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HOMILY ILLUSTRATIONSLIFE MESSAGES

📺 Flight of Faith: My Miracle on the Hudson by Fred Berretta

A banker on a business trip in New York City, Fred Berretta had just checked into his hotel room. He had about 20 minutes downtime before he had to meet his colleagues. For some reason he decided to clean out his briefcase, something he hadn’t done in a long time. As he emptied it out, he came across a booklet he had stuffed into a pocket years ago on praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. He recalls having prayed it a few times years ago. Only two weeks prior, Fred had made a New Year’s resolution to try to get into better spiritual shape. Here in this hotel room was an opportunity to fulfill it. So, he followed along in the booklet and prayed the chaplet, a prayer our Lord gave to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, during a series of revelations that has sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement.

He would be among the 155 people to board a jet airliner at LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, N.C., his hometown. It was January 15, 2009. Ninety seconds after takeoff, the jet would apparently hit a flock of geese, the engines would explode, and the plane would lose power at 3,200 feet. The aircraft would be out of reach from any airfield. It would lose thrust and altitude. Everything would become eerily quiet. Fred would cinch his seatbelt. His left hand would clutch the armrest, his heart would race, his face would be flushed. “Prepare for impact,” the pilot would say over the PA system. As the ground surged into view, Fred would look at his watch. It would be 3:30, the Hour of Great Mercy! “I prayed with every fiber of emotion and sincerity I could muster, ‘God, please be merciful to us,’” Fred would recall two weeks later. You’ve probably heard about the crash landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15. No one was seriously injured. Then, there were the news images of a US Airways Airbus floating gently down the frigid Hudson, like some sort of breaching, people-friendly, aquatic creature. The passengers stood on its wings, calmly awaiting rescue.

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

📺 Mercy during tragedy

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

The news is filled with illustrations of mercy—or the need for mercy—in our world. One of the most moving stories came to us on October 6, 2006, when an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He chased out the little boys and lined up the 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died. After the medics and police left, the families of the fallen came and carried their slain children home. They removed their bloody clothes and washed the bodies. They sat for a time and mourned their beloved children. After a while they walked to the home of the man who killed their children. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done, and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children.

Amish Christians teach us that forgiveness is central. They believe in a real sense that God’s forgiveness of themselves depends on their extending forgiveness to other people. That’s what the mercy of God is all about. That mercy is why we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. (Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem: Catholic Update – March 2008).

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

📺 Divine Mercy in action

A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The young man wore a blue turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man was dressed in a white robe and had a white skullcap on his head. They sat facing one another, up-close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s would-be assassin (he shot and wounded the Pope on May 13, 1981); the other man was Pope St. John Paul II, the intended victim. The Pope held the hand that had held the gun whose bullet had torn into the Pope’s body. This was a living icon of mercy. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the Pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly. When the Pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.”

This is an example of God’s Divine Mercy, the same Divine Mercy whose message St. Faustina witnessed.

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

📺 St. Faustina and the Image of the Divine Mercy

St. Faustina of Poland is the well-known apostle of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April 2000, at 10:00 AM, on the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast requested by Jesus in His communications with St. Faustina), His Holiness Pope St. John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina. [John Paul himself would be canonized on this same Feast Day – April 27 in 2014 – by Pope Francis.]

At the canonization of St. Faustina, Saint John Paul II said, “Believing in the love of God means believing in His mercy.”

Saint Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our Faith and Hope fixed on God the Father, rich in mercy, Who saved us by the precious Blood of His Son.

During her short life, the Lord Jesus assigned to St. Faustina three basic tasks:

  1. to pray for souls, entrusting them to God’s incomprehensible Mercy;
  2. to tell the world about God’s generous Mercy;
  3. to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God’s Mercy. At the canonization of St. Faustina,

Pope St. John Paul II said: “The cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, speaks, and never ceases to speak, of God the Father, Who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man. … Believing in this love means believing in mercy.”

“The Lord of Divine Mercy,” a drawing of Jesus based on the vision given to St. Faustina, shows Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing, with His left hand on his heart from which gush forth two rays, one red and one white. The picture contains the message, “Jesus, I trust in You!” (Jezu ufam Tobie). The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the Blood of Jesus, which is the life of souls and white for the Baptismal water which justifies souls. The whole image is symbolic of the mercy, forgiveness and love of God.

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

📺 Lessons of the geese

Have you ever watched geese fly in V-formation? While a thing of beauty to watch, the formation is essential to the geese for survival. If you listen, you can hear the beat of their wings whistling through the air in unison. And that is the secret of their strength: the lead goose cuts a swath through the air resistance, which creates a helping uplift for the birds behind it. In turn their flapping makes it easier for the birds behind them, and so on. Each bird takes its turn at being leader. The tired ones fan out to the edges of the V for a breather, and the rested ones surge towards the point of the V to drive the flock onward. If a goose becomes too exhausted or ill and has to drop out of the flock, it is never abandoned. A stronger member of the flock will follow the failing, weak one to its resting place and wait till the bird is well enough to fly again. Together, cooperating as a flock, geese can fly at 71% longer range, with up to 60% less work. (Phillip Yancy in Benedict Arnold Seagull; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

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

📺 Iranian mother saves son’s killer from hanging

An Iranian mother spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck, a newspaper reported on Thursday. The dramatic climax followed a rare public campaign to save the life of Balal, who at 19 killed another young man, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, in a street fight with a knife in 2007. The newspaper Shargh said police officers led Balal to a public execution site in the northern city of Nowshahr as a large crowd gathered on Tuesday morning. Samereh Alinejad, mother of the victim, who had lost another son in a motorbike accident four years ago, asked the onlookers whether they knew “how difficult it is to live in an empty house.” Advertisement

Balal, black-hooded and standing on a chair before makeshift gallows, had the noose around his neck when Ms Alinejad approached. She slapped him in the face and removed the rope from his neck, assisted by her husband, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, a former professional footballer. “I am a believer. I had a dream in which my son told me that he was at peace and in a good place … After that, all my relatives, even my mother, put pressure on me to pardon the killer,” Ms Alinejad told Shargh. “The murderer was crying, asking for forgiveness. I slapped him in the face. That slap helped to calm me down. Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved.” Balal said the “slap was the space between revenge and forgiveness”. “I’ve asked my friends not to carry knives … I wish someone had slapped me in the face when I wanted to carry one,” he said. A high-profile campaign was launched by public figures – including popular football commentator and TV show host Adel Ferdosipour and former international footballer Ali Daei – appealing for the victim’s family to forgive the killer.

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

📺 The story of Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson

One of the stories of the “Forgiveness Project” that caught my attention was the story of Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson.  Oshea had shot and killed Mary’s son – a boy Oshea didn’t even know.  There was no way Oshea could pay Mary back for what he had taken from her.  And Mary owed him nothing.  It’s not an easy story.  As Mary said, “I hated everyone for a while.”  But over time Mary came to forgive Oshea.  She visited him in prison.  She helped him when he was released.  In the process they both changed. Mary gave Oshea the one gift he needed to begin his healing: total forgiveness. Mercy doesn’t undercut justice but surprises it!  It is the linchpin that supports forgiveness and compassion. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope. We might think of mercy as the grace for conversion.  (Stories Seldom Heard; quoted by Sr. Patricia)

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

St. Thomas’ way of experiencing God

Fr. Mark Link, SJ in his homily book, Illustrated Sunday Homilies Year B, offers a scenario: “You are called up to the lectern and blindfolded and a bucket full of water is placed in front of you; then, you are asked if the bucket is empty or full.” Then he asks a question: “What are the ways you can learn the answer such inquiry without removing the blindfold?” Fr. Link said that there are three ways we can learn to answer such question:

  • One way is to reach into the bucket and feel if there is water in it. In other words, you can experience firsthand if the bucket is full or empty. This way of learning is called experiencing; it is knowledge that our senses give us.
  • The second way of learning if the bucket has water or has none is to drop an object like a coin, into it. If the object hits the bottom of the bucket with a loud or ringing sound, you know the bucket is empty. On the other hand, if the object hits with a slurp or a splash, you know the bucket contains water. This way of acquiring knowledge is called reasoning.
  • third way to learn if the bucket contains water is to ask someone you trust. The person could look into the bucket and tell you if it has water in it. This way of learning is called believing. It’s knowledge that we acquire by Faith.

But of the three ways of acquiring knowledge, that is, by experiencing, reasoning and believing, by which way do we obtain most of our knowledge? Is it by experiencing, by reasoning or by believing? If we said believing, then you and I are correct, according to some experts, who estimate that we acquire as much as 80 percent of our knowledge in this way.

For example, Fr. Link continued, few of us have travelled around the world. The only way we know about most countries is by what others tells us. We are told in today’s words; we trust the people who have been there. If they tell us there is a country called China and that its people do this or do that, we believe them.

Today’s Gospel describes how St. Thomas the apostle chose the way of experiencing the Risen Lord by touching him.

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

“What I don’t know is where I am going.”

The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; “Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.” As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein arose and said, “Young man, I, too, know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.” And that is the Good News of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that His life and death has promised us life eternal. (Steven Molin, Elated….Deflated. Quoted by Fr. Kyala)

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

Macbeth never had peace in his life

One of the famous tragedies of William Shakespeare is Macbeth. When Macbeth was returning after a victory, he was met by three witches. The first witch greeted him, “Thane of Glamis”. The second witch greeted him, “Thane of Cawdor”, and the third witch greeted him, “King hereafter”. As they disappeared messengers reached with the good news that he was appointed as the Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth went home and shared this strange experience with his wife. She enkindled his hopes, and persuaded him to murder Duncan, the king, who came to his house as his guest. As Macbeth thrust the dagger into the heart of Duncan he heard a voice, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep…” (II, 2:35-36).

Thereafter Macbeth never had peace in his life. His life became miserable. In his frantic attempt to get peace he committed murder again and again. When Macbeth sinned against the king he lost his peace. Jesus was aware that sins destroy the peace of man. So Jesus both wished the Apostles “Peace” and granted them the power to destroy sin and so make that Peace available to all of us. . To destroy a powerful enemy we need a powerful weapon. Jesus put this weapon in the hands of the Church by communicating to the Apostles the power to forgive sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus said to the apostles: “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” (Fr. Bobby Jose).

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

Cure for Sorrow

There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?” Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life. (Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

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

Hope for the Flowers:

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could. So the man decided to help, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly! So God in His mercy, challenges us, giving obstacles in life. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

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

Don’t be crying! It’s Ok! He is alive!” 

I remember one occasion when I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young men in the group was mentally quite limited, although his grasp of God, of Jesus, and the events of the Gospel were uncanny. We arrived at the tomb of the basilica, and we joined the long line, waiting our turn to enter. One lady came out of the tomb, and was obviously deeply touched by the experience of her visit to such a sacred spot. She sat down outside the entrance, took out a tissue, and began wiping her tears. My friend, who was back in the line, spotted what was happening, and responded instantly. He ran straight up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Don’t be crying, it’s OK! He’s alive; don’t you know that?” The whole thing was so spontaneous and genuine that the woman stood up, and gave him a warm hug. The simple fact was that he could not understand how anybody could be crying at this tomb, of all the tombs in the world.

Jesus thanked the Father for giving a message that was so simple and straightforward that the intellectual and the worldly-wise would fail to grasp it, and yet it could be fully accepted by someone with the mind of a child. Happy are they who have not seen, yet believe. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

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

President’s mercy

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet — which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! — declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.) [Today in the Word (October 8, 1992); quoted by Fr. Kayala.]

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

Everything was held in common

The earliest Christians, says the Acts of the Apostles, were “of one heart and one mind.” They shared their possessions with each other, so that none would be in need. Some even sold their belongings and set up a fund to provide for all. This great spirit of Easter charity did not last very long, but in later years those who founded religious orders revived common ownership as a part of their religious rules. Thus, when St. Benedict wrote a rule for his monks in the sixth century, he ordered, “Let all things be common to all.”

Human beings are naturally possessive. Not all of Abbot Benedict’s monks lived up to the ideal of personal poverty. Once a monk of his monastery gave a spiritual talk at a nearby convent of nuns. To express their thanks, the nuns gave him a few handkerchiefs. Although the rule said that no monk should use anything he had not received through the Abbot, this monk decided he would keep the little gift as his own without mentioning it to his superior. He simply tucked the handkerchiefs in his habit. He did not get away with it. When he returned to the monastery, Benedict scolded him: “How is it that evil has found its way into your heart?” The monk was puzzled, for he had already forgotten the handkerchiefs. But the misdeed had been revealed to Benedict. “Was I not present, he said, when you accepted those handkerchiefs?” The wayward monk at once knelt before the saint, begged his forgiveness, and handed over the compromising gift.

Holy Communion as practiced in the earliest Church and in the religious orders was not something commanded by God; it was something embraced by loving choice. Is there indeed a better way of showing love for neighbor? Or of showing total trust that God our Father will provide? “…The community of believers were of one — Today’s first reading. Father Robert F. McNamara.

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

More of Fr. Tony’s Anecdotes

Permission granted for the use of the materials on this page for education and homiletical purposes. SOME ARTICLES HAVE BEEN ADAPTED AND ALL VIDEOS ADDED BY SUNDAYPREP.ORG.  If used in writing, please make acknowledgment of Fr. Anthony Kadavil. For more information, contact Fr. Tony by clicking here.

Let us accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy

One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive Divine Mercy. The Gospel command, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” demands that we show mercy to our fellow human beings always and everywhere. We radiate God’s mercy to others by our actions, our words, and our prayers. It is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.

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

Let us ask God for the Faith that culminates in self-surrender to God and leads us to serve those we encounter with love.   

Living Faith enables us to see the Risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render to each one our loving service (“Faith without good works is dead” Jas 2:17).  It was this Faith in the Lord and obedience to His missionary command that prompted St. Thomas to travel to India to preach the Gospel among the Hindus, to establish seven Christian communities (known later as “St. Thomas Christians”), and eventually to suffer martyrdom.  The Fathers of the Church prescribe the following traditional means to grow in the living and dynamic Faith of St. Thomas the Apostle.  a) We must come to know Jesus personally and intimately by our daily and meditative reading of the Bible.  b) We must strengthen our Faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through our personal and community prayer.  c) We must share in the Divine life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.”

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

We need to meet the challenge for a transparent Christian life — “I will not believe unless I see” (Jn 20:25).   

This “seeing” is what others demand of us. They ask that we reflect Jesus, the Risen Lord, in our lives by our selfless love, unconditional forgiveness, and humble service.  The integrity of our lives bears a fundamental witness to others who want to see the Risen Lord, alive and active, working in us.  Christ’s mercy shines forth from us whenever we reach out to the poor, the needy and the marginalized, as St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) did.  His mercy shines forth as we remain open to those who struggle in Faith, as did the Apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel.  We should be able to appreciate the presence of Jesus, crucified and raised, in our own suffering and in our suffering brothers and sisters, thus recognizing the glorified wounds of the Risen Lord in the suffering of others.

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

Like St. Thomas, let us use our skepticism to help us grow in Faith. 

It is our genuine doubts about the doctrines of our religion that encourage us to study these doctrines more closely and, thus, to grow in our Faith.  This will naturally lead us to a personal encounter with Jesus through our prayer, study of the Word of God, and frequenting of the Sacraments.  However, we must never forget the fact that our Faith is not our own doing but is a gift from God.  Hence, we need to augment our Faith every day by prayer so that we may join St. Thomas in his proclamation: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28). 

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

Let us have the courage of our Christian convictions to share our Faith as St. Thomas did

We are not to keep the gift of Faith locked in our hearts, but to share it with our children, our families and our neighbors, always remembering the words of Pope St. John XXIII: “Every believer in this world must become a spark of Christ’s light.”

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

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