Catholic homily outline for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Life in Christ

Christ is the true bread from heaven

The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world

Central idea and doctrine: Life in Christ. Practical application: Choosing Life in Christ.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 113, click here.

Central idea: Life in Christ

Reading 1 Ex 16:2-4, 12-15

The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.

“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”

  • Moses led Israel out of Egyptian slavery to the freedom of being in a covenant with God.
  • But freedom can be scary. If you are a slave, at least your master has to feed you. Would the whole nation of Israel now perish from hunger?
  • The Lord fed them with bread from heaven, manna they could make into bread each morning. They needed to eat and they needed to see that their God was real.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54

R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
We will declare to the generation to come
the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength
and the wonders that he wrought.

He commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.

Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountains his right hand had won.

  • When the Chosen People were finally about the enter the Promised Land, Moses explained to them that God “humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna . . . that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).
    • According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises” (CCC 1334).
  • The Psalmist recalls how God led their ancestors out of Egypt and fed them with manna or “heavenly bread” in abundance until he settled them in the Promised Land.
  • Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of that great sign. In leading us from this earthly life to eternal life, God feeds us with the heavenly food of the Eucharist.

Reading 2 Eph 4:17, 20-24

Brothers and sisters:
I declare and testify in the Lord
that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their minds;
that is not how you learned Christ,
assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him,
as truth is in Jesus,
that 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 of truth.

  • To be free—even in a covenant relationship with God—can seem insecure.
  • The Chosen People faced the temptation to want to return to their old way of life in which they had the security of slaves.
  • There is also for us an old way of life to which we can always return. That way is to try to get what we want on our own. But what we want may not really be what we need; instead, it may actually be bad. In addition, the way we go about getting it may be ineffectual or morally wrong. That is “the futility” of our minds “corrupted through deceitful desires” that St. Paul warns against.
  • The answer is to live as the “new self, created in God’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth.”
    • It is a renewal of our minds in the truth revealed by Jesus Christ. And while our mind is not all there is to us, our mind is supposed to lead our will, and our will is supposed to lead our emotions and our passions. This is how we live this new life.
  • We need God’s help to live this new way. He gives us this help in the grace of each of the Sacraments, especially in our daily bread, the Eucharist, which is Jesus Christ himself.

Alleluia Mt 4:4b

One does not live on bread alone, but by every
word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

  • We do need material things, but they are not enough. We also need spiritual things: grace and truth and God himself.

Gospel Jn 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

  • The crowds behave like the merchant who found a pearl of great price or the man who found a treasure buried in a field. They are like a man in love looking for his beloved.
  • They have discovered Jesus and want him but they don’t really know him yet.
    • They want from him, as Jesus puts it, perishable food—which he can give them—but he can also give them imperishable food.
      • This is food that “endures for eternal life” and will fully and always satisfy hunger and thirst.
      • He himself will give it to them. This food is he.
      • He is “the bread of God . . . which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” akin to the way their ancestors received from God manna “from heaven to eat.”
    • They and we are to “work for” this food which is imperishable and which makes us imperishable. The work is to believe in Jesus Christ.

Doctrine: Life in Christ

  • As St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians, “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds . . . [but] you should put away the old self . . . and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self.”
  • As members of Christ’s body, we now have the dignity of sharing in “God’s own nature” (CCC 1691).
  • Our faith confesses that our creation, redemption, and sanctification are God’s gifts to us. The sacraments actually communicate these gifts to us. We are now children of God. We are capable of living in this new way “by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, . . . through the sacraments and through prayer” (CCC 1692).
  • What is this new way? It is to be like Christ Jesus who “always did what was pleasing to the Father, and always lived in perfect communion with him” (CCC 1693).
  • We are to be “‘imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love’ by conforming [our] thoughts, words and actions to the ‘mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus,’ and by following his example” (CCC 1694).
  • This new way is possible because “Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit heals the wounds of sin, enlightens and strengthens us to live according to goodness and truth, teaches us how to pray to the Father, and prompts us to practice charity. (CCC 1695)
  • Yet we remain free and so our moral decisions are important for our salvation. They lead to either our salvation or our destruction. (CCC 1696)

Practical application: Choosing life in Christ

  • For all of us who say we are Catholics, there seem to be three options available to us when it comes to how we lead our lives.
  • The first is to do whatever seems good to us. This is attractive, but our old selves make us prone to want what is not good and to act badly to get it. This is the way of the “cafeteria Catholic” who picks and chooses doctrines of faith or morals to embrace or reject. However, The analogy that says the faith is like a cafeteria is not the best because everything in a cafeteria is actually food and drink, while our rejection of Catholic faith and morals may be deadly poison. Recall, that our moral decisions lead to either salvation or destruction (CCC 1696).
  • The second way is the way of obligation. We try to do everything the Church asks of us out of obedience to obligation. We go to Mass because the Church says we have to. We go to Confession because we are supposed to. We don’t commit some sin because we are afraid of going to hell. This is good but insufficient.
    • It may be very good for us to put ourselves under obedience as a good discipline to get our lives in order.
    • Sometimes our emotions and passions incline us to all kinds of evil and so we do what our faith and reason tell us is right, even though our desires say something else. This is rejecting the “old self.”
  • The third way is perfect. It is doing what the Blessed Trinity wants us to do freely as a child of God, assisted by the abundant graces we receive in the Sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is living as a friend of God.
    • This third way can apply to everything we do all day long every day. It can be phrased as, “I choose to do X because I am God’s friend.” This is choosing life in Christ.
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Catholic homily outline for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Self-giving

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”

Central idea: Self-giving. Doctrine: The exchange of spiritual gifts in the communion of the Church. Practical application: Ways to live the communion of the Church.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths.

(To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 110, click here.

Central idea: Self-giving

Reading 1 2 Kgs 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,
twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,
and fresh grain in the ear.
Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”
But his servant objected,
“How can I set this before a hundred people?”
Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”
“For thus says the LORD,
‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the LORD had said.

  • The prophet Elisha worked many miracles. People knew he was a prophet, because his words were backed up by signs.
  • Elisha made the food a man gave him enough to feed a hundred people. Jesus made the food a boy gave him enough to feed five thousand. The people knew Jesus was a prophet, because his words were back up by signs. As the Gospel acclaim announces: “A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people”!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

  • God’s creativity not only made the universe and the laws that govern it but he also continuously sustains it in its existence. For this we are thankful.
  • All creation, then, is dependent upon God. Nothing, not even subatomic particles, is radically independent, since if God withdrew his sustaining hand it would vanish back into nothingness. Living things are even more obvious dependent and interdependent for the sustenance of their bodies. Thus, everything’s and everyone’s eyes are on the Lord for what is necessary.
  • This psalm is really a prayer of thanksgiving for the God-given ecology, which gives us physical life and sustenance.
  • But this “natural” giving is not enough, because there is still poverty, sickness, floods, drought, and many other natural evils. So we rightly call upon the Lord for the help that we need.

Reading 2 Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

  • All human beings by nature are social and interdependent. Therefore, we have an obligation to help each other out. But Christians are, in a sense, just one person, so that what any one of us has belongs to all of us.

Alleluia Lk 7:16

A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people.

  • Jesus’ signs, such as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, are evidence that he is the Messiah.

Gospel Jn 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

  • “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Jesus used a good that belonged to one member of the crowd to benefit the entire crowd.
  • We have to assume that the boy gave Jesus those loaves and fishes. Jesus would not perform a sign for people against their will, just as he could not—as in, would not—perform many miracles in his home town because of their lack of faith.
  • Perhaps the boy heard the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples and he piped up to Andrew. This implies some kind of—at least—silent understanding between Jesus and the boy: “Will you give them?” “Yes.”
  • One lesson we can draw from this is that the little bit of good we have, if we generously offer it in Christ for others, can become a great deal of good. The boy’s five barley loaves and two fish fed five thousand men. This should encourage us to fill our days with acts of goodness, however small.
  • This miracle of the loaves and fishes prefigures the Eucharist. “The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist” (CCC 1335). We need food and drink and lots of other things in this life, but what we need most of all is God, and that is what the Eucharist gives us, Christ himself.

Doctrine: The exchange of spiritual gifts in the communion of the Church

  • There is unity in the Church because all of Christ’s faithful—in heaven, in purgatory, and here on earth—are united to each other and to the Blessed Trinity through Jesus Christ.
  • In this life here on earth, our unity is safeguarded by charity, by the profession of the one faith received from the apostles, by the sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist, and by apostolic succession (CCC 815). This unity is only threatened by sin and its harmful consequences (CCC 814).
  • Along with this unity, there is great diversity within the Church due to “the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them” (CCC 814). This diversity is a very good thing, since everyone’s individual good is meant to be a gift to benefit everyone else.
  • God’s desire and our own deepest desire (if we are desiring aright) is communion. Communion literally means unity-with. Communion is the deepest friendship, resting on charity, which is willing the true good of the other.
  • Some aspects of this communion are:
    • Communion in the faith. The faith of the faithful is the faith of the Church, received from the apostles. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.” (CCC 949)
    • Communion of the sacraments. . . . All the sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ . . . [and above all the Eucharist] . . . because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.” (CCC 950)
    • Communion of charisms. [The] Holy Spirit ‘distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank’ for . . . ‘the common good.” (CCC 951)
    • Communion of goods. “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” (CCC 952)
    • Communion in charity. . . . In . . . solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.” (CCC 953)
    • Communion among the three states within the Church of heaven, purgatory, and earth. All the saved form one family and our “union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods” (CCC 959).
      • The saints in heaven can intercede for us (CCC 956). The souls in purgatory can help us and we can help them through our prayers and sacrifices (CCC 958).

Practical application: Ways to live the communion of the Church

  • In our prayer we can greet the souls in heaven, ask for the repose of the souls in purgatory, and ask all of them to assist us on earth through the Blessed Trinity.
  • At Mass each Sunday, we can be mindful of what unites us with the communion of saints: we repent of our only enemy: sin; we make our profession of faith together; and then, through the actions of the priest ordained through apostolic succession, receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and an influx of his charity.
  • The “Holy Spirit distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank for . . . the common good” (CCC 951). We can discern what gift God has given us so as to benefit others. Maybe we can help others discern their gifts. It may take a long time to make these discoveries.
  • We can be friends with each person of the Blessed Trinity, our guardian angels, the souls in heaven and purgatory, and our fellow man—we can be in communion with all of them. “All the saved form one family” and we share solidarity with all men. (CCC 956-959)
    • We can ask the saints in heaven to help us in specific things. We can ask specific saints. We can even ask particular people we have known to intercede for us.
    • We can pray for the souls in purgratory, especially during the month of November and on Saturdays.
    • We can make a visit to a cemetery to pray for the souls whose bodies rest there.
  • “Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared” (CCC 949). When we live our faith in action and word, we enrich our own faith, the faith of our fellow believers, and help those who do not yet believe.
  • We can be aware that every sacrament links each of the faithful with each other and to Christ (CCC 950).
  • We can also live the communion of goods. “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” (CCC 952)
  • We can live the communion of charity. “The least of our actions done in charity redounds to the profit of all”—living and dead, just as “every sin harms this communion” (CCC 953).
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Be a Missionary: Guest Homily for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

There is no better place to be a missionary than within the family

There is no better place to be a missionary than within the family

I think this guest homily by my pastor, Fr. Jeff Grant, is an excellent example of drawing practical lessons from the Sunday lectionary readings.

Be a missionary

Once there was a young seminarian studying to be a missionary. Early one morning at three am the rector called him out of his sleep to come to his office. The young man rose, got dressed, and hurried over to the priest’s office. There he waited until eight am when the superior finally arrived.

“Let’s begin,” he said. “Please spell for me the word dog.”

“D-O-G,” the young man responded.

“Good!” said the rector. “Now, add two plus two.”

“Four” he answered.

“That is correct,” said the priest. “You have met the requirements for being a missionary. I will be happy to recommend you.”

The following day the board met and the rector spoke highly of the young seminarian. “First, I tested him for selflessness. I called him to my office at three am and he came without a word of complaint. Secondly, I tested him for patience. I made him wait five hours. When I arrived he was still there and did not ask an explanation. Finally I tested him for humility, asking him questions any child could answer. He did not take offense. I believe he has the qualities necessary to be an excellent missionary.”

Although the superior’s test may seem rather simplistic, the point is clear. He knew what he was looking for. He knew what it would take to succeed … and perhaps to our surprise the qualities he was looking for didn’t come with years of study, but years of practice. The qualities were marks of character—not something you learn from a book.

Jesus is looking for missionaries

In the Gospel today, Jesus is also looking for missionaries … people he can send out to proclaim the Gospel. And like the superior in the story, the qualities Jesus was looking for were not to be learned from a book. Jesus told his disciples that when you go out, don’t take extra food, clothing, or money. In other words, the first quality needed was that they were to trust God for everything. If you are to be believed, you must live by your belief.

Secondly they were to be selfless. Jesus said you can wear sandals, but not shoes. Foot protection was necessary for travelers in Jesus’ day, but shoes were sign of wealth and his missionaries were not to put their personal comfort over the needs of others.

Number three was to be humble. When you come to a place that welcomes you, stay there. Don’t keep looking to move up. Your greatness isn’t measured by your surroundings. And finally he told them to be patient. If they don’t accept you, don’t get mad and don’t get even. Just move on.

Yet, we are not missionaries, are we? Not many of us will go to Asia, or Africa, or Latin America. So what does this have to do with us?

You can be a missionary

Perhaps we are the most important kind of missionary, for we are the ones sent out to our families and neighborhoods. We are the ones who take the Gospel to work with us each day or to school, and if the message of the Gospel is to be credible, we must live to make it so. If we call others to repent, we must also be willing to change our lives. If we proclaim forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive. If we teach that God is generous, then we must be generous. If we say God is the one on high, then we must be humble before others.

For Jesus called his disciples to be missionaries. Go forth and bring the Good News. It is not simply about how much you know as it is about how you live. Trust God … be selfless … be humble … and be patient. When you bring the Gospel in this way, not only will it be heard … it will be believed. May God bless you!

– Fr. Jeff Grant, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Springfield, IL (July 12, 2015).

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Catholic homily outline for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Good shepherds

Shepherd, sheepdog, sheep

Shepherd, sheepdog, sheep

Central idea: Good and bad shepherds. Doctrine: Workers for peace and justice in public life. Practical application: Civic involvement.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 107, click here.

Central idea: Good and bad shepherds

Reading 1 Jer 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”

  • Israel is like a flock of sheep whose leaders have been evil shepherds who “mislead and scatter the flock” of God’s pasture.
  • The Lord condemns these shepherds, and since these shepherds have been unworthy, the Lord promises he, himself, will do what they ought to have done. He will gather the Jews together back in Israel where they can “increase and multiply.” The Lord will then appoint good shepherds who will protect them and keep them from being scattered.
  • Of these shepherds, one will be outstanding: an heir of King David who will be wise, just, and powerful enough to save his people and give them security.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • Psalm 23 perfectly presents the hope of Israel and of every humble person who has faith: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). We are not leaders who get what they want by command, or rich men who get what they want by buying, or thugs who get what they want by violence.
    • We need to be taken care of in this hostile world. The Lord promises he will.
  • Lest this psalm make it sound as if the life of faith is purely passive, we must keep in mind that God is calling each of his flock to be shepherds, too—shepherds for anyone over whom we have the duty of care or the opportunity to serve.
    • Of course, some have a special calling to be shepherds: bishops, priests, religious superiors, government officials at all levels, law enforcement, employers and managers, teachers and coaches, parents, and even older brothers and sisters.

Reading 2 Eph 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

  • Paul explains to the Ephesians that it is not just the Jews who have been scattered. The rest of mankind, the Gentiles, have also been scattered from each other and from God’s Chosen People.
  • Christ gathers all the peoples of the earth together through his sacrifice on the Cross. For those who unite with him, he has established peace between formerly hostile persons and ended the enmity that existed between each person and God.
  • The scattering of the sheep that Jeremiah deplores, and that moves our Lord to pity at the crowds that follow him, and that St. Paul announces has been abolished in Christ, is really the alienation due to Original Sin: alienation from God, other persons, ourselves, and even the natural world.

Alleluia Jn 10:27

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.

  • Each of us has the happy responsibility to learn to recognize the voice of Christ and to be able to distinguish it from all the other voices we hear.
  • Hearing the voice of Christ is perhaps one of the most important “life-skills” of a Christian.
  • It is one of the aims of the life of prayer.

Gospel Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

  • The human body needs rest and refreshment when it is over-extended. And so does the human soul. After the apostles returned from their mission, Our Lord sees they need a retreat so he brings them to a deserted place. Even the shepherds need to be shepherded.
    • On their mission, the apostles got an opportunity to practice being the kind of good shepherds that Jeremiah prophesied in our first reading.
  • When people who knew their need of what Christ (and now his apostles) could give them, they arrived at the place even before the one they sought. They had heard the voice of the good shepherd and were hungry to hear more of it.
  • Christ’s “heart was moved with pity for them for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
    • They needed to be led and protected. In this case, Our Lord met this need by teaching them “many things.” They needed mental food and shelter, for that is what good instruction supplies.

Doctrine: Workers for peace and justice in public life

  • As stated above, Psalm 23 might sound as if Christians are to be mere passive recipients of good things. But God is calling each of his flock to be shepherds, too—shepherds for anyone over whom we have the duty of care or the opportunity to serve.
    • We mentioned how some have a special calling to be shepherds: bishops, priests, religious superiors, government officials, law enforcement, employers and managers, teachers and coaches, parents, and even older brothers or sisters.
  • Some human problems and needs are international, and so the leaders of nations, international organizations, and multinational corporations have a special responsibility before God (CCC 2437-2241).
  • Other problems are national in scope, others local, some are within our parish, or neighborhood, or our home. Shepherds at all these levels are not lacking, but will they be good or bad ones?
  • Point 2442 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, “It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life” [my emphasis]. The pope, bishops (such as through national or regional conferences, like the USCCB), and our own diocesan bishop can point out civic problems they see. They certainly can and should lay out moral principles that must govern the efforts to solve them. In addition, they may offer prudential advice on how to go about solving them.
    • Pope Francis does this in his encyclical Laudato si’. He points out many environmental problems people are aware of and indicates some of their causes. He also articulates moral principles that should govern the effort to solve them, principles like stewardship and the universal destination of good in regard to the poor and future generations. He even offers advice on how these problems might be solved.
  • However, the actual work to solve them “is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens” (CCC 2442). The task of the laity is “to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice” (CCC 2442). This is true at whatever level they are acting, whether as a national leader or a resident of a neighborhood.
  • Most broadly, the social action the laity take, “should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.”
    • The common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment” (Gaudium et spes 26).
      • For example, individuals, businesses, and civic organizations and governments can act for the common good, aiming to benefit themselves and many others. They can also act against the common good, aiming to benefit only themselves, not others, or even in a way that harms others.
    • Because these actions could harm those who take them and those who receive them, they must “be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.”
      • For example, if a school district is concerned about teen pregnancy, there are many actions it could take that would be moral, but giving out contraceptives or helping young women get abortions are not.

Practical application: Civic involvement

  • Throughout human history we can readily see both good and bad shepherds in religion (including in our Catholic faith), in government, and more recently in business. But our personal concern, today, must be ourselves, our own actions, and what we can do for others.
  • The ways we act to promote the common good will be very individual, since everyone’s circumstances are different and because we have personal freedom. Each of us had, has, or can have opportunities to participate in social, civic, and economic life.
  • We Catholics need a formation in the principals of the social teachings of the church. When Our Lord saw the crowds “he began to teach them many things.” The laity should demand this of their pastors.
  • Then we can examine our own lives and behavior to see if we have lived “the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.” In this way we might think of ways we can rectify our behavior and come up with new ways to promote the common good.
  • Here are some questions to spur one’s own thinking:
    • Do I study issues and candidates before voting?
    • Am I the kind of person who could actually get involved in political life directly?
    • Does my professional work actually promote the common good in some way? Can I shift my professional work so that it makes a greater contribution?
    • Can I start a business that provides some valuable service and puts people to work?
    • Can I volunteer my time and skills in some way that will benefit those in need?
    • Can I donate to worthy charitable organizations and causes?
    • Can I be a better parent for the good of my family?
    • Can I be a better brother or sister or child of my parents?
    • If I am a student, how can I be a better member of my school community?
  • We are quickly entering a time in which “the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church” are seen as evil by those in power: by the government and its vast bureaucracy, by corporations, by the media, and by academia. Catholics could well be denied involvement in many areas of civic life (something already happening). We may have to become more creative in how we contribute to the common good of society. We can always witness by the ordinary lives we live in conformity with “the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.”
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Catholic homily outline for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Heal the Sick

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Central idea: Care for others. Doctrine: All Christians share in Christ’s healing mission. Practical application: Caring for the Sick. 

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.

To view Lectionary 104, click here.

Central idea: Care for others

Reading 1: Am 7:12-15

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

  • Amaziah seems to see being a prophet as a way of making a living and to want to get rid of Amos as unwelcome competition. Amos replies that being a prophet is not a job but a divine vocation: he got his order to be a prophet from God. This is why he left his work as a shepherd and farm worker.
  • In today’s Gospel, we hear how the twelve apostles get their orders to announce the Gospel in words and in miracles. Like Amos, they have a vocation and a commission.
  • It has to be said again and again that all the baptized also have a vocation to announce the Gospel by the way we live our lives: by our words and our actions. For most of us it is in the ordinary circumstances of our lives, in the condition Amos was in before his special call.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD —for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

  • People long for God’s visitation—whether from a prophet like Amos, or from an apostle, or from you or me!
  • The psalm gives reasons we welcome God’s word. In addition to promising sufficient material goods to live, it integrates God’s truth and justice with his kindness and gift of peace.
    • God’s truth could be unwelcome to us if it were simply the truth about us, because that truth could justly condemn us.
    • Yet God accomplishes this feat of integrating truth/justice with kindness/peace. St. Paul explains how.

Reading 2: Eph 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we have redemption by his blood,

the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

  • Paul explains how God’s own kindness and peace and justice and truth are ours.
    • From all eternity, God the Father chooses to give us his holiness through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ.
    • Out of love, he chose us to be his adopted sons and daughters before we even existed and despite any evil we would do once we did exist. He works this feat through his own incarnation, passion, and resurrection.
    • This predilection is true not just for the apostles and disciples but for every one of the baptized, in fact for every human being who ever did and ever will exist.
      • And this favor is uniquely true about the Blessed Virgin Mary due to her vocation to be the Mother of God. “The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love’.” (CCC 492)

Alleluia: Cf. Eph 1:17-18

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.

  • The hope of our vocation is salvation and sanctification. The outcome of God’s saving action is eternal life as children of God.

Gospel: Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

  • After the Ascension and Pentecost, the Gospel will be in the apostles’ hands. To help prepare them, Jesus sends them out to practice what they have been observing him doing: preaching the Gospel with miraculous power.
  • By going in pairs they could look out for one another: endure any hardships together, protect one another from any harm, avoid loneliness, and discuss their experiences.
  • In these specific instructions Our Lord seems to be saying: don’t be concerned with your material needs but depend entirely on God; your apostolic work is worthy of you accepting people’s support for doing it; and it is a serious thing to reject the Gospel.
  • The apostles “anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Here we can see the origin of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

Doctrine: All Christians share in Christ’s healing mission

  • The Church was born within the Roman Empire. Although the Romans, drawing on the Greeks, developed the medical arts, people who were sick or defective were typically abandoned, even by their own families. Our Lord introduced something new into human culture. An essential part of the Gospel is the care for and healing of the sick, as we saw in today’s Gospel.
  • The Church has received the charge from the Lord to “Heal the sick!” (CCC 1509). The Church carries this out “by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health.” (CCC 1509)
  • “[T]he apostolic Church [had] its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments.” (CCC 1509)
  • Caring for the sick is one of the ways that members of the Church proclaim the gospel. This is why members of the Church have built hospitals and nursing facilities, cared for the sick and dying during epidemics, become doctors and other members of the medical field, and personally cared for sick and infirm family members and even strangers, rather than abandoning them. So, we should do everything in our power to comfort the sick and dying, and if possible to heal them.
  • At the same time, in Christ, any personal infirmity can have a great value. As we saw in last Sunday’s readings, St. Paul learned from the Lord that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church” (CCC 1508). In other words, infirmity now is not just a natural evil to be endured but also a saving treasure.

Practical application: Caring for the sick

  • Health care workers. It is a noble thing to work in health care. Like being a prophet, it is not just a way of making a living but a way of living the Gospel through service. Currently in the U.S., approximately one in eight people do already.
  • The infirm. When we pass by or enter a Catholic Church, it is good immediately to think of Christ really present in its tabernacle. In a similar way, whenever we pass by or enter a health facility of any kind, we can think of and pray for those who are being treated there, for their families suffering with them, and for all those caring for them, from the custodians up to the surgeons.
  • Accompanying the sick. It is important that those close to us—our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers—never feel abandoned when they are sick, injured, or become infirm. There are a thousand ways to show this: by a kind word, a sympathetic look, the offer of help, calling them, driving them somewhere, giving them a rosary, bringing them something to cheer them a bit. This kindness is within everyone’s reach.
  • The Sacraments. If a Catholic is seriously ill, we should see he or she has access to the Sacraments. A deacon or lay person can bring him or her the Eucharist, but only a priest can offer Reconciliation or Anointing of the Sick.
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Catholic homily outline for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Strengthening faith

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.

Central idea: Humble prophets bring glad tidings to the humble poor. Doctrine: Perseverance in faith. Practical application: Shipbuilding our faith.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.

To view Lectionary 101, click here.

Central idea: Humble prophets bring glad tidings to the humble poor

Reading 1 Ez 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

  • Ezekiel did not make himself a prophet. Rather, the Lord spoke to him and the spirit of the Lord entered him.
    • The Catechism tells us, “In their ‘one to one’ encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission” (CCC 2584). One reason they needed light and strength was that although the Jews were specially chosen by God to be his children, they were obstinate rebels.
    • We Catholics cannot claim any superiority to them. We are baptized into Christ and yet we have the tendency to rebel against God’s will for us.
  • “The mission of the prophets” was to give to the Chosen People what they needed: “education in faith and conversion of heart” (CCC 2581). Both the Jews’ thoughts and actions needed to be turned to God’s will.
    • We also need an ongoing “education in faith and conversion of heart.”
    • Conversion of heart precedes the enlightenment of the mind. When we sin, we tell ourselves to “shut up” when it comes to recognizing that sin—we say, It’s not a sin or I didn’t sin or It was justified. That is hardness of heart. But when we return to God by repentance, we once again recognize the truth that Christ, our supreme prophet, has revealed to us.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.

To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.

As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.

Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.

  • A good servant’s attention is focused on the one he serves.
  • In the psalm, those speaking are focused on the Lord now because their human masters are mistreating them. Arrogant men mock them.
  • It would have been better if they had had their eyes fixed on the Lord earlier to do his will. It would have been better for them to have been humble before God rather than to be humiliated by men.
  • Regardless of why we are mistreated, it is right to turn to the Lord in our affliction, not only because he is our true master but even more because he is our Father.

Reading 2 2 Cor 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • Even though God’s spirit entered Ezekiel, the prophet could not become proud because the Lord told him his message would be rejected.
  • Paul confesses that he could have become proud because the Lord made him a prophet, his apostle. But Paul received this “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. It made him ask three times for it to be removed, but the Lord wanted him to keep it and to rely on the grace he was giving him.
  • Paul could be “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints,” since they were accompanied by Christ’s grace.
  • Thus, whenever we suffer our eyes should shift immediately from ourselves and from those making us suffer to the Lord, like attentive servants.
    • Our inability makes room for Christ’s ability.

Alleluia Cf. Lk 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

  • We are poor entitled to glad tidings if we know our need for God.

Gospel Mk 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

  • Jesus is a prophet, that is, he reveals the truth to those with whom he speaks (CCC 436).
  • His own townspeople, in large part, reject him and what he has to say.
  • Their words of astonishment appear to be mockery and seem to be demanding miracles from him. In this they are anticipating how Herod behaved during Christ’s Passion.
  • Their words also reveal that Our Lord had lived an ordinary life in Nazareth, so his townsmen think they fully know him.
  • Evidently, they don’t think they need anything from him. They don’t see themselves as the poor, to whom the Lord brings glad tidings (Lk 4:18). This is ironic because of the low esteem their fellow Jews held Galilee and even Nazareth.
  • Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there” due to their lack of faith, “apart from curing a few sick people” who did have faith. His miracles, then, in part, are confirmations of the truth he speaks.

Doctrine: Perseverance in faith

  • We can lose our faith by doing evil. As St. Paul puts it, “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim 1:18-19; CCC 162). By conscience, St. Paul means “a good conscience” (CCC 162).
    • For example, many people today lose their faith in God, not because it is difficult to believe in him, but because they do not live the virtue of chastity.
    • Recall in regard to education in faith and conversion of heart that conversion of heart precedes the enlightenment of the mind. This is because when we sin, we tell ourselves It’s not a sin or I didn’t sin or It was justified. That is a hardness of heart that causes hardness of head!
  • It is also possible for us to find a safe harbor for our faith and even to help make one. The Catechism advises: we must nourish our faith “with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church” (CCC 162).
    • We can guard our faith and help it grow by constant prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures; by asking God to increase our faith; by doing good for others; by making acts of hope rather than giving into sadness; and by holding to all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches.
  • Jesus Christ is the supreme prophet. We share in Christ’s prophetic office by nature of our baptismal vocation. So we, too, have the call to witness to the truth by our words and lives.
  • However, when we begin to embrace our vocation to be witnesses to the truth, we become aware of obstacles. The obstacles are really our participation in God’s seeming inability to reach people who are indifferent to him or who reject him.
    • Christ did not force his townsmen to have faith in him. God sent Ezekiel to preach even though the people would reject him. St. Paul saw that power is made perfect in weakness.
    • God is omnipotent. “God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it ‘is made perfect in weakness.’” (CCC 268)
    • Our faith in the face of our weakness to move others reveals to us “the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This seemingly impotent faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’” (CCC 273)
    • Our inability makes room for Christ’s ability.
  • There is also a kind of awesome hidden bonus or treasure in our weakness. St. Paul learns “from the Lord, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,’ and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that ‘in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church’” (CCC 1508). This hidden treasure is that our inability is what makes us co-redeemers with Christ. This is why St. Paul can be content with ‘weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints.”

Practical application: Shipbuilding our faith

  • We have seen from the Catechism that we can guard our faith and help it grow by constant prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures; by asking God to increase our faith; by doing good for others; by making acts of hope rather than giving into sadness; and by holding to all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches. Also, our weakness need not be any obstacle to faith but can increase it. Thus, we have a menu of ways we can grow in faith. If we ask the Holy Spirit for light, he will show us what would be best to focus on.
    • Prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Our Lady heard the Word of God and kept it. Martha’s sister Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened and received the better part. There is no reason we cannot find five minutes a day to read the New Testament.
    • Asking God to increase our faith. “Increase my faith” is a perfect prayer in God’s eyes. He is pleased when we do so.
    • Doing good for others. The virtue of faith is united to the virtue of charity. We show we believe in God whom we cannot see by loving the persons around us we can see. All of us have many opportunities every day to serve others and make them happier, whether it is in our family life, school life, friendships, or in the world of work.
    • Making acts of hope. Sometimes we are tempted to give into sadness and to enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves. This is just a sneaky, diabolical way to make us self-centered. A very simple act of hope is the petition from the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.”
    • Being full-menu Catholics. Rather than being “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing what doctrines of faith or morals we will accept and reject, we embrace all the doctrines of faith and morals that the Church teaches. This requires a serious effort to study the faith, particularly the areas we find more challenging.
    • Embracing weakness. Our weakness need not be any obstacle to faith but can increase it. Thus, a temptation to sadness, an impulse to be selfish, a desire contrary to the moral law, being rejected by another person—these are all opportunities to be humble and to let God’s grace go to work.
      • In these moments, we learn “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”
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Catholic homily outline for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Resurrection to Life

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”

Central idea: The resurrection of the dead. Doctrine: The Christian meaning of death. Practical application: Preparation for death.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 98, click here.

Central idea: The resurrection of the dead

Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

  • These words are hard to interpret; in fact, they look crazy! There is no evil on earth?
    • In the natural world, living things come into being and then pass away. The natural birth and death of all living things is part of God’s plan.
      • Ancient people knew this perfectly well by experience.
      • We now have additional insights into this through the theory of evolution. New kinds of living beings only emerge from new individuals, requiring the passing away of the old.
    • But man was made for eternal life, which means he was to be immune to any natural evil on earth that could harm him. Adam and Eve and their descendants were to be preserved from death. This immunity was removed by Original Sin. Nevertheless, our souls—but not our bodies—are naturally imperishable.
    • So what the author of Wisdom is really talking about is the death which results from sin, which is eternal separation from God. The author of sin and death is the devil, and when we sin we cooperate in the devil’s plan for our own destruction.
    • This reading is also a portrait of life in the heavenly Jerusalem, the new creation where, after our resurrection in Christ, we will be safe and imperishable. For this we glorify God. The food we receive to make this journey is the Eucharist.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

  • When a person of faith realizes he is in danger, he calls on God’s help. And when the danger passes, he thanks God for preserving his life.
  • It is an unfortunate thing, a consequence of sin, that some people plot the destruction of others and rejoice when they can harm them. This is an example of a “domain of the netherworld on earth.” Christ experienced this when the scribes and the Pharisees met together to plot how to put him to death. May God deliver us from such persons!
  • We should thank God now for his many blessings, but the greatest thanks we will give him will begin the moment of our resurrection from the dead when we stand in his presence:

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. . . . You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

Reading 2 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

Brothers and sisters:

As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.

  • Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his preexistence as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was incomprehensibly “rich,” yet he put all that aside in his Incarnation and even suffered the desolation of death in order to make us rich by sharing his divine life with us.
  • Thankfulness for the goodness we receive overflows in our graciousness toward other persons, especially other Christians in need. In Catholic social teachings, this is the principle of solidarity: it is the truth that we are all in this life together, and so we look out for one another, especially those in need. This is what the Gentile churches were doing in regard to the mother church in Jerusalem.
  • This solidarity is “the love we have for you.” The love St. Paul has for the Corinthians is charity, the sacrificial love Christ brought into the world. In this liturgy, God again reveals his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.

Alleluia Cf. 2 Tm 1:10

Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.

  • Our Lord “brought life to light through the Gospel.” In his preaching, in his miracles, in his passion, and in his resurrection, Christ revealed what life really is. Life is union with God and charity toward other human beings.

Gospel Mk 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

  • In this Gospel, two miracles are recounted. The first is the old woman with the chronic hemorrhage who is healed just by touching Jesus’ cloak. The second is the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
  • I think when Jesus said that the twelve-year-old girl was “not dead but asleep,” he was teaching us what death would mean from then on to those who belong to him. In this life, we fall asleep each night and then we wake up again each morning. In Christ, when we fall into death we wake up again into eternal life.

Doctrine: The Christian meaning of death

  • Jesus raises the dead.
  • Jesus’ earthly miracles are signs he is the messiah. To those who do not yet believe in him, miracles invite faith. To those who already believe, they strengthen faith. Yet, they are offensive to some (CCC 548).
  • Our Lord did not come—then—“to abolish all evils here below.” Rather, he came “to free men from the gravest slavery, sin.” Sin thwarts us “in our vocation as God’s sons [and daughters] and causes all forms of human bondage.” (CCC 549)
  • Those Christ raised from the dead during his public life would still, later, experience natural death.
  • However, in his own resurrection, Our Lord “passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state” (CCC 646).
  • On the last day, he will raise up those who belong to him and they will share in his glorious divine life (CCC 994).
  • Christ transforms death.
  • Through his obedience to the father, “Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing” (CCC 1009).
  • “[T]hrough Baptism, the Christian has already ‘died with Christ’ sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act” (CCC 1010).
  • Christian life is a dying to our sinful desires and a living according to what is truly good. This is the case from its very beginning in Baptism until we take our last breath.
  • When we make this struggle, we are co-redeeming with Christ. This is possible because of the graces God showers upon us.
  • Because “[i]n death, God calls man to himself,” we can make our “own death into an act of obedience and love toward the Father after the example of Christ” (CCC 1011). We can even desire and welcome death, for as the Church prays in the funeral liturgy:

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death
we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. (quoted in CCC 1012)

  • Christ gives us hope for a new heaven and a new earth.
    • “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.” (CCC 1060)

Practical application: Preparation for death

  • How can we be ready for death?
  • One way is the nightly examination of conscience and frequent sacramental Confession.
  • Another is to pray from time to time a prayer for the acceptance of death.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I accept from your hands, whatever kind of death it may please you to send me today (tonight), with all its pains, penalties and sorrows, in reparation for my sins, for the souls in purgatory, for the conversion of sinners, for all those who will die today (tonight), and for your greater glory. Amen.

  • Another is to stay close to Our Lady and St. Joseph.
    • Recall that in every Hail Mary, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
    • Joseph is the patron of a happy death because he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary.
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Catholic homily outline for Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Faith

"The Storm at Seat." Detail from bronze Celtic Cross by C. Malcolm Powers

“The Storm at Sea,” detail from bronze Celtic Cross by C. Malcolm Powers

Central idea: Faith in God who has visited his people. Doctrine: Faith in Christ even in the midst of adversity. Practical application: Practicing the faith in the here and now.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 95, click here.

Central idea: Faith in God who has visited his people

Reading 1 Jb 38:1, 8-11

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said:
Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

  • As Creator, God brought into being out of nothing everything that was originally created. And he sustains in existence everything that exists.
  • He also established within them the physical laws of nature to govern what they are, what they can do, and what they can become.
    • As St. Augustine put it long before the modern, scientific laws of nature were discovered, “In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come” (On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11). God put a marvelous potential in the simplest elements.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31

R. Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting or Alleluia

They who sailed the sea in ships,
trading on the deep waters,
These saw the works of the LORD
and his wonders in the abyss.

His command raised up a storm wind
which tossed its waves on high.
They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths;
their hearts melted away in their plight.

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits he rescued them,
He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze,
and the billows of the sea were stilled.

They rejoiced that they were calmed,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his kindness
and his wondrous deeds to the children of men.

  • Wind and wave follow their own laws, the laws put in things from their very origin by God, as St. Augustine pointed out.
  • Sailors are among those who know how puny they are in the face of the powers of nature. When their own skills are exhausted and the limits of their boats are reached, they can’t but call on he who is more powerful than nature, just as the disciples called on their sleeping Lord when their boat was about to be sunk.
  • This psalm is also an image of everyone’s life. Despite every advance in science and technology, we are still puny and in danger of injury and death from the forces of nature.
    • How many airbags will it take for an automobile to be so safe that we don’t need to ask God to protect us on a journey?

Reading 2 2 Cor 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

  • Paul tells us that “those who live” ought to “live . . . for him,” for Christ. We ought to live for Christ not for ourselves. To live for him is to have faith in him and to act accordingly.
  • Our motivation, what “impels us,” is Christ’s love for us shown by dying for us and rising from the dead.
  • In Christ we are a new creation, no longer ultimately subject to death. There is no longer any reason to be terrified of nature or to fear other human beings.

Gospel Mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

  • Nature has power over Our Lord, as man. Our Lord has complete power over nature, as God.
    • Exhausted by the work he had been doing, Our Lord fell into such a deep sleep that he was not awoken by the violent squall.
    • Awoken by his disciples, he rebuked the wind and the sea and they became quiet.
  • Jesus asked his disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
    • Faith is something they could get or get more of, since they did not have it yet. They would get it by entrusting themselves to the object of their faith, their master, Jesus Christ.
    • Jesus is also saying, if you have faith in him, you should not be terrified. If we have faith in him we should not be afraid of death.

Doctrine: Faith in Christ even in the midst of adversity

  • Our faith is in Jesus Christ, who is true God and true Man (CCC 423).
    • Born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ is “the eternal Son of God made man.”
    • He came to bring us benefits: “from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16) (CCC 423).
    • As the Gospel verse puts it, “A great prophet has risen in our midst, God has visited his people.”
  • Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift of grace to which we respond with our assent, our “yes.”
    • “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith ‘man freely commits his entire self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Living faith ‘work[s] through charity.’”(CCC 1814)
      • We can say “yes” to Christ and to all he reveals because he is truth itself.
      • We say “yes” with our total selves.
      • Our “yes” includes doing God’s will once we know it.
      • God’s will is that we love one another with deeds.
    • Our “yes” means we “also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it” (CCC 1816).
      • Every Catholic’s vocation thus includes evangelization.
    • We maintain our “yes” despite adversity.
      • Our age, the era of the Church—so far almost 2000 years in—is one of constant travail. “According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days” (CCC 672).
      • If you can see the signs of the times, we are now entering a new time of special adversity for all who live and want to practice the faith. Every one of us will need more doctrine, more virtue, and above all, more faith so as not to be like the terrified disciples in the boat.

Practical application: Practicing faith in the here and now

  • Practicing the faith interiorly:
    • We can make a formal act of faith by reading (and soon memorizing) an Act of Faith, like the one linked to here.
    • A very simple act of faith can be made anytime we feel our personal “yes” to God is under attack or when we witness another person attack the Catholic faith: “I believe!” or even just, “Credo!”
  • Practicing the faith exteriorly:
    • When we do God’s will in very tiny or in bigger ways, we are saying “yes” by our actions. We are also giving silent but powerful witness to our faith through our living example.
    • We can have outward visual signs of our faith in our home (like a picture of the Sacred Heart), in our car (like a little statue of Our Lady), on our desk at work (like a small crucifix), on our electronic devices (like a decal), even on our clothing (like a “tiny feet” pin). We can also witness our faith by saying grace in a restaurant if we are alone or if the person we are with is Catholic and agrees. We can also witness by slightly bowing our head when we hear the name “Jesus.”
    • This is not to say we are to be walking billboards, but if we really believe in God it should naturally show through.
    • We can also speak explicitly about our faith. This can be to give witness to our faith, to explain something about the faith, or even to defend the Catholic religion (gently) when someone attacks it.
  • In the Offertory, each of us can offer up whatever efforts we have made up till now to live our faith. We can also offer our desire to do more. This unites us intimately with the mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection, which we celebrate in the Eucharist.
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Catholic homily outline for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The King and the citizens of the Kingdom of God

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Jesus reading Isaiah in Capernaum (from Zeffirelli’s TV mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth”)

Central idea: Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God and we are called to be his subjects. Doctrine: Christ’s Kingdom is for us, the lowly. Practical application: We can “learn” Christ by prayerfully reading Sacred Scripture.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.) This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 92, click here.

Central idea: Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God and we are called to be his subjects

Reading 1 Ez 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

  • “I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” We hear prefigured Our Lord’s parable of the tiny mustard seed that becomes the greatest of plants. We also hear an echo of Mary’s Magnificat: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Lk 1:52).
  • What is the human reality that corresponds to the majestic cedar? It is to have a splendid body, a mind infused with truth, and a will wholly oriented to goodness.
  • We are made to want to be majestic, to dwell in a majestic place, and to be seen by others as majestic. Yet if we find ourselves actually low and fruitless, we can have hope. God has a predilection for us!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

  • Living an upright or just life and having real gratitude toward God are two sides of a coin.
  • To be planted in the house of the Lord is to take a stand to live an upright life. The fruit we bear—the good that we do—makes us happy to thank God.
  • But really, it is our gratitude toward God that makes us want to do good.
    • As Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal household preacher, points out, the Christian’s upright life, that is, his duties to live the commandments, to become virtuous, to avoid sin, to do penance—everything man “should do”—these duties toward Christ arise from our debt of gratitude toward his grace which he has given to us. This grace “comes before [our] efforts and . . . makes them possible.”

Reading 2 2 Cor 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
According to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

  • We are planted in the house of the Lord by baptism. We take root and grow by living an upright life.
  • In heaven we will aspire to please the Lord whom we see face to face. In this life, we also aspire to please him whom we only see by faith.
  • It takes courage to live this way simply because we don’t see the award which faith tells us is there and which the world tells us is not.

Gospel Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

  • Physical life is a wonderful mystery. It is less mysterious today because of our greater understanding, which makes it even more wonderful we see its incredible order, complexity, and intelligence.
  • The farmer is only interested in the final harvest of grains of wheat and he performs only a few actions—plowing, sowing, maybe weeding, and finally harvesting. Yet each wheat plant carries out trillions of actions to produce those grains of wheat.
  • Our spiritual life is similar. We do little things in cooperation with God’s grace: try to speak with God, receive the Sacraments, perform little acts of service; and underneath God’s grace is at work—we know not how—transforming us into something great—into a harvest for eternal life and happiness.
  • Like the mustard seed, we can be unimportant, our efforts seemingly without effect, our numbers few—yet the effect over time can change us and the world.
  • Our Lord offers two parables of the Kingdom of God. The King of the Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ. So the subjects of the Kingdom of God are those who serve Christ. To be a subject of Christ requires faith in him, which includes the effort to be upright.

Doctrine: Christ’s Kingdom is for us, the lowly

  • But who is the Kingdom of God for?
    • It is for everyone who wishes to enter it (CCC 543).
    • It is for the poor and lowly, that is, the spiritually and materially humble (CCC 544).
    • It is also for those who show practical love toward the lowly (CCC 544).
    • And it is for sinners (CCC 545). Although the Kingdom of God is, from Christ’s perspective, for all sinners, it is only really accessible to sinners who admit that they are sinners and that sinning is bad. This is why Jesus invites us to conversion. (CCC 545)

Practical application: We can “learn” Christ by prayerfully reading Sacred Scripture

  • We grow as subjects of the Kingdom of God by listening to the Word of God and putting it into effect.
  • The Church exhorts us to learn Christ by reading the divine Scriptures prayerfully (CCC 2653). Prayer accompanies the reading so that a dialogue takes place between God and man.
  • Is there any reason each sufficiently mature Catholic should not spend five or ten minutes every day listening to Christ in his Word and then responding to Christ in his or her own words?
  • Here are two ways this can be done.
    • One is to follow the Sunday (or daily) lectionary readings. Over time, these readings present a very wide range of the most important passages from both the New and Old Testaments. In addition, each set of readings is selected to be mutually enlightening.
    • Another is to steadily work one’s way through the New Testament with special emphasis on the Gospels.
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The Eucharist: Catholic homily outline the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), Year B

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The Eucharist is Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega

Central idea: The Holy Eucharist. Doctrine: The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Practical application: Worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

To view Lectionary 168, click here.

Central idea: The Holy Eucharist

Reading 1 Ex 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”

  • This is the enactment of the Mosaic Covenant.
  • The Old Covenant is basically a promise by God the Father to the Chosen People: “I will give you all these blessings if you will obey my Law.”
  • The assembly of Israel said yes to this covenant.
  • Their yes was sealed by their being sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed bulls.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18

R. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord or Alleluia.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.

  • It is right to be thankful for all the good we have received from God. It is good to thank him for it.
  • The greatest thing to be thankful for in this life is to be set free from sin. The greatest thing to be thankful for after this life is to be set free from death.
  • The Eucharist embodies these two “gratitudes” for the Eucharist is that very person who has set us free from these twin evils.

Reading 2 Heb 9:11-15

Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came as high priest
of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle
not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves
but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls
and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God.

For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place for deliverance
from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

  • This reading comments on the enactment of the New Covenant.
  • The New Covenant is basically a promise by Jesus Christ to all of us: “I will give you everything if you will follow me.”
  • The assembly of the Church says yes to this covenant.
  • Our yes is sealed by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ under the Eucharistic species.

Gospel Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus’ disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there.”
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
“Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

  • This is the recounting of the Last Supper, the first Mass in which Our Lord offered himself to his disciples as spiritual food by transforming bread and wine into his Body and Blood.
  • This offering or sacrifice Christ made in an unbloody way. He would make that same offering the next day in a bloody way in his Passion.
  • Christ was thereby enacting the New Covenant between God and humanity.
  • We say yes to the New Covenant not by being sprinkled with the blood of animals like the Israelites but by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

Doctrine: The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist

  • The Catechism reminds us that Christ is present to us in many ways here on earth: “in his word, in the Church’s prayer, . . . in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister.” But one presence on earth is greatest of all. Jesus Christ “is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.” (CCC 1373)
  • What is this presence in the Eucharistic species? “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially’” This is why we hear the formula that Christ is present in the Eucharistic species in his body, blood, soul, and divinity.
  • “This presence is called ‘real’—by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”
    • Substance, the root of the word substantial, is an important term in Catholic theology. We could say it means the very being of someone or something. When you watch a film, the being of the actor is not really present on the screen—for the actor to really be present you would have to go to the set while the actor was being filmed. However, in the Blessed Sacrament, the being of Christ is present. (CCC 1374)

Practical application: Worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist

  • The sequence Lauda Sion, which we recite today, has two very sobering stanzas:

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

  • Some are receiving the Eucharist unworthily. We ought to want to receive Holy Communion worthily.
    • A most important reason for this is because this Communion is “intimate union . . . with Christ” because “[t]o receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us” (CCC 1382).
  • To prepare ourselves to receive Holy Communion worthily, “St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself’ (1 Cor 11:27-29). Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.” (CCC 1385)
  • The U.S. bishops call us to prepare for worthy reception of Communion.
  • Remote preparation for Communion includes “regular prayer and reading of Scripture, the faithful and loving fulfillment of the daily responsibilities of our state in life, and regular participation in the Sacrament of Penance, including daily repentance of sin by an examination of conscience and recitation of the Act of Contrition.”
  • “[P]roximate preparation includes our prayerful recollection as we come to Mass and fasting from food and drink for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion as our health and age permit. . . . Proximate preparation also includes dressing appropriately and modestly.”
  • “These ways of preparing culminate in our prayerful and active participation throughout the eucharistic celebration, as we join with the Body of Christ.”
  • If all the above are the case then wild horses should not keep us from Holy Communion.
  • How often should we receive Communion? “The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily.” (CCC 1389)
  • Why not consider attending Mass and receiving Communion at least once this week in addition to Sunday?
  • Why not start a one-Mass-more movement in your parish so that many more persons may enjoy this “intimate union . . . with Christ”?
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