Recent Homilies and Reflections

October 15, 2017 The Wedding Banquet Homily:  In 1966, the American writer and author of the critically praised novel, “In Cold Blood”, Truman Capote, hosted a lavish masquerade ball at New York’s Plaza Hotel in honor of the then publisher of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham. On the guest list were some of America’s most prominent citizens. Of the 540 on the list, not one declined the invitation. All attended the grand feast.  According to the local scribes, it turned out to be “the party of the century”. Nevertheless, not everyone was pleased. Those who failed to receive an invitation were bitterly disappointed and worried that they were, for some unknown reason, demoted from the exclusive club known as the “A-list”. They never forgave the writer for his inexcusable snub.

In reflecting on today’s gospel reading, the parable of the Wedding Banquet, from Matthew’s twenty-second chapter, we must bear in mind that the great events of Holy Week are fast approaching. The arrest and condemnation of Jesus is impending.

A wedding is a universal symbol of communal joy. In the parable (Mt.22:1-14), a father wants to throw the greatest party on earth on the occasion of his beloved son’s wedding He is bound and determined to make the wedding a huge success. He has watched carefully over every stage of its planning and execution, and goes out of his way to ensure that the invited guests attend to the wedding. To be invited by one’s king to his son’s wedding must have ranked among the very greatest privileges a subject of the king’s realm could experience.

On the initial guest list are the “A-listers”, consisting of the religious aristocracy of his day:  the chief priests and elders of the people. They are given advance notice of the wedding, and have plenty of time to prepare themselves and set their agenda for the highly anticipated celebration. Regrettably, they simply could not take the time off for the banquet. “Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business”. (Mt. 22:5) By refusing to go to the feast, the “A-listers” have forsaken an opportunity to enter into the presence of the king, and share in his joy. They have unwittingly cut themselves off from the living source of joy, nourishment and happiness. As one Cistercian monk puts it, “The greatest obstacle to admission to the kingdom is not sin so much, but rather the arrogant attitude that refuses to grasp God’s hand when it is graciously and gladly extended”. In frustration, the king then turns to those who are not found on anyone’s list, the outcasts and forgotten members of the realm. They will unhesitatingly answer yes to his unexpected call. Their gratitude knows no bounds.

The “unworthy” person (Mt.22:8) is precisely the one who has been offered something great, something wholly undeserved, and turns it down.

What possible lessons can we learn from today’s parable?

The Lord is always inviting us to a feast. This is particularly true of those who participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Recall the words of the priest just prior to the reception of Holy Communion, namely, “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb”. To be admitted in the Divine Presence and share his company is a blessing unlike any other.

This parable calls our attention to the many nominal Christians in our midst. They are the ones who are too busy, too distracted by the passing things of life to take God’s call with the utmost seriousness. They have been called to the feast but have given no evidence that they are worthy to share in its many blessings.

Although we are invited to the banquet of the Eucharist now and to the banquet at the end of time, the heavenly banquet, it is not enough just to belong to the Church. We must be properly dressed. The so-called wedding garment suggests a life of good deeds, prayer and sacrifice.

Noteworthy in today’s parable is the absence of the bride. She is not mentioned at all. Why?

According to the mystics who are undoubtedly influenced by St. Paul, the bride is the Church, and the bridegroom is Christ himself.

In our socially conscious Western world, status matters. To be on an “A-list” is to be in the company of some of the best and the brightest. But our Blessed Lord has another list, the list of whose names may greatly surprise us. Their concern is not to be members of an exclusive club, but only to be in the presence of the one who has invited them to the wedding banquet.

Amen!

 

October 8, 2017 Rocky Homily: In the Academy Award winning film, “Rocky”, the featured character is a down and out 30 year old boxer from Philadelphia named Rocky Balboa. In one memorable scene, Rocky goes to his neighborhood gym, where he has trained for many years. In the locker room he discovers that he can no longer get into his locker; his combination has been changed. A fellow boxer informs him that it has been taken from him and given to an up and coming boxer, a likely contender. Rocky then confronts his long time mentor and trainer, Mickey, the owner of the gym. He demanded to know why he no longer had a locker. “Because you are a bum”, shouted Mickey. “You had the heart and the talent to be a great champion you smoke too much, abuse alcohol and never put enough time into training. What a waste of talent! And now you are working for a notorious loan shark and bookie, Gazzo. You disrespected me as your mentor. You are unworthy of the locker”.

Ouch!

The background of today’s parable of the wicked servants from the twenty-first chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel is worthy of note. Our Blessed Lord’s death is now imminent. He stands in the shadow of the holy temple in Jerusalem, where a great multitude of the faithful has gathered. There he addresses the parable to the corrupt temple officials, a small cadre of highly influential and powerful religious leaders, whose authority in religious matters was not in dispute. Jesus shows his disdain for them and issues a severe warning: “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Mt.21:43)

In the parable, the owner of the vineyard symbolizes God Himself. The vineyard symbolizes his people, the Jews, as well as the life he gives. The tenants are the caretakers of the vineyard and represent the religious leaders themselves. The servants/slaves symbolize the prophets, messengers of god who were often rejected and even killed for proclaiming God’s Word. The owner’s son represents Jesus, who is sent by his Father to his people. The parable foreshadows what will happen to the Son (Jesus). He will be led out of Jerusalem and be killed.

What does this parable have to say to us?

God has given each of us a free will and has a project for us, who are his friends, but unfortunately, too many of our contemporaries reject or ignore Him. It seems more and more baptized Christians choose to make him irrelevant and banish Him from their hearts. Mass attendance continues to dwindle and fewer Catholic’s are opting for marriage in church. Pride and selfishness prevent them from recognizing God’s most precious gift, His Beloved Son.

Generally speaking, we do not treat the prophets in our midst very well.  They make us uncomfortable, disturb our consciences. Just consider some of our recent “prophets”?

Martin Luther King, the great civil rights leader, was assassinated; the sworn enemy of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned for decades, the Russian patriot, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was convicted on false charges and later spent time in a Siberian labor camp; Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic worker movement, was arrested many times for her outspoken defense of America’s poor and marginalized.

And lastly, there is Joe Scheidler, a pro-life activist from Chicago, who suffered greatly for his defense of unborn human life. He was badly beaten, regularly trashed by the local media, threatened with death numerous times, and was sued for his activism. Legal costs almost bankrupted him.

Let us prove ourselves worthy of our vocation to serve in the Lord’s vineyard. May we always put our skills to good use for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.

In closing, Let us recall that the true vine and source of our nourishment is Christ Himself.

”I am the vine, you are its branches. If a man lives in me, and I in Him, then he will yield abundant fruit.”

Amen!

 

October 1, 2017 Keeping Promises Homily: In G.K. Chesterton’s masterful work, “Orthodoxy”, he devotes a delightful chapter to the significance of fairy tales. The renowned author finds more wisdom in those popular stories than in many of the literary classics of the past. In a typical fairy tale, maintains Chesterton,   the storyteller hopes to teach his readers, young and old, a much needed lesson. One lesson, in particular, is worthy of mention, in view of the today’s gospel reading, the parable of the Two Sons: Failing to fulfill a promise brings a curse on the one guilty of betraying the truth. Consider the following examples:

  • In the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, a young boy promises his mother to sell the family cow for money. Beguiled by a peddler, he sells the cow for three magic beans. After the beanstalk reaches magical heights, he climbs the beanstalk and finds himself in the land of the giants. He hears the ominous cry of a giant: “Fi, fy, fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman”;
  • It the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, the young girl promises to follow the path to her grandmother’s house. Instead, she wanders off the path and later meets the big, bad wolf; and
  • In the story of Snow White and the seven dwarfs, she promises her diminutive friends that she would not speak to strangers. She fails to keep her promise. She talks to a witch cleverly disguised as an old woman, who hands her an apple. Young Snow White eats the apple, and soon falls into a deep sleep.

By failing to be true to our word, we suffer the likely penalty for deception and mendacity. Here is the setting for today’s gospel. (Mt.21:28-32) Jesus is in Jerusalem. Tensions are mounting. Opposition to the rabbi from Nazareth has reached a fever pitch. The religious authorities have but one goal: to discredit Jesus and bring him down. The mystery of the cross looms.

In the parable of the two sons, there is an obvious tension between saying and doing, talk and action. The vineyard is an image of Israel, God’s chosen people. The father of the two sons is a symbol of God, the Heavenly Father. In the parable the first son initially defies his father. After having a change of heart, he decides to obey his father and go into his vineyard to labor in his behalf. The first son represents converted sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, who embraced fully John the Baptist’s call to repentance and are now worthy to fulfill the father’s wishes. To be called to labor in the vineyard of the Lord is an honor and a blessing. The second son promises his father that he will obey his father’s command. “I will go”, he declared. He paid his father lip service. He has no intention of keeping his promise. The second son represents the religious establishment of His day. They claim that they do God’s will but actually fail to do so. In Our Lord’s justly famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issues a warning to his hearers: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom but only he who does the Will of my Father in heaven”. (Mt.7:21)

Just consider how often we are disappointed by those who make promises and have no intention of fulfilling them: The politician who promises to lower taxes and fails to honor his commitment; The groom who makes solemn promises on his wedding day and is not true to his word; The parents who promise to raise their child in the practice of the faith, and disappear without a trace after the sacrament of baptism is administered.

Keep in mind that God gives us the strength to keep our promises. We have the sacraments and the prayers of the saints to sustain us on our journey of faith. At the end of the day it is Christ himself who is our role model, the servant who labored in the vineyard as the Father’s beloved Son. As St. Paul says in his famous hymn, “Christ took the form of a slave” (or servant). (Phil 2:7)

Chesterton’s chapter on “the ethics of Elfland” in his book “Orthodoxy” underscore the importance of being true to one’s word and the serious consequences of failing to do so. It is a lesson Chesterton may have learned from Christ Himself!

Amen!

 

 

Homily Archive Page

 

Comments are closed.

Follow Us!

Follow Us! Follow Us!

Events

Albany Catholic Digital Library

Catholic Answers

Catholics Come Home

Catholic Exchange

EWTN

Patriotic Rosary

Join us for the Patriotic Rosary every Thursday evening at 6pm in the Rectory.

Daily Scripture Readings

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Daily Scripture Readings Daily readings, audio files and reflections on scripture as well as other resources to broaden and deepen your faith!

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

The Evangelist On-line

The Evangelist Weekly reflections on faith, Catholicism and following Jesus!

Bishop Scharfenberger's Column

CATHOLIC COMMUNITY OF SACRED HEART – MISSION STATEMENT

The Catholic Community of Sacred Heart welcomes all people to join in our celebration of Gods love. Through prayer, education, and caring for others, we strive to serve the needs of Gods people, thereby gaining a richer understanding of the gospel message.

Mass Schedule

Saturday Vigil 4:00 pm Sunday 8:30 am & 10:30 am Weekday 9:00am

Confessions

Saturday: 3:00pm or by appointment (Call 274-1363)

Baptism

Please call the Rectory (274-1363) weekdays for information and scheduled dates.

Marriage

Please call the Rectory (274-1363) weekdays for an appointment at least six months in advance of wedding.

Hospital Visits

If you, or a loved one is admitted to the hospital, it is important that you identify yourself to the hospital as a member of Sacred Heart Parish or contact the Rectory (274-1363) to inform us of your hospitalization.

Recent Posts