Curated preaching illustrations and anecdotes from Fr. Tony Kadavil. NEW! Now with videos; Also includes Fr. Tony’s commentary, and Children illustrations/object sermons.
15th Sunday of Year B
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.”
“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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony
15th Sunday of Year B
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.