Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 11th, 2018:
We are here today for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is a sacrifice. It’s important to explain the meaning of that, relative to today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The key passage is verse 26, which says in part “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”(Heb 9:26).
Some context is necessary. The author’s writing this letter, or perhaps a homily, to a Jewish Christian church. They have been baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ, into “the way.” So their original sin and their personal sins are washed away. They are saved. But then, they sinned again. So what did they do? They returned to the Jewish temple to offer an atoning sacrifice for the subsequent sins. Then, they remained in the Jewish faith, which rejected Christ. This author must answer this in order to strengthen the faith of the Jewish Christians so that they will remain in their Christian faith. That is the author’s purpose for writing this. In Hebrews 2:1 the author writes: “Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it.” In Hebrews 3:12 he writes: “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” The author establishes the priesthood of Jesus Christ to strengthen the faith in this church. He writes that Jesus Christ’s priesthood is superior to Moses and Aaron. And Jesus’s priestly sacrifice (of Himself) is superior to the atoning sacrifices offered repeatedly, every year, in the Temple. And in fact, the Temple Jesus offers His Sacrifice in is superior to the Jerusalem Temple too. The author argues that the repeated Temple sacrifices are superfluous and unnecessary because “…as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26).
What does the reality of that one and only sacrifice for our sins mean for us here today? It means that Jesus’s blood, shed on the Cross, washes away our sins and forgives them. How do we affirm our faith in that so that we don’t fall away? By attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today.
This sacrifice of the Holy Mass re-presents the reality of Jesus’s one-time sacrifice for our sins to you and me, here today. His one and only sacrifice is timeless. But time limits us. So to strengthen our faith, Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice is re-presented in space and time here today. Jesus is not re-sacrificed. Our faith in His once-for-all sacrifice is affirmed in space and time here today. Can Jesus do this? Yes. Jesus can do this because He suffered and died on the Cross, then rose from the dead. Jesus Christ lives forever. He is immortal, and His sacrifice is immortal. “The glorious immortality of Christ’s body after its resurrection, far from being an impediment to the continuation of His sacrifice, is the very condition without which the sacrifice, once consummated could not avail as a sacrifice that is to endure for all eternity.” (Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, pg. 519).
We are here today to experience the reality of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, once for all, here today, One hundred years from now, your children and grandchildren will be here to experience this same reality. So therefore, the reality of Jesus’s one-for-all sacrifice, applicable to us here today, demands that only Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood can be offered at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No symbol of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood can do this. No mixture of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood with the Bread and the Wine can do this. Only Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, transubstantiated, changed completely, can accomplish this re-presentation of the reality of Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice. In this Church, only Jesus saves.
There is one more important point. Jesus tells us to do this through His disciples at the Last Supper. Listen to His Words: “And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). These passages from St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 22:19-20. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25, Jesus says: “Take, eat; this is my Body”(Matt 25:26). “And He took a chalice, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Matt 25:27-28). The action words are “take,” “drink of it, all of you;…”
This Sacrifice of the Mass is an act of faith on our part to acknowledge, to believe, and to unite all of us to the truth and the reality of Jesus Christ’s one and only sacrifice for our sins, here today, two-thousand-years later. The faith we express by being here today is the same faith the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tries to strengthen in his Jewish-Christian church. To show the way for us, the widow at Zarephath, believes blindly in Elijah’s words that come from “…the Lord the God of Israel”(1 Kings 17:14), “The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the pitcher of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’”(1 Kings 17:14). “And she went and did as Elijah said;…(1 Kings 17:15). She expresses her faith in God’s words. To show us the way, the widow in St. Mark’s Gospel reading today “…put in two copper coins, which make a penny (Mark 12:4). It was “…everything she had, her whole living”(Mark 12:44)To express our faith in Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice, we must come here today, to the Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus’s Sacrifice. In the first reading, we hear that the oil and meal did not run dry until God ended the drought. The Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will continue until Jesus comes “…a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”(Heb 9:28).
We need priests to do all of this until Jesus’s Second Coming. So as National Vocations Awareness Week concludes, please pray hard for more faithful, holy, and repentant priests to continue this once-for-all Sacrifice of the Mass until the end of time.
COMMENT: The linchpin that holds this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Jesus Christ’s Real Presence in Eucharist. It is His Body and His Blood that unites us in our faith to the altar, to His Church (the Roman Catholic Church), and literally, to Jesus Christ Himself. If we reject the Eucharistic theology, then this unity of faith explodes into as many different directions as there are different Christian faiths in the world today. That number is in the thousands when the truth is that only one church accepts EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. Only one church accepts without qualification and reservation EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. And only one church accepts literally EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. That church is the Roman Catholic Church and Holy Mother Church is right in doing so for the forgiveness of our sins and for our outright salvation.
Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 4, 2018:
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalm18; Hebrews 7:23-28; and Mark 12:28-34.
By Father Scott Karnik
When you concentrate on today’s readings you’ll find two parallels between Moses and Jesus. One is that they are both priests. The second is that they both teach.
Moses comes from a priestly family. His father was a Levitical priest. And Moses teaches the Israelites. Listen to Moses’s words: “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep…all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you”(Deut 6:2); and, “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe then, that you may grow and prosper the more”…(Deut 6:3). Then Moses teaches the Israelites the greatest commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”(Deut 6:5). Moses teaches this to motivate the Israelites to obey the Ten Commandments and to remind them that the Lord’s liberation of them from Egypt has forged a bond between them and God that must never be broken. Moses teaches this to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land that God will give them. Obedience will lead to the fulfillment of God’s promises of a fruitful land and many children. This is a side note but an important one: in Jeremiah 2:8, God, through Jeremiah, criticizes the priests for not teaching the law well. Teaching is a critical function of a faithful priest.
It is important to indicate that Jesus is not a priest. He is from the tribe of Judah. St. Joseph, Jesus’s foster father, is the last in the physical bloodline of King David. Jesus is a king. Jesus Christ is God’s Son. But the author of Hebrews establishes Jesus’s priesthood. The key words are in verse 28: “Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever”(Heb 7:28). Those words establish Jesus’s priesthood as superior to Moses’s and Aaron’s. And Jesus teaches a superior law too. Jesus teaches that the first of all the commandments is a combination of two, loving the Lord, your God, with all your heart and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). The scribe asked this question sincerely. He approves Jesus’s answer by saying “You are right, Teacher”(Mark 12:32). Jesus, as a priest, teaches the doctrine of the One who sent Him, His Father.
That brings us to today and the start of National Vocations Awareness Week. This is Jesus’s Church. This Church functions the roles of priests. They are all through our history. We need more of them, to teach. A priest teaches the way of God truthfully. A priest teaches Jesus Christ. A priest teaches a body of revealed truth taught by God and His Son, Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. A priest teaches to assimilate this body of revealed truth into the hearts, minds, and souls of his flock. As Christianity and this beautiful Catholic Church grow, the need for priests to teach grows. We need more priests and more teachers.
So what must we know? That one of the critical functions of a priest is to teach God’s law, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His Church. What must we do? Pray hard for more priests. The dearth of priests is leading to the flock listening to the sinful world and unsound doctrine and it shows. Pray for priests to be faithful and repentant, and committed to teaching. Pray that men who hear God’s call to priesthood will say “Here I am. Send me.” By the way, there is good news. One of our seminarians is scheduled to be ordained to the diaconate next month and to the priesthood, about a year later. Why should we care? Because Jesus still sees a future for this Roman Catholic Church of ours. And to enable the fulfillment of God’s promises, we must be taught by priests to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and all our souls, and with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Doing so builds up the House of the Lord. I will leave you with a portion of a prayer for vocations: “Multiply your people and increase their joy, so that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. This is your house, O Lord God, this is your house. Let there not be in it, I beg you, even one stone which your most holy hand has not placed there. Preserve in your name those whom you have called and make them truly holy. Amen.”
Homily for All Saints Day (B), November 1st, 2018:
St. John in today’s reading gives us a vision of the end of the world and the salvation of the elect. Let’s discuss the stages of this vision. Stage one is the angel holding the seal of the living God. He will place this seal on “the servants of our God upon their foreheads”(Rev 7:3). Then the angels will release the divine storm winds from the four corners of the earth as a sign of divine wrath. The sign on the servants’ foreheads indicates ownership by God and exemption from the coming punishment. In our church, we place seals too, on the foreheads of infants at Baptism, the cross of Jesus Christ, and at Confirmation, the seal of the Holy Spirit.
St. John sees in the 144-thousand sealed from the tribes of Israel (except for the tribe of Dan) a great conversion of Israel to Christ. Then St. John shows another vision. This one shows “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,…”(Rev 7:9). These are the saints who passed through the great tribulation without compromising their faith. These come from throughout the world. They sing praises to the Lamb and wave palms. These are signs of victory.
Revelation is not exclusively a prediction of disaster. Revelation also shows heavenly salvation and our Christian hope. We are shown this vision in today’s reading from the Book of Revelation. It is a vision of the victorious elect who have survived the unprecedented distress of the great tribulation. They cry out in joy, glorifying God. Even the angels join their cry of worship. This joyful picture is a vision of heaven and the elect who are admitted. They have followed Jesus Christ on the way of the Cross. They have survived incredible tribulation and now glorify God on His Throne and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Jesus’s blood has washed the robes of the saints clean.
St. John’s vision should give us hope. These are the saints of God who are admitted into God’s presence. Our hope is our desire for something and our expectation of receiving it. The virtue of hope is our desire to enter into Divine union with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This union will give us eternal happiness. Faith is an act of our intellect but hope is an act of our will. This vision is what we hope for. St. John’s vision encourages us to keep calm and carry on…following Jesus on the way through suffering and tribulation to an everlasting divine union in which we glorify God and He continues to love us.
Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 28th, 2018:
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:-6; Hebrews 5:1-6; and Mark 10:46-52.
By Father Scott Karnik
We must hold onto our Catholic faith in Jesus Christ. Doing that enables Jesus to return us to our “rest,” in the Promised Land of grace and salvation where our souls reside. In today’s first reading, God the Father, announces through His prophet Jeremiah, that the Jews will return from Exile. Even those for whom travel is difficult, even they must return. This is such good news that the exiles will be overjoyed. They will return with tears of contrition. God promises the Exiles that the painful labor of sowing will be crowned with life by the Lord, who has returned them to the Promised Land, to the Temple, and God’s Presence. These days of return will be happy.
In today’s gospel, a blind man named Bartimeus is begging. Bartimeus is destitute and insignificant. Bartimeus is a sinner, a nobody. But Bartimeus acts when he hears Jesus is coming. He calls to Jesus persistently. His persistence wins. Bartimeus attracts Jesus’s attention and confidently approaches Jesus’s “throne of grace.” Jesus answers his faith-filled request. He cures Bartimeus’s blindness. Bartimeus’s faith in Jesus has saved him. But there is more. St. Mark also writes that Bartimeus “followed him (Jesus) on the way.” That phrase designates discipleship in the early Church. So the readings today illustrate the prophesied return of Israel and Judah to their promised land, to their beloved city of Jerusalem, and to the Temple where God will return. It is also the illustration of a man’s soul, seeking Jesus, meeting Jesus, asking Jesus for a miracle, and Jesus gives him two. One is the cure of his blindness, and the second, the formation of a disciple, who follows Jesus “on the way.” Jesus gives James, John, and us, the model of the Suffering Servant that He and we must become. Then St. Mark ends this chapter with this story , to encourage his Christian readers in their own situations, on their own way (of the Cross). “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.”
Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 21st, 2018:
What religion would you die for? What religion would you live for? Today’s readings answer those questions. They also identify the chalice and the baptism which we must drink, the chalice and baptism James and John participated in.
The reading from Isaiah explains the theme of vicarious atonement. The prophecy is of a “Suffering Servant.” God’s Suffering Servant will assume the punishment due to us for our sins. This Suffering Servant will do this in our name. The Suffering Servant will be regarded as guilty and he will be associated with the wicked, even though he was completely innocent. His suffering will be for a positive purpose-salvation. Christians see clearly Jesus Christ in this model of the Suffering Servant. God Himself speaks in Isaiah’s prophecy. God affirms this prophecy and the spiritual reality that the Suffering Servant achieves in his vicarious atonement. This vicarious atonement, this undeserved suffering, is the Chalice that Jesus must drink from, faithfully. Jesus’s vicarious atonement is meant to attract attention from others, Jews and Gentiles. In our time, this model of the Suffering Servant makes a positive sense of suffering, particularly unmerited suffering. It shows us how to evangelize our faith by bearing burdens and setting an example.
In the reading from Hebrews, this Suffering Servant is also a “great high priest.” The author identifies this great high priest as Jesus Christ. The author encourages us to approach Jesus on His throne of grace because this Suffering Servant and Great High Priest is merciful. He is merciful because He is human, as well as divine. Jesus Christ’s mercy is rooted in His sharing of our human nature. He was tempted in every way but did not sin. Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest has successfully entered into God’s presence. We sinful human beings can have hope and confidence in Jesus. So if we can hope in Jesus, we can and ought to proceed to Jesus’s throne of grace, to worship God and His Only Son, Jesus Christ. The author of this reading from Hebrews assures us that we shall find mercy and obtain grace in the form of help suited to each time and circumstance in our lives. In fact, God sends us His Holy Spirit. This is the third person in the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit is a divine being who encourages and helps us reach up to our higher nature, the nature of holiness. The religion which has such a Great High Priest, who has a fully human nature along with His divine nature, in such a sanctuary, who is the very Son of God Himself is the very religion to which we must hold on to. Here’s the kicker: We must drink from the same chalice that Jesus has drunk from, and James and John. We must be immersed in the same baptism of suffering Jesus was immersed into. Suffering and sorrow will overwhelm Jesus. And for us too, our suffering will be unmerited and innocent. The example we must give is to serve the needs of all. The example we give is meant to attract others to us, to our religion, to our carrying out of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The words of St. Teresa of Calcutta identify the chalice we must drink from and the baptism we must be immersed in. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30
By Fr. Scott Karnik
We are all human. We are all mortal. We were born. We live. We are sinners. And we will die. Solomon realized this about himself. He has no advantage to his birth. Solomon will live and die, just like his subjects will, poor and rich alike. So Solomon does something about it. Solomon prays to God for the gift of wisdom. God grants Solomon’s request. Here is what Solomon does next. Solomon treasures wisdom above all else. Solomon preferred wisdom to scepter and throne; devalued riches in comparison with wisdom; elevated wisdom above jewels, gold, and silver; loved wisdom more than health, and preferred wisdom to light. Solomon did what the rich, young man in today’s gospel could not do: Solomon abandons earthly desires and possessions for wisdom. So what is wisdom? It is another expression for God Himself. When Solomon realizes that he is a mortal, just like his subjects, he abandons himself completely to God and His way of life for himself. The author of the psalm asks God to teach men to know themselves before God. May man’s knowledge of the brevity of his life lead him to spend his life wisely. Knowing who we are before God will change us for the better. God is wisdom.
We get to that point by presenting ourselves with uplifted hearts to God and His life-giving word. We lift up our hearts to God’s word. God’s word is authoritative. In fact, in the second reading from Hebrews, God’s word is so alive and authoritative that it is interchangeable with God Himself, who speaks it. God takes the place of His Word. God’s word is all-seeing and all-knowing. It penetrates the innermost person and forces him to address what really matters. All things discover themselves and stand bare before God’s eyes. The author of Hebrews says nothing is hidden from God. We will all give an account of our lives to God.
In today’s gospel, we see God’s Word made flesh. It is God’s Son, Jesus Christ. St. John wrote in the prologue to his gospel that the Word made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love (John 1:14). In today’s gospel reading from St. Mark, God’s Word meets man. The man asks what he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers. The man answers back. And Jesus tells him there is one thing lacking. “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me”(Mark 10:21). Abandon yourself and follow Jesus, the Word made flesh. Trust Jesus above all else. Love Jesus above everything. Abandon everything. Put Jesus first and let Him change your life. That’s what Jesus told this rich, young man. He couldn’t, wouldn’t do it. Ultimately, the man entrusted possessions before God’s wisdom, God’s words, and God’s Word made flesh. That’s what Jesus emphasizes. Undue attachment to wealth is a form of idolatry. It is inconsistent with true service to God. Hopefully, the rich, young man was not ready to do this. Hopefully, he reconsidered and later did follow Jesus. We can only hope and pray.
So what must we know? That we can encounter God’s Word made flesh every Sunday at this beautiful Holy Mass. What must we do? We must come here with uplifted heart. The first part of the Mass is the penitential rite. We confess our faults and ask forgiveness. The second part is the liturgy of the word, where we listen to God speak to us. Another part is the liturgy of the Eucharist, where we receive Jesus Himself, the Word made flesh. He changes us if we let Him. Why should we care? Because God tells us that we are not our own gods. God’s word tells us that we mortals can and must trust Jesus, His Son, abandon everything, and follow Him. He will love us if we do and on that day, He will take us up with Him to heaven.
Homily for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 7th, 2018:
Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-6; Hebrews 2:9-11; and Mark 10:2-16
By Father Scott Karnik
“The family that prays together, stays together.” That very wise adage from Father Patrick Peyton applies very much to today’s readings. In Genesis, we hear about the creation of Eve, the woman who is the best-suited helper of the man. God’s motive to create her is that “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him”(Gen 2:18). God creates the woman for the man so that the two of them can enter into the sacrament of marriage. The end of this creation story proves it. The author establishes the dignity of the man and the woman in this story. “Dignity” is defined as “the quality or state of being esteemed, honored, or worthy.” This couple, one man and one woman, is totally unique to each other. The author of this story writes that the man is joyful at God’s creation of the woman. He is not alone anymore. The suitable partner has the same human nature that he does. They are united. God wills that the man and the woman enter into the sacrament of marriage. Notice that God puts the man into a deep sleep when He creates the woman. The man does not witness the mystery of God’s act of creation of another human being. God’s creation of another human being is a divine act. This is where abortion is most sinful. It destroys an act of divine creation by Almighty God Himself. God created the man and the woman and then blessed them to be fertile and multiply; to fill the earth and subdue it”(Gen 1:28). God creates a family. The family is the man and the woman in love and they have babies. This creation story explains a present reality. A man and a woman fall in love and marry. In Genesis 2:24, to “leave” and to “cleave” indicate a covenant. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament and a covenantal relationship.
St. Mark writes in his gospel about Jesus’s attitude toward marriage and divorce. Jesus teaches that it is not permissible for the man and the woman to divorce. Other teachers did permit it. Jesus does not. Jesus uses Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the authority for His position. Jesus bans divorce. Then, Jesus privately tells His disciples that if a man or a woman should have to divorce their spouse, they cannot remarry without being considered an adulterer. The central message from St. Mark is Jesus’s challenge to husbands and wives to live in a faithful, fertile, holy, and perpetual union until death. To do so, requires prayer. It requires the husband and wife to remain in faithful contact with each other, with their children, and with God Himself. The man and the woman cannot do this alone. Father Patrick Peyton promoted the truth that “the family that prays together stays together.” He started a Family Rosary campaign that eventually led to a national radio program on which the Rosary was prayed. The danger of not praying together as a family is divorce and the cheapening of the sacrament of marriage.
This is important because the alternative to faith, family, and marriage is divorce, living together in sin, breakup, and abortion. These acts are promoted for the freedom they give. They do not provide freedom. They enslave. They enslave the man and the woman to their passions and selfishness. And then comes the critical question of how to deal with the consequence of that sinful union. The critical answer to that in this sinful world is abortion. The critical answer in this sinful world is divorce. They do not reinforce a family. They shatter it. Abortion is a satanic act which destroys God’s life-giving action. Abortion is a satanic act which destroys the life of a specific person that God wanted to place in this world, at this time, to perform a specific task to build God’s kingdom. Wherever abortion and divorce go, they leave destruction and death in their wake.
Jesus says that only a child-like trust will enable us to live up to His demands in the day-to-day relationships we have in families and elsewhere. We pray for grace from Jesus through His Blessed Mother by praying the Rosary, together, as a family. Jesus can keep families praying together and staying together. It is Jesus Christ’s forgiveness, love, and mercy that can reassemble lives shattered by abortion and divorce. He is eager and willing to forgive those who commit those sins. Jesus is one confession, Holy Mass, and Eucharist away.
So compare. Which world do you want to build? Is it the world of marriage, family, and children? Or is it the world of abortion and divorce? Which world do you want to live in? Which world do you want your children to live in? Which world do you want to leave for your grandchildren? The answer is clear on its face. It is the God-given world of one man and one woman in a family that prays together and stays together and has children. And with Jesus’s grace and our child-like trust in His teachings, that world can be revived quickly and powerfully.
Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, (B), September 30th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik
Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8,10,12-13,14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45, 47-48
Today’s readings suggest a common theme of uniqueness of leadership in God’s Church. To “lead” is “to guide on a way, especially by going in advance.” The leadership demands strain Moses and he asks to die. He doesn’t ask for help. God ignores Moses melodrama. God tells Moses to assemble 70 elders at the tent of meeting. Yahweh will take some of the spirit that rests on Moses and give it to the elders in order to share the burden. So Moses does and Yahweh does. But what happens is the 70 elders prophesy. That is important. They can prophesy. But Moses ‘s leadership position is unique. Only Moses can bear the burden of responsibility of communicating Yahweh’s word to the Israelites and leading the Israelites safely into the Promised Land. Those two responsibilities are unique to Moses. Eldad and Medad prophesy too. Moses approves God’s distribution of spirit. Moses is not concerned with any loss of prestige. He is concerned about the good of the Israelites. God’s prophetic gift is not restricted to any class. Moses excellent character is displayed in this story. Read Numbers 11 and Numbers 12. You will see God further defining the uniqueness of Moses’s leadership.
St. James writes about the unique leadership of those who are rich. St. James extends the woe oracles Jesus pronounced on the rich and well-fed. The last stage of time exists now. Jesus Christ is enthroned at God’s right hand with victory and dominion. The great reversal of values is underway. The earthly values in this mortal world are being devalued right now as we speak. Abortion is one of them. Abortion will die a mortal death and the sooner, the better. The values of this mortal world deceive. St. James says the ones who are most susceptible to this deception are the rich. The rich look to these values for security. But these worldly values are subject to time, just as we are. The rich prefer to see their worldly wealth decay rather than use it to help the poor. They believe the present, sinful world will continue forever. They are so comfortable now that they refuse to believe that Jesus is coming again to judge this sinful world. Their hard-heartedness will be their ruin. St. James then accuses the rich of his time of unscrupulous selfishness. They would not pay the poor laborers at the end of the day. So therefore, they went hungry, along with their families. St. James also accuses the rich of not helping the poor secure their rights. And they fail to understand that God takes the part of the oppressed. This is especially true if the oppressed entrust their well-being completely to Jesus and live like Him. This crime of withholding wages from workers is so serious that it cries out to God for redress, just like murder does, just like sodomy does. Those who surrender to worldly pleasures and power might be or might become unscrupulous. They presume to live as they please with apparent impunity. But in God’s eyes they are fools and their sentence has already been passed on them. Now that Jesus Christ has been glorified, God’s judgment has been pronounced in principle. St. James condemns the rich for their injustice, not their wealth.
Jesus speaks of that same uniqueness of leadership in His gospel reading today. Jesus warns those who would scandalize the little ones who believe in Him. The person or persons who scandalize the little ones to that extent will endure the most severe punishment at God’s judgment. They will be sunk into the sea. They will be doomed if they do not repent, confess their sins, and do penance. The occasions of sin Jesus talks about are moral and originate inside the person. That person must overcome them at the root, where they are cut off, in order to avoid damnation. To scandalize someone by engaging in such sin means to sin and to jeopardize the man who is scandalized. It is better to die than to rob a man of his faith. Think about that in today’s scandalous revelations in our Church. Those people are sentenced already and their only escape is to repent, confess their sins, and do penance. But remember that we, the little ones, can scandalize too. We are not morally superior to anyone. The same moral standards that apply to Church leaders apply to us too.
The goal of man’s existence is eternal life. This brings him salvation, the kingdom of God. To fail to enter into life and to not share in God’s eternal kingdom means to miss the goal that God Himself has set for mankind. It is the most terrible lot that can befall us. A man’s earthly life has been made meaningless and when he dies, he will be meaningless forever. It is an eternal death, a destruction of his humanity which God designed for eternal life because He loves us that much. Jesus says it is better to cut off a body part than to scandalize another human being and be thrown into hell.
jesus repeats to his disciples that he will go to jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again as messiah
Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), Sunday, September 23rd, 2018:
Jesus will be ready to make His final trip to Jerusalem when today’s gospel reading from St. Mark ends. Jesus will go to Jerusalem where He will suffer, be crucified, and die, and rise again on the third day. But Jesus has to give His disciples some remedial training first. Jesus has to re-instruct them about His Passion. It is difficult for them and us to understand. Our societal expectations clash with Jesus’s teaching of the necessity of personal sacrifice.
The disciples spend their energy arguing over who is the most important among themselves rather than try to understand Jesus’s second Passion prediction. So Jesus gives them a visual aid. It is a child. Jesus calls His disciples to serve the humble, the insignificant, and the unimportant. That child exemplifies the people Jesus wants His disciples to serve. The great reward for such humble service is the receiving of Jesus Christ Himself and God His Father. So therefore, there is no room in Jesus’s kingdom for the type of selfish ambition and aggrandizement His disciples are arguing over. In Jesus’s kingdom, ambition for the highest places is misguided and misplaced.
This is happening to Jesus’s very own hand-picked disciples because they are following their own concupiscence. They are following their own selfish desires and self-gratification instead of humility and wisdom. Self-gratification and selfishness lead to hatred and envy of others, false morals, heresy, division, and immorality. But God-fearing wisdom leads to purity, tranquility, modesty, docility, equity, mercy, and piety. Wisdom is practical and active and unitive. And the more wisdom unites, it promotes universality and salvation in this church. We are all asked to practice it.
This will be difficult. Consider today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom. The evil sinners will persecute the just man who submits to the Divine Will. They will do so because the lifestyle of the wise, God-fearing man pricks the consciences of evil people. So the evil people fall on the just ones, to attack them. The wise ones will live in accordance with God’s plan and wishes. The basis of human evil is personal choice. The relationship with evil is direct, involves deeds and words, grows into desire and friendship, and ends in a sinful covenantal relationship. That should sound familiar. It is familiar because the basis of human holiness is personal choice. It is direct. Holiness also involves deeds and words, and grows into desire and friendship, and ends in a holy, loving covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, in today’s first reading, the title of the just and wise person who follows God’s plan is “the just one,” and “the son of God.” Those titles speak of the close relationship between the wise and the just with the Lord. The just man has said that God Himself will take care of him and protect him. Eventually, that is what Jesus’s disciples will learn.
So what should we know? That Jesus Christ calls us to the same personal sacrifice to serve the humble and the insignificant that He called His disciples to serve. What should we do? We should surrender selfish ambition, evil desires, and self gratification and replace them with purity, tranquility, modesty, docility, equity, mercy, and piety. And why should we care? Because the reward for this type of service is that we serve Jesus Himself and God His Father. We will see them face-to-face in the little children, the poor, and the insignificant that we serve and welcome by doing good for them. Indeed, that will be the answer to the final test. On that day, Jesus will come and say to those who serve Him: “Come. You have my Father’s blessing. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me…I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me”(Matthew 25:34-40).
Jesus is the messiah who willingly suffers and dies for our sake, to save us. Here is how we can follow him
Homily for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, September 16th, 2018
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 116:1-9; James 2:14-18 & Mark 8:27-35
By Father Scott Karnik
Today’s readings point to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the one who suffers, dies, and rises again to save us and give us eternal life. We know that. Isaiah’s reading today is one of the Suffering Servant songs. This servant speaks about himself. He says he gives his back “to those who beat me,…(Isaiah 50:6)…”my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting”(Isaiah 50:6). This servant has obediently accepted God’s call and will carry it out. Bible commentators say this is a prophecy of Jesus Christ and His Passion. And Jesus teaches this to His disciples and to us today. He says in St. Mark’s gospel, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer much, be rejected by the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, be put to death, and rise three days later”(Mark 8:31). And then St. Mark writes, “He said these things quite openly”(Mark 8:32). We know this. It is what Jesus connects to this that is important. Jesus “summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them:…(Mark 8:34). Jesus is speaking to us, today, His followers. We must imitate Jesus in His sufferings and Passion. We must reflect Him in ourselves. How do we do that?
There is an answer in today’s first reading from Isaiah. It’s in the first sentence. “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back”(Isaiah 50:4-5). Jesus wants us to hear His teachings, obey them, and persevere in obedience. First, we must listen to His words and teachings and those of His Church. For us, to hear means “to gain knowledge of by hearing; to learn; to listen to with attention; to heed; to entertain the idea”(of something that is said). Of course we can hear, figuratively by reading and praying too. We hear with a humble, uplifted heart to God’s Words in Sacred Scripture here at Mass. We have to be willing to come here to hear with an uplifted heart. Second, Isaiah’s prophecy says “And I have not rebelled,…(Isaiah 50:5). The Suffering Servant, Jesus, obeys. To obey means “to follow the commands or guidance of; to comply with; to execute.” We too must obediently follow Jesus’s vocation of denying ourselves, picking up our crosses, daily, and following Him. Either we must relinquish ourselves totally to the suffering Messiah that we follow, or make ourselves susceptible to an unfavorable judgment. We must obey and lose our lives for Jesus’s sake and the sake of the gospel. We too must suffer and carry Jesus’s Cross to Calvary. And third, Isaiah writes this phrase: “…have not turned back”(Isaiah 50:5). The Suffering Servant accepts his divine vocation. He perseveres in it. So do we. To persevere means “to keep at something in spite of difficulties, opposition, or discouragement.” Jesus teaches that He has a dual destiny. “The Son of Man” must suffer and be glorified later. St. Peter and the other disciples fail to understand the association of suffering and death Jesus must undergo in His office of Messiah. We have difficulty doing the same thing. It requires humility and humility is a bad word in today’s world.
All of this is important because there is no other way to conform to Jesus and receive the salvation He offers us. It really is His Way or the highway. This is important for us because in our own church, in our own faith, there are people who say they’re Catholic but they subscribe to the way of the (sinful) world. That is first for them. They pay lip service to their faith and place their hearts elsewhere. They are not to be followed or imitated. Jesus is to be followed. His way is the only way. To follow Jesus we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him through hearing, obeying, and persevering to the bitter end, which leads to the glorious salvation and life which will never end.
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