Pastoral Sharings: "Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for June 28, 2015

Today we celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul two 
of the greatest heroes of our faith. St Peter the first 
among the Apostles and St Paul the great evangelist of 
the Gentiles.

When we are thinking about saints it is a common mistake to think that they are supposed to be perfect examples of humanity without any faults or failings. We often use the expression ‘plaster-cast saints’ to imply that the saints are stuck at a particular point in time and can do no wrong because actually they do nothing.

We often think that such people can only become saints because they have no responsibilities or tension in their lives. We think of saints like Teresa of Lisieux and assume that because she was locked away in a convent that meant that she had nothing to do all day and so it was quite easy for her to become holy enough to become a saint.

Two minutes serious thinking will tell you that assumptions of this sort can never be correct. Actually we know that none of the saints were perfect and quite often they had huge obstacles in life to overcome.

Looking at two of the greatest saints, namely St Peter and St Paul, we immediately see how this is true. St Peter was certainly no model of perfection; he denied Christ three times, betraying him at the most crucial moment of all. Often enough he was extremely impatient and impetuous and at the beginning he frequently misunderstood Christ’s message of love.

St Paul was an avid persecutor of Christians and at the time of his conversion he was hurrying to Damascus to initiate the extermination of the Christians living in that city. All his life he suffered from ambition and he certainly was not very easy to get on with.

So suffering from human failings never has been a barrier to becoming a saint. But what differentiates a saint from a sinner is that sinners stay where they are, sunk in sin; but saints try to grapple with their weaknesses and make serious attempts to overcome them.

Let us be clear about it, we are all sinners; or at least that is where we start from. But gradually through the lessons we learn in life we become aware of our imperfections and personal weaknesses. Once we are aware of our flaws we can start to overcome these things which are holding us back from reaching our true potential as human beings.

The point is that a saint doesn’t have to have achieved perfection but has to be on the road. A saint is someone who is constantly working on their faults and weaknesses, someone who has overcome some of them and who is trying to overcome those that remain.

One problem from what I am saying is that it might seem as though all this is focused principally on the self; on what we do, on the steps we take, and on the act of will we make in order to overcome our faults.

But this is not how the real saints see things. Yes, they know that personal effort is required and that this must be preceded by an objective insight into the nature of our personal failings. But most important of all, they recognize that perfection cannot be achieved by ourselves. They realize that it is only God acting in us who can eliminate sin and fill us with a real depth of holiness.

True saints believe that they are utterly hopeless and that it is only God working in their lives that can bring them to heaven. For this reason they place their whole lives in his care and go in the direction he leads. It is this handing over of their lives to God that actually makes them great saints.

By understanding this we quickly realize that absolutely anyone can become a saint. It is open to everyone regardless of their intellectual ability. It is something for the poor and the rich; it is something for the weak and the strong, something for the high and the lowly.

Not only this but we realize that it should be the ambition of everyone. I say this because by gradually facing up to our faults over the whole course of our lives we become better and better human beings. A saint, you see, is not an angel but a fully developed human being. And the more fully developed human beings there are in the world the better for us all.

And I don’t say that the saints manage to eliminate their faults but that they face up to them. Our faults are deeply ingrained in us and are not easily overcome and surely some of them never can be conquered. But we can face them, we can acknowledge them, we can acquire self-knowledge and so begin the task of eradicating them even if we never finish it.

In confession some people apologize for confessing the same sins over and over again. But there is no need for apology. Usually such people have over the years acquired deep personal insight and know their particular faults intimately.

They are familiar with their sins, with their personal weaknesses, and they know how difficult they are to overcome; they are sorry for these faults and want to be rid of them. They use the opportunity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to explore these faults with the priest gradually trying to find a way of overcoming them.

This is actually a cause for great joy. Such people have acquired self-knowledge and they are working on their individual defects and in confession they are asking for God’s grace so that they may be freed from these sins that hold them back so much.

When I was studying for the priesthood our rector told us that when hearing confessions we would often be astonished at the holiness of the penitents. He said that he had heard many confessions from simple working people that were on a par with the highest contemplatives. After thirty years as a priest I have discovered for myself that he was absolutely right.

We are, all of us, on the road to sanctity. The road to heaven is the road of holiness and this road passes through the achievement of our human potential. To be a saint is not to be a plaster-cast statue without feelings or emotion. No, to be a saint is to be a fully functioning human being. To be a saint is to be an attractive person filled with goodness and truth and love.

St Peter and St Paul were both flawed human beings who faced up to their human weaknesses and who placed their journey to fulfillment in the hands of God. We could do no better than to take them as our example and inspiration.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 28, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday: The Results of Sin

Today’s readings deal with topics we Americans, and perhaps people everywhere, would rather avoid.  The readings deal with sickness and death.  We do our best to avoid sickness and death.  That’s reasonable.  But there is much in us that is afraid of sickness and death.  We do our best to avoid talking about them.  That is not reasonable.  That’s a denial of reality.  We have such a hard time with these topics that we have created stories tone down the reality.  So, when a baby dies or a child, like the child we call Talitha in the Gospel dies, we say, “God must have wanted another angel with Him in heaven.”  This is not true.  God doesn’t go around killing babies and little children because his angel inventory is low.  And besides, the whole concept of people becoming angels after they die is a complete fabrication.  Angels are  different beings than human beings, including dead human beings.  Human beings do not become angels and angels do not become human beings.  Parents also make a huge mistake when they tell their little children that Grandpa died because God wanted him to be in heaven with him.  Often they have to deal with a child who has become angry with God for killing Grandpa.

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 5: 21–43

Gospel Summary

A synagogue official named Jairus pleads with Jesus to cure his daughter, who is at the point of death. While on the way to the official’s house, a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years comes through the large crowd that is following Jesus, and touches his cloak. She is instantly cured. Jesus, aware that power had gone out of him, asks, “Who has touched my clothes?” The woman in fear and trembling tells him that it was she.

Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—June 28, 2015

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives life to the living dead and to the literally dead. What is common to both healings?

Gospel (Read Mk 5:21-43)

St. Mark gives us a story within a story in this account of Jesus and two people for whom He worked miracles of healing. The story begins with a desperate father, Jairus. His daughter was gravely ill, to the point of death. Casting all propriety aside (he was, after all, a “synagogue official”), he fell at Jesus’ feet and “pleaded earnestly with Him.” Jairus was confident that if Jesus would only lay His hands on the child, she would “get well and live.” Jesus, along with a large crowd of onlookers, “went off with him.”

My Daily Desire: ‘Be Jesus Today’

A sticky note on the bottom of my computer monitor at work features three simple words, but a powerful command:

Be Jesus Today

If I have a consistently whispered “mantra,” that’s it. I say it to myself every morning. The note reminds me of my personal desire throughout the workday. At night, as I reflect on my day’s activities and thoughts, I hold myself to that self-imposed standard.

Am I expecting something unreasonable? Well, in the First Letter of John, the apostle writes:

The Thrill of Anticipation: Encountering God in the Eucharist

How Previous Ages have seen the Eucharist

At one point during the Communist takeover in China, the Communists came to a remote village where Catholicism was lived with great vigor. They imprisoned the local priest in his own rectory, boarded up the door, and stationed a guard. Looking out from his window, the priest was horrified as he watched the soldiers proceed to desecrate the Church next door.

The troops marched past an eleven year old girl praying quietly in the back of the Church and laughing raucously, they invaded the sanctuary. They broke open the tabernacle, pulled out the ciborium and deliberately spilled the consecrated Hosts (the Eucharist) inside of it on to the floor. Father knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.

Respectable or Faithful?

In Sacred Scripture, being faithful to God was never equated with being respectable in the eyes of society. Just look at all those biblical characters who we raise up as examples of faithful people; they were hardly respectable. In their own time, these paragons of faith were considered to be quacks and for good reason.

What would you think about a fellow like Noah who built a huge ship, far from any large body of water? Or a man like Abraham who still trusted God for a son for decades, even after his wife was menopausal? Or what about a general  like Gideon who challenged a huge army by ordering his dwindling troops of 300 to bang on their shields and uncover lanterns after dismissing 31,700 men in his army?

St. John the Baptist

THE birth of St. John was foretold by an angel of the Lord to his father, Zachary, who was offering incense in the Temple. It was the office of St. John to prepare the way for Christ, and before he was born into the world he began to live for the Incarnate God. Even in the womb he knew the presence of Jesus and of Mary, and he leaped with joy at the glad coming of the son of man.

Paul the Convert

St. Paul’s place in the Church has been a bone of contention ever since he was knocked off his horse by our Lord on the way to Damascus.

He was a mass of paradoxes that seemed (to those who did not understand him) a mass of foolish contradictions.

        – He loved Christ above all and was not infrequently named an enemy
          of God.
        – He was all things to all and yet had a determined circle of enemies
          who regarded him as a two-faced phony.

The Sacrament of Penance and Hollywood

As a priest with decades of experience, having heard many thousands of confessions, I can attest to the importance of this sacrament for a healthy society. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, to the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world. Therefore, we have been given this sacrament as a means to return to the grace of God, who is rich in mercy and solicitous of our salvation. In addition, the graces received in the sacrament help us combat temptations to sin again.

Biblical Typology: The Best Method To Read Scripture

One of the most interesting ways to read the Bible is through the lens of typology. Typology is where a person or event in the Old Testament foreshadows a greater person or event in the New Testament. The word “typology” comes to us from St. Paul himself, in Romans 5:14, where he referred to Adam as a “type” of Christ. So let’s get started on this most interesting study.

A Powerful Parable Against the Premises of Unbelief

There are many reasons for the unbelief rampant in our times. Among them is the claim by some that because they do not see or hear evidence of God or an afterlife, our belief in these is just wishful thinking on our part so as to avoid the conclusion that everything ends with our death, that this world is all there is.

A parable currently circulating on the Internet addresses this sort of unbelief. A Facebook friend (Vicki) called it to my attention. I have adapted a bit and will present it to you here….

Bring on the Temptations!

“No one is tempted more than he is able to bear.”

The purpose of the newest book in the Navigating the Interior Life book series, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, is to reveal the unique personality, wisdom, and insight that often emerges out of the letters of the saints. These letters are a window into Saint Teresa’s genuine humanity, witness, and pragmatic advice for pursuing an intimate friendship with God.

I’ll be sharing some of the letters here, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to spend time prayerfully reflecting on them. This is Day 29 from the book.

United We Stand

Survey after survey shows that Americans are more disillusioned with politics than ever before. They don’t trust that their representatives truly have their interests or the welfare of the nation at heart, but instead their own ambitions. How long has it been since anyone could say with confidence that the person representing them in Congress or in the White House was a grounded, authentic, principled, forthright, honest person? These days, there’s always an angle, and the tone is always divisive.

Our Tools for Evangelization Have Never Been Greater, Why Do We Stink At It?

Our Tools for Evangelization Have Never Been Greater, Why Do We Stink At It?

So there are twelve guys in Israel with nothing but the sandals on their feet. They dispersed and did nothing short of change the world.

How did they do it? Evangelistic zeal. These guys really believed what they were selling.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was injured in the army and read a book about the saints and went out and changed the world. How? Evangelistic zeal.

Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?

It sounds like a ridiculous question for me to pose. It’s common knowledge that the Rosary didn’t take shape for at least another thousand years. A few years back, however, something stood out to me, that makes me think that the “soul” of the Rosary was always present in the Apostles’ prayer. Jesus’ instruction at the time of His ascension was, “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” And the Apostles did just that: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:4-5, 14). That was how they spent the nine days between Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost.

The Logic of Baptism

There is a classic passage in the final chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where we read:

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” [Mark 16:15-16].

Christians through the ages have seen in this passage a powerful statement of the importance of baptism. Taken at face value, it indicates that baptism is instrumental in salvation.

Or does it?

Overcoming the Passions: the Habits of Sin

Every day can be the day in which we grow more free from sin and closer to God. Today becomes the battleground on which we wage war with our own passions: greed, envy, anger, lust, and the others like them. Passion (think “passive”, or “suffering”) is the word in the Christian East for different types of habitual sins and dispositions, both great and small. The first of three stages of the spiritual life is to overcome these passions or, more practically speaking, to be in the process of overcoming them, and to be continually engaged in the purification of the heart. This seems like a daunting task, and, in some sense, it is.  How can I remove sinful habits that have been with me since my youth, or all of the other new sinful habits and dispositions I have gathered over the years?

Four Common Tactics of the Devil

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in demonic possession. Movies and books, along with human fears and fascinations, are largely the cause. Although actual demonic possession is somewhat rare, it does occur. Each diocese ought to have an appointed exorcist to assess possession. This exorcist, with the permission of the bishop, should use the Rite of Major Exorcism when true and morally certain possession has been determined.

But because actual possession is quite rare, most of us should be looking out for the more common ways that the devil attacks us. His usual tactics are more subtle and pervasive, and we ought not let the exotic distract us from the more commonplace.

A World without Consequences

All effects have causes. All actions have consequences. To understand these self-evident truths leads to an understanding of reality, the nature of things. In the realm of fantasy, however, these primary truths encounter denial or rejection—as if the laws of nature suddenly suspend themselves, do not apply, and make extraordinary exceptions for some individuals. This loss of contact with reality, logic, and science provokes all of the moral conflicts and culture wars that affect the sanctity of life, the battle for the family, and the status of marriage in the twenty-first century. Modern thinking presumes to render asunder the intrinsic relationship between causes and effects and between actions and consequences.

The Shroud of Turin: Fact, Fable and Mystery

In the late 1970s an unusual documentary film surfaced. When it was shown to London’s film critics, ‘Silent Witness’ caused consternation. Its subject matter was the Shroud of Turin – not a subject commonplace in a Britain then dealing with economic recession and punk rock. It was the first time a major documentary had emerged on that particular piece of cloth based on the then latest research, of which that decade had seen a flurry.

The Smartest Man I Ever Met

“I speak—more or less fluently—eight languages and have a reading knowledge of eleven others, necessary for my research.” He could have spoken to almost anyone in the world in that person’s native tongue. He was very much a catholic Catholic.

Born in 1909 under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s childhood languages, as I recall him explaining, were German, Hungarian, and Latin. Maybe there were one or two others languages too. I forget, but he seemed never to have forgotten anything. I never met anyone with a mind so capacious and so filled, not just with facts but with connections among those facts.

The Resurrection of Sacred Architecture

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome is one of the oldest churches in the city and in the world. Originally constructed in 340 by Pope Julius I, it replaced an earlier house church that had been established on the site by Pope St. Callixtus I in 220. As one of the original twenty-five parish churches of Rome, it is possibly the place of the very first open celebration of Mass.

Loving God through the Magisterium

One of the great struggles for many Catholics, especially in the West, is the hierarchical structure of the Church. We are called to submission and obedience to the Church. These are, of course, pejoratives in much of our culture, so many view the Magisterium and hierarchy with disdain, suspicion, and hostility. Some of this is a result of the sinful nature of men and women. The sins of the Church are on public display and so we blame the source instead of the person. While it may be understandable, it is incorrect to do so. The Church’s hierarchical structure is a great gift that was begun by Our Lord Himself. We must learn to separate the sins of men from the Church herself.

The Mystery of Being a Priest

Each year I concelebrate with hundreds of others priests in the ordination Mass of new priests. I find such Masses deeply spiritual. I have no role other than to quietly concelebrate, so the readings and the rites move me deeply. As I sit quietly, I ponder the mystery of my own priesthood.

When I was growing up, there was little to indicate that I would ever become a priest. I was not a particularly spiritual child (at least not after age 7). I did not “play Mass.” In fact, I did not like church at all. At the end of Mass when the priest said, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” I responded, “Thanks be to God!” much more vigorously than necessary.

Lessons From A Monastery: Keeping Tradition Alive

There are two extremes in the Church right now regarding Tradition. The first is to disregard anything one finds irrelevant to our modern age. Meanwhile, the other extreme is to cling to everything, not allowing any room for change. Both extremes are wrong, and more importantly are harmful to the life of the Church.

At the center of this issue are two things. One is the individualistic society we now live in which makes it hard to understand what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. This influences how we view Tradition (both Holy Tradition and the lesser, but also important, traditions of the people). When we see traditions as being those of “others,” of belonging to individual people, we look at them from afar, as outsiders, thinking they have nothing to do with us.

Who said that?

Francis isn’t the first pope to speak out about the environment—though he is the first to pen an encyclical devoted to the topic. And it turns out, his views aren’t that different from his predecessors.

So, a quick quiz. Which pope said which quote?  John Paul, Benedict or Francis?

Spirit World Primer

Father Driscoll is unique in his presentation of the spirit world, as he does so not from years of experience as a renowned exorcist, but as a priest with a doctorate in counseling. He chooses to focus on a rational, biblically based view of exorcism. He does not deny the existence of demons or demonic possession; in fact, he follows official Church teaching strictly and never sways from it. However, he does offer many words of caution to people who see the devil as the source of every illness or abnormal behavior. It is true that a demon can cause physical harm such as a mental disorder, but Father Driscoll argues that these cases are few in number. He urges priests and others to use the Church’s criteria in discerning whether an individual is demon-possessed or in need of proper medical attention.
…more .

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