Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, ©, February 24, 2019:
My mother used to say that an apple never falls far from the tree. She’d say that about someone who did the same things that his or her parents did. Jesus touches on the same saying in today’s gospel. A true Christian bears the mark of Christ’s and God’s radical love. It is love of one’s enemies that is the true test of discipleship. It is faith in God that is the foundation for this radical discipleship.
The Scripture commentary I looked at for this gospel reading from St. Luke points out that Jesus says “love,” “do good,” and “give” or “lend” three times each. It is in verse 35 that Jesus says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” In verse 36 Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Jesus expects us to not fall far from the tree. We must be compassionate, forgiving of offenses, withholding of condemnation and judgment, and to be generous without regard to the cost. God has done as much for us. In Hebrew thought, parents reproduce character traits in their children. Jesus applies this to God’s family. Just as God, His Father, is forgiving and loving, so His children must imitate His kindness toward all without any type of discrimination.
What Jesus tells His disciples is revolutionary. Jesus tells them and us to love our enemies. Jesus expands the act of charity in His New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, loving one’s neighbor meant loving everyone within the covenantal family of Israel. That’s it.
Jesus also warns against retaliation. He says Christians must be willing to part with possessions in the face of persecution by their oppressors.
Jesus also establishes mercy as the identifying rule of His kingdom. In the Old Covenant, God commanded His people, the Israelites, to be holy. God ordered the Israelites to be holy by separating themselves from everything that was ungodly, unclean, and impure, and everyone. That included Gentiles and sinners. That’s why the Pharisees question Jesus about eating and drinking with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Jesus gives holiness a new focus. Jesus defines holiness as unqualified, universal mercy. Jesus commands His disciples (and us) to “Be merciful,…”(Lk 6:36). Jesus’s idea of being merciful is to reach out to others and to no longer divide people into separate groups that would justify withholding mercy from some and giving mercy to others, thereby preventing some from entering God’s family.
Quite frankly, we see this type of love and mercy in today’s first reading. David shows mercy to King Saul, an enemy, who regards David as his personal enemy. David and Abishai enter Saul’s camp undetected. They come upon King Saul, sleeping, with his personal spear jammed into the ground by his head. Abishai wants to run it through Saul’s head. And there is nothing to stop him, except David. Remember that Saul had thrown his spear at David earlier, in a fit of rage. David could exact his revenge right here, right now. David says no. His reason is that he must respect and sacredness of a king anointed by God Himself. King Saul is Israel’s first king. God chose Saul and anointed him king. David will respect that and spare the life of King Saul. That is important. It is mercy and restraint from retaliation that David enacts and which Jesus expects us to enact to be holy and God-like. We must not fall far from the tree.
And finally, if we do this, then God will overflow His mercy on our behalf when we ask Him for mercy for ourselves.
It requires a major transformation in us to do this. But if we do, then we won’t fall far from the tree and quite frankly, we will embrace and make visible the character traits in our actions that God Himself enacts toward us AND that HE WANTS TO ENACT toward us.
Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, ©, February 17th, 2019:
The anchor of our faith is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. It is Jesus Christ who is our only Savior. He is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He is human and He is divine. It is Jesus’s Resurrection from the dead that makes Him completely unique. Jesus’s salvation is bound up in His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’s apostles and disciples preached Jesus dead and resurrected from the dead. Only one man has come back from the dead and that is Jesus Christ. Salvation is bound up in Him and Him alone. That’s the saving gospel message. Those who place their faith in Jesus will rise.
St. Paul writes that to the Corinthian Christians. St. Paul argues this because there are some Corinthians who do not believe in resurrection from the dead. St. Paul says if the dead are not resurrected, then neither was Christ resurrected. St. Paul says this is absurd. He argues that our resurrection hinges on Christ’s resurrection. If those who have died have no hope of resurrection, then we are truly hopeless. St. Paul argues that if we have only this life, we are doomed to despair and absurdity. That’s why St. Paul says the Corinthian theory of no resurrection is nothing but a dead end. Our resurrection stands or falls on Christ’s resurrection. St. Paul criticizes the Corinthians who do not believe in the resurrection for falling away from the gospel truth in a way that breaks with Apostolic preaching and tradition. Remember last week when St. Paul said that he handed on to the Corinthians what he also received, the teaching of Church tradition in accordance with the Scriptures. If Corinthians do not believe in resurrection, they are breaking up the faith. St. Paul says their message of resurrection has value only if it is true. There is no other alternative for St. Paul. He sums up his argument by asserting that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. So that’s the message. That is why we’re here to praise and worship Jesus Christ. He has risen from the dead. No one else has, yet. But we will if we have faith in Him and His Resurrection. This is important because St. Paul sets up an either-or argument. Either we are filled with hope because of Jesus’s Resurrection or filled with disillusion and hopelessness if He has not.
It is at this point that we can see some of the either-or in the other readings today. Jeremiah prophesies that the one who turns his heart away from the Lord is cursed, like a barren bush in the desert. But the one who trusts in the Lord is like a fruitful tree whose leaves stay green even during the drought. In persecution/drought, it still yields fruit. Psalm One says the man who delights in the law of the Lord is constant, and fruitful. But the wicked will be driven away by the wind. They will perish. And Jesus Himself uses the same argument. Jesus says the rich will be woeful someday. They have put their trust in human beings instead of the Son of Man. They have been flattered falsely and have been deluded. Rather, Jesus says the people who are poor, hungry, are weeping and are hated because of Him will one day rejoice. The Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs.
It is an either-or choice for you and me. But Jesus warns us that if we choose Him, to live in Him now, we will be persecuted now by false prophets and those who enjoy their false prophecies. But there will be an end. That end will be in happiness for us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. That end will be resurrection. And that is the best reason to stay strong in your faith in Jesus Christ in this church and her traditional teachings which extend all the way back to Jesus Christ Himself.
Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time ©, February 10th, 2019:
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, and Luke 5:1-11.
By Father Scott Karnik
These Sunday readings tell us about vocations. In Isaiah’s reading and in St. Luke’s gospel reading, the dictionary definition of “vocation” fits well. “Vocation” is defined as “a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action; especially a divine call to the religious life.” Another word that applies here is “call.” “Call” is defined as “a request or command to assemble” or “an invitation to become the minister of a church or to accept a professional appointment.” Both Isaiah and St. Peter receive their vocations in today’s readings. So to discuss priestly vocations or vocations to religious life is appropriate today.
Isaiah receives his vocation in a vision. Isaiah’s vision is an ecstatic experience that occurred probably in the Jerusalem Temple. Isaiah’s vision is an inaugural vision. Isaiah’s prophetic career started with this vocation from a vision of God. Isaiah is transformed. Isaiah’s claim to have seen God would lend authority to his message, since people would resist it. A vision directly from God would have pre-eminence over any human institution, including kingship. Isaiah’s vision is also his testimony of how he was called to be a prophet and who called him. Isaiah immediately notices that God is supremely holy, superlatively holy. Isaiah immediately confesses his personal impurity, his sinfulness. In the Old Testament, to be holy means to be separated from whatever is base, impure, or sinful. God is so superlatively holy that He is separate from His creatures, namely Isaiah. God’s remedy is drastic. An angel burns Isaiah’s lips. This cleansing enables Isaiah to prophesy for God. The Scripture commentary I looked studied says Isaiah will announce to Judah that God will soon judge it for its sinfulness. It is inevitable. But the good news is that there will remain a faithful remnant. This remnant of Judah will have a future. The majority of Judah will be destroyed but the destruction will purify the remnant. That is Isaiah’s message and this vision is his vocation to it.
Jesus gives St. Peter his vocation in today’s gospel. He is Simon, the fisherman. Jesus calls Simon to obedience through faith. Jesus tells Simon to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”(Lk 5:4). Simon is very skeptical but his bottom line is “But at your word I will let down the nets”(Lk 5:5). Simon places his trust in Jesus. The result is breath taking. Notice that immediately after this St. Luke calls Simon “Peter” for the first time (Lk 5:8). Simon will be called “Peter” as head of the Church. Peter’s act of faith opens his eyes to who Jesus really is. Simon-Peter’s act of faith makes him the rock on which Jesus Christ’s Church is built. Simon Peter knows the distance between his sinful self and Jesus, the “Lord”(Lk 5:8). He realizes that Jesus is divine. That’s what Jesus’s miraculous catch of fish is designed to do, to show the virtue of His divinity. To the Jewish mind, any power of command over the sea and its creatures suggests divine power. He realizes that Jesus Christ stands in a unique relationship with God. And Jesus calls Simon Peter to share in His Mission. Jesus’s mission is to cast out sin and enable God to reign in the souls of men. Peter and others in this church accomplish Jesus’s mission by preaching the gospel. Notice in St. Luke’s reading, he writes this: While the people pressed upon him (Jesus) to hear the word of God,….(Lk 5:1). The gospel that Peter and his fellow apostles and disciples, and St. Paul, preach has the power to save. The gospel is not a doctrine or a simple teaching. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that even now the gospel is saving them if they obey what he has taught them. And this is a very important point. St. Paul writes “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,…(1 Cor 15:3). St. Paul says he delivered to the Corinthians what he also received by his transmission of oral and liturgical tradition. St. Paul, Peter, and other apostles and disciples teach the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. What St. Paul taught to the Corinthians was taught to him. St. Paul bases the gospel on the firm ground of the Church tradition which goes all the way back to Jesus Christ’s life on earth, to Jesus Christ Himself. The center of Holy Mother Church’s teaching is Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Old Testament scriptures promised a messiah who would save us from our sins. This is what Jesus Christ’s death accomplished and this is what Holy Mother Church has taught since Christ’s earthly life. St. Paul also writes that he has been called to be an apostle because of God’s grace in him, not because of any personal merit. By the grace of God St. Paul preaches and teaches and by the grace of God, the Corinthians believed.
(***At the next Mass, Fr. Al Bitz will preach. He is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Fr. Bitz is a former pastor here. Fr. Bitz answered his vocational call from Jesus. At 12:30, there will be a mass to celebrate the Vietnamese new year. A Vietnamese priest will celebrate it. He answered his call from Jesus. And this evening at the bishop’s residence, there will be an Operation Andrew dinner. The bishop will host men from this region who are considering a call to priesthood for the Fargo diocese.***). God’s grace is at work in this church. Please pray for vocations and support them through a generous gift to God’s Gift Appeal 2019. You’ll hear more about that later in this mass. A vocation, a vision, and a call are all part of God seeking out holy men for priesthood and holy women for religious life. If you think you have one, pray and actively seek it out. “But at your command, I will let down the nets.”
Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: February 3, 2019:
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1Corinthians 12:1-13:13 & Luke4:21-30
Fr. Scott Karnik
God shows us the anatomy of a call to a personal vocation in today’s reading from Jeremiah. And in Luke’s gospel reading today, we see what happens to someone who obediently and sincerely obeys God’s call.
The reading from Jeremiah, Chapter One is powerful. It is God talking directly to one of Israel’s greatest prophets. God calls Jeremiah directly and commissions Jeremiah to be a prophet. Jeremiah will be a prophet to the Jews and to the Gentiles. God’s words to Jeremiah are powerful: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you”(Jeremiah 1:4-5). The eternal God calls Jeremiah. Jeremiah has no merit for God’s call. Every person born is part of God’s providence. God knew Jeremiah. God selected Jeremiah for this specific mission before Jeremiah was even conceived. God “formed” Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. “Formed” describes what a potter does when modelling clay. God gives Jeremiah-and each person He conceives and forms-the gifts and talents to enact the specific plan He ordains that person with. God consecrated and earmarked Jeremiah for His service, to be a prophet to the Jews and the Gentiles. God knew Jeremiah first, then consecrated Jeremiah for this specific plan. Jeremiah will suffer greatly as he prophesies. But God will stay faithful to Jeremiah. God reassures Jeremiah that he will prevail over his enemies. Jeremiah’s mission is to reproach the Jews for their sinfulness and to explain the reasons for the events, to include the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the Jews’ exile to Babylon. Jewish spoken history claims that Jews from Jerusalem took Jeremiah to Egypt. There, they stoned him to death. This is the obvious reason why abortion is so sinful and so wrong. God works through people, through every eternal soul He creates. God knows each eternal soul before he or she is conceived. God consecrates each eternal soul for a specific mission. To destroy that person before birth precludes the specific work God intended for that eternal soul. To persist in this bloody, horrible sin, flies and spits in the face of our loving and merciful God. It is an insult that is felt deeply by the Triune God we worship.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells His fellow Nazoreans that the proclamation prophesied by Isaiah is now being fulfilled by Him. He is the prophet and the messiah who will initiate a new age of divine favor and freedom. Jesus says this day has come. He fulfills it. The Nazoreans are impressed. But then someone asks “Is not this Joseph’s son?”(Luke 4:22). They were skeptical of Jesus’s proclaimed credentials to accomplish all of this. They think Jesus is unqualified to inaugurate Israel’s national liberation. He’s the carpenter’s son. Jesus answers by placing Himself in the company of Old Testament prophets whom Israelites rejected and killed. The Israelites then were very sinful so God blessed the Gentiles instead. Jesus mentions the widow of Sidon and Naaman, the Syrian. That infuriates the Nazoreans. He tells them that the fact that they are Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that God will be favorable to them. It is the same with us. Just because we print “In God we trust” on our money doesn’t mean that God has an unlimited tolerance for our sinfulness, including abortion. In the Old Testament, God punished the Israelites and the people of Judah for their sinfulness. In the New Testament, Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple. That happened in 70 A.D. and it stays leveled to this day. What Jesus says in the synagogue requires our conversion. It requires a rooting out of our sins from our souls. Jesus will help us. In fact, Jesus is eager to help us. Later in this gospel, the Jews will decisively reject Jesus. They will have the Romans execute Him. It appears that Jesus is destroyed. But Jesus will emerge victorious in the stunning reality of His resurrection from the dead. May we too be resurrected through Jesus and through our turning away from the sins which besiege us. Jesus is eager to help. Remember that if you have had an abortion of have encouraged someone to do so, Jesus loves you, Jesus forgives you, and you can have hope. There are many resources available in the Roman Catholic Church to help you heal. Jesus Christ is present in the great sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to bring you back into a wonderful state of grace and good standing with Him. Contact your local Catholic Church for help. Remember, Jesus loves you, Jesus forgives you, you can have hope. Please pray the Most Holy Rosary everyday for the intention of ending the sin of abortion in the United States of America. Praised by Jesus Christ, now and forever.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016