ILLUSTRATIONSLIFE MESSAGESCOMMENTARY

21st Sunday of Year B

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship (7:04) – He was a German, a Luther pastor and theologian who lost his life for opposing Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer produced three books of lasting significance — The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and Letters and Papers From Prison and gave a powerful witness of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

THE MISSIONARY WHO CHOSE TO CHALLENGE HITLER

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906 in Germany.  Always a student of theology, he prepared for the ministry.  But in the late 1920’s and 30’s as Nazism grew more and more prevalent in Germany, Bonhoeffer and other confessing Christians knew that they had to oppose the trend they saw their country following. And so, in sermons and in writings, Bonhoeffer opposed Nazism and Hitler.

In an interesting twist, some friends of Bonhoeffer made a move to save his life. They saw the fervor of Nazism growing and Dietrich’s words of opposition growing stronger, and so they made arrangement in 1939 for him to be a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Their hope was that Hitler would soon be gone and then leaders like Bonhoeffer could return to rebuild German in faith and in values. And so, from New York, he watched as Hitler moved unimpeded toward his Aryan “master race” goals. But after only a few weeks, he made a decision.  He wrote to friends:  “I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the tribulations of this time with my people.”

When Bonhoeffer returned to Germany, he made another choice.  Although he had been a pacifist all his life, he joined with others in a plot that would have Hitler assassinated. He said that while he never ceased to believe that violence was inconsistent with the ideals of the Gospel, he also believed that the crisis of the times was so grave as to require that certain Christians willingly compromise their purity of conscience for the sake of others.  Of course the plot did not succeed.  Bonhoeffer was found out and he spent his last years in prison. From his prison he continued to believe and to write and to talk about what it meant to be a Christian – the cost of discipleship. On April 9, 1945 he was hanged with five other members of his resistance group.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer continually struggled with what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  I suppose that, each day, as he responded to the events big and small that confronted him, he sought how to choose acts consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the followers of Joshua and the crowd that followed Jesus, he was given many choices. He chose Christ and his Way of the Cross.

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

LADY SINGS THE BLUES

PARAMOUNT MOVIES (1:27) – Official Trailer – The essence of Billie Holiday, one of America’s most loved and memorable blues singers, is captured brilliantly in a tour-de-force debut performance by singer Diana Ross. Filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable “Lady Day,” this stunning film biography received five Academy Award nominations, including Diana Ross for “Best Actress.” Costarring Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor.

The movie Lady Sings the Blues tells the story of singer Billie Holliday. To play the role of Billie Holliday, singer Diana Ross spent almost nine months reading clippings about Billie, sifting through pictures of her and listening over and over again to her recorded songs. Diana Ross also researched Billie’s era of fame, the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the drug addiction that tragically ended her career. Diana Ross’ motion picture debut in Lady Sings the Blues was a huge success, not only because of the powerful story it told about Billie Holliday, but also because of Diana Ross’ commitment to honor a singer she admired so much.

Commitment is one of the subjects of today’s readings. Diana Ross made a commitment to honor Billie Holliday, and so she did all the hard work necessary to live up to that commitment. Joshua in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament made a commitment to follow the Lord, and so they were ready to make the sacrifices necessary to carry out their promises.

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

SAINT TERESA OF CALCUTTA’S COMMITMENT

Fr. James Lloyd interviews Mother Teresa and Malcolm Muggeridge (28:30) – Fr. James Lloyd, a Paulist Father, hosted INQUIRY an NBC television program on Sunday mornings from 1958 to 1973. This episode from 1971 is an interview with Mother Teresa and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Malcolm Muggeridge accompanied a film crew to India in order to narrate a documentary on Mother Teresa. He already knew she was a good woman or he wouldn’t have bothered going. When he met her, he found a good woman who was also so very compelling that he titled his documentary, Something Beautiful for God. When he remarked to Mother Teresa on the fact that she went to Mass every day at 4:30 AM she replied, “If I didn’t meet my Master every day, I’d be doing no more than social work.” (Victor Shepherd, December 2001.)

I hope you are here this day to meet Christ. I hope you’re not here for some other reason. I hope you are here to listen for Christ’s word for your life. I hope you find what John and Simon Peter and St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), found: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

OLYMPIAN’S COMMITMENT TO HIS WIFE

ACA | CANOE KAYAK (4:58) – Haven’s Olympic Story

At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 the sport of canoe racing was added to the list of international competitions. The favorite team in the four-man canoe race was the United States team. One member of that team was a young man by the name of Bill Havens. As the time for the Olympics neared, it became clear that Bill’s wife would give birth to her first child about the time that Bill would be competing in the Paris Games. In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States, only slow-moving ocean-going ships. And so Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and risk not being at his wife’s side when their first child was born? Or should he withdraw from the team and remain behind. Bill’s wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, he had been working towards this for all these years. It was the culmination of a life-long dream. Clearly the decision was not easy for Bill to make. Finally, after much soul-searching, Bill decided to withdraw from the competition and remain behind with his wife so that he could be with her when their first child arrived. Bill considered being at her side a higher priority than going to Paris to fulfill a life-long dream.

As it happened, the United States four-man canoe team won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. And Bill’s wife was late in giving birth to her first child — so late, that Bill could have competed in the event and returned home in time for the birth. People said, “What a shame.” But Bill said he had no regrets. After all, his commitment to his wife was more important. A high price, yes, but not too high a price for someone he loved. I can hear that higher priority in Peter’s words: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

THERE IS NO OTHER HAND

MOVIECLIPS (2:51) – Tevye (Topol) waffles on allowing his daughter to marry the poor tailor (Leonard Frey).

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye is a Jewish dairy farmer, living with his wife and five daughters in Russia. It is a time of change and revolution, especially in the relationship between the sexes. First, one of his daughters announces that she and a young tailor have pledged themselves to each other, even though Tevye had already promised her to the village butcher. Initially, Tevye will not hear of his daughter’s plans, but he finally has an argument with himself and decides to give in to the young lovers’ wishes. A second daughter also chooses a husband for herself, an idealist revolutionary. Tevye is disappointed but after another argument with himself, he again concedes to the changing times. Then Tevye’s third daughter falls in love with a young Gentile. This violates Tevye’s deepest religious convictions. Once again, he has an argument with himself. He knows that his daughter is deeply in love, and he does not want her to be unhappy. Still, he cannot betray his deepest religious convictions. “How can I turn my back on my Faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand…” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!”

Today’s Gospel reminds us not to carry this relativizing thinking too far. In matters of Faith, we come to a point where we discover, like Tevye, that there is no other hand, no other option to consider, no other way. There is simply the right way and the wrong way. This is what we see in the response of Peter and the Twelve to the crisis of Faith that visited the followers of Jesus in today’s Gospel story. (Fr. Munacci).

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

MARTYR’S CHOICE FOR GOD

BISHOP ROBERT BARRON (7:55) – There were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than in all of the previous nineteen centuries combined. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and many of their lesser-known totalitarian colleagues put millions of Christians to death for their faith in that terrible hundred- year period. One of the saddest features of the still-young twenty-first century is that this awful trend is undoubtedly continuing. By far the most persecuted religious group in the world today are Christians, and they are dying by the thousands especially in the Middle East and in Africa.

The Old Testament, the New Testament and the history of the Church tell the stories of brave men and women who heroically exercised their freedom of choice for God and His Commandments and courted martyrdom.

II Maccabees 6:18-31 describes how the 90-year-old saintly scribe, Eleazar, welcomed martyrdom rather than eat the flesh of a pig. The same book describes another heroic Jewish mother and seven of her brave children who lost their lives by resisting the order of the Greek commander to reject their Jewish Faith.

The martyrdom of St. Stephen is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The first three centuries saw thousands of Christians heroically choosing Christ and courting the cruel death inflicted by the pagan Roman Empire.

St. Thomas More was the second-in-power in England and St. John Fisher the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for choosing the teaching of the Church on marriage and divorce instead of choosing their king’s view.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and pastor, chose to resist the anti-Christian and non-ethical doctrines of Hitler and was executed at 39. Today’s readings challenge us to make a choice for God and His teachings or against God.

More Homily Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

21st Sunday of Year B

Let us make our choice for Christ and live it:

We Christians have accepted the challenge of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, fortified by the Bread Jesus gives and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. The Heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives.

The same option or possibility of choosing for or against Jesus is repeated over and over again in the modern age

We should resolve to take a stand for Jesus and accept the consequences. We recognize, in our going to Communion, the accepting of that challenge to be totally one with Jesus. When the priest gives us Holy Communion saying, “The Body of Christ,” we respond, “Amen.” That “Amen,” that “Yes,” is not just an act of faith in the Real Presence; it is a total commitment of ourselves to Jesus in the community of which we are members. We must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservations. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, values, and life-view must become totally ours, and must govern and shape our lives.

Above all, we are to identify with Jesus in the Self-gift of God’s Love for us, Christ’s Crucifixion, death and Resurrection, sealing the New Covenant with all mankind in His Blood, a Self-gift of Love extended to us in the Eucharist with Jesus’ Body and Blood becoming our spiritual Food and Drink.


JOKES OF THE WEEK:

1) “Choose my   God and my denomination and rite or die!”:  Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Catholic.” I said, “Me, too! Latin rite Catholic or Oriental rite Catholic?” He said, “Oriental rite Catholic.” I said, “Me, too! Syrian or Armenian Catholic?” He said, “Syrian.” I said, “Me, too! Syro-Malabar or Syro-Malankara rite?” He said, “Syro-Malankara.” I said, “Die, former heretic!” And I pushed him over the bridge. (Adapted from Emo Philips)

2) A climber fell off a cliff. As he tumbled down into a deep gorge he grabbed hold of a branch of a small tree. “Help” he shouted. “Is there anyone up there?” A deep majestic Voice from the sky echoed through the gorge. “I will help you, My son. But first you must have Faith in Me.” “All right, all right. I trust you.” answered the man. The Voice replied, “Let go of the branch.” There was a long pause and the man shouted again, “Is there anyone else up there?”

21st Sunday of Year B

Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God

The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. The fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives, deciding whom we will serve.

In the first reading, Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide Whom they will serve as their God: the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith.

The Response for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), encourages perseverance to the end, when we shall eventually “taste” (fully realize through personal experience), and “see” (everything, past, present, and future, falling into place), “the Goodness of the Lord!”

Paul, in the second reading, emphasizes the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers. Paul also challenges the Ephesian Christians to build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love, saying that the Christian husband and wife should stand together in love before God, respecting each other’s rights and dignity. Paul also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. That is why he urges his faithful community in Ephesus, “Live in love, as Christ loved us.” He wants them to make the right choice in life. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of the Church, through the Eucharist, making us His own Flesh and Blood, as husband and wife become one flesh.

Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges the Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting the New Covenant Jesus offers in His Body and Blood or of joining those who have lost their Faith and left Jesus, expressing their confusion and doubts about His claims. Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims.  As Joshua spoke to his followers, Jesus speaks to the twelve apostles and gives them the option of leaving, or staying on as disciples. Peter, their spokesman, asks Jesus how they can turn to anyone else – Jesus is the only one who has the message of eternal life. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In the Eucharistic celebration, we, like Peter, are called to make a decision, profess our Faith in God’s Son and accept the New Covenant sealed in Jesus’ Blood, in Jesus’ life, death and in Jesus’ Resurrection.

FIRST READING

First Reading

In our first reading, taken from the book of Joshua, the leader who succeeded Moses, Joshua challenges the Israelites who have entered the Promised Land to make a choice and to reaffirm their Covenant relationship with Yahweh. By that time (12th century B.C.), the Promised Land has been divided up among the tribes of Israel. But a big concern is whether the tribes will drift away from the worship of the God of Israel.  So before departing from them in death, Joshua gathers the tribal leaders around him to issue his last words of advice.  They gather at Shechem, 40 miles north of Jerusalem, where God first appeared to Abraham and promised to make Abraham’s descendants a great nation (Gn 12:6ff and 33:18ff), a fitting place for the renewal of the Covenant.  Joshua reminds the people of what God has done for them in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, providing for their survival in the desert and giving them victory over their enemies.  God has been their Deliverer, Provider and Protector. This is the God that Joshua calls Lord and with Whom he wants to be covenanted.   Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is to decide, then and there, whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites among whom they now live, or this God Who has done so much for them.  They have to decide for the God of Israel or to reject Him in favor of the idols of their fathers and neighbors. Their decision for God should be reflected in their fidelity to the terms of the Covenant, i.e. the Law. Then Joshua sets the example for the rest of Israelites: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua’s challenge prefigures the choice the apostles must make in today’s Gospel. We, too, are asked today whether or not we choose to remain in discipleship to Jesus.

SECOND READING

Second Reading

In this second reading, Paul, writing to the Ephesians, gives us the criteria for our daily moral choices in the family, parish community, and civil society. He wants the Ephesians to use in all spheres of Christian life the criteria for the relationship of a successful marriage. The husband is to use the authority that society gives him over his family, not to dominate and seek his own selfish satisfaction but rather to aid in the salvation and spiritual development of his family and household. Paul uses the image of a marriage relationship primarily to express the bond that exists between Christ  and the Church. In addition, he uses the image of marriage to describe the relationship that should exist among believers. Those who enter into the Covenant of marriage should love and submit to one another in mutual care and respect, just as Christ submitted himself in loving sacrifice for the Church. Paul wants the Ephesians to accept, love, mutually respect, and serve each other, recognizing the true dignity of each member of Christ, and to use that as the norm for all their relationships, both in the family and in their Faith community. Paul also reminds them, and reminds us, that Jesus nourishes the members of the Church through the Eucharist, making us His own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. So the norms of our every relationship must be acceptance, love, mutual respect, and service and, as the foundation of these, the recognition of the true dignity of each member of Christ. Our choices in family life and parish life should be guided by this high ideal.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading

A tough teaching without compromise: “This teaching is difficult.  Who can accept it?” It was Jesus’ disciples who made this complaint.  They were offended by Jesus’ language — the imagery and the metaphors Jesus used in the Eucharistic discourse, which was the Master’s dramatic way of saying that we must accept totally, without any conditions or reservations everything Jesus tells us. Jesus’ thoughts and attitudes, values, and life-view must become totally ours. Above all we are to identify with Jesus in the offering of His Flesh and the pouring out of His Blood on the cross, the symbol of God’s unutterable love for us. But without giving any further explanation, Jesus  simply challenges them to open themselves to the gift of Faith that God is offering them: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (v. 65). Jesus tries to help the remaining followers to  make a leap of Faith, because it is  only with Faith that they will be able to see and grasp the triple mystery which has been revealed to them, namely, (1) the Incarnation (I am the Bread that came down from Heaven, 6:41); (2) the redemption (the Bread that I give is my Flesh for the life of the world, 6:51); (3) the Ascension and glorification (the Son of Man will ascend to where He was before, 6:62). Having insisted earlier that the believer must eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of Man in order to have eternal life, Jesus now tells the disciples “the flesh is of no avail.” But “flesh” here is not the Eucharist. Rather, “flesh” means natural sustenance, assumptions, attitudes, and expectations, which cannot give spiritual nourishment. And the “Spirit” here means the life-giving Holy Spirit Who will be given to believers after Jesus’ ascent into Heaven. Peter’s response, “Master, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life,” reflects the Faith-filled, free, whole-hearted decision of the apostles and the early Christian community to follow Jesus in complete, accepting obedience and trust. While giving Holy Communion, the priest says, “The Body of Christ” and we respond with a total, “Amen” or “Yes!” That “Yes!” is not just an act of Faith in the Real Presence but the total commitment of each recipient to Jesus in the community, the Mystical Body of Christ (in another image), of which each is a member. Some Bible scholars consider Jesus’ question, “Do you want to leave me, too?” to Peter and the apostle’s response as parallel to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?” and Peter’s confession of Faith at Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8:27-30; Mt 16:13-20; Lk 9:18-21).

We are reminded of Paul, who spoke of “the offense (scandal) of the cross” (Gal. 5:11), and who said “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18).  The complaints of the disciples (v. 61), link them to the Israelites who followed Moses into the wilderness.  Those early Israelites were unhappy because their journey was hard.  Faithful discipleship is seldom easy. Why is the Gospel offensive and scandalous?  It is because our ways are not God’s ways.  It is offensive because it is costly.  When Christ calls us to “eat My Flesh and to drink My Blood,” this is an invitation to us to participate in Jesus’ death that we may rise with Him.  The Christians who first heard this Gospel experienced persecution.  They knew martyred Christians, and they knew Christians who had avoided martyrdom by compromising their Faith. The Gospel with no offense would be like a surgeon with no scalpel — having no power to heal.  Christ and Christ’s cross, truly revealed, will always be an offense, except to the redeemed. The Church must always be ready to give offense — to speak out for Christ and against the destructive beliefs and behaviors that the world finds so attractive. The total assimilation of Jesus’ spirit and outlook into our lives is very challenging. And it was a challenge that some of Jesus’ disciples were not prepared to face. The reason? “There are among you some who do not believe, do not trust Me.” Faith is not simply a set of ideas to be held on to. It is a living relationship with a Person, Jesus, and Jesus’ vision of life. It is a relationship that needs to grow and be deepened with the years. It is a relationship that has constantly to be re-appraised in a constantly changing world. We must hear in our own heart and soul Peter’s words to Jesus which have resounded through the centuries: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

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