July 26, 2017

Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 30, 2017, Year A

Solomon

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut


Put yourself in Solomon’s place. God says to you, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What criteria would you use for your request?

Solomon’s criteria were simple. He was King, he had to govern his people, but he was inexperienced. We commonly say he asked for wisdom; but his actual words were, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

His values are clear. Yes, his royal position is important, but his responsibilities are not merely administrative; and judging justly is a sacred trust. The highest value, however, is expressed with the words, “I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen.” His service is to God first. And his governance is exercised not over just any nation, but over God’s chosen people.

Using the language we find in today’s parables, we could say that Solomon asked for a “treasure” or a “pearl of great price.” And he got it.

Let me be clear. When I say, “Put yourself in Solomon’s place,” I don’t mean you should think of yourself as a newly crowned king. Think of yourself as you are today, and God tells you to ask for anything you want.

This isn’t one of those three-wishes jokes. It’s a serious question, first and foremost about what really matters in your life.

From one point of view, your answer isn’t all that important. St. Paul reminds us today that “all things work for good for those who love God.” That’s helpful, because it means we don’t have to worry too much maybe making a mistake. This is not “Jeopardy!”

Still, you would want to choose the right thing, the best thing for what matters most at this moment in your life, maybe even one of the things Solomon didn’t ask for. “Long life” and “riches” can’t be all bad, especially if they can be put to good use to accomplish your goals.

There we go again. Goals imply values, values imply what is most important.

We can be reasonably sure that God wouldn’t agree simply to satisfy our greed, or our lust for power and pleasure, or our desire for revenge. We can be reasonably sure that those things would not ultimately matter the most to us.

Our request, like Solomon’s, would have to be personal without being selfish. It would have to be concrete without being too specific, general without being ambiguous, realistic without being crass, noble without being a daydream. Here is an example from the Book of Proverbs: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; lest, being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:7).

Interestingly, this request from Proverbs, just like Solomon’s, also has something to do with God. This is where the “Kingdom of God” comes in. Whether we think of it as treasure or as a pearl, its value is such that everything else pales in comparison. The Christian is prepared to sacrifice everything for it.

At the time the Gospel was being preached and then written, Christians were in fact forfeiting lands and freedom, being rejected by friends and family, and even being put to death, all for the sake of the Kingdom. Jesus was their treasure. Nothing and no one else could even come close.

There’s a famous story about the ancient Greek thinker and inventor Archimedes running around shouting “Eureka! I found it!” What he had found was the solution to a practical problem put to him by the king.

Our problem is put to us by the Lord: “Ask for anything you want.” What shall we ask for?

Everyone wants world peace, for example. What gifts would you ask for if you felt called to be an effective peacemaker?

The best starting point is for each of us to recognize our unique place in the Kingdom of God, then work out what gift will enable us best to accomplish the work that has been given to us, and then ask for it—confidently, even boldly.

The treasure in the field and the pearl of great price are there for the finding. We can run around shouting “Eureka!” for a while, but then we have to put ourselves in Solomon’s place.

July 25, 2017

Prayer for Saint Anne’s Intercession

St. Anne

O Holy Saint Anne, you were especially favored by God to be the mother of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Savior. By your powerful intercession in union with your most pure daughter and with her divine Son, kindly obtain for us the grace and the favor we now seek. Please secure for us also forgiveness of our past sins, the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties and the help we need to persevere in the love of God and the imitation of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
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St. Anne: A Powerful Intercessor and Protectress

Great saints and Doctors of the Church including Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Damascene, and Saint Teresa of Ávila, had devotions to St. Anne. In the words of St. Teresa of Ávila, “We know and are convinced that our good mother St. Anne helps in all needs, dangers and tribulations.” Among other things, she is the patroness of the childless, the help of the pregnant, and the protectress of widows. She is a powerful intercessor for single women who seek a Godly husband, married couples, expectant mothers and married couples who have difficulty conceiving, as well as all who have grown old. Those who honor St. Anne will receive her aid in every need especially, at the hour of their death.

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin

Sts. Joachim and Anne

At one time, July 26th, was the feast of St. Anne only, but with the new calendar the two feasts of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been joined and are celebrated today. Information about Mary's parents comes from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi (or Gospel of James), written about 170 AD. According to this story, Joachim was a prominent and respected man who had no children. He and his wife, Anne, looked upon this as a punishment from God. In answer to their prayers, Mary was born and was dedicated to God.

From this early Christian writing have come several of the feast days of Mary, particularly the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of Mary, and her Assumption into Heaven. Very early also came feast days in honor of SS. Joachim and Anne, and in the Middle Ages numerous churches, chapels, and confraternities were dedicated to St. Anne. The couple became models of Christian marriage, and their meeting at Jerusalem's Golden Gate has been a subject of Christian artists.

Anne is often shown in paintings with Jesus and Mary and is considered a subject that attracts attention, since Anne is the grandmother of Jesus. Her two great shrines — that of Ste. Anne d'Auray in Britanny, France, and that of Ste. Anne de Beaupre near Quebec in Canada — are very popular. We know little else about the lives of Mary's parents, but considering the person of Mary, they must have been two very remarkable people to have been given such a daughter and to have played so important a part in the work of the Redemption.

There is a church of St. Anne in Jerusalem and it is believed to be built on the site of the home of SS. Joachim and Anne, when they lived in Jerusalem. O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your holy incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers and intercession of both, that we may attain the salvation you have long promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from The One Year Book of Saints, Fr. Clifford Stevens.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for August 2017

Pope Francis' coat of arms Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer throughout the month of August:

Artists

That artists of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation.

Urgent Intention - To be Announced

Pope Francis has decided to keep one monthly prayer intention. He is no longer proposing an urgent prayer intention. Each Sunday on which he gives an Angelus Address, he asks for prayers for specific people and situations that are of deep concern to him.

July 24, 2017

The Tragedy of Charlie Gard is a Cautionary Tale for America About the Evils of Socialized Medicine

Charlie Gard

It has long been an aspiration for the Left to impose a single-payer health care system like the kind found in Canada and much of Europe. Proponents of such socialized medicine argue it is the only viable alternative, both economically and morally. However, as the tragic case of Charlie Gard shows, faceless autocrats from government run universal health care bureaucracies invariably abrogate parental rights and the efforts of well-meaning doctors to provide alternate care.

Townhall reports that Charlie’s parents have ended their legal battle as time has simply run out. "Connie Yates and Chris Gard, the parents of Charlie Gard, the terminally-ill baby who they sought to bring to the United States for a last-ditch experimental treatment, have dropped their legal battle to move their son. Per the couple's lawyer, it's simply too late for the treatment to have any... benefit."

"Charlie's parents have been fighting for months to bring their son to the United States, but faced significant legal hurdles throughout the entire process. They raised over $1 million to transport and treat their son, yet the European Court of Human Rights ruled that doing so was not in his best interest, and he had to remain at Great Ormond Street Hospital" [and] life support was to be withdrawn. In short, Charlie Gard was euthanized by bureaucratic stonewalling and delay.

Speaking of medically induced, government sanctioned euthanasia, George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in an article for National Review Online, reflected upon Colorado's Proposition 106, the "End-of-Life Options Act," that legalized physician-assisted suicide in the Centennial State. Weigel noted that the citizens of Colorado should bear in mind the unintended consequences and implicit dangers of such a law. He wrote:

"The more apt mot about all of this lethality masquerading as compassion, however, is from the quotable quotes of... [Fr.] Richard John Neuhaus, who famously said of the morally egregious and its relationship to law, 'What is permitted will eventually become obligatory.' Canada isn’t quite there yet, nor is Belgium; but they’re well on their way, not least because their single-payer health-care systems will increasingly find euthanasia cost-effective — and because the arts of pain relief combined with human support will atrophy in those countries as the 'easy way out' becomes, well, easier and easier."

If we don't defend human dignity and promote a “Culture of Life”, the preborn, the terminally ill and those at the end of life will be summarily terminated because they are “not viable”, too old, too sick, too time consuming or too expensive. This is the “Culture of Death” personified. As Mother Angelica once observed: “The culture of death is hard and unbending. It is without love, without compassion, without hope. It is the blackest pit. It is nothing but darkness.”

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 9

St. Anne

July 25, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 9

Most holy mother of the Virgin Mary, glorious Saint Anne, I, a miserable sinner, confiding in your kindness, choose you today as my special advocate. I offer all my interests to your care and maternal solicitude. O my very good mother and advocate, deign to accept me and to adopt me as your child.

O glorious Saint Anne, I beg you, by the passion of my most loving Jesus, the Son of Mary, your most holy daughter, to assist me in all the necessities both of my body and my soul. Venerable Mother, I beg you to obtain for me the favor I seek in this novena…

(State your intention here.)

and the grace of leading a life perfectly conformable in all things to the Divine Will. I place my soul in your hands and in those of your kind daughter. I ask for your favor in order that, appearing under your patronage before the Supreme Judge, He may find me worthy of enjoying His Divine Presence in your holy companionship in Heaven. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint James the Greater, Apostle, "Son of Thunder"

Saint James the Greater

July 25th, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint James the Greater, the Apostle and martyr. Both his parents, Zebedee and Salome were people of affluence and well-respected. His father was a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee, who lived in or near Bethsaida, perhaps in Capharnaum who had several hired men in his employ. His mother was one of the pious women referenced by Scripture who followed Christ and “ministered unto Him of their substance.”

James is called “the Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Less,” who was probably shorter of stature. We know little of St. James’s early life. He was the eldest brother of John, the beloved disciple. According to the social rank of their parents, they were certainly men of ordinary education, in the common walks of Jewish life. They had opportunity of coming in contact with Greek culture and language which flourished on the shores of the Galilean Sea.

The Galilean origin of St. James in part explains the energy of temper and the vehemence of character which earned for him and St. John the name Boanerges, or "sons of thunder". Galileans were the fiercest defenders of the Jewish nation. When John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, St. John became a disciple and was directed to “the Lamb of God”. Later, he brought his brother James to Jesus. The call of St. James is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon Peter and Andrew were approached by the Lord upon the Sea of Galilee, where they were tending their fishing nets. All four, "forthwith left their nets to follow Christ," and became, in time, "fishers of men".

St. James was afterward selected to the Apostleship. Together, Peter and Andrew, James and John, formed a prominent inner circle of Jesus, (cf. Mark 13:3). who witnessed the Transfiguration, and certain of His miracles, like the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus. Tradition holds he preached the Gospel in Spain after Jesus' Resurrection.  It is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned in the Gospel of Saint John.

James's martyrdom is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles. He was the first of that chosen group to give his life for his Master. The Lord had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that both James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your holy Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

July 23, 2017

Blessed Pope Paul VI on St. Charbel Makhlouf

Saint Charbel Makhlouf
[A] hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed...a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people... May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance, and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God...
— St. Pope Paul VI on the beatification of Charbel Makhlouf
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Prayer for St. Charbel Makhlouf’s Intercession

St. Charbel Makhlouf, whom God imbued with immense devotion and a desire to imitate Christ in all things, intercede for us and teach us to love the disciplines of self-sacrifice, penance, prayer and contemplation. Help us to embrace humility not greed or material gain. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and n the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 8

St. Anne

July 24, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 8

Remember, O Saint Anne, you whose name signifies grace and mercy, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, and sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, good, and kind mother; I take refuge at your feet, burdened with the weight of my sins. O holy mother of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, despise not my petition…

(State your intention here.)

But hear me and grant my prayer. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com

Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Lebanese Priest and Mystic

Saint Charbel Makhlouf

July 24th is the optional memorial of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. He was born in the mountain village of Biqa-Kafra, Lebanon, the fifth child of a poor Maronite Family on May 8, 1828. Charbel exhibited preternatural spiritual abilities at an early age especially contemplation, prayer and solitude. At 23, over his parent’s objections, he entered the monastery of Our Lady of Lebanon and became a novice.

After two years of novitiate, in 1853, he entered the Monastery of Saint Maroun. Ordained a priest in 1859, he spent sixteen years there, totally dedicated to Christ, performing his priestly and monastic duties in an exemplary way. He practiced self sacrifice, ministering with an undivided heart before receiving permission from his superiors to live in the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul.

Charbel's companions at the hermitage were Christ, as encountered in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, and the Blessed Mother. The Eucharist became the center of his life. He consumed the Bread of Life and was consumed by it. Though his hermit isolated from the world, the world had a great place in his heart. He would offer himself as a sacrifice so that the world would return to God. In this light, one can see the importance of this Eucharistic prayer in his life:
Father of Truth, behold Your Son a sacrifice pleasing to You, accept this offering of Him who died for me...
On December 16, 1898 while reciting the "Father of Truth" prayer at the Holy Liturgy, Charbel suffered a massive stroke. He died on Christmas Eve at the age of 70. Through faith this hermit received the Word of God and through love he continued the Ministry of Our Lord's Incarnation.

On the evening of his funeral, his superior wrote: "Because of what he will do after his death, I need not talk about his behavior". A few months after his death a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb. The superiors opened it to find his body still intact. Since that day a blood-like liquid flows from his body. Experts and doctors are unable to give medical explanations for the incorruptibility and flexibility. In 1950 and 1952 his tomb was opened and his body was found intact.

The spirit of Charbel still lives in many people. His miracles include numerous healings of the body and of the spirit. Thomas Merton, the American Hermit, wrote in his journal: "Charbel lived as a hermit in Lebanon—he was a Maronite. He died. Everyone forgot about him. Fifty years later, his body was discovered incorrupt and in short time he worked over 600 miracles. He is my new companion. My road has taken a new turning. It seems to me that I have been asleep for 9 years—and before that I was dead."

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965 Charbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI. On October 9, 1977 during the World Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul VI canonized Blessed Charbel among the ranks of the Saints.  O God, who called the Priest Saint Charbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion, grant us, we pray, that, being made imitators of the Lord's Passion, we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 30, 2017, Year A

Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


The Kingdom of God, always somewhat mysterious for us, was always on the mind of Jesus. There are almost one-hundred and fifty references to God’s Kingdom in the New Testament, fifty-two of them in St. Matthew’s gospel alone. The more Jesus spoke about the Kingdom the more it seemed to His listeners to be another-worldly place. Perhaps that’s because in a world gone insane, sane things seem to be unreal.

In today gospel account Jesus referred to the Kingdom as a hidden treasure, a box filled with golden coins buried somewhere in a field. Likewise, He spoke of the Kingdom as a precious pearl, a jewel found by a businessman who astutely sold everything he owned in order to buy it. He spoke, too, of the Kingdom as a fishing net filled with fish both good and bad. Later He referred to the Kingdom as leaven in dough, as light, salt and seed. Likewise, He called it a ripe harvest, a royal feast and as a wedding banquet.

We wonder what the Kingdom is for us, in everyday terms, as we live out life here in our town this week, next month, throughout the rest of this year, and beyond. How do we identify and describe God’s Kingdom here on earth? Some folks think of the Kingdom as a remote and distant heaven in another world at the end of life. Others think it’s an ideal political and economic order. Some think that the Kingdom is exclusively God’s business, not ours, and we have only to wait and receive it from God’s hands. Some identify the Kingdom as the Church; what’s inside the Church is the Kingdom, what’s outside of the Church is not a part of God’s Kingdom.

But what is the Kingdom of God? When did it start? Where did it begin? How did it come into being? For the answer to must go back to the beginning. In the beginning God divided light out from the dark. Then God divided the land from the water. Then He made the earth fertile so that living things would grow in it. Then the oceans, lakes and rivers were made to crawl with reptiles and filled with swimming fish. The lands He filled with weeds, climbers and creepers, bushes, and finally great trees. The air and the sky God filled with insects and birds, and on the ground wondrous animals and creatures of all sorts and varieties.

And then God made the likes of you and me. He took the face of a man, and then of a woman, in His hands, bent their faces backwards, put His mouth on theirs and blew the Breath of Life into them commanding: “LIVE you woman!” “LIVE you man!” “Live as I live. I place you over the world as my agents, my ministers, my stewards… my sons and daughters. I give you all the earth that you may return it back to me with all that you have done to make it fruitful, productive, wondrous and beautiful, filled with souls for me to love and to love me in return. Have life! Be joyful! Give life! Give happiness and joy; give your love and your life to each other and to all. Give my life within you to your children and your children’s children forever and ever. Live together in my love.”

Where is the Kingdom of God? On earth, here, as it is in heaven, in us… as it is in God. It is our human life, that sacred space in which lives the very Spirit of God, the very life of God. If that’s not true then the Incarnation, God the Son becoming man, is meaningless. The Kingdom is found where God wants to establish it, in our human relationships with each other. That is when it started; that is where it began; that is how it came into being. Jesus is tireless in pointing that out to us.

God’s Kingdom is God’s will, God’s desire for human life, where we find the quality of our human life. God’s Kingdom is the expression of His will that your life, and those who live in your life, might be filled with His joy, His love, His mercy, His justice, His truth, and His peace.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray to God: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH….” God’s desire and will is nothing else but that we be filled with the fullness of well-being, happy living, total life. Nothing else is God’s will. The Kingdom of God here on earth is human life, high quality human life, filled with His glory.

The reason Jesus was recognized as the Son of God was because those around Him discovered in Him the same exclusive diving purpose, namely the well-being of people. And so Jesus cried:

“Stop being deaf! That’s no good. Hear!”

“Stop being blind! That’s no good. See!”

“Stop being crippled. That’s no good. Move!”

“Stop being mute. That’s no good. Speak!”

And when He met the bleeding woman He said: “Stop bleeding. That’s no good. Give God a child!” And when He met the widow of Nain holding her only child, her dead son, in her arms…and when He encountered the dead daughter of Jairus, and when He wept at the tomb of His dead friend Lazarus, He cried out: “Come forth! Live!” God’s Word, the same Word that He shouted into the black chaos of the cosmos back at the beginning, went forth from His mouth and came back bringing life, life in its fullness, life fully healed and complete in His glory.

Jesus gave life; He restored life; He repaired life; He affirmed life. He lived life among the broken, the prostitutes, adulterers, widows, and the aged… among orphans, street people, crooks, vagrants, and the outcast. He unbound Zacchaeus, a greedy, grasping, mean man who sat on piles of ill-gotten money. And when he was freed, Zacchaeus became prodigally generous — unreasonably and insanely generous. He became just as unbelievably and irrationally generous as God.

Jesus detested injustice; He hated unfairness, He was revolted by sickness, deformity and disease; Jesus was disgusted with violence; He set His face against oppressors. And when the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies tried to conquer Him, He stood in simple silence on the ground of His Father’s Kingdom. Even death itself could not do away with Him. Why? Because He lived for human well-being while having in His heart the same will of His Father for all human life.

Are you living in the kingdom? Do you sacrifice your own personal comfort and convenience for the well-being of those around you? Does your work give value added to the lives of those around you? Does it add to the sum total of the happiness in their lives? Do your choices, your attitudes and decisions, contribute to the well-being of others? Do you give them life, or do you drain life from them? Do you give them joy or take the joy of living away from them? Are you like Zacchaeus before he met Jesus, or are you like Zacchaeus after he started to really live following his encounter with Jesus?

For if you are a savvy businessperson you’ll invest only that that which will last, and in that which will allow others to value you. After all God’s totally personal investment was in the humanity of Jesus risen in glory as the Christ given by God in order for us to live in His life. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God invested His own Spirit, His own life, His Holy Spirit in your humanity and mine. In the Spirit-filled humanity of the risen Christ, God gives us the opportunity to share His very own life. That is a reality that is more real than anything this world can ever dream of offering you.

If you know how to invest, then make this investment, just as did the shrewd businessman in today’s gospel account. If you do, you’ll live a happy, quality life because you will be doing God’s will and living life of real value in His Kingdom.

Prayer Before the Reading of the Gospel from the Orthodox Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy

The following eloquent commentary on the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ is from Orthodox priest Fr. Lawrence Farley’s, Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. May we reverence Christ's wisdom. (H/T Fr. Ted's Blog)

"When we hear the words of the Gospel, we are being entrusted with a treasure, and we must let these words bear fruit in our lives. Otherwise we will hear truth to our condemnation on the Last Day. That is why, before the Gospel is even chanted, the priest prays the Gospel prayer for all who are about to hear it:

‘Illumine our hearts, O Master and Lover of mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your Gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing to You.’"

July 22, 2017

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23, 2017, Year A

Field of wheat

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


We live in a strange world, don’t we? So many people begin things with good intentions, wonderful visions, and really want to make things better, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Marx and Lenin, the fathers of communism, really wanted to make the lives of their countrymen better. We went to war in Vietnam with good intentions. Atomic energy was supposed to make the world a better place. But, as in so many great efforts, things are likely to eventually go wrong.

The same is true in our own personal lives. People fall in love and get married with nothing but the best of intentions, with high hopes, with hearts filled with love, and with wonderful visions. Then, somewhere along the line, things turn sour.

Life is mixture of good and evil. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There’s much in our nation that is both good and bad. Our governmental officials are both good and bad. There’s much in our Church that is good, and there are some bad things in it too. If we’re honest, we see that there is both good and bad in us individually and collectively. Everywhere we look we find this strange mixture of what’s right and what’s wrong.

The world of great literature and the world of great art try to help us deal with this mixture of good and evil. The famous Star Wars movie series presents good people who, for some mysterious reason, go over to the Dark Side. The authors and producers of Star Wars didn’t give us an explanation of why this happens, they gave us only the epic struggle of good trying to overcome evil. The world’s great writers, novelists and poets give us no ultimate answer to the problem of evil’s origins; the only thing they can do is help us deal with the problem.

The Bible tells us that Lucifer was one of the greatest of all God’s angels. His name, Lucifer, means “Light Bearer.” He was one of highest of God’s creatures; he bore God’s own light. And yet… for some reason he became the Prince of Darkness.

The reason? Lucifer put his will before God’s will. He refused to obey God. He opted to go his own way. He defied God. The mystery is: Why did he do that? Isn’t that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?

As followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do with the problem of evil? That’s the question raised in today’s readings. Answering the question is a big problem for all of us. Just what do we do when it comes to ridding ourselves and our world of evil? The Scripture passages in today’s first reading and today’s gospel account suggest that we deal with evil as God deals with it, with patience and forbearance. Evil will eventually reveal itself and evil will eventually suffer the consequences it brings down upon itself. Sin brings with it its own suffering and punishment. Don’t we see that?

There are a couple of interesting points about the parable of Jesus we just heard that I want to point out to you. One is that when He was asked where the weeds came from Jesus replied: “An enemy has done this.” He doesn’t tell us why God has enemies; He simply takes it as a fact. He is a realist, not a dreamy eyed idealist. To take a realistic view of life we simply must begin with the facts – evil exists and it comes from people who have chosen to defy God. It may not make any sense to us. We simply must take it as a fact of life. People, of their own free will, choose to defy God and do things on their own quite apart from Him. In the world of human choices, things are not as they ought to be, things are quite apart from what God intended them to be. The price of human freedom of choice is terribly costly, not only to us, but to God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to pay that price.

Why, we ask, doesn’t God simply pull up all of evil’s weeds? Why doesn’t God, with fire and brimstone, simply blast evil off the face of the earth? Well, that’s a lot easier said than done. Suppose God did, what would happen? What would happen to each one of us? Aren’t we all a mixture of good and evil? Wouldn’t we still get caught up on their firestorm of evil’s destruction?

Which brings me to the second point, namely the fact that so very often what is evil appears to be good, and what is good appears to be evil. We can’t make the sorting, only God can.

In today’s parable Jesus speaks of the weeds as darnel. Now at the beginning of the growing process darnel looks just like wheat. It’s only when harvest time approaches that the difference between the two becomes apparent.

We know that to be true, don’t we, when it comes to the great enterprises we have begun. It’s only after the passage of time that we find out what’s really good and what’s really bad in our marriages. It was only after communism matured that we came to know just how evil it was. And the same principle applies in so many areas of our lives. Everything has something wrong within it. We certainly know that’s true in our own Church, in our nation, in our world, and in our own personal lives.

There are no “quick-fix” and easy solutions. Patience and forbearance are necessary, and to have patience and forbearance one must have faith. This is what Jesus is calling us to have – faith in His heavenly Father’s plan, faith in His heavenly Father’s ultimate ways of dealing with us and with our world. We have to believe in God’s goodness and believe in His love for all that is good in our world. Reliance on God and acceptance of His ways is the only way we can overcome evil both in our world and in our lives.

Isn’t that the faith Jesus had when we suffered His agony in the Garden of Gethsemani and as He hung dying on the cross? The Evil One tempted Him to despair, tempted Him to go over to the Dark Side. But Jesus remained steadfast, confident that in the end, at harvest time, His Father in heaven would harvest the good wheat and burn the darnel. Dying, Jesus handed over His fate to His Father in heaven.

Yes, it is a strange world we live in. But at the same time it is a beautiful world, a beautiful world filled with wonderful… even heroic people. The great miracle is that goodness and love have survived evil’s onslaught.

What is the vision in which you live? Do you really have faith in God your heavenly Father? Today, once again, Jesus invites you to share in His, vision, in His hope, and in His faith that in the end God will bring good out of evil. Truly Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 7

St. Anne

July 23, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 7

Good Saint Anne, so justly called the mother of the infirm, the cure for those who suffer from disease, look kindly upon the sick for whom I pray.

Alleviate their sufferings; cause them to sanctify their sufferings by patience and complete submission to the Divine Will; finally deign to obtain health for them and with it the firm resolution to honor Jesus, Mary, and yourself by the faithful performance of duties.

But, merciful Saint Anne, I ask you above all for the salvation of my soul, rather than bodily health, for I am convinced that this fleeting life is given us solely to assure us a better one. I cannot obtain that better life without the help of God\’s graces. I earnestly beg them of you for the sick and for myself, especially the petition for which I am making in this novena…

(State your intention here.)

Through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of His Immaculate Mother, and through your most efficacious mediation, I pray. Amen.

Pray for us, St. Anne, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com

Prayer of Spouses for Each Other

Marriage

Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other.

Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses and grow from each other’s strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.

May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. AMEN.