Homilies for October 2021

For October 3, October 10, October 17, October 24, and October 31

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 3, 2021

Readings: Gn 2:18–24 • Ps 128:1–2, 3, 4–5, 6 • Heb 2:9–11 • Mk 10:2–16 or 10:2–12  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/100321.cfm

Jesus prohibited divorce. Three gospels and one of St. Paul’s letters record the fact. The prohibition is striking, in part, because Jesus was contradicting the law of Moses. Moreover, it’s evident in the New Testament and the Church’s history that being faithful to Jesus’s command is and has been a struggle for the followers of Christ. However, it’s not divorce I wish to speak about. The practice of divorce supposes the practice of marriage, and the Church and culture no longer agree about the meaning of marriage.

In its 2015 decision Obergefell vs. Hodges, the Supreme Court established a right to “same-sex marriage” in the Constitution. The court ruled that same sex couples have equal protection under the law for “intimate choices,” and it described marriage as an “intimate association” and a means to “other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.” It’s worthy of note that the Supreme Court gave a loose description of marriage in terms of personal feelings but didn’t define marriage objectively.

While popular culture is not clear about the meaning of marriage, Jesus repeated the definition of marriage given in Genesis. “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and two shall become one flesh.” Marriage takes its meaning from the fact that a man and woman together have the potential to bring forth new life. The unique act by which the two become one body is the same act that has the potential to engender new life. Thus the Church teaches that by its nature married love is ordained toward the procreation and education of children. In other words, the marital union must in principle be open to new life. While the Church’s understanding of marriage is grounded in a fact of nature, the culture’s understanding of marriage is now grounded wholly in terms of desire and consent.

Jesus prayed in John’s Gospel for his followers, saying, “I have given them your word, and the world hates them because they are not of the world.” The currents of society now flow squarely against the Church’s teaching in this regard, but we “are not of the world.” We affirm friendship and self-giving love wherever they are found, while at the same time teaching that sexual intimacy has its meaning and goodness in the formation of marriage and family life.

In John’s Gospel where Jesus spoke of having given his “word” to his disciples, “word” there can also mean “reason.” By reason we can see the God-given order of nature. As regards sexual morality, it seems the world has lost its reason, but we as the followers of Christ must teach and live the truth, not only for our well-being, but for the world’s.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 10, 2021

Readings: Wis 7:7–11 • Ps 90:12–13, 14–15, 16–17 • Heb 4:12–13 • Mk 10:17–30 or 10:17–27  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101021.cfm

He wanted to know what he had to do to be saved. How extraordinary was this man. The gospel notes he ran to Jesus — he recognized in Jesus a man of God and hungrily sought direction from him. Moreover, when told to follow the moral law, the man indicated he already lived an upright life.

Then we encounter a small detail in St. Mark’s account, small, but large in meaning. It says, “Jesus looked at him with love.” Jesus’s love calls us to an unremitting, generous life of service. Think of the woman who poured the flask of expensive perfumed oil on Jesus and how he praised her for her extravagance. Aren’t we to pour out our lives in such a careless way? Our tendency is to sprinkle out a few drops of the precious ointment of our time or money or talent and hold the rest for ourselves.

For most of us, a faithful following of the ten commandments seems overly burdensome. “I’m too busy to get to Mass every week,” “you gotta get along in the world,” “the Church expects too much of people.” Think of other examples of the demands of our faith, and then recall that Jesus looks at you with love.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 17, 2021

Readings: Is 53:10–11 • Ps 33:4–5, 18–19, 20, 22 • Heb 4:14–16 • Mk 10:35–45 or 10:42–45  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101721.cfm

It’s sad to see the effort candidates in national elections make in lifting themselves up and putting down their opponents. Ultimately, we’re to blame for tolerating, and even expecting, this self-aggrandizement. We should always recognize that leaders in public service carry a special burden as well as a special temptation. The temptation to power, wealth, honor, and recognition can be strong, so all of us need to form ourselves to give and value humble service.

By word and example our Lord has deflated our pride and taught us to serve others. He washed his disciples’ feet. He told them, “Whoever aspires to greatness must serve the rest,” and “when you have done all you have been commanded, say ‘we are worthless servants.”

“Why don’t people recognize all I do around here?” or “how come I have to do somebody else’s job?” We shouldn’t facilitate the laziness or thoughtlessness of others because, for their own good, they need to be accountable. But the fact is, at home, at work, in society, and in the Church, there’s never going to be a perfectly just distribution of the labors. We all have to do our part, and sometimes more, because “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” As it was for our Lord, so it must be for us.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 24, 2021

Readings: Jer 31:7–9 • Ps 126:1–2, 2–3, 4–5, 6 • Heb 5:1–6 • Mk 10:46–52  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102421.cfm

When the news relates an extraordinary happening, it’s because the happening stands out by itself. Imagine a doctor who has developed a cure for many cases of blindness. That doctor would be featured in the news, and many would seek the doctor’s cure. The Gospels, however, relate the miracles of Jesus for what they indicate beyond themselves. They show Jesus’s divine power and often have symbolic meaning.

Such is the case with the blind Bartimaeus. He had heard of Jesus of Nazareth as a miracle-worker and a religious teacher, and so he shouted out to Jesus. When asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus, the pitiful beggar by the roadside, replied, “I want to see.” Bartimaeus is anyone who hears of Jesus and his message and wants Jesus to bring into his or her life what is lacking. When Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has healed you,” the Greek text can equally be rendered as it is here: “Your faith has saved you.”

No one will be a follower of Jesus, will live a life of faith in him, without first sensing a deficiency or handicap in the core of oneself that nothing else than God’s healing grace can make right. Jennifer Fulweiler, writer and convert to the Catholic faith from atheism, quotes the convert and great Christian writer C. S. Lewis: “All that we call human history . . . [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” We do well to accept this wisdom.

All humankind suffers from the same sickness, so why doesn’t everybody seek the healing that the divine physician offers? Jesus, in the Gospel of John, answered the question plainly. “The light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” To see is to know, and with that knowledge comes a way of life. In effect, our Lord is saying to us: “You can be well, but here’s the regimen you have to follow. Say your prayers, go to church, go to confession, do the work expected of you honestly and perseveringly, care for those in your care, be chaste, be kind, be forgiving.” Such a regimen takes effort, but love can make it easy (at least, easier).

After receiving his sight Bartimaeus followed Jesus up the road. I like to think Bartimaeus kept following Jesus all the way to heaven.

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 31, 2021

Readings: Dt 6:2–6 • Ps 18:2–3, 3–4, 47, 51 • Heb 7:23–28 • Mk 12:28b–34    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/103121.cfm

Our world is forested thick with laws, and they obviously can’t all be of equal importance. Such was the case for the Jews in the time of Jesus concerning the 613 precepts of the law of Moses. It was naturally a subject of debate among the rabbis as to which of these laws is the most important. Curiously, when asked to weigh in on which one law is the greatest, Jesus answers with two commands. Seemingly Jesus is teaching that these two are inseparably connected and so can be treated as one.

The Old Testament speaks of God as jealous, like the jealousy of a husband or wife who demands the spouse’s full devotion — demanding the spouse to love him or her with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. St. Augustine, in concise Latin phrasing, famously said: amor meus, pondus meus, “my love is my gravity.” Think of the people you associate with. You don’t have to be around them too long to know what’s important to them — it’s what pulls them. It’s what they think about and talk about, spend their time, energy, and money on.

It was St. Augustine who diagnosed well our disordered passions and showed us how to order our loves rightly. Partial and passing goods are to be sought as they lead to the perfect and imperishable good. Here we see what authentic love of neighbor means. Love means seeking the good of the other. Hence, God commands us to put away malice, dishonesty, greed, envy, and lust because they are contrary to my neighbor’s good, and to my own.

Moreover, even morally good things can be wrongly ordered. We live in a time when God and the things of God are largely a matter of indifference. We’re occupied with family and friends, arts, sports, hobbies, and constructive work. But what if those good things are not sought and enjoyed in relation to what is ultimate? If love of God and love of neighbor are one commandment, can we have love of neighbor without love of God? Can we have civilized life without recognizing the truth and goodness higher than ourselves to which we are subject? Can we have culture without cult?

Christ came into the world as its light. We love God and neighbor when we follow the ten commandments and the moral teachings of the Church. In doing so we reflect Christ’s light in a world that is always in need of that light, even when the world disregards or obstructs it. To love God and to love our neighbor are two commandments, but they are essentially joined, since we can’t adequately fulfill one commandment without fulfilling the other.

Fr. Stephen Rocker About Fr. Stephen Rocker

Fr. Stephen Rocker is a priest of the Ogdensburg, NY diocese serving parishes in Ellenburg and Lyon Mountain, NY.


  1. Avatar Michael Pannell says:

    In response to the Father’s homily on homosexual marriages, I would respectfully remind everyone that when God created Eve He didn’t say that Adam needs a sexual partner to have a child with, He said it is not good for Adam to be alone. I have been in a faithful relationship for 33 years, and it would not have been good for me to be alone either. Perhaps those who are unmarried by choice might have more compassion for those of us who do not wish to be.