Homilies for July 2019

For July 7, July 14, July 21, and July 28.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 7, 2019

  Readings: Is 66:10–14c • Ps 66:1–7, 16, 20 • Gal 6:14–18 • Lk 10:1–12, 17–20 (or Lk 10:1–9)

Every year before the annual priest’s retreat I receive a letter with some instructions about the retreat. The letter gives the dates of the retreat, the name of the retreat master, and a list of things that each priest is supposed to bring. “Please bring your alb, a white stole, a green stole, and your prayer book for the Liturgy of the Hours.” Surprisingly, there is not an instruction to bring a smile, a good attitude, or to leave our complaints at home. Someday, perhaps, those will be added, but for now, it is a simple list.

We have the same kinds of lists for the first day of school. Bring some paper and a pencil. Sometimes, we have these kinds of lists for work. We certainly have them for athletic events and we have them for picnics and parties and other celebrations. There is usually a list of things that we are supposed to bring with us. Usually the list is pretty simple.

The list given by the Lord Jesus to the seventy-two that he invited to be part of his mission was very simple. Take nothing. Nothing. There is no walking stick and no sandals. There is no paper and no pencil. He doesn’t even tell them to take a cell phone or a GPS. They are to take nothing with them for the journey, nothing at all.

This seems strange to me. After all, David got to take five stones and a slingshot with him. Moses had a staff. Jeremiah had all kinds of interesting tools for his work. He had a yoke, and a loincloth, and a cauldron, and a long list of complaints. Even John the Baptist had locusts and honey and a cloth of camel hair. Everyone else seems to have something to take with them. Everyone else seems to have their list of things.

But not the seventy-two: they have no supplies to take with them. Well, they do have a few things that the Lord Jesus gave them. They have a few things. They have a greeting to give and a promise to proclaim. They have the greeting of the peace of the Lord to give to everyone who will welcome them. They have the peace of Christ. They have something that the world cannot give. They have the peace of Christ to share. And they have the promise to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand. They have the privilege to proclaim that the kingdom promised to Abraham and Moses and David and all the prophets was near. The seventy-two brought the message that the hope of people of Israel was about to be fulfilled. They had the gift of peace and the message of hope.

But the seventy-two who were sent by the Lord had something even more than this. They had something more than the greeting of peace and the promise of the Kingdom. He sent them two by two. They were not sent alone. They had a fellow follower of the Lord Jesus to accompany them on the journey.

We do, too. The Lord gave each of us a Guardian Angel at our baptism. Even though we cannot see our partner in mission, our Angel is at prayer before the throne of God. Our Guardian Angel attends to the Lord, and attends to us so that we will attend to the Lord, and attend to the mission the Lord has given to us. Our Guardian Angel is our partner in this mission. Our Angel prays with us and stays with us as we share the greeting of peace the promise of the kingdom. And our Guardian Angel joins us as we join in the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, the Angels of God and the People of God are fed from the very Altar of God. Here we are gathered by the Lord Jesus as he gathered the seventy-two. Here, each week we receive the greeting of peace and the promise of hope. Here we receive the strength to keep walking with the Lord and for the Lord for another week.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Peace be with you. Amen.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 14, 2019

  Readings: Dt 30:10–14 • Ps 69:14, 17, 30–31, 33–34, 36–37 (or Ps 19:8–11) • Col 1:15–20 • Lk 10:25–37

Last Sunday we heard about the mission of the seventy-two who were sent out by the Lord to proclaim the kingdom of God. This week, it is the scholar of the law who comes to Jesus and asks about eternal life.

Most of us are so familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan that we can easily hear it without really listening to it. It’s easy to do that sometimes with passages of Scripture we know so well. The story is simple. A man who is going from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed, beaten, and nearly killed. It was a dangerous road. A priest and a Levite walk past the injured man, and a Samaritan stops to care for him. The Samaritan treats the wounds of the injured man with wine, oil, and bandages. The Samaritan takes him to an inn, pays for his care, and promises to pay for any additional needs when he returns. The Samaritan demonstrates what is means to be a neighbor.

We want to be good neighbors. The law of God invites us to love God and love our neighbor. That is not a mysterious commandment. It is not something hidden from our view. This commandment is near to us, in our mouths and in our hearts. We know it and we can follow it.

The difference between the Samaritan and the priest and the Levite was more than just their actions. We do not know why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the injured man. We do know why the Samaritan stopped to help the injured man: he was moved with compassion. From the compassion that he felt for this unknown injured man on the side of the road, the Samaritan carried out the love of neighbor.

We want to be compassionate neighbors. The word compassion means to suffer with. To be compassionate means that we are willing to suffer with those who are suffering. The Samaritan was willing to suffer and willing to sacrifice for the injured man. His act of charity cost him. It cost him wine, oil, and bandages made of cloth. It cost him comfort on the journey because he gave the injured man his own place on the animal he was riding. It cost him the two silver coins that he gave to the innkeeper, and whatever he would pay on his return. And it cost him the most precious gift that we can give to another: it cost him time. The Samaritan was willing to suffer with the suffering. That is what it means to be a neighbor.

And that is part of what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus. We suffer with the suffering. In union with Christ who suffered for us, we suffer with the poor, the injured, the sick, the rejected, and the dying. We suffer with those who have been cast to the side of the road in our society: the unborn, the immigrant, the elderly, the mentally ill, and the disabled. Each of us was marked with the sign of Christ’s glorious sufferings in our baptism. Every vocation is marked with the blessing of Christ’s holy cross. Mothers suffer with and for their children. Fathers suffering with and for their families. Teachers suffer with and for their students. Husbands suffer for their wives, and wives suffer for their husbands. Priests suffer with and for their people, and the holy people of God suffer with and for their priests. We are the neighbors, and we are the people Christ calls us to be when we are willing to suffer with those who suffer.

But we were not the first to suffer. We suffer in union with Christ on the cross. For in truth, we are not the Good Samaritan in the parable. We are the injured man. And Christ our Savior traveling to the road to the heavenly city of Jerusalem looked was moved with compassion for each of us. Jesus approached us while we were still sinners. He bathed us in the wine of his blood and anointed us with the oil of gladness. He carried us in his own body and placed us in the inn which is his holy Church. He left the two precious coins of his Word and his Sacraments until his return in glory.

And now, at the altar, we meet him. Our compassionate Savior meets us in our suffering and gives us eyes to recognize his presence and eyes to recognize those who are suffering. Here we are strengthened to suffer with Christ and for Christ who willing and lovingly and compassionately suffered for us.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 21, 2019

  Readings: Gn 18:1–10a • Ps 15:2–5 • Col 1:24–28 • Lk 10:38–42

Every three years on this Sunday we hear this brief story of Martha and Mary. We hear it every year in the daily celebration at Mass and usually during the first full week of October. The reason that I remember that we hear about Martha and Mary during the first full week of October is because that is the week of the annual priests’ retreat for our diocese.

Nearly every year during the priests’ retreat we hear about Martha and Mary and being busy about many things and only one thing being important. The retreat master, who is different every year, usually gives the same advice. We should seek to be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus and less like Martha who is always busy about many things. Nearly every year, no matter who the retreat master is, it is the same advice. And nearly every year after the Mass where we hear about Martha and Mary and are encouraged to be more contemplative, we gather for lunch and we hear about the latest pastoral plan or activity or initiative that we are about to begin. Within the span of one hour, I am encouraged to sit at the feet of Jesus and then, very quickly, I am told some of the many things about which I will be busy in the coming months. It’s a little confusing.

Maybe you find this event in the lives of Martha and Mary a little confusing too. Are we supposed to spend our lives as followers of the Lord sitting at the feet of Jesus? That sounds like the advice we get. Set down your work and sit down with Jesus. It sounds like a beautiful invitation, and it is. But it’s not the only invitation and example we have.

Abraham and Sarah served the Lord in service and hospitality. The meal was carefully prepared, and the hosts attended to the visitors’ comfort. Moses led the people from the slavery in Egypt and gave them the law of God. David was a warrior and a king. Jeremiah spoke words of truth to the powerful and words of hope to the faithful. Paul served the Lord in preaching, prayer, travel, suffering, and writing. We have lots of examples of people of faith who were active in the service of the Lord in the Scriptures. We have lots of examples of great saints in our history who were active is so many things. We have lots of examples of people in our community who share their lives and share their faith serving the poor, teaching those who want to learn, caring for the sick, and welcoming the stranger. With the great examples from the Scriptures, the saints, and our own community, I’m still a little confused about the story of Martha and Mary. What are we supposed to do?

Maybe we can look at it differently. Maybe we can look at Martha and Mary and focus not on what they are doing, but simply on where they are. Martha and Mary are close to Jesus. Serving and sitting, they are close to Jesus. Sitting and serving, Mary and Martha are near the Lord. And whether we are sitting or serving, whether we are busy about many things or focused on only one thing, we are near the Lord Jesus.

We have come to the celebration of the Eucharist and we are close to Jesus. We admit our faults and meet his mercy. We listen to his Word and we offer our prayers. We bring the sacrifice of our lives, the offering of the many things we are busy about, and we unite them to sacrifice of Jesus. And the Lord Jesus gives us the gift of himself. He feeds us with his Body and Blood and strengthens us to sit with him and to serve him. Sitting or serving, we will stay close to Jesus.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 28, 2019

  Readings: Gn 18:20–32 • Ps 138:1–3, 6–8 • Col 2:12–14 • Lk 11:1–13

“Father, can you pray for me?” “Please keep me in your prayers?” “I will pray for you.” “Please know that we are praying for you.”

Today we meet Jesus praying in a certain place. And when he had finished his time of prayer, the disciples asked the Lord Jesus to teach them how to pray. This was a common practice for a master or teacher to teach his disciples a common prayer. The common prayer was a sign of relationship with the master. The disciples often learned a prayer and learned how to pray from the master. This is the first thing we learn about prayer today: we can learn to pray, and we need to be taught how to pray.

Prayer is something that we learn how to do. We learn from the Lord Jesus and we learn from his Church. We learn from the Scriptures and we learn from the saints. We learn from our priests and we learn from our Faith Formation teachers. And often, we learn to pray from our mothers on earth who prayed with us to our Father in heaven. We learn to walk. We learn to speak. We learn to read, and we learn to pray. That is the first thing we learn about prayer: we learn to pray.

The second thing that we learn today about prayer is that prayer expresses a relationship. The Lord Jesus invites us to call God our Father. No one had ever suggested that we could address the Lord of Heaven and Earth with a title of such intimacy as “Father.” No one had ever dared to address God as Father until the Lord Jesus did so. And Jesus addressed God as Father, because he is the Son. And the Son of God invites us to call his Father our Father. Our prayer expresses our relationship with God the Father through our relationship with God the Son.

We learn to pray. Our prayer expresses our relationship. Our prayer is humble and persistent. That is the third thing we learn about prayer today: our prayer is humble and persistent. We see Abraham, with humility and persistence, interceding with the Lord for the people of Sodom. Jesus tells us about the friend who persistently asks for food for his guests. Prayer requires humility, because when we pray, we admit our own need.

Admitting our need, The Lord Jesus teaches us to pray with confidence and expectation. However, the Lord is not teaching us that our prayer will be answered in the precise way that we want our prayer to be answered. The Lord Jesus teaches us that God the Father will only give us those things which are for our good and in accord with his will. The Father will not give to us something that will harm us. The Father will not give to us something that will lead us away from him.

We pray with confidence and expectation because we address our prayers to the Father who loves us. We pray with confidence and expectation because we pray to Father with the voice of the Beloved Son. In our baptism we were buried with Christ, raised to life, and united to Him so that our prayers to the Father are offered with his prayer to the Father. We make our prayer to the Father through Christ, and with Christ and in Christ.

As we celebrate the Eucharist, we join in the prayer of Christ our High Priest. We allow the Lord Jesus and the Sacred Liturgy of His Church to teach us how to pray. Our humble prayers at this Mass express our relationship with the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. And we offer this sacrifice of praise with confidence and expectation to God the Father who loves us.

Fr. Benjamin Roberts About Fr. Benjamin Roberts

Fr. Benjamin A. Roberts is a priest of the Diocese of Charlotte and Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Monroe, NC. He holds a DMin in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis and is the author of the recently published book The Voice of the Bridegroom: Preaching as an Expression of Spousal Love, from Wipf and Stock.


  1. Avatar Fr Richard Nsubuga says:

    Fr Benjamin thank you so much. I find your homilies very enriching. God bless you. I am Fr Richard Nsubuga

  2. Avatar NICHOLAS Kaliminwa says:

    These are very enriching homilies

    Fr. Nicholas Kaliminwa – Zambia