Pastoral Sharings: "24th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
  September 14, 2014
  Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  One of the distinctive characteristics human beings have 
  is the ability to reason, to think 
  in a clear and logical fashion.

Many experiments have been undertaken in attempts to prove that some of the higher primates also have this same ability, if to a lesser extent, but the results of these enquiries are very questionable and are largely only the results of repetitive acts.

A chimpanzee can, of course, use a primitive tool to get some tasty ants out of a hole but whether this can seriously be described as the use of reason is very much open to question.

Human beings, however, certainly do have the ability to reason and are able to do so at quite high levels so I think that, whatever some experimental psychologists might want to believe, it remains one of our defining characteristics.

The only problem is that, as the parable we are presented with today ably demonstrates, our emotions often get in the way. We can think logically but don’t always act logically. And we also frequently fail to make use of the great gift of reason.

Even the dullest schoolboy can see that the servant in the parable who had his debts forgiven is being totally inconsistent. This man whose extremely large debt was absolved so magnanimously is unable to show forgiveness in a comparatively small matter and so we rightly regard him as hardhearted and cruel.

But a parable is not just a nice story it is also a mirror, a mirror we cannot avoid holding up to ourselves. And this parable set before us today is one which really makes us squirm because in it we clearly see our inadequacies.

We who receive so much forgiveness and understanding from God are so frequently unable to forgive others or even see things from their point of view. We who crave forgiveness from God frequently fail to even see the need to give it to our fellow human beings.

I think that one of the best ways to improve in this area is to regard oneself as a conduit. Do not think that God’s forgiveness and love is meant for you alone but rather that you are a special conduit of his forgiveness and love for others. Let the forgiveness you experience flow through you to others.

This is not just some mental trick it is exactly what happens. God is constantly pouring out his grace on mankind. And he is simply using us as a means to spread that love everywhere. Our principal job is not to get in the way, not to block this flow of grace and mercy.

Yes, we know God very well and we speak to him directly in prayer and over the years we have sensitised ourselves to the many different ways he speaks to us, we especially appreciate how he acts in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But most people in our society are not as aware of God as we are, most people are unable to recognise what God is doing and saying.

They might crave God’s forgiveness, for example, but be quite unaware that this is what they really want or need in life. They might just be walking around with a heavy load of guilt and not even be able to give it a name, let alone knowing that it is God to whom they must turn to be relieved of this great burden.

This is where we come in. By recognising our role as conduits of God’s love we allow him to act through us to bring his love and goodness to those who for whatever reason are unable to recognise him.

This is especially the case with forgiveness. It is not customary in our society to forgive easily. Reconciliation between individuals or groups in conflict is certainly understood as necessary but this usually comes a long time after a clash has occurred and then only after protracted negotiations.

In our world holding a grudge is considered quite normal and not speaking to someone who has offended you is commonplace. It is often thought to be unnecessary to forgive and neighbours who ought to be helping one another can be at loggerheads for years at a time.

Partly the reluctance to forgive is because of the fear of losing face but mostly, I think, because of the effort it takes. Forgiveness requires doing something; you have to go to the other or find a suitable opportunity to speak words of peace. Forgiveness is always active, it is always a reaching out, it is always involves taking the initiative.

In our Gospel reading Peter is told that he must not forgive his brother merely seven times but seventy-seven times. This mystical number actually means an unlimited number of times and rightly so for there is no limit to God’s love and mercy.

If we are real and effective conduits of his salvation then there can be no limits to the amount of times we forgive our brother or anyone else for that matter. There can be no limits to the extent of the love and kindness God conveys to the world through the agency of his servants; and by that I mean us!

None of this is easy. Very little comes naturally. And certainly we all fall far short of the ideal. But embracing this idea that the role of a disciple of Christ is to be a conduit of his love can certainly help. It can help us to be a bit more forgiving and gentle with ourselves and most of all enable us to be real agents of forgiveness and reconciliation within our community.

I remember very clearly a fellow seminarian, Bernard, talking about how he decided to take up his vocation. He said that it all started with an argument in a pub! He fell out with someone and they had a bitter argument and he went home still seething with anger.

Naturally enough it was difficult for him to sleep and after some hours tossing and turning he decided that it might help if he said a few prayers. So in traditional style he knelt by his bed and started to say the Our Father but found that he simply couldn’t get past those first two words.

He couldn’t get past them because he realised that God was just as much the father of the fellow he’d just had such a bad argument with. He resolved there and then to make it up with him first thing the next day and he did so. The only problem was that this changed his whole way of thinking and indeed caused him to consider the orientation of his life much more carefully and what God might want from him, hence his decision to try his vocation.

Bernard only lasted one year in the seminary having discovered that his true vocation in life lay elsewhere. But I often think about him and the life-changing event of that argument in a pub. And, of course, the importance of those two wonderful words ‘Our Father.’

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September14, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Year A
September 14, 2014
Today’s feast prompts us to marvel over how an instrument of shame, brutality, and defeat became the most glorious symbol in the cosmos.

Gospel (Read Jn 3:13-17)

Today, the Church calls us to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This means more than meditating on the meaning of the Cross for sinners like us, as fruitful as that would be. No, the idea today is to ponder the exaltation of the Cross, and there is a world of goodness for us as we answer this call.

The Triumph of the Cross: God Loves Us
For five years I lived in one of the most beautiful places in our country, believe it or not, in New Jersey.  I attended Don Bosco Seminary in Sussex County, the Northwest corner of New Jersey.  This is an area of green rolling hills and the most colorful autumns you could ever imagine.  It is hard to explain the hills of New Jersey to folks who have lived in the flat area of Florida all there lives.  The hills just seem to pop up everywhere.  Naturally the main roads are in the valleys between the hills.

God Desires Your Love
Some time ago, while on a train from Washington to New York, I became engaged in conversation with a young man. He was a graduate of a Catholic college, proud of the fact, and quite determined that the Faith was to be his guiding star through life.

A friend had recently given him a copy of the autobi­ography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What surprised him most, he said, was the ease with which this young nun talked of her intimate friendship with God.

What is Ecclesiology and Why is It So Important Today?
Many troubles today within the Church, and also among Christians in general, come down to a problem of mistaken or false ecclesiology. “Ecclesiology” refers to the nature of the Church. What is the Church? What is the fundamental mission of the Church? How essential is the Church in the life of every believer? What authority does the Church have in our life? Who has the authority in the Church to speak for Jesus Christ and teach in His name? What is the Church’s relationship to Holy Scripture and the sacred deposit of faith?  Is there but one Church, or many? And so forth. These are questions dealt with in the branch of sacred theology known as ecclesiology.

THOU SHALL NOT INDULGE: 5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory
MYTH #1 – The Catholic Church no longer has indulgences.

This is just not true. Indulgences are a good thing and are still part of the Church’s teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s answer to the question, “What is an indulgence?”:

Rely on Christ When He Seems Distant
Through the intuitions of love, more than through the liveliness of the imagination, we have often constructed interiorly an arresting scene: the ominous sky, the wild winds, a little boat tossed by the seething waves of Lake Tiberias, with Jesus asleep in the stern. What a con­trast between the fury of the tempest and the sweet, majestic peace of the divine slumber! The omnipotent, the Most High, He who is infinite activity because He is infinite perfection and unfailing felicity, surrendered to that sure sign of limitation and misery: sleep.

Why is this Lord’s Day no different from any other day?
In our neighborhood, on almost any day of the week, you might walk into a supermarket and notice a conservatively dressed woman with a hat and skirt and a rather large number of children in tow, and you might make a shrewd guess that she was a conservative or orthodox Jew, and there’s a good chance that you would be right.

Religion and Spirituality
Sometimes, Catholics get stuck…

Some get stuck on their “Sunday obligation” — which is the minimum commitment and they think that’s all that’s required.

Others get stuck on religious rules and regulations and think if they just mind their manners they’ll be just fine with the Lord.

Lead Us Not into Temptation
Q: In the Our Father, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” This sounds a little odd, because why would God lead us into temptation?

Upon first hearing, this petition of the Our Father does sound like we are asking God not to lead us into temptation. (The Our Father is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) In this sense, the petition sounds like God would purposely place us in temptation and set us up for a fall to sin. The literal translation of the Greek text is indeed, as we recite, “and lead us not into temptation.”

Purgatory — Perfected by the Love of God
Last Friday morning, while leading a bible study for about 40 retirees, the question of purgatory, the punishments due to sin, and salvation came up. They already possessed and good understanding of this important doctrine. But, the discussion reminded me that Purgatory remains one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions and misunderstandings that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.

As For Me and My House
The growing darkness and moral evil in the world today has at least one good effect on us: we are forced to choose. Where are we to go, for shelter from the storm? Where are we to stand, when we are called to declare who we are, and what we believe, and what we live for, and where we draw the line and say to this world, “No! – no further will I go with you – here our paths diverge, and here I make my stand.”

Are Sacraments Narrow!
My friend Ludwig was puzzled. “I don’t understand,” he said, “what is meant by those who say grace is imparted through sacraments. It seems to me to involve an intolerably narrow view of grace. As a Protestant, I’ve always understood grace to mean unmerited favor, plain and simple. Why are sacraments needed to bestow this? Doesn’t this narrow the scope of grace to those who are lucky enough to get baptized or eucharized? I thought God’s love was universal.”

Is Sacramental Grace Magic?
My friend Ludwig was troubled again. We had talked before about the Catholic understanding of grace, but he still found the notion of sacraments uncomfortable to his Evangelical bones. Ludwig said to me, “It seems to me that the Catholic image of grace is vaguely magical, as though grace is some sort of substance God “pours out” through baptismal water, Eucharist and the like. But I thought the biblical reality is that grace was God’s attitude of unmerited, forgiving favor toward us, not some magical something or other that must be bestowed like a charm or “good medicine.” Why does grace require matter to get the job done in the Catholic scheme of things?”

How to Use the Lord’s Prayer as a Spiritual Weapon
I once attended a seminar on the deliverance ministry conducted by the author and psychiatrist Kenneth McCall.

During the questions and answers three rather excitable women told Dr McCall that there was a witches coven meeting in their town and they wondered how to get rid of it.

Being True Friends of Jesus Christ
A childhood friend of mine once visited me while I was a seminarian in Boston. Sadly, he had lost the faith that we so joyfully shared and practiced as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. During his brief visit, he blasphemed our Lord Jesus Christ, insulted the Blessed Virgin Mary, and mocked Catholic faith and morals right in my face. I was both angry and disappointed with him and did not get in touch with him for several weeks after that visit. I thought to myself, “He is not a friend of Jesus. He hates Jesus’ beloved mother and all that the Body of Christ believes and stands for. How can he still be my friend?”

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to love justice and to hate all that is opposed to it.


When with clever astuteness, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, He replied: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mt 22,21). By this simple reply, Jesus gave us clearly and precisely a description of the virtue of justice: to give to everyone what is his due.

Jesus’ Ancestors: Murderers, Cheats, Prostitutes, Refugees, Adulterers…
Today (Sept. 8) is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at mass this morning I inflicted upon the faithful the long genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.  It’s here if you want to read it.

I did so for a good reason.

Distorted Desires: The Seven Deadly Sins
The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne is known for his joyful and positive spirit. He affirms that human souls are driven by desire, and that we desire what is good. The problem is, that desire is either distorted or directed wrongly by sin.

Spiritual Adulthood
There are those times in our lives when God seems distant, even absent from us. These are usually times when our faith seems weak and we struggle to believe God really cares for us, or perhaps we begin to question whether God even exists. In Western Christian tradition these moments are often referred to as the dark night of the soul. God seems as though He’s far removed from us and we struggle with our faith.

Sacramental Marriage: Light in the Darkness
In a culture that abases sacramental marriage; a culture that is more sexualized, secular and sinful, perhaps marriage is harder. Nonetheless, marriage is a light in the darkness, a covenant gift of God wherein family is formed in life-giving, sacrificial love.

Sacramental marriages are born of God’s light and contribute inestimable good in the world. Marriage threatens the kingdom of darkness because it mirrors Trinitarian life and builds up the kingdom of God. Satan seeks to build his kingdom of eternal death by leading others into his fall from God.

Everyone Has Time to Read the Gospels
Assuming that the average person’s reading speed is around 250 words per minute, and given the number of words in each book, about how long does it take to read the Gospels?
Matthew:  1 hour, 14 minutes
Mark:  46 minutes
Luke:  1 hour, 18 minutes
John:  1 hour, 3 minutes

The Four Gospels:  4 hours, 21 minutes

How Do We Know It’s the True Church?
Twelve Things to Look For
My conversion to the Catholic faith began in the world of Protestant fundamentalism. After being brought up in an independent Bible church, I attended the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. While there I became an Anglican; later, I went to England to become an Anglican priest.

Thinking Liturgically: The Scriptures
Whatever Mass we attend here in the Roman Rite is broken up into two parts:  The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

There are endless debates in reform communities over which is more “important”, and that debate bores me.  It really isn’t Catholic to say one part of Mass is more important than the other.  While that exists within rigid theology manuals, the Mass makes the entire life of Christ present, from his preaching to his death on the Cross, to even his Resurrection.  While it is true only the Eucharist provides sacramental grace, we cannot overlook the way we encounter Christ in the liturgical readings, and how those readings play a vital role in forming us to properly receive the Eucharist.

Pro Tennis Player Accompanied by Our Lady of Guadalupe on World Travels
         Colombia native Santiago Giraldo Salazar is devoted to the Mother of God.
When Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are brought up in conversation, images of laser-beam winners hit by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal come to mind. One of the last topics to be associated with professional tennis is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yet she has appeared at the grass courts of London and the hard courts of New York.

Well, sort of.

What’s a Christian to Do as the World Sinks into Chaos?
Disturbing violence fills the international headlines: ISIL is beheading journalists, crucifying Christians and exterminating Yazidis. Mexican drug cartels run rampant, leaving headless corpses in their wake—and they are increasingly setting up shop on our side of the border. Gang rape is big problem in India, Australia and Great Britain as police battle sex slave rings.

Giving Thanks for Our Meals Publicly, Don’t Shy Away
Out for dinner with the family, the waitress set the food on the table. I turned to my son, Jaime, and said, “Why don’t you lead us in the prayer, and give thanks for this meal.” We made the sign of the cross and said grace.

Praying before meals is something my wife and I have done since our kids were little, and it does not matter if we are at home or in public.

Holy Cuteness! Rare Photos of 12 Saints as Children
The older a person gets, the more they can usually appreciate the incredible potential that exists within every young child.

What will they learn? What will they discover? Will they have a family of their own? What will be their greatest highs? What will be their darkest lows?

Sweaty tourists could be damaging the Sistine Chapel
VATICAN CITY — The “Francis effect” has spilled over into the Sistine Chapel, bringing a surge in visitors but also increasing risks to maintenance of what Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, calls “the world’s chapel.”

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