HOMILY – NINETEENTH SUNDAY – 8-13-17- Take courage, it is I ..
Today’s gospel gives us a beautiful example of the power of faith! We all
need to recall moments when our faith gave us strength and courage. In his
book entitled, Gethsemani Homilies, Fr Matthew Kelty tells this story
about his mother’s faith.
“My father was a good man, but he slept with a girl in the southwest once
while on some engineering project, and he caught syphilis. My mother was
outraged, indignant, angry and hurt. A child was conceived. It was well on
the way when she went to the parish priest and told him that she was
convinced the child was rotten, sick and bad. She wanted to have an
abortion. She asked his permission. He told her in clear terms she
certainly could not do such a thing. This is South Boston, Irish, 1915,
when the cure for syphilis was probably bicarbonate of soda. Although she
was afraid, she listened to the priest. She had a great faith. The child
was born, healthy and normal. I was the child.”
Have you, or someone you know. ever had an experience of being rescued
from some dangerous situation which deepened your faith in the presence
and compassion of God? Bobbi and Ken McCaughey(pronpounced “McCoy”) did.
Bobbi and Ken, a young couple in DesMoines, Iowa, had one daughter,
Mikayla Marie. Bobbie, anxious to have another child, underwent treatment
for infertility and became pregnant with seven babies. Her doctors urged
her to have what they called, a “selective reduction”… in other words,
to abort four of her babies. But Bobbie and her husband, Ken, who admitted
they were afraid, absolutely refused, saying that they would “put it in
The septuplets, four boys and three girls, were born nine weeks
prematurely on Nov 19, 1997. They were born by Caesarean section, all
within six minutes, and became the world’s first set of surviving
septuplets. Two of the septuplets have cerebal palsey, but they manage to
keep up with the others; both use walkers to get around.
There was an immediate outpouring of love and congratulations from around
the world. The McCaughy’s (“McCoys”) were also the recipients of many
donations, including a 5500 sq.ft. house, a van, diapers for two years, as
well as many nanny services, clothes, and even the State of Iowa offering
seven full college scholarships to any state university in Iowa and also,
in Missouri, Hannibal-LaGrange University offered the septuplets full
The parents, Bobbi and Ken, frequently speak at pro life events and
continue to oppose abortion. Bobbi has been quoted as saying, “Well, come
to our home, meet our children, and tell us, which four, of the
septuplets, I shouldn’t have had!” The family continues to attend a
Baptist church in West DesMoines where Ken serves as a deacon.
All the septuplets graduated from high school last year – 2016. Where are
they now? Well, Natalie, Kelsey, Nathan and Joel accepted full
scholarships offered by private Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal,
MO. Kenny and Alexis chose to stay in the DesMoines area and attend
Community College, and Brandon enlisted in the United States Army. Their
older sister, Mikayla Marie, is married.
“Do not be afraid” is one of those expressions which goes straight to the
heart. Everyone is afraid sometimes. The command not to be afraid combines
two truths: firstly, it is a recognition that yes, sometimes we are
afraid; secondly, it proclaims that in the community of faith, with Jesus,
who is God incarnate, our companion on the way, we ought really to be free
from fear, because “all shall be well.” Let us listen again – with the ear
of our hearts: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
+LORD, IT IS GOOD TO BE HERE Transfiguration 2017
We have all had those moments in our lives when we find ourselves saying to the Lord: “It is good to be here.” These are moments of gladness, when our hearts are at peace and we have a living sense of God’s nearness and how blessed we truly are. The readings this morning reflect this joy and gladness, a living sense of the divine presence filling our hearts with gratitude.
The prophet Daniel sees the Ancient One taking his throne and thousands upon thousands ministering to him, myriads upon myriads attending to him. The letter of Peter speaks of being an eyewitness to Christ’s majesty, of hearing the Father say “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Peter knew he experienced a “prophetic message that is altogether reliable” a message we are to be attentive to “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, till the day dawns and the morning star rises in (y)our hearts.”
We have those wonderful moments so that in times of sorrow and conflict, in times of suffering and hardship we may remain persons of firm faith, become resources of faith and strength to all around us. Just as in Christ’s life, the Transfiguration was clearly a turning point, a time when he was about to enter the final stages of his redemptive work, so also in the crucial stages of our own lives, we are to be mindful of a much bigger world that is unfolding before our very eyes. The Transfiguration frees us of our shortsightedness, our limited perspectives so as to enter into God’s own design.
If we look closely at Matthew’s rendition of this event, we see that it follows almost immediately upon what happened at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was. As you well remember, Peter declares him to be the “Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Hardly had he done so, when Jesus “began to speak plainly to the disciples about his going to Jerusalem, and what would happen to him there—how he would suffer at the hands of those in authority, that he would be killed, and then after three days, be raised to life again. As we know Peter had a hard time with this and Jesus had to rebuke him.
As our gospel text ends, the three with Jesus are coming down the mountain and “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after he had risen from the dead.” He did not want what they had just witnessed to be misinterpreted but to be the source of strength for their faith in the face of what was about to happen. Jesus knows so well, what goes on in the human heart, the struggle we all have to be faithful in the face of suffering.
And yet, it is precisely at these times, when our Christian faith is being tested that we become truly Christian. If we are all being called upon to enter into Christ’s redemptive work, should we be at all surprised when hardship, pain and misunderstandings arise in our lives? It is at these very times that we are cleansed of superficiality. If God is truly God for us, it is through our encountering mystery, by becoming still before the transcendent. For in this stillness we come to know the living God. We may come up with all sorts of theories or explanations as to why this or that is happening but in the end it is coming to trust in the divine presence that shows us the way. Only love gives us the answer, the love that led Christ to lay down his life for us.
It is this Love that we celebrate around this altar. The offerings we bring, the bread and the wine carried in procession, are symbols of our lives. Through the ministry of the priest, Christ takes them, offers them and transforms them into his very own Body and Blood. They are then given back to us as food and drink for our journeys. Through the outpouring of his Spirit, all our hardships and struggles take on a whole new meaning, become living signs of a divine love, changing the world we live in, into a new creation. Amen
Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14, Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9
What would you do if a powerful person came to you and told you to express your desire for anything on earth? Some might ask for riches, some for power, some for home or safety or health care or a good job, some for esteem and praise from others. But in today’s first reading, when God Himself asks this, a powerful king asks for only one thing: an understanding heart to be able to govern his people with wisdom and discernment. This is a quality that is sadly needed in world leaders today, but which is rarely if ever seen in practice. Yet Solomon was wise enough to ask for this one thing. And the Lord praised him for this and promised to give him a wise and discerning heart……..
According to the standards of the Pharisees and Scribes Jesus was a self-made man. They used to wonder where he got all his knowledge. He did not sit at the feet of a famous Rabbi as did St. Paul nor did he attend any school in Jerusalem or Jamnia where they educated rabbis . Though they see the wisdom of Jesus they did not give credence to him and his apostles – an uneducated lot. They tolerated them at best and the time came they could no longer tolerate him. Many came to believe in him and in his words. They had to kill him.
The parable of the sower is about the unstoppable work of God’s work namely of introducing and building the kingdom of God. This parable is a parable of optimism. Some seeds may fall on grounds not favorable for seeds to grow. However, Christianity is a religion of optimism our human words are often just words but the Word of God is creative: let there be light and it was so; let there be the moon and stars and so on. When asked by his disciples why Jesus spoke in parables with the authorities of the temple he answered that hearing they might not hear and seeing they might not see. They hear Jesus the man but not the father, they see him and his works and but could not see where it came from. It was a way of saying to them that all your knowledge about the Scriptures is of human origin. The human mind cannot fathom the very depths of God’s word. God’s word is the source of all existence. God has to come from the outside and has to be received by us. Salvation does not come from within. The words of Jesus prepares one to receive the coming of the living God and his kingdom. It is effective in those who accept him and his words in total trust and humility. It is also a word of comfort and consolation for the disciples who are simple people certainly not dumb or unintelligent. It is this simple hearts that Jesus wishes to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom. God is their father and teacher.
The seed bear fruits depending on the receptivity of the soil, the soul and heart of a human being. A person who is preoccupied by many things, with worldly affairs and who hardly has any time for other things at all, who never had a moment of rest trying to preserve his or her life will not bear fruit. A person who can no longer be a receptive soil for at least some moments of each day, who never allows himself to be “plowed” and opened up, and never waits for what God drops into his furrow, that person has already lost his life. Activities are not the fruit of our labor but only lost motion. The parables are for everyone with a simple guileless life. It is not only for people with great knowledge and fame. The humble poor and the neglected are often times the richest soil that bears much fruit. If we do not bear fruit in our lives it is because of the forces within us that prevents us from pausing for the word of God, like our desire to be acknowledged and affirmed, our fear of rejection, the resentment that we would not let go, our anger against a community or society which no longer believe, a world that is not according to our view. We are in true danger of no longer able to wait for God’s revelation. We want answers right away. We could not think of a happy life without answers to all the question we raise up. We have no patience for the parables in our own lives. Parables are there so that we may pause and think and venture into the inner meaning of life which is true and lasting. We want Siri to tell us all the answers to all the questions we raise up. The Pharisees and the scribes thought they had all the answers about life and when they saw and heard Jesus talk about life in a totally different way they were threatened, and hearing they could not hear and seeing they could not see. Parables, so to speak, are doors for God to enter into our hearts. We could not open the doors of heaven by ourselves so heaven comes to us to speak of the mysteries of the parables of ourlife. The parables open our eyes and mind to the newness of life, a further interpretation of the beauty and truth of our faith. Those who do not see life as a parable has entered into a very narrow lonesome world of existence.