Gospel Reading: John 6: 37-40
The writer of this gospel uses the Greek word, theorein that is translated as “sees” in verse 40 (anyone who sees the Son . . .). It means to look with concentration, to linger, to study, to carefully consider . . .How can we try to ‘see’ Jesus and believe more completely in him?
From Celebrations, Nov. 2003:
Considered in light of today’s feast of All Souls, Jesus’ words remind us that each Eucharistic celebration is a taste of eternity, as well as an opportunity for intimate communion with all those great and good, small and weak, famous and ordinary, memorable and overlooked souls who have gone before us. We are a part of a “cloud of witnesses” (Letter to the Hebrews) which is the Communion of Saints. Today and everyday, faith reaches across the precipice that now stands between us and them. Faith unites us with those who enjoy the full experience of eternal life. They pray for us and remember us, as we remember and pray for them.
From Ron Rolheiser in The Holy Longing: Why do we seek the living among the dead? Every good person shapes . . . the compassion of God in a unique way. When that person dies, we must seek him or her among the living. Thus, if we want a loved one’s presence we must seek him or her in what was most distinctively him or her, in terms of love, faith, and virtue. If your mother had a gift for hospitality, you will meet her when you are hospitable; if your friend had a passion for justice, you will meet him when you give yourself over to the quest for justice, if your aunt had a gift for meals and laughter, you will meet her at the table with laughter.”
As Christians we visit graves, but more importantly we are to search for our loved ones outside of the cemeteries, among the living – at our tables, in our places of work, and especially when we pray together. (105-106)
On the subject of Purgatory, from Richard McBrien, Catholicism:
Purgatory is best understood as a process by which we are purged of our residual selfishness so that we can really become one with the God who is totally oriented to others – the self-giving God . . . the kind of suffering associated with purgatory, therefore is NOT suffering inflicted upon us from the outside as a punishment for sin, but the intrinsic pain that we all feel when we are asked to surrender our self-centered self so that the God-centered loving self may take its place. It is part of the process by which we are called to die and rise with Christ. (1144-1145) Hopefully, this ‘purgation’ begins here before death . . .
Father Bob’s last Sunday homily
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
In the last couple of years I have seen a healthy uptick in the number of people coming for the Sacrament of Reconciliation here. I do not think we are sinning more, I prefer to think that we are being forgiven more. Many people use the Ten Commandments as a starting point in their examination of conscience, so without breaking the seal, I thought I would give you an overview of what is being shared.
We are really trying to keep the Sabbath. Good news, we are speaking the name of the Lord. Bad news: too often we take it in vain. Many people mention the failure to honor their mother and father and it is not just kids. There is a fair amount of lying and a little stealing. There have been no murders for which I am grateful but in that…
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1st Reading: Exodus 22: 20-26
This pericope is the Covenant Code between God and God’s people. Certain classes are singled out: strangers, widows, orphans, the poor. God always sides with the marginalized. God reminds them that they were once strangers too. It’s like that saying not to know what someone is going through unless you walk a mile in their shoes.
From Henri Nouwen, Here and Now:
Compassion – which means, literally, “to suffer with” – is the way to the truth that we are most ourselves, not when we differ from others, but when we are the same (p. 135). The compassionate life is the life of downward mobility! In a society in which upward mobility is the norm, downward mobility is not only discouraged but even considered unwise, unhealthy, or downright stupid…It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless – toward all who ask for compassion. What do they have to offer? Not success, popularity, or power, but the joy and pece of the children of God (pgs. 138-139).
The 2nd Reading – 1 Thessalonians 1: 5-10
Paul seems very pleased with this early church. They must have been living Jesus’ words sincerely in their lives. He seems to emphasize the effect of modeling that sincerity, without the need to even say anything.
Paul speaks of the “joy from the Holy Spirit” in the Thessalonians for reaching out the others. Henri Nouwen says, “Joy is the secret gift of compassion. We keep forgetting it and thoughtlessly look elsewhere. But each time we return to where there is pain, we get a new glimpse of the joy that is not of this world,” (p. 142).
The Gospel: Matthew 22: 34-40
From Eduard Schweizer, The Gospel According to Matthew:
Jesus “explicitly places the commandment to love one’s neighbor on equal footing with the commandment to love God, and adds that ‘the entire Law and the prophets’ depend (literally ‘hang’) on these two commandments, perhaps the way a door hangs on its hinges. Then righteousness as a whole depends on the fulfillment of these two commandments . . . they are (together) the ‘great’ commandment because they are the only ones needed. Jesus fuses these two and, thus, prescribes how to perform the first: only the first commandment is called ‘great,’ but the second is equal to it, for one can love God only by loving one’s neighbor (425-426).”
To love was to have a sense of belonging to that person or group. In other words, to love another was to treat that person as a member of one’s family. To love God was to belong totally to God. In biblical terms, the heart was considered the center of a person’s entire being – the life, emotion, and totality of that person. The soul was the life force or physical life itself. Matthew seems to use mind instead of strength in order to stress the element of understanding and decision that is required to turn one’s heart over completely to God. Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, p. 553
Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), a clergyman, author, and proponent of the Social Gospel Movement, wrote: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
From Dorothy Day, Selected Writings:
“We were just sitting there talking when lines of people began to form, saying, “We need bread.” We could not say, “Go, be thou filled.” If there were six loaves and a few fishes, we had to divide them. There was always bread. We were just sitting there talking and people moved in on us. Let those who can take it, take it. Some moved out and that made room for more. And somehow, the walls expanded. (362-363).
Father Massimo gave this homily at the services for Father Graziano. We have Michael and Sandrina Range to thank for the wonderful translation from Italian to English:
Homily for the funeral Mass of Fr. Graziano Rota, PIME
Botta di Sotto il Monte (Bergamo, Italy), Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Is 25, 6-10a; Sal 22-23; Fil 4, 12-14, 19-20; Mt 22, 1-14.
We are gathered here to pay the last respects to Fr. Graziano and to accompany his body on the last journey to the cemetery where he will rest with his parents. Now we celebrate the Eucharist with him for the last time, while he enters the eternal liturgy of heaven.
The presence today of so many people who have known and supported Graziano in his mission immediately makes us understand how much he was well-liked and loved in this country.
This celebration, the coming together, listening to the word of God, praying for each other, the remembrance of his memory, in reality, rather than him, serve more us, who are still overwhelmed by sadness and dismay for his sudden death that really nobody expected at this time when everything seemed to go well after so much suffering and so much struggle for life.
I believe these are the feelings of all of us, first of all of the family to which we want to be close to as they lose a beloved brother. But also of many of the PIME fathers and priests, whose presence in large numbers gives testimony of the bonds of esteem and friendship that Graziano had with many of them. Today we, too, want to greet a brother and a beloved friend.
Joining together with us at this time are the many people who knew him, but that cannot be here: the brothers and people in Brazil, where Graziano worked until 2000, and the brothers in Mexico, where he spent the last 13 years of his missionary life. I am sure that if the people of the parish of Cuanacaxtitlàn would have been able to, they would have come to greet their pastor according to their indigenous custom, filling the church with flowers and candles to signify that now he is in the place where life flourishes always and the light never goes out.
Just this morning Father Damiano told me that the people of the parish do not know what more to do to remember him.
The Superior of the missionary nuns who work with us in Mexico wrote to me saying “We greet, in the glory of God, Father Graziano, a true missionary priest who has always worked to help the last ones.” It is really them, the last ones, the poor that now welcome him into the glory of heaven.
I have chosen for this celebration the readings of the Mass of last Sunday, because I believe they can help at this time to support us in sadness, giving hope, and reading once more the life of Graziano according to the fundamental understanding of mission that gives meaning to every single event, even and especially to the most difficult and painful, and that explains why Graziano has always fought with so much energy and determination against adversities – of which his heart problem was only the last, certainly the most difficult one – to always return to the mission, his mission.
It feels good to listen and remember the ancient promises of the prophet Isaiah: “will eliminate death forever. God the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces, and they will say in that day: behold our God, in Him we hoped to save us, the Lord will prepare for all peoples on this mountain a feast of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of delicious food, of refined wines. ”
It is a great and mysterious God, whom more often than not we struggle to understand and that always amazes us with His desire to connect with us, to be with us to celebrate.
This is how the parables of the kingdom in Matthew’s Gospel present him to us: He is a God who calls us to work in his vineyard, and who pays all generously, and He is a God who invites everyone to the wedding banquet of his son, an invitation that you cannot decline. Especially the image of the party, the music and the dance is the one that best describes the Father’s house. We often find it hard to imagine how the eldest son of the parable of the merciful father, who does not understand, finds it hard to imagine that in his father’s house there can be so much joy to celebrate with music and dance.
Graziano knew this and believed it so deeply that he made it his own raison d’être: to work in the vineyard of the Lord to announce to everyone, beginning with the last ones, that only in Christ there is fullness of life, joy, and real celebration.
He always did it just like those servants in the parable that we heard: with obedience, with perseverance, with loyalty in good times and bad, until the gift of life. These virtues, which are the virtues of the missionary, he never lacked.
His is therefore a life that does not end in sadness but in the joy of the feast. I told Deodato by telephone on the day of the disappearance: Graziano has left us while celebrating, because his was a life totally dedicated to others, to mission, to the Church.
Of this I can speak with knowledge of the facts, because I have lived and worked with him for twelve years. I had the opportunity to know his strengths and weaknesses. He had his very own way to always arrive five minutes late, whether it was time to leave, or to sit at the table, but he also was a very tolerant person who never imposed his ideas, and who left room for everyone.
We started together in Mexico in 2000, he came with the experience of Brazil, and I recently ordained. I can say that he has taught me much, not with words – Graziano was not an intellectual – but by example. He taught me what it means to be a pastor always at the service of his people. Especially the early years in Cuana were not easy: there was a steady stream of people at the door of the mission who came to ask for help, but mainly to look for someone who would listen. This Graziano had understood, and he was always available, around the clock, to listen, to console and help. There was so much violence and injustice. How many times did we go together, encouraging each other, to pick up the body of someone murdered because people were afraid to do it, or to take a sick person to the hospital at night in spite of assaults? It even happened that we went to negotiate the release of kidnapped people. These are simple gestures, normal for a missionary, that do not end up in the newspapers, but that today I cannot not remember. These are gestures of someone who wants to give testimony of the love of God and of his presence, just when hope falters.
Graziano did all this always with a smile, without ever losing peace and serenity, just as he worked with dedication to organize the life of the parish, from the catechism for children, to visits of the sick, to pre-marriage courses, to social works.
In the early days every now and then he scolded me because he said I wanted to do too many things; in fact he was the one who had started or continued many services for the people: adoptions, the well and the drinking water, the cooperative, the clinic and pharmacy.
Like the servants in the parable, Graziano also met with refusals and insults that hurt like beatings, but in spite of this he never turned back, and in spite of this he has never thought of leaving. In this context I am reminded of the cooperative project in which he firmly believed and that cost him a lot of work and effort.
For him one can repeat the words of St. Paul: “I am trained in everything and can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” The strength of Graziano was the love of Christ, for Christ, and for his mission. Otherwise one cannot explain how a disease like this did not not bend him, did not make him pull in the oars of his boat. Of course he wanted to feel good and he cared for his health, but not for himself, he did it because he dreamed that one day he could return to Mexico in that mission he believed in deeply and to which he gave his whole self.
Now the time has come to say goodbye, Graziano. I am happy to do so in person and on behalf of all the PIME fathers, and especially of those who are in Mexico, and to say thank you: thank you for the gift you have given us with your life, with you PIME loses a missionary of great humanity and value, we lose a brother and a friend; thank you for your example and for your guidance, for us you were a secure point of reference on which we knew we could always count; thank you for showing us that life is earned by giving, and that mission is the most beautiful vocation.
Without you it will not be easy, but we want to continue with the same courage and love that you have shown us, knowing that you now, wearing the wedding dress, have entered the banquet of the Kingdom.
P. Massimo Segú
Let us pray our 2nd Reading – 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5…
This letter was probably written about 50-51 AD. Paul was a tentmaker who came in contact with many in the Gentile world. A riot broke out in this city among the Jewish population who resented Paul’s successful reaching out to the Gentiles there. Paul and Silvanus had to flee. Because of this hasty departure, Paul soon writes this letter to express his prayerful thoughts and wishes for this new ‘church’ . . . (Birmingham, W & W, p.544-545)
1st Reading — Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6
Cyrus was a Persian of Indo-European descent, who rose to power quickly. In fewer than 20 years, he was victorious over Media (549 BC), then over Lydia (546 BC) and finally over Babylonia (539 BC). This made him the head of the largest empire of the then known world. Because he was tolerant and understanding of differences, his reign was seen as a real turning point in ancient history. He allowed all who had been taken into exile by Babylonia to return to their own lands. The time of exile for the Jews had become a time for rethinking about and deepening their faith, rather than a time for all-out despair. Newly reliant on God, the exiles were eager to discover and welcome those signs of divine involvement that were pointed out to them by the prophets. So while the pagan world saw Cyrus as being taken by the hand of Bel-Marduk, the chief god of Babylonia, the Jews saw Cyrus as being used by Yahweh, the one and only God, to free his people and bring them home. (Celebrations, October, 1999 & 2002)
This 2nd Isaiah proclaims that true reality is a theocracy where God rules. Despite the reality of exile and hardship, God is ultimately in charge. Here we see the prophet giving voice to a rather new insight for the Jews. Their God who had protected them, called them out of slavery, and formed them as a nation also cared about other people. Their God was the God that was over all people guiding and caring for all throughout history. History is a stream in which light and darkness, well-being and evil are constantly mingled. But this prophet would have us trust that God is in the mingling and the flowing stream of life. (Celebration, Oct. 2005)
The Gospel – Matthew 22: 15-21
John Pilch points out that in Jesus’ culture such public questioning was never neutral – it was always seen as challenging to one’s honor. Jesus, too, ‘values’ honor – but his ‘honor’ comes from authentically pleasing God. He shows his questioners to be hypocrites by the very fact that they can present the Roman coin, something very shameful for the Pharisee to even touch much less to have with him or one of ‘his friends,’ the Herodians. These two groups were usually enemies, but they seem willing to ‘swallow’ what seems right in order to ‘get’ Jesus and to shame him. Jesus, nevertheless, exposes their true shame before the people. Jesus would like them to see that they should drop their game playing and do what is pleasing to God. (The Cultural World of Jesus, cycle A, 151-153)
Tertullian (160-220 AD) called humans “the coins of God” who belong to God. First and foremost, we are God’s. Rome demanded a denarius, one day’s wage, from everyone in the empire. Jesus seemed not to be too bothered by this fact. But, he takes seriously that God wants all that we are – not for our detriment, but for life. Only God is Lord of all. (Celebration, Oct. 2005)
St Thomas More (later beheaded by King Henry VIII of England) said that when a person separates their conscience from their public duty, they rush the nation toward chaos. What do you think?
Note how focused and ‘centered’ Jesus is. He does not get flustered by their false praise or their desire to trap him. He shows us that when God is truly the center of our lives, there is no problem with giving others their due. Conversely, giving others their due does not necessarily compromise God as the center of our lives. Jesus shows that single-mindedness about God is even better expressed when we know clearly God’s place — then we know everyone else’s place. (Living Liturgy, Year A, 2002, 256)
“It is not always easy to know how to apply one’s convictions to particular issues. But we are never excused from doing so. For conscience remains the litmus test of all our behavior. All of us live in the human city, but we are always mindful of our primary citizenship in the city of God,” (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 671)
Father Graziano, Rest in Peace
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of my friend and our friend, Father Graziano a PIME missionary who for years was the pastor of our sister parish St. Augustine in Cuana, Mexico. As perhaps only a missionary can, he made the most astounding changes in the lives of the people of his community. Not only did his preaching and his example lead the town to truer worship and beyond the witchcraft which had so often crippled the Cuana in violence, but his innovations like a medical clinic and water purification system saved lives and dramatically improved the infant mortality rate. It is hard to believe that a priesthood could be more productive and fruitful than the one lived by Fr. Graziano.
Of course I got to know him best when we went on our pilgrimage to our sister parish a couple…
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1st Reading: Isaiah 25: 6 – 10
Smell the rich foods. Imagine the mouth-watering sights and tastes. This is a feast like no other. With whom would you want to celebrate this feast? See their faces. Hear their voices – their laughter – their stories. God invites all people to this feast. God promises that all tears will be wiped away. God has removed our sins. God has saved us all.
This passage is particularly noteworthy as it is the earliest expression in the scriptures that God intends to conquer death. The banquet is a sign that joy (the wine) will reign triumphant over anguish (the veil over the people). The early church believed the eucharist to be the eschatological banquet here on earth while they were awaiting the glorious banquet in heaven (Birmingham, W&W, p. 538). Consider who is present, seen and unseen, at this banquet with you at the Lord’s Table.
2ND Reading – Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20
This is probably a part of the ‘letter A’ (remember this Letter to the Philippians is most likely made up of 3 or 4 letters) which is a thank you note that Paul was writing while in prison in Ephesus. Paul seems to see his call as apostle as a call to accept not only the good things that are a part of this life of service, but also the difficulties and hardships — what he would call the cross. Because the Philippians are uniting themselves with Paul, he sees that as their willingness to share his hardships. (Celebration, Oct. 10, 1999; “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu.)
We have all had times when we lived paycheck-to-paycheck and other times when we could afford the big vacation. Throughout all of these times, where was God for you?
The Gospel: Matthew 22: 1-14
Isaiah’s feast is on top of the mountain; the Psalm places it in a pasture (23); the Gospel banquet is a wedding feast and celebration. Compare to Luke 14:16-24 which scholars say may be the older version. It leaves out the verse on burning the city.
William Barclay says these verses form not one parable, but two, and they should be read separately to gain the most insight (Verses 1-10 and 11-14). He says we should be impressed in these stories with the unwillingness of the guests to come and to celebrate together AND the repeated patience and invitations of the king.
Here are other ideas he says to consider:
- God’s invitation is an invitation to joy, to love, to new life — a wedding!
- The things that get in our way of responding to God’s invitation are usually not bad things in themselves. The excuses that were offered were about daily life and normal business affairs. Yet this parable can be a warning: WE CAN BE SO BUSY MAKING A LIVINGTHAT WE FAIL TO MAKE A LIFE!
God’s love and life extended to us (GRACE) is a free gift – a surprisingly wonderful gift. We need to be open to God’s surprises and, like all gifts, it must be opened and used – God wants our response and our participation.
From Mary Birmingham in combination with John Pilch:
Jesus –and the early Christians who tried to ‘put on the Lord Jesus’ – were called to live and practice inclusive table fellowship. This caused many problems, but also became the very heart of what it meant to be Christian. [Even the position of the participants had to be pondered and decided in the light of what Jesus asked of them. Thus, they decided to stand as servants around the table of Eucharist.] If we come to God’s feast, we must come to participate, to respond, to ‘put on the Lord Jesus’ as the early Christians would say . . . or we will be cast into darkness (an image for a place without God’s love).
The second part of the Gospel parable is concerned with the wedding clothes. What do you think the clothes mean? Clothes were considered a sign of the real person – the outward sign of our essential character. For example, 1 Peter 5:5 says to “clothe yourselves with humility.” ((from Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). This parable of Matthew makes clear that God’s call requires a response: a changed life. We do not need to have the garment of God’s grace to be invited; it is freely given. But it does mean that we need to put it on if we wish to stay and participate. (Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, p.539-541; The Cultural World of Jesus, 149)
From The Word into Life, Cycle A:
These scriptures challenge us to face the fact that we often like to insulate ourselves and isolate ourselves from others. We choose not to become involved.
Yet, our God is a God of relationship. God refuses to be left alone! The royal wedding feast is a symbol of God’s love and union with his creation, and it is open to everyone. Parties are an apt image for Christian involvement. They force us to think of relationships. They move us to create an atmosphere of festivity. They remind us of the centrality of community. But whom shall we invite to our parties? We generally think of all those ‘nice’ people who will return the favor by inviting us to their homes. Today’s liturgy suggests that we expand our vision and look especially to those who are hurting. Will we attempt to wipe away tears, as Yahweh does in the first reading? Will we try to offer protection to the harassed, as Yahweh does in the responsorial psalm? Will we seek to provide hope for outsiders, as the king does in the gospel? We know people who belong in these categories. The challenge is to act upon this awareness and send out the invitations.
My neighbor’s wife died a couple months ago. It was sudden and quick. His son came home to stay with him for a little while, but now he has returned to his own house. They have a second home in New Hampshire that was in the family, so my neighbor goes back and forth. He came back today and I said, Welcome home!” He replied that he didn’t know where home was for him anymore.
For my neighbor, home is where his wife is…not with him. He has to find a new way to live now, a new feeling of home. It takes a long time. Some may never find it again,
My husband and I have college friends that we just learned are getting a divorce. They were such a fun couple, but things change. They now live in their own apartments and are figuring out visitation with their two daughters. They sold their home. Now they are searching for how to create home again for themselves and their children. It is a struggle.
What is home? Is it always a physical place? Home is where we feel safe, comfortable, loved. It is a warm blanket and a cup of coffee. It is where you can have bedhead and walk around in your PJs. Home is knowing you are exactly where you are supposed to be, even if there are dust bunnies and piles of dishes in the sink. Home is a constant To-Do list, where there always seems to be something needing fixing. It can be a place of arguments, tears, falls and slammed doors. Home can be heartache and loneliness. Home seems to be able to stand through all of that. Home is where there is never a time something isn’t going wrong, or at least not going according to plan…and yet, there is a gentle peace. There is a quote from Walter de la Mare:
“Marvelous happy it was to be
Alone, and yet not solitary.
O out of terror and dark, to come
In sight of home.”
They say home is where the heart is. Since God is love, I wonder if home is where God is? It is seeing God’s love within the dirty fingerprints, faded photographs and piles of laundry. Or maybe it is the other way around – God is where home is. We invite God in to all that makes our home what it is. God is within the people we have over for dinner and the laughter over an old family joke. Either way, it is an awareness that God is present in all that is good, and loving, and sustaining. That awareness can feel like home, no matter where we are. It is that pure grace flowing in and out of the mess.
Steven Chase in The Tree of Life says, “While it is true that home has many deep connotations for all of us, it is not so much a static, idealized beginning or ending location as it is a dynamic holding environment in which we are secure, safe, and free to grow, change, and evolve into the person God longs for us to be,” (p. 140). I don’t even know if my neighbor or our college friends have a belief in God, but God still works God’s mysteries whether there is belief or not. Our loving God is able to be in all homes. Even if our loved ones are gone, their memories remain home for us. If our family is divided, home is something that can be sought after and rebuilt. Whether you are a family of 1 or 10, dysfunctional or picture-perfect (does that exist?), God wants to be within the home you create. Home is where love resides.
Father Bob’s last Sunday homily…
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death,” or “The God of peace will be with you.” These are the destinations of the two paths taken from our readings, the first from the Gospel and the terrible tale of the tenant farmers and the other from St. Paul’s always uplifting letter to the Philippians. What shall we choose?
At first glance our lives do not seem to mirror the ugly story of the tenant farmers at all. A landowner has built a vineyard with everything needed for success and then leases it to his tenants who are to repay him a certain amount of the yield. How does such a straight forward arrangement go so horribly wrong?
Well, the tenants decide the agreement they made was unfair and they do not want to surrender the produce owed to the landowner. And maybe…
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Father Bob’s last Sunday homily…
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Doesn’t this Gospel sound a lot like home? Will you take the garbage out? Sure Mom. Have you finished your homework? Yes. Have you finished your chores? Of course I have. We don’t need a great deal of evidence to convince us that when someone says they will do something it is not necessarily done as in the case of the second son who said they would go out in the vineyard to work but does not. By the way, there is a very important historical event in this Gospel. When the first son refuses to work but later goes into the field, it is first time recorded moment of Catholic guilt; something we first born hold dear to our hearts.
There are two components to living out the Christian message. One is orthodoxy – right teaching. We must always know what our faith…
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