FR TONY'S HOMILYBIBLE STUDYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS

31st Sunday of Year B

ABC News (1:46) -In 2014, A national firestorm erupts when little girl shaved her head to support her best friend who is currently battling cancer.
8-MINUTE HOMILY

Love God: In Himself and Living in others 

http://frtonyshomilies.com/

Scripture readings for today remind us that we are created to love God by loving others and to love others as an expression of our love for God. Our religious practices like prayers, Bible reading, Sacraments, acts of penance, and self-control are meant to help us to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of God in our neighbors and to express our love for God by serving our neighbors with love, sharing our blessings with them.

Homily Starter Anecdote

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. 
OPTION A: Have Y0u Ever Eaten Coconut?

Have any of you ever eaten coconut?

Maybe you’ve had coconut sprinkled on a cake, or on some ice cream. The coconut is a very interesting food. Not only can the coconut be used for food, but every single part of the coconut can be used for something. The hard outer shell can be used for making bowls and cups. The oil inside the coconut can be used for cooking. Inside the coconut is also the flaky “meat” part, and a lot of coconut milk. These can be eaten and drunk. The wood of the coconut tree can be used for building things, like houses and tools. And the husk fibers of the coconut tree can be woven into baskets, ropes, rugs, and things like that. Every single part of the coconut tree can be used for something useful. Have you ever thought of yourself as a coconut? Well, that’s how I want you to think right now. You see, this morning we’re going to talk about how we can use every single part of ourselves. The Bible says that we should use every single part of ourselves when we love God.

In our Bible story today, someone asks Jesus what the most important commandment of all is. And Jesus says the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. And He also says that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. So it sounds as though Jesus wants us use every single part of ourselves to love God. Our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength: that’s everything. And if we really love God, then we will love Him completely, with everything we’ve got.

OPTION B: The Shema’s challenge to become “Iron Man” & “Iron Woman

The Shema’s challenge to become “Iron Man” & “Iron Woman

Mark Allen, a six-time “Ironman” winner and holder of the title “The World’s Fittest Man,” is married to a retired “Iron woman” triathlete, Julie Moss. Ironman/Ironwoman competitions include a grueling triathlon of swimming, bicycling, and running, designed to push the capabilities of the human body to their limits. To compete as an Ironman/Ironwoman, one must be in superb, all-round, peak physical condition. Mark Allen has devised a 16-week program designed to get a person into a state of “ultimate fitness.” Allen also claims that if one follows this complete training regimen for as little as five hours a week, he/she can be transformed from chump into champ. Perhaps more startling is Allen’s description of his training regimen as a kind of “meditation” for the entire body. The training regimen includes four components: “heart training” for endurance; “mind training” for attitude; “nutritional training,” eating and drinking as often as they are needed those things that will support the members of the body to survive and thrive, while avoiding those that will have detrimental effects, and “strength training” for muscle mass.

Allen has physicalized the Shema mandate given in today’s Gospel, (Mk 12:29-30), into a program for shaping and transforming a human being in his/her entirety. When, in the Shema, the Lord God commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” He reminds Israel and us that a big part of human existence is sheerly physical. It takes a certain amount of brute strength just to get through each and every day. To deny God’s presence and love in the physical world would be to remove godliness from our existence. As Christian men and women, we have our own Iron Person to look to as a perfect example of “fitness.” Jesus Christ completely embodied the mandates of the Shema – loving His Father, God, with all His heart, mind, soul and strength, then reflecting God’s love for Him in loving all He met, His neighbors, the same way. May Jesus coach us as we train in godliness, loving God and neighbor with all our heart, mind, soul and strength!

OPTION C: Love Your Neighbor by Shaving Your Head

Love Your Neighbor by Shaving Your Head

IAn unusual story of neighborly love appeared in an Associated Press article a year or two ago. Feature writer, Barbara Yuill, told how Manuel Garcia was afraid that he would be conspicuous when he shaved his head to get rid of patches of hair left by chemotherapy. He did not want to be the only “baldy” on his block.

He need not have worried, Ms. Yuill wrote. She found his neighborhood teeming with bald heads, all because of love and concern for Manuel, in his fight against stomach cancer. His brother, Julio, first had the idea of going bald. Soon, about fifty friends and relatives shaved their heads to cheer up Garcia. His five-year-old son was bald, and his two older boys had gotten shaves or partial shaves. His wife and daughter had gotten their hair cut short.

Some of the fifty friends and relatives had gotten partial shaves, leaving a Mohawk-like strip of hair down the center of the head, or a ducktail. “I cut my hair because I’ve known him for about fifteen years,” said one 26-year-old. “I love him like a father. It made him feel better.”

An excellent example of loving your neighbor as yourself, wouldn’t you say? Yes, but not good enough. To love your neighbor as yourself means that if you lived on Manuel Garcia’s block and had reason to despise the man, you would “put yourself in his shoes” and shave your head like the others.

Click on chevron banners for additional insights into this week’s scripture in order to relate it to the lives of your parishioners.

First Reading Remarks

The first reading presents Moses explaining the Law to the Israelites after his return from Mount Sinai. He tries to make the people reverence and obey the Law given by God as something that will bring them dignity, purpose, stature, distinction, and a unique place in history. He reminds them that keeping God’s commandments will give them God’s blessings of long life, prosperity, and fruitful, peaceful lives.

WANT TO SAY MORE?

Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

Today’s Gospel, (Mk 12:28b-34), is the climax of a series of questions on controversial issues asked by the Scribes and the Pharisees in order to trap and eliminate Jesus from their midst. The last question they ask is about the Law, historically Israel’s most sacred institution, the foundation of every other institution. Hence, in the first reading, Moses is presented as explaining the Law to the Israelites after his return from Mount Sinai. He tries to make the people reverence and obey the Law as something that will bring them dignity, purpose, stature, distinction, and a unique place in history. He promises them temporal rewards (“that your days may be prolonged, that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey”), if they remain loyal to Yahweh. They have to prove their loyalty to God by observing His commandments.


Second Reading Summary

Some Jewish converts to Christianity missed the comforting institutions they had enjoyed in Judaism. The author of Hebrews tries to explain to them how much greater are the benefits they receive as Christians.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

Today’s passage compares the older religion and priesthood to Jesus, their Self-sacrificing Messiah and High Priest. Paul affirms that Jesus, the new High Priest, is superior to the old High Priests for three reasons: a) Jesus can not die and so doesn’t need to be replaced generation after generation. b) Jesus is sinless and so need not offer sacrifices for personal sins. c) The Jewish priests were appointed according to the Law, but Jesus is appointed by the word of God.


Gospel Summary

In today’s Gospel, a Scribe asks Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence. Jesus cites the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4). Then He adds its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18). Thus, Jesus says that true religion is loving God and loving our fellow human beings at the same time. It is by showing genuine, active love for our neighbors that we can demonstrate that we really love God.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The context: In the last week of public life and ministry, Jesus was confronted by several groups of religious leaders—first by the chief priest, scribes and elders who had questioned His authority; then by the Pharisees who tried to turn the people against Him by ensnaring Him in a controversy; and finally by the Sadducees, who tried to make Him look foolish with trick questions. In each case, Jesus responded with a wisdom and authority so powerful all opponents were stunned in amazement. They had come to battle wits with the Son of God; and lost in every encounter. A scribe, who believed in both the written Law and the oral tradition, was pleased to see the defeat Jesus had dealt to the Sadducees who had presented for solution the hypothetical case of a woman who had married seven husbands. Who, they had asked Jesus, would be her husband in the world to come? To the scribes, the Mosaic Law was the greatest, fullest, and most perfect revelation of God’s will that could ever be given. However, in the Judaism of Jesus’ day there was a double tendency: to expand the Mosaic Law into hundreds of rules and regulations and to condense the 613 precepts of the Torah into a single sentence. David condensed the Law into 11 statements (Ps 15), Isaiah reduced them to six (Is 33:15) and later to two (Is 56:1), Micah condensed them into three (Mi 6:8), and Habakkuk reduced them all to one: “the righteous shall live by his Faith” (Hb 2:4). The famous Jewish rabbis and even some of the Fathers of the Church like St. Augustine would also try to condense these precepts. So it was natural for a scribe to ask Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence.


Jesus’ novel contribution: Jesus gave a straightforward answer, quoting directly from the Law itself, startling them, and demonstrating Jesus’ profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose. Citing the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4), Jesus then added its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Lv 19:18). Jesus’ contribution combined the originally separate commandments and presented them as the essence of true religion. True religion, Jesus says, is loving God in by loving service. That is, the only way a person can demonstrate real love for God is by showing genuine, active love for neighbor. The “great commandment in the Law” is really threefold: We are commanded (1) to love God, (2) to love our neighbor, and (3) to love ourselves. We are to love God, for it is in loving Him that we are brought to the perfection of His image in us. We are to love our neighbor and ourselves as well, because both of us bear God’s image, and to honor God’s image is to honor Him who made it. We are to love our neighbor and our self as a way to love God: God gives us our neighbors to love so that we may learn to love Him.

The scribe was so impressed by Jesus’ grasp of the Law that he remarked: “Well said, teacher! You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than He.’ And ‘to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The comment by the scribe that the love of God and neighbor is “worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” carries special weight because he had probably come to the Temple to make his sacrifice, the usual way for the faithful of Israel to express worship and religious commitment.


Love your neighbor as you love yourself: The command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is a very demanding one. It was very hard for the Jews of Jesus’ time because they considered that only a fellow-Jew, obeying the Mosaic Law, was to be considered their neighbor. That is why, immediately after defining this important commandment, Jesus tells them the parable of the Good Samaritan, as reported in Luke’s Gospel. He wanted to teach His listeners that everyone in need is their neighbor. Love for our neighbor is a matter of deeds, not feelings. It means sharing with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. This is the love for neighbor that God commands in His law. Often preachers preach on loving self and cultivating self-esteem and self-respect as prerequisites to loving neighbor. But Jesus does not advocate self-love, simply acknowledging our natural tendency to be on the lookout for “Number One,” then asking us to extend that same kind of love to others. But when we come to put the greatest commandment into practice, we find that there is a flaw – and that flaw is not in the commandment, but in us. We quickly find that we cannot love God or our neighbor as we ought to. The solution lies in the “new commandment” that Jesus will give the Apostles and us at the Last Supper approaching the Passion: “Love one another as I have loved you.” No longer is our self-love to be the measure of our love of neighbor, a subjective standard. Now the standard is objective, the extent of Jesus’ love for us and the way He demonstrates His infinite charity – “even to death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8 ).


Be reconciled with neighbor as well as with God: We are asked to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, vitality, and human intelligence. Since God is present in all others, any sin against another person becomes a sin against God. Hence, it is not sufficient to be reconciled with God by repentance. We have to obtain forgiveness from, and reconciliation with, the person we have hurt. “If anyone says, I love God, but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (I John 4: 20).


“There is no other commandment greater than these.” This is because all the other commandments are explanations of these two. The Ten Commandments are based on the principle of reverence for God and respect for others. Hence, the first three Commandments instruct us to reverence God, His Holy Name and His Holy Day, and the remaining Commandments ask us to respect our parents and to respect the life, honor, property, and good name of others.

Life messages

How do we love God?

There are several means by which we can express our love for God and gratitude to Him for His blessings, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. We must keep God’s commandments, and offer daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise, contrition, and petition. We must also read and meditate on His word in the Bible and prayerfully attend Mass and other liturgical functions. If I am going to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then I am going to have to place His will ahead of mine. This means that I will have to say no to some things that I might want to do. It also means that I will have to make seeking the Lord’s will, and then doing it, paramount in my life. Taken together, loving God means we open our hearts, give Him our will, develop our minds, direct our emotions, use our bodies and deploy our resources in ways that reveal our love for Him in active, loving service of Him in Himself and Him in everyone we encounter.


How do we love our neighbor?

Since every human being is the child of God and the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, we are actually giving expression to our love of God by loving our neighbor as Jesus loves him and us. This means we have to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without discrimination based on color, race, gender, age wealth or social status. If I am going to love my neighbor as I love myself, it will cost me as well! I may have to seek forgiveness when I think I have done no wrong. I may have to sacrifice something I think I need to meet a brother’s need. I may have to give up time to help someone. I may have to spend time in prayer for people, go to them, and reach out to them in the name of the Lord.

WANT TO SAY MORE?

Questions we should ask ourselves on a daily basis

Is my love for God all that it should be? Do I pray to Him as I should? Am I in His Word as I should be? Are there people or things that have crept in and taken over first place in my life? Is Jesus somewhere down the line after some person, some thing, or even myself? What about my love for others? Is it all it could be? How loving am I to the members of my family, to my neighbors, to the members of my parish community? The answer to all these questions will help us to measure the degree of our love of God.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

#1: The child’s commandments: A Sunday school teacher was talking to a class of five- and six-year-olds about the Ten Commandments. “Can you give me a Commandment with only four words?” she asked. “I know,” said a little girl: “Keep off the grass.” The discussion turned to family love and the teacher brought in the Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Then she asked, “What about a Commandment that tells us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” A little boy who had five brothers and sisters was quick to answer: “I know,” he said, “You shall not kill.” When the class ended, two of the boys began to poke each other. The teacher intervened saying, “Didn’t we just finish talking about the Golden Rule?” to which one of the little combatants replied, “Yes but he did it unto me first.”

#2: No God, no potatoes! A few years ago, on a routine visit to a Soviet collective farm, a Russian commissar demanded of one of the laborers in the fields: “How was the crop this year?” “Oh, we had a fantastic harvest — many, many potatoes. So many potatoes, in fact, that if you piled them up to the sky, they would reach the foot of God!” The commissar scolded, “There is no God, comrade.” The laborer retorted, “There aren’t any potatoes either.” [Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, in
Imprimis 20, (December 1991).]

#3: Faith in the one and only God and trust in several stars: Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby reports of Canadians, “Eighty-eight percent know their astrological signs, with half of the entire population reading their horoscopes at least once a month, outnumbering Bible readers by two to one.” [Reported in Martin E. Marty,
Context (1 November 1993).] –Wouldn’t it be great if 88% of the people were starting their day with the Word of God, not the alignment of the stars?

#4: Love your neighbor as you love yourself: Three men were sailing together in the Pacific Ocean. Their vessel was wrecked and they found themselves on an island. They had plenty of food, but their existence was in every way different from what their lives had been in the past. The men were walking by the seashore one day after they had been there for some months and found an ancient lantern. One man picked it up. As he began to rub it and clean it, a genie popped out and said, “Well, since you have been good enough to release me, I will give each of you one wish.” The first man said, “Oh, that’s perfectly marvelous. I’m a cattleman from Wyoming and I wish I were back on my ranch.” Poof! He was back on his ranch. The second man said, “Well, I’m a stockbroker from New York, and I wish that I were back in Manhattan.” Poof! He was back in Manhattan with his papers, his telephones, his clients and his computers. The third fellow was somewhat more relaxed about life and actually had rather enjoyed life there on the island. He said, “Well, I am quite happy here. I just wish my two friends were back.” Poof! Poof! (Everybody’s idea of a “great time” isn’t the same).

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

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NAB Introductions

Clicking on these links to download Fr. Tony’s Microsoft Word documents on the introductory material from the NAB Bible provided by the USCCB. 

Genesis

Exodus

Leviticus

Numbers

Deuteronomy

Joshua

Judges 7

Ruth

Samuel I, II

Kings I & II

Chronicles I & II

Ezra

Nehemiah

Tobit

Judith

Esther

MACCABEES I & II

Job & Introduction to Wisdom Books

Psalms

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Song of Songs

Wisdom

Sirach

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Lamentations

Baruch

Ezekiel

Daniel

MINOR PROPHETS

Hosea

Joel

Amos

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

Nahum

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachi

Preface to the New American Bible

ntroduction to the gospels

Matthew (L)

Mark (L)

Luke (L)

John (L)

Acts of the Apostles (L)

Introduction to Paul’s epistles to the Romans (L)

Romans (L)

Corithians I (L)

Corinthians II (L)

Galatians (L)

Ephesians (L)

Philippiens (L)

Colossians (L)

Thessalonians I, II (L)

Timothy I, II (L)

Titus (L)

Philemon (L)

Hebrews

James

Peter I, II

 John I, II, III

Jude

The Book of Revelation

About Fr. Tony

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

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