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Homily

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

November 1, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



During the past 5 Sundays in Matthew’s Gospel, we have been with Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem as he confronts the religious leaders of Israel. They try to trap him and to discredit him. He speaks the truth to power with great humility in the hope they will turn away from their self-righteous, judgmental ways and turn back to the Living God.

This great and joyful solemnity of All Saints breaks the pattern of these consecutive Gospel passages from Matthew and takes us all the way back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew’s Gospel. There he lays out his vision for the Kingdom of God in the Beatitudes, inviting his disciples to live as He lives and to love as He loves. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ plan for the never-ending adventure of holiness. as he teaches us his disciples what being a saint looks like.

We celebrate All Saints Day every year not only to honor and rejoice in the holy men and women whom the Church has declared are definitely enjoying the fullness of life in heaven. We also remember our vocation, for we who are baptized into Christ Jesus are all called to be saints.

We are all adopted children of God by baptism, joined to the Son of God. This union with Him is meant to transform the way we live in this world, as we live out of this deepest identity of ours as beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. United to Christ Jesus, holiness is possible, as all the saints teach us. Apart from him, nothing of lasting value is possible, for we become like dead branches cut off from the living vine, dead limbs severed from the tree of life.

When we live out the Beatitudes with Jesus, we fulfil his 2 great commandments to love. The Beatitudes are the way Jesus loves the Father with His total being and how he loves others. So, they are our way to love as Jesus loves and so love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

For the Beatitudes shape our love of God the Father after the pattern of Christ’s self-sacrificing love. Living out the Beatitudes means our way of loving becomes “Agape love,” loving as Jesus loves. For the Beatitudes stand in direct opposition to the attitudes of a world separated from God, propelling us along the way of the Cross with Jesus.

So this blueprint for holiness, this way to deeper Communion with Jesus, looks like foolishness to the world, but the Beatitudes are God’s folly of love. What looks like absolute foolishness to the world is the wisdom of the way God loves.

When we wrap our lives around the Beatitudes, we will be persecuted as Jesus was. That is why the 8th and 9th beatitudes speak about the blessing of being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for as we live out the Beatitudes, we are united to the suffering Christ in a very special way.

In a world scarred by resentment and vengeance, blessed are those who are merciful. In a world where many hunger and thirst for more money or more power, blessed are those who thirst to right inequities, who hunger for justice. In a world wounded by violence and division, blessed are those who work for peace and love their enemies with Christ’s help.

The Saints learned that all of the Beatitudes spring from the first Beatitude, and it is first because it gives life and meaning to all the ones that follow. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” could be literally translated as “How fortunate those who beg for their life’s very breath!” Indeed, these are the fortunate ones, who recognize that their very existence is wholly dependent upon God’s mercy and providence.

We human beings depend on God in the very same way that our lungs depend on air which comes from outside of us. Our life each day, our very existence on this earth, does not come from us, but from outside of us, from God. So we cry out, “Have Mercy on us, O God!” Self-forgetfulness—living for others—characterize those who are poor in spirit. An interior emptiness is another mark of this Beatitude, in direct contrast to those who are so full of themselves, puffed up and proud and self-righteous.

Those who are poor in spirit are naturally meek, knowing themselves to be always and everywhere loved by God. Because they embrace their identity as a beloved child of God, the meek reject the way of aggression. They have no need to have power over others but bend their knee in adoration of God by serving others. The meek are strong in transmitting God’s goodness and mercy, because they are disposed to receive everything as a gift. They expect nothing from the world and desire only to GIVE to the world!

Those who are poor ins spirit are also pure of heart, focusing their gaze only on God and turning away from everything else. This purity of heart means one’s heart is undivided, that one is solely interested in doing the will of God and giving oneself completely to God. Then all the other “loves” of one’s life will fall into their correct order beneath this all-consuming love.

Notice that the Beatitudes do not include what some religious people would think would be essential. Jesus does not say: “Blessed are those who pray, who fast, who give alms.” These good works mean nothing if done with pride instead of poverty of spirit.

Francis and Clare, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, Therese of Liseux and Ignatius of Loyola, Stanley Rother and Michael McGivney, all made Jesus and his teaching the most important thing in their life. The Gospel was their guidebook and the Beatitudes their signposts to help them find their way home with the Lord Jesus to their heavenly home. May they be ours as well.


Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



We’ve come to the 3rd parable addressed by Jesus to the chief priests and elders in Matthew’s Gospel. As we’ve learned from the first 2 parables over the past 2 Sundays, even though the religious leaders of Israel were Jesus’ original audience, these parables are also addressed directly to us, because we are all in need of conversion.

Today’s parable of “The Wedding Feast” has an ending unique to Matthew’s Gospel, serving as a warning to Matthew’s community of faith and to ours as well. It is the encounter between the King and the man who is at the feast without a wedding garment. Since those invited refused the invitation and this man was then invited to the feast off the street in his street clothes, we think the punishment he receives is not fair. However, this parable is not about a guy who refuses to show up at a wedding banquet in suit and tie, but symbolically about participating in the wedding feast by being clothed in Christ, the bridegroom.

Think about the words spoken by the minister to the newly baptized as they are clothed in a white garment: “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ,” words which echo St. Paul’s injunction, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)

In other words, the Christian is to be “another Christ.” We, who have been clothed in Christ Jesus from our baptism, are to lay down our lives in loving service of others as Jesus did. To do so, we cannot come to this wedding banquet of the Eucharist and passively watch, but are to actively participate with Christ Jesus in offering our lives to the Father for the salvation of the world and the establishment of His Kingdom: a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

We are not only invited to this feast of God’s love, but also challenged to respond to God’s love for us by living every moment as Christ with Christ.

When voting in this year’s presidential election, we are to clothe ourselves with the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ, with the very person of Christ. While doing our civic duty, we are being challenged to put our faith into practice. In this light, the Catholic bishops of the United States offer a guide to Catholic voters every presidential election year entitled: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

Archbishop Coakley states that “[T]his document is intended to be…an official guide for the formation of consciences…” and that “the Gospel cannot be parsed in political or partisan terms. The Gospel calls us to live by standards and our Catholic faith calls us to embrace standards that are not divisible into left or right, Republican or Democratic terminology.” (Aug. 30, 2020 issue of Sooner Catholic, page 7, paragraphs 8 & 9) As we read the bishops’ document and pray with it, we discover that there is no politician nor political party which embraces all the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Article 34 of this document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” reads: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” That “IF” is a big “IF” as the bishops go on to say: “In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.” Article 34 then concludes: “At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

What is interesting to note in Article 34 is that besides abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and gay marriage, the bishops also list as “intrinsically evil” policies “deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions” as well as policies promoting “racist behavior.” Once again, that little word “if” is super important, because a Catholic is in trouble only “if the voter’s intent is to support that position,” meaning supporting a candidate specifically for any of these intrinsically evil policies.

So, a Catholic Republican can vote for Trump, even if his policies promote racism or subject immigrants and refugees to subhuman living conditions, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. And a Catholic Democrat can vote for Biden, even if his policies promote abortions and gay marriage, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. In Catholic theology, intention – why you are doing something— is essential to understanding the morality of an action.

Paragraph 35 of “Faithful Citizenship” acknowledges the messy world of politics, where a candidate may disagree with church teaching on an important issue but a Catholic might still vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.

“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for true grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

Thus, a Catholic Republican might feel impelled to vote for Trump despite his policies promoting racism or subjecting immigrants to subhuman living conditions, because of other morally grave reasons, for example, his stated opposition to abortion. A Catholic Democrat might feel impelled to vote for Biden despite his position on abortion and gay marriage because of other morally grave reasons, for example his positions on racism and immigration.

A careful reading of this document of the U.S. Bishops means those who say Catholics who vote for Biden are bad Catholics or are committing a mortal sin have no grounds for such a statement. Members of both major political parties accuse and demonize the other side, and we who clothe ourselves in Christ are called to reject such divisive behavior. Those who make such accusations are acting like the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day by condemning others without ever knowing their conscience. For we who clothe ourselves with Christ know there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, there is neither Democrat nor Republican, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. (cf Galatians 3:28)

Which leads those of us who desire to daily “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” to consider what being “Pro-Life” truly means. To be “Pro-Life” means to respect life at all stages, to honor the dignity of every human life from conception to a natural death. This is a seamless garment of life proposed by Church teaching, this teaching which is for life for all people at all times.

For example, the Church’s teaching on the evil of racism touches on many other issues of justice which impact the life of a person of color. The Church pledges to walk with a mother of color throughout her pregnancy, to provide her with the support necessary to choose life for her child. But the Church does not stop there.

Recognizing that the structures of racism have imprisoned many people of color in poverty, the Church works to change these structures. At the same time, the Church promotes policies for affordable childcare and transportation, so that this mother can work, and calls for her to be paid a living wage, so she can provide for her child and herself.

Acknowledging that those who are poor, especially people of color, tend to live where pollution is the worst and are impacted more severely by natural disasters, the Church also works to address the climate crisis in the Spirit of St. Francis and guided by the teachings of Pope Francis.

Because the death penalty disproportionately kills people of color, and because the killing of any life by the State is contrary to the commandment, “Thou shall not kill”, the Church also speaks out against the death penalty.

To be “Pro-Life” means much more than protecting the innocent child in the womb. It also means addressing all the issues that unjustly impact that child’s life once born.

The invitation to the wedding feast of the Eucharist, this invitation to share in the life and love of the Son of God, requires an ongoing conversion of life. In order to truly become what we receive, the Body of Christ, we are challenged to more fully conform our thoughts with the mind of Christ, to more fully align our actions with the heart of Christ. To protect and respect all life so that anyone who meets us will think they have met Jesus himself.


Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 4, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



“Hear another parable,” Jesus says to the religious leaders. Having already tried to break into their locked hearts like a thief in the night with his “Parable of the 2 Sons”, Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tries yet again to find a way in. With his “Parable of the Tenants”, Jesus hurls yet another fiery dart of love at their frozen, self-righteous hearts.

By his piercing words of persuasion, Jesus invites sinners to change their minds, to see their sin, to turn back to Him. He is powerfully persistent in his desire for their conversion. In this parable, he holds up a mirror to these religious leaders, so they might see themselves clearly and humbly admit their need for God’s mercy.

Jesus glimpses his destiny in their hard-hearted, arrogant opposition, that these leaders who have been given stewardship of the vineyard of Israel will soon throw him outside the vineyard and kill him on the hill of Golgotha. Yet, Jesus shows he is more concerned with saving them from eternal death than he is of dying a terrible death. The Beloved Son of God, the landowner’s son, is going to “have his vengeance” on these greedy religious leaders by overwhelming them with His mercy, all the way to the cross.

But lest we be tempted like we were last Sunday to think Jesus is only challenging the self-serving religious leaders of his day, we are invited to think again and to think differently. This parable invites us to conversion, to examine our conscience, to see ourselves being called to a change of heart leading to a change of life. These words of the Gospel are not lifeless words etched on a page from history, but the living word of God, and the Living Word made Flesh addresses them to us here and now.

For the seeds of greed planted in the hearts of those religious leaders who conspired to kill the Son of the Landowner, the Son of God, also seek to take root in our souls. It is a particular kind of greedy seed—a greed having to do with religious “attitudes” which we hold tight and which slowly kill the spirit. Thus, when we examine our conscience, are we conscious of a certain pious smugness? Are we aware of a type of self-congratulation derived from doing our religious duty, of an attitude of being better than “them” – whoever it is we look down our nose at?

Do we do so-called charitable acts as a performance for others to see, to bolster our self-image as good Christians rather than solely for the benefit of the recipients of our charitable actions? Is there a gnawing awareness that despite professing a God-centered faith that instead “I” continue to be very much at the center of “my” life, that everything revolves around me and my desires, instead of my life revolving around God?

Like the religious leaders listening to Jesus in the temple, have we restricted our relationship to God to only one small corner of our life, our time in this temple? So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my marriage, but I am. So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my work, but I am. So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my politics, but I am. So that everything I do outside of this temple has nothing to do with Him or producing the fruits of His kingdom, which are justice, peace, and love.

The Risen Jesus by the power of His Spirit keeps offering to be with us and act through us in every situation and in every relationship. The call to conversion comes to each of us in every part of our life where we have become greedy. So that in our greed to always be right, we might be more generous in admitting our wrongs. So that in our greed to win every argument, whether in person or on social media, we might instead open our heart to listen to the other side. So that when greed causes us to think that my life and my stuff are mine, we might instead open our ears to the cry of the poor and the doors of our borders to those fleeing horrific violence.

Recognizing our sin, seeing how we are constantly putting our self at the center, is only the first step of conversion. The next step is to invite the Risen Lord to be the cornerstone of our life, to be the One on whom we build everything in our life. For without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value, all our efforts are in vain.

What is interesting about this parable is that the events which unfold in its telling only happen because the owner (God) went away on a journey. This “Parable of the Tenants” packs a powerful punch because the landowner is absent from the scene.

Because when people look for God in a visible form, they will see only each other. When they look for Christ, they will see only Christians. This is the reason the Risen Christ has entrusted us with His Spirit so that everything that is His may be ours. Or better yet, by his death and resurrection and the Spirit given to us, the Risen Lord has implanted in us a wholly new life, with all the same energies and principles of life that give thrust to his own life: his joy and unity with the Father, their mutual knowledge and love, the very glory of the Holy Trinity. Wow! That’s amazing, isn’t it!!

We produce the fruits of his dynamic presence by making him visible to others through our thoughts, words, and deeds! Or as St. Paul so poetically states, by choosing to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious.

The invitation is not to be “like” Jesus but to allow Him to live in us. The question we are to ask in every situation is not “What would Jesus do?” but “What will I do enlivened by the Spirit of Jesus?” The point of Holy Communion is we invite Him to live in us, to work through us. Jesus does not want his followers each reflecting a little piece of him in their lives. No, what he wants is to have his one life expressed fully in each of his followers! Christ shining in a 1000 Billion Faces reflecting him in their own God-given uniqueness!!

Thomas Merton once wrote: “A witness of a crime, who just stands by and makes a mental note of the fact that he is an innocent bystander, tends by that very fact to become an accomplice.” In the vineyard of the world today, we witness gruesome and unimaginable horrors, we see widespread and unnecessary waste, we hear silent or eerily audible screams of the vulnerable – do we make mental note of these crimes, OR are we stirred to action in some concrete way? The God of love and compassion desires a response from us. Do our lives produce the fruit of God’s justice and mercy?


Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 27, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



In Matthew’s Gospel, we have now arrived with Jesus in Jerusalem. It is the last week of his life, and he will spend it teaching in the temple area, desiring until his very last breath to call sinners back home to God.

He has just cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers and those buying and selling animals for sacrifice, infuriating the religious leaders who depend on this exchange. Immediately preceding today’s passage in Matthew, the religious leaders have challenged Jesus to state upon whose authority he acts in such a way. There will be other confrontations in the Sundays to come as they try to trap Jesus on whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not and about what is the greatest commandment.

But for today, and for the following two Sundays, Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel will lay out three parables directed at these religious leaders, challenging them to a change of mind and heart, inviting them to conversion: Today the Parable of the 2 Sons, next Sunday the Parable of the Tenants and then the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

These arrogant chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees have closed their minds and hearts to Jesus and led the people of Israel astray. They are blinded by their absolute certitude that they alone know God’s way and God’s will. These religious leaders reveal the human tendency toward self-righteousness, thinking they are better than others because they know better. Their minds are made up, they are refuse to be taught by Jesus,

But Jesus, even in these last days of his life, has not given up hope in these religious leaders nor a desire for their conversion. By his use of parables, Jesus is not trying to win an argument with them but rather trying to win over their hearts for God.

But lest we be tempted to think these parables have nothing to say to us, tempted to think that we are not like the self-righteous religious leaders, we are invited to think again. We are invited to conversion. This parable today of the 2 sons is meant to trouble our conscience.

What we are always invited to do by Jesus is to repent, which literally means to change our minds, so that our hearts might be changed and we might act in accord with God’s will. This ongoing process of conversion, this daily emptying ourselves of selfishness and vainglory, lasts until the day we die.

What Jesus is seeking from everyone he encounters is conversion of heart. For Jesus sees in each person both the need and the possibility to change for the better. This parable of the 2 Sons is all about doing the will of our Heavenly Father, and all of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will admit our failures to act on what our Father asks.

Those outside the Church, those who are not here today, are more likely to see their need for God’s mercy and for forgiveness and the need to change their lives. The temptation for those of us who are here, especially since there is a part of us which feels like we have earned a special privilege from God by risking being at Mass during a pandemic, is toward self-righteousness, is to judge others and think we are better than all those “sinners” out there.

But only converted sinners enter the Kingdom of God. Only those who are humble enough to see their own sins clearly, instead of looking for the sins of other, can do fruitful work in the vineyard of God’s Kingdom.

The central concern of Christ Jesus and of his followers—of Christians— is how the human will made rebellious by sin and turned in on itself can gradually open up, turn outward, and finally converge with he life-giving will of God.

For there is a bit of both sons in each of us. Our instinct is either to say “NO” to invitations extended by God or by life or to mumble a half-hearted “YES” which we do not intend to live out.

We have all said “NO” to what God the Father asks of us through His Son. We’ve said NO to many requests from others and then had second thoughts or regrets and changed our mind. We have all said a half-hearted “YES” to our Father, and then refused to do the work He asks us to do to bring about His Kingdom.

We have all said “YES” to do things big and small with the best of intentions, and then not followed through. We do this all the time in our daily life, saying Yes before reflecting on what we are saying Yes to, perhaps because of an unhealthy desire to please and be approved.

Sinners, one and all, hesitating perpetually between Yes and No, have only one option: to listen to the voice of Jesus and allow the power and truth of his words to burn through all the layers of our delusions until the core of our utter neediness is revealed to us. Without the help of the Lord Jesus, it is practically impossible to say “YES” to the will of his Father.

This parable reveals that God is interested not so much in our initial response but rather in what we will do with our freedom in the long run. For only God has the patience to wait throughout a lifetime for all of our instinctual “No’s” to become one eternal YES to His love.

Like the landowner in last Sunday’s parable who kept going out throughout the day in search of workers for his vineyard, so our Heavenly Father continues to go out to us, asking us over and over again to work in His vineyard today.

Thus we are invited daily to a change of heart and a conversion to the Father’s will. God wants more than lip service— the Father wants us to do His will in the practice of our life. What ultimately counts are not the promises we make, but the actions we take.


Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 20, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



In last Sunday’s Gospel we were invited with Peter to think as God does about forgiveness. Instead of thinking as humans do about forgiveness, that there is only a limited amount of forgiveness to share, we were invited to learn about the limitless forgiveness offered us by God through his Son. The wages paid by Christ Jesus by the shedding of his blood for us is a debt we can never repay, but a gift of unending forgiveness we can only receive and then give away.

This Sunday we are invited deeper into the mystery of God, and learn once again that God’s ways are not our ways, nor are God’s thoughts like our own.

Our limited sense of justice, our human ways of competing and comparing, are all challenged by the parable of the generous landowner.

In this parable, as in all the parables of Jesus, he is shaking up our human held assumptions in order to draw us into the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is different from the human kingdoms of this world. It is not a place, but rather a way of thinking and loving as the King of Kings does. The Kingdom of God is living with the King and as his servants, imitating his justice.

The parable invites us to shift our focus from what I have done to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. We are challenged to “grow up” – to stop crying out “not fair”—and to instead rejoice in the generosity of God who gives us the best gift of all – His Son.

The cry of the first workers upon seeing the ones who worked only a short while and are paid the same is the first: “You have made them equal to us.” This is the way human minds think that are not transformed into the mind of Christ. Thinking that I am better than others, that I am more deserving, because I earned it by what I have done.

This focus on the self—what I have done—is the danger of individualism in our culture. When the focus is inward – on me—we have taken our eyes off the source of life, the one who owns not only the vineyard but to whom everything belongs.

What is ironic about the childish cry, “You have made them equal to us” is that out of love for humankind, God made himself equal to us. The one who was equal to God, the 2nd person of the Divine Trinity, emptied himself of all divine privilege to become one of us. The God who Jesus reveals is not a God who is fair, but a God who is generous. Who keeps inviting us into the vineyard, who loves each of us equally, with a love that cannot be measured or even quantified.

The Gospel can never be equated with the “American Dream.” Nowhere does Jesus teach that hard work is the way to live in his kingdom. Pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and making a fortune out of blood, sweat, and tears is not the Gospel message at all.

In fact, life in the Kingdom of God is not able to be earned, it is never deserved, it is pure gift by the generosity of God. When we shift the focus from what we as individuals have done to what God has done in Christ and what God continues to do through the power of the Spirit, we are able to work joyfully in the vineyard of the Kingdom

Then there is another way that we humans think which is nothing like the thoughts of God. We look at what others have been given and we want what they have, not able to be grateful for all that we have been given.

The question of the landowner at the end of the parable zeroes in on the danger of envy. “Are you envious because I am generous?” A more literal translation would be: “Is your eye evil because I am good?”

The deadly sin of envy – looking at what others have and wanting THAT instead of being grateful for all we have been given— causes our view of God to be distorted. Comparison and competition, which are so encouraged in the Kingdom of America, further heighten this sin of envy.

We think there is a scarcity of everything, so we compete for the little there is. We think that winning is everything, so we compete to be better than others. We think there is not enough happiness to go around, so we feel diminished when someone else, who did not work as hard as we did, is blessed.

Comparing, competing, seeking to be first – all of this causes us to focus on others. When we shift our focus to the God revealed to us by Jesus Christ, we think and live in a new way. We are free to be last and the servant of all, because that is the way to true joy. We feel no need to enter the frenzy of competing for the stuff of this world, because we know there is more than enough to go around. We enter deeper and deeper into an attitude of gratitude for simply being given the privilege to work in the vineyard of the Kingdom of God.

This parable challenges you and me on so many levels. We are invited to put on the mind of Christ, to think as God does. When we do, we see clearly that looking out only for me and my interests and the interests of my own group has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.

Rather, the Lord of the Vineyard seeks us out today to invite us yet again into service in his kingdom, where separateness and being number one and winning is not the goal. Rather, unity is the goal – unity with the Lord and communion with others who are working in the vineyard. Together working for the common good, so that every single person may know their dignity as equals in the Kingdom, every single one made in the image of a Generous and Merciful God.


Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 13, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



In chapter 18 of his Gospel, Matthew the Evangelist lays out what the Church is to be about. Members of the community of faith are responsible to each other to maintain the unity which Christ Jesus established. When hurtful words are spoken or hurtful deeds are done, it is not only the offender who bears responsibility for reconciliation but also the one offended.

Last Sunday we in Chapter 18 we heard of a process enacted by the offended party to reconcile with the one who hurt them, to bring them back to full communion. This Sunday that responsibility toward one’s brother or sister who has done wrong is made even more concrete in the act of forgiveness, which is not a one-time gift but an ongoing gift, healing the relationships with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ.

The offended party cannot sit back and stew in their hurt and boil in their resentment, but instead offer forgiveness, again and again and again.

The cross marks every Christian. The cross of Christ demands a life of sacrificial love, and forgiveness is one of the major sacrifices offered out of love for the other. Marked by the sign of God’s unbounded love for us in Christ, we do not count or meagerly measure out forgiveness, but joined to Christ Jesus, forgive those who hurt us.

As Catholics we begin and end every prayer with the sign of the cross. We start and we conclude the great prayer of the Mass with this eternal sign of God’s forgiveness of the human race.

The prayers of the Mass reveal to us as the Church, the community of faith coming together in the Lord’s name, what we are to be about. The Church is meant not only to be a community of forgiveness and reconciliation, but to share those gifts with the world. But these gifts first need to be received in order to be shared.

So we begin every celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass by crying out for the gift of the Lord’s mercy. We recognize as we begin this celebration that we hang onto hurt, we nurture anger, and we feed resentment, so we call out, “Lord, have mercy.” Then we enter into the circulation of forgiveness, which flows from the Father through the Son, and by the power of the Spirit into our lives.

We breathe deeply of this breath of new life so to breathe it out onto others who need to know they are forgiven. Otherwise, the virus of “unforgiveness,” which can kill the spirit, infects and sickens our lives. This sickness causes hearts to shrivel up and slowly die, and results from the virus of anger hugged tight to one’s heart, and resentment that then takes root and poisons the soul.

Medical experts during this time of a pandemic advise that the air in enclosed spaces be well circulated, otherwise the aerosol of the coronavirus can hang around in stale air to be inhaled. The fresh, life-giving air of forgiveness causes a healthy circulation, which carries away the deadly aeresols of hatred, resentment, bitterness, and revenge. Forgiveness carries away this poisonous air, so we might breathe more deeply of God’s merciful love and not be infected with the virus of unforgiveness nor infect others.

That’s why the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, the “Our Father,” is prayed at every Mass. We go to the Father of mercy with the words of His Son, crying out, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As we recognize how God in Christ has given us a gift we cannot repay, forgiving our sins and saving us from eternal death, we can then forgive others.

One translation of the “Our Father” reads, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Knowing we are forgiven a debt we can never repay, we can, with the Lord’s help, forgive the “debts” of others, releasing them from the hurt they have inflicted upon us.

Only when we forgive can we utter the words of the Our Father without hypocrisy.

We have all heard the adage, “forgive and forget.” But that is not only not possible—we always remember the hurts done to us— it is also not how forgiveness works. Rather, we are to “remember and forgive.” We are to remember who we are and to whom we belong in order to forgive.

Baptism has made us children of the same Father and brother to the same Jesus. By the power of the Spirit poured into our lives at baptism, we are strengthened to live with all people as children of the same Father and siblings to the same Jesus. By baptism, we are the Lord’s, we belong to Him, he has authority over our lives.

We are not directors of our own destiny nor fashioners of our own future. We are not masters of ourselves and our lives, but servants of the Risen Lord who gave his Spirit to us, as he did to the first followers, to share forgiveness. (John 20:23)

When we remember to whom we belong, who has set us free from the crushing burden of sin and death, then we can share, without counting the cost, the gift of forgiveness. Since we are the Lord’s, we do as he does and love as he loves, because he lives and loves through us by the gift of His Spirit.

Otherwise, when we forget who we are and to whom we belong, we allow the hurts done unto us to define our lives. We live our days as the “victim”, forever imprisoned in the past. Forgiveness gifts us with a future full of hope and a present packed with possibilities.

The paradox of faith is that if we want to keep what we have been given, we have to give it away.

If we want to be enlivened daily by the Lord’s forgiveness, then we have to give that gift of forgiveness away. If we want to have abundant life, then we have to lose our lives through sacrificial love, doing what we ought for the good of the other.

Then we can be sent forth from this miracle of God’s mercy called the Mass to announce the Gospel of the Lord.


Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



Shebna is master of the palace in Jerusalem, and he makes his authority felt. He has far-reaching authority over the king’s household and the king’s possessions. Shebna abuses this power by taking advantage of the perks of power, like the royal chariots, for his own personal use. He even makes a beautiful carved tomb for himself (Isaiah 22: 16-18).

God lifts up Eliakim to supplant Shebna. Eliakim will exercise authority with fatherly compassion and care, not with self-promotion, domination, and greed. Eliakim imitates the way God makes use of authority by serving His people, not by lording it over them.

This small snippet from the prophet Isaiah reveals how God wants leaders to exercise their power. God does not want leaders to do so by lording their authority over others and making their importance felt but rather through self-sacrificing service. (Matthew 20: 25-26) Keys are given not to lock away the treasures of the kingdom and hoard them, but to open the gates that all might enter in and experience the riches God has in store for them.

It is with this kind of understanding of leadership that Jesus chooses Peter to lead the early church and gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven, symbol of his authority. Peter is to lead following the example of Christ Jesus, the Son of the Living God, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

That is why Peter is called the “rock,” the foundation of the church. Instead of being “over” others, he is to be “under” them, even to kneel down and wash their feet. His position of leadership does not mean Peter is raised above others, but that he would be beneath them to support them. Jesus also chooses Peter because Jesus knows how much Peter relies on His mercy. Peter’s weakness and his sinfulness means he is constantly turning to Jesus for mercy. Like the Canaanite woman of great faith, Peter cries out constantly: “Lord, have mercy on me.”

Before his profession of faith in Jesus as the Son of the Living God, Peter sinks like a rock while walking on the water toward Jesus, crying out, “Lord, save me.” Immediately Jesus stretches out his hand to save Peter, so Peter knows he cannot save himself, he does not have that kind of power. He needs a Savior.

After Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus as the Son of the Living God, when Jesus lays out what it means to be the Christ, to be anointed and chosen by God, that it will mean suffering and death on the cross, Peter reprimands Jesus. Peter is strongly rebuked by Jesus, who says, “Get behind me, Satan, you are not thinking as God does but as human beings do.” Peter, as leader, has to figure out what that difference in thinking is by living in humility.

Of course, the most famous example of Peter’s need for the saving compassion of God in Christ is when he denies knowing Jesus, the night before Jesus before he is crucified. Peter crumbles under the interrogation of a servant girl, who rightly identifies Peter as one of Jesus’ companions. Peter three times denies knowing Jesus in order to save his skin.

Peter, aware of his own weakness, as leader of the early Church can have compassion on the weaknesses of others. Peter, painfully aware of his own sin but even more aware of the Lord’s mercy toward him, can be merciful toward the sinful people he leads.

The modern-day successor to Peter, Pope Francis, leads with this kind of authority. He does not make his importance felt but rather lives in a simple room in a hotel. He does not lord his authority over others, but kneels to wash the feet of juvenile offenders.

When he was selected as Pope some 7 years ago, he asked by a reporter, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” His reply: “I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy.” Thus, Pope Francis associate himself with Peter, and he unites himself with the people he leads, who are all broken by sin and in need of God’s saving mercy.

In his homily at his installation Mass as the newly chosen Pope, Francis said: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the cross.”

Pope Francis’ association with sinners and the outcasts of society, like Jesus, is a threat to those who hold power and use it only for their own advancement. His servant leadership threatens those in the Vatican who are power hungry and want to hold onto power at all costs. His model of Church as a field hospital, as existing to care specifically for those wounded on the battlefield of life, threatens priests and bishops who feel their perks of power threatened, who want to remain safe and secluded from the world’s pain.

Pope Francis is a strong voice for the voiceless, speaking out on behalf of the millions and millions of people who struggle to survive on less than $1 a day, shaking up those who have and hoard so much of the world’s goods and only want to have more and more. Our pope desires a church that is poor and for the poor.

As Pope Francis gives voice to Creation, which is silently crying out because of the abuse suffered at the hands of heedless humans, he rattles those whose only concern is to plunder the earth for more and more riches.

As it is for any father who cares deeply for his children, our Holy Father continues to challenge us to do the right thing, to show by our actions that we are sons and daughters of the living God.

So he challenges those who hold power to use their power in service of the least ones.

He challenges those who are privileged, and that includes you and me, reminding us that the only reason we have privilege is not for our own use but to care for our brothers and sisters who are hurting.


Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



Did you hear what I just heard? Jesus ignoring the request of a mother begging him to help her tormented child. Jesus insulting this woman by calling her a dog.

Did you hear what I just heard? This persistent mother who keeps barking until he changes his mind, moving him to do her will. Jesus paying this pagan woman a compliment which he gives to no other person in Matthew’s Gospel, calling her a woman of “great faith.”

The humanity of Jesus shines forth in this startling encounter between this Canaanite woman and him, a Jewish man. Jesus is a member of the people chosen by God; she a member of the people which the Israelites ran off the land promised to them by God.

We do not usually consider the limitations of culture when we think of the incarnation, of God fulling embracing our human condition in Jesus. We find it difficult to entertain the possibility that Jesus was ever in any way biased. That is very unfortunate, because this tends to make Jesus less than human. It also minimizes his extraordinary actions which break through the limitations of his culture.

In today’s gospel, this was accomplished through the agency of one whose gender and religious commitment made her unsuitable, according to the standards of Jesus’ culture. He was a member of the children of Israel— she and her kind were worth no more than stray dogs to the Israelites.

To be fully human is to change and to grow, and Jesus is humble enough to do so, to learn from others, especially those different from him.

The evangelist Matthew most likely included in his Gospel this shocking encounter between Jesus and this woman of great faith, because his early Christian community faced similar challenges.

The Christians to whom Matthew addresses his Gospel were almost entirely Jews who had embraced Christianity toward the end of the 1st century. But now there were pagans (Gentiles) becoming Christian who wanted to be part of their faith community, and there was a mighty struggle on how to incorporate them.

How were these Jewish Christians to welcome these foreigners? The Gentiles spoke a different language, ate different types of food, and even looked different from the Jewish Christians.

This Gospel passage presented the Matthean Community with two different responses to the Gentiles. They could choose to follow the example of the disciples, who wanted to send the woman away, who did not want to be bothered by her or with her, or they could follow the example of the founder of their faith. If Jesus could change his mind and react in mercy toward a Canaanite woman, they could do the same, and with Jesus, be blessed by the great faith of the foreigner.

The Jewish-Christian members of Matthew’s community were being invited to learn something from the “Canaanite women” in their midst. Those on the outside, like this woman, could teach something to those on the inside about faith and persistence in faith.

So, we are challenged to change and to grow, to be more and more inclusive of others, to move beyond our own small, exclusive groups toward others who are different from us. We are prodded and pushed by the word of God to leave our comfort zones to encounter people who are different from us, because we have so much to learn from them. Not so they can become just like us, for we are not seeking uniformity but rather unity.

As our image of God continues to change and grow, so does our image of others. In fact as we include others who are different from us in our world, as grace expands our heart space to treat them with mercy, we see there are many people we do not acknowledge or even notice who are worthy of our engagement.

Then we can move beyond that word “other” by adding two letters to the front of it— “b” and “r”—so that we may live together as brothers instead of perishing together as fools.

Or we can add the letter “m” onto that word “other” and recognize there are so many mothers today like the Canaanite woman, remarkable women of faith who are crying out to us, the Body of Christ, to respond to their pleas for help.

Black mothers crying out on behalf of their sons, “Have mercy.” Hispanic mothers pleading on behalf of their daughters, “Have mercy.” White mothers of police officers and soldiers, shouting out on behalf of their children: “Have mercy.”

Mothers of children in prisons, mothers whose children are starving, mothers whose children have “come out” regarding their sexual identity, all crying out on behalf of their children, “Have Mercy!”

All of us, every single one of us, have sinned and feel like we are outside of God’s care. We have turned a deaf ear to the cry of others in their need. Because of our disobedience, because we have all done our own will, instead of God’s will, we think we are outside of God’s care.

But by the obedience of one man, Jesus the Christ, we have all been brought inside God’s care.

We have been brought inside a large house of mercy where every thing and every one belongs.


Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



The blessed Virgin Mary is constantly on the move, going from place to place. She teaches us that this one wild and beautiful life we’ve been given by God is a journey, a pilgrimage of hope.

Mary always has her travelling shoes on, because she is going somewhere, love propelling her forward on her pilgrimage of faith.

After the receiving news from the Archangel Gabriel about God’s plan for her to be the mother of the Son of God, Mary goes up into the hill country to care for her cousin Elizabeth. She then travels far from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judah, where she gives birth to the child for whom all the world had hoped for and longed for. But even after Jesus is born, Mary continues to be on the move, as on the protective wings of the Spirit she joins Joseph in their flight to Egypt with the child.

Upon returning from exile in Egypt, she journeys to Jerusalem every year for the great feast of Passover, even losing Jesus and then “finding” him in the temple on one of these journeys to Jerusalem. Then Mary feels like she truly loses Jesus when she trudges up the hill of Calvary to stand at the foot of her son’s cross.

One would have thought that journey would have been Mary’s last, but it was just the beginning. Because with Jesus’ resurrection a doorway into a new life opens and she starts an incredible journey deeper and deeper into the mystery of God’s life-giving love.

Today we remember one final journey taken by Mary, the model pilgrim, the journey from this earth into the halls of heaven. She was taken up by God, body and soul, into the fullness of life everlasting, to her eternal rest.

But this woman of faith, who was constantly on the move or earth, cannot rest in heaven, for she has too much good to do on earth for her children. She accompanies us in our own journey of faith, pointing us always to Jesus her Son. She teaches us that we, too, are on a lifelong journey, and that heaven is our destiny.

On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, our hope is restored, because where our Mother has gone we long to follow.

By her life and this glorious celebration of her Assumption, body and soul, into heaven, Mary teaches us the sacred value of the human body. That each and every-body is of eternal value to God. God becoming human testifies to that truth, and the Son of God being raised up in a glorified human body also gives witness to the eternal dignity of the human body.

Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to be a dogma of our faith in 1950. He did so more than simply to officially ratify a tradition in the Church which had existed for fourteen hundred years. For he declared this dogma in the aftermath of World War II, where human bodies had been treated like trash, with between 70 – 85 million bodies were destroyed, many of them innocent civilians.

But it was more than just this War to end all Wars degradation of the human body, it was also the horror of Auschitz and Dachau and all the concentration camps, where the Jewish body was treated like trash, burned and thrown away.

In this context, Pope Pius XII declared this dogma about the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven. Basically emphasizing this truth—that flesh and blood in the eyes of our Creator is not trash. That we are more than just souls, for after all Jesus came to save the entire person, body and soul. We are enfleshed spirits, and our bodily existence is an essential part of who we and always will be. That’s why Jesus, risen from the dead, appeared to his friends in a glorified body.

That’s why his mother Mary, since she carried the Son of God in her womb, would not have her body suffer decay. Rather, she would experience immediately Risen life with her Son in a bodily way. After all, every time we profess our faith we say we believe in the resurrection of the body. We don’t say we believe in the resurrection of the soul, but the resurrection of the body.

These bodies we have been given become temples of the Holy Spirit, God dwelling in us. These bodies are sacred, holy, of immeasurable worth. No body is worthless because their bodies are different from ours – a different color or shape or not able to function as well..

The body, which has become a vessel of God, is holy and sacred to God. How might we treat each person today if we saw them as sacred vessels of God? What would happen if we finally understood and acted upon the truth that one bodily life is not more valued than another?

White bodies and bodies of color are of inestimable value. Bodies that are young and old are both of lasting value. The bodies of those who are free and those imprisoned behind iron bars and in cages are of the same incalculable value.

How might we treat each person today if we saw them as sacred vessels of God? By her life and by her being assumed into heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary wants to teach us every day this truth, and like a good mother, drill it into our hearts, so it becomes a part and parcel of who we are.

It is the path of love we walk with Mary on our long journey home, recognizing the presence of her Son in others.


Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 9, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



Peter is chosen by Jesus as the leader of the apostles and leader of the early Church not because he is perfect but because he loves Jesus with all his heart. The greatest desire of Peter’s heart is to be with the Lord Jesus, wherever Jesus is. Which is why he leaves the boat in the middle of a violent storm to go to Jesus.

Only foolhardy fishermen leave the safety of their boats in a storm. But Peter does, when summoned by the Lord Jesus to come to him. Peter’s leaving of the boat to walk on the water toward Jesus symbolizes Peter leaving the life he knows for a new life with Jesus. Peter takes the risk of love by leaving a place of safety and security to go where Jesus is calling him to go.

Why? Because Peter trusts Jesus. Peter has found that with Jesus he is more alive and life is more meaningful. But, Peter also struggles to entrust himself fully to Jesus. He tries to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus but there are so many distractions, so much to fear.

Peter hears an ongoing call from Jesus to grow in trust, often in the form of the question: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”. “O you of little faith” is a term of endearment Jesus uses for Peter, not of condemnation. Jesus works with the faith Peter has, with Peter’s ability in the moment to surrender himself to Jesus. For even a little faith calls forth from Jesus compassion & salvation.

Jesus knows Peter so well, that he understands Peter is of two minds, which is literally what the word “doubt” means when Jesus asks Peter why did he doubt. Peter has one mind whose thoughts tempt him to think he is all alone in the midst of the storms of life. This “mind” panics in a thousand different directions at the slightest sense of insecurity as fear trumps trust.

Peter’s other “better” mind knows that Jesus will always love him and take care of him, and this mindset allows him to entrust his life into Jesus’ hands, to keep his eyes fixed on the Lord.

This powerful encounter between Jesus and Peter takes place neither on the shore of eternal stability nor in the shabby boat of human accomplishments. Rather, this encounter takes place over the uncertain gulf of mutual love, in the midst of a storm. Love propels Peter out of the boat and a greater love than Peter’s beckons him forward into a new life and saves him from death.

The place where Peter encounters Jesus is in the very middle of the storm, in the midst of the howling wind and the crashing waves. This is where Jesus is.

Many Christians have no problem believing that Jesus is with them during times of peace and prosperity, but struggle to believe that he is with them in the midst of sickness and disaster. But we need remember that Jesus, Immanuel, God-with-us, promises to be with us always, not just at certain times.

We may pray for God to rescue us when faced with the violent storms of trials and suffering, sickness and disaster. God will do so, but perhaps not in the way we imagine. For it is often in times of darkness and pain that we break through to a new intimacy with God, a closer relationship with the Son of God. And like Peter, when we respond to the invitation to come closer to Jesus, to share more fully in the divine life he offers us, we shall never be left to drown. It may feel like it at certain stormy times in our life, but the truth is, the hand of the Lord, who is Jesus himself, always is there to save us.

Like Peter, in order to abandon ourselves totally to the Lord Jesus, we must first feel like we are drowning, because in that moment we call out, “Lord, save me” and give ourselves totally over to His power. Like Jesus Christ on the cross, in order to abandon ourselves totally into the hands of God our Father, we must first feel what appears to be utter abandonment by God.

For the God who Christ on the cross reveals is a God who protects us from nothing, but sustains us in everything. Even though we are not shielded from anything this world throws at us, the love of the Lord lifts us up and strengthens us to endure any storm.

So, the invitation in the middle of the storm of this virus crisis is to go to Jesus, keep our eyes fixed on him, to realize he is with us in this storm.

We are not to waste our time looking for him in the past of our former “normal” lives, for the Savior of the world is not present in some idealized past but only in the present moment.

He is with us in this present moment of crisis, in the middle of the wind and waves which threaten to swallow up all that we had placed our trust in and hoped for.

He keeps calling out, “Come. Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”

The invitation of the Lord Jesus at every moment is to let go of the life we are so fearfully holding onto in order to receive the abundant life he longs to share with us.

He stretches out his hand to save us each day, so we might be empowered to reach out and lift up those who are drowning in fear.