HOMILY ILLUSTRATIONSFR TONY'S COMMENTARYHOMILIES FOR CHILDREN

12th Sunday of Year B

A tribute to the 29 men who died November 10, 1975, aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. THe video features the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Father’s Day Anecdotes

THE EDMUND FITZGERALD BURIED IN LAKE SUPERIOR

In 1976, the songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recorded a haunting ballad in honor of, and as a tribute to, a ship and its crew members who lost their lives. He called it “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a giant ore-freighter, 729 feet in length. It was the largest carrier on the Great Lakes from 1958 until 1971. The Fitzgerald was labeled “the pride of the American Flag.”

On November 10, 1975, the Fitzgerald was hauling a heavy load of ore to Detroit, Michigan, when it ran into a severe storm. This storm generated 27-30-foot waves. During the evening hours the ship disappeared from radar screens; apparently it sank in a matter of minutes.

It now rests on the bottom of Lake Superior, broken in two with the bow upright and the stern upside down, still loaded with its cargo of ore and all 29 hands.

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus saved the apostles from a possible wreck in the Sea of Galilee.

THE MAN WHO LIVED BY THE RIVER

West Wing, “The man who lived by the river” parable

The Mississippi River was flooding its banks, and the waters were rising swiftly around a man’s house. The waters had gotten to the level of the front porch where a man was standing when a man in a rowboat came by and called to the man, “Hop in and I’ll take you to high ground.”

The man replied, “No, Jesus who calmed the storm in the sea will save me from flood waters!”

The river continued to rise to the second story windows and Dorothy, looking out, saw a powerboat come up. A woman in the powerboat called to the man, “Hop in and I’ll take you to high ground.”

The man replied, “No, my Jesus will save me!”

The river had now risen to the roof of the house. The man was sitting on the ridge at the top of the house with the waters swirling around his feet. He saw a helicopter fly over, and the people inside yelled over a bull horn, “Grab the rope and climb in, and we’ll take you to high ground.”

The man replied, “No, Jesus will save me!”

The river continued to rise.  Finally, the floodwaters engulfed the house and the man drowned. The next thing he knew, he was standing before Jesus.

In anger, he asked Jesus, “I put my trust in You. Why have you forsaken me?”

And to him Jesus replied, “What do you want from Me? I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter!”

Today’s Gospel tells us that we have to act promptly, trusting in the power of Jesus and seeking his help as the apostles did.

THE STORMS OF LIFE AND FORREST GUMP’S BOX OF CHOCOLATES

I wonder if you have seen the film Forrest Gump. It’s a wonderful film about a young man with learning difficulties who happens to be a really profound and wise man. And Forrest Gump has some great catchphrases, the most famous of which, of course is “Mama always used to say. ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.’”

And there is real truth in that, isn’t there? Life is so unpredictable that we don’t know what surprises lie in store for us from day to day, sometimes even from hour to hour…Good things in life take us by surprise and we celebrate those moments. But, sadly, negative and difficult times creep up on us and make an impact on our lives when we least expect them.

There are times in our lives when we feel at the mercy of the storm, when we feel as if our lives are as chaotic as the buffeting ocean. Perhaps there is a financial crisis, an illness, a bereavement, or a breakdown of relationship. And we pray and pray and pray but sometimes it as if Jesus is asleep. He doesn’t hear, no matter how loud we shout…

But we need to keep calling on the Lord in our most difficult times. Because, in our persistence, we believe that the Lord does hear us and will rebuke the storms, and the chaos of our lives will be stilled. The words of God to us in Isaiah 43 are so beautiful. He promises: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”

A DEACON’S PRISON MINISTRY

Deacon Larry Hammel, a permanent deacon at St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville, coordinates prison ministry at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center and is a hospital chaplain at Loudoun Adult Medical and Psychiatry Services. “Jails, hospital, soup kitchens — that is how the church grows, not necessarily in numbers but in richness of faith,” he said.

Frank Kirchberg of Memphis retired a few years ago from the post of a sales executive with U.S. Air Lines. It was the end of an honorable career during which he had raised a fine family. But retirement gave him time to reflect on his life thus far. He had gone to Mass regularly and tried to do the good things and avoid the bad, but he realized he had not done all he might have “as a caring Christian and Catholic.”

“When you look at the record closely,” he told the editor of Common Sense, “you will find that a lot of your good Catholic upbringing might perhaps have been lying inert for many years inside, you waiting for this phase of your life to blossom.”

So what did he do? In the mid-1970s he enrolled in the corps of those preparing to be ordained permanent deacons in the diocese of Memphis. He could have signed up for a lesser service – Mass-server, lector or Eucharistic minister; but he preferred a greater commitment. The preparatory course gave him a different slant on life. After he was ordained to the diaconate in 1978, he was happy to be assigned to work with young lawbreakers committed to correctional institutions.

Experience in sales and as a parent helped him to get on the same wavelength as these youngsters, to whom he became a “father figure.” He has profited as much as they have.

“Through the diaconate experience,” he says, “I have been drawn closer to God through a stronger spiritual life, and it is to the point now where that spiritual life is the major emphasis in my thinking.”

When we reach a stage in life when we think we are finished, God often calls us to a second and even greater career. Be ready for such a call. Maybe St. Paul had you in mind when he wrote, “The old order has passed away; now all is new.” (2 Cor 5:17: today’s second reading). -Father Robert F. McNamara.

A FISHING TRIP IN A PERFECT STORM

Twenty-five years ago, the Perfect Storm devastated the coast of the Northeast. WBZ-TV’s (CBS BOSTON) Pamela Gardner reports.

October 1991, the Andrea Gail, a seventy-two-foot-long fishing boat, with a 365 horsepower turbo-charged diesel engine, left a New England port headed for the Atlantic Ocean. She was going on what was supposed to be another routine fishing trip. But it was to be her last voyage. Why? Because she ran into the most powerful and dangerous force on earth – a full-blown hurricane on the open seas.

The Andrea Gail had the misfortune of running into of all things the storm named Grace. It was a storm so powerful that it had the highest significant wave heights ever measured or calculated from 1899 to 1991: waves ten stories high. The winds were measured at 120 miles an hour.

2,000 years ago there occurred in the Sea of Galilee the first “perfect storm.” It was perfect for this reason: not because it was as violent, but it was far more important. Because this storm taught twelve disciples then, and hopefully will teach us today, how to navigate the ship of our life through the stormiest of seas.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

JESUS IS ALWAYS WITH US IN THE BOAT OF LIFE

All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity. Hence, it is natural that, occasionally, we all experience different types of violent storms in our lives: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubt, anxiety, worry, temptation and passion. The storms we encounter in life are often what make us or break us. These storms can either bring us closer to God and one another or alienate us from God and others.

It is only Jesus who can still these storms for us. Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow. When we are totally depressed with sorrow Jesus assures us of the glory of the life to come. Jesus consoles us at the loss of our dear ones with the assurance of eternal life for them in the Heavenly home of God the Father where we, too, will live one day. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of our Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us his Divinity and the authority behind the words of the Holy Scripture.

Jesus gives us peace in a tempest of doubt, tension and uncertainty, provided we humbly submit to Jesus’ guidance. Jesus gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worry about ourselves, about the unknown future, and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. Jesus captains the boat of our soul, not eliminating all storms but seeing to it that we do not sink, if we keep our Faith and persist in calling on God for help.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

THE EAGLE AND THE STORM

Do you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us, and all of us will experience them , we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief on God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure, and disappointment into our lives. We can soar above the storm. We need to remember that it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, but how we handle them. The Bible says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Is 40:31).

ALLIGATOR IN THE POND

A family in Alabama are celebrating after catching the largest alligator (1000 lbs) ever recorded in the state

The Jones family moved to a new house in south Florida near a pond. There were two other houses on the pond, one owned by a doctor. One day, shortly after they moved in, the Jones’ three children went swimming in the pond. Suddenly, out of nowhere a four-hundred-pound alligator appeared (fortunately, it was not the 1,000 lb. one in the above video!).

The doctor happened to be out and saw the alligator. He yelled to the children. Two of them heard the cry and headed for shore. The third child, Mike, was under the water using his diving gear to look beneath the surface. The other two children got near the shore, looked back, and saw the alligator bearing down like a torpedo on their brother. One of them started back to warn Mike, but it was too late. The alligator was upon the boy.

He was about to swallow him whole, but when the alligator chomped down on the boy’s head, he found the diving gear distasteful and spit him out. Now Mike swam as fast as he could underwater toward the shore. The alligator swam round and round in circles trying to find the boy. When Mike surfaced, the alligator located him and headed toward him again.

Mike was about twenty feet from shore when the alligator caught him, this time by the feet. By this time, Mike’s mother, who was on shore, had waded out to where the boy was. She grabbed his extended hands and started to pull. It was a four-hundred-pound alligator pulling in one direction and a one-hundred-pound mother pulling in the other. The flippers which were distasteful to the alligator caused him to let go. The mother won the tug of war.

Today, Mike’s only evidence of the horrifying event is scars on his head and feet from the alligator bites and scars on his wrists where his mother’s nails had dug in when she pulled him to safety. Life seemed good to the Joneses.

The family had moved to a new home. The children went swimming in a pond. Then wham, slam — a monster appeared on the scene. How can this happen? How can life be so good one moment and so filled with horror the next? Yet it happens and we feel that we cannot handle it. Sometimes tragedy strikes suddenly, and we feel abandoned and unable to handle what life brings us. God is there, but we do not feel His presence at the time.

ARMENIAN EARTHQUAKE FATHER

A story about the the father of Armand who was lost under rubble in the 1988 Spitak Earthquake in Armenia. The story was read from the book A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Dr. Scott Hahn.

The 1989 Armenian earthquake needed only four minutes to flatten that nation and kill 30,000 people. Moments after that earthquake had stopped, a father raced to an elementary school to save his son. When he arrived, he saw the building had been leveled.

Looking at that mass of stones and rubble, his heart sank until he remembered a promise he had made to his little boy, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there for you.”

Driven by that promise he found the area closest to his son’s room and began to pull back the rocks and dig out the dirt. Other parents arrived and began sobbing for their children. They were saying things like, “It’s too late. You know they’re dead. You can’t help.” Even a police officer encouraged him to give up.

But that dad refused. For eight hours, then sixteen, then thirty-two, and then thirty-six hours he dug. His hands were raw, his energy was gone, but he refused to quit. Finally, after thirty-eight gut-wrenching hours, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice.

He called out his boy’s name, “Arman! Arman!”

A voice answered him saying, “Dad, it’s me!”

Then that little boy added priceless words that dad will remember to the day he dies: “Dad, I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive you would save me, and that when you saved me they would be saved too. Because you promised Dad, ‘No matter what, son, I’ll always be there for you.’” [Jack Canfield and Mark Hanson, Chicken Soup for the Soul, (Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, 1993), pp. 273-274.]

How much more should we remember the promise of Jesus! How much more should we rest in the presence of Jesus, and how much more shall we rely on the power of Jesus knowing when He says we’ll cross over, we will make it to the other side!

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

HOW GOD CARES FOR US 

Is Christ asleep? We might often be tempted to think so when we sit by, helplessly watching the sufferings of a loved one, or in the face of personal tragedy, or in times of depression or natural disaster. In such moments we instinctively turn to God, and yet sometimes we don’t find Him or He seems far away, apparently busy with other matters.

But in our Gospel passage today, Jesus does calm the storm. And that’s just it.  Jesus does calm the storm — not all storms forever, but each storm individually at the right moment, just when calming is needed.

In AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, and in all the dependency groups based on the AA Model), there is a slogan which says Let Go – and Let God.” It is a marvelously liberating thing to let go, and to let God — to trust God to make things come out right instead of worrying about how we are going to make this happen ourselves, to decide to act in His will instead of worrying about how to do what we want to do, instead of trying to fix everything on our own.

Faith in Jesus’ abiding and sustaining presence will remove our unfounded fears and will enable believers to sail through the storms of life while being fishers of people for the sake of the rule of God.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

THE KARATE KID

This is one of the most inspiring parts of the movie where Mr. Miyagi conditions Daniel for defensive karate without his fore knowledge of it. Very cool how they wrote this in an performed it very well. (VIEWER ADVISORY: LANGUAGE)

One of my favorite movies is The Karate Kid.  It is about a teenager who feels alone and unprotected in the hostile environment of his school and community.  He is scared – unable to defend himself against the hoodlums of his neighborhood.  It happens that the lad, whose name is Daniel, meets an old man, Mr. Meogi, who has a black belt in Karate.  The old man agrees that he will teach him what he knows so that Daniel can protect himself.

On the first day of his lessons the old man asks Daniel to wax and polish several old cars that he owns – wax on – wax off.  All day the lad labors to follow these instructions – Wax on – Wax off. On the second day the old man asks the boy to paint his fence — paint up – paint down.  Again it takes all day. On the third day the master asked him to sand the wooden floor of his verandah – in a circular fashion – and again it takes all day.

At the end of the third day the boy is very angry – “I’ve done all this work for you,” he says, “and you still haven’t taught me anything to defend myself.”

At this point the master tells Daniel to stand in front of him and do the motion for wax on – wax off. As he does this, the master tries to hit him – but his blows are deflected by the boy’s arms. The boy’s work for Mr. Meogi – his obedience – has made him ready for his first lesson in how to face danger.  It has prepared him for the lessons, and the dangers, to follow.

In the course of our lives there are many things that arise and frighten us. There are giants who are hostile to us and all that we hold dear. There are storms that threaten to overwhelm us. Today’s Gospel about Jesus’ calming the storm reminds us that a firm conviction of the living presence of Jesus in our lives and a dynamic relationship with him by prayer – listening to Him and talking to Him – will save us from the unexpected storms of our lives. (Rev. Richard Fairchild).

View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

12th Sunday of Year B

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

THE ROLE OF GOD IN CALMING THE STORMS OF LIFE

The first reading tells us how the Lord speaks to Job whose life was devastated by storms of the total loss of his possessions, the deaths of his dear ones, and a whole-body disease that left him in misery. “Out of the storm,” God reminds Job that He is in control.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 107) picks up the storm theme and tells us how the Lord saves the sailors caught up in the high waves of a tempest by first “raising up a storm wind,” then “hushing the storm to a gentle breeze.” “They who sailed the sea in ships … saw the works of the Lord and His wonders in the abyss.” 

The second reading explains that Jesus died for us to make us a “new creation.” In order to receive Jesus’ gift of love, we have to respond with our loving self-surrender, living for Jesus in all situations of our lives. In other words, Paul celebrates the saving significance of the Paschal mystery – Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection. – and of our participation in it.

Today’s Gospel describes how, by a commanding word, Jesus stilled a storm on the Sea of Galilee, returned the sea to its natural order and saved the apostles from drowning. The incident reminds us to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek Jesus’ help in the storms of life.

FIRST READING

First Reading – Job 38: 1, 8-11

The Book of Job was probably written by a Jewish sage sometime around the time of the Exile. It addresses the problem of human suffering but does not solve it. The book is a kind of folktale and the central character, Job, represents a good person who must deal with the agony of undeserved suffering.

In this week’s text, God addresses Job for the first time, questioning his right to challenge God’s authority and leading Job deeper and deeper into the mystery of creation. God tells Job that He is the Creator and Lord of the sea and the waters, and only He can control the wind and the sea and the other elements. “I set limits for the sea and fastened the bar of its door.”

The Book of Job, taken in its totality, teaches the lesson that God has plans and purposes which mortal men cannot grasp. It also states that, although the wicked prosper and the innocent suffer for a time, YAHWEH finally redresses the wrongs suffered by the innocent!Cedar/Mustard Imagery and Jesus’ Ministry

SECOND READING

Second Reading – 2 Cor 5:14-17

Paul, who “rode the storm” of rejection by his former friends, also experienced storms of violent hostility from the Jews who refused to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Corinth, a Greek seaport, was a cosmopolitan place where multiple Greek philosophies and religions were current, and where seaport morals were common.

Although some received the Gospel enthusiastically from Paul, a few of them were prone to be competitive and to judge each other harshly. Indeed, some judged Paul himself harshly, particularly when he canceled a planned trip to Corinth in order to attend to matters, he judged more pressing.


Distinction between the flesh and spirit

Paul has already introduced his distinction between the flesh and the spirit. Here the flesh means not just the locus of sexual desires, but all the egoism and the egotistic tendencies which urge people live as if they do not need God. Paul believes Baptism changes all that. By Baptism, the formerly flesh-centered person has died to that way of life.

This change in Christians changes their fundamental orientation, meaning that the baptized should no longer live for themselves, but for Christ. So they should no longer think of each other as competitors, but as co-members of a new creation. Hence, Paul insists that the Corinthians stop living just for themselves, stop judging each other “according to the flesh.”

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading – Mark 4:35-41

The Objective

Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus works miracles as a sign of head-on engagement with the forces of sin and evil in this world. In the miracle stories, Jesus’ unequivocal triumph over these forces verifies His true nature – that of God, His Father, as well as His true identity as the Messiah of God.

The miracle of the stilling of the sea is described in Mark for the same purpose. By describing this miracle, Mark also assures the first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. Mark’s audience in Rome in the 60s A.D. surely felt that way as they faced the persecution by the Emperor Nero during which both Peter and Paul were probably martyred. Mark presents the person of Jesus as in control of the forces of chaos, and hence able to still the storms which threaten to overturn the community of the Church.


The Context

As the sun is setting, Jesus ends a long day of teaching the crowd, saying to the apostles, “Let us cross to the other side,” (of the Sea of Galilee), in order that they may begin the next day’s work on the opposite shore. In this week’s text, the crossing of the stormy sea lies between Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and first experience among the Gentiles. The story thus occurs at a point of change and challenge in the mission of Jesus and his disciples.


The Storm

The Sea of Galilee is a lake, more than six hundred feet below sea level. It is a lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. But it is notorious for its sudden storms.  On the west side there are hills with valleys and gullies, and rivers have cut deep ravines through the tablelands down into the sea. When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys, gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels compressing the storms and letting them rush down to the lake to create violent waves. The compressed wind rushes down upon the lake with savage violence and with startling suddenness, causing violent and unexpected storms.


The Reaction

Despite the fact that many of the disciples are themselves fishermen, and thus, presumably, are familiar with the turbulent moods of the lake, it is they who grow terrified and panicky, while Jesus, the landsman, serenely sleeps in the stern. Unable to control their fears, the disciples wake Jesus up, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus’ response is immediate.  First, Jesus attends to the physical danger confronting them, rebuking the wind and commanding the sea, “Peace! Be still!” These are the same words Jesus used to exorcise and banish the demon at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel (1:25). The words are a direct order, demonstrating Jesus’ power over destructive forces – forces within (1:21-28) and forces outside (4:35-41). Jesus’ words here result in an instantaneous calm falling over the sea. This miracle proves that Jesus is master of the natural world, able to control the mysterious, humanly untamable side of creation.


The Lesson

Just as the disciples had accused Jesus of abandoning them during the tumult, Jesus now turns to his followers and chides them, asking, “Why are you terrified? “Do you not yet have Faith?” Mark’s miracle story asks us to consider two questions. First, “Who is Jesus?” (v.41), and second, “Will you trust this Jesus?” The disciples fail on both counts on this occasion. Even though they don’t suspect Jesus’ true identity, they accept Him with joy as their Master, but they are incapable of trusting in Jesus’ love and care for them in situations they themselves cannot control. They panic, overwhelmed by fear, doubt and insecurity on this stormy voyage. Jesus stills the storm as if exorcising a demon in much the same way as we see in many of Mark’s miracle stories.  That is the whole point of the story: nothing could harm the disciples while Jesus was with them. Many people have found great comfort in sensing Jesus’ constant presence in the most difficult and dangerous crises.


The Allegoric Meaning

Many of the Fathers of the Church consider this miracle story as an allegory of the early Church. The boat in the stormy lake is a symbol of the Church facing challenges and heresies from inside and various forms of suppression and persecution from outside. The early Church faced fierce persecution in the first three centuries. It was followed by a calm period, but that period was plagued with heresies, culminating in the Protestant Reformation Movement. The faithful in such situations wondered if Jesus had deserted the Church. But in their desperate cry for help they were able to experience the inner peace and strength of Jesus.

Very often the Church and the faithful have no control over the political and social developments of our society. But, no matter what we are experiencing, we can — with the help of Jesus — find peace. It is the peace which only Jesus can give. And it is a peace which no person, no thing, and no situation can take away from us.

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