Choose an anecdote which is somehow related to the rest of your homily. Adapt as time allows, and use your own words. A video is provided to help you make further connections to the story/anecdote by highlighting important details, and understanding the characters and settings.
The philosopher Schopenhauer once compared us to a Bulldog Ant. If we cut a Bulldog Ant in half, the front and rear segments will enter into a savage fight. The head will seize the tail with its teeth, while the tail will sting the head with fury. The fight might last for hours.
That is the way some of us are on the inside. There is part of us that wants to move ahead and a part that wants to stand absolutely still. There is a part of us that wants success and recognition. There is another part that wants to sit on the river bank and while away the hours. There is a part of us that wants to serve Christ. There is another part that says, “No, I’ve enough to do right now. Let someone else take their turn.”
There is a fierce battle going on within many of us. Few of us know what it is to live lives of contentment and peace. — Jesus said to his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid”(Jn 14:27) What a promise! What a gift! Peace of mind and heart. He can give it to us.
FR. TONY’S HOMILIES – Today’s readings show us the effects of the abiding presence of God in His Church and of His indwelling in each one of us.
Summary of the Readings
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the Church, helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem about the Gentiles becoming Christians, which shook the very foundation of the early Church.
THE FIRST READING EXPLAINED
Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the first reading.
The first major controversy in the infant Church was about “what one must do to be saved.” For the first 15 to 20 years of the Christian era, all Jesus’ followers were Jewish. During that period, any Gentiles who wanted to become Jesus’ disciples were expected first to become Jews. They had to attend Sabbath synagogue services and keep the 613 Torah laws. This situation began to change when a few “liberal” Christian communities like the newly founded Church of the Gentiles in Antioch, began to admit Gentiles into their number without demanding that they first be converted to Judaism. Some of the Judeo-Christians from Judea and Jerusalem argued that the new Gentile converts must observe the Mosaic Law of circumcision, dietary regulations, purification rituals, etc. The issue couldn’t be settled on a local level, although Paul and Barnabas tried that at first. Hence, they had to go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles. The apostles convened the first Cburch Council at Jerusalem and, with the clear leading of the Holy Spirit, decided that the Gentiles need not become Jews first, to be saved as Christians. The decision was momentous for two reasons. First, it marked a significant break of Christianity with Judaism. Second, it put the burden of salvation on God rather than on man. In other words, it is God’s love and His gift to us of Faith in Jesus that save us when we receive it and live it out. Our prayers, sacrifices or keeping of the Law, are only expressions of our gratitude to God, which foster our Faith. We see Saint Paul wrestling with this question, first in Galatians, then, in a more polished way, in Romans. (The New Covenant was sealed not with the blood of circumcision, but with the blood of Jesus Christ (CCC #610, 613). This and other dogmas are examples of the exercise of authority given to the Church Magisterium by Christ. Belief in — acceptance of — such dogmas is obligatory since they are truths contained in divine Revelation or have a necessary connection with them (CCC #88).
(A question on dissension answered: The early Church seems to be embroiled in dissension less than one decade after the Resurrection of Jesus. Can the Holy Spirit really be at work in those circumstances?Perhaps the question could be rephrased this way: “Is there a place for both controversy and peace in our Church?” There are a lot of ways to nuance the meanings of “dissension” and “debate,” but the underlying thrust is the same: disagreement over a matter of importance, at least to the parties engaged in debate. The year is only about 49 or 50 AD when this occurred, which shows that lively arguments were arising whenever “changes” occurred that would alter or even threaten to modify “established” rituals and practices. The answer is a resounding “YES.” The Church grew and still grows in understanding its Faith through lively discussions and debates among qualified theologians. Those discussions have been going on ever since the vision of St. Peter (Acts 10) which led to the baptism of the first Gentiles (Cornelius’ household), around 43 AD. It is important to recognize the wording of the Apostles’ decision regarding the waiver of the former discipline of circumcision: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit AND to us to lay upon you no greater burden than…necessary things…” (Acts 15:28). Clearly, the dietary laws, variations in certain rituals, and similar disciplines were deemed eligible for change as circumstances warranted. Every suggested change creates healthy discussions and is preceded by healthy discussions. Closure is then brought to the discussion at some point in time, when the Apostles (or their successors, the united Bishops) reach a decision. Cultural conditioning plays a large part in some decisions (e.g., Paul insisting that women had to wear hats in church), as it does today; these are also identified as matters of “discipline.” ( Fr. Robert F. McNamara).
The Catechism on healthy debates: Perhaps it is better to leave the debates in the hands of the theologians, who are schooled in the ways of theological research (CCC #94), and who know the difference between debate and dissension. At some point in time, the Magisterium — the official and recognized teaching office of the Catholic church — reaches a decision on a subject, and to that decision we owe the obedience of Faith (CCC#144, 85, 88) or assent of Faith (optimally), or as a minimum the religious respect of intellect and will; and the Christian faithful are called upon “to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching” (Canon Law #752).
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The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) prays that all the nations on the earth may recognize their God and praise Him.
The second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem which replaces the holy presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem is a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it and in each of its members.
THE SECOND READING EXPLAINED
Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the second reading.
The Book of Revelation was written to bolster the Faith of the persecuted Christians of all ages. Everything John described via symbols, signs, numbers, etc. has already happened except, of course for the second advent of Jesus in glory. John’s vision of a new Jerusalem should be understood as a description of the Church, rooted initially in time and space, but growing and evolving toward an eschatological future. It describes the Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a city united in love, with the victorious Jesus residing in it. While the earthly Temple was often thought of as a reflection of the Heavenly Temple, there will be no Temple in the New Jerusalem because the Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple. They will provide all the light that is necessary, so there will be no need for the sun or the moon. Ancient Jerusalem had long been for the Jews a token of God’s presence with them. God had aided them in capturing and holding it, in making it their capital, in building the Temple there, and in returning to it after their exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law, given by God, in an enthroned chest known as the Ark of the Covenant. God dwelt in a particular way in the space above the ark. This is, in the end, a metaphor for the Church, which is called to reveal to the human race God’s presence among us.
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The Gospel passage reminds us that the Holy Spirit, abiding within us, is our Teacher, our Advocate, and the Source of our peace and joy. The passage offers a vision of hope as well. Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will come and instruct them in everything they need to know.
Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the Gospel reading.
John (Chapter 14) continues to recount Jesus’ farewell discourse after the Last Supper. Today’s Gospel passage explains the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the human soul, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
1) The abiding presence of God in the human soul: The promise of God’s abiding presence must have been of great comfort to John’s community who knew that the Temple in Jerusalem — the symbol of God’s presence with His people — had been destroyed by the Roman army. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells us that the one thing in life which we can always trust is God’s presence. God inhabits our hearts so deeply and intimately that we become the visible dwelling place of God. His living and life-affirming Presence is always with us, yet ‘”hidden” in the very things we so often take for granted. Thus, we are invited to look for and encounter — “God-with-us,” yet “hidden” — in the person sitting next to us, in the words we speak, and in the songs we sing at worship.
2) Condition for the indwelling of the Holy Trinity: Jesus teaches us the condition for this indwelling of the Holy Trinity, namely, we have to show our love of God by keeping his word. And this keeping of his word will be facilitated by the Holy Spirit, God’s Holy Breath.
3) The role of the Holy Spirit is twofold: a) to “teach” the disciples and b) to “remind” them of what Jesus has already taught them” (v. 26). “At work since creation, having previously ‘spoken through the prophets,’ the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them ‘into all the truth’” (CCC #243). Jesus affirms that even though He will no longer be visibly with them, he will continue to be present among them through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth will continue teaching them and helping them to understand and to build on what Jesus has already taught them. The Advocate will bring no new revelation because God has already revealed Himself in Jesus. But the Advocate will deepen their understanding of the revelation given by Jesus.
4) Jesus gives his followers four gifts: First, he gives them his love, which will enable them to keep his word. Next, he gives them the Holy Spirit, who will teach them everything they need to know. The Holy Spirit is the abiding love of God available to us, enabling us to accept the friendship of Jesus, while imitating Him, the Master. Third, he gives them His peace to strengthen them against fear in the face of trouble. Here “peace” is not just the absence of conflict, but also the far wider concept of shalom, the total well-being of the person and community. The promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will bring a peace that will quell their fears of the unfolding darkness ahead. “In Johannine language, peace, truth, light, life and joy are figurative terms reflecting different facets of the great gift that Jesus has brought from God to the world. ‘Peace is my gift to you,’ is another way of saying, ‘I give them eternal life’ (Jn 10:28) (Raymond E. Brown). The Holy Spirit is available as Comforter and Guide to those who believe in Jesus and follow in his way. The One God — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – is pure Love. This Love, the Triune God, comes and lives in us, takes up residence in us and lives in our body. When God’s love lives in us, and we live in Him, there is much more peace in our families, our Churches, our offices. Fourth, Jesus rewards them with the assurance of his second coming.
Let us be aware of the abiding presence of God within us
We live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations. It is the abiding presence of God within us that enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage. The Holy Spirit Whom the risen Lord asked His Father to send upon His Church prompts us to turn to His Holy Scriptures for support and encouragement, enables us to learn the Divine truths, and grants us His peace at all times. However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer, talking to God and listening to Him. We must deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn to get in touch with him, and sincerely love him. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will know His plan for our life and His solutions to whatever problems we face. We will be able to love our fellow human beings, and there will be a core of peace within us. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and preaching during the Holy Mass. Jesus loves us and comes to us in Communion. When the Mass is ended, we go forth in the peace of Christ — all this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
MORE LIFE MESSAGES
Additional life messages from Fr. Tony
We need to have the conviction that we are not alone
One of the great social and ethical problems of our time is isolation. Today approximately 25% of all adults live alone. Spouses, parents, and children often live as virtual strangers to one another. This is unfortunate because we never need to be alone. Jesus can always be present to us. He shares his joy with us and replaces the burden of our guilt with the freedom of forgiveness. He takes our grief and turns it into joy. We need only allow Jesus into our lives to be rid of this loneliness. Oneness with Jesus is the greatest gift we can give our children, our friends, or those who see no purpose in life. We can help to bring people into unity with Jesus, a unity that will change their lives. As we celebrate this Eucharistic meal, our Mass, let us celebrate in a special way the price Jesus paid for our redemption. May this Eucharistic celebration empower us to lead a true Life of the Spirit!
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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.
1) Here is an Irish lyric: “Paddy Murphy went to Mass, never missed a Sunday. But Paddy Murphy went to hell, for what he did on Monday.”
2) Don’t lose your mental peace: The Sunday school children had all been photographed with pastor sitting in their center. The pastor was trying to persuade the children to buy a copy of the group photo. “Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, ‘There’s Jennifer; she’s a lawyer,’ or ‘That’s Michael; he’s a doctor.’ A small voice at the back of the room rang out, “And there’s our Pastor; he’s dead.”
3) Peace and Relaxation: Did you know that…..If you can start the day without caffeine, if you can get going without pep pills, if you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains, if you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, if you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, if you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time, if you can take criticism without resentment, if you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him, if you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend, if you can conquer tension without medical help, if you can relax without liquor, if you can sleep without the aid of drugs, …Then you are probably the family dog!
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