Homilies for November 2017

Christ Talking with His Disciples by Mikhail Botkin, 1867

Homily for the 31st Week in Ordinary Time—November 5, 2017
Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10;  Ps 131:1, 2, 3; 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13;  Mt 23:1-12

By Deacon Peter Santandrieu

Is it possible to follow a leader in whom you don’t believe? We might say “yes, to an extent, but only so far.” It probably has something to do with our ability to separate the authority of an office from the person who currently holds it. We can all agree that the person doing the job, filling the office, is not the same thing as the office itself. Just because someone has been elected by a certain portion of the voting population, it doesn’t mean he/she is in total agreement with every one of his/her constituents, but he/she still exercises some authority over them that they are expected to follow. This case of disconnect is what Jesus identifies in the Gospel reading today.

When it comes to his interactions with religious authorities, Jesus is usually pretty harsh. To “sinners” and “tax collectors” Jesus brings comfort by forgiving sins and accepting people’s intentions to reform their lives. This is the sweet, tender Jesus that typically comes to mind when we envision him. In dealing with religious authorities, however, we tend to find the opposite image. Jesus is quick to point out their faults, and how they abuse their power. His mission to the authorities is quite different from his mission to the poor and the outcast. With the authorities, Jesus is dealing with his “peers.” Jesus’ mission to the world, coming as He does with the authority of God, is quite evidently related to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, who communicate God’s will on earth by interpreting the Scriptures and applying them to daily life. These authorities were not all bad guys, they served a necessary role in their society. By way of their positions, they helped everyday Jews know how to live in contemporary circumstances given their heritage as recorded in the Scriptures. Most probably it is because they have been entrusted with this important work that Jesus holds these men to a higher standard: the greater the gifts, the greater the responsibility. This is why Jesus is always seen as being especially harsh with these religious leaders.

With the poor at one end of the spectrum and the religious authorities at the other, there is a third, middle group that Jesus treats both with compassionate and criticism: the Disciples. Hans Urs von Balthasar has remarked that there is only one path to friendship with the Lord and that is the path of humility that sometimes takes on an element of humiliation. The disciples, especially those closest to Jesus, are constantly being corrected for their misunderstandings of what Jesus is calling them to be. While Jesus teaches that the “last shall be first,” the disciples are worried about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus informs them that his path will be one of suffering; the disciples try to convince Jesus otherwise. Jesus expects his disciples to have faith in him but they are still terrified when a storm arises on the sea. When it comes time for Jesus to give correction, it can be anything from a soft “oh, ye of little faith” to a hard “get behind me Satan!” The only reason why Jesus is so focused on the disciples’ understanding of what he is all about is because he knows that they will someday be the leaders when he is gone. He is critical of the religious leaders for the same reason that he is hard on the disciples, they will one day be in a position of authority over people, interpreting for them God’s will for their lives, and they have to do it in the way he is trying to teach them. Jesus, knowing the disciples will soon be respected members of the community with offices of authority, makes every effort to form them into better leaders than were the Jewish religious authorities with whom he had to deal.

If this is true of the disciples in the Bible, it is also true of those of us gathered here today. By coming to Mass week after week, by listening to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life week after week, we are being formed, like the first disciples, to be good leaders who lead according to the plan of Jesus. Many of us are in managerial roles, whether at home or at work, we are somehow responsible for people under us. For those of us in these positions, the parallel is easy to see. Those of us blessed to be parents exercise authority over children. It is no less important to be a Christian leader in this situation than in any other. Even for those who don’t have authority in work or authority in a household, because of the authority our faith, we might see ourselves bearing the responsibility for being “authority figures” among our friends. Due to our commitment to following Jesus, due to our “yes” in receiving the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we are all disciples being formed by Jesus in his way of humble service-based leadership. Even though the original hearers of this lesson were the religious leaders of Israel, we can still take something away from Jesus’ words today. Do we care more about “greetings in the market place” than about doing a job well? Are we more interested in being called by titles of honor than in service our neighbor? Are there areas of our lives, perhaps our presence on line, where we present ourselves to be greater than we are so that others will envy us? This is not our calling. This is not the way of discipleship according to Jesus Christ. We have been invited along a specific way, a way that may not be readily supported by our social or political environments, but the only way we can be true to our baptismal commitment, and that the way of humility. Christ assures us that only through humility can we succeed at what it means to be a Christian today.

Jesus sounded harsh with the religious authorities of his time; he was also harsh with the disciples. To a certain extent, he can be harsh with us, but it is always for a reason; he always has a purpose in mind. Jesus challenges us along the way of humility, which can at times take the form of humiliation, because, whether we are mindful of it or not, we represent Christ in the world today. By choosing to be associated with the visible church, by accepting Baptism and Confirmation, we are those who carry Christ in our own bodies. How we present ourselves is how we represent him. Jesus challenges those who believe in him because he has high expectations of them. Even as the Gospel today is addressed to the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, it is also addressed to us who call ourselves disciples of the Lord. To the extent possible, we must be willing to put behind ourselves everything that is proud, everything that prevents us from living in the humble way that Jesus modeled for us.

We come here to listen and learn, let us take the words of Christ to heart because if we are to be leaders, we must reveal the kind of integrity that will draw others to follow our example. There are leaders who hold office and must be followed on account of their authority. We, however, no matter the level of “office” or “authority” that we hold, are called to serve in our leadership and make Christ present by the pattern of our lives. Due to our vocation as the body of Christ through our Baptism, we are those who represent Christ. It is our duty to do that responsibly.


Homily for the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time—November 12, 2017
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111217.cfm
Wis 6:12-16 ;    Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 ;   1 Thes 4:13-18 ;   Mt 25:1-13

By Charles Johnson

Imagine what it was like to have lived in Israel two thousand years ago, when the Gospel of Matthew was being written. What would it be like to live in a time without television, radio, internet, cars, busses, or bicycles? Imagine living in a time when walking was a necessity, when walking was, in fact, the only way to reach the city, a walk which was both long, and sometimes dangerous. The excitement builds up as the city gates draw closer. When I reach the city gate, I see the wise woman. She is always there, sitting at the gate, greeting people as they come and go. Very few people stop to talk to her, though. Most are drawn into what lays beyond the gate: the sights, and the smells. Excitement continues to build as I explore the streets. There are vendors on every side, shouting to get my attention. There are musicians, too, and performers, all clamoring for attention, distracting me from the purpose of this trip. But, this is actually a welcome distraction after a long journey. I linger and pass the day in all the excitement. I enjoy it, and linger too long, and I realize I won’t be home on time; I’ll be late. After a long day in the city, on my way out, now knowing that I’ll get home very late, the woman is still there, still sitting. Today, of all days, she hands me a scroll. This is a rare and very special gift. I smile, stuff the scroll into my bag and continue the long walk home.

That was the past. Let’s look at today. Is life today very different from back then? Well, the distractions are still there for certain. Instead of street vendors and street-side entertainers, we have television, radio, internet, and cell phones, always available. On the other hand, we can move greater distances in far less time. Instead of walking, we have other choices. Most have cars, others have access to buses, bicycles, or other modern means of transportation. Maybe we drive or take a bus to the city. Maybe we bypass the city altogether and switch on the internet to conduct our business or do our shopping virtually now. Life has indeed changed in some ways, while in other ways, things are very much the same. The woman is still there, sitting at the gate, greeting us as we come and go. Today, we know her as the Church, the source of wisdom, the source of our knowledge of the ways of God. Maybe today she might hand us a book, instead of a scroll. But her message often meets the same competition as of old, whether in the city, or on the internet, or on television. There are still, especially today, those who use many varied means to get our attention, and they still often distract us from our true purpose, of growing stronger every day in the goodness and integrity of our lives to which Christ calls us.

My own personal journey into the Church is very similar to that ancient journey into the city. I had that encounter with the woman. She handed me the rarest of gifts, the scroll. I stuffed it into a small corner of my life, and went on living, with all my myriad distractions, those distractions that took me away from my true purpose in life. But one day I opened the scroll, and began to read. Was it a coincidence? The scroll contained the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. The scroll was in reality, a book, our Bible. And that woman, the one who handed me the book, goes by the name of Wisdom.

Our first reading, from the Wisdom of Solomon starts off: “Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.” Wisdom comes from many places, some places are better than others. There is wisdom, as in the wisdom of the world. Sometimes there is value to be found here, and sometimes there is not. Then, too, there is Wisdom, as in the Truth that flows from Christ. There is always value to be found here. It wasn’t that long ago when I began to reflect on this gospel parable. When I did, I came to the realization that it was the wisdom of the world that was fueling my lamp. It was the wisdom of the world (and more often than not, the distractions of the world) to which I devoted most of my time. That wisdom of the world took my life down certain streets, and not others. And I came to realize what today’s gospel passage has to say to me.

Our gospel reading begins: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.” Matthew is the only gospel where the phrase “kingdom of heaven” appears, and it appears often. It is a very important theme for Matthew’s gospel. It is for us today, as well. What we do with our time while we wait for the kingdom of heaven is important. What we do with our time when we are not here at the Lord’s Table is important. You see, the bridesmaids in Matthew’s gospel represent us, as Christians. There were ten Christians, five of them foolish, and five of them wise. We can imagine characteristics of the wise Christians. These are the ones who pray often. They study scripture, they study the writings from Francis, our Pope, which speak to the issues and concerns of our time. The wise ones are the ones active in Church, proclaiming the gospel to the world, each in their own way, perhaps even bringing people to this altar to meet in communion, with the King of Heaven. But, when I read this passage, eleven years ago, I found that I was one of the foolish Christians, filling my life with the empty distractions and wisdom of the world. That was where I fit into this gospel passage. The good news for all of us is that we can always change; we can always devote more time to growing closer to Christ, and being a better Christian, and we can devote less time to the distractions of the world. Distractions can sometimes be good and healthy; we all need appropriate recreation. Fun is a good thing. Sometimes however, our pursuit of pleasure can take over our lives, a little bit at a time. It’s a matter of balance. I can happily say that I’m now working seriously towards setting aside the distractions of the world, and becoming that better, wiser Christian whose primary focus is on Christ and His Kingdom.

The world is shaped by the wisdom that is within our hearts. As the Church year comes to a close, and the season of Advent approaches, listen carefully to what today’s gospel passage has to say to you. Where did you get the wisdom that fed your inner lamps this year? How much of the year did you devote to distractions that took you away from your purpose in life? Have you stopped to talk to the “woman” to receive the wisdom she holds? Do we seek her out? The wisdom of the Church is truly unfading. Soon, we will approach this altar, and receive the Eucharist, the source of all Wisdom. Following the miracle that is the Eucharist, we will again renew our purpose: to go out into the world, and witness to the gospel, to bring news of Christ to the world that is so sorely in need of it. Let true Wisdom be your guide.


Homily for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time—November 19, 2017
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm
Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-51 Thes 5:1-6Mt 25:14-30 

By Daniel Ulmer

This is the best dating advice that I have ever heard! Websites like eHarmony, Match.com, and Catholic Match ask you hundreds of questions about your personality, likes and dislikes, etc. But today’s first reading from Proverbs reminds us of what is really important. “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. The writer upholds other traits, like being hardworking, and caring for the poor. But fearing the Lord is the ultimate quality for a spouse to possess.

In today’s Gospel passage, we see an example of what fearing the Lord does not look like. The third servant who received one talent feared his master, but this is not how God wants it to be with Him. So that is not what the term “fear the Lord” means. The third servant knew that his master was demanding, and out of fear of losing the little bit of money he was given, he buried it in the ground. The servant could have deposited that sum of money and gained interest, but he buried it in the ground for safekeeping. Hiding and being afraid is not what fearing the Lord means.

So what does a healthy, holy fear of the Lord look like? Fear of the Lord is rooted in respect and love. Not timidity and coercion, but love and respect comprise a proper fear of the Lord. Respect and love come from our cry to God the Father as Abba, our dearest Father in Heaven. This respect is the familial respect a child has for a parent. We show our love for the Lord when we love Him so much that we would do anything to refrain from offending God. This desire not to offend God comes from love. Our love for God is based on an internal longing to draw closer in relationship with the Lord. Our desire to show love and respect characterize a healthy, holy fear of the Lord.

This sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Building relationships takes time and effort, and maintaining them properly takes even more time and effort! Why should we take the time to establish a healthy fear of the Lord? What might help us to take this seriously in our lives? The last judgment can do that. We need to remember that one day we will face the last judgment, the eschaton, or the parousia, at which time the sheep will be separated from the goats. Those who have lived as the Lord has taught us will be separated from those whose lives showed no respect for God, and His ways.

I hope that when each of us stands before the judgment throne of God that He says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. . . .” I know that I am not a perfect person, but God sees how often I try to renew my intention to live in right relation with Him. I truly fear the Lord out of love. We all can work at our relationship with the Lord. My suspicion is that you know what you need to work on. Take this to prayer. Ask the Lord to guide your relationship to inspire fear of Him within your heart.

I pray that one day all of us will be able to stand before the judgment throne of God and hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.”


Homily for the Feast of Christ the King—November 26, 2017
Readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112617.cfm
Ez 34:11-12, 15-17Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6;   1 Cor 15:20-26, 28;  Mt 25:31-46

By Paul Edmondstone

When I was growing up I loved visiting my grandparents. They had a grand old house, which was great for exploring. My brother and I must have explored every nook and cranny. But my favorite part of the house was in the living room where at the front of the room an old piano stood. I was mesmerized by that old piano. When I got older, my Dad taught me a few songs on it, and one of the first ones that he taught me was “God Save the Queen.” You see, we are a Canadian family, and so “God Save the Queen” is part of our heritage. The second to the last line of that anthem has always struck me: “Long to reign over us.”

Today, we celebrate the reign of Christ the King as our King. The kingship of Christ is something that demands some pondering because, though Christ reigns, he does so in a way we would not normally expect of a king’s reign. The full title of this feast is “The Feast of Christ, the King of the Universe.” During the Jubilee year of Mercy, Pope Francis added another part to the title: “…the living face of the Father’s mercy.” So we can say that we celebrate today “The Feast of Christ, the King of the Universe, the living Face of the Father’s Mercy.” This title seems to be somewhat of a paradox. When we think of the king of the world, let alone the king of the universe, we might tend to imagine a powerful, distant leader, disconnected from ordinary people. But on the other hand, Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy, the one who binds up our wounds, heals us, blesses us, and saves us. It seems peculiar that He can be both the King of the universe, and the face of mercy. However, our readings today give us a glimpse of how Christ is both king and the face of the Father’s mercy, all at the same time.

In the first reading from Ezekiel, we see the living face of the Father’s mercy. We see the one who is close to his people. We see Christ using his mercy to seek us out. We hear him say, “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” Even in our sinfulness, Christ seeks us out in order to be for us the living face of the Father’s mercy. He is not distant from us, but rather searches us out to heal us. It is in this way of mercy that he exercises his kingship. In the First Letter to the Corinthians today, Paul says that Christ must reign until he has put all things under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death. He does not come to us by force, or search us out against our will, but he reigns over us by showering his mercy upon us continually. On the wood of the cross, the crucified Lord shows his power to the world when he is at his weakest, so that he may also be at the same time our reigning Lord. We share in this reign, because when we are at our weakest, Christ comes to us, and makes us strong.

The king of the universe, and the face of the Father’s mercy, are connected in the Gospel. Christ will come and judge us by how merciful we have been to others. The King of the universe wants us to be the face of his mercy to one another. He will judge us by how we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned. Because he is our King, and the face of the Father’s mercy, we have received much from him through our baptism, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and the other sacraments. We perform the works of mercy listed in today’s Gospel in order to give the mercy we have received from Christ to others. Where the poor, or the naked, or imprisoned are, Christ is there among them. That is why whatsoever we do to the least of his people we do unto him. He will judge us by how much of what we have received from him we give to others. It is in participating in these works of mercy that we help bring forth Christ’s reign as King to the entire world, because by his mercy he shows us his power.

Christ reigns today through his Church, and as beneficiaries of his reign, as we have received his mercy in various ways, we are called to let others know that Christ reigns as the king of the universe by showing mercy to them and thus, being for them the face of the Father’s mercy. By our works of mercy, we not only proclaim Christ crucified, and risen from the dead, but we also proclaim that he is reigning even now, and will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.

By giving mercy to others in the same way that Christ has given mercy to us, we share in his reign as King. Since Christ has given us his mercy while we were yet sinners, this means that his mercy has been extended to us even when we may not deserve it. We then are called to be merciful in the same way. Perhaps someone in our lives has treated us poorly, or there is a rift in a relationship. It is when we can show mercy to that person that we will help Christ’s reign be made known.

Perhaps, instead of putting our head down, staring at our feet, when we walk by the homeless person on the street, we can say “hello,” and try to start a conversation, or perhaps, we can forgive someone who has hurt us in the past, whether or not they have asked for our pardon. In doing so, we will be the face of the Father’s mercy, and proclaim Christ’s kingship to the world.

Christ does reign over us. Long may he reign over us! How will you proclaim his reign as King to others today?


Deacon Peter Santandrieu About Deacon Peter Santandrieu

Deacon Peter Santandrieu is completing his divinity studies at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York, and anticipates ordination to the priesthood in June of 2018.

Charles Johnson About Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson is studying theology as a seminarian at Christ the King Seminary of the Diocese of Buffalo in East Aurora, New York.

Daniel Ulmer About Daniel Ulmer

Daniel Ulmer is a seminarian for the Diocese of Buffalo who is currently studying at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, New York.

Paul Edmondstone About Paul Edmondstone

Paul Edmondstone is a seminarian for the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, studying at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, New York. Currently, he is on a pastoral year experience at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Waterdown, Ontario.


  1. re: Homily on Mt 23:1-12 —
    It is always particularly painful when this reading comes around in the Lectionary. It is so pointedly directed to the one standing in the ambo, and the one waiting in the rectory, and the one residing in the bishop’s residence – yet so many times the homilist will prefer to use the first reading, or the second for his homily, as, I suppose he might have reasoned, something we in the pews might better “understand.” Or he finds some other way to avoid this “difficult” Gospel reading. But in my years listening to many homilies on this passage, only one time – only once – did the priest directly address the issues of priests in his own experience, himself included, who were guilty as charged by Jesus in this passage. This priest would soon be retired – maybe he felt free to be honest – but the honesty, and the truth, was refreshing to hear.

    Many of us in the pews understand very well the temptations and the difficulties that pastors face. Many in the pews are heroically generous in their patience, and long-suffering respect held for priests because of their office. But oh, the damage done and the hurt inflicted – whether realized or not – when the shepherd does not feed the flock the food they need, at the proper time! The office calls for self-sacrifice – the cross – that’s what the priests signed up for. The tragedy is immense, when they decide that their own rewards ought to be more immediate, more personal, and more gratifying. “Pharisaism is the number one temptation in a religious vocation.” A very wise priest told us that on retreat one time – the truth of it has been born out, painfully often.