Homilies for August 2016

Homilies for August 2016

Christ Teaching His Apostles by James Tissot

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time— August 7, 2016
Readings: Wis 18:6-9; Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22; Heb 11:1-2, 8-19:  Lk 12:32-48.

We do a lot of moving around in a single day. We move from home, to work, to school, to the grocery store, to the drug store and back home.

We move and move and move.

As we engage in our race from place to place, we run the risk of getting lost, getting stuck in the “less than 15 items” grocery line behind someone who has 60 items, or we forgot our list of things to find and buy.

Why does this madness happen? 

Perhaps, we are not as prepared for our running around as we may have thought. Maybe we forgot change to feed the parking meters, an umbrella to keep us dry from car to store, alternative directions to avoid the large zoo parade that has closed the streets of our usual path and maybe we failed to bring our credit card or store discount cards.

Whatever the reason, we still indulge in this racing shopping madness simply because we may not be prepared to make a light-speed shopping journey.

Written sometime between 80 to 85 AD, Luke faces the challenge of addressing a Gentile audience decades after the death of the historical Jesus. Luke wrestles with questions about what happened to this this Jesus? Where is his kingdom? Where is his army of angels?

So, Luke reminded his audience to be prepared to face these unknowns and to not be anxious, even if the end is not clear.

The root word for “anxiety” literally means “being of two minds.” An anxious person is divided, “tossed to and fro”, and often paralyzed by indecision.  Often times, anxious people have too many options to face in dealing with a situation.   They are “being of two minds” and are divided as to their course of action.  (Don Schwinger, Daily Reading & Meditation, 2014)

For Luke, Jewish and Gentile Christians must face their inevitable anxiety and remain faithful and prepared “…like servants who await their Master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” [Lk. 12: 35-36]

These servants, both “faithful and prudent.” (Lk. 12:42) remain prepared for their Master’s coming at any time and understand His needs.  Unlike the anxious unprepared shopper racing to get things done, Luke’s followers are reminded not to be afraid and to always be ready for the coming of the Lord.

And us?

  • How do any of “Jesus’s timely observations” touch our lives?
  • What do we do to be prepared, faithful and diligent?
  • Are we living a life that is connected with God and people or things that simply come and go?
  • Does our faith support us in moments of doubt and darkness that we all encounter in life?

We all know the phrase “it is the little things that count.” Do we pay attention to the seemingly little things in our lives that could strengthen our faith?

Those issues and moments no one really sees or understands but us.  Those moments we can easily walk away from because no one will miss seeing us doing it.

  • Are we happy with the tender and tiny moments of life?
  • Do we quietly thank God for how blessed we truly are?
  • Do we stop to help the homeless in our streets?
  • Are we peaceful in all moments of our life?
  • Do we wipe the tears from as child’s face?
  • Are we willing to give up our time for the needs of the other?
  • Are we truly interested in the little things others do?
  • Do we do the small things with great love? [Mother Teresa]
  • Are we open to encounter God in every act of life?

As Christians, we are all called to service for one another.  Our very nature reminds us of our obligations to care for each other.  By reaching out to the other in service, we, in turn, assure we are “prepared and ready” to encounter our God.

Christianity is not an island.  It is not meant to be removed or separate from others.  Christianity is not meant to be practiced in isolation. By serving others, we prepare ourselves for our ultimate encounter with God. By giving of ourselves in service and faith, we, in turn, strengthen our faith.

We live in an anxious world of conflicting values.  It is a world in need of contemporary women and men of faith who are not afraid (Lk. 12:32) to articulate their belief in their life.  Women and men who are “always ready” as well as “always prepared” to live their faith in their daily lives.

We pray that we, as well, are.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time—August 14, 2016
Readings: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53.

Despite his death just moments away, Jeremiah, is saved.

The Hebrews, despite their faults, are given a way to be joyful in Christ.

The disciples in the gospel do not get the same treatment.

They seem to have no hope and a hopeless future. They seem to have no way out of their problem.

Worse yet, this gospel engages some of the harshest language in the entire gospel. A picture is painted where family units strained to the breaking point; relatives will stand against relatives; parents will struggle with their children – households will be terribly divided.

A fair question … is … why?  Why does the author of Luke, writing in eloquent Greek, have Jesus who is compassionate towards all and actively searches for the lost to return them to union with Godwhy does he utter such harsh cutting rhetoric?

What’s the point? 

There indeed is a point and it is best understood in light of Simeon’s words to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Lk:  2.34-35)

Clearly, the coming of Jesus and the response to His teaching unsettled many good Jewish families.

Luke is reminding his readers and us that the tension of following the risen Christ will cause divisions between loved ones and friends.  The effect of the coming of Christ should not bring division but should bring a demonstrable faith.

Joining this new faith community was to be a public act that would force people to move away from the old faith and stand firm in this new one.  Committed to the Lord meant standing firm against the religious traditions and social evils of the day.

It is precisely such stances that may cause divisions with families and friends. It is precisely these stances in faith that may bring “blazing fires” within families.

What of us?
In the times of our lives, have we stood up for what we believe?

Have we taken the gospel we hear every Sunday and try our best to practice it in the streets?

Have we taken from ourselves to give to others for the good of those who have no home, no food and no family?

Have our actions lifted up the spirits of those on the margin of life to secure the dignity of all people?

Have we listened to the sorrow in the voices of those who have lost loved ones and comforted them?

Have we forgiven others, as God forgives us?

This “harsh” gospel teaching challenges us to be active in the expression of our faith.  Our faith is intended to be lived in our world.  We are not a passive community but one that proclaims with its voice and its action its purpose.

Sadly, those actions may sometimes separate us from those we love but those very actions demonstrate our faith. They are not “end points” but transitory points in our journey of faith.

Also, the same point is reinforced by the Luke referring to Mary as a mother who will “…sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)”(Lk 2: 34-35)

Although the early Church fathers and contemporary biblical scholars have differing opinions on the inclusion or exclusion of that text, it is clear that Mary is part of the saving action of Christ.  Her very soul, pierced by a sword, will parallel his saving actions on the cross.

So, too, with us.

Our faith is not merely passive.  It is a faith that participates in the act of our redemption.  By how we live our faith and how we are witnesses to others of our faith, are steps on our road to redemption.

We will not suffer the pain of Christ or the grief of Mary.  However, we are still called to be examples of having faith and to live the faith.

This Sunday gospel the rhetoric of Christ is “harsh.” It is harsh because its message is as challenging as it is difficult. It challenges us to remember that when we accepted the call of the Lord…we also accepted the cross of the Lord.


Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time— August 21, 2016
Is 66:18-21; Ps 117:1, 2; Heb 12:5-7, 11-13; Lk 13:22-30.

In the gospel it is a simple phrase.  The phrase is hardly dramatic or life changing.  The phrase is sometimes passed over and not one we might quote.

It seems to be a phrase about direction.

However, this phrase “…making his way to Jerusalem…” (Lk 13:  22-23) represents much more than a suggestion or direction.

Jerusalem is significant because that is the place where this Jesus will “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).

Jerusalem will be where his cross is to be found.

Jerusalem will be where he offers his life for his people

And just as most people want to share their final hopes and dreams with loved ones, Jesus wants to tell his disciples what they are to do when he is gone.  Jesus gives them his “will” on how to continue his ministry.

However, on this journey, a question interrupts Jesus as someone wants to know if only a few will be saved. He is asked a question: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (13:23)

The question is as interesting as Jesus’ answer.

Many Jewish people believed that because they were Jews, they would be part of the “few” that are saved.  Almost immediately, Jesus suggests that more is needed to be granted the kingdom of his Father.

In fact, it is difficult to enter that kingdom.

Almost as difficult as squeezing thru a narrow gate or waking the master of the house to open the front door that he locked.

Jesus also reminds his disciples and followers in the second parable that his return at the Parousia is not guaranteed simply because he and the Jewish people shared similarities.

Being a follower of Jesus requires acting like one towards people with tenderness and care. For us, the message is profoundly disturbing.  Every one of us would hope to be with the Lord after our journey ends.  What that would be like is unknown but the desire is real.  The gospel reminds us that following the Lord has a cost.  

The Christian life does take effortIt means:

  • Going the extra mile
  • Turning the other cheek.
  • Just saying, “Lord, Lord” is not sufficient.

“My Christian responsibility does not finish when I return from mass on Sunday morning.” (Fahey, Footprints on the Mountain, 1994, pg. 565)

Perhaps our Christian responsibility should address:

  • The time we give for those who barely live on the margin of life
  • How we care as well as appreciate the uniqueness of others around us
  • Our prayer for others and ourselves as we see the Lord in the beauty of a child or the wrinkled hands of the aged.
  • Our acceptance of all of Gods people at all times regardless of race, sexual orientation or belief.

Our  “to do” list can run on and on.   Our responsibility is to review and “to do” in our life what the “Our Father” we pray every day reminds us “to do.”

Finally, the point is made that there will be a universal banquet at the appropriate time hosted by the Lord.

What’s interesting is who will be there:

“…Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets…and people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”(Lk 13:28-30)

The intent is to have “at the table” a representation of all people from all walks of life and all points of view.

Our job on earth is:

  • To prepare for that universal banquet.
  • To live lives that welcome all into our space, our time and our homes.
  • To be humble in the presence of God and of others because at that banquet “….some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Lk: 13: 30)

A gospel that begins with dire warnings, ends with a universal invitation from the Lord to all. An invitation to a heavenly banquet set with respect for all and peace with all.

The cost of admission to that banquet is our crosses on earth and how well we bear them.


Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time—August 28, 2016

Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11;Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk 14:1, 7-14.  

I remember, as a child, visiting my Grandmother at her home in West Aliquippa, PA.  After eating something of whatever she was making, baking, or frying, I ran to the second floor so I could complete my homework.

As I was doing the work, my grandmother called for me to come down and take out the garbage.  I said, “I can’t because I doing my work.”

My grandmother, more sternly than before said, “Just do this task, and by the time you are done taking out garbage, an angel will have come, and completed your homework…all of it.”

Immediately, I thought: “Good deal!” And I ran down the steps to pack and throw out the garbage.  After I finished, I went to collect my angelic homework.

Nothing was done.  My homework was at the place I left it, and to this day, I’m still looking and waiting for that angel.

Imagine that empty feeling of waiting for something you may never getthat empty feeling is shared by the gospel story of the wedding guests who took lower places at the table because they were expecting to be called to the front.

These guests must have assumed that their place in the society of the day would surely guarantee them a seat upfront.

It never happened.  They were not asked to move to places of honor.  The lower places are where they stayed.

A dose of humility would have helped these guests tremendously.

But what exactly is humility

A quick Google search on humility will yield approximately 6,980,000 results. Humility has been seen as: “…not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (C.S.Lewis)

Others remind us that: “Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real.”(Thomas Merton)

However, a common theme in the definitions, is that:
“humility equals realism” (James Kinn, 22C, p. 285.)

In other words, humility involves measuring myself by reality; it involves relating myself realistically to God and others.”(Kinn, p. 285)

The humble person knows his/her gifts and talents, and is thankful to God for them.

Humility does not imply denying our gifts, or not sharing our talents with others. God made us.  We, in turn, are thankful to God for those gifts, and show our thankfulness by using our talents in service to one another.

Our gifts are given to us not because of anything we have done, or may do. Our gifts are given by a God who expects us to “humbly” use those gifts in service of his people. The Greco-Roman culture of the day had little understanding of the generosity and kindness of God. In the Greco-Roman ethic, gifts and kindnesses were to be returned to the giver of those gifts. If you received a gift, you, in turn, were obligated to return the favor of a gift.

Jesus teaches the exact opposite. Gifts should be given out of love, with no need of repayment.  God gives us gifts with no expectation of repayment.  Our gifts and talents are meant to be freely shared with others. After all, it is impossible to “out do” the generosity of God.

In essence, what constitutes a working understanding of humility? The humble person is both reflexive and prayerful. Humble people reflect on the gifts they have been freely given by God.  In turn, their humility is translated into action by embracing, loving, and using their giftsnot solely for self, but for others.

It is the humble person who loves equally the “master and the servant” as both are equal in the sight of God. “The people most deaf to Jesus’ words are the self-sufficient, the religious professionals, the spiritually-skilled Pharisees, scribes, and priests.

“Those who hear most readily are the sinners, the social outcasts, those aware of their humanness, and their need for God. These are the humble of the earth.”(Foley, Footprints, p. 579,1994)

It is precisely these people that the humble serve, for “they are one with them.”

  • Sinners are loved and not judged.
  • Social outcasts are welcomed into daily life.
  • The broken are reminded of their worth.

Humility is not a virtue readily addressed, or written about in our times. We are focused more on who we are, and what we have achieved, as opposed to serving the other with our gifts. So how do we practice humility?

Ben Brantley, the Broadway critic, opened his Aug. 6 New York Times review of “Hamilton,” (the story of our founding fathers) with this one line:

“Yes, it (“Hamilton”) really is that good.”

And why is it that good?  The show fuses together a new form of the near-dead Broadway musical with hip-hop.  It brings a new freshness to the art form of the musical.

Humility, too, “fuses” together the gifts God has given us with those on the margin of life that need our help.

Our humble service will, most likely, never be seen in the glare of a Broadway musical. However, our service will be seen in the eyes and hearts of those we help.

But, our humble service “…is that good.”

Msgr. David A. Rubino About Msgr. David A. Rubino

Msgr. David A. Rubino was ordained for the Diocese of Erie in 1973. He holds a PhD in rhetoric and communication, and another in higher education, from the University of Pittsburgh. The former president of Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania, Msgr. Rubino was appointed the vice president for external affairs in April 2013 following a two-year stay as the Dean of the Walker School of Business & Communication. Msgr. Rubino is perhaps the area’s most experienced leader in higher education, having served in cabinet-level roles at several of the region’s top educational institutions. Msgr. Rubino works closely with the University and Advancement staffs to grow the school’s fundraising efforts.


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