ILLUSTRATIONSCOMMENTARYCHILDREN

15th Sunday of Year B

TRUE VICTORY

SPECIAL OLYMPIC RACE (0:37) – This is a commercial reenactment of the actual event.

At the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting point for the 100-yard dash. At the gun they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with the relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, that is, except one boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry.  The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him–every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line. They all finished the race at the same time.

Everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL?”

Sonia and Anita, two sisters living in India, have been blind since birth, but a simple eye operation makes it possible for them to see their mom for the first time.

A young boy who had been blind from birth had just been operated on. The new procedure offered the possibility of sight for this young boy who had never seen the light of day. As the parents waited for the doctor to remove the patches which had covered his eyes since surgery, they were uncertain about what his response would be. Blinking his eyes, adjusting to the sights and colors around him, the boy suddenly began to take it all in. Full of excitement, he said to his parents, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?”

This is the work of evangelism. It is the business of helping persons open their eyes and see the world as they have never seen it before. It is not the pressuring of people to come to Church. Such pressure is in the long run nonproductive and basically unchristian. Rather, evangelism is the introduction of persons to a new way of living, a new way of relating, a new way of perceiving the meaning of existence.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

JESUS IS LOOKING FOR SPIRITUAL MARINES

Contest of Honor – A Sci-Fi TV commercial demonstrating the obstacles and hardships of becoming a US Marine.

In 2008, one of the most eye-catching commercials on television, “Contest of Honor”, was sponsored by the United States Marine Corps. A young man fights, and then slayis a fire-breathing dragon with an Excalibur-like sword. At the end of that commercial, he is standing tall, gleaming in the light, decked out in that resplendent dress blue uniform, and the commercial ends with these words: “The Few – the Proud – the Marines.” The mission statement of Marines is, “We make Marines. We win battles.”

That is not only the mission of the Marine Corps; that was the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth, and that is still His mission through the Church today. From the time Jesus began his ministry, to this very moment, Jesus has been looking for “spiritual Marines.” May I be very honest with all of us, including myself? If our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus, were to return today, I believe that our General with the badge of Five-Stars-arranged-in-a-circle would find many, if not most, of his soldiers a disgrace to the uniform.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

BEING A WITNESS

A group of young people from many nations was discussing how the Gospel might be spread. They talked of propaganda, of literature, of all the ways of disseminating the Gospel in the twentieth century. Then a girl from Africa spoke. “When we want to take Christianity to one of our villages,” she said, “we don’t send them books. We take a Christian family and send them to live in the village and they make the village Christian by living there.” [William Barclay; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

SELLING RELIGION

ELMER GANTRY (1960) Theatrical Trailer – Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy

In Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel,Elmer Gantry, a classic portrayal of the yearning of the spirit in battle with the weakness of the flesh, the flesh wins. Lewis saw in a clear and unforgiving way, the potential for abuse that the role of the modern evangelist entails. For many years, the clergy ranked first as the institution in which we placed the most confidence. But those days are gone, according to a recent Gallup poll. Only 57 percent of respondents had “a great deal” of confidence in Churches, down from 66 percent in 1985.

Dr. Martin E. Marty recently declared. “Less than one tenth of one percent of the American people who are members of a Church tell the polltaker they joined a particular denomination because of a radio or television message,” he noted. “But 80 percent say, ‘I got there through someone who was important to me.’”

A cynic said recently in Quote magazine, “Parents used to worry if they caught their children playing doctor. Now they worry if they’re playing evangelist.”

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. This was the first evangelistic visitation. But they didn’t travel in Lear Jets. They didn’t beam their message from satellites.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

OUR MISSION TO GROW IN DIVINE ADOPTION

It is in the Church–principally through the seven Sacraments–that our Divine adoption is made possible.  We are chosen by God in Christ, we are baptized into Christ’s death and Christ’s Church, or Mystical Body. We are healed by Jesus’ forgiveness, and we are nourished at the Eucharistic table on Jesus’ Body and Blood ad our Food and Drink .  Today, when we gather as His adopted sons and daughters at this table of Christ’s sacrificial banquet, we can rightly address God as our Divine Father and ask Him for the special anointing of the Holy Spirit that we may grow daily in the true spirit and practice of our Divine adoption.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

 

SALVADORAN MISSIONARY MARTYRS

THE NEW YORK TIMES (13:32) – In 1980, the murder of four American churchwomen focused attention on the United States’ involvement in El Salvador.

Christian suffering and death are not confined to the first century. Sr. Dorothy Kazel, ).S.U and lay missionary Jean Donovan were two of the four missionaries slain by “death squads” in El Salvador on December 2, 1980.

Did you know that our English word “martyr” comes from a Greek word which simply means “to witness”? The word became associated with death because that was the end result of one’s witnessing during the first centuries of the Christian era. This is not to suggest that God’s existence depends solely on our witnessing. The point here is that God’s Reality for us, God’s relevance in our lives, God’s reality in the world, is dependent upon our bearing witness to Him. So God should not be found at the end of a philosophical or theological argument, but in the midst of life.

The transition from “witness” to “martyr” is more than linguistic. It is life. Do you know that the first-century Christians were called atheists, immoral and cannibals by their enemies? They were called “atheists” because they refused to accept the popular gods of the day; “immoral” because they amazed the world by the way in which they loved one another; and “cannibals” because they regularly partook of the Body and Blood of Christ, even at great risk! And it is still going on.

SAINT OSCAR ROMERO

(2:57) – Scene from the movie Romero, starring Raul Julia, showing Oscar Romero’s last sermon and Martyrdom. Viewer Discretion is Advised.

Saint Oscar Romero (canonized 14 October, 2018, by Pope Francis) is an outstanding example of being a true witness of Christ. When he was made Archbishop of El Salvador in 1997, Romero was a conservative. But he soon changed when he saw what was happening. Every Sunday he preached at the Cathedral. His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs halted when he spoke from the altar. He made public the unspeakable crimes being committed by many agents of the government. He was under constant threat of death. Some of his best friends were murdered. And still he would not be silenced. Nor would he go into hiding or exile. “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. I will stay with my people,” he said.

He was shot in March 1980 during Mass. According to Romero, staying in the open and bearing direct witness to the Truth Jesus IS didn’t take courage. All it took was the understanding that his enemies dwelt in fear, and the fact that he was not afraid of them, to take away any power they thought they had over him. They might be able to kill his body, but they would not and could not kill his soul.

PURIFYING A CONTAMINATED WORLD

There are two rivers in Europe named the Roan and the Arf. The Roan is a beautiful, pure river, with fresh clear water cascading down from snowcapped mountains. The Arf River is a muddy waterway, wandering like a slimy dirty brown snake through the countryside. For many miles the two rivers run alongside each other. Even when they finally merge, the two rivers don’t immediately mix, the pure Roan and the filthy Arf still flow side by side for many more miles, until, at last, the putrid Arf consumes its pure brother and the two become dirty.

That is the sort of thing that happens in the real world. The purest and the most loving heart in the land will not stay so very long, working in most offices or factories, attending most schools, living in most communities. We take on the attitudes and the values of the society around us, and our views of others and of ourselves and even of God become distorted. We become weighted down with the burdens of the world without realizing the truth that our mission is to purify the little world around us.

DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT?

A prison chaplain went to talk with a man sentenced to die in the electric chair. He urged him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized; that forgiveness and eternity with God awaited him if only he would turn towards God. The prisoner said, “Do you really believe that?” “Of course, I do,” replied the chaplain. “Go on,” scoffed the prisoner. “If I believed that I would crawl and hands and knees over broken glass to tell others, but I don’t see you Christians making any big thing of it!”

He had a point. How do we get the Gospel out? By taking it with us when we go!

THE FIRST TASK OF A MINISTER

In his sermon to the graduates of a Seminary in New York City, Paul Tillich, the theologian, preached on the theme of healing and casting out demons. He told the graduating seminarians that they would experience two difficulties as they went to their new parishes with this message of healing and casting out demons: (1) Many people will say that they do not need to be healed and (2) Many will laugh at the absurdity of casting out demons that rule their lives; they may tell the proclaimer that he or she is possessed by a demon for saying so – just as they did to Jesus. “Therefore,” Tillich said, “the first task of the minister is to make people aware of their predicament.” [Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963), p. 58.]

The predicament of people’s insensitivity to their own needs and to the forces of evil is further complicated by the fact that we don’t know what demons are. The human predicament of insensitivity and lack of clarity regarding the forms of evil is even further complicated by the fact that every pastor who goes forth to heal the sick and cast out demons is, himself or herself, in need of healing and cleansing. In addition, some of the difficulty with this predicament comes from the multitude of misunderstandings about this ministry — especially the miracle/magic association we often make between healing and casting out demons. Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus commissions his disciples with preaching healing and exorcising ministry.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

WE HAVE A LIBERATING MISSION

Although many people don’t believe in real demonic possession in our age, there are many demons which can control the lives of people around us, making them helpless slaves. For example, there are the demons of nicotine, alcohol, gambling, pornography, promiscuous sex, materialism, consumerism, or of any other activity which somehow can take control of people’s lives and become an addiction over which they have no control. All of these, or any one of them, can turn people into slaves. We need Divine help to cooperate with Jesus today to become instruments in liberating ourselves and others from these things, helping them and ourselves to recover our freedom. We are meant to help people to cure their sicknesses – bodily, psychological, and emotional. As a family member, a friend, a colleague, an evangelizer, when we work with Jesus, we can truly exercise a healing influence.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

 

View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

15th Sunday of Year B

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GOD’S CHILDREN ARE CALLED TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS

Today’s readings remind us of our Divine adoption as God’s children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus by bearing witness to God’s love, mercy, and salvation, as revealed through Jesus:  “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4).

The first reading (Am 7:12-15), warns us that our witnessing mission will be rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos. He was ordered by Amaziah, the angry chief priest serving in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at Bethel, to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his, but God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree-dresser to a prophet. Like Amos, we are chosen by God, through the mystery of Divine adoption in Jesus, to become missionaries and to preach the “Good News,” mainly by Christian witnessing. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 85) Refrain has us begging God for that Salvation, singing “Lord, let us see Your Kindness, and grant us Your Salvation.”

In the second reading (Eph 1:3-14), St. Paul explains the blessings that we have received through our Baptism and the responsibility we have to become missionaries. Then Paul reveals the Divine secret that it is God’s eternal plan to extend salvation, through Jesus, to all mankind — first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians need to love, help, and respect one another, and thus, to proclaim Jesus, giving true witness by their lives.

In today’s Gospel (Mk 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation, and salvation through Jesus. Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth the Twelve to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most. Today’s Gospel reports the instruction Jesus gave the apostles for their first mission. They are to be walking illustrations of God’s love and providence in action. They are to preach repentance — a change of heart and a change of action taking people from a self-centered life to a God-centered life.

FIRST READING

First Reading – Amos 7:12-15

This first reading shows us, in the rejection of an Old Testament prophet, what would happen to Jesus and the apostles. For a long time, the territory we call the Holy Land had been divided between a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom known as Judah. The city of Jerusalem was in Judah. In the northern kingdom, at Bethel, there was a very ancient shrine with several priests. These Bethel priests sponsored the rich people and acted as cronies of King Jeroboam.

The Prophet Amos was sent by God to these priests with the demand that they speak against the current neglect and exploitation of the poor by the powerful. Amos had come from Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel, to pronounce God’s judgment on Israel and its King, Jeroboam. As a prophet, Amos foretold the overthrow of the throne and shrine by the hand of God.

Amaziah who was the high priest told Amos that the King was angry with him and was seeking to kill him. It would be better for Amos to look for his own safety. Amos tells Amaziah that, in the eyes of God, the Temple that Amaziah served was not legitimate as it had been established by the royal household. But the furious chief priest of Bethel, Amaziah, told Amos to get out and go south to Judah “to earn your bread!” Amos retorted that he was not a professional prophet; he was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores.

Amos had become a prophet only because God had sent him to deliver a message to Israel and its King. We are invited to see the mission of the twelve apostles and our mission as Christians as parallels of the mission of Amos.

SECOND READING

Second Reading – Ephesians 1:3-10

This reading, taken from the letter to the Ephesians, is a prayer praising God for what God has accomplished in Jesus. In other words, Paul offers us the exercise of counting our blessings in the form of a benediction and thanksgiving in which we point to God as the Source of our blessings, in and through Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection. Through Christ, God has given us a clear purpose in life—to praise and to serve God and one another—with the Holy Spirit as a Helper in carrying out the task. Paul advises the Ephesians to count their blessings instead of focusing excessively on their inadequacies and deficiencies. In this prayer, Paul also reveals a Divine secret to the Jewish Christians: It was not God’s plan to keep the Jews as His Chosen People exclusively, but for all mankind to be saved, so that Gentiles would eventually be included! That inclusion had begun formally when Jesus sent Paul to preach to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians were to respect and help each other, as both were now adopted children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading – Mk 6:1-13

The Context

Jesus, like the prophets before Him, was rejected by the people of his hometown as he corrected the people of Nazareth for their prejudice. But instead of getting discouraged, Jesus went with his disciples to the neighboring towns and villages, preaching and healing all who believe. Jesus then prepared the apostles to go serve as heralds to announce to the towns the Master would soon visit, bringing the Good News of the salvation. Today’s Gospel repeats for us the instruction Jesus gave the apostles for their first mission.


Travelers’ Kit in Palestine

In Jesus’ time, the Jews of Palestine ordinarily wore five articles of clothing.  The innermost garment was called the tunic; and the outer garment was used as a cloak by day and as a blanket by night.   Next, there was a girdle, which was worn over the tunic and cloak.   The skirts of the tunic could be hitched up under the girdle for work or any strenuous activity.  A headdress was also worn in order to protect the neck, the cheekbones, and the eyes from the heat and glare of the sun.  Finally, the Jews wore   sandals made of leather, wood or matted grass.  They also carried a wicker basket within which was an ordinary traveler’s bag made of kid’s skin. The Jewish priests and devotees, who were often very covetous, carried these bags supposedly to collect contributions. No wonder, people labeled them “pious robbers” with their booty growing from village to village.


The meaning of Jesus’ instructions

Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth. Going two-by-two brought with it the authority of official witnesses. By Jesus’ instructions, it is clear that that his disciples should take no supplies for the road but simply trust in God for their requirements.  God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of the needs of the disciples.  Jesus’ instructions also suggest that the apostles should not be like the acquisitive priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches.  Instead, as disciples of Jesus, they must be concerned with “giving” rather than “getting.” They should be walking examples of God’s love and providence. By making their mission trip this way, they would also have the maximum of freedom and the minimum of burdens in their preaching and healing ministry. Jesus wanted his apostles to be rich in all the things which really mattered, so that they might enrich those who came into contact with them. Statistics tell us that most people who come to join a Church do so because a friend or relative brought them. So the best advertisement for any Church is the number of the faithful – men, women, and children, whose daily lives show forth some of the radiance of the Gospel.


Shake off the dust from your feet

Jesus knew that when the apostles went into any town or village to evangelize, a family or house would take them in, welcome them, and give them what they needed, because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine. By His stern instruction, Jesus seems to be saying, “If people refuse to listen to you or to show you hospitality, the only thing you can do is to treat them as an orthodox Jew would treat a Gentile or a pagan.”  The Rabbinic law stated that the dust of a Gentile country was defiled, so that when a Jew entered Palestine from another country, he had first to shake off every particle of the unclean land’s dust from his clothing and sandals.


Convey the Good News of God’s love and mercy

Jesus’ disciples were to preach the Good News that God is not a punishing judge, but rather a loving Father Who wants to save men from their bondage to sin through Jesus His Son. The disciples were to preach the message of metanoia or repentance–which has disturbing implications.  To “repent” means to change one’s mind and then fit one’s actions to this change.  Metanoia literally means change your mind.  It can also mean taking a new direction. Thus, repentance means a change of heart and a change of action–a change from a self-centered life to a God-centered life.  Such a change may hurt a bit at times.  It is also interesting to note that Jesus commanded his disciples to anoint with oil.  In the ancient world, oil was regarded as a sort of cure-all.  In the hands of Christ’s servants, however, the old cures would acquire a new virtue through the power of God.

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