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Monthly Archives: August 2019

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 25, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Notice Jesus does not answer this question. Salvation is not about numbers—how many are getting in? Salvation is not about who gets in, because then we humans start doing the judging on who is worthy and who is not.

This Gospel passage challenges exclusive thinking, challenges religious elites and nationalists, as Jesus emphatically states that people of all nations and races will come to the feast at the banquet table in the Kingdom of God. They will come from every direction, from every place on earth. Even the people who are least respectable, who are the ones Jesus gets accused of associating with by the holier than thou folks who judge and condemn him for the company he keeps.

The warning Jesus issues to the questioner is exclusive thinking and a judgmental attitude will lead one to be on the outside looking in. The very mindset of separating out who is worthy or not puts one outside looking in, in danger of being locked out of the feast.

So Jesus’ answer is basically, “Pay attention to yourself.” You strive to enter through the narrow gate and stop wasting your energy judging others. But what are we striving for?

We are striving to be like Jesus, to make his values our own. Jesus comes from a heart set on God that cooperates with the divine Spirit to love all people, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Jesus loves God his Father with every cell in his body, and he pours out his life in love of his neighbor.

It is not easy to center our life on love of God and love of neighbor. It is a life-long discipline.

Discipline, as the author to the Hebrews reveals, signifies learning and knowledge. Discipline involves education and training and instruction, but also correction and punishment. The sacred author of Hebrews clearly indicates that maturing into a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father is not easy. It requires effort, struggle, even suffering.

The instruction comes from the stuff of our life, from living life itself. From the pains and joys of each day, we are taught by God how to mature into actually living like his children. From the classroom of life where we encounter the suffering and delights of each day, we are challenged to respond in being more generous and loving and merciful and kind, and so take on the values of the Beloved Son, Jesus.

God keeps teaching us and instructing us. The root meaning of the word “discipline” in the Letter to the Hebrews is the kind of training which comes from being instructed and trained. Sometimes that instruction is painful, because it demands that we change, that we die to an old way of thinking and living in order to begin a new life. Like a good teacher, our heavenly Father helps us learn by making us stretch beyond what we thought we were capable of, and he places before us the example of His Son.

One of the most demanding teachers I had in high school was my English Composition teacher, Mrs. Harris. Her class was hard—she expected a lot from us. But she prepared me for college and eventually for seminary by teaching me how to write, how to compose essays, reports, research papers, and stories. I could not of done so well with the many papers I had to write in my seminary studies if I had not been “disciplined” (instructed) by Mrs. Harris. I could not so readily write a daily Mass homily or Sunday homily or put together a talk if I had not gone through the “fire” of her classes on English Composition. I struggled initially with the idea of an “outline” for writing a paper, but Mrs. Harris’ insistence that we learn how to do “outlines” before even writing helps me to this day.

Now at the opposite end of the scale was my class on Oklahoma history, taught by one of the football coaches who expected nothing from us. We had fun in his class playing “paper football” games but I learned hardly anything about the history of our State, which I regret today.

The Master Teacher, the One who is Truth itself, the beloved Son of God, instructs us every day through His Spirit. To be his disciple literally means to sit at his feet and learn from him, Notice how close that word “disciple” is to the word, “discipline.”

I am still learning, and I have so much more to learn. I am still striving to enter through the narrow gate.

The Gospel is the handbook, the guidebook, shedding light on who we are called to be. In fact, the “narrow gate” is the Gospel—with its call to faith, to generosity, to forgiveness, and to justice, especially for the poor.

It is not enough to eat and drink with him at this table. It is not enough to simply listen to His teaching in this place. We are invited to assume his values, to be like him, to look like him, to invite Him into our lives so that our lives might be changed.

Christian faith is not a matter of going with the flow, of simply pursuing what makes us feel good, of engaging in a comforting spiritual hobby. Our relationship with Christ Jesus is to be rooted in the innermost parts of our being. This relationship is meant to transform our lives and how we love.

Just as Jesus’ struggle and obedience made it possible for his 1st disciples to do the same, everyone who strives today to enter through the narrow gate makes it a little easier for another to follow. Our faith and our struggle continue Christ’s work of salvation, of bringing all people from all races and places into the feast that is the Kingdom of God.

For the more we strive, the more we understand that salvation is accomplished in surrendering ourselves to the saving love of God, a divine love which makes brothers and sisters of us all.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 18, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Jesus is a man on fire, on fire with the redeeming love of God Jesus burns with a profound passion to establish the Reign of God, a kingdom of justice and peace. A kingdom where peace is the fruit of justice, where all God’s people live in right relationship with each other. Jesus is so consumed with love of His heavenly Father and with a desire for all of his heavenly Father’s children to live in peace, that he is willing to be baptized in his own blood poured forth from the cross.

The fire of Jesus’ love brings warmth to those whose hearts have grown cold in despair. The fire of Jesus’ love brings light to those who walk in the darkness of suffering. The fire of Jesus’ love purifies hearts that have grown hard with indifference and apathy.

Jesus’ words and life are meant to call people, all people, to repentance. Remember, to repent does not mean feeling sorry but to change the way you think.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ constantly challenges us to change the way we think about ourselves, others, and God. Division happens not because of Jesus or his message, but because of the effects of what he does and says.

People are challenged to make a choice— I will change the way I think, and so change the way I live and love OR I will not. This is where the division comes in, as some choose to follow Jesus, to learn from him, to grow in their understanding of what is required of them to live as children of God. Then there are those who refuse to listen, who refuse to change their minds, who even plan and plot his death.

From the time Jesus was born, he was a threat to those in power, as the Holy Family fled as refugees into Egypt, escaping the murderous intents of King Herod. As an adult, Jesus tells Pilate, “I came into the world to testify to the truth,” (Jn. 18:37) and then he is tortured and killed for doing so.

To live the Gospel message, to establish the reign of justice and peace, is challenging. We face opposition from others who resist our efforts at bringing about the Kingdom of God. It can be difficult to be merciful and kind in a culture which encourages retribution and revenge. We do separate ourselves from others, we are divided from them, when we disturb them with the tough love of kindness and the humble deeds of mercy.

The first followers of Jesus struggled to put Jesus’ teachings into practice. Remember back when we began this journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel, when he wanted to pass through a Samaritan town, but the Samaritans there would not allow him passage. Recall the reaction of James and John— “Lord, do you want to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (cf Lk 9: 52-56) Jesus rebuked the Sons of Thunder who wanted to call down lightning upon their enemies, and instead they went peacefully on to another town.

It can be exhausting to work for peace in a world that glorifies violence. The peace of Jesus Christ is much more than the absence of war— it is when all people live in right relationship to each other, when the goods of the earth are shared justly so that no longer a few hold onto most of the world’s wealth.

Recall Jesus’ inaugural address in Luke’s Gospel: “I have come to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind.” (cf Lk. 4:18) Those who benefit from the status quo, from the way things are, do not want to see how they have to change. They would rather remain blind, refusing to recognize Christ in the stranger and the oppressed, in the poor and the powerless.

Jesus came into conflict with those who exploited the weak and the poor. His dream of all people being welcome in the Kingdom of God brought him into conflict with the narrow minded and the bigoted.

Promoting and defending the dignity of every human life is exhausting in a culture of death. Responding to vengeance with forgiveness is challenging. Working for that peace which is the full fruit of justice is a tiring task.

But we are invited to persevere in running this race of faith and to not give up hope.

One Saturday morning back when I was a college freshman I entered a 3 mile race. The race began on a steep hill right outside my dorm room. I sprinted down that hill and for the first mile or so I was staying with the leaders of the race. But then a little while after mile one I felt as if my lungs were on fire and my legs felt like lead. I could not keep running.

I started walking, trudging along with my head down, wondering how I was going to finish the race. A little kid came running by me and shouted out— “Come on mister, you can finish the race.” His words gave new life to my legs and fresh breath to my lungs. I started to run again, and I did finish the race.

God sends people into our lives who encourage us to persevere in running the race of faith, especially when we are tired and worn out, especially when we grow weary and lose heart. God sends people here on earth, as well as those who have gone before us to heaven. They encourage us by their prayers and their love to keep on keeping on. They are the great cloud of witnesses, who surround us each day, and urge us on.

All of them say, “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.” (cf >Hebrews 12:2

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven was declared in 1950, but this great “Easter feast” had been observed ever since the 5th century in the Church. How fitting that the mother of the Crucified and Risen Jesus should share with her Son in his bodily glory in heaven. Mary has experienced the resurrection of the dead, and in this great Marian feast, we glimpse our destiny—where she has gone, we hope to follow.

So, Mary was lifted up into heavenly life as a complete person, body and soul. We, too, long to follow where she has led.

This is a very “bodily” feast, a grand celebration reminding us of the importance of the human body. We human beings are enfleshed spirits. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We learn about God and experience God’s tender, life-giving care in and through these bodies of ours. We learn in and through our 5 bodily senses. In fact, that great scholar of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, taught that the only way we learn is in and through our senses, in and through these bodies.

This grand feast of the importance of the human body makes me pity the angels. That’s right, I pity the angels. Because they are pure spirit, they will never experience the joy and delight of being human with bodies that revel in God’s goodness through our senses.

I pity the angels, because they have never tasted a homemade chocolate chip cookie or savored a cold drink on a hot summer day. I pity the angels, because they have never heard their name sound forth from the lips of a loved one nor heard the soaring beauty of a Mozart symphony. I pity the angels, because they have never seen a glorious Oklahoma sunset nor seen their child take his very first step. They have never felt snowflakes on their face nor the caress of a loved one. I pity the angels because they have never smelled bacon cooking.

In and through our bodies, we experience the beauty and delights of being human, of God’s care. In and through these bodies, we also love others and love God.

Mary loved her son, Jesus, in and through her body. She loved Jesus not in an abstract way, but in a very concrete way through her body.

Her body was the Ark of the New Covenant, containing and holding and protecting and nurturing the Son of God in her womb. She felt him growing in her womb, moving at times, kicking at times, and her body was intimately joined to his. For 9 months she carried in her body the One whom the whole universe could not contain.

Then she fed the newborn babe with milk from her very own body as he suckled at her breasts. Later she would feed him through the work of her hands, fixing thousands of meals for Jesus.

With her hands she would wipe the dirt from his face and the tears from his eyes and fix up a scraped knee or mashed finger from a hammer. (Joseph!) As a mother, she would shower her son with bodily affection— with countless hugs and kisses.

Mary held him tight when he decided to leave home and strike out on his own, and then had to let him go. Mary held the broken body of her son against her own body, as he was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms. Then she had to let him go as he was buried in the tomb.

In and through her body, Mary sings the praises of the God who has done great things for her. Who lifted her up to be the mother of His Son, and who lifted her up to share in his eternal glory.

Our destiny is to join Mary in enjoying the fullness of life, body and soul, in heaven. Our preparation to be loved in such a perfect way, is to give ourselves away in love of others through these bodies given to us by God.

For we love God our Maker and Creator not in an abstract, thinking about Him kind of way but in the very concrete actions of love expressed in and through these bodies.

These bodies of ours have become temples of the Holy Spirit by baptism. In these bodies, we are joined intimately to the Risen Lord as we eat His body and drink His blood in Holy Communion.

With the Blessed Virgin Mary, we sing the praises of God who has done great things for us. With our Mother in faith, we sing the praises of God who one day will lift us up body and soul to share in the fullness of life in heaven.