Friday, July 30, 2021

HOMILY – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Give Us This Bread


In today’s Gospel of John, the people of God are asking for a sign from that Jesus is all he says he is. They want proof.

Don’t we all want proof of God’s existence at times in our lives?

In today’s first reading from Exodus, the people of God want a sign, too.

They’re grumbling in the desert, thinking, “Hey, we were much more comfortable in captivity in Egypt.”

Then a miracle happens in the desert and they have their fill of manna from heaven.

Sometimes we can be more comfortable trapped in our own sinfulness and grumble, “Where is God in our lives?”

In last week’s Gospel of John, we got the most wondrous sign of all that Christ is what he says he is when he took a boy’s five barley loaves and two fishes and fed a multitude of people.  

It was a miracle sign that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father. And He was offering more than mere material food, but spiritual food that lasts forever as he reminds followers this week.  

That word “consubstantial” caused quite a stir in 2011 when the New Roman Missal was introduced, but the meaning of this big word from the Nicene Creed is quite accurate.

Consubstantial simply means: “of the same substance or essence.”

 Jesus is trying to get this concept into the heads of the people He encounters today.

They want material proof that he’s the Son of living God.  They want more miracles.  

He’s trying to tell them that everything he is and everything he is doing is a reflection of the one who sent him.

 This Gospel passage for the next few week in John’s Gospel is called the “Bread of Life Discourse.”

 Wait, aren’t we in the Year of Mark with our Gospel readings? 

We are. But the Church wants us to take a break from Mark and reflect on Jesus as the Bread of Life from John’s Gospel for the next few weeks.  

Remember, when the Church gets serious, it breaks out the Gospel of John.

One of the keys to understanding this weekend’s readings is this passage from John’s Gospel spoken by the people of God: 

“Sir, give us this bread always.” 

The Bread of Life in our faith is the Eucharist. And everything in flows from it.

As Jesus reminds us, "Amen, Amen, I say to you... Do not work for food that perishes  but for the food that endures for eternal life."

“Faith is entering into a relationship with God. Faith is becoming aware of the gift of our existence as a gift from God; nothing we've ever earned. God has loved us into being and sustains us in being, and we need to recognize that, and then to develop a relationship with this living God.”

 It starts when we eat the Bread of Life and become filled with ALL we need to do the will of God.  This helps us to turn away from things that separate us from him: sin.

St. Paul reminds the baptized in Christ what we must do in today’s reading from Ephesians:

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness."

St. Paul is urging us to undergo a revolution within ourselves by putting on this new self. These are strong words.  

In many ways, he’s calling for “something that would almost turn us inside-out, upside-down, just change everything in our lives, a revolution, so that we really live in God and renew ourselves from inside, according to God's ways.”

In the Gospel, Jesus is telling us clearly how to do this:  by partaking in the Bread of Life found in the Eucharist.

This spiritual nourishment is designed to turn us from old sinful ways and renew us in the joy and hope of Christ. This Bread of Life sustains us and helps us to better hear the voice of God whispering in our prayer life, guiding us as we do the will of the Father.

As many of you know, we just concluded the Year of the Eucharist in our Archdiocese, as called by Archbishop Etienne. As he said in his pastoral letter: the “goal is for all Catholics to enter into the mystery we celebrate in order to appreciate it more fully, and we hope that the faithful may also recognize the implications of the sending rite at the end of Mass as a commissioning to live this Eucharistic life in the world, to carry out the mission of Jesus in our day-to-day life.”

The Archbishop calls the Eucharist a source of unity to Christ, in Christ and with each other.

Perhaps this is why he voted recently to reject the U.S. Bishops Communion proposal, not wanting the Eucharist to become a politicized weapon. 

I’d like to share a final thought for reflection from popular Catholic writer Henri Nouwen.  

It’s entitled Becoming the Living Christ:

“Whenever we come together around the table, take bread, bless it, break it, and give it to one another saying: ‘The Body of Christ,’ we know that Jesus is among us. He is among us NOT as a vague memory of a person who lived long ago but as a real, life-giving presence that transforms us. By eating the Body of Christ, we become the living Christ and we are enabled to discover our own chosenness and blessedness, acknowledge our brokenness, and trust that all we live we live for others. Thus we, like Jesus himself, become food for the world.”


En el Evangelio de Juan de hoy, el pueblo de Dios está pidiendo una señal a Jesús de que él es todo lo que dice que es. Quieren pruebas.

¿No queremos todos a veces pruebas de la existencia de Dios en nuestras vidas?

En la primera lectura de hoy del Éxodo, el pueblo de Dios también quiere una señal.

Se quejan en el desierto, pensando: "Oye, estábamos mucho más cómodos en cautiverio en Egipto".

A veces nos sentimos más cómodos atrapados en nuestra propia pecaminosidad y nos quejamos, "¿Dónde está Dios en nuestras vidas?"

Entonces ocurre un milagro en el desierto y se llenan de maná del cielo.

Las multitudes querían pruebas materiales de que Jesús es el Hijo de Dios viviente.  Esto significa que querían más milagros. 

Jesús está tratando de decirles que todo lo que él es y todo lo que está haciendo es un reflejo de quien lo envió.

Una de las claves para entender las lecturas de este fin de semana es este pasaje del Evangelio de Juan hablado por el pueblo de Dios:

"Señor, danos este pan siempre". 

El Pan de Vida en nuestra fe es la Eucaristía. Y todo en fluye de ella.

"La fe es entrar en una relación con Dios. La fe es tomar conciencia del don de nuestra existencia como un don de Dios; nada de lo que nos hayamos ganado. Dios nos ha amado en el ser y nos sostiene en el ser, y tenemos que reconocer eso, y luego desarrollar una relación con ese Dios vivo.

           Todo comienza cuando comemos este Pan de Vida y nos llenamos de todo lo que necesitamos para hacer la voluntad de Dios.  Esto nos ayuda a alejarnos de las cosas que nos separan de Él: el pecado.

San Pablo recuerda a los bautizados en Cristo lo que debemos hacer en la lectura de hoy de Efesios:

"Debes dejar de lado el viejo yo de tu antigua forma de vida, corrompido a través de deseos engañosos, y ha de ser renovado en el espíritu de sus mentes, y ponerse en el nuevo yo, creado a la manera de Dios en justicia y santidad".

San Pablo nos está instando a experimentar una revolución dentro de nosotros mismos al ponernos ese nuevo yo. Son palabras importantes.

En el Evangelio, Jesús nos está diciendo claramente cómo hacer esto: participando en el Pan de Vida que viene en la Eucaristía.

Este alimento espiritual está diseñado para apartarnos de los viejos caminos pecaminosos y renovarnos en el gozo y la esperanza de Cristo. Este Pan de Vida nos sostiene y nos ayuda a escuchar mejor la voz de Dios susurrando en nuestra vida de oración, guiándonos como lo hacemos con la voluntad del Padre.

¿Qué hay entre usted y la Eucaristía? Podemos ayudarle a superar estos impedimentos. Pregúntenos cómo.

El escritor católico Henri Nouwen dijo esto acerca de Convertirse en el Cristo Viviente:

          "Cada vez que nos reunimos alrededor de la mesa, tomamos pan, lo bendecimos, lo rompemos y nos lo damos unos a otros diciendo: 'El Cuerpo de Cristo', sabemos que Jesús está entre nosotros. Él está entre nosotros no como un recuerdo vago de una persona que vivió hace mucho tiempo, sino como una presencia real, que da vida y que nos transforma. Al comer el Cuerpo de Cristo, nos convertimos en el Cristo vivo y estamos capacitados para descubrir nuestra propia elegibilidad y bendición, reconocer nuestro quebrantamiento y confiar en que todo lo que vivimos lo vivimos para los demás. Así nosotros, como Jesús mismo, nos convertimos en alimento para el mundo".              

Thursday, July 15, 2021

HOMILY – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Good Shepherd


There was a much read news story this week about a firebrand priest in Wisconsin formally suspended from public ministry for using divisive language in his sermons and news interviews.

This controversial priest “flouted COVID-19 protocols at the height of the pandemic, derided liberals as ‘left-wing fascist Nazis’ and warned that Catholics who support the Democratic Party could ‘face the fires of hell.’" [1]

“According to a new decree issued by (his Bishop), (the priest) is only allowed to celebrate Mass in private and is barred from preaching. He has also been instructed to take a 30-day spiritual retreat to ‘give him the possibility to spiritually heal and recharge and address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.’”[2]

Today’s Gospel message is an ancient story about leadership. It has a warning for all followers of the Good Shepherd about how we are to conduct ourselves in the mission of Christ. 

The Mission of the Twelve is complete. The apostles are eager to tell Jesus about their many experiences driving out demons, healing the sick and proclaiming the good news. After hearing their stories, Jesus attempts to take them all to a private place to rest and reflect.

But the crowds start following them. Jesus and his disciples cannot get a moment’s rest as they attempt to retreat to a deserted location with Jesus.

Notice here that Jesus does not get angry at the crowds. Quite the opposite. He is moved with pity for them. He surrenders to their needs and begins to teach them.

No doubt this causes some consternation with the Twelve.

“Doesn’t he care about us?”

Don’t we all feel this way sometimes when our needs are not the focus of others?          

These feelings are what it means to be human.

Today’s Gospel message calls us to change our perspective when whenever we experience these feelings: to become “other” focus and not be “me” focused. To learn to serve the needs others, and not our own.

When we do this, something happens to us. We are transformed by the love of Christ and we see the world through the eyes of Christ.

But at the same time, we all need to learn to say “no” and discern what we have the energy to do in ministry or where the Spirit is calling us to spend our time and talents. This is where a healthy prayer life can be most beneficial.

From his book “Come Follow Me,” our Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg shared this insight into today’s reading:

“This gift of rest is not primarily to alleviate exhaustion but to foster a contemplative appreciation for having shared in God’s creative and redemptive work. This spiritual rest is meant to foster and deepen our intimate relationship with the Lord so that our efforts of ministry are not just ‘working for God’ but a ‘participation in God’s work’. There is a big difference between those two approaches to ministry. It is the experience of regular spiritual rest and appreciative contemplation with God that allows us to know the mind of Christ and to do God’s will with eagerness, generosity, and freedom. Jesus wanted the twelve apostles to have this experience of spiritual rest so they could better understand how their efforts participated in God’s divine will for the world.”[3]

The Twelve are now called apostles. The word apostle means someone who is “sent out.”  

We, too, can go from being simple disciples to apostles of Christ when we are sent out to do his ministry. But when do this our words and our actions must reflect the Good Shepherd or our efforts will only scatter the sheep.

Our first reading is a beautiful passage from the Prophet Jeremiah.  It foreshadows the coming of the Good Shepherd.

This language spoke deeply into the psyche of the people Israel. From the Old Testament, they heard God is the one who shepherds the people.

“Shepherds had four primary responsibilities: to gather the sheep, to guide the sheep, to protect the sheep, and to care for the sheep. Jesus presents Himself in this passage as the shepherd who fulfills all of these roles.”[4]

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus commissions us to do his mission to draw people closer to God.

Do we draw people closer to God by our words and actions?

From a wonderful resource called “Following in the Footsteps of Jesus” comes this great quote about today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel:

One day we will have to give an account to Jesus, our one and only Lord, as to how we see and treat those masses that are slowly leaving the church, perhaps because they do not hear the good news being spread among us, and because our speeches, official communications, and declarations have become meaningless for them.

Ordinary good people are disappointed because they do not see in us the compassion of Jesus. Some are believers who do not know to whom to go or how to meet a more human God than the one they perceive in our behavior, while others are Christians who are silent because what they have to say will not be listened to by anyone of importance in the church.

Some day the face of this church will change. It will learn to behave more compassionately. It will forget its own sermons and will get down to listening to the suffering of the people. Jesus has the power to change our hearts and to renew our communities.[5]

         This is my prayer for us as disciples of Jesus. This is my prayer for our Church.

This is what Pope Francis is calling us to be as missionary disciples. Not fomenters of division, but missionaries of peace.



[3] Mueggenborg, Daniel (2017). Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year B

[4] Mueggenborg, Daniel (2017). Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year B

[5] Pagola, J. A. (2011). Following in the Footsteps of Jesus: Meditations on the Gospels for Year B. (R. Luciani, Ed., V. de Souza, Trans.) (p. 106). Miami, FL: Convivium Press. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

HOMILY – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Contempt


You have heard the adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Today’s Gospel story is a textbook example of this old saying.

The expression “familiarity breeds contempt” was first used in literature by 14th century English author Geoffrey Chaucer in his works the The Canterbury Tales, specifically the Tale of Melibee. Experts say the phrase may have its origins in Aesop’s fables. Aesop was a slave and storyteller in ancient Greece nearly two-thousand years before Chaucer. So, the concept is as ancient as proverbs or wisdom in the biblical tradition.

In a nutshell, “the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ means that the more people know about each other, the more they dislike each other. Basically, the longer people know each other, the longer they will see the flaws in each other; this could lead to resentment.”

But how can this be with Jesus?

His hometown family and friends knew what is called the “hidden life” of Jesus, as a boy and young man, as the son of a carpenter and the son of Mary.  

Now they are familiar with his recent wonderous works outside of their community. These miracles had made Jesus famous all over the countryside. But his fame did not enkindle pride in his hometown, but enflamed contempt.

Some biblical scholars suggest it was envy that bred this contempt; envy that Jesus was doing all these amazing things in places other than his hometown.

 Again, we need the lens of first reading from the Old Testament to fully understand context here.

The first reading is about the Prophet Ezekiel’s call to mission by God. As the Israelites are returning from exile in Babylon, Ezekiel is called by God to tell the people they had lost their way.   

Many prophets were sent by God to foreign lands to prophesy before people outside of their faith tradition (think Jonah and Moses). Ezekiel is sent to his own people, the chosen people of Israel, who had turned their backs on God.

When we hear the story of Jesus’ experience in his hometown, we have a clearer understanding of what Gospel writer Mark was trying to convey.

Jesus was not only rejected by his hometown crowd, but eventually he would be rejected by the people of Israel at the end of his ministry, going from Hosanna to “Crucify him” in Jerusalem in less than a week.

Sometimes we do not like the message. Sometimes we do not like the messenger. Sometimes we encounter the truth of God with contempt.

This is what it is to be human. And why we need Christ in our lives to form and conform our hearts to his.

Mark has placed this story in the middle of several amazing stories of healing of those whose faith had saved them and their loved ones, including a little girl raised from the dead. Here is a story about his hometown lacking in faith. The next story is about Jesus sharing his healing power with his disciples in the Mission of the Twelve who would carry out Jesus’ ministry long after he was gone.

The sandwiching of a passage about his own hometown rejecting him in their lack of faith, with those who had abundant faith in Jesus, is intentional and instructional for all of us.

Preaching to one’s own people can be the most difficult of all.

People who know you, know your weaknesses and foibles, know your background, these can be the hardest to people to reach.

I, too, have experienced the phenomenon of “familiarity breeds contempt.”

A few years back, I preached on the U.S. Bishops letter on racism (see linked homily). 

The Advent message struck a chord in my previous parish community with a handful of parishioners and led to angry outbursts by a small group of people who did not think racism was something to be preached from the pulpit.

These people knew me as a deacon for years. They knew my personal story and how God had called me out of my professional life and into full-time ministry. And they had contempt for the message and contempt for its messenger.

This can happen sometimes when the truth of God is being spoken.

This is why God’s words today to Ezekiel hit the mark on the challenges of living up to our call to be prophets,

Hard of face and obstinate of heart 

are they to whom I am sending you.” 

To those in Jesus’ native place, they are wondering, “Who does he think he is?”

As Jesus reminds us today,

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” 

This story is also about us, a story about our mission to an unbelieving world and our unbelieving family and friends. 

We are all prophets. Every baptized person is called by our faith to be Priest, Prophet and King. Not just clergy or religious. We all will face rejection to the message of God with some in our lives.

Bishop Robert Barron says, “Prophecy is never a matter of one’s own ruminations or philosophical conclusions, or private opinions. Authentic prophecy, when you are speaking the word of God, always comes from the Spirit of God…  Prophets are seized by a power beyond them, their seized by the Spirit of God. You might say they’re gripped by an authority outside of themselves, a power they don’t control.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, don’t be surprised at all if you face opposition when you function in the prophetic role. Remember, "you are called upon to be faithful, not necessarily successful.”

          This is the challenging call for us all.