22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

In spite of what you may have heard from Three Dog Night, Jeremiah was not a bullfrog.  Jeremiah was a prophet who lived around 650 BC and this isn’t one of his best days.  He’s ticked off at the Lord and he tells Him so.  “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.”  Strong words, especially when they’re directed at the Almighty.  But things aren’t going well for him.

 

He’s accepted the position of prophet, but when he speaks, people make fun of him.  Believe me, that’s no fun. Jeremiah is fed up and says he’ll never speak of the Lord again.  But “it becomes like a fire burning in (his) heart….(He) grows weary holding it in.  (He) cannot endure it. So he continues to speak and he’s persecuted, sent into exile in Egypt, and eventually killed by his own countrymen.

 

700 years later, we find Paul writing a letter to the Romans.  He’s giving them a warning.  “Do not conform yourselves to this age.”  He tells them that if they do conform to the age they won’t be able to discern the will of God.  Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?  The world of the Romans in the years after Jesus death and resurrection isn’t really Christian-friendly.  Paul’s telling them that they must be in the world, but not of the world. The situation that you and I face today as Catholic Christians isn’t all that different from Paul’s world over 2,000 years ago.

 

We Christians have always been kind of a counter-cultural bunch.  Living the words of Christ has never been easy, which is exactly as He told us it would be.

 

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  There’s really nothing ambiguous about that.  It’s all right there.  There are no loopholes, no exceptions.  So why doesn’t everyone do what He says.  Remember, in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that we’re His friends if we do what He tells us.

 

Here’s what we know:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God.
  2. He gave us some very simple rules to live by; basically love one another, keep the 10 Commandments, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, take up our cross and follow Him.
  3. If we do what He says, we’ll go to heaven and, inversely, if we don’t do what He says, we’ll go to hell.
  4. He created a Church and gave the Apostles and their successors the power to speak for Him.  Remember, “whoever hears you hears me”.  He put Peter and his successors in charge of His Church and promised that “the gates of hell” wouldn’t prevail against it.

That’s it!  That’s all we really need to know.  Frankly I don’t understand why so many people don’t get it.  Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah.  Preaching the Gospel isn’t always popular.  Some people just don’t want to face facts.  But I can’t not do this!  Like the man said, “I grow weary holding it in.”  I hope you feel the same way.  As we leave here today, let’s remember what Jeremiah, Saint Paul, and Jesus are saying to us.

 

Don’t hold in the fire.  Let it out. Share the good news in spite of the personal consequences.  There are a lot of people who don’t want to hear about Jesus, and they sure don’t want to hear that they might be going to hell. They want to maintain this fantasy that they can do whatever they want and there won’t be any consequences.  But are we doing them a favor by not correcting them?  If you saw someone about to step off the edge of a cliff, wouldn’t you yell “stop”?

 

Don’t conform yourself to this age.  There are powerful forces surrounding us every day that want to push us down the wrong path.  Don’t let them win.  Like they used to say in the ‘60s, “keep the faith, baby”.  Truth doesn’t change.  What was true 2,000 years ago is true today.

 

And, finally, think as God thinks, not as humans think.  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.  He will come back.  There will be a judgment.  He will repay each of us according to our conduct.  That’s a promise from the Son of God Himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20th Sunday of Ordinary Time–Give Him Praise!

There’s a common thread that runs through all three readings today.  The prophet Isaiah speaks for the Lord and welcomes “foreigners” to love His name.  If they do, He will bring them to His Holy Mountain, “and make joyful my house of prayer.”

In the second reading, Saint Paul calls himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles”.  He says he glories in that ministry because it might make some of his own Jewish brothers jealous and bring THEM to Jesus.

Then we have today’s Gospel.  At first glance it doesn’t seem right.  It just doesn’t seem like something the Jesus I know would do.  Here’s a woman who needs His help.  Yes, she’s a foreigner, a Caananite, a non-Jew.  But we’ve just read from the prophet Isaiah that foreigners who love the Lord and become His servants will have a place on the Holy mountain.

Jesus was a good Jew.  He knew the Old Testament.  He IS the word.  Why does He ignore this woman?  Why does He ignore the prophet’s words.

Is there really any doubt that He’s going to answer her prayer?  No!  He’s going to help her.  But He’s turning this into a teaching moment.  He’s really messing with the disciples, and with us to prove a point.

First, He ignores the woman.  We don’t know how many times she’s tried to get His attention but the disciples say, “Send her away, for she keeps calling after us.”  Instead of the disciples thinking as Jesus would think, they want HIM to think as they think.  Obviously the woman is very persistent.   So Jesus plays along.  He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman “did Jesus homage.”  What is homage? The dictionary defines it Special honor or respect shown publicly.” It’s public praise.  You can’t do someone homage in the privacy of your own home.

Even though Jesus has ignored her and insulted her she still gives Him praise.  AND, she’s a Caananite; a foreigner.  What’s that say to us?  First, it ways we must be persistent in our prayers.  If we ask for something once, we may get it but probably not.  Persistence in prayer is vital.

Second, if our prayer isn’t answered, we still have to continue to praise Him publicly, to do Him homage.  Imagine what that Caananite woman must have felt like.  She’s not asking for something for herself.  She’s asking on behalf of her daughter and Jesus’ answer has been “no!”

Instead of turning away mumbling, “This Jesus is a fraud!  He says He’s the Son of God but He won’t even help my kid because I’m not a Jew.  To heck with Him!”,  SHE GIVES HIM PRAISE!.  In front of all these foreign strangers she humbles herself and pays Him homage.  Then her prayer is answered. He says, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Which begs the question, if you or I were to meet Jesus today, would He say, “O man” or “O woman, great is your faith?”  Or would He say something else?

The Canaanite woman gave Jesus public praise and He answered her prayer.  That’s what you and I are called to do.  A lot of people who call themselves “Catholics” don’t come to mass.  According to a recent study, about 7 out of 10 Catholics seldom or never attend mass.  They say that they can pray at home, or that they find God in nature, or some other excuse.  Maybe they don’t like the priest (or deacon).  Maybe they don’t like the way the pastor painted the church (Don’t laugh.  It happened at my other parish.)  The thing is, Jesus clearly shows us today that to be one of His people, to have your prayers answered, you must publicly praise Him.

You don’t give God public praise by staying home.  But, you don’t give Him praise by just showing up in church either.  You don’t pay Him homage by not participating.  The prayers and the songs at mass are meant to be said or sung by everyone, not just by Father, or me, or the choir.

“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST” and “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD!” (or Svaty, svaty, svaty pan) are songs of praise.  “OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME!”  Those are Jesus’ words.  They’re words to be shouted, not mumbled.  When the Body of Christ is placed in your hand, or on your tongue, and the minister says “The Body of Christ”, how do you respond?   You respond “AMEN!”  So be it!  From your lips to God’s ears.  Right on!

We need more people to come to our church.  How do we attract them?  One way is for visitors to see that we’re a joyful church, a group of people who come together to give God homage and to sing His praises.

 + In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!