Homilies for July 2023

For July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, and July 30

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 2, 2023

Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8–11, 14–16a Ps 89:2–3, 16–17, 18–19Rom 6:3–4, 8–11Mt 10:37–42  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070223.cfm

Everywhere in the news today we hear and read about the rise of AI, artificial intelligence. It seems that the development and advancement of AI technology has made huge leaps in a short period of time. Artificial Intelligence, while offering several advantages to society, also has a downside to it. The fact is that AI can be so powerful that it can manipulate images, create realistic-looking people and events that are indistinguishable from reality, and generate academic papers with very little input from a human being.

In essence, we may have an increasingly difficult time in discerning what is real, what is true, what is authentic, and what really matters, from intentionally created deceptions. The world we live in will be ever more confusing because truth is becoming ever more obscured.

However murky or frustrating this all becomes, we can rest assured that there is authentic truth that we can count on to guide us in this life. This truth is the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He could not speak more clearly, more truthfully, and more pointedly than what he tells us in today’s Gospel: that “whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” It may be a hard truth, a truth that will shake us up, a truth that demands a response from us.

So, who is the priority in your life? Who comes above all others? Who will you give your life over to? The answer should be Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean we stop loving our family and friends. It simply means we need to have the right order of love in our life. It was Saint Augustine who spoke of the right order, a right hierarchy of love. This order of love means we should love everything in creation according to its proper relationship to God. We are to love God above all things, then to love our neighbor and ourselves, and then to love the created world.

This is what our Lord is telling us clearly and forcefully: that love for Christ must come first. We are to love the Creator over any aspect of creation. If our love of Christ is not of prime importance, then our relationship with him is lacking. If love for others comes before love for Christ, we see those others as more important than God himself. Commitment to Christ must be complete, it must be total, it must be as real as possible. This commitment to the truth must be genuine, it must be 100% real, not a facsimile or an image of authenticity. On the surface our love for, and our relationship with, Christ may seem to be our priority, but deep down we need to honestly examine its authenticity. Appearances, as we’ve seen with AI technology, can be very deceiving. We can deceive ourselves; we can deceive others . . . but we can never deceive our Lord.

We may not always live out our love for Christ perfectly, but each day gives us the opportunity to more perfectly develop our relationship with Jesus Christ. Each day we can make a choice, a commitment that Christ will come first in our life. Each day allows us to live out what we often say about the importance of Christ in our life. Each day we can pray, however briefly, and strengthen our commitment to Jesus Christ. Each day presents opportunities to be active in loving our Lord over everything else, for the Eucharist and the sacrament of penance are always available to us.

But do we give them priority over everything else going on in our life? Do we find reasons, whether these be obligations or preferences or simply not putting the sacraments high on our “To Do” List, for not consistently receiving such important gifts that come from Christ Jesus. Perhaps what holds us back is a fear of what complete commitment involves . . . that of the cross. Can we embrace the cross in our life? It can be a frightening prospect, but we must have the courage to do so. The courage we need will grow the more we grow in our relationship with Christ. Putting love of Christ above all means trusting him above all. . . . And He is the only one we can fully trust, for He will never fail us.

The world we live in is fast becoming a very confusing place, a place that presents so many choices before us. . . . And many of those choices are not reliable; they are often half-truths and illusions. So, choose what is completely believable, that which is completely authentic and trustworthy. Choose to love Jesus Christ above all. Lose your life for His sake so that you may find the fullness of life, the life that lasts forever. . . . Eternal life.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 9, 2023

Readings: Zec 9:9–10Ps 145:1–2, 8–9, 10–11, 13–14Rom 8:9, 11–13Mt 11:25–30    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070923.cfm

Much of the population in the United States and other developed countries now live in an urban environment, a city, as opposed to rural areas. Living in an urban area brings with it an experience far different from that of living in a rural setting. Most of the population is now removed from experiences and situations that once were well understood by most people when rural living was common. Our Lord, however, often used words and experiences that for many centuries were clearly understood by the people, because he drew upon the practicalities of living in a rural environment. We see this in the Gospel of today when he focuses on the yoke as a metaphor for what he offers and what a life lived in Christ entails.

But what is a yoke? And why is this image used by Jesus? A yoke is a cross piece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and is attached to a plow that they both pull. The yoke is a very practical and effective piece of equipment. By connecting the two animals, it provides a balance to the efforts of each animal. Each animal will work together, produce together, walk the same path, and the strong one will aid the weaker or more tired one. The yoke, in a practical sense, is a great aid for tilling the field and assuring the fullness of the harvest. However, the yoke was a heavy piece that took some effort to properly set up and to carry.

Our Lord Jesus Christ offers us his own yoke, a different yoke, a yoke that is light and easy to carry. Christ understands that life for many people is often strenuous, difficult, and tiresome. We can be laden down with so many things: fear of what the future may bring, loss of a sense of purpose, weariness from years of working, and seemingly endless obligations. But the heaviest weight, the most burdensome yoke we may carry is not seeing real meaning in our life, often as we get older. This is why Jesus offers us His yoke.

He wants to join us with him, to walk beside us and to carry us when we are tired or in despair or simply lost. And much like that physical yoke which is used to produce a full and abundant harvest when the time is right, the yoke of Jesus does the same, except this harvest is bountiful beyond our imagination. This harvest when we take the yoke of Christ, is that of peace, purpose, self-surrender to our Lord, as we cultivate and prepare ourselves for eternal life. The Lord offers rest, not in the physical sense, but in the sense that anxiety, fear, the need for control that we often engage in, and doubt can all be dispelled from our life. True rest, true peace, true joy, will only be found in the one who has the power to offer these: Jesus Christ.

What the Lord tells us in this Gospel is an act of enormous compassion, for he understands the real tribulations and tests that are a part of this life. He offers us a path, right here and right now, that can free us as we journey toward our true home in heaven. That path, the way to such peace, is by accepting the yoke of Christ, saying yes to offering all up to Christ. The yoke that Jesus offers does not constrain us, it frees us. The yoke of Jesus is not difficult or hard to bear; it is easy as He tells us so Himself.

This is something for which we should be thankful. So, when was the last time that you thanked our Lord? The simple fact that you are here today, reading this homily, is a gift from God . . . thank Him. The opportunity each day to choose to live more closely with and in Jesus Christ is a gift from God . . . thank Him. The reality that Christ is ever present for us and offers to teach us and carry us is a gift from God . . . thank Him. Jesus thanks his Father for all that he has been given . . . how can we not do so also?

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 16, 2023

Readings: Is 55:10–11Ps 65:10, 11, 12–13, 14Rom 8:18–23Mt 13:1–23    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071623.cfm

Anyone who has a yard or garden knows the challenges that come with having it look well-kept and being full of the type of plants or flowers that are visually appealing. It takes more work, attention, and perseverance to keep certain growths out than it does to nourish those flowers and plants that one desires to have. When there is a lack of attention to nurturing, then all sorts of weeds, crabgrass, and other undesired plants start to appear. It takes real, consistent effort to have a beautiful, flourishing yard or garden. The gardener must always supply the right conditions, and correct the harmful conditions, for the planted seeds to develop and flourish. The seeds are the seeds; the surrounding conditions make all the difference for the end results. But this example is not limited to a physical garden or yard.

When our Lord speaks in this Gospel, He is using imagery that was familiar to most of the people. Many of the people worked on the land, they were much closer to it than we are today. But the words of Christ are pointing to a much deeper truth, a much more important reality; that of receiving the word of God and allowing it to grow, to flourish, to produce fruit in our life.

Each of us can look at the different conditions into which the seed, the word of God, is placed and relate it to different times in our life. Times when the word perhaps meant little to us, times when it wasn’t appreciated or properly understood, times when it wasn’t a priority, and times when the word did embed itself in our heart, when we allowed it to germinate, grow, and reach its fullness in our life. If we really want to grow in holiness, to interiorize the word of God, then we must continuously work at “tending the soil,” that is taking care of the state of our soul, so the seeds will have deep roots. As we journey through this life there are so many things, that unless rooted out from one’s life, will do nothing but stifle the deep rooting of God’s word in our heart.

If the Word is not understood, it can easily be taken from us. How is this possible in our modern world? Actually, it is easier than ever for this to occur. There is an overwhelming amount of pressure being exerted against faith. Recent studies have documented how few people attend church on a regular basis, how few people believe or understand the importance of baptism, Eucharist, or marriage. There is a rise, along with an associated prestige, in the new atheism. If one doesn’t understand the Word of God, one can easily be convinced to give it up. As part of tending to your garden — your soul — you must continue learning about the Faith.

Closely connected to this is the rocky ground that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel. Believing in the Kingdom of God, believing in Jesus Christ and his teachings, may produce backlash, ostracism, and anger as a response from others. It is prayer, constant communication with our Lord, which will enable you to resist these outside pressures and internal temptations. Don’t let your heart become the rocky soil that Christ mentions. A commitment to Christ and the Kingdom may at times be rocky but don’t allow your heart, mind, and soul to become hardened and rocky.

It’s a fact that no matter how well a yard or garden is attended to, there always seems to be some weeds or unwanted growth that appear out of nowhere and very unexpectedly. This same problem can take place in our own life and spiritual journey. It is quite easy, sometimes, to become so totally absorbed in daily responsibilities such as career, family, friends, school, and social obligations that there is little to no time or energy left for God. If we don’t make time to allow the Word of God to take root in us, if we don’t put some effort in letting the Word of God develop in our life, then ultimately it will wither and die. It is all a matter of choice, a matter of our will.

The other great danger that can crush the word of God, in our heart and life, is that of the riches of this world. This can come from an overpowering love of and focus on money, but it can be more than that. The world offers so many riches in different forms; movies, TV shows, Internet options, activities, et cetera. We must choose carefully what we let into our heart, mind, and soul. Sin enters our soul through our senses. We need to discern what we view, what we listen to, what we search out on the Internet, and what we read, so it contributes to, not weaken or destroys, the Word of God within us.

There is a reward for effort that is spent toward the right end, toward the good. For the owner of the yard or garden, there comes a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing the results of a beautiful, flourishing, and alive with activity, yard or garden. For the person who truly nourishes the Word of God in their heart and life there will also be a flourishing of beauty and growth. A flourishing of beauty because the soul will be more reflective of the image of God. The soul will draw closer to the state of perfection, and as it does, it will become more alive than ever. Nourishing the garden of your soul will allow it to produce good fruit: those thoughts, actions, and words that please God, because they truly reflect God.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 23, 2023

Readings: Wis 12:13, 16–19Ps 86:5–6, 9–10, 15–16Rom 8:26–27Mt 13:24–43  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/072323.cfm

“Remember the day of your death. But keep the day of resurrection and of presentation to God in remembrance also. Imagine the fearful and terrible judgment period.” Evagrius, desert father, monk, deacon, companion of St. Gregory of Nazianzen

We live in perplexing and complicated times. There are so many mixed, and contradictory, messages being promulgated on everything — the understanding of family, roles in society, moral and ethical issues, et cetera. But one of the controversial issues that is often denied, while at the same time advocated for, is that of death.

There are many efforts to avoid death, to minimize its importance, and even to deny that it has any consequences for the individual, other than perhaps simply no longer existing. There are efforts to upload a person’s consciousness into a computer so that, the claim goes, the person will exist forever. Then, there are efforts to freeze the individual and hopefully be able, at some point in the future when there is the technological capability, to bring the person back to life. There are other efforts also, but the whole point is that death is not considered final; we can never face that final moment.

Interestingly, there is also the right-to-die movement, in its various forms, that rather than deny death, advocate for it as the route to the ultimate personal power, the route to somehow being in charge. In this view, death is not to be overcome but embraced under certain conditions that the individual chooses. Interesting, isn’t it? In one instance death is to be avoided, in the other instance death is to be embraced but under conditions of the person’s choosing. Nowhere, in either of these positions, is any consideration of what death really means, no consideration of consequences or judgement, or an eternal destiny.

But for the faithful, death has a much deeper reality behind it. There will be a reckoning, there will be a judgment, there will be reward or punishment. Our Lord, in today’s Gospel, makes this clear to us. He does this not to frighten us but to wake us up to the final reality. He wants us to be aware, well ahead of that final moment each of us must face, so we may live rightly.

The world, and life in it, can be complicated. It is easy to get entangled with people, desires, and actions that can endanger our spiritual life and holiness. There are endless “weeds” that always sprout near us, that can always choke the life of grace out of us. Temptations abound and are ever present to us. Today, given the explosion of an infinite choice and all-pervasive entertainment, the erosion of traditional values and social mores, and the acceptance of relativism by many, it is an extremely difficult environment for a person of faith to live a holy and pure life.

But we are far from defenseless in this battle. Our Lord, in his infinite wisdom, bestowed the sacraments to nourish and protect us. The sacrament of penance is needed now more than ever. This sacrament, while central for forgiveness of mortal sin, nonetheless should be received regularly for it has another benefit that is greatly needed now; that of spiritual discipline. Receiving the sacrament of penance (or reconciliation) requires humility and discipline along with honesty. It may not be easy to honestly examine our sins. It may not be easy to verbalize those sins to the priest. But, besides forgiveness, there will come a spiritual strength, a discipline of will, a readiness to live a holy life, despite the temptations and pressures to do otherwise.

We must not be fooled into thinking that all will be well in the end, no matter how we live today. It often does seem that those who give no regard to a spiritual life, who often are proud of their rejection and ridicule of holiness, faith, truth, or right behavior, do prosper. But we need to keep in mind that, given enough time, the weeds will be separated from the wheat that produce as God has intended. There will be punishment and reward depending on how one’s life is lived.

All the technology in the world cannot stop death from eventually happening. All the social and philosophical movements that attempt to master death, to put it into our control, that ignore what happens after that final moment, will be exposed for their errors. We cannot control death, but we can impact what happens following it. We can choose our actions, our priorities, our entire spiritual life, and trajectory, through the lens of death. In imitation of our savior Jesus Christ the Lord death can bring life, death can bring resurrection, death can bring eternal glory with God. And the simple way not let the “weeds” of this life overwhelm or entangle you is to follow the advice of Saint John Vianney: “Here is a rule for everyday life: do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 30, 2023

Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7–12Ps 119:57, 72, 76–77, 127–128, 129–130Rom 8:28–30Mt 13:44–52  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/073023.cfm

Real estate, if chosen correctly, can be, over time, a fruitful investment. But the more desirable the land that is available, the more it costs to acquire it. Those who understand the potential for profitability, for growth, and for a way to make their future more secure will go to great lengths, make herculean efforts sometimes, to ensure that the valuable land becomes theirs. The basic point is that a person must first discern the inherent value, then commit to acquiring it through effort, and follow the right way to properly make it theirs to reap the benefits. There are no shortcuts.

The Gospel for today reflects what is needed for entering the Kingdom of heaven, and it has many of the same elements needed for being successful in acquiring valuable real estate. The first step for any of us desiring to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven, to enter it and become part of it, is to discern, to recognize, and to appreciate the inherent value of this valuable asset. If we don’t recognize the absolute importance of claiming it for ourselves, we likely will never move on to the efforts and commitments needed to make it ours.

In the Gospel, a man finds a treasure hidden in the field and this causes him to do what is necessary to make it his own. But to make it his own, he sells all he has; he has complete faith that this treasure and this field are worth giving up everything. What are we willing to give up to acquire life in the Kingdom? Giving up everything doesn’t mean we must sell all our possessions, but it does mean entering an exchange that may be even more difficult to do. The exchange is simply this: give up everything that impedes your relationship with Christ and exchange it for complete commitment to Him. Initially this may seem obvious and relatively easy to do. Upon deeper consideration, however, it may bring great challenges that can make us uncomfortable, uneasy, or perhaps angry.

It is no secret that many who claim fidelity to the church often have limited fidelity to the church and its teachings. The term “cafeteria Catholics” was coined to capture the reality of those who pick some of the offerings of the Church while consciously deciding that others may be ignored. Looking at the current situation in the Church clearly bears this out:

How many of the faithful attend Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation? Less than 20% do.

How many of the faithful believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? Only around 30% do.

How many of the faithful cohabitate before marriage, or cohabitate and never get married?

How many of the faithful receive the sacrament of penance anymore?

Making that complete commitment to Christ will involve honestly looking at the spiritual life one is living and quite possibly involve radical changes and sustained effort. Courage, trust, discipline, and perseverance are needed to acquire that land beyond any price that can be named . . . The Kingdom of Heaven. But unless the infinite value of the Kingdom is discerned, is understood, then the actions, commitment and effort involved to obtain it will fall short. The more valuable something is, the higher the price and the greater effort needed to obtain it. This is true in real estate and is true, to a much greater degree, for the field with treasure in it . . . the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Gospel story doesn’t tell us if this was the only treasure in the field. It is possible that other treasures were revealed once the land was acquired. Similarly, we know something of the value, the treasure, of the Kingdom of Heaven but likely not all. It may be that the fullness of the kingdom’s treasure will be revealed only after we enter it, only after we’ve done what it takes to acquire living in it. Saint Paul tells us “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Lastly, there is a subtle message for us if we wish to enter, rightfully, into the Kingdom of Heaven. The man in this Gospel story doesn’t cheat or steal to acquire the field and the treasure; he goes about it in the proper way. We cannot “cheat” in the sense of a self-crafted, self-serving, comfortable commitment to Christ and his Church if we truly want the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to buy it in the only way that is meaningful and fruitful: by living an authentic, holy, all-encompassing life in Christ and life for Christ.

Avatar About Deacon John Cantirino

Deacon John Cantirino was ordained in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2011.
He holds a doctorate from Fordham University with a specialization in Christian Spirituality. Deacon Cantirino is an adjunct assistant professor in the theology department at St. John's University in New York. His courses include Introduction to Christianity and Christology. Additionally, he is the Formation Coordinator for the Permanent Diaconate Formation program in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. Deacon Cantirino teaches homiletics, Christology, and Christian Spirituality for the program. He is married with 2 adult children and resides in Brooklyn, NY.


  1. Avatar G. Poulin says:

    The weeds of the parable represent external enemies of the church, such as persecutors. They cannot represent sins or temptations to sin; otherwise Jesus is telling us that such things must be allowed to remain until doomsday. Nor can they represent heretics or evil-living Christians, for the same reason. The field of the parable represents the whole world, not the church or the individual soul. The lesson of the parable is that the church (the wheat) will survive the attacks of its enemies (the weeds) and be rewarded in the end.