29th Sunday O T Year B

29th Sunday O T Year B

Is.53:10-11; Heb.4:14-16; Mk.10: 35-45

A priest went into a Washington, D. C. barber shop for a haircut. When the barber finished, the priest asked him what the charge was and the barber responded, “No charge, Father, you are serving the Lord and I consider my service rendered to you as a service to the Lord.”

The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop he found at his front door a stack of usable Christmas cards and a note of thanks from the priest. A few days later, a police officer went to the same barber for a haircut. When he went to pay, the barber said, “No charge, officer.

I consider it a service to our community because you serve our community.” The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were a dozen donuts at the front door and a note of thanks from the policeman.

A few days after this an influential senator came in for a haircut.

“No charge, Senator, I consider it a service to my country.”

The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there were two congressmen waiting for their chance for the barber’s free service, carrying a note of thanks from the Senator!

Today’s readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done to others and offer Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s kingdom.

The gospel teaches us that true happiness comes from surrendering ourselves completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all we need is a servant’s heart, mind, eyes and touch.

Our Gospel reading for today is another classic text on the question of ambition. For the third time, (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:32), Jesus predicts his own death.

In spite of Jesus’ two previous predictions, James and John still thought of him as a revolutionary freedom-fighter and shared the Jewish belief that the Messiah would be a political king, sitting on David’s throne and ruling over a re-united Israel.

They thought that they were sure that the purpose of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem was to overthrow the Roman rulers. Hence, they wanted an assurance from Jesus that he would make them his first- and second-in- command in his messianic kingdom.

James and John picked a bad moment. St John Chrysostom said, “Their timing was precisely wrong for this was not the right time for crowns or prizes.

It was the time for struggles, contests, toils, sweat, wrestling rings and battles.” Jesus is going deliberately towards suffering and death.

It is easy to imagine that procession: Jesus striding ahead, the disciples following in a daze, and the crowd bewildered. Normal prudence would urge us to avoid suffering and death – to go in the other direction.

But this scene is telling us something about the wisdom of the cross. The request of James and John revealed their lack of understanding of true leadership.

They were looking for positions of power and prestige. They thought that leadership came from where you sat rather than how you served.

Jesus gave them a sharp rebuke when he said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

Without fully understanding what Jesus meant, James and John quickly affirmed that they could share in their master’s cup and baptism.

They had no understanding of the personal cost that lay behind these two images. To drink the cup is to accept the reality of suffering and to do God’s will in the midst of it, as Jesus did in Gethsemane.

Those who follow the way of Jesus and seek to imitate his example of servant leadership must be willing even to suffer for others.

Naturally, the request of James and John angered the other disciples. They were upset that James and John had tried to gain some advantage over them.

So Jesus called them all together to give them yet another lecture on real leadership in the kingdom of God.

Jesus told his disciples plainly what his mission was, how he was going to accomplish it and what should be the criteria of greatness among his disciples.

He summarized his mission in one sentence, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Here, he challenged his apostles to share not only his power, but his service, by sacrificing themselves for others as he had done.

According to Jesus, greatness consists not in what we have, nor in what we can get from others but in what we give to others.

The CEO in Jesus’ kingdom is the one who serves the needs of all the others. Very often, people in authority act as if others exist only to serve them.

We forget the fact that authority is different from power. Power is something a person has and forces on people. Authority is something a person gains – it’s given to one by the people one leads. One can gain authority from those one leads only through service and sacrifice.

When people see that a person has their best interests at heart and is willing to sacrifice and serve them, they will be willing to follow. That’s real leadership and authority.

Jesus saw authority as an opportunity to serve others rather than to promote his own honor and glory.

He connected authority with selfless service. He considered authority without sacrificial love as merely self-serving. We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others.

To become an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others, to intentionally seek the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves.

Let me end with the words of Rabindranath Tagore an Indian Poet. “I discovered that Service is Joy.” It may sound unbelievable, but it is true that Asia’s first Nobel Prize winner in Literature (1913), Rabindranath Tagore, was behind the three great national anthems of three nations.

The nations are Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. He was also the first non-westerner to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He did so in 1913. He wrote this short poem:

I slept and dreamt that life was Joy;

Then I awoke and realized that life was Service.

And then I went to work – and, lo and behold,

I discovered that Service is Joy.

We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. As Christians, we are all invited to serve others – and to serve with a smile!

Be Blessed And Be A Blessing. Amen.

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28th Sunday OT Year B

28th Sunday O T Year B

Wis.7:7-11, Heb.4:12-13, Mk.10:17-30

A little child was playing one day with a very valuable vase. All of a sudden he put his hand into it and could not withdraw it. His dad, too, tried his best, but all in vain. They were thinking of breaking the vase when the father said, “Now, my son, make one more try.

Open your hand and hold your fingers out straight as you see me doing, and then pull.” To the Dad’s astonishment the little fellow said, “Oh no, Dad. I couldn’t put my fingers out like that, because if I did I would drop my pennies that I have in my hand.

Many of us are like that little boy, so busy holding on to the worthless pennies of the world that we cannot accept liberation.

The rich young man in today’s gospel is just another example.

He wants eternal life but will not let go “the peanuts” of riches. The young man is a metaphor of all our lives. His story deserves our attention.

Today’s readings remind us that we do not possess anything in our life that we refuse to surrender to the Lord. In reality these things often possess us, and we become the prisoners of our possessions.

The first reading advises us to use the God-given virtue of prudence and to seek true wisdom in preference to vanishing realities like riches or political and social influence.

Solomon chose Wisdom before everything else. But when he accepted Wisdom, he received everything else along with her.

The second reading warns us that we are accountable before God as to how we use our blessings.

In today’s Gospel we find three sections:

A narrative about Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ sayings about wealth as a possible obstacle to following him and Jesus’ promise of reward for those who share their material possessions with the needy.

Let me quote a sentence from the first reading. “I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me…. Compared with her I held riches as nothing.”

This is the background to the gospel story of the rich young man, who made the wrong choice: when the choice was put to him “his face fell and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.”

This man (in Matthew, a young man) runs up to Jesus and with totally exaggerated courtesy asks him what he must do, etc. Full marks for enthusiasm, but none for follow-through.

You can imagine him running up to any and every new teacher, and turning away disappointed when they asked him to change his life.

He wanted religion as entertainment; he was interested in using religion for his own purposes, perhaps, without being challenged by it. We all have that in us. Some of us avoid the challenge by refusing to change, others by changing all the time.

The rich young man was a true believer in the other God: Mammon. There can be no final peace between these; they are the ultimate rivals. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt.6:24). Some people would say, “Can we not serve God and Mammon?

We become very skilled at keeping them in combination. Sometimes we are capable of using God as a cover for our worship of Mammon.

More commonly we serve God, as we imagine, but with the mind of Mammon, calculating in every area of life as if everything were bargains and profit.

But the most common solution of all is to keep them in separate worlds; God in the world of theory and Mammon in the world of practice. Is there any hope for us? Yes, there’s always hope.

As usual, Mark shows a more ‘feeling’ Jesus. Matthew and Luke write simply, “Jesus answered…”, but Mark writes, “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and said….”

From Matthew and Luke you could get the impression that the rich man was a write-off. True, he is never heard of again in the New Testament, but could anyone whom Jesus loved be a write-off?

Jesus did not demand perfection of him; he just held it before him as an invitation.

An invitation is by its nature optional; you cannot imagine Jesus taking any kind of revenge on him for refusing it. There are stages in our life, and the Lord has more patience with us than we have with ourselves or with one another.

All three Gospel writers say that the rich man became “sad.” They didn’t need to say that Jesus was sad, because it was so obvious. The Twelve were all called individually by Jesus, and they all followed. Even Judas followed for three years.

But the rich young man is the only one in the New Testament who was called individually and did not follow. “He went away sorrowful, because he was very rich” (Matt.19:22).

There is nothing quite like wealth for closing the ears and the mind, for deadening the conscience.

After a while it also closes the eyes, so that we no longer see the poor. That rich young man is never heard of again in the New Testament. He might have become a greater apostle even than Peter or John.

A wealthy older gentleman had just recently married a lovely young lady, and was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So he asked her, “Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?”

She said reassuringly, “Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly.” Obviously, this young man who came to Jesus in search of eternal life really wanted to be accepted by Jesus as a disciple.

However, Jesus did not want this man as a disciple on his own terms, but rather on Jesus’ terms. The young man claimed that, from his youth, he had observed all the commandments Jesus mentioned, including the fourth commandment.

His tragedy was that he loved “things” more than people. He was trapped by the idea that he could keep his possessions and still obtain God’s mercy. He failed to realize the fact that his riches had built a wall between himself and God.

In other words, his possessions “possessed” him. Even though the rich man had never killed, stolen, or committed adultery, he was breaking both the commandment forbidding idolatry and the one commanding love of neighbor. He worshiped his wealth more than God.

We need to “Do something beautiful for God” by reaching out to others. That’s the message we need to reflect on. Our most precious possession is our souls.

Let us give ourselves away and give lavishly. Mother Teresa puts it in a different way: “Do something beautiful for God. Do it with your life. Do it every day. Do it in your own way. But do it!”

We all have something in our lives that serves as a major obstacle to happiness and peace. We must recognize this obstacle and address it head-on. It may not be riches – it may be anger, holding grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy, lies, unfaithfulness, theft, or fraud.

Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face and remove that one obstacle to holiness. We have a decision to make: whether to go away sad like the rich young man, or to follow Jesus and be happy. Let us choose Happiness.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

Homily for Respect Life Sunday

Homily for Respect Life Sunday

Hb.1:2-3; 2:2-4; II Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

Since this is Respect Life Sunday, and the beginning of Respect Life month, I would like to talk about the respect for Life. “Each of us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation”, says Pope Francis. Pope Francis is a masterpiece of God’s Creation.

What Catholics most clearly offer the rest of the world is our inherent and deep belief that every human being is a masterpiece of God, from womb to tomb. We hear these words all the time and they are powerful. What is even more powerful is when these words become our own.

Then we become walking billboards of this inherent dignity message to the world. How do you become this walking billboard? By the transformation of your heart by God.

That’s how a transformed heart changes your views on everything. A transformed heart changes your views not just on somethings, but on all things.

The horrifying truth is this: we live now in a culture that not only does not respect life, but discards it like trash — not only at the beginning of life, but also at the end, and every place in between. What has happened to us?

Life has become disposable. I like to give you some facts. The number of unborn children slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers in the last 25 years is 1200 million in the world and 37 million in the U.S.A. (4400 per day in the U.S.).

“Planned Parenthood” in the U. S. does 327653 abortions a year or 900 abortions per day. Almost half of the women in the US over the age of 40 have undergone an abortion, with or without the consent of the baby’s father.

Hundreds of old or terminally ill people are killed in advanced countries under the names “mercy-killing” or euthanasia. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all U.S. men. It took the lives of 30,622 people in U.S.A. in 2001.

It is the third leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old youngsters (19 adolescents each day) and only 5% of suicides are attributed to mental illness. There are also Embryo-destruction for scientific experiments.

Why should we respect life? The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and, hence, we have to respect it from womb to tomb. Abortion attempts to destroy a work of God. Based on the word of God, the Church teaches that an unborn child from the moment of its conception in its mother’s womb is precious because he or she carries an immortal soul.

It is God’s commandment that we shall not kill. Ex.20:13: “You shall not kill.” The circumstances of how the baby was conceived do not change the evil of abortion: it is still a baby who is killed.

Every tiny human embryo can grow into a child, and modern medical technology can enable the unborn child to survive outside its mother’s womb after five and one-half months. At two weeks’ pregnancy, the baby can move alone. The baby’s heart starts beating from the 25th day and the baby’s brain starts functioning on the 40th day.

International Law forbids the killing of innocent, defenseless people. Abortion is the killing of a defenseless child in his or her safest abode, the womb, by his or her own mother, mostly for selfish motives.

Abortion harms women physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. 93% of the abortions in America are for convenience.

The mother’s health is an issue only 3% of the time, and the baby’s health is an issue 3% of the time. Rape and incest are issues only 1% of the time. Ninety-three percent of all abortions in America are performed because of selfishness, just because someone doesn’t want a child!

Advocates of pro-choice follow a dangerous principle of far-reaching consequences in the society. If it is justifiable to kill unwanted children by abortion, then the old, the sick, the handicapped, the mentally ill, and the retarded can also be killed. It is all against the 6th commandment.

Pope Francis, who has captivated the world by his own beautiful heart said, “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect”

In reference to pregnant women, the term “with child” occurs twenty-six times in the Bible. The term “with fetus” never occurs. The Bible never uses anything less than human terms to describe the unborn (Exodus 21:22-23).

In Luke chapter one, verses 36 and 41, we are told that Elizabeth conceived a “son” and that the “babe” leaped in her womb. God does not say that a “fetus” leaped in her womb! Elizabeth greets Mary (in her early pregnancy) as “my Lord’s mother.”

If God allows a child to be conceived, then God obviously has a plan for unborn children (Jer.1:5; Lk.1:13-17; Gen.4:25; Jud.13:3-5), and so to abort an unborn child is to stop a plan of God:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you… Psalm 139:13: You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!”

We need to respect and protect all forms of human life from conception to natural death; we need to work and pray vigorously to end the culture of death. We need to speak and act against abortion in private and public forums.

Protecting human life is no more a sectarian creed than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian document. Because all rights depend on life, the right to life is the most fundamental issue of all; if that is eliminated, the rest will follow.

We need to work to have the government enact anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia and anti-Physician- assisted suicide laws; these killings violate justice, and therefore the command of God to love one another.

We need to give real care, support and assistance to mothers with unwanted pregnancies, contemplating abortion. Helping a woman choose life affirms and empowers her. We need to teach the Church’s doctrines on abortion.

The Church cares about the women who have had abortions, forgives them, heals them, brings them peace with God, with their lost children and with themselves. The Church promises any woman who has had an abortion that if she truly repents of her sin, she will find welcome and forgiveness.

However, she has to understand the fact that abortion is a mortal sin, and it brings an automatic excommunication upon those who procure it, perform it, or cooperate in it.

Prayer to End Abortion: Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life, and for the lives of all my brothers and sisters. I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, Yet, I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son.

I am ready to do my part in ending abortion. Today I commit myself never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn.

I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, and never to stop defending life until all my brothers and sisters are protected, and our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!