Catholic homily outline for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B – Suffering

Caravagio - The Sacrifice of Isaac (detail)

Caravagio – The Sacrifice of Isaac (detail)

Central idea: God wants to bestow life. Doctrine: The problem of suffering. Practical application: Alleviate others’ suffering.

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

To view Lectionary 26, click here.

Central idea: God wants to bestow life

Reading 1 Gn 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth
shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

  • Abraham perfectly obeyed the will of God, even though his understanding of God was defective. That his God would command him to sacrifice his own beloved son may not have surprised him—although it would have grieved him—since that was what other “gods” demanded.
  • The test God gave Abraham was geared to the mentality of that time. Perhaps because Abraham’s vocation was so singular—to be the father of God’s Chosen People—his test was singularly difficult. His test may have been more difficult than Adam’s.
  • The author of Hebrews tells us that Abraham had faith. “He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.” Abraham’s test and receiving his son back were a “symbol” of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection and our own. (Hebrews 11:19)
  • Abraham passed the test and so he—and even we—received the promises: above all that in his descendants all the nations of the earth have been blessed, especially in that son of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
  • Also, he and we learned something new about God, that this was a God who would not ask for or allow a human sacrifice from his followers. If someone’s son needed to be a holocaust for sin, it would be his own.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.

O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

  • The most fundamental good is life. After that comes freedom: freedom from the bonds of oppression of every kind. We human beings are masters at enslaving ourselves and enslaving others. Why do we bind ourselves and others? It is because of fear of death and desire for life.
  • On this earth, it is not true that might makes right but it is true that might can usually get what it wants. It is best for us, then, to bind ourselves to the one who is mightiest but also good: God. The word religion in its roots means to bind oneself. It is best to become God’s slave because he is good and only intends to free us from the oppression of sin and death.
  • God’s command to Abraham may not have seemed surprising to Abraham—that was the kind of thing the powerful did—but the outcome was truly surprising. Abraham’s God was not about might getting what it wants by oppression, but rather, God is about life and bestowing benefits on those below him—us.

Reading 2 Rom 8:31b-34

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?
Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised—
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.

  • As the Psalmist said, “Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.” The death of his most faithful one, Jesus Christ, is infinitely precious in the eyes of God.
  • His death is precious to us too, because it is the greatest benefit bestowed on us here below to give us life and freedom.
  • So also precious in God’s eyes is our own death and every kind of suffering we endure.
  • If God handed over his own Son to set us free from sin and death, he will also do everything else for us. Thus, no oppressor outside of us, whether it comes from the world, the flesh, or the devil, and no oppressor inside of us, whether the tyrants of the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life, can bind us in slavery.

Gospel Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

  • According to Mark, six days before Our Lord’s transfiguration on the mountain occurred, Jesus said “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power” (Mk 9:1).
  • On the mountain, something of Jesus’ divine nature was revealed to Peter, James, and John.
    • Our Lord’s clothing become dazzling white.
    • Moses and Elijah appeared. Usually, they are understood as representing the Law and the prophets, and so, all the promises of the Old Covenant.
    • Also, there was the cloud, which in the Old Testament Scriptures often indicated the presence of God to the people of Israel. Out of it the three apostles heard the voice of God the Father saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
    • Then on the way down from the mountain, Christ told the three that he, “the Son of Man,” would rise from the dead.
  • Peter, James, and John witnessed this transfiguration in which for a moment they saw Christ, the King of the kingdom of God, revealed in power. But at the time, they could not grasp the meaning of what they had seen. Peter “hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” and they questioned among themselves “what rising from the dead meant.”

Doctrine: The problem of suffering

  • Suffering is universal on this earth. No one escapes it, not even animals. Why suffering exists and how God is implicated in suffering is a mystery: that is, it is only partly intelligible.
    • We can have faith that God permits suffering to bring about a greater good. St. Thomas points this out at the very beginning of the Summa:
      • “As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): ‘Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.’ This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good” (ST 1.2.3.).
        • Sometimes we can see the good that God brings out of evil, like the redemption of the world through the innocent suffering of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we cannot.
      • We can grasp that God respects human freedom by allowing our actions to have real consequences, and sometimes those consequences cause us and those we harm great suffering. For example, God allows the thief to steal, and that means the thief really does deprive people of their property.
      • We can glimpse that somehow suffering and death are the consequences of sin, yet suffering existed on this earth long before the first sin was committed.
      • We can see how witnessing suffering can unleash in us compassion and care, which makes us more human.
      • Through our own suffering, we can see that we are vulnerable and need God and other human beings. Suffering can make us humble and erode our individualistic tendencies.
      • Some suffering seems fair, as when evil-doers are punished.
      • But other suffering seems totally unjust and we feel that God should not permit it, for example, the suffering and death of an innocent child or an innocent child becoming an orphan.
    • The philosopher Peter Kreeft argues that Jesus Christ “did three things to solve the problem of suffering.” In becoming man, God took on our human condition and suffered with us. Second, he transformed “the meaning of our suffering: it is now part of his work of redemption.” Third, through his suffering and death, he overcame death and opened the eternal life in heaven to us: “[H]e transformed death from a hole into a door, from an end into a beginning.”

Practical application: Alleviate others’ suffering

  • Lent is a time in which we do penance. This means we take on some disciple to make up for our sins and to improve our character. This discipline makes us suffer a little. This suffering is a mortification, that is, a small death, to kill some of our bad qualities, if possible. These practices help us become humble and aware of our need for God. They may also make us more compassionate, because they help us see what others are going through.
  • The Christian response to another’s suffering is not to rejoice in it—even if that person deserves it. It is usually not right to point out to the suffering person that their suffering is just (if it is). It is also not usually right to tell another how this ordeal could be good for their character. The proper response to another’s suffering is kindness and mercy, to alleviate that suffering if we can.
  • What are some things we might be able to do to alleviate others’ suffering?
    • We can pray for them.
    • We can offer their ordeal to God for them.
    • We can be with them.
    • We can let them talk and listen to them.
    • We can do little things for them that please them.
    • We can help them in a way they want to be helped.
  • While these things seem to be sound principles, they can be applied in a thousand different ways depending on the circumstances, so the alleviation of suffering is really a kind of art we can learn by practice.
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Catholic homily outline for the First Sunday of Lent, Year B – Concupiscence

noah-and-the-rainbow-13

Central idea: Sin and its remedy. Doctrine: Concupiscence and self-mastery. Practical application: Lenten activities.

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

To view Lectionary 23, click here.

Central idea: Sin and its remedy

Reading 1 Gn 9:8-15

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”

  • One of the overarching themes of the Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—is God’s desire for friendship between him and human beings. One of the ways this friendship is offered is through covenants—solemn, unbreakable agreements. God established a covenant for humanity through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally Jesus Christ.
  • According to Genesis, God destroyed every living land creature, except those who escaped in the ark: the righteous Noah and his family and the animals. This destroying and cleansing flood was due to the earth being full of irreformable wicked persons.
  • God does not need to be reminded of anything, although we do. So, every time we see a rainbow, we should use it as a reminder that God desires friendship with humanity, so long as we remember this friendship is not a free pass for us to do evil.
  • From the beginning, the Church has seen the deluge of Genesis as a “type” or image or symbol or foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Baptism, as we will see in the second lectionary reading.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.

R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD,
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and he teaches the humble his way.

  • “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” The first Christians called God’s New Covenant given to us by Jesus Christ the Way. Christ’s way is the way of love. It is God’s love to us and our love back to him.
  • We have to learn what love is, and this takes time—for some a whole lifetime—and so we ask God to teach us how to love and to give us time to do so.
  • God’s way is for those who do not know how to love so well yet, and who sin, but who humbly acknowledge that they need to be shown the way and to be helped on the way. This way is for humble sinners.

Reading 2 1 Pt 3:18-22

Beloved:
Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

  • Jesus Christ, the righteous, suffered, died, and rose from the dead for the benefit of every one of us, the unrighteous—for those of his own generation to whom Peter ministered, to all those who had already died—the “spirits in prison who had once been disobedient”—and for all future persons, including us.
  • Just as Noah and his household were “saved through water,” we are now saved through water, too, the waters of baptism.
  • Baptism is “an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
  • It is an appeal, that is, we ask for it, either directly or through our sponsors. It is a request for a clear conscience, that is, that our sins be forgiven and that we be given “life in the Spirit.” But it is more than just a request. It really does that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Mk 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

  • Our Lord ended his ordinary, hidden life and inaugurated his public life with his baptism by John at the Jordan. Then he endured forty days of penance as immediate preparation. Then he began his public ministry in Galilee.
  • We imitate Christ’s forty days in the desert with our forty days of Lenten discipline each year.
  • Christ completely fasted for forty days—the limit of human endurance—so his discipline was much more severe than anything we undertake.
  • Yet, unlike Christ, who was only tempted from without, we are also tempted from within, because we have concupiscence. Christ was physically hungry for food but when we give up anything our entire being seems to go into rebellion.
  • Christ’s reply to Satan—in our verse before the Gospel—when he was given the temptation to turn stones into bread—is useful to us when our mind, will, and senses demand we give up our suddenly, now-seemingly senseless, self-deprivation: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Doctrine: Concupiscence and self-mastery

  • Two of the ten commandments focus on concupiscence specifically: do not covet your neighbor’s wife or goods. Covetousness is the inordinate desire to possess what you don’t have a right to. It is a sin when the desire is consented to. This is why it can be a sin even if it is only in one’s mind.
  • Concupiscence is that inordinate desire. It is our inclination to sin (CCC 1254).
  • Concupiscence comes from sin, leads to sin, is an evil, but is not itself a sin (CCC 2515).
  • It comes from sin because it is a consequence of the sin of Adam. It leads to sin because it tempts us to sin. It is an evil because it is not good for us to desire something that is wrong. And it is not itself a sin because to have a desire or impulse is not morally blameworthy without consent.
  • Concupiscence is a kind of birth defect every human being has, due to original sin. It would be like being colorblind if the most important thing in life was to be a paint salesperson or to be born with one leg shorter than the other if the most important thing in life was to be a runner.
    • A most important thing in life actually is to be just—to give God and our neighbor what we owe them—but the disordered desire of concupiscence is constantly inclining us toward injustice.
  • John the Apostle identifies three kinds of concupiscence: “Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life” (CCC 2514). These refer to the “pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason” (CCC 377). Sensual pleasure is not bad but the desire to enjoy it can lead to adultery and murder (in the case of King David). Earthly goods are also not bad but the desire for them can lead to beating and robbing and nearly murdering an innocent person (as in the parable of the Good Samaritan). Being highly esteemed by others is also a good thing but it can lead to telling all kinds of lies about your exploits.
  • Concupiscence is the “movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason” (CCC 2515). You desire something so you act according to that desire, without thinking or even despite your reason telling you it is wrong. It is essentially the tyranny of one’s passions over one’s reason.
  • This is why the Christian life calls for the self-mastery that comes through growth in virtues.
  • A simple example is dieting. Using your reason you have decided to diet. Many times a day, especially at certain times, you will have the impulse to eat. Which voice will prevail over your will? The voice of reason which says to stick to your diet, or the voice of desire to eat? Of course, going on a diet is not usually a moral matter, but gluttony or a refusal to fast when the Church has required it of a Catholic is.
  • While concupiscence is an evil we have to deal with every day of our lives (CCC 2516), “it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ” (CCC 1264).

Practical Application: Lenten activities

  • Every Friday of the Year and every day of Lent except for Sundays the Church calls us to self-denial or self-discipline in order to root out sin and grow in self-mastery. This is an opportunity for our “manful” resistance to concupiscence “by the grace of Jesus Christ.”
  • Father James Shafer has a simple but very practical plan for us to get a lot out of Lent:
    • “To keep it simple this Lent, try the ‘1-1-1 Plan’: one sin, one add-in, one give-up. Concentrate or focus on one sin or fault that is getting in the way of your relationship with God and with others. Add one positive activity that will deepen your prayer and spiritual life (especially if you think you are too busy to put anything more into an impossibly busy schedule!). Deny yourself something you really like or are attached to.”
  • There are countless ways you can apply this plan and it is up to you what to do. Here are some examples:
    • Examples of sins or faults to stop: criticizing others, gossiping, looking at sexually attractive images, not doing a task immediately, constantly looking at yourself in a mirror, taking God’s name in vain or using crude language, telling “white” lies.
    • Examples of a positive activity to deepen your prayer or spiritual life: making a morning offering, attending an additional Mass during the week, saying a decade of the rosary while doing some routine activity, saying please and thank you, saying “God bless you” to people, praying for each family member by name, praying at an abortion clinic, attending a parish faith enrichment class or event, reading a Gospel for five minutes each day, saying an act of contrition at the end of each day and whenever else you need to, going to Confession each week of Lent.
    • Example of giving up something you like or are attached to: Giving up Ramen, denying yourself the snooze button, stop watching a particular genre of YouTube videos, wearing your second choice outfit, only checking email or Facebook at specific times, no cream or sugar in your coffee.
  • Undertake your Lenten activities consciously. Their purposes are to remind us of our friendship with God and to strengthen that friendship through little acts of love, despite the rebellion of our concupiscence. So, if you plan to do your chores at once, say a decade of the Rosary while getting dressed, and not text anyone during the school day, offer these things up to God over and over, asking him to help you overcome your sins and to grow in freedom to love him and your neighbor.
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Catholic homily outline for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Kindness

Christ's-kind-healing-touchCentral idea: Christ is our model of kindness. Doctrine: The virtue of kindness. Practical application: Growing in kindness.

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

To view Lectionary 77, click here.

Central idea: Christ is our model of kindness

Reading 1 Lv 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

  • The Mosaic Law contained public health regulations, including isolating those with incurable infectious diseases.
  • A leper was triply unfortunate: he suffered from the disfiguring disease, was forced to live apart outside the community, and perhaps believed he was in some way cursed by God. It is hard to know which ill would be harder to bear alone, but the leper bore all three at once.
  • The leper was required to confess his condition by his dress and grooming and by warning anyone who came near that he was “unclean.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.

  • Sin is a leprosy of the soul, which disfigures it and makes a person “unclean.” However, for the Chosen People in covenant with God, the just or the upright of heart are not perfect and sinless souls. They are those who admit their sins before God.
  • The upright cry out in their hearts “Unclean, unclean!” This confession of sin brings joy because God forgives the sin.
  • The problem is for those “in whose spirit there is . . . guile,” that is, persons who pretend to be good but are not, or persons who pretend to be sorry but have no intention of amending their lives.
  • Followers of Christ can completely identify with this psalm. “In response to our fears and anxieties, the Church insists that to promise love in the manner of the covenant is not a hypothetical for mythical saints who are perfect, but a real and possible commitment for actual sinners who are on the way” (Love is Our Mission59). We are in the New Covenant: God promises us salvation and sanctification and we promise to love God and one another as Christ has loved us. We are “actual sinners who are on the way” to the fulfillment of the covenant promises.

Reading 2 1 Cor 10:31—11:1

Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

  • In telling the Corinthians “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” St. Paul claims he knows what Christ is like. What, then, does Paul say Christ is like?
  • Christ acts for the glory of the Father, not self-glorification. He acts to please the Father and to reveal what God is really like to everyone.
  • Christ does not deliberately offend anyone.
  • Quite the contrary, he tries to please or benefit everyone.
  • Christ wants everyone to be saved and acts for that aim, not to benefit himself.

Gospel Mk 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

  • We got some idea above how hard it would be to be a leper.
  • Jesus heals the leper and reminds him “sternly” what he must do to be accepted back into Jewish life.
  • Why did Jesus heal the man? Clearly, it was out of pity.
    • In an exquisite display of charity, not only did Christ heal him, he healed him by touching him, certainly the first time anyone had touched him skin to skin since it was known he was infected.
    • Christ did not heal him for fame, as he sternly ordered him to “tell no one anything.”
  • I think we can conclude that a great deal of the good that Our Lord did during his public life was done because it was good in itself, not to advance his larger mission.
  • This coincides with Our Lord’s advice to his disciples on almsgiving: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:3-4).

Doctrine: The virtue of kindness

  • Kindness is doing good to another and for the other in a good manner. Christ healing the man with leprosy by touching him was kind.
  • Doing good to another not for the other but for one’s self is not kindness but some manner of manipulation, as in flattery, bribery, or creating an obligation.
  • The manner in which the good is done can mar the act, as in if someone asks you for a favor and you do it but angrily.
  • Sometimes a truly kind act may not seem to be done in a good manner, but it is the best manner objectively or at least the best one can come up with, as in the mother who has to cause her scared child pain to remove a splinter.
  • Kind is closely related to kin. When we are kind to others we treat them the way we should treat our own family. Our closest kin is ourself, so kindness is treating others with the goodness with which we treat ourself and in the way we want everyone to treat us.
  • The opposite of kindness is cruelty, which is causing pain or suffering in another, especially deliberately. Indifference is another vice related to kindness. It is ignoring the good one could do for another who needs it.
  • Cunning persons might use kindness as a weapon to get an upper hand over a victim. A person in a subservient position might use kindness as a strategy to gain favor.
  • Kindness is especially praiseworthy when practiced by a person in a superior position toward a person in an inferior position, as a parent to a child, a boss to an employee, a caregiver to the one given care, a rich person to a poor person, a captor to a captive.
  • Every culture that has ever existed has believed in kindness, as least for kin.
  • Kindness is the preeminent virtue that Christ himself displayed. The object of his kindness was and is everyone.
    • For this reason, we Christians are called to act kindly to everyone we meet, especially those closest to us.
  • Kindness must be guided by truth. It is not kind to confirm people in their wrong-doing, although sometimes it is appropriate to keep silent. When circumstances call for telling someone the truth, including correcting him or her, our kindness may make the other angry and elicit fury.
    • Currently, Christians and others who uphold that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and that certain sexual acts are disordered are called “haters.”
  • On the negative side of kindness—what not to do—St. Paul said, “Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God,” that is, don’t deliberately offend anyone. On the positive side of kindness—what to do—he says, “try to please everyone in every way,” of course without pandering to them. Then St. Paul underlines the object of kindness: “not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,” that is, the others. Then he identifies the highest motive for kindness, that the many “may be saved.”

Practical Application: Growing in kindness

  • To grow in kindness, you have to know yourself, which is not easy. When you considered the various facets of kindness or unkindness did it hurt to hear some of them? That can tell you something. Is there something in your words or demeanor that often offends others? Do you tend toward indifference to others? What about selfishness? Do you have a streak of cruelty? The prayer of the blind man, “that I may see” (Mk 10:51), is appropriate to know oneself.
  • We grow in kindness by doing kind acts. Kindness begins at home, so the first beneficiaries of our kindness should be family members, and it can begin with the tiniest acts, like passing the salt. The basic principle is to notice or ask what someone might want or need, and then quietly supply it. Courtesy and thoughtfulness are great aids in acting kindly. So is a spirit of service and humility.
  • When it comes to our work—and I include work in the family—kindness is really an art. How a mother is kind to her baby will be different than how she will be kind to her teenage son. Both will be different than how a dentist is kind to his patient. How a prison guard is kind to the inmate he watches will be different still. But St. Paul’s advice holds: Don’t offend; try to please; do it for the other.
  • A great resource is “The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time” by Divine Word Missionary Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik.
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Catholic homily outline for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Optimism and Hope

Job

Job and his accusers

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.)

Central idea: Confidence in God. Doctrine: Optimism and hope. Practical application: Activating hope.

To view Lectionary 74, click here.

Central idea: Confidence in God

Reading 1 Jb 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

  • Job is a man who has lost all optimism. He does not believe that good things are in his future: “I shall not see happiness again.” A slave, at least, can look forward to resting in the shade and a hireling will get paid eventually, but Job cannot rest at night, the days run swiftly, but all they lead to are his death.
  • One can endure all kinds of hardship if there is a promise of something good at the end of it. We need the virtue of optimism for life on earth and the virtue of hope for life beyond death.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

  • The man who fears the Lord, that is, who is in a right relationship with him, has the hope that God will eventually make everything right. For the Chosen People in exile, their hope is their return to the Promised Land and its capital Jerusalem, whose ruins will be rebuilt, whose lowly, broken-hearted citizens will be healed of their physical and emotional wounds.
  • When the Psalmist says God numbers and knows the name of each star, he is not talking about astronomy but the children of Abraham, whom God promised would be as uncountable as the stars in the sky.
  • Part of making everything right is the punishment of the wicked who have oppressed the lowly.

Reading 2 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

  • Paul has a task entrusted to him by Our Lord which he is glad to carry out: the preaching of the gospel.
  • He has the right to ask the Corinthians to support him materially but he freely chooses not to.
  • He tailors his manner of speaking to the mentality of his audience. He uses what St. John Paul II would call the law of gradualness, each person’s little-by-little growth in holiness in every area of their lives with recourse to God’s mercy when they fail. This is what St. Paul means by becoming “all things to all.” This is not the erroneous notion of “the gradualness of the law,” a false teaching that asserts that the moral law can be set aside for people who find it too hard.

Gospel Mk 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

  • Our Lord says he came to “preach,” that is, to communicate something. What he came to communicate was really his very self, of which his words were an important part. Receiving Our Lord’s very self meant freedom from sin, illness, and possession. As the Gospel verse summarizes it, “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
  • This is the ultimate object of Israel’s and our hope, God setting everything right for those who fear him.

Doctrine: The virtues of optimism and hope

  • The words optimism and hope can mean the same thing: expectation of happiness, the belief that something good is in the future.
  • For the optimistic or hopeful person, things may be hard right now, but they will surely improve.
  • Present difficulties are bearable not only when they are seen as temporary, but especially when they are necessary for the future reward, like dieting to be more healthy and attractive.
  • As virtues, it is useful to distinguish optimism from hope. Optimism can be defined as the expectation of good things in this life obtained by natural powers, as the farmer expects to harvest the wheat he has planted. Hope can be defined as the expectation of good things both on earth and in heaven by the fulfillment of God’s powerful promises. Thus, optimism is the natural counterpart to the supernatural virtue of hope.
  • Optimism is the acquired habit of expecting good things to happen. But an optimistic person is not a mere “wishful thinker.” He or she bases optimism on seeing the positive side of a challenges, being aware of the opportunity that challenge presents, knowing his or her own ability to affect the outcome, and enlisting others to help him.
    • For example, when an optimistic woman loses a job, after dealing with the blow emotionally—which can be tough—she gets up and gets to work with determination and confidence. Why? She knows she can grow professionally by going through the job search preparation process. She sees she could possibly end up with even better job. She knows he has found jobs before and has the ability to find another. And she knows her family, friends and professional network contacts will support her as she goes about seeking a new job.
  • Hope is a gift given to us by God at Baptism whereby we are sustained in the conviction that God will keep his promises, save us, and bring to the happiness of Heaven. It is the firm confidence that nothing really, truly and permanently bad can happen to us if we are children of God. Hope even makes it possible for martyrs to go to their deaths with joy.
  • At the moment Job utters the words in our first reading has neither optimism nor hope—all he sees before him is unremitted suffering and then death.
  • Even though the Psalmist is in a bad place he has hope that God will restore and save Israel. In the psalm, every follower of Christ can hear the beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4) and Mary’s song: “He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1:51-53).
  • Paul’s hope is salvation for himself and those to whom he preaches. He is happy to work for his share in the Gospel.
  • While on earth, Christ perfectly possessed the virtues of optimism and hope because he knew what he was doing and why he was doing it, what obstacles he would face and how tough they were, how he would overcome them, and what the outcome would be.
  • Even more, Christ is really the object of our optimism and hope. Every good thing we want to possess and wait for here will be perfectly fulfilled in the possession of him.

Practical application: Activating hope

  • If we are baptized and have not consented to the mortal sin of despair, we have the theological virtue of hope—even if we hardly exercise it.
  • Since grace builds on nature, it is hard to see how we can exercise hope for eternal life with God if we are complete pessimists about our current lives. But optimism is a natural virtue, which any person who wants to can grow in. That is the good news about all human virtues.
  • We can even say that optimism comes naturally to children and is lost only when it is crushed out of them by how they respond to failures, disappointments, and mistreatment.
    • How many in our own day have had their sense of efficacy wounded by the divorce of their parents or the lack of a father in their lives?
  • In the Christian, optimism and hope are married together. Our practice of the supernatural virtue of hope can help heal us of our pessimism and help us increase our optimism, just as our growth in optimism can help make our hope more operative.
  • A most basic help for living as if things will be well is the conviction that it is the truth. Nothing really, truly and permanently bad can happen to us if we are children of God. As the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
  • We can make acts of hope in our own words or by using a traditional prayer such as the following:

“O my God, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.”

  • Optimism grows out of experience of success. We act and then see the results of our action. Thank goodness that we are not Charlie Brown, who always fails at everything.
  • For adults, it helps to see that future success in the face of a challenge is complex and so can be understood and broken down. There are the positive sides of a challenge, the opportunity that challenge presents, one’s own ability to affect the outcome, and the help of others.
  • I think we need hope most of all in the face of sin and death. Ironically, with the loss of the sense of sin, it seems few people, at least in the West, are worried that God will never forgive them or what they won’t persevere in the state of grace to the end. If we add that many persons hardly ever think about God or death—they push both out of their minds—when suddenly they have to face the specter of death they could be overwhelmed with despair.
  • So, to activate the hope we already have through Baptism, the following might be helpful:
  • Make God real in your life by talking with him often in prayer, receiving his forgiveness often in the Sacrament of Penance, receiving him often in the Holy Eucharist (at least every Sunday), visiting him from time to time in a Tabernacle, and behaving in ways that please him, like obeying the moral law and serving others.
  • If it does not occur to you naturally, think about your own death from time to time. When you hear that someone has died, pray for him or her. We are always hearing of the deaths of famous people. Use these as a way of remembering to pray for and honor those you know who have died, especially your parents and forebears.
  • Memorize and pray this very humble child’s prayer, accepting death.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I accept from Your hands whatever kind of death it may please You to send me this day (night) with all its pains, penalties and sorrows; in reparation for all of my sins, for the souls in Purgatory, for all those who will die today and for Your greater glory. Amen.

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Catholic Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Marriage

1vierras75thannivesary-vertWritten 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.)

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority. Doctrine: The vocation to marriage. Practical application: Understand and defend marriage.

To view Lectionary 71, click here.

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority

Reading 1 Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’”

  • God did send Israel a long line of prophets who spoke the words God commanded them to. John the Baptist was the last of that kind of prophet.
  • But Deuteronomy tells us that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses” (Dt. 34:10).
  • God’s promise, then, was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who was a prophet like Moses because he gave a New Law, who was from among the kin of the Chosen People, who revealed the Father, and who, like Moses, worked great signs.
  • The Chosen People asked not to hear and see the LORD directly anymore because it was too much for a living person. In Christ, though, God once again lets us see and hear him directly, because he has taken on human flesh.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”

  • We just read God’s promise to send a prophet who would speak God’s words to us and whose words we should listen to.
  • God’s truth comes to us in many ways, but we hear God’s word most directly in the life, works, and words of Jesus Christ.
  • In order to hear these words, we must do the opposite of hardening our hearts. We must listen to them in our hearts. Maybe we even need to soften our hearts.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

  • Paul was celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God. He could devote himself wholly to “the things of the Lord.”
  • Those who are unmarried can choose this state as well. Hence, we have in the Church the consecrated life. God calls persons to celibacy in order to devote themselves totally to “the things of the Lord.” They also bring many benefits to the rest of us—just as St. Paul brought the Gospel to the Corinthians.
  • Married people do have anxieties the celibate do not share. Married couples are anxious to please God but we also want to please our spouses, raise our children, earn a living, care for a home, and fully participate in civic life. We do this amid the vicissitudes of life.
  • Marriage is also a divine vocation and a Sacrament, so that in doing what husbands and wives do, baptized spouses receive grace and please the Lord.

Gospel Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

  • Jesus, with the newly gathered apostles he was forming, made his base in the Galilean city of Capernaum.
  • Jesus’ “own kin,” that is, the Jews attending the Sabbath service, were astonished at his teaching. Why?
      • The scribes were literate, learned scholars of Judaism. They preserved, studied, and commented on the Scriptures. Their wisdom was all derived from what they received. Although Jesus might quote the Scriptures, he spoke on his own authority. He spoke like Moses, telling people directly what God had to say.
      • His words were also performative. By his word he could bring about actions. He could free people oppressed by illness, injury, possession, and even death.
  • When the unclean spirit called Jesus “the Holy One of God” it was attempting to gain power over Jesus by using his precise name. However, Jesus freed the possessed man with his commands, also revealing his authority.

Doctrine: The Vocation to Marriage

  • Paul said that married persons are anxious to please the Lord and their spouses. What is the vocation to marriage more fully?*
  • Marriage is “a covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (CCC glossary).
  • In creating Adam and Eve in the state of matrimony, God made marriage the natural vocation of human beings and a reflection of the loving relationship within the Blessed Trinity.
  • In marriage, man and woman are equal in dignity but complementary in the gifts they offer one another. While marriage retains its inherent goodness and purpose after original sin, it is wounded and so always subject to disorder.
  • Christ restored marriage to its original dignity as a one-flesh, life-long union which reflects Trinitarian love, and, for baptized spouses, he raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
    • The two essential characteristics of Christian marriage are exclusivity and indissolubility.
    • In marriage, mutual submission means the wife should submit to her husband like the Church submits to Christ and the husband should love his wife like Christ loved his Church, with total self-sacrifice.
    • The Theology of the Body is St. John Paul II’s catechesis on the meaning of marital sexuality as an expression of human and divine love.
  • The marital act has two purposes, which should not be separated: the unitive and procreative. The Church condemns contraception because it separates the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act.
    • Natural Family Planning (NFP), or periodic continence, is a moral method of spacing births if the couple has a serious reason to do so.
    • The sins against marriage violate either the exclusive and indissoluble nature of marriage or the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act. They include adultery, pornography, fornication, polygamy, cohabitation, free unions, trial marriages, divorce, same-sex unions, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogate motherhood.
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony contributes to the good of the family and of society by sanctifying and forming the family members and contributing good citizens to society.

*From The Didache Semester Series text Vocations, “Chapter Three: The Vocation to Marriage”

Practical application: Understand and defend marriage

  • Know marriage. It is necessary today for every mature Catholic to have a clear idea of what marriage is.
    • One reason for this is not to be overcome by false ideas ourselves.
    • Another reason is to be able to tell others the truth about marriage in the spirit of 1 Pt. 3:15-16: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” with gentleness, reverence, and a clear conscience. By doing so, we share in the prophetic office of Jesus Christ.
    • Still another reason is to be able to advocate for natural marriage in public policy for the good of civil society.
    • A good current resource is the 120 page booklet “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the preparatory catechesis for the eighth World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia.
  • Live marriage. Of course, if we are married we must conform ourselves to the demands of marriage. Marriage, including sacramental marriage, is wounded because we retain the wounds of original sin and so disorder can exist in our own marriages. We who are married can examine our own behavior in light of the vocation of marriage outlined above.
  • Prepare for marriage. If you are single but think your vocation is to matrimony, now is the time to prepare for it.
    • You can pray for your future spouse, even if you currently have no idea who that person is.
    • With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will attract the mate God is preparing for you. With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will be the spouse and parent God is calling you to be.
    • This preparation could be physical, academic, occupational, intellectual, practical, moral, and spiritual.
      • A very important kind of admirableness to cultivate that might seem hidden at first but which will be clearly revealed over time is the possession and exercise of virtues, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the natural virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, including the virtue of purity.
    • One woman’s remarkable preparation for marriage and the transformation it effected in her and her future spouse is recounted here.
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Catholic homily outline for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B on contrition

jonah-preaching-in-nineveh-1923sWritten 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.)

Central idea: Contrition. Doctrine: The act of contrition. Practical application: Acts of contrition.

To view Lectionary 68, click here.

Central idea: Contrition

Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

  • There are two kinds of evil. Physical or natural evil is any kind of suffering. Moral evil is sin.
  • Those innocent of moral evil can suffer physical evil, but those who commit moral evils always cause suffering in themselves and others. The ultimate suffering that will be the consequence of moral evil is hell, but simply to sin makes one pitiable. This is why Socrates could say it is worse to be unjust than to be the victim of injustice.
  • God wants human beings to “repent,” that is, to turn away from their moral evil, from sin.
  • In the story of Jonah, to motivate the pagan inhabitants of Nineveh, God’s prophet threatens them with physical evil, that is, with physical destruction, and so, physical suffering: “Nineveh shall be destroyed.” To show they have repented of their moral evil, these pagans voluntarily take on physical evil through fasting and wearing sackcloth. Because they repented of their moral evil, God repented the physical evil he threatened to inflict upon them.
  • Fear of the consequences of sin is imperfect but adequate contrition.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.

  • We are all sinners who need to be guided along the right way. An adequate but imperfect guide for sinners is fear of the consequences of sin. Sin wrecks us in this life and leads us to hell in the next.
    • Pride is a foolish deformation of a person’s character because it makes him seem great to himself when he is actually turned away from goodness and headed for destruction.
  • Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin out of love for goodness itself. So the other and better guide for sinners is the goodness of God’s moral law and God himself.
    • Humility is a wise character strength because it makes a person seem small, weak, and in need of help when it comes to doing good and attaining salvation.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

  • Because this world is temporary and the world to come is permanent, and our permanent inheritance depends on how we live now with God’s grace, we are wise to have a detachment from the things of this world.
  • Detachment does not mean that we don’t love our spouses, that the things that hurt us do not really hurt, that the things that make us happy don’t really give us joy, that we don’t really need physical things, and that these things do not have their own value.
  • Detachment does mean that we see all these persons and good things—and the hardships of life—in light of eternity. Marriage, sorrows, joys, material things, and work find their real meaning in the light of Christ. No earthly good—as truly good as these can be—is our final end. No earthly evil—as truly evil as these can be—is the last word either.

Gospel Mk 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

  • Since Jesus Christ is the king of the kingdom of God, wherever he is, the kingdom of God is present. This is why “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Christ is in it but the inhabitants of Galilee have not entered.
  • How do people enter the kingdom of God? They do so by repenting of their sins and believing in the gospel, which is the person and message of Christ, the king of the kingdom of God.
  • The nature of the kingdom of God is that it is extended person to person. So Christ calls his first apostles, who as his co-workers will call others.
  • Eventually, the contours of the kingdom of God will become clearer and we will see the reality of the Church on earth, with her hierarchical structure, her doctrines, and her sacraments.

Doctrine: The act of contrition

  • The words of a traditional act of contrition are a good way into understanding the remedy for our sins. Here is the one I was taught as a boy:

O MY GOD, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

  • O MY GOD—My act of contrition is addressed not just to the omniscient and omnipotent God but to “my God” with whom I am in a covenant because of my Baptism. God and I belong to each other intimately by his choice irrevocably and my choice which I’m often revoking by my sins.
  • I am heartily sorry—Whether or not I “feel” the emotion of sorrow, whether or not I shed tears or have a lump in my throat, my will is that my sorrow is from the core of my being, and in Biblical language, that place is called the heart.
  • For having offended Thee— In many cases my “I’m sorry” should be made also to those human beings I have offended. However, my contrition is first addressed to God because my “sin sets itself against God’s love” for me and turns my heart “away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil.” (CCC 1850 quoting Gen 3:5) As St. Augustine put it, sin is “love of oneself even to contempt of God” (CCC 1850).
  • And I detest all my sins—Here is the turning away or aversion to sin. The Council of Trent defined contrition as “a sorrow of soul and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future.”
  • Because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell—This is an expression of imperfect, but sufficient, contrition. Imperfect contrition “arises principally from . . . motives such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, the heinousness of sin” and so on. I see that my ‘love of self to contempt of God’ is an absurd, foolish, and deadly revolt. The inhabitants of Nineveh probably repented out of fear of destruction.
  • But most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love—This is perfect contrition. God is both all-good in himself and all-good to me. I am sorry because I have not returned love for love.
  • I firmly resolve—Repentance is an act of the will. My repentance is not real if I do not decide to act.
  • With the help of Thy grace—Here I acknowledge that even though I choose God again, I need God’s help to make this choice itself and to act on it. Both imperfect and perfect contrition are “a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1453). So, what are these acts?
  • To confess my sins—Mortal sins must be confessed as soon as possible according to kind and number. Venial sins and even imperfections that lead to sins may be confessed as well.
  • Do penance—I promise to do the (usually) small penance the priest imposes on me. The difference between the offense of sin and the penance imposed is incommensurate, which underlines the goodness and mercy of God. I also live the seasons and days of penance in the liturgical year (CCC 1428) and undertake other forms of interior and exterior penance (CCC 1427-1439).
  • And to amend my life—Firm purpose of amendment is necessary for forgiveness. My intention is to never do again what I am sorry for. The fact that I may do it again doesn’t negate my intention. Neither does the knowledge that I am very likely to do it again due to my weakness.

Practical Application: Acts of Contrition

  • If we have not already, we should memorize an act of contrition so we always have it with us.
  • We can think about what the act of contrition says, because a well-written act of contrition is itself a catechesis on sin and its remedy.
  • We can make an act of contrition whenever we need to.
  • We can do, with God’s help, what the words say.
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Catholic homily outline for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Speak, LordWritten 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.)

Central idea: God calls men to serve. Doctrine: “To reign is to serve.” Practical application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant.

To view Lectionary 65, click here.

Central idea: God calls men to serve.

Reading 1 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

  • God was calling the youth, Samuel, to tell him something, but Samuel could not recognize the Lord’s voice because he was not yet familiar with it.
  • Yet Samuel had something which disposed him to listen to God’s word once he discerned it: he had the humble, obedient heart of a servant. When he thought Eli called him he got out of his bed and went to him. Being a boy, Samuel probably ran.
  • How many of us need to develop that kind of heart to dispose ourselves to listen to what God has to say to us? Maybe we are not willing to spring out of our comfort and go with alacrity to a person in need who calls us. Maybe we are willing but nevertheless just don’t actually do it.
  • If we got into this habit of serving, we would then be better disposed to hearing God calling to us in all sorts of ways. And then we would already have the habit of listening and acting at once.
  • What we find is that very often what the person in need is saying is exactly what the Lord is saying. The Lord is saying, I want you to supply what that person in want wants.
  • Sometimes we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will. It’s giving us an order we don’t want to obey. We don’t have the heart of a humble, obedient servant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

  • What better prayer is there than, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will”?
  • What better desire is there than to want God’s will?
  • What better habit is there than always being ready to do God’s will?
  • Samuel and all the prophets and many other servants of God in the Old Covenant had this disposition.
  • Jesus Christ perfectly embodied this, and by doing so redeemed the world.
  • Our Lord taught this same virtue to the apostles and disciples he personally called.
  • We have learned this disposition through the word and example of Christ’s followers who came before us.
  • God calls others to this outlook through our word and example—all of us are evangelizers.

Reading 2 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

  • It is clear from the context what St. Paul means here by the “immorality” which the Christian must avoid. He is referring to sins against the virtue of chastity. He specifically condemns practices that people today want to permit.
  • Our bodies belong to Christ because he has purchased them at the price of his Passion.
  • Paul makes the startling statement that “the Lord is for the body.” God made us not just as animals or not as angels but as embodied souls. Our bodies are good in themselves. In addition, our intellect, free will, and ability to love and to be in communion with others are all expressed through our bodies.
  • God being “for the body” goes even farther than how he has created us. In redeeming us, he has also glorified our bodies by making them temples of the Holy Spirit. This is all the more reason that we should live the virtue of purity.
  • Frankly, one of the obstacles to being able to say “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will” and why we don’t have the humble, obedient heart of a servant is that we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will in the matter of chastity of the body.

Gospel Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

  • The Church began first as a family—the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Now, Jesus begins to bring in men, men who will become his Apostles, to build his Church with its hierarchal structure.
  • According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and John were followers of John the Baptist. John the Baptist gives these two disciples what seems to be a signal: He points out Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
  • What would Lamb of God mean to them? There was the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the final plague in Egypt (Ex 12). Jews were reminded of this lamb every Passover. And there also was the mysterious suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as an offering for sin (Is 53).
  • So, these two young men followed Jesus, who turned and asked them a question which was both an “ice breaker” and one of the most profound questions one person can ask another: “What are you looking for?”
  • It sounds as if Andrew and John don’t know what to reply, so one asks, “Where are you staying?” But if Andrew and John are disciples of John the Baptist, they must be looking, most of all, for the Messiah, God’s anointed one who will restore Israel.
  • So they stayed with him. We don’t know what Our Lord said or did but by the next day Andrew was able to go to his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.”
  • When Andrew led Simon to Jesus, this man, whom John gave the mysterious title Lamb of God, gave Simon a mysterious name, Cephas, meaning rock. Simon and the other Apostles and disciples whom Christ gathered to himself would eventually learn that Simon Peter is the Rock on whom the Lord will build his Church.

Doctrine: “To reign is to serve”

  • Christ perfectly embodied the words, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” He was the servant of the will of the Father. His heart was meek, humble, and obedient.
  • “Christ, King and Lord of the universe,” exercised his royal office, his kingship, by making “himself the servant of all, for he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mt 20: 28; CCC 786).
  • Each Christian shares in the royal office of Christ. How? “For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve him,’ particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’,” as Lumen Gentium puts it (LG §8; CCC 786).
  • Our Lord underlined this servant leadership at the Last Supper after he had donned an apron and washed the feet of his disciples. “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).
  • In this light we can be helped by a passage some atheists try to use against the Faith, because it is advice that St. Paul gave to slaves who converted.
    • “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Eph 6:5-8).

Practical Application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant

  • We are all slaves of God because we have been purchased by Christ at the cost of his Passion, as St. Paul reminded the Corinthians.
  • We all have earthly masters.
    • We all have someone or many persons to whom we owe legitimate obedience, because they have just authority over us.
    • We all also have another kind of earthly master—anyone in need of our service, because whenever we serve anyone in need, we serve Christ. Lumen Gentium reminds us this is the case “particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’.” Keep in mind, though, that poverty and suffering come in many forms and degrees and are all around us.
    • Thus, opportunities to serve are always close at hand.
  • We serve with purity of heart. This is the fear, trembling, and singleness of heart that St. Paul refers to.
    • The “eye-service” and men-pleasing St. Paul refers to is duplicity in which we serve or obey to look good, to be well thought of, to be praised, to flatter others, to manipulate others in some way, or even just to keep out of trouble.
  • There is in Christian service something that looks like duplicity but is not. If it is necessary—because the service is hard—the Christian servant looks through the person he is obeying or serving, or through the task that is onerous, and sees Christ in that person or the will of God in that task. This is why the will remains good and praiseworthy in the eyes of God. The Christian recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder in that person or work.
  • Real service is also attentive: “The eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress” (Ps 123). We do this so as to anticipate need and to supply. In other words, we see what needs to be done and do it without being ordered or asked.
  • Service is very often—almost always—physical and humble. It is changing the diaper, or putting paper in the copying machine, or emptying the dishwasher, or listening to the person speaking, or putting aside the “important” thing you prefer for another.
  • The motivation for Christian service is to receive back from Christ what we have given in our service. But even more we are moved simply to be like Christ, being real children of God who are really princes and princesses, kings and queens, who reign in this world by serving.
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Mary the Mother of God – Catholic homily outline

thotokos iconTo access a doctrinal homily outline for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, January 1, 2015, click here.

To view the lectionary readings (18) , click here.

A doctrinal homily outline for the Epiphany based on the lectionary (20) readings can by found by clicking the tab for Year B on the menu bar and then clicking on the Epiphany.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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