a citizen in a state that has a representative or democratic policy system. Freedom has also been co-opted by cultural ideology. To be free is to “do what one wants to do.” For the Christian, freedom evokes something deeper, something that leaves one in wonder. To be free is be fastened to truth. Only those who live in truth are free, only those who are in communion with the author of truth, God, are free indeed! To be attached is to be free. How odd. Christians know this because experience, and divine revelation, have conspired to unveil the truth that being alone is “not good” (Gen. 2).

Now, of course, there are monastic persons who live alone, are unattached to a spouse, but strictly speaking, even monks have fellowship with other hermits within their monastic compound. So even the ecclesial monads are really not alone. Only those citizens of popular culture, dwelling in this “passing age,” and wishing to “do what they want,” tout the benefits of personal isolationism, of being left alone. When one becomes vulnerable to the love of God, not only does God affect that person, but God situates him or her within a whole new communal reality. To be free, then, is to live in the truth that one is not isolated. In fact, one only possesses an identity within the reciprocity of love, of self-donation, and reception. To be free is to be bound to the truth in love of God, and others.

In Paul’s view the spirit and the flesh are opposed. One might say that the flesh is that pull toward isolationism and self-centeredness, and the spirit is that draw toward communal presence, self- donation, and caring about others. Most of our lives is a drama about the struggle to resist the pull, and cooperate with the draw. This struggle can be eased as one welcomes the Spirit of Christ more deeply into the core of consciousness and will. As one dwells more deeply in Christ in the midst of daily life, the pull eases, and the draw to communion becomes our default interior condition. We call this leading edge of freedom “happiness.” Christ says that he has nowhere to lay his head but, in fact, he lays his head in the safest and most secure of all dwellings, his communion with the Father. He is inviting his followers to do the same. As Christians allow the Spirit to draw them into freedom—that holy communion with God—they more surely inhabit that place we call reality. In reality, we are sustained by the providence of a loving Father, albeit within the limits and finitude of a sinful world. But this providence will see to it that our communion with the Trinity is sheltered, and only the contingencies of life remain threatened. What is of God remains, and what remains is Holy Communion, the communion that will see our very existence safely through suffering and death, and into eternal life.

Where is all this freedom being received? In the very act of worship that we are all now celebrating: the Holy Mass. To regularly surrender what is contingent in the very act of celebrating and receiving the Eucharist is to “begin heaven on earth.” With each Eucharist that we enter and receive, we secure our own freedom, our own availability to truth, and loving communion with God. As this way of worship becomes one’s life, we begin to taste what Paul meant in Romans 8, when he shouted in joy that nothing can separate us from the love of God. To be fastened to Trinitarian life through the Eucharist is life itself, love itself, the very victory of Hope’s promises known in the Resurrection. The world is minimalistic in its political and culturally-reduced understanding of freedom. Only Christ knows what real freedom is…and Christ is longing to share it with you. Let him!

Deacon James Keating About Deacon James Keating

Deacon James Keating, PhD, is the Director of Theological Formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha, NE.


  1. Avatar Bernadette says:

    I believe our faith in the resurrection has reached its highest testing point in the face of apostasy in the church and the violence and murder of so many in the Middle East. Jesus remarked “will he find faith when he returns?” St.paul also states that if we do not believe that Christ has risen from the dead then our faith is in vain in the sense that there is no hope in salvation
    When a member of one’sfamily has died there is no doubt that one hopes against hope in maintaining one’sbelief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ .

    Moreover , we take our stance in faith together with Mary ,Jesus’s mother ,and hold onto the memories of all Jesus taught us and his witness to the truth about his coming from God to save the world from sin, death and hell by taking upon himself humanity,s sin and dying on the cross to save us.

    When all things disappear from this world only three things are left faith,hope and charity and the greatest of these virtues is charity. Love is truly the power of God that raises us up from unforgiveness,bitterness,hatred all works of evil that ultimately kills the soul.

    It seems to me we do actually experience in the here and now death and life of the soul dependent on our choice to love God and our neighbor or to hate God and our

    Conclusively, what we truly miss in experiencing death of a love one is being able to see and touch them to speak with them face to face. But not being able to do so physically we are force to rise to the spiritual level and focus our attention on eternal realities.