OT XXXI [A] Sunday (Nov 5) (Eight-minute homily in one page)
OT XXXI [A] Sunday (Nov 5) (Eight-minute homily in one page)
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a strong invitation and challenge to render humble, selfless, diligent, committed, loving service to others in the community without expecting honor or rewards in return. Today’s Gospel is a warning against hypocrisy and status-seeking, given to the early Church and to our own Church communities.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Malachi condemns the irresponsible, proud, lazy priests of his day. In the second reading, St. Paul presents himself as an ideal example of servant leadership in a serving Christian community. In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against contemporary religious leaders who are more concerned about self-promotion than service to others. Christ-like leadership calls for integrity and honesty from all those in authority, whether priests, parents, teachers or politicians. There should be in leaders no double standards. Rather, there should grow a deep sense of equality with, and mutual respect between, leaders and those they rule. Each should seek to serve the other. Service, not status, is the mark of this new community, and true humility is the only position its members should seek.
Life messages: 1) We need to become servant leaders in a serving community: The Church is a servant community in which the hungry are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless to receive shelter; the sick to be cared for; the distressed, consoled; and the oppressed, set free so that they may more fully realize their human potential and more readily enjoy life with God. Hence, the leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed. “The measure of a true Christian is not how many servants he has, but how many people he serves.” 2) We need to live the Faith we profess. Religious people are all too often like the Pharisees and scribes, laying heavy loads on other people’s shoulders without lifting a finger to help them. Instead of judging the poor, we should be serving them through our efforts for economic justice. Instead of criticizing those of other races, we should be serving them through our efforts for racial justice. Instead of ignoring the homeless, we should be serving them through efforts to supply them with adequate housing. We need to live the Faith we profess. Our Faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Heavenly Father. The only way for us to practice our Faith is to build a human community of love and justice. 3) We need to learn the art of self-examination, and accept the responsibilities which go with our titles. Instead of criticizing others for their failures, let us ask whether we are different from them in discharging our duties in the family and in the parish community. Let us remember that our titles should remind us of our specific responsibilities in society and our obligation to discharge them faithfully. (L/23)
O.T. XXXI (Nov 5): Mal 1:14b—2b, 8-10; I Thes 2:7b-9, 13; Mt 23:1-12
Anecdote: 1) Elephantine shock therapy. The story has been told of a lion who was very proud. He decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures. He strutted his way through the forest until he came across a bear. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, BEAR?” “Why of course you are, mighty lion.” He went on until he found the tiger. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, TIGER?” ‘Why you are, great lion.” Next the lion found the elephant. “WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, ELEPHANT?” The elephant instantly grabbed the lion with his trunk and spun him around a few times and slammed him to the ground. He then stepped on him a few times, picked him up and dunked him in the water and then threw him up against a tree. The lion staggered to his feet and said, “LOOK, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET SO UPSET!’” -- The lion was the one who wasn’t getting it. He was missing the truth, just as were many of the scribes and Pharisees and Jewish priests to whom Jesus gives an elephantine shock treatment in today’s Gospel.
2) Life matching our words: Thomas Jefferson was the chief drafter of the American Declaration of Independence. One cannot but admire the brilliance and boldness of the words; “All people are created equal, and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Thomas Jefferson was also one of the signatories of the Declaration. -- It will come then as a surprise to learn that Jefferson and some of the other signatories were slave owners. It is one of the ironies in history that they denied to millions of people the very freedom they were demanding for themselves. This illustrates the immense disparity between human aspirations and human performance. In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the priests and Pharisees of his time for the disparity.
(Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
3) Acquired situational narcissism. Someone in our day who has a prideful self-centeredness, we say, has the disease of Narcissism. The name comes from Greek mythology and refers to a handsome young man, Narcissus, a proud hunter. He was the son of the River God Cephissus and the nymph Liroipe and was known for his physical beauty. Narcissus was arrogant and scorned those who loved him. His conduct offended Nemesis (the goddess who punished evil deeds, overweening pride and undeserved good fortune). She drew the young man to a clear poor where he saw and fell in love with the beauty of the one he saw reflected there. He was so obsessed with the image he saw, he neither ate nor drank, and finally died (From Wikipedia: Narcissus, Nemesis). -- Both the prophet Malachi in the first reading and Jesus in today’s Gospel react strongly against such narcissism among the religious leaders of their times. Even though most of our religious leaders will never be at risk for getting Acquired Situational Narcissism, they, too, have the temptation to become overly self-involved. They, too, sometimes imagine minor-league celebrity status for themselves and become prima donnas in the office or at Church or in public places. Today’s Scriptures have a strong warning for them.
4) “First President of the U. S. to lose a war.” People do crazy things out of pride. One of the people whose reputation is being somewhat enhanced by the changes in the Soviet Union is Nikita Khrushchev. Some of us remember Khrushchev simply as the man who pounded his shoe on the table at the United Nations and said, "We will bury you." Actually, Khrushchev was a reformer and a relatively responsible man. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Khrushchev was advised by his military experts to confront the United States. These advisors felt that the biggest tragedy would not be a nuclear confrontation but rather a perception by the Chinese or the Albanians that they were weak. Fortunately, Khrushchev did not listen to them. He called them maniacs and said, "What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that, though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact?" Contrast his attitude with that of a former President of the U. S. who, during the Vietnam War, was determined not to be the first President of the U. S. to lose a war. We don't know how many lives were lost because of that attitude. -- Pride can be a deadly emotion, and it is not the sole possession of those at the top of society. In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the proud Pharisees.
Introduction: A strong invitation to render humble, committed and loving service to others in the community is the main theme of all three of today's readings. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi condemns the irresponsible, proud, lazy priests of his day. In the second reading, St. Paul presents himself as an ideal example of servant leadership in caring for his Christian community. In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a word of judgment against those religious leaders of his day who have been more concerned with self-promotion than with giving loving service to others. Christ-like leadership calls for integrity and honesty from all those in authority, whether priests, parents, teachers or politicians. There should be in leaders no double standards. Rather, there should grow a deep sense of equality with, and mutual respect between, leaders and those they rule. Each should seek to serve the other. Service, not status, is the mark of this new community, and true humility is the only position its members should seek.
The first reading, Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10: In today's Gospel, Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of many religious leaders of his day. The first reading prepares us for the full force of Jesus’ warning by showing Malachi pouring out God’s curses on the unfaithful priests of his time -- around 450 BC, after Judah's return from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple. The priests of this period were indifferent to their rituals and their teaching responsibilities, and were often unfair in the judgments they made about people. Through Malachi, the Lord God thunders, "You have turned aside from the way and have caused many to falter by your instruction... You do not keep my ways." Further, the Lord God emphatically condemns the Temple priests for not teaching His messages and not carrying out His commands; He says to them, “I, therefore have made you contemptible and base before all the people.” Sad to say, many modern clerics of all denominations have a lot in common with the clerics of Malachi's day. No wonder so many of our faithful go "outside the system" we've created in order to discover Who God really is, and what He really wants of them.
The second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13: The itinerant teachers of religions in those days had a reputation for avarice and pride. That is why Paul frequently emphasizes his unique leadership style. He tries to convince the Thessalonians that the message they received was not just human teaching, but rather the word of God. He reminds them that when he was among them, he was careful not to “sponge” on them and not even to ask them for his own livelihood. Unlike the Pharisees and Jewish teachers, Paul wanted to be a burden to no one, so the Thessalonians and the rest of Paul’s communities, experienced Jesus' love through Paul’s love. Today, many priests, deacons and lectors are faithfully, humbly, and generously carrying on Jesus’ mission to the world as Paul did, sharing the word of God with those who believe. To do this, each prays and strives for the zeal and integrity of a life lived for Jesus, like Paul's, and for Paul’s kind of leadership (like that of a shepherd for sheep, of or a father for his children), which nurtures mutual love between him and those to whom he speaks and freely offers loving service to all of them.
Exegesis: The context: For Jesus in Jerusalem, it was the third day of what we have come to call “Holy Week.” It was a day of controversy and personal attacks. Jesus was under fire and challenged the religious leaders of Israel for rejecting him as Messiah. Luke’s account records three woes Jesus called down upon the Pharisees and four He called down upon the scribes. Matthew’s account arranges these (23:13-36) into a series of seven woes against the "scribes and Pharisees," whom Jesus calls hypocrites and publicly humbles by telling them God’s truth about their lives. The passage in Matthew consists of the seven prophetic woes and a prophetic lament over the fate of Jerusalem. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus denounces the "scribes" for their pious pretensions, their hunger for status, and their exploitation of widows. This confrontation looks forward to the bitter conflict which would arise between Pharisaic Judaism and the Early Church where many of the faults found in Jesus’ opponents were present. To some extent, these faults are still present in the Church. In this Gospel incident, then, we are all warned of the danger and advised strongly to consider our own conduct and attitudes carefully, lest we, too, suffer these “woes.”
The basis of religious authority. The Jewish religious leaders taught the continuity of the Faith: God gave Israel the Law through Moses, and appointed him the Law’s official teacher. Moses handed this responsibility on to Joshua; Joshua transmitted it to the elders; the elders passed it down to each next generation. Meanwhile, the prophets were periodically sent as messengers of God directly to Israel to remind the chosen people of His promise of Deliverance and to warn them of the Lord God’s displeasure with their failures to keep the Law. They were also instructed to tell Israel of the wrath that would be visited upon the whole nation unless they all reformed. From these two sources, the scribes and Pharisees received the Law (Torah) and the authority to teach and interpret it for all Israel. That is, they held the “seat of Moses," their duty to interpret for the people the true meaning and application of the written and oral tradition providing the link to Moses, the lawgiver. Hence, in spite of their personal failings, these scribes and Pharisees were stewards of a great spiritual treasure and they were to be respected for their role as official teachers and interpreters of the Torah. Jesus wanted his disciples to avail themselves of that treasure and to receive from these teachers, expert counsel on spiritual matters. As a pious Jew, Jesus demanded that his disciples honor the office that these men occupied, to do what they taught, at least insofar as their teachings accorded with the Torah (especially in observing and applying the two principles underlying the Ten Commandments -- the principles of reverence and respect), but not to do what they did or live as they lived. This meant that the Disciples of Christ also should have reverence for God, His name, and His day, for the parents God had given them and for a man's life, his possessions, and his good name.
Warning to First Century Church and to future Christians: The scribes in the time of Jesus were like today’s religious intellectuals, theologians, and professional lawyers who are adept in applying the Law to everyday life. The Pharisees formed a fraternity of highly religious laymen who joined together to observe the Mosaic Law meticulously. Matthew’s description of Jesus’ criticism of the scribes and the Pharisees was mainly directed toward elements within the Judeo-Christian community which sought to impose an extremely narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah on the Gentile converts. Jesus’ condemnations were meant also as a warning to future Christian leaders about possible abuses of authority in their own ministry. They were never to say one thing and do another. Instead, they should faithfully follow their Master’s teaching and avoid titles and practices which would imply arrogant superiority which can lead to hypocrisy. The Holy Spirit, through Matthew’s account, emphatically reminds us that Jesus never intended His followers to divide themselves into "clergy and laity," into "superior and inferior, " but rather intended a community of mutual love and service in which the leaders and teachers were to be servants of those they led and taught.
Catechism of the Catholic Church as servant leadership of bishops and priests: Bishops and priests have authority over the laity, given to them by Christ (CCC #876). Yet the character of their ministry must be service. “Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly ‘slaves of Christ,’ in the image of him who freely took ‘the form of a slave’ for us” (CCC #876). The Catechism reminds them, “Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.” (CCC #876). The priesthood, then, “depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood” and “it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church” (CCC #1551). “The exercise of this authority must, therefore, be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all” (CCC #1551). For the bishop or priest, concern for Christ’s flock is “proof of love for him” (CCC #1551).
Three sins of the Scribes and Pharisees: Jesus raises three objections to the Pharisees: they do not practice what they preach, they adopt a very narrow and burdensome interpretation of the Torah, and they seek public acknowledgment of their spiritual superiority. (1) Hypocrisy: "They do not practice what they teach" (v. 3)) Their deeds did not match their words. They meant what they said, but they did not do what they meant. They lacked integrity of life and failed to practice what they preached. They created a double standard -- they commanded one thing for those they taught, but lived the opposite. When parents create double standards by forbidding, or commanding, their children to avoid, or to do, what they have no hesitation in avoiding, or doing themselves, they make the same mistake. (2) Legalism: “They overburden the ordinary people” (v. 4). In metaphorical language, Jesus accused Israel's religious authorities of imposing on the people heavy obligations that were difficult to obey. The scribes and the Pharisees, in their excessive zeal for God’s laws, split the 613 laws of the Torah into thousands of rules and regulations affecting every movement of the people, thus making the observance of God’s laws a heavy burden. Some Pharisaic Scribes distinguished "heavy" or serious commandments and "light" or less serious commandments. The Jewish theological school led by the great rabbi Hillel typically favored a broad interpretation of the Law, while the other school, headed by Shammai, typically favored a strict or narrow interpretation. Instead of allowing any relaxation, they "built a fence around the Law." Thus, they failed to realize the truth that when religion becomes a depressing affair of burdens and prohibitions rather than a source of love, life, and growth, it ceases to be true religion. It dies, and its adherents either leave it to live or cling to it and die with it. Jesus also condemns the lack of compassion of religious leaders, shown in their unwillingness to interpret and apply laws in a way that would make obedience less onerous. By contrast, Jesus offers an easy yoke, a light burden, and rest for the soul (11:29-30).
(3) Seekers of vain glory displaying proud exhibitionism: "They do all their deeds to be seen by others" (v. 5) As a prophetic peacemaker, Jesus challenges those who pervert religion into an opportunity to gain personal honor, glory, and power. Jesus accuses the scribes and Pharisees of seeking for themselves the glory that rightly belongs to God. The real goal of the Pharisees was to dress and act in such a way as to draw attention to themselves instead of glorifying God. In their misguided zeal for religion, they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God. They expressed their love of honor in several ways, thereby converting Judaism into a religion of ostentation.
(i) "They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long" (v. 5). In order to fulfill the instruction, “The commandments of God shall be to you as a sign on your hand, and a memorial between your eyes” (Ex 13:9), the Jews wore tefillin or phylacteries. These were small leather boxes containing four Scripture passages, including part of the Shema prayer (Dt 6:4-9), which were strapped on the wrist and the forehead. The Pharisees, in order to draw attention to themselves, not only wore phylacteries, but wore especially large ones in order to demonstrate their obedience to the Law and their exemplary piety. In Nm 15:37-41 and in Dt 22:12, we read that God commanded his people to make tassels or fringes on the four corners of their garments, so that when they looked at them they might remember the commandments of God and their obligation to keep them. The Pharisees made large, showy tassels meant to draw public attention to themselves.
(ii) They "love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues" (v 6). The Pharisees liked to be given the principal places at meals, on the left and on the right of the host. In the synagogue, the front seats actually faced the entire congregation, much as the chair of the priest does in churches today. The Pharisees chose those front seats facing the congregation in the synagogues and conducted themselves throughout the service with an exaggerated piety which the congregation could not fail to notice.
(iii) They "love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi" (v 7). The Pharisees liked to be addressed as "Rabbi" and to be treated with a respect greater than that given to parents, claiming that, as religious teachers, they were the ones who gave men eternal life while the parents gave only physical life. They liked to be called “father,” as Elisha called Elijah (2Kgs 2:12), and they liked to be known as the fathers of the Faith. Jesus insists that the Christian should remember that he has one teacher only -- Christ; and one Father only -- God. In its Aramaic form, the word Abba, "Father," expresses Jesus' unique relationship with God, a sacred Name that is every believer's privilege to use by right of Baptism. "Avoid being called teachers." The terms master/teacher apply only to the Messiah, the sole spiritual director and guide of our conscience. In this regard, those who object to calling Catholic priests "Father" should note that Paul and other early Christian writers thought of themselves as fathers to their congregations (1 Cor 4:14-15; John 2:18).
Jesus' Criticisms about religious leadership in his day summarized: They did not practice what they taught (hypocrisy). They put heavy burdens on others but not themselves (legalism). They sought and loved public recognition (pride). Status, respect and titles, were important to them (arrogance). They locked people out of the kingdom (judgmental). They established laws to benefit themselves (greed). They neglected to emphasize justice and mercy (bias). They were accomplices to silencing the prophets (oppressive). In today’s Gospel, we see the tragedy of being religious without being the real deal, of placing primary emphasis on outer conduct rather than on inner character. Those to whom Jesus speaks did not recognize their need to be changed. These people may talk a good fight of Faith, but when they are forced to fall back upon their inner resources of Faith, they discover that the tank is empty. Jesus says, "Don't imitate them for they don't practice what they teach." All flowers, no fruit.
Christian caste system: Matthew’s account suggests that in the first century Church a Christian caste system was starting to emerge, with leaders beginning to wear distinctive clothes and demand titles like Rabbi, Teacher, Father, and Master. According to the evangelist’s account, any religious stratification runs counter to Jesus' teachings. Jesus condemns the coveting of titles, distinctive clothes, places of honor, and marks of public respect. Such demands on the part of leaders make it impossible for the community to truly experience Jesus. "The greatest among you," he reminds his community, "must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." What is implied in each of Jesus' statements about the Pharisees is that Christian leaders should do the opposite. They should practice what they preach, follow Jesus in lightening the yoke of the Torah (see Mt 11:28-30), seek to forego claims to honor from other human beings (see Mt 6:1, 3, 6, 18), and prefer lower status to lording it over others.
Life messages: 1) We need to become servant leaders in a serving community: The Church is a servant community in which the hungry are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless to receive shelter; the sick to be cared for; the distressed, consoled; and the oppressed, set free. In this way, men may more fully realize their human potential and more readily enjoy life with God. Hence, leaders should have a spirit of humble service in thought, word and deed. “The measure of a true Christian is not how many servants he has, but how many people he serves.”
2) We need to live the Faith we profess. Religious people are all too often like the Pharisees, laying heavy loads on other people’s shoulders without lifting a finger to budge them. Instead of judging the poor, we should be serving them both by helping to meet their needs and by working for and with them, practicing economic justice. Instead of criticizing those of other races, we should value them for their gifts, treat them as our brothers and sisters, and promote racial justice by our attitudes and in our speech. Instead of ignoring the homeless, we should be serving them through efforts to supply them with adequate housing. We need to live the Faith we profess. Our faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Heavenly Father. The way to live this Faith is to help build a human community of love and justice, one deed at a time; the first step in doing this is to acknowledge our failings and ask God for help to do better.
3) We need to learn the art of self-examination: It is easy to read today's Gospel and start pointing fingers at others. Of course, I can point a criticizing finger at all the officials I know, political, religious or otherwise. But let me ask myself the question: “Am I so different from them?” It is important that I see how this applies in my own life. The Gospel is addressed to ME. How touchy am I about the way people treat me, especially if I have some title or responsibility, even if it is just that of a parent or teacher? Respect cannot be demanded -- it must be earned.
4) We need to accept the responsibilities which go with our titles. Are today's readings trying to tell us that there should be no differences among us and we should drop all titles and honors? Actually, all such titles and polite forms are meant to remind each of us of our specific responsibilities in society. Each of us has a name, an identity and a personality. Today’s readings remind us that whatever we are and have is not simply a birthright, but a gift given to us by God, a loving Father. In addition, the fruitful use of everything we are and have owes very much to the generosity and care of both God and our loving neighbors for us. St. Francis of Assisi ceaselessly reminded his friars that if they could boast about anything as their own, it was their sins. Hence, let us use everything we are and have in a way that brings glory to God and His family.
JOKE OF THE WEEK- (Shock treatment for the proud)
1) A horrible mistake: “Father, I have a besetting sin, and I want your help. I come to church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation. I know I ought not to think that, but I can’t help it. I want you to help me with it." The pastor replied, "Mary, don’t worry about it. In your case it’s not a sin. It’s just a horrible mistake."
2) Big grasshoppers: On a vacation to Australia, a Texas farmer meets an Aussie farmer and starts talking to him about his farm. The Aussie takes him to see his big wheat field, but the Texan isn’t impressed. "We have wheat fields that are twice as large as this one," he told the Aussie. The Aussie farmer drives him around the ranch and shows off his big herd of cattle. "Oh, our longhorns are at least twice as big as these," the Texan bragged. The Aussie farmer is getting frustrated, when the Texan suddenly notices a herd of kangaroos hopping across a field. "What on earth are those?" he asks. The Aussie turns to him with a mischievous smile. "Don’t you have any big grasshoppers like this in Texas?"
3) “You and I both know you ain’t." When Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency by the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his closest friend Sam Rayburn took him aside. "From here on out, you’re going to have lots of people around you. They’ll try to put up a wall around you and cut you off from any ideas but theirs. They’ll tell you what a great man you are, Harry. But you and I both know -- you ain’t."
4) "Yankee, that ain’t nothin.” A Texas rancher met up with a Wisconsin dairy farmer. The two men began talking about their land and the dairyman told the cattleman that he operated his business on 125 acres. The Texan scoffed at such a small parcel of land. He said, "Yankee, that ain’t nothin’. On my ranch I can get in my truck at sunrise and I won’t reach the fence line of my property until sunset." The dairy farmer snorted, "Yeah, I used to have an old truck like that."
5) “You don’t need a life jacket.” A sailor once took a group of young people boating for the day. One young man bragged the whole way about all he knew about the sea. Every time the sailor began to give instructions this young man would interrupt with his supposed knowledge. After some time, a squall blew up. The sailor began to hand out lifejackets. “Where’s mine?” cried the know-it-all. “Don’t worry son,” replied the old sailor. “You don’t need a life jacket. With a head as full of hot air as yours, you will float forever!”
6) “I'm here to hook up your phone." The boss was in his new office. An employee walked in. The boss picked up the phone and started an imaginary conversation flattering himself. He signaled the worker he'd be with him shortly. The employee said, "Take your time, boss. I'm here to hook up your phone." -- "A proud heart," wrote Ben Franklin, "is like a crooked fence.
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK: (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
1) "Okay, now give me the names of the pilot and copilot." A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport gate by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "I hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones." "How come you know her name?" his wife asked suspiciously. The man replied smoothly, "You see, my dear, her name was posted right up front in the plane, under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, now give me the names of the pilot and copilot." -- The man's hypocrisy was uncovered. Jesus criticizes hypocrisy in today’s Gospel.
2) “Just get me a battleship then.” American Humorist Robert Benchley was leaving an elegant salon one evening. As usual he had imbibed excessively. He found himself face to face with a uniformed man whom he took to be the doorman. "Would you get me a taxi, my good man?" he requested. The uniformed man drew himself up proudly. "See here, I happen to be a rear admiral in the United States Navy." Benchley said belligerently, "Just get me a battleship then." -- In Benchley's condition, the plumage of the admiralty was no different from that of a doorman. -- Uniforms are important to us, aren't they? Listen as Jesus describes the uniforms of the Pharisees: They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues (Mt 23: 5-6).
3) "And also with you!" An Army Major was attending a military ball at a fancy hotel and made the mistake of standing by the entrance in his formal dress mess uniform. An arriving guest thought this officer was the doorman and handed him his bags! -- We sometimes order God around, forgetting that He’s the Master, and we live for Him. But God chooses to correct us occasionally as He did one Lutheran pastor who always started each service with "The Lord be with you." The people would respond, "And also with you.” But, one Sunday he thought the PA system wasn’t working when he tried it, so the first thing he said was, "There’s something wrong with this thing!” The people responded, "And also with you!"
3) Greatness of humble people: In 1884 a young man died. After the funeral, his grieving parents decided to establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked them what he could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said, "Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship." "We were thinking of something more substantial than that... perhaps a building," the woman replied. In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as being too expensive and the couple departed. -- The next year, Eliot learned that this plain pair had gone elsewhere and established a memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford. They gave $26 million dollars!
4) Human stubbornness: In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction or even thick fog. -- The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
5) Nobody likes hypocrites. When two prominent evangelists were revealed to have indulged in certain sexual sins a couple years back, the hue and cry was widespread. It was not that they were the only persons in our society who have committed such sins. In fact, polls indicate that the majority of Americans have indulged at some time or another in illicit moral behavior. The outcry was rather over their hypocrisy. They preached one thing and practiced another.
Recently, there has been a minor hubbub over the Sierra Club. Officials of this important force in the environmental movement have recently admitted that they don't use recycled paper in their lushly illustrated nature calendars. Why not? They say that photographs do not reproduce well on recycled stock. Two Denver area club branches, calling that stance hypocritical, have stopped selling the annual fundraising calendars, and a state chapter official warns a "real revolt" is possible among members statewide. "As a group, we can't walk one way and talk another way," said Michael Reis, a spokesman for another branch. "How can we take a hard stand in promoting recycling when our own group doesn't use recycled paper?" Other branches are being equally vocal. The Sierra Club faces some hard choices. --There is one sin that the American public will not forgive and that is hypocrisy. That does not mean, however, that the American public cannot be guilty of hypocrisy!
6) Angry peacock or ugly duck? Carlton Van Ornum tells this story. A large crowd of people gathered near an enclosure in the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston as a peacock slowly spread his great tail and displayed its stunning plumage. The great bird stood erect and noble and strutted regally. Just then an old, dun-colored duck waddled slowly from the pond and passed between the proud peacock and the admiring crowd. Enraged, the peacock drove the duck back to the water. In a moment, the beautiful bird had become ugly with fierce anger. The plain and awkward duck, having returned to its natural habitat, was no longer unbecoming. In the water it swam and dived gracefully, unaware that many eyes were watching. --The people who had admired the peacock loved the duck. Each of us was reminded of the dangers of pride, and that happiness comes from just being ourselves. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a strong warning to the proud Pharisees. (Jerry L. Schmalenberger, When Christians Quarrel, CSS Publishing Company).
7) Mosquito or honeybee: If you think a mosquito is small and has little influence, try sleeping in a hot room at night with but a single blood-sucking insect! Its high-pitched whine and sharp proboscis can leave you sleepy, itchy, and furious. On the other hand, consider the lowly honeybee. One single winged creature lurching from flower to flower can make the heart leap for joy as it brightens your day, spreads pollen about, and makes honey in the hive. -- We mortals, not unlike mosquitoes and honeybees, have our own influence. We can be the bane of a room or the blessing of a family. Here in the text, Jesus talks about it all with a group of religious leaders of his own day.
8) I am going to vote for? I am reminded of a story about Theodore Roosevelt. During one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on him at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?" "Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here." -- This is hypocrisy. As we go to the polls next time, I know whom I am going to vote for. Let me tell you, I am going to vote hypocrisy out of office and humility in. I am going to vote greatness out and servanthood in. I am going to vote public honors out and duty in. That's whom I am going to vote for, and I wish it were that simple. Truth is, leadership, the way Jesus described it, is hard to find, even among the religious.
9) “All my life I've been a nobody.” During the classic time of Greece a terrible thing happened in one of the temples. One night the statue of Zeus was mysteriously smashed and desecrated. A tremendous uproar arose among the inhabitants. They feared the vengeance of the gods. The town crier walked the city streets commanding the criminal to appear without delay before the Elders to receive his just punishment. The perpetrator naturally had no desire to give himself up. In fact, a week later another statue of a god was destroyed. Now the people suspected that a madman was loose. Guards were posted. At last their vigilance was rewarded; the culprit was caught. He was asked, "Do you know what fate awaits you?" "Yes," he answered, almost cheerfully. "Death." Aren't you afraid to die?" "Yes, I am." he answered. "Then why did you commit a crime which you knew was punishable by death?" they asked. The man swallowed hard and then answered, "I am a nobody. All my life I've been a nobody. I've never done anything to distinguish myself and I knew I never would. I wanted to do something to make people notice me...and remember me." (1) --The need to be recognized, to be appreciated, to have people know your name can carry a tragic price tag.
10) Honest leadership needed: In Washington, the standards that the Democrats set for the Republicans, they themselves are not willing to live by. And the standards that the Republicans set for the Democrats, they themselves are not willing to live by. Why? Because if you let down your guard for one moment and admit that you are wrong, your political opponents will seize the moment and go for the kill. I am reminded of a story about England's Prince Philip who was toasted at a banquet once with four lines from the poet John Dryden:
“A man so various that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long.”
-- don't know who that person was who quoted that poem to Prince Philip, but he sure got his point across. Washington needs a prophet like that, to step up and expose the abuse, the hypocrisy, the buffoonery. Jesus was that prophet in his day. He demanded honest leadership. Jesus was saying that leaders must guard against hypocrisy and aim toward humility, set aside greatness and strive for servanthood, wait for public honors and act now out of duty. Jesus reminded the Pharisees and Scribes, leaders of the people, that they had to practice what they had preached.
11) The proud scientist: There was once a scientist who discovered the art of cloning himself so perfectly that it was impossible to tell the reproduction from the original. One day, he learned that the Angel of Death was searching for him, so he produced a dozen copies of himself. The angel was at a loss to know which of the thirteen specimens before him was the scientist. So he left them all alone and returned to Heaven, but not for long, for being an expert in human nature, the angel came up with a clever device. He said to the scientist and the 12 reproductions before him, "Sir, you must be a genius to have succeeded in making such perfect reproductions of yourself. However, I have discovered a flaw in your work, just one tiny little flaw." The offended scientist immediately jumped out from among his clones and shouted, "Impossible. Where is the flaw?" "Right here," said the angel as he picked up the scientist from among the reproductions and carried him off. [Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight (New -- You will find proud people in every profession and in every Faith.
12) But he looks good: In a May 2002 issue of Us Weekly, a celebrity magazine model Marcus Schenkenberg claims that he often gets paid $5,000 a night just to hang around top nightclubs and look good. The nightclub owners reason that Schenkenberg's good looks will draw in customers. (Us Weekly, April 29-May 6, 2002, p. 53). -- Is Marcus Schenkenberg a young man of character, intelligence, or great talent? We don't know. But he looks good, and in our society that's all that matters. In today’s Gospel, Jesus has very harsh words for pious-looking, status-seeking Pharisees.
13) Proud officer: A newly-commissioned colonel had just moved into his office. A private entered with a tool box. To impress the private, the colonel said "Be with you in a moment, soldier! I just got a call as you were knocking." Picking up the phone, the colonel said "General, it's you! How can I help you?" A dramatic pause followed. Then the colonel said "No problem. I'll phone Washington, and speak to the President about it." Putting down the phone, the colonel said to the private "Now, what can I do for you?" -- The private shuffled his feet, and said sheepishly, "Oh, just a little thing, sir. They sent me to hook up your phone!”
14) "Shut up, you fool”: A clergyman had reached the end of his rope, and he decided that he was swimming against the tide trying to get any response from his congregation. He decided to try some other way of life that might give him a greater personal satisfaction. He was very disappointed to discover that a job was hard to come by. In fact, he got to the point that he was prepared to take any job at all that came his way. At last, he landed a job in the local zoo. Unfortunately, when he went there, the job was not exactly available just yet, but the manager asked him to consider taking a temporary job, until the other one was vacant. As it happened the chimpanzee had died, and had not yet been replaced. The chimp was a great favorite with the children, and the cage could not be left empty for long. They had a chimp suit, and the man was asked if he would mind getting into the suit, and taking the place of the chimp. All he'd have to do was to roll around a few times, eat a banana, go back in the back for a rest, etc. He decided to give it a go. He was an instant success. The children gathered around his cage. Every moment he made was greeted with cheers. He soon discovered that he was now getting much more attention than he ever got in the pulpit. One day, he decided to really get into the act. He jumped up, grabbed an over-head bar, and began to swing to and fro, to the delighted screams of the children. The cameras were flashing, and the crowd was gathering, so he got carried away with himself, and he really began to swing with full gusto. Unfortunately, after one huge effort, his hands (paws?) slipped, and he went flying over the partition into the cage next door. A huge tiger approached, and, forgetting that he was supposed to be a chimp, he screamed "Help! Help,!" to which the tiger whispered sharply, "Shut up, you fool; I'm a minister, too!"
15) “I am God’s Man!” During the Second World War, I had something to do with a canteen which was run for the troops in the town in which I was working. Early in the war, we had billeted with us in the town a number of Polish troops who had escaped from Poland. Among them there was a Polish airman. When he could be persuaded to talk, he would tell the story of a series of hair-raising escapes. He would tell of how, somehow, he had escaped from Poland, how, somehow, he tramped his way across Europe, how, somehow, he had crossed the Channel, how he had been shot down in his airplane once and crashed on another occasion. He always concluded the story of his encounter with the same awe-stricken sentence: “I am God’s man!” In today’s Gospel Jesus criticizes such God’s men. William Barclay
16) The Lesson of a lifetime: A monk was dispatched from one monastery to another as abbot. When the unknown abbot quietly arrived at his new destination unannounced, the holy monks checked out his humble person and unimpressive demeanor. They immediately sent him to work in their kitchen at the most menial tasks. Uncomplainingly, their new abbot spent long hours scouring pots, washing floors, and shelling beans. Finally, the bishop of the diocese arrived at the monastery. When he could not find the long overdue abbot, he went on a search. Of course, he found him in the kitchen, preparing the night’s supper. -- When the Bishop officially presented this new Abbot to the monks in their chapel, they received a lesson in humility, which would last them a lifetime. William Barclay (Fr. Botelho).
17) Seeking recognition rather than service: The funeral of the Austrian emperors used to take place in the Cathedral of St. Steven in Vienna. But before the body of the deceased emperor was allowed to enter the cathedral for his funeral there was one ritual that had to take place. As the official in charge approached the gates of the cathedral he would find them locked. Then the official was obliged to knock at the door to gain entrance. Upon hearing the knock on the door, a priest asks from inside the church, “Who is it that desires entrance here?” “His apostolic majesty, the emperor!” calls the official. “I don’t know him.” answers the priest. A second knock follows and a similar question is asked. This time the official announces: “The highest emperor”. Again, “I don’t know him” comes out through the locked door. Finally, a third knock is heard. “Who is it?” asks the priest. This time the official answers answers: “A poor sinner, your brother, requests admittance!” “Permission is granted: enter sinner. You are known to us.” Then the door is opened, and the royal funeral takes place. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
18) Life matching our performance: Helen Hayes is still recognized as the ‘First Lady of the Theatre’. She was a long-standing member of the Theatre Hall of Fame, won Academy Awards in 1932 and 1970, and was named “Woman of the Year” in 1973 by Ladies Home Journal but, besides her professional successes, Helen Hayes was noted for her humanitarian services. When her only daughter Mary died of polio in 1949 at the age of 19, Helen Hayes began helping the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis with her fund-raising. After her husband Charles MacArthur died in 1956, Helen Hayes got involved in helping Fr. William Wasson with his Mexican infants in Cuernavaca. During the Civil Rights Movement she played a part in the desegregation of theatres in the Washington D.C. area. In 1980 a new hospital was dedicated in her name on her 80th birthday in appreciation for her 40 years of volunteer service at the old facility. -- At the dedication the New York Governor Hugh Carey said: “In her work for the handicapped Helen Hayes has acted out, measure for measure, of her most moving performances in the quiet dedicated service of her fellow human beings.” (Albert Cylwicki, in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
19) Humility in Action: One of the best stories of humility I know is that of a man who arrived in 1953 at the Chicago railroad station to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He stepped off the train, a tall man with bushy hair and a big mustache. As the cameras flashed and city officials approached with hands outstretched to meet him, he thanked them politely. Then he asked to be excused for a minute. He walked through the crowd to the side of an elderly black woman struggling with two large suitcases. He picked them up, smiled, and escorted her to the bus, helped her get on, and wished her a safe journey. Then Albert Schweitzer turned to the crowd and apologized for keeping them waiting. -- It is reported that one member of the reception committee told a reporter, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking." -- We've been given a great task - to live in harmony, to weep with the mournful, to laugh with the joyful, to be humble, not conceited. Especially, we are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous. We are to be selfless, God-centered, loving servants as Jesus commands (Roy T. Lloyd, Charades and Reality). L/23
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 59) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C & A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, c/o Fr. Jogi M. C. , St. Agatha Church, 1001 Hand Avenue, Bay Minette, Al 36507