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.
Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), Sunday, September 9, 2018:
Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2:1-5, and Mark 7:31-37
By Father Scott Karnik
God shows no favorites. He has no distinctions. God’s salvation is universal. He offers His Son’s salvation to everyone. God grants universal salvation to every repentant sinner, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, or Samaritan. God is impartial to us and our status in His Church is equal. So therefore, God calls all to life, and even favors the poor, orphans, and widows, to make them rich in faith. So therefore, the Church must reflect God’s actions and love in its structure. Partiality is an unjust judgment. It contradicts God’s judgment. The majority of the first converts to the Christian faith were poor. God makes them heirs of eternal life instead of beneficiaries of material riches. Partiality is based exclusively on material appearance, which often belies the interior character. In St. James’s reading he says “Listen,” (hear with thoughtful attention), my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to those who love Him?(James 2:5). So therefore, a Church which shows no partiality is united and reflects God’s love, which infinite and impartial. That is point number one and St. James makes it well.
Point number two is that we can know God’s real presence by its effects. Isaiah 35 shows some of them. God comes with vindication. To vindicate means “to set free, deliver: to protect from attack or encroachment.” And who does God come to with vindication? It is “…to those whose hearts are frightened:…(Isaiah 35:4). And God comes with “divine recompense (Isaiah 35: 4). Recompense means “to give compensation to: repay.” “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing(Isaiah 35:5-6). Then the psalm reading tells more about this God and His loving presence with us. This God “…keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains but the way of the wicked He thwarts”(Psalm 146:6-10). The singer of this psalm encourages his hearers to trust in God alone and not mere mortals. If Israel relies on God alone, its happiness is assured. God has created everything. And God’s creation includes governance of all people. God’s faithful and powerful care makes an environment fit for human beings and maintains society in justice and peace. And God does one more thing. God expresses His kingship in the favor He shows to the oppressed and to those who rely exclusively on Him. Zion’s God will reign forever.
In St. Mark’s gospel, he highlights Jesus’s supernatural healings to show His divinity. But Jesus desires secrecy. Jesus wants both Jews and Gentiles to accept His identity and messiahship on His terms, not their own. Jesus heals miraculously both Jew and Gentile. But Jesus also suffers and shows His messiahship in His death on the Cross for our salvation. Jesus serves and suffers. So must we. It is incomplete to do good deeds and not attend church. It is incomplete to attend church but not serve those in need.
Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, September 2nd, 2018:
Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Psalm 15:1-5; James 1:17-27; and Mark 7:1-23
By Father Scott Karnik
“You get out of something what you put into it.” That’s probably the best lesson we can learn from this Sunday’s Bible readings. In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the Israelites to “hear and observe the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them;…(Deut 4:1). Moses tells the Israelites to obey the law carefully. “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you”(Deut 4:2). Exact observance is required. Sacred Scripture also says we must make room for God’s Word in our souls. St. James writes “Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”(James 1:21). St. James writes that God’s Word has created us and lives in us to save us but His Word must be carried out. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”(James 1:22). God has made the world with a purpose and has chosen us. Our God is a moral god. God’s moral purpose pervades the universe of His chosen ones and those who commit themselves to a moral god must be moral themselves. God is faithful, so must we. True religion observes the connection between covenant faith and covenant love. Today’s psalm reading lists the virtues required of a worthy citizen of Zion, Mount Zion. God’s Presence is located there, in His Temple.
Moses explains why the Israelites, and we today, must observe carefully God’s commandments. It is “…that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers gives you”(Deut 4:1). God promises the Israelites a long life lived peacefully in the land God will lead them into so they can possess it. There are motives for our obedience. I encourage you to read all of Deuteronomy, Chapter Four. You and I are required to receive God’s commandments meekly, know them, and do them. We receive them and we do them so that our virtues are visible to others. That’s another motive, renown. Israel’s pagan neighbors will acknowledge that Israel’s God is closer to it than their own pagan gods are to them. And another motive is the excellence of God’s law itself. What other law is more excellent than God’s law? We get out of it what we put into it. We observe carefully God’s Word and teachings; we receive them. Then, we do them so that what comes out of us is pure religion and the virtues listed in Psalm 15. That is what Jesus refers to in the Gospel reading. He rejects the praise of our lips. Jesus says the soul is the seat of our moral life. It is from there that evil thoughts and affections emerge to cause moral defilement. One’s acts which are inspired from within show when a person is not obeying God’s commands, or is obeying them.
Those are the lessons and the tough challenges given us today in Sacred Scripture. But there’s one more thing. God is faithful to His Covenant with Israel, even though Israel is not. Israel will be exiled to Babylon. They begin to lose hope of ever returning to the Promised Land. Read Isaiah, Chapter 40. God tells the exiled Jews that they will return. God forgives them.
***** There are parallels between today’s readings and Holy Mother Church. You have heard all the dismaying reports and the dirty laundry. But Holy Mother Church’s relationship with Jesus Christ is unique. It is Eucharist, Jesus’s Bread of Life Discourse which makes it so. It is also unique because Jesus builds His Church on the rock of St. Peter. Jesus promises that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:17-19). Sadly, we’ve been here before in our Church’s history. There have been schisms, abuses, sinful leaders. Through it all, only this church is two-thousand-years old and still here. Jesus is present here in His Sacraments. The Holy Spirit is also present in this church. Read John 14:15. This church, this faith, is unique, when we carry out God’s teachings, amplified by this church’s teaching authority. May we pray and observe God’s commandments amplified by this church’s teachings. When we do, priests and faithful, we bear virtue and renown in this world. We will also be worthy of God’s presence. So please pray for an increase of the Holy Spirit on this Church. Please pray for many graces for her leaders, her priests, and her faithful to return to holiness and to strengthen our holiness. That is a good place to start because we, you and I, need that right now in this Church’s time. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us SINNERS, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
February 12, 2017
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