Catholic homily outline for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Signs of mercy

A church window depicts Jesus healing the blind man. (CNS photo/Crosiers) With Faith Alive! No. 13 MIDST, March 25, 2013.

Jesus heals the blind man.

Central idea: The revelation of God’s mercy. Doctrine: Jesus used signs to convey his gifts and so do the Sacraments of the Church. Practical application: Go to the Sacraments and to the needy.

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 128, click here.

Central idea: The revelation of God’s mercy

Reading 1 Is 35:4-7a

Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

  • God is the savior of man, both of his body and of his soul.
  • He “pays back” those who know they are in need: the frightened, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute, and the thirsty.
  • This vindication of the needy will be a time of incomparable joy.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

  • God cares for those in need. This is promised and partly experienced in the Old Covenant. It is real but limited during the public life of our Lord. It is partly experienced and has become a Christian duty in this era of the Church. It will be an eternal reality in eternal life.

Reading 2 Jas 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?

  • James sets out God’s own (and so ours by duty) preferential option for the poor and those in need in any way. It is not that God does not love the rich but the poor are in greater need.
  • James point out an irony. In one way the poor are richer and so more important than the rich because God chose “those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” These find it easier to call on him him because they not only know their need but are reminded of it day and night.

Gospel Mk 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

  • Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Christ: “the ears of the deaf [are] cleared” and “the tongue of the mute” sing.
  • Our Lord uses physical signs in curing this man’s deafness and speech impediment. “He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’— that is, ‘Be opened!’”
  • Thus, “Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that ‘God has visited his people’ and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand” (CCC 1503).
  • The Catechism goes on to say, “Jesus’ compassion extends not only to the human body but the soul, too, so Jesus also forgives sin” (CCC 1503).
  • Jesus’ mercy is not condescending. Rather, “He loves the sick, whether in body or soul, so much that he identifies himself with them and makes our concern for them a condition of our salvation: ‘I was sick and you visited me’” (CCC 1503). Our Lord puts himself into debt to us if we show mercy to those around us.
  • This is the basis of the preferential love for the poor of body or soul. “Christians, therefore, direct special attention toward those who suffer in body or soul and seek to comfort them with care and healing” (CCC 1503).

Doctrine: Jesus used signs to convey his gifts and so do the Sacraments of the Church

  • In his preaching, Jesus often used natural signs to reveal the secrets of the kingdom of heaven (CCC 1151), such as in the parable of the sower where he used the sowing of seeds to teach about persons’ responses to hearing the Word of God.
  • As we saw in the Gospel, Jesus also uses “signs of creation” in his physical healings (CCC 1151). For example, in today’s reading, Jesus uses touch, reminiscent of God forming Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side.
  • And in his own passion and death Christ gave new meaning to the signs of the Exodus and the Passover. These signs are “taken up by Christ” who is himself “the meaning of all these signs” (CCC 1151).
    • Like Moses who freed Israel from slavery to Egypt, Our Lord frees us from slavery to sin.
    • Like the Passover Lamb whose innocent blood protected the first-born Jewish sons from death, Christ’s innocent blood protects us from eternal death by the forgiveness of our sins.
  • “Since Pentecost, it is through the sacramental signs of his Church that the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification” (CCC 1152). We might easily overlook the fundamental truth that Christ has established a sacramental Church; that is, Christ pours out his graces on humanity largely through the seven sacraments.
  • The seven sacraments “purify and integrate all the richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life” (CCC 1152). Some of these signs are water, oil, sounds (through the spoken word), bread and wine, and touch (through laying on of hands and even through the marital embrace).
  • “Further, they fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant, signify and make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven” (CCC 1152).
    • The sacraments “fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant.” For example, Noah’s flood drowned wicked men, but Baptism drowns original and actual sin in us.
    • The sacraments “signify and make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ.” For example, the baptismal washing is a sign of inward cleansing from sin which actually effects that inward purification, won by the merits of Christ.
    • The sacraments “prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven.” For example, this same baptismal washing is a sign of the complete innocence and holiness that the saved will experience eternally in heaven.

Practical application: Go to the Sacraments and to the needy

  • Since God’s grace comes to us through the Sacraments, it only makes sense to go to them.
    • Don’t delay your own child’s baptism and encourage others to do the same.
    • See that your children receive First Confession, First Eucharist, and Confirmation as soon as the Church permits.
    • Go to confession frequently and according to a schedule, like every month on a certain day and at a certain time. Go to confession as soon as possible if you are aware of having committing a serious sin.
    • Receive Communion frequently, even daily, provided you are in a state of grace.
    • Be sure that family members who are in danger of death receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
    • If you are a member of the ordained clergy, call on the graces of Holy Orders to conform your will to God’s will.
    • If you are married, take advantage of your matrimonial graces to be faithful Christian spouses and parents. Don’t forget that the natural marital act open to life is a renewal of your mutual covenant with God.
  • Go also to the needy.
    • Since Christ loves them so much and we show our love for Christ by aiding them, and because they are everywhere, even in our own families, we can show our love for Christ and for them whenever we want.
    • So, who is needy around you? What can you do for them?
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Catholic homily outline for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The Law of Love

The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law

The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law


Central idea: The moral law tells us what is right, but evil desires arise from within us. Doctrine: The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law. Practical application: Soul searching.

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 125, click here.

Central idea: The moral law tells us what is right, but evil desires arise from within us

Reading 1 Dt 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”

  • Moses tells the Chosen People that they have two great gifts that other nations do not have.
    • One is that God is close to them so they can call upon him whenever they wish and he will listen to them.
    • The other is that they have the Ten Commandments, God’s own revealed law.
  • To be close to God and to observe the Divine Law is the basis of a happy life. This is why the Chosen People will be wise and intelligent if they live the covenant. The whole world will see how blessed they are if they do.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.

Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.

Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
shall never be disturbed.

  • As Moses just said, observance of the Law brings life. This psalm is a sketch of the just man. If everyone lived the virtue of justice, the world would be a much different place.
  • It is up to each one of us if we want to be just men and women who live according to the truth. We know, as Christians, that it is very difficult to live just lives our own because of concupiscence. But thankfully, because of Baptism and the rest of the Sacraments, we can have the grace to live blameless and positively good lives.

Reading 2 Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

  • Both to will the good of the other (“all good giving”) and to act accordingly (“every perfect gift”) ultimately come from God.
  • The birth St. Paul speaks of is baptism, making us the first examples of the kind of persons God wants to be in existence.
  • The “word” is the Gospel message. It is heard and welcomed, planted in baptism, able to save us, but it must be lived by us.
  • Our task is to avoid sin (“keep oneself unstained by the world”) and do positive good (“to care for orphans and widows in their affliction”).

Gospel Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

  • It was a good thing for the Jews of Jesus’ time to live according to the tradition of the elders. It contributed to their identity as the Chosen People set apart from everyone else on earth. It was supposed to help them become closer to God. These many external practices were supposed to help them change on the inside.
  • The Pharisees’ and scribes’ complaint was not that some of Jesus’ disciples were literally dirty but that they did not perform a ritual washing that was supposed to protect them from being polluted by the world.
  • But Jesus went to the very heart of the matter. Fundamentally, human beings don’t do evil because something in the world makes them bad. The evil begins inside each person. It arises from our disordered desires. When we consent to these impulses they defile us.
  • What are we to do if evil arises from inside us? The answer is the New Law of the Gospel which reforms our hearts by the grace of the law of love.

Doctrine: The Law of Love perfects the Mosaic Law

  • The Church sees the Old Testament Law as “holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect.” The Old Law is like a tutor who can point out to his student what to do but who does not have the power to have him do it. The Mosaic Law teaches us what we should do, but it does not in itself give us the power to overcome our own tendency to sin. (CCC 1963)
  • The New Law fulfills the Old Law.
    • As the law of charity (CCC 1966), it is “the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed,” accomplished by Christ and the Holy Spirit (CCC 1965).
    • It shows that the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament is the kingdom of God (CCC 1967).
    • It extends the exterior law to the interior of the person and provides the means to reform the heart (CCC 1968).
  • The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ . . . or even to the status of son and heir.” (CCC 1972).

Practical application: Soul searching

  • The law of charity rules and directs all other commands. The law of love is to will the good of the other. This includes willing our own good by not doing evil. The law of love wants to reform our heart or interior dispositions and gives us the grace or power to do so. On our part, it requires our cooperation and effort. This calls for some soul searching.
  • What is the state of my interior dispositions, from which arise all my conduct?
    • Do I simply so what I want? In other words, am I selfish?
    • Am I a divided soul, partly doing God’s will, partly serving myself?
    • Do I act out of fear: of God or of parents or of some other authority?
    • Do I want what God wants? This is the making of a saint.
    • Do I at least want to want what God wants? This is a good beginning.
  • The law of love is a daily struggle or a multi-times-a-day struggle.
  • Jesus Christ gives each of us an everyday hope. Our Lord will help you and me right now, despite our weakness, the weakness of not wanting to do what he wants.
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Catholic homily outline for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Commitment to Christ

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God’s fidelity and love is to be lived within the commitment of Christian marriage.

Central idea: Commitment to Christ. Doctrine: God’s fidelity and love lived in Christian marriage. Practical application: Renewal of commitment.

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 122, click here.

Central idea: Commitment to Christ

Reading 1 Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

  • Joshua calls on the Chosen People to make a decision, to commit themselves or to recommit. It is taken for granted that they will serve some god. Joshua announces his own decision: He and his household will serve the Lord. All the rest of the men in authority over Israel wholeheartedly agree. They decide based on their experience with the Lord who freed them from Egyptian slavery, performed wonders, and protected them.
  • We, too, need to experience God in some way if we are to serve him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Many are the troubles of the just one,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him;
he watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.

  • Each person has to decide what his way of life will be. Joshua asks the Israelites which God they will serve. Jesus asks the disciples if they, too, will go away. The psalmist contrasts the just man and the evildoer.
  • God often asks hard things of us: “Many are the troubles of the just one.” We are just if we choose the Lord and take truth and justice as our standards.
  • It is better to endure difficulties, even crushing ones, with the Lord, than to enjoy the fleeting happiness of the evildoer.
  • Those who are close to the Lord retain a peace and joy even while suffering. We also understand God’s promise to deliver us in light of Christ and our own resurrection.

Reading 2 Eph 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

  • Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is a basic rule for Christian life. A follower of Christ should consider the other as superior to himself and serve that other like a servant would. This is how Christ himself behaved to the highest degree.
  • Christian marriage is a one-flesh union of mutual submission. St. Paul provides a very high standard that Christian spouses can aspire to. St. John Paul II points out that “The husband and the wife are in fact ‘subject to one another,’ and are mutually subordinated to one another” (ToB 89.3).
    • A Christian husband can be tempted to be overbearing rather than to serve. But the husband is to love his wife in the totally sacrificial way that Christ loved his Church.
    • A Christian wife can be tempted to resent serving her husband. But the wife is to love her husband in the totally submissive way that the Church obeys Christ. St. John Paul continues: “The wife can and should find in her relationship with Christ—who is the one Lord of both the spouses—the motivation of that relationship with her husband which flows from the very essence of marriage and of the family” (ToB 89.3).

Gospel Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

  • Flesh and spirit. The truth about the Eucharist that Our Lord reveals is not a natural truth that reason can grasp (like honor your father and mother) but a supernatural truth that can only be known if it is revealed. In addition, we need the grace of Christ to assent to it.
    • In the case of the faithful apostles, this grace seems to come from their personal encounter with Jesus. They trusted Our Lord, so they could believe the words he spoke.
  • In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (EG 3).
    • This is what we need and. We can encounter Christ in many ways, especially in the Eucharist.

Doctrine: God’s fidelity and love lived in Christian marriage

  • God is faithful to his promises (CCC 1063). Jesus Christ is “the definitive ‘Amen’ of the Father’s love for us” (CCC 1065). The word “amen” refers both to God’s complete fidelity and love for us and to our trust in him. (CC 1062). Christ “takes up and completes our ‘Amen’ to the Father” (CCC 1065).
  • Each Christian is called to love God and neighbor in friendship. This is the essence of God’s New Covenant. This friendship is presented in both the Old and New Covenants as a nuptial relationship between God as the bridegroom and the Chosen People and the Church as his bride. (CCC 1612, 1617).
  • “Marriage is a uniquely intimate form of friendship that calls a man and a woman to love each other in the manner of God’s covenant” (Love is Our Mission (p. 41)).
  • Just as the bond of God’s love and faithfulness for us is indissoluble, Christian spouses are called to faithful, life-long, fruitful love (CCC 1614).
  • “Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear” for “he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God.” Christian spouses do this by “following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses” with “the help of Christ.” “This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.” (CCC 1615)
  • The vocation to love also pertains to those who are not married. All grace is the fruit of Christ’s cross and it gives us the strength to love as Christ loved. With grace we can follow Christ, renounce ourselves, and live in this new dimension of willing the good of the other.

Practical application: Renewal of commitment

  • In a few moments we will recite the Creed, at the end of which we will say “Amen.” Then a little later, after the celebrant repeats Christ’s words which instituted the New Covenant, we will say together the Great Amen. Even later, if we receive Holy Communion we will respond with another “Amen.” These “amens” say to Christ Yes, I believe, I trust in you, You will be faithful to your word.
  • Let’s let these amens and all the amens of this next week be renewals of our commitment to the New Covenant. Joshua asked the Israelites to declare whom they would serve. Our commitment is to love God above all things and to will the true good of our neighbor.
  • Who is my neighbor? Charity begins at home and spreads outward. My neighbor is my spouse, parents, children, relatives, friends, neighbors, and anyone in need that I can serve.
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Catholic homily outline for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The Eucharist and mental prayer

Mental PrayerCentral idea and doctrine: The Eucharist, which is a scandal to some, is our daily bread and a pledge of glory to come. Practical application: Mental prayer.

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 119, click here.

Central idea: The Eucharist, which is a scandal to some, is our daily bread and a pledge of glory to come

Reading 1 Prv 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.”

  • Who in his right mind could turn down this invitation? Beautiful wisdom has built a mansion, prepared a feast, and called us to partake.
  • But the invitation she sends her maidens to proclaim is for the simple, the ones who know they are lacking understanding, the ones who want to “forsake foolishness” in order to have life and to advance in understanding.
  • Seen in the light of Christ, this is a beautiful allegory of the Eucharist. Wisdom’s house is the Incarnate Christ. The feast is his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The maidens are the apostles. Those who hear the call are those who are simple enough to know their need for God and who want to have life.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

  • Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Our Lord asked his apostles who remained when others left him over his words about the Eucharist: “Will you also go away?” He was making them and each one of us “a loving invitation to discover that only he has ‘the words of eternal life’” (CCC 1336). This psalm antiphon is the same invitation. Our Lord invites us to try him to see that he is good.
  • This psalm is also a perfect prayer for the Holy Mass. The celebrant invites us to taste and see God’s goodness. He praises God. He invites us to glorify God with him. He announces God’s good news to us and we who are poor are glad to hear it. We recall all that God has done for us to rescue us. And in receiving Christ our faces do not blush with shame because he has saved us. Instead, we are radiant with joy because he sanctifies us.

Reading 2 Eph 5:15-20

Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

    • God’s wisdom calls to the simple who do not want to be simpletons.
    • This is a call to use the time we have to do good, not evil, because that is the will of God.
    • If we want to get drunk, we should not do so with wine—because that kind of drunkenness leads to sin—but with the Holy Spirit. We can never ‘drink’ enough of his grace.
    • Wisdom invites us to her feast. The Psalmist says we should look to the Lord to be radiant with joy. St. Paul says our hearts should sing thankfully to God. Our Lord says the feast of his Body and Blood will give us eternal life.
    • Paul says the way out of unhappiness begins with a reform of “how you live” and whether we making the most of the opportunity wehave right now.Therefore, if we are not happy, we should ask Our Lord in prayer why not? What will it take to have this happiness? 

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

  • Jesus’ teaching about what we call the Eucharist scandalized some of his hearers. He said they must do something shocking, revolting, and seemingly even sinful in order to gain the greatest good possible. The shocking thing was to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.” The good to be gained was to have the life of God the Father, received through the Son, and consequently eternal life.
  • Jesus’ words “divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them.” The Eucharist and the Passion are “the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division.” His later words, “Will you also go away?” are “a loving invitation to discover that only he has ‘the words of eternal life’.” (CCC 1336)

Doctrine: The Eucharist is our daily bread and a pledge of glory

  • In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Catechism mines the richness contained in these words (CCC 2828-2837). You could fruitfully meditate on them during your times of mental prayer this week.
    • This petition is one of creatures looking up to their creator, of children looking up to their father and mother, of children of God looking up to God their Father. The look is one of need, and of trust, and of gratitude.
    • This petition pertains to our solidarity with every other person on earth who needs his daily bread and our own loving responsibility to help supply it if we can.
    • It pertains to our own call to help create a world in which these goods are supplied.
    • Give us our daily bread pertains to everything everyone needs, both material and spiritual goods.
    • This petition evokes the promise that God will give us everything.
    • It pertains to the daily work we do to get our daily bread.
    • It pertains to spiritual hunger: “Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This Word is “the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.” (CCC 2837) Man needs God’s Word. Man needs God.
    • “This day” pertains also to the day of the Lord, the feast of the kingdom, which is why the Eucharist is celebrated each day. Thus “the Eucharist is our daily bread” (CCC 2837).
    • With all this in mind, “Give us this day our daily bread” means most deeply, “Give us You, Lord,” which he does in the Eucharist.
  • Our daily bread, the Eucharist, is also the “pledge of glory to come,” an anticipation of the blessedness of heavenly life (CCC 1402-1405).
    • On the day that Christ returns, this world will pass away and he will wipe away every tear (CCC 1403-1404). Then we will see him as he is and will be made to be like him in the new heaven and earth.
    • But for now, in every Mass, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (CCC 1405).

Practical Application: Mental prayer

  • There is such a deep meaning in just one petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It takes time to “read” its meaning. We do so in silence in the presence of God, talking to him about it. The riches are there, but we may never see them unless we take the time to look.
  • In fact, in the reality of our normal lives, we are surrounded by an entire library to be read: about God, about our Catholic faith, about the people we are called to love and serve, about the meaning of marriage and the family, about civic life, about work, and about nature.
  • We can read this great book that God places in front of us through mental prayer. Each of us has a conversation with ourselves that is always taking place in our heads. Mental prayer invites God into this conversation, focusing it on something specific, like “Give us this day our daily bread,” or the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, or how my spouse is doing, or what my kids might need, or a hundred other matters that matter to you and to God.
  • God and wise human beings like order, so mental prayer should normally be done at a set time, for a set amount of time, in a set place.
    • It should be done at a set time so that it actually happens and becomes a habit. Based on our own schedule and knowledge of our mental energy level, we can determine what is a good time. Every time is good for God but not for us.
    • It should be done for a set amount of time because our time is limited and so is our energy. Fifteen minutes to a half hour is a good amount of time for many. Implicit in this decision is the declaration, “Lord, this time is yours.”
    • It should be done in a place conducive to prayer. Our Lord said we should go into our room and close the door. That room could literally be our bedroom, or some other place in our house, or while walking early in the morning, or in a chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
    • Conditions don’t always have to be perfect for us to have this conversation. If necessary we can do it in the car.
    • This conversation can be helped with the Scriptures in front of us or a good book or a journal we write in.
  • It is not good to give too many more “rules” for doing mental prayer, since this is something intimate between a person and God. It may be that God has a particular way he wants your conversation to take place, so let him lead you as you get to know each other better.
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Catholic homily outline for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Communion with the Bread of Life

Worthy reception of Holy Communion

Worthy reception of Holy Communion

Central idea: Our Lord is the Bread of Life. Doctrine: The Mass as a memorial. Practical application: Worthy reception of Communion.

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 116, click here.

Central idea: Our Lord is the Bread of Life

Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

  • Through the intercession of an angel, Elijah received food and drink from heaven so he could complete his forty-days journey to the mountain where he would meet God.
  • Elijah, who had fled to the desert to escape assassination, concluded that there was nothing special about him when he prayed for death saying, “I am no better than my fathers.” But he was wrong. He really was God’s prophet.
  • We are like Elijah because we are ‘better than our fathers.’ That is, we are not just natural human beings; rather, we are saved and sanctified by Christ and made children of God. And we, too, are fed with heavenly food and drink in the Mass where we meet God.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

  • The first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The poor in spirit are the lowly, or the humble, or those “without material possessions and whose confidence is in God,” or all those “of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence on God” (see NAB note for Mt 5:3).
  • Because we are dependent on God, we are receptive to God. In our receptivity, we receive from God and find it good. We taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Eph 4:30-5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

  • Paul continues to bring out what it means to have the mind of Christ and to imitate him.
  • While there is such a thing as righteous anger aroused by and directed against injustice, our anger is usually sinful and displayed in “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” resulting in “malice.” To have the mind (and the behavior) of Christ means to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving, even if our inclination or desire is the opposite. Christ forgave us and sacrificed himself for us, the fruits of which we receive in the Eucharist. Our kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are our own fragrant offerings to God the Father pleasing to the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Jn 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

  • There are two things that bother the “Jews” referred to here. In this case, “Jews” refers to men knowledgeable about, somehow officially responsible for, and defensive toward their Jewish faith. One is that Jesus is bread and the other is that he came down from heaven.
    • Jesus as bread. In light of the Deposit of Faith we possess, which includes the doctrines about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and informed by the actual practice of the faith for over two thousand years, we have a pretty good understanding of how Our Lord is the bread of life. But even then, those men could have understood Jesus’ words metaphorically, that he was claiming that he was bringing them true gifts from heaven that would give them eternal life. His miracles were evidence that his claim was true. His miracles were also all about life: he gave people mental or physical healing or physical wholeness, rescue from danger of death, food when they were hungry, wine for joy, and above all, for a few, life again after death.
    • He came down from heaven. Again, we understand this in a more complete way thanks to doctrines like the Incarnation, the Hypostatic Union, and the Blessed Trinity. But the “Jews” could have understood “from heaven” as being sent by God, like John the Baptist or one of the prophets, even being formed from his mother’s womb to be a messenger of God. Again, Jesus’ teachings and miracles were evidence that they should take this claim seriously. Instead, their argument is that they know Jesus’ human ancestry and relatives. They know St. Joseph and they know Our Lady.
  • Jesus answers their objections with true but difficult-to-hear replies: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” and “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” These could be interpreted by them to mean that if they have a problem with Jesus it is because there is something wrong in their relationship with God the Father. That is the last thing they would want to admit.

Doctrine: The Mass as a memorial

  • Jesus in the Eucharist is the Bread of Life come down from heaven that we eat to gain eternal life.
  • The celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass has been “the center of the Church’s life” from the moment of Christ’s command to ‘do this in memory of me’ (CCC 1343).
  • In the Mass—what the early Church called “the breaking of bread”—the priest repeats Jesus’ actions and words at the Last Supper as “the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father” (CCC 1341).
  • The Lord also urges us “to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (CCC 1384).

Practical application: Worthy reception of Communion

  • To receive the Eucharist worthily we must examine our conscience. If we are aware that we have committed “a grave sin” we “must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.” (CCC 1385)
    • This is the teaching of St. Paul: “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)
  • We should also approach Communion humbly, which is why we echo the words of the Centurion before receiving: “Lord, I am not worthy . . .” (CCC 1386).
  • We should also observe the fast, which for us is to abstain from food or drink (except water) one hour before communion (CCC 1387).
  • We should have the proper dress and demeanor. Our “[b]odily demeanor,” that is our gestures and clothing, “ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” (CCC 1387).
    • Many of us could improve in this regard.
  • Receive Communion. We don’t live in an time in which not going to communion by those who should is a wide-spread problem, but it has been a problem in other eras and could be a problem for some individuals. Thus, the faithful, “if they have the required dispositions [should] receive communion when they participate in the Mass” (CCC 1388).
  • Attend Mass. “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)
    • Once one is doing the minimum of what one should, why not do more? What about one more Mass each week?
  • Receive one or both species. The faithful “receive all the fruit of Eucharist grace” by receiving communion only under one species (normally the Host), since Christ is sacramentally present. In the Latin rite, it is now permitted to receive the Eucharist under both species as it is a more complete sign. (CCC 1390)
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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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