Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Sunday, July 29th, 2018:
On July 25th, Holy Mother Church celebrated the Feast of St. James the Apostle. He was the brother of St. John the Evangelist and a martyr for the Church. But July 25th also marked the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s issuance of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul VI addressed “the regulation of birth” in his encyclical letter. Here is the first sentence of Humanae Vitae: “The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.” Pope Paul VI wrote this encyclical to answer “new questions,” the biggest of which is “man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life-over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.” Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae to reflect more deeply on the moral teaching of marriage in the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI wrote that human procreation involves the whole man and the whole mission to which God calls him, not just biology, psychology, physiology, et cetera. God created married love when He created Adam and Eve. God wants men and women to marry and have children. A husband and wife are to cooperate with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. Married love is fully human, a compound of sense and spirit, faithful and exclusive until death, and is fertile. It generates new life in the world. Pope Paul VI wrote that responsible parenthood recognizes and respects its proper functions. Man’s reason and will must control his and her instincts, urges, and emotions. Every conjugal act of marriage must be open to human life because it is part of God’s natural law. The act of marriage is unitive and procreative. It is reasonable. He wrote that a husband and wife can exercise God’s marital design but cannot alter it. Therefore, “man’s act to interrupt the life-giving process of the marital act, (to include artificial contraception and direct abortion) is unlawful and disobeys God’s design and intention.” Pope Paul VI then reflected on the consequences of artificial methods of birth control. He said “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards….Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner who he should surround with care and affection. Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.” Think about Communist China and its one-child policy. Finally, Pope Paul VI wrote that “we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions-limits…which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed.” Pope Paul VI’s words were prophetic. 50 years later, look around you. What do you see? You expect me to “toe the corporate line” and I do. But let me read to you these quotes about Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. “…I believe that Protestants have done themselves a disservice by ignoring Humanae Vitae’s substantial statement on human anthropology and sexuality. Our distaste for things Roman Catholic,…has deprived us of a wealth of theological wisdom on some very important ethical challenges. Protestants would be well-served to study Paul VI’s encyclical and take heed of its warnings. Our acceptance of most forms of birth control is not helping us teach the next generation about sex and sexuality. It is time for us to reconsider our stance.” The person who wrote that is Evan Lenow, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here’s another one: “If we leave out individual intentions and assess nothing but uncontroversial facts, it is transparently clear that the increased use of contraception has also increased abortion….Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-control wedlock births all exploded simultaneously…contraception has led to more pregnancy and more abortion because it eroded the idea that men had equal responsibility in case of an unplanned pregnancy. Contraception…sharply reduced the incentive for men to marry….In the new, post-pill order, pregnancy became the woman’s responsibility-and if birth control ‘failed,’ that was not the man’s problem.” …and…”Whatever the anxieties of the moment, however prominent or widespread the disgruntlement, the ever-growing empirical record continues to vindicate Paul VI’s encyclical.” These last two quotes come from senior research fellow Mary Eberstadt, of the Faith and Reason Institute. She is a Catholic author. Listen to this quote: “…we should look closely at the Catholic moral argument as found in Humanae Vitae. Evangelicals will find themselves in surprising agreement with much of the encyclical’s argument. As the Pope warned, widespread use of the Pill has led to ‘serious consequences’ including marital infidelity and rampant sexual immorality. In reality, the Pill allowed a near-total abandonment of Christian sexual morality in the larger culture. Once the sex act was severed from the likelihood of childbearing, the traditional structure of sexual morality collapsed.” That quote is from Doctor Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. And finally this quote: “I urge the advocates of artificial methods (of birth control) to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love.”….”There is hope for a decent life only so long as the sexual act is definitely related to the conception of precious life” (as Pope Paul VI advocated in Humanae Vitae). The person who said that was Mahatma Gandhi.
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical has stood the test of time. Humanae Vitae has been prophetic. Pope Paul VI’s vision of what would happen has been prophetic. Holy Mother Church asks everyone who opposes the teachings of the encyclical to reconsider in light of the evidence. If we don’t, what will this world look like 100 years after Humanae Vitae?
Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, July 22, 2018:
By Fr. Scott Karnik
Today’s readings describe a shepherd. A shepherd is very important. A shepherd is so important that God says He will raise a shepherd to care for His Chosen People. He Himself will be that shepherd.
In Jeremiah, God says woe to the shepherds. These shepherds mislead and scatter the flock. God accuses Israel’s kings of being woeful shepherds. They were unfaithful to God and to their own people. They lead God’s Chosen People to worship the pagan gods of their Canaanite neighbors. The kings set up images of these false gods in God’s own Temple. God promises that He Himself will gather the remnant of His flock from all the lands to which they were driven. God promises to appoint shepherds, better shepherds, who will protect and account for every one of the people. “…none shall be missing,…” This speaks of universal salvation by a shepherd king who will succeed where the other Israelite kings have failed. God promises a messianic king will arise from King David’s lineage. He will rule with the justice of the Lord and fulfill all kingly ideals. This prophecy from Jeremiah and another one from Isaiah initiate Israel’s hopes for a Messiah. About 500 years later, their hopes are fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.
What does this GOOD Shepherd do? Psalm 23 says he feeds and leads the people to food and water. He cares for His people while the poor shepherds do not. The Good Shepherd’s leadership is so reliable and trustworthy that the psalmist is confident even when the paths are dark and treacherous. The Good Shepherd is always present. The Good Shepherd is close and ready to defend His flock. This Good Shepherd lavishes goodness and kindness on His flock, like a Kind Host would.
In the Gospel, Jesus intends to take His Apostles away to rest, after they complete their mission. They all go somewhere, but the crowd intercepts them. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, pities the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd;…” So Jesus teaches the flock many things. Jesus does so because their needs are greater. They need nourishment and grace. It is God Himself who is doing this. The crowds were scattered, driven away, and uncared for. Jesus reverses this. Jesus Christ is the messianic shepherd prophesied in Jeremiah. Jesus’s teaching is a fulfillment of His messianic role. The Pharisees and Scribes had neglected their duties to guide and teach the people, just like the poor kings in the Old Testament days.
It is important to know what Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads us to. Jesus leads us to unity in Him, in His Body, and in His Mystical Body, the Church, this Church, which Jesus clearly established on the rock of St. Peter. St. Paul writes in today’s reading from his Letter to the Ephesians that the Gentiles are brought close to the covenant by Christ’s shedding of His Own Blood. Jesus unifies the relationship between Jews and Gentiles by the sacrifice of His Own Body on the Cross. So the Good Shepherd will lay down His Life for His sheep, to unite them. Jesus died on the Cross to eliminate the barrier of enmity between Jew and Gentile. Christ’s sacrifice of His Own Flesh abrogates the Law of commands and curses on transgressors. To abrogate means to repeal by authoritative action (Jesus’s Crucifixion). Jews and Gentiles are joined in one man, Jesus Christ. They are made one. Jesus preached the Good News to those who were close (Jews) and to those who were far off (Gentiles). Both Gentiles and Jews have access to the Father in one spirit. The “one body” St. Paul refers to means Jesus’s physical body, sacrificed on the Cross, and His Mystical Body, the Church, which consists of both Jews and Gentiles. Thanks to Jesus’s merits and propitiatory sacrifice, we are introduced into the presence of God the Father in one Holy Spirit. The bond of love and peace that unites Jesus and God His Father is the same bond of union for members of His Church.
Jesus is still here with us-in Eucharist, in Sacred Scripture, and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. God cares for His people through His Son Jesus Christ in Eucharist. You will hear about that next week, in St. Mark’s Gospel. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is always present to His People. St. Mark hopes his readers will understand the meaning of all these events, including Jesus’s humiliating death on the Cross. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lays down His life for His sheep, and enters into Eucharist, really, substantially, and truly, to continue the Good Shepherd’s care for us. It is Jesus Himself, God Himself, who gathers his lost sheep into the place where they belong, in the Church, in a state of sanctifying grace, and nourished by Word and Sacrament, to the extent that there are no barriers separating any of us anymore. There is only the Body of Christ, sacrificed and resurrected. We are one, underneath the loving care of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, in His Church.
Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, July 15th, 2018:
Fr. Scott Karnik
There are two important words in today’s readings. One is “took,” from the prophet Amos. The other is “send.” Those two words have a direct effect on Amos and the 12 Apostles.
In Amos, the priest Amaziah tells Amos to leave Israel and return to Judah, to prophesy there. Amos answers Amaziah by giving a biographical sketch of himself. Amos says, “I am no prophet nor in a company of prophets. I am a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” Then Amos says, “…and the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘go, prophesy to my people Israel.” Amos uses the word “took.” In Hebrew, the word “took” means God makes in a person’s life an abrupt and radical shift to another way of life. Amos accepted God’s call. Amos left Judah and went to Israel to prophesy. Specifically, Amos prophesied to re-animate and to improve the ancient office of prophet. Amos obeyed and did it. Amos rejected the degenerate form of priesthood and prophets that Amaziah had practiced. God “took” Amos, to do something very good, and Amos did it.
In today’s gospel reading from St. Mark, Chapter 6, Jesus has personally selected His disciples. Jesus selects 12 from this group to accompany Him. Jesus tutors the Twelve. They watch Jesus heal and exorcise. They are now prepared to be Apostles, “ones who are sent out.” Jesus “sends” His Twelve Apostles to preach repentance to the people. Jesus also does something to give their message credibility. Jesus gives His Twelve Apostles authority over unclean spirits. This is a special power.
These Twelve Apostles whom Jesus “sends” end up becoming directly associated with Jesus’s personal ministry. They preach repentance, exorcise demons, and anoint with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Jesus has also given them special instructions for this two-by-two mission. They are to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; they could wear sandals but not a second tunic. Jesus gives these instructions to those He will send on His Mission so that they will be totally dependent on God and totally free to anoint the sick and cure them, to exorcise demons, and preach repentance. The early church is to be agile, fast, nimble, and totally dependent on God’s care. The Twelve who are sent are to be completely detached from material or personal considerations and they are to trust entirely God’s providence. These Twelve “sent” Apostles are signs to the people by being so dependent on God’s providence. They are consecrated to God and the importance of their mission becomes clearer to the public so that more souls can be won to Jesus.
There is one more thing. The proclamation of the message of repentance is the goal of their mission. So is the driving out of demons and anointing the sick to cure them. Those tasks emphasize the spiritual character of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Their preaching of the kingdom is a preparation for that. The missions of these Apostles who were dispatched in pairs become small-scale versions of Jesus’s own ministry. For your information, the anointing of oil in Mark 6:13 is the scriptural basis for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, or Extreme Unction. Oil was used to dress wounds back in the day. This anointing does much more.
“Took” and “sent” are two essential acts God has done to enable people He has personally selected to preach His message of repentance. His message of repentance sounds like this: From the prayer before the Scripture readings it says “Oh God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray,…” The Offertory prayer will say “Look upon the offerings of the Church, Oh Lord,…and grant that, when consumed by those who believe, they may bring ever greater holiness.” And the Postcommunion prayer will say “…we pray, Oh Lord, that, by our participation in this mystery, its saving effects upon us may grow.” If a Catholic man here today is considering being a priest, this is your job description. If a Catholic woman here today is considering being a nun, this is going to be your job description too. Do not be afraid. Jesus is with you. The Apostles are to preach to the people in the buildup to the ultimate revelation of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, on the Cross and resurrected three days later.
Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (B), Sunday, July 8th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik
There is a stark contrast in this Sunday’s readings when compared to last Sunday’s. In the gospel today, we see that people in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth reject Him. They reject Jesus because of their unbelieving astonishment. To “astonish” means “to strike with sudden wonder.” The Nazoreans say “Where did he get all this? What kind of wisdom is He endowed with? How is it that such miraculous deeds are accomplished by his hands?”(Mark 6:2). They know Jesus and they know that He did not attend a rabbinical school. They know Jesus and they ask “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?”(Mark 6:3). Then comes this telling sentence: “They found him too much for them”(Mark 6:3). The Nazoreans demonstrate to Jesus their lack of faith, their unwillingness to believe. Compare that with the characters in last week’s gospel. The synagogue official fell at Jesus’s feet “and made this earnest appeal:…”(Mark 5:23). The woman suffering from the hemorrhage “heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and put her hand to his cloak. If I just touch his clothing, she thought, I shall get well”(Mark 5:27-28). These two accepted in faith Jesus, what He taught, and what He did. Jesus tells the synagogue official to have faith. Jesus says “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust”(Mark 5:36).
What is needed is faith. So what is faith? The Catholic Church identifies faith as one of the theological virtues. We pray for faith, hope, and charity in every Rosary we pray. And we should pray the Rosary daily. The Hebrew word for faith in the Old Testament means “steadfastness.” It signifies a person’s attitude of trustfulness and belief. The Nazoreans reject Jesus’s preaching of the kingdom of God. Because Jesus had grown up amongst them, they refuse to recognize Jesus’s extraordinary mission. They would reject Jesus as a divinely-appointed teacher. They knew His relatives and His humble way of life. The Nazoreans are skeptical and unfriendly. Jesus was only “the son of Mary,…”(Mark 6:3). Jesus says that jealousy and familiarity create prejudice against Him. That is the real reason they are offended. This is also an affirmation that Jesus was a prophet to the rebellious Jews, just like Ezekiel was (Ezek 2:5).
What is needed is faith. Faith is an act of assent, an act by which one understands or judges propositions or opinions to be true. The synagogue official and the woman in last Sunday’s gospel had faith; they assented to a supernatural truth, that Jesus could cure the woman’s hemorrhage and the little girl’s (fatal) illness. They didn’t know how but that is not necessary. Their faith was an act of their intellect assenting/agreeing to a truth beyond their grasp. They DECIDED to have faith in Jesus. Our will is involved in our faith in Jesus Christ. Something else that is essential is also needed to have faith in something that is beyond our grasp. That is the grace of God. If we are to have faith in Jesus, to decide and to move our wills to prompt our intellect to believe in a divine truth, then we need to cooperate with God’s grace to move us to that belief, that faith. The synagogue official and the woman with hemorrhage did cooperate with God’s grace. They did submit their wills to God’s grace to move their minds to believe that Jesus could cure the hemorrhage and resurrect the daughter. The Nazoreans did not. They refused to believe. They refused to submit their wills to God’s grace to move their minds to belief that Jesus was MORE THAN only a carpenter and only the son of Mary. The Nazoreans fulfilled what God said to Ezekiel about the Israelites: they are “a rebellious house.” They are “rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day”(Ezek 2:3).
We love our freedom and freedom is good when it is exercised wisely. But if it is used rebelliously, it hurts us. St. Mark writes that Jesus “…could work no miracle there, apart from curing a few who were sick by laying hands on them, so much did their lack of faith distress him”(Mark 6:5). He could not work miracles that He wanted to work for them. Christ’s power to work miracles is unlimited but faith is expected for the exercise of this power.
Faith is defined in the Catholic Church as the act of our minds assenting/agreeing to a divine truth. Our will moves our minds to accept that divine, supernatural truth and our will is moved by God’s grace. God’s grace, which prompts our will to move our minds to believe, is itself supernatural and a free gift.
So what must we know? That Jesus Christ wants us to have faith in Him; to trust Him. And we can have this faith, by our decision and our cooperation. What must we do? Pray to Jesus to deepen and to strengthen our faith and our willingness to cooperate with God’s grace in order to believe and have faith. Our willingness to have faith in Jesus is meritorious and virtuous. Pray for the right disposition to accept God’s supernatural truths about Jesus Christ. The synagogue official and the woman with the hemorrhage did have the right disposition to have faith in Jesus. The Nazoreans did not. Why should we care? We should care because the more faith we have in Jesus Christ and His Teachings contained in His Church, THIS CATHOLIC CHURCH, the more Jesus can do with us and through us. Jesus wants to be in our midst, working through us.
Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, July 1st, 2018
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
We have heard of “the way.” Jesus Christ calls Himself “The Way, the Truth, and the Life….” Today’s readings give us a view of what “the way” is and how we can participate in the way and enter the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.
The author of the Book of Wisdom encourages us to love (practice) justice in order to develop wisdom (Fear of the Lord). Pursue God and His way. To “pursue” means “to seek” and “to engage in”; “to practice.” Pursue God with simple piety and God will come to you. “Simple” means “innocent.” “Pious” means “respect”; reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship.” The author tells us that all creation is good. God made it so. There is no room for death in God’s creation. It is the devil who created death and “death” is “life apart from God” in the author’s mind. Adam and Eve chose death. For us that is important. They chose death. They exercised a fundamental option. Death has no place on this earth apart from the human choice of evil. That is important. It is a fundamental option.
Saint Paul tells the Corinthians to “excel” in gracious acts of the faith, to include “this gracious act also.” He is encouraging the Corinthians to take up a collection for their brothers and sisters in the Christian faith in Jerusalem. The Jews there are persecuting them and they are in need. St. Paul is not saying to “open up the checkbooks.” He is saying to be generous to others. Help them by giving abundantly. St. Paul gives Jesus as the example. Jesus gives us his very self in Eucharist. He empties Himself for us. We receive Jesus Christ in Eucharist, bodily, spiritually, and with every grace that we need and with every grace that Jesus wants to give us. We benefit spiritually, plentifully, and all of us, equally. He supplies our needs like manna in the desert. Generosity is a grace that unites rich and poor, making them one. We become one in the Mystical Body of Christ by what we do and what we seek. We become one spirit, one soul, and one Church. Faith in Jesus Christ makes believers responsive to one another. That responsiveness is one way in which we enter into Christ and become brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is an actual, practical effect, via our faith, that benefits everyone. Faith removes spiritual barriers and equalizes through acts of forgiveness, love, and mercy. But this is not exclusively about whipping out our checkbooks. That is too narrow. This is about generosity and responsibility to all others. I have to insert a personal experience here. Twice, people have made a somewhat spontaneous donation to St. Anthony’s because they love coming into this church. They love the renovation. They come here to pray, attend Mass, confession, and to receive Jesus in Eucharist. They gave because they experienced Jesus Christ here in this church. In their generosity, they gave a donation in order to help insure that this church will remain here to help others experience Jesus Christ in prayer, confession, Mass, and Eucharist the same way they do. The same has happened with you. You gave generously to enable this renovation so that your children and others will pursue and seek Jesus, ‘The Way’, just as you do. Generosity generates more generosity to meet the actual and spiritual needs of all.
That brings us to the gospel. The moral of the story is, “Do not be afraid. Have faith.” The woman and the synagogue official do exactly that. Jesus will help us in following Him in the way. The woman’s faith is rewarded with health and peace. The synagogue official’s faith is rewarded by his witness of Jesus raising his daughter back to life by a spoken word and by touch. Another important point is this: the girl has died and, “Why trouble the Teacher any longer?” St. Mark wants the readers of his gospel, including you and me, to stay with Jesus, The Way, to the end: Jesus’s Passion, Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection, followed by His Ascension into heaven and His outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this Church. Stay with Him to the end. When we experience confusion, devastation, sorrow, and tragedy, even when following Jesus The Way, Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid; just have faith, what is needed is trust.” God can generate life out of death. Jesus tells us in this gospel that in the light of faith death is only a sleep. There is no room for death in God’s creation. Our fundamental option generates omnipotent life or sinful death.
So what must we know? We must know that Jesus is the way. We are to seek Him as the Book of Wisdom encourages us to do. To seek Jesus in our souls generates life. “Do not be afraid. Have faith.” What must we do? We must undergo the conversion necessary in our souls to enter into Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, and the Life. We are asked to live that way, to the end, whatever that brings us. If we are in the Mystical Body of Christ, we live Him out by acts of love, forgiveness, generosity, mercy, piety, and worship, here, in this Church, on Sunday and daily, if possible. The Holy Spirit will guide us to be more generous with our time, talent, and treasure. God bless those who take the time to pray and to counsel in front of the abortion clinic here in Fargo. They encourage pregnant women to seek another way, which generates life, not death. That is only one example, but it’s a big one. Why should we care? We should care because only Jesus Christ saves us. Only Jesus Christ conquers death and evil. In Christ, death is only a sleep. The prayer before the scripture readings asks God to enable us to always be seen standing in the bright light of Truth.” The offertory prayer that we will hear shortly asks God that, “by the deeds by which we serve You, may we be worthy of these sacred gifts.” Those sacred gifts are Jesus Himself in the Eucharist. We receive Him. And finally, the post-communion prayer asks God that “this Divine Sacrifice we have offered and received, fill us with life, oh Lord, we pray, so that, bound to You in lasting charity, we may bear fruit that lasts forever, even beyond death, which in Jesus Christ, is only a sleep.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016