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📺 The Four Immortal Chaplains

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily (everything on one page)

Just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice. When the Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat.

As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned. In the ship’s final minutes,

  • Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox,
  • Rabbi Alexander Goode,
  • Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and
  • John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest,
An act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice.

were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship dove beneath the waves.

“The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they are now known, have been honored many times, including on a stamp issued in their honor by the U.S. Postal Service. This world would have lost much if there had not been men prepared to forget their personal safety, security, selfish gain and selfish advancement. The world owes everything to people who recklessly spent their lives for others. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 The starfish thrower

One day, a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

“If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going down. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “See, I made a difference for that one.”  (Adapted and condensed from “The Star Thrower” – a story by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977), from the book Unexpected Universe)

“The Star Thrower” is a classic story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others Today’s Gospel challenges us to make a difference in the lives of other people by our sacrificial service to those around us — in the family, in the workplace, and in a wider society.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Waldorf Astoria hotel and George C.Boldt

One stormy night many years ago, a man in his forties who had come down with his wife from New York entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approached the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night.

“Could you possibly give us a room here?” the husband asked.

Young George Boldt buried his own comfort and convenience by giving up his room. His sacrifice sprouted and brought forth the reward of…

The manager, a friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that there were three conventions in town. “All of our rooms are taken,” the manager said. “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out into the rain at one o’clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night.”

When the couple declined, the Philadelphia manager pressed on. “Don’t worry about me; I’ll make out just fine,” the manager told them. So the couple agreed.

As he paid his bill the next morning, the New Yorker said to the manager, “You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I will build one for you.”

The manager looked at them and smiled. The three of them had a good laugh. As they drove away, the couple agreed that the helpful manager was indeed exceptional, as finding people who are both friendly and helpful isn’t easy.

Two years passed. The Philadelphia manager had almost forgotten the incident when he received a letter. It was from the man, who recalled in it that stormy night and enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York so the manager could pay them a visit. The man from New York met him at the railroad station. He then brought him to a great new building in the city, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky.

“That,” said the New Yorker, “is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.” “

You must be joking,” the Philadelphia manager said. “I can assure you I am not,” said the New Yorker, a sly smile playing around his mouth.

The New Yorker’s name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, one of the world’s most glamorous hotels. The Philadelphia guy who became its first manager was George C. Boldt.

Here is a striking proof of what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, “If a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it produces much fruit.” Young George Boldt buried his own comfort and convenience by giving up his room. His sacrifice sprouted and brought forth the reward of becoming the manager of the most outstanding hotels in the world.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 This was their finest hour

During the plundering of Europe by the Third Reich, Winston Churchill encouraged the citizens of Great Britain with these words,

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.” (Speech, Hansard 18 June 1940, col. 60).

Churchill’s words concerning the “finest hour” were less about chronological time than they were about a significant moment in life, or purpose for which someone or something has been created.

Students of world history are, of course, aware of the fact that Europe was to suffer the bitterness and pain of war for the next several years but Churchill’s words concerning the “finest hour” were less about chronological time than they were about a significant moment in life, or purpose for which someone or something has been created. Churchill believed that during its most tortuous testing, England would prove itself and thereby enjoy its finest hour.

At this juncture in the fourth gospel, Jesus is about to embark on his finest hour, a moment in which he would be tortuously tested, and during which, he would prove himself, his purpose, and God’s saving plan to the fullest extent. Up to this point, the Johannine Jesus had frequently stated that his hour, or the hour had not yet come (Jn 2:4; 7:30; 8:20) and that the hour was indeed coming (Jn 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28-29).

At this point in his ministry and on his final Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus makes the dramatic declaration, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 4:23). From this moment on, events will accelerate because the reason for Jesus’ appearance in human flesh (Heb 5:7) is about to be fully realized. Glory will indeed be one aspect of Jesus’ hour, but it will be accompanied and preceded by scarring sufferings, rejection, and abandonment, ending in death and burial.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to participate in Jesus’ hour, sharing in his suffering and death as well as in the glory of his resurrection and exaltation. (Sanchez Fles).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 All you have to do is to add water

Years ago, when General Mills, Inc. first began selling Betty Crocker cake mixes, the company offered a product which only needed water. All you had to do was add water to the mix which came in the box, and you would get a perfect, delicious cake every time.

Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake when it comes to “packaging” or presenting the Christian religion.

It bombed. No one bought it and the company couldn’t understand why, so they commissioned a study which brought back a surprising answer. It seemed that people weren’t buying the cake mix because it was too easy. They didn’t want to be totally excluded from the work of preparing a cake; they wanted to feel that they were contributing something to it.

So General Mills changed the Betty Crocker formula and required the customer to add an egg in addition to water. Immediately, the new cake mix was a huge success.

Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake when it comes to “packaging” or presenting the Christian religion. They try to make the call of Jesus Christ as easy as possible because they’re afraid that, if it seems too hard, people won’t “buy” it. You hear this fear operating all the time in popular religion, from well-known Gospel songs and best-selling books to earnest evangelists standing on your doorstep.

All you have to do is tell Jesus you love Him.
All you have to do is accept Him as your Lord and Savior.
All you have to do is pray to Saint Jude and put an ad in the newspaper classifieds.
All you have to do is ask for what you want in the Name of Jesus and it will be done for you.”

Whenever you hear someone say “All you have to do is …” in relation to Christian Faith, all you have to do is walk away as fast as you can! You don’t want to buy a religion where you don’t even have to break an egg, where it’s all pre-mixed for you in the box. That kind of Faith has an immediate appeal, but it lacks the depth to sustain you over the long haul of Christian living.

Jesus did not “package” Himself in this way. Jesus said a number of things about the blessings of Faith, and He talked about asking in order to receive, but He never presented the overall Christian life as being particularly easy, as we hear in today’s Gospel.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Sacrifices of Olympic champions

When we watch the Olympics, what do we see but young athletes who have made enormous sacrifices over the years? They have sacrificed a normal childhood for countless hours of hard work and pain and solitary training, and they have done it all just for that moment when they would stand on the winner’s platform at the Olympic Games.

What is parenthood but a whole slew of sacrifices?

If few of us are Olympians, many of us are parents, and what is parenthood but a whole slew of sacrifices? You sacrifice all of your privacy and a piece of your sanity. You sacrifice a neat, orderly environment in which to live, where things stay just where you left them. You make a huge financial sacrifice – between children and taxes, you’re lucky to have a dollar in your pocket at the end of the day – but you do it all for the sake of something which money can’t buy. In these and in many other ways, we are perfectly used to the idea of losing one thing in order to gain something else.

It all makes me wonder: if we are so willing to sacrifice and even suffer for things which matter to us in our worldly lives, why shouldn’t we do even more for the sake of our spiritual lives?

Why should we shy away from the full meaning of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel: “If you love your life you will lose it, but if you hate your life in this world, you will gain it for eternal life.”

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 St. Joan hearing God’s voice

In George Bernard Shaw’s play St. Joan, (St. Joan of Arc), Joan tells of hearing God’s messages. She is talking to King Charles. Charles doesn’t appreciate this crazy lady in armor who insists on leading armies. He’s threatened by her.

Some people are so disconnected they never hear God’s voice.

He says, “Oh, your voices, your voices, always your voices. Why don’t the voices come to me? I am King, not you.”

Joan replies, “They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the Angelus rings . . . you cross yourself and have done with it. But, if you prayed from your heart and listened to the trilling of the bells in the air after they stop ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.” [Bruce Larson, My Creator, My Friend (Waco: Word Books Publisher,1986).]

Joan heard the voice of God; the King, if he heard anything at all, heard only thunder. Why? Because she was listening for that Voice. Some people are so disconnected from God that they never hear God’s voice as described in today’s Gospel.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Redskins Win 1992 Super Bowl 

In 1992, the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl with an explosive victory over the Buffalo Bills. Seventy-five thousand people gathered on the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument to cheer their team and Coach.

Four days later, Chuck Colson called the Redskins’ office to see if any football players could attend a rally at a prison the next day. Many of the players had given their life to Christ. Joe Gibbs the head coach answered the phone and told Colson that all the players had left the city for a well-deserved rest.

Joe Gibbs speaks to prisoners about his faith in Christ.

With his characteristic humility, Joe Gibbs asked Colson, “Will I do?”

Colson immediately accepted the offer by the coach of the championship Washington Redskins.

Five days after winning the Super Bowl, Joe Gibbs could have opened any door in Washington DC but he was willing to walk behind the locked steel doors of the penitentiary for the District of Columbia to speak to men about his faith in Christ. Joe Gibbs stood up to speak to the cheers, whistles and applause of 500 prisoners five days after he had won the most prestigious event in pro sports.

He told those men:

“A lot of people in the world would probably look at me and say: ‘Man, if I could just coach in the Super Bowl, I’d be happy and fulfilled….’ But I’m here to tell you, it takes something else in your life besides money, position, football, power, and fame. The vacuum in each of our lives can only be filled through a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I’m telling you, we’ll spend the rest of our lives in a meaningless existence. I’ve seen it in football players’ eyes, and I’ve seen it in men who are on their deathbed. There’s nothing else that will fill the vacuum.” [Chuck Colson, The Body, (Dallas TX: Word, 1992), 377.]

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Amazing Grace: John Newton

One man who learned what there is to lose and gain was an eighteenth-century slave trader named John Newton. Captain of a trans-Atlantic slaving ship, he had everything this world can offer as he made a lucrative living from the brutal business of buying and selling human cargo.

Eventually, he was confronted with Jesus Christ, and he was converted to the Gospel truth which makes us free (John 8:32). He spent the rest of his life crusading to abolish the very business which had proven so enriching. He also wrote a number of great hymns, including a familiar one which goes:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

Once, John Newton thought that he was on top of the world, but in truth, he was wretched and blind. He lacked the moral clarity to see that he was nothing more than a cynical businessman making money in an evil enterprise; he was allowing the agnostic’s law of supply and demand to separate him from his Christian conscience. Then Jesus came along and the old John Newton died. A new John Newton was born. An old life was lost and a new one was found, a new life whose melodic fruit remains with us to this day.

What about yourself? What have you got to lose? You’ve got to die to yourself in order to live with Christ! You’ve got to sacrifice and give up to gain! So what about it? What have you got to lose? What about selfishness? Shouldn’t we lose that narrow-minded little love which only extends to family and friends—or stops with our own selves?

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Jesus’ store: Peace on earth for sale

There was once a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart. But she was very frustrated– the world seemed to be falling apart.  She would read the papers and get depressed.  One day she decided to go shopping, and picked a store at random.  She walked into the store and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter.  She knew it was Jesus, because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and in devotional paintings.

At last she got up her nerve and asked, “Excuse me, are you Jesus?”

“I am.”

“Do you work here?”

“No,” Jesus said, “I own the store.”

“What do you sell?”

“Oh, just about anything!  Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list of things you want, and when you come back and I will see what I can do for you.”

The lady walked up and down the aisles and saw all sorts of things she wanted:  peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, clean air, and careful use of resources.  She made a list of the things she wanted.  By the time she got back to the counter, Jesus read through the list, looked at her and smiled.

“This is a place of dreams.  When you choose what you want, I give you the seeds.  You plant the seeds and watch them grow.  There is one catch, however…”

“No problem,” he said.  Then he bent down behind the counter and picked up a number of small packets.

“What are these?” she asked.

“Seed packets,” Jesus replied.

“This is a catalogue store.”

In surprise, she said: “You mean I don’t get the finished product?”

“No,” he answered.  “This is a place of dreams.  When you choose what you want, I give you the seeds.  You plant the seeds and watch them grow.  There is one catch, however:   you will not receive the benefit of your good work — others will.”

“Oh,” she said with disappointment.  “Then I’m not interested.”  And she left the store without buying anything.

Today’s Gospel instructs us to bury ourselves in the soil of life by selflessly and sacrificially spending our lives for the temporal and spiritual welfare of others just as Jesus did.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

How could you pick up the sound of a cricket in all this noise?

There is a time-honored story about an old farmer who was persuaded by his nephew to visit the big city. The young man proudly took the farmer on a tour of the large metropolis. At one point as they walked down the street the old man suddenly stopped and asked, “Did you hear that?”

The young man looked at the milling pedestrians and the traffic and replied, “Hear what?”

“A cricket,” the old man said as he walked toward a little tuft of grass growing out of a crack next to a tall building. Sure enough, there tucked in the crack was a cricket.

The young man was amazed. “How could you pick up the sound of a cricket in all this noise?” he asked.

The old farmer didn’t say a word and just reached into his pocket, pulled out a couple of coins and dropped them on the sidewalk. Immediately a number of people began to reach for their pockets or look down at the sidewalk.

The old man observed, “We hear what our ears are trained to hear.”

Psychologist Ellen Langer says that many people are so preoccupied with their daily tasks that they rarely listen to those around them. Today’s Gospel presents a few Greek visitors who came to the Apostles, eager to meet and listen to Jesus.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea

Once there was a salt doll who lived so far inland that she had never seen the sea. Consumed with a desire to see the sea she set out one day and walked hundreds of miles towards the ocean. At last she arrived and she stood by the seashore enraptured by the wonder of what she saw she cried out, “O Sea, how I would love to know you!”

To her surprise and delight the sea responded to her, “To know me you must touch me.”

So the little salt doll walked towards the sea and as she advanced into the oncoming tide she saw to her horror that her toes began to disappear.

Then as her feet began to disappear she cried out, “O Sea, what are you doing to me?”

The sea replied, “If you desire to know me fully you must be prepared to give something of yourself.”

As the doll advanced further into the water her limbs and then her body began to disappear and as she became totally dissolved she cried out, “Now at last, I know the sea!” (James a Feeban from Story Power; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Facing One’s Fear

One of his biographers tells us that Dr. Martin Luther King knew many low moments. On September 30, 1956, Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was bombed by segregationists in retaliation for the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This literally plunged him into the deepest pit of despair -he hit rock bottom. In a state of utter exhaustion and desperate dejection he fell down on his knees and figuratively threw himself into the arms of God.

This is how he prayed:

“Lord I have taken a stand for what I believe is right. But now I’m afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership. If I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. But I’m at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I can’t face it any longer.”

In other words, that was Martin Luther King’s Gethsemane. But, like Jesus, he went on to add,

“I experienced the presence of God in a way like I had never experienced before. And that was the only factor that enabled me to carry on regardless of the outcome.”

(J. Valladares in Your Words are Spirit and They are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Death to Life

In the movie, The Poseidon Adventure, a ship is turned upside down by a tidal wave. Under the leadership of a priest, played by Gene Hackman, a small group of passengers make an incredible struggle for survival.

Scott leads the survivors to the propeller shaft room’s watertight door, but additional explosions cause Linda to lose her grip and fall to her death. A heartbroken and infuriated Rogo blames Scott. A ruptured pipe releases steam, blocking their escape. Scott rants at God for the survivors’ deaths as he leaps across a pool of flaming oil, grabbing onto the burning-hot valve wheel to shut down the steam. Scott tells Rogo to lead the group on before falling to his death.

The priest’s heroism inspired the remaining passengers to persevere, as they then go through the watertight doors and into the propeller shaft tunnel. They hear a noise from outside and bang on the hull to attract attention. The rescuers cut through the hull, assist the six survivors from the ship, inform them that no one else survived, and fly them to safety.

The priest’s death became the source of their escape to life.

Death leading to life is one of the themes of today’s Gospel. Jesus says: “Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Dying for Another

The story of St. Maximilian Kolbe is well-known. He was a Conventual Franciscan priest in Poland, and he was in Aus concentration camp during the Second World War. Three prisoners had escaped, and the authorities were determined that this should not happen again. For every prisoner that escaped they picked ten prisoners at random from the group, and those prisoners was condemned to die of starvation in isolation After one young man was picked, someone who had a wife and young family back home, Maximilian stepped forward and offered to take his place. The soldiers were shocked at this, but they took him up on his offer, and the young man returned to the group.

Maximilian died in a horrible fashion, as they were all locked in and underground bunker and left there to starve to death. All during that time he encouraged others, and inspired them with his prayers. After two weeks, Father Maximillian and several others of the ten were still alive; the others had died of starvation and dehydration. The authorities, wishing to empty the bunker, executed Kolbe and the others by lethal injection.

Father Maximillian was beatified by Pope St. Paul VI in 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II in 1982, and the prisoner whose place Maximilian had taken, wept through the entire ceremony. [Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Maximilian Kolbe”, Oxford, UK – www.biographyonline.net.  3rd AuguSaint 2014. Updated 2 March 2019.]

I like to think that he understood what real love is, and that death would no longer have any fear for him. (Jack McArdle in And that’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by (Fr. Botelho).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 The Chicken & the Eagle

In New Zealand there are more flightless birds than anywhere on earth. Among them are the kiwi and the penguin. Scientists tell us that these birds had wings but lost them. They had no use for them. They had no natural predators on those beautiful islands, and food was plentiful. Since there was no reason to fly they didn’t. Through neglect they lost their wings.

Compare them to the eaglet that somehow ended up in a chicken barnyard. The eaglet was raised with the chickens, pecking at corn, and strutting around the chicken coop. One day a mountain man, passing by, recognized the bird, now a fully grown eagle, and asked the farmer if he could work to rehabilitate it.

The farmer said, “Go ahead, but it’s useless. All that eagle knows is pecking corn like a chicken.”

The mountaineer began weeks of rigorous training with the eagle, forcing it to run after him so that it had to use its wings. Many times the eagle fell out of the limbs of trees onto its head. One day, finally, the mountaineer took the eagle to the top of a mountain and held it above his head on his wrist.

Giving an upward thrust to his arm, he sent the eagle into the sky with a “Fly!”

The eagle circled and wheeled upwards, straining, till it soon took off in a majestic sweep and looked directly into the sun. It was gone. It had regained its nature. It was an eagle once more. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

From Dr. Eldon Taylor’s NY Times Best-selling book, “Choices and Illusions.”:

📺 Hope for the Flowers

Hope for the Flowers” is a well-known parable written by Trina Paulus. It tells of two caterpillars, Stripe and Yellow, who are crawling in a caterpillar queue (rat-race) to reach the top. They see another caterpillar hanging upside down waiting to become a butterfly, who explains: “It looks like you will die, but, you will really live. Life is changed!”

Convinced, Yellow surrenders and becomes a butterfly; Stripe continues crawling. Am I ready to surrender and fly rather than crawl?

To yield hundred-fold harvests rather than survive selfishly? (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Sugaring season

In many parts of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, this is “sugaring season.” For six weeks, usually from late February through mid-April, maple trees are “tapped” for their sap.

During the annual “sap run,” the frozen sap in the maple tree thaws and begins to move and build up pressure within the tree. When the internal pressure reaches a certain point, sap will flow from any fresh wound in the tree. Farmers and producers collect the crystal-clear sap, then boil it down in an evaporator over a blazing hot fire. Nothing is added — only water is removed. The sap becomes more concentrated until it becomes maple syrup. The best thing that ever happened to stack of pancakes or French toast begins as a crystal-clear sap that thaws in the warmth of the long-awaited Spring.

Like the grain of wheat in today’s Gospel, maple syrup is a parable as to what it means to love God as God loves us. In letting our self-centeredness be boiled away, we can allow our lives to be filled with the grace and peace of God.

May we possess the Faith of the grain of wheat, that we may die to ourselves in order to realize the fruit of God’s harvest of justice and forgiveness; may we embrace the Faith of the spring maple tree, that we may be willing to give of ourselves for the sake of others as Christ gave himself up for us, allowing ourselves to be transformed in the life and love of the Easter Christ. (Quoted by Fr. Kayala).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 “Self” on the cross and in Hollywood

The Academy awards were hosted on TV, and those who watched were treated to the same annual “display.” Was the inner motive of the participants an anticipation of “awards for achievement,” or was it an annual disease of human striving for glory and attention through opulence and skimpy attire? Hero-worship or heroine-worship seems to be rampant, and God seems to be totally absent in a way that only Hollywood could bring about. “SELF” dominates the entire scene.

We need to remember that we are approaching the end of the Lenten season, and that means that we are being led to the Cross. There is no room for “Self” at the Cross, only self-emptying. Jesus’ message is clear: if you want “to produce fruit” you must first “die to self.”

It is only when the grain of wheat “dies” that it is transformed into an explosion of fruitfulness. This is what happened to Jesus; he freely accepted death on the Cross, fulfilling the will of his heavenly Father. And it is the Father that receives the glory, not the Hollywood heroes; glory belongs to God alone, not false idols. Discipleship demands this same self-emptying of pride and ostentation. It demands a choice either for or against Jesus.

The call to “lose our life” is a call to conversion, to change from our present ways that keep us from full discipleship. We all hide behind a “shell” – our Hollywood veneer, so to speak – and it is that shell of false reality that must be cracked and surrendered to Jesus. (Bishop Clarke).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

📺 Story of Baptist Missionary Adonirum Judson

When the American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson (1788-1850 C.E.) went to Burma to preach the good news, he encountered untold hardships. During his seven-year mission, he suffered hunger and privation; for seventeen months he was held in Ava Prison and was subjected to incredible abuse and torture. As a result, his body was scarred for life from the beatings and by the iron shackles and chains he was forced to wear.

Throughout many sufferings he remained undeterred in his resolve. When he was finally released from prison, he asked the civil authorities for permission to resume his work for the sake of the Gospel.

With indignation, the man in charge denied Judson’s request, saying, “My people are not foolish enough to listen to anything you say but I fear they may be impressed by your scars and thereby be convinced to turn to your religion!”

As the days of Lent ebb away, believers are led nearer and nearer to the culmination of this holy season. The Church, through the liturgical readings, has kept us alert to what Jesus is saying to humankind. At this point, the gathered community is also invited to be once again impressed by the scars of Jesus and, thereby, to be more deeply convinced of the saving, merciful love of God for all people. Both the second reading from Hebrews and the Johannine gospel focus attention on the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross as the means by which salvation has been effected. (Sanchez Files).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

More of Fr. Tony’s Anecdotes

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