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Homily

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Isaiah 35: 4-7a; Psalm 146: 7-10; James 2: 1-5; Mark 7: 31-37
Holy Spirit Church: September 5, 2021

Ephphatha! What a strange sounding word.
It is an Aramaic word, the language which Jesus of Nazareth spoke. Ephphatha!
When Mark wrote his gospel in the 1st century in Greek, he retained this Aramaic word,
a word that would have actually been spoken by Jesus. Ephphatha! Be opened!

But this is not the only time Mark used the original language of Jesus in his gospel.
Remember back at the end of June when we heard proclaimed in this place the encounter
between Jesus and the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus.
Everyone thought her dead on her bed, but Jesus reaches out, takes her hand and says
to her, “Talitha koum”, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” (Mark 5:41)
And so she does, responding to the words of Jesus, “Talitha koum.”

Then there are the words spoken in anguish by Jesus on the cross in Mark’s gospel.
“Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani” which we heard proclaimed on Palm Sunday
at the end of March. (Mark 15:34)
This saying in Aramaic is translated as, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

Ephphatha; Talitha koum; eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani—these Aramaic words
connect us to the historical Jesus, reminding us that he was a real person
who spoke a specific language, that he lived at a certain time and in a certain place.
He healed those whose bodies were broken, lifted up those lying
on their deathbeds, and by his own death brought the ultimate healing—
the gift of a life beyond this life where there will be no more suffering nor sorrow
nor death anymore.

Like his healing of the man who was deaf and mute, Jesus longs to speak over us
the same word today—Ephphatha—that is, “Be opened.”
The Risen Jesus, who still is with us by the power of His Spirit,
longs to touch those parts of us that are closed off to his love and open them up.

Jesus reaches out to touch the man in today’s Gospel in those specific places
which needed healing— his ears and his tongue.
In this very intimate encounter between Jesus and this man apart from the crowds,
Jesus physically touches those places in him which are closed off and need opening.
So Jesus longs to do with each one of us.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows those places in our heart
that we have closed which need to be opened.
He knows how we compartmentalize our life by spending some time with him in prayer but then closing off the rest of our day to him
It is those parts of our life that he wants to reach out to touch with his healing power.

Jesus is very aware as well of those parts of our life from the past
which we still carry locked away because of much hurt or pain,
parts of our life that we have never opened up to anybody about, much less Him.
But he knows even these very intimate parts of our life and longs to reach out
and touch them and say, “Be opened” that his healing love might flow into them.

Throughout our life we also close ourselves off to other people.
We become “deaf” to them, deaf to their cries.
Our tongues become shackled—we do not even speak to them.
Now these can be people who have hurt us, but they also can be certain groups of people who we shut out because they are different from us.

The community to which St. James addresses his letter struggled
with being open to the poor in their midst.
For us, it may be the same, or we may close our hearts to those of a
different political persuasion, or race, or ethnicity, or gender.

The Risen Jesus speaks to us in these places of our heart that have been closed off:
Ephphatha—BE OPENED!

Being open to hear the Word of God is a life-long process, an ongoing journey of healing.
Being open to hear the Will of God involves a daily turning to Jesus to open us up
to the Father’s will and help us to accomplish it.

For most of us our journey of faith begins in the waters of baptism as a child,
so this process of being ever more open to God’s word starts there as well.
One of the rituals of baptism enacted after the giving of the candle is the
“Ephphatha Rite.” That right, you heard me right, it is the “Ephphatha Rite.”

The minister touches the child’s ears and mouth while saying:
“May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak,
grant that you may soon receive his word with your ears & profess the faith
with your lips to the glory and praise of God the Father.”

May we receive the word of God spoken today by the prophet Isaiah,
“Be strong, fear not. Here is your God…he comes to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

May we profess this faith with our lips by encouraging others
to be strong in the Lord’s saving love.

As the Lord Jesus reaches out to touch us in this sacred meal of the Eucharist,
may we be opened to his presence in others.”

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Deut. 4: 1-2, 6-8; Psalm 15: 2-5; James 1: 17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: August 29, 2021

On the holiday of Simchat Torah (The Joy of the Torah), Jews celebrate the Torah
(what we call the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible), with song and dance.
That’s right, the Jews celebrate these Sacred Scriptures, these divine instructions,
with song and dance.

“Torah” is almost always translated as “law” in modern languages,
but I have never seen lawyers singing and dancing in the streets with their law books.
That alone should signal how poorly the word “law” translates the rich meaning of Torah,
how poorly the word “law” translates the gift of the foundational Scriptures of the Bible.

Of these five Scriptural books, three of them—Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy—include statutes, decrees, commandments, and above all exhortations.
This is what we hear from Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy today—an exhortation
to the people to live the Torah and so demonstrate their wisdom and intelligence.

The Torah gave structure to the communal life of the ancient Israelites,
how they were to live together in order to honor and love God.
So it touched on the “stuff” of every day life, with instructions and decrees about workdays and holidays, banking and harvesting, dietary concerns and religious purity,
and even the treatment of migrants.
Torah, as its root meaning in Hebrew implies, is a practical guide to holiness.

A central teaching of Torah is captured in today’s psalm response:
“The one who does justice (as in observing Torah) will live in the presence of the Lord.”
This justice is made concrete by the psalmist addressing money lending and bribery,
This justice is made concrete in Deuteronomy with the exhortation:
“there shall be no one of you in need” (15:4).

When Jesus is asked to summarize the Torah, he narrows all these commandments
and statutes and decrees into two: Love God and love neighbor.
But remember, in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,”
Jesus places no limit on who one’s neighbor is.
For Jesus the neighbor most in need of love is the vulnerable or hurting person.

At the heart of doing justice in order to live in the presence of the Lord
is the command to care for the most vulnerable in society.
At the heart of the Law, at the very center of the observance of the Torah
is this constant exhortation to care for those most in need of care.
Thus, over and over again in the Torah we hear the command to care for orphans, widows, and the resident alien, a term better translated as foreigner.
This command is like a golden thread woven throughout the Torah.

This decree makes concrete what it means to love God and neighbor
because these groups of people represent those who are most in need of protection.
Orphans and widows and foreigners are those who have no power
and who are most often without the basic necessities of life.

St. James in his letter today echoes this theme from the Torah by stating:
“{R}eligion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction….” (1:27)

In our desire to live out the Torah, to live by the law of God which gives life,
we have to ask the question, “Who are the most vulnerable in our society today?”
In our desire to love God and love neighbor in the concrete circumstances of our daily life, we have to prayerfully ponder, “Who are the vulnerable ones who need our care?”
Definitely widows, orphans and migrants in our midst cry out for help and compassion, but during this pandemic there are other groups which command our attention and care.

As the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus fills up hospitals with people struggling to breathe, we know that children and those with compromised health conditions are the most vulnerable to becoming ill with Covid-19.
There is no approved vaccine for children under 12, and those who have
auto-immune diseases or whose health is compromised in other ways
can still be at risk even if they have received a vaccine.
Out of concern and care for the vulnerable ones, we need to do everything possible
to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Thus, for those who have not received the vaccine, I urge you to do so
to protect not only yourself but the vulnerable ones in our midst.
Obviously, if your personal physician has advised you not to receive the vaccine,
follow their advice, but otherwise make this small sacrifice for the good of others.
Practicing a religion which is undefiled means striving to love and care
for the most vulnerable ones among us.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus goes through a whole list of sins which come from within
that defile a person and their relationship to others and to God.
Starting with evil thoughts and ending with folly, this lists lays bare a number of sins which “infect” us, causing “dis-ease” in our relationship to self, others, and God.

That last one in the list, “folly”, is of particular concern at this time
and during this pandemic.
Folly results from mental laziness, from not trying to understand divine teachings.
Folly flows from thinking I alone know what’s best
and this self-absorption leads to foolish actions.

By refusing to take the vaccine which would curb the spread of this deadly infection,
some Catholics state they are doing so because they are following their conscience.
Now the Church has always taught the primacy of conscience,
but only the primacy of an informed conscience.

We are challenged to form our consciences by prolonged prayer and serious study.
Before making any important decision, we are to enter into an ongoing conversation
with God which is aided by the illumination of Sacred Scripture.

We are invited to study what the Church teaches, the actual documents of the Church,
not what some “Catholic” website claims the Church teaches.
The Church’s official position on the vaccine from the Pope, to your Archbishop,
to your pastor has been clear and consistent: that taking the vaccine is morally acceptable
and an act of love for our neighbor and the common good.

Formation of conscience requires not only knowledge of Church teaching on the matter
at hand, but also of the facts relevant to the issue being discerned.
Forming one’s conscience based on the facts becomes challenging amidst the noise
of social media when so many people are claiming their “opinions” to be “factual.”
Study and ponder what the professionals say about this mutating virus, and know
that their advice will change as they learn more about this new variant of the virus.

Consult your personal physician, our local health department, and the dedicated scientists at the Center for Disease Control for the best factual information, not what your friend or family member posts on Facebook.
If we want to prevent the infectious spread of “folly,”
we need to carefully and prudently form our conscience.

We live during a time of misguided individualism fueled by
an unhealthy self-centeredness.
We live during an age where a number of people think freedom means
doing whatever I want.

The Catholic understanding of freedom means the ability to do what is good,
which may not always coincide with what I want. Why?
In the Catholic moral tradition the individual is always treated
as part of a community and a network of relationships.

So, as Catholics we emphasize the principle of “what more can I do” for you
instead of “how little can I do.”
True freedom is the ability to do what is good, not only for me,
but for everyone.

We believe that where the Spirit of the Lord is present there is freedom, the freedom
to love more generously and to care for and protect the least of our sisters and brothers.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Joshua 24: 1-2a, 1-17, 18b+ Psalm 34 + Ephesians 5: 21-32 + John 6:60-69
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: August 22, 2021

Last Sunday we took a short vacation from the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel
for the celebration of the Assumption of Mary.
But for those of you who have read and prayed with the word of God in Chapter 6 of John, you know that the passage from this chapter which was not proclaimed last Sunday because of the Assumption is a very important teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus says:
“Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life within you.
(John 6:53)

These words of Jesus are so forceful and strong, so visceral and powerful because He wants to convey a very important truth about the believer’s relationship to Him.
Thus, these challenging words of Jesus are about more than physical eating and drinking.
These words of everlasting life go right to the heart of what the Holy Eucharist
is all about—transforming us into Christ’s body,
to be so intimately joined to him that He lives in us.

We become one with the Risen Christ as we eat his body and drink his blood,
which means taking all that Christ is into us.
This means putting on the mind of Christ and thinking as he does.
This means joining our hearts to the heart of Christ and loving as He does.

We begin to understand that the Eucharist is more than something to be adored.
He wants to transform us into His body, to be His presence in this world.
The Eucharist is not something but the gift of Someone—the Word of God enfleshed.

In this Sacrament we encounter and receive the Risen Lord,
and he becomes flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.
He longs to speak through us, to love through us, to live in us,
to transform us more and more into his Body.

Which is why when the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion,
they carry out a simple but intense gesture.
Standing before the minister of Holy Communion,
they raise their arms and open their hands to receive the eucharistic bread.
They open their hands as people about to receive a gift,
and this gesture reveals an interior attitude.
It is an act of the spirit.
To open one’s hands is the purest human gesture one can make
to represent openness to receiving a gift.
The posture of one who is standing, with arms out and hands open,
signifies not only openness to receive but also total vulnerability and inability to harm.

So, one does not grab the eucharistic bread, one doesn’t take it;
one receives it from someone who puts it into our opened hands.
Why?
Because salvation is from Christ, of whom the eucharistic bread is a sacrament,
and salvation in Christ is a freely given gift of the Father.

It is somewhat like the surrender a husband and wife make to each other daily.
They give the gift of who they are to their spouse, saying, “Here I am, I am yours.”
This openness, this vulnerability,
to receive the gift of the other is a Eucharistic action.
For as a spouse subordinates himself or herself to their beloved, they say:
This is my body given for you, take and eat,
my life poured out for you today, take and drink.
This receiving of the gift of the other is at the heart of married love and divine love.

Jesus gave his followers the great gift of the Eucharist as food for the journey of faith.
This great gift strengthens those who surrender their lives to Jesus for the journey home.

The faithful do not receive the Eucharist where they sit
but they are called to leave their places and walk toward the altar.
In this way, the liturgy invites the faithful to carry out a movement,
a walk that manifests that the Eucharist is bread for the journeying person.

The Eucharist is indeed the viaticum–the bread for the voyage,
just as the manna was for the people of Israel.
The Eucharist is bread for they journey just as the bread provided by the angel
was for prophet Elijah from the Scripture reading proclaimed here two weeks ago.

That’s why it felt so odd in the height of the pandemic this past year
for people to receive the Eucharist from the minister who came to them in their pews—
You stayed in one place and the Eucharist was brought to you as a safer way to receive.
But now we know more than ever that the Eucharist is bread for the journey,
so we come forward to receive the Bread come down from heaven.

The believer does not make his or her journey alone but only together
with brothers and sisters in faith; this is expressed in the Communion procession,
which therefore becomes a sign.
Here the liturgy teaches each one of us that this is not only my condition
but also the condition of all Christians.
The church is a people on journey toward the Kingdom..

The Communion procession is therefore the image of humanity on the way toward God, each of us in our own circumstances and states of life.
All go together toward the altar, each of us as we are,
with our own particular burdens, all compelled by the same hunger to receive
the bread of forgiveness, the bread of mercy,
the bread of eternal life that only God can give.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

You will notice that today,
Father and I are not donning the green vestments,
but rather these white vestments.
Every August 15 we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and as is usually the case…
Mary trumps a Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Today’s solemnity is closely tied to what we celebrate every December 8,
the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
While no explicitly found in the canon of scripture,
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her Assumption into heaven,
have been part of the Church’s tradition since the early days of the Church.

Many of our protestant brothers and sisters
are critical of the Church’s emphasis on Mary…
that we as Catholics worship Mary,
and that somehow our devotion to the Blessed Mother
takes away from our worship of God,
from our focus on Jesus.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saint Louis-Marie de Monfort, who lived late 17th-early 18th century,
was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He describes Mary as “the echo of God.”
“The Echo of God.”
An echo is not the source of a sound,
but rather carries the sound.
Mary’s echo announces that salvation has come,
and it is not her, but rather she points us to Jesus.
Mary always points us to Jesus.

Many times in art work,
we find the image of Mary alongside the crescent moon.
Again, another image.
The moon itself does not emit light itself,
but merely reflects the source of light…our sun.
In the same way, Mary does not emit light herself,
but reflects the glory of her SON.
We are taken back to that beautiful Hymn of Mary in today’s Gospel…
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

Let me give you one more image of Mary…
The early Church Fathers believed Mary
to be foreshadowed in the burning bush.
Remember Moses approaches this sight…
a bush ablaze and yet the bush is not consumed by the fire.
Mary shines with the presence and power of God
but is not consumed by that power.

Some look at Mary’s Assumption into heaven,
body, and soul,
as a reward for Mary’s faithfulness.
Perhaps it’s a cultural observance.
In our culture, reward is the result of good works,
and punishment the result of bad works.
But that is not the way of God.
All goodness comes to us from God,
not as reward,
but rather, as pure gift.

I would suggest that Mary’s Assumption into heaven
began at that moment of the Immaculate Conception.
Mary was spared in the womb of her mother, Anna,
the stain of original sin for one purpose…
that this newly conceived child would become
the very mother of the Son of God.
Perhaps throughout her early life,
this identity was not fully understood
until that moment the angel announced that she,
with her consent, would,
by the power of the Holy Spirit, bear a Son and name him Jesus.

Mary’s Assumption into heaven not only speaks of her identity,
but also speaks of our identity.
We learn from her that the closer we are to God,
the more truly we are ourselves…
God elevates and enlightens me and you,
he makes us fully alive,
which is being fully ourselves.
God never forces us to be anything we’re not.
Within Mary’s womb,
in the most tangible and literal way,
Christ was alive…
yet she is not overwhelmed or suppressed by Christ’s dwelling in her,
she is made luminous and glorious,
she is made the beloved Mary she was meant to be.

All of us, the Church of Christ,
when we accept God’s Word,
God’s life takes root in us.
Here, Mary teaches us an important lesson…
that the new life Jesus promised comes only with radical trust in God.
It is at the limits of our strength,
the limits of what we can do as humans,
that is where God acts…
it’s when we open ourselves to God that the divine life breaks in
and God’s life is born in us.
We are made the beloved that God intended us to be.

Mary is the Theotokos…
Greek for “The God Bearer.”
Sometimes that is described as the “container of the uncontainable.”
We too are containers which can contain the fullness of God…
at this altar Christ gives the fullness of his being to us,
body and blood, soul and divinity…
at Baptism we are born again with the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit.
You and I are containers of the uncontainable God…
temples of the Holy Spirit…
and Mary teaches us what it means to respond to this reality
with faith and hope and love.

On this Feast of the Assumption,
the day the Church celebrates that Mary
has been taken up into heaven to live forever with her Son,
we see the destiny of our human nature.
But not as reward,
but rather from our identity.
We will be like Christ, with Mary, in glory,
crowned with grace…
this is the final destination of the pilgrim people of God
and the Assumption of Mary
is proof that Jesus is faithful to his promise
that he prepares a dwelling place for the human family
in his Father’s house.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
1 Kings 19: 4-8 + Psalm 34 + Ephesians 4: 30 – 5:2 + John 6: 41-51
Holy Spirit Church: August 8, 2021

The Son of God comes from heaven to earth to teach us how to love.
Jesus shows us how to love one another AND GOD by the way he lives life on this earth.
The Son of God, as the bread come down from heaven,
is born into a world where human beings are separated from each other and from God, and so he comes to reconcile us to each other and to God.

We have to learn how to love, we need someone to teach us and show us,
and so Jesus does.
We are fed by the bread of his teaching, the words he speaks which are like manna
to our souls.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
“Blessed the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers.” Or these words, “I call you friends.”

We are fed by the bread of his life, by his deeds done which give us an image
of what love looks like.

Daily he gives his flesh for the life of the world, giving himself in his fleshy body
to feed those hungering for love:
touching the leper,
embracing children,
feeding the hungry with bread from his hands,
forgiving the adulterous woman and lifting her up freed from the weight of her sin, healing broken hearts and bodies by his words and deeds.

Which leads to the ultimate sacrifice of love, the image which teaches us more than any other what love looks like, as he gives his flesh for the life of the world on the cross.
This supreme act of love was simply a consequence of a life poured out in love of others, a life spent giving himself as bread come down from heaven to those hungering for love.

Jesus shows us what love looks like and then commands us
to love one another as he has loved us.

St. Paul fleshes out what this love of Christ looks like.
He spells out what the love of Christ looks like in the life of his followers, in Christians.

Kindness, compassion, forgiving one another—this is what love looks like.
These acts of love produce a sweet-smelling fragrance which dispels the bad odor
of bitterness and fury, shouting and reviling.

Loving in this way is a choice. It is an act of the will.
It means letting go of control, which results not in a loss of freedom, but freedom gained.

To choose to love means letting go of power—it is an act of vulnerability,
a handing of ourselves over to others, as Jesus has handed himself over to us.
But it is not a loss of self, but rather a self-revealed, a fuller self gained.

We are able to love others as Jesus loves because Jesus first loves us.
He loves us first, gives himself to us before we are ever worthy of such a gift.

As the living bread come down from heaven, Jesus Christ feeds us with his love
in a very concrete, tactile way in this holy meal.

This is the Bread which energizes us for our long journey home
back to our Heavenly Father.

The One who literally is Love Enfleshed, gives us his flesh to eat,
his very person as the Risen Lord
joining his life to ours, to strengthen us in loving others as he loves.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15 + Psalm 78: 3-4, 23-25, 54 + Eph. 4:17, 20-24 + John 6: 24-35
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: August 1, 2021

There is a difference between “belly food” and “soul food.”
There really is no comparison between “belly food” and “soul food.”
One satisfies for a brief instant and the other lasts forever.

While wandering hungry in the desert, the people of Israel are invited
to feast on “soul food,” to trust that God will provide for their needs.
The manna that God sends from heaven is this “soul food,” just enough for every day.
But they must trust that God will feed them, they have to rely on God’s goodness.

The Israelites are tempted to return to slavery in Egypt in order to feed their bellies,
rather than trust that God will feed them and lead them to the Promised Land.

It can be hard to trust that in the long term, God will bring good
out of tough “desert days,” when all we can see is what we are lacking.
The needs that loom before us can make us forget God’s faithfulness.
We need a sign of God’s faithfulness, a reminder that he takes care of us.

Which is why the Father who fed the Israelites in the desert with bread from heaven sends the One who is the Bread of Life come down from heaven
to feed our souls hungering for God.
Jesus is the bread of God come down from heaven who gives life to the world.
To believe in Jesus, to give ourselves in trust to Him,
means feasting on a life full of meaning.

The crowd of people following Jesus have full bellies from the loaves of bread
he has given them to eat. They look for him and find him, seeking more free food.
They come to Him thinking only of their bellies, and he wants to take them deeper,
he wants to give them soul food, he wants to give them the very gift of Himself.
But they like free food and are having hard time going any deeper.
Their bellies are full yet their minds and hearts are still empty.

Jesus wants to take them to a deeper level which goes beyond any earthly need or want. He wants to lead them into everlasting life by the gift of Himself.

To “believe in Jesus” means giving ourselves to Him, recognizing the saving truth
that only in him will our deepest hungers be satisfied, our greatest thirsts quenched.
For full bellies do not make for full lives,
but somehow a full life found in our relationship to Jesus seems to satisfy every hunger.

But this means we have to step out of a life that is steeped in ignorance and self interest and into Christ.
This is a life-long journey, an ongoing conversion, a continual turning away from shallow desires and turning toward Him who is the desire of our heart.
We are starving for a life that really matters and we find that life in Christ.
When we believe that Jesus Christ is the bread of life, that in Him
every hunger we have is satisfied, then our lives are transformed.

Life in him is different than any other kind of life,
because it is a life which death can never cut short.
It is a life we can start living now, free from anxiety and full of confidence
in Jesus’ desire to provide us what we need.

As St. Paul describes this process, we leave behind the old self
concerned only with selfish desires and put on the new self in Christ.
Which is why the Church gifts us with this Sacraments,
to draw us into this new life in Christ Jesus.
We put on this new self in Christ in Baptism, and this new self is nourished
by the bread come down from heaven in the Eucharist.

Joining our lives to the life of Jesus Christ, we become a new person.
Then we begin to understand what St. Paul means when he says we need not fear
hunger or hardship or persecution, because Christ Jesus is with us always,
feeding us with his love.

Jesus did not promise his followers contentment, ease, and plenty in this life.
In fact, when we have these things,
there is a risk of forgetting there is something else ahead.

The Son of God came down from heaven to show us how to live, by giving his life away in love of others and in love of His Heavenly Father.
This is a life that satisfies, a life given away in love,
which becomes bread for a hungry world.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
2 Kings 4: 42-44 + Psalm 145: 10-11, 15-18 + Ephesians 4: 1-6 + John 6: 1-15
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, July 25, 2021

The apostles Philip and Andrew live under the illusion of scarcity.
They believe there is only so much to go around
and that there is never enough for everybody.

Philip— “Even if we had the money from 200 days of wages,
we could not purchase enough food to even give this large crowd even a little food.”
Andrew, in the face of the boy’s generous gift—“What good are these for so many?”

Even though Philip and Andrew walk and sleep and eat in the shadow of the One
who reveals by word and deed and by his very life the superabundance
of God’s goodness and love, these two apostles live under the illusion of scarcity—
that there is never going to be enough, that there is so little to go around.

The boy who blesses them with a very generous gift—5 loaves of barley bread
and 2 fish—lives in a different world than Philip and Andrew.
This boy knows because he has been taught by his parents that by sharing
the little he has there will always be more than enough to go around.
The barley loaf boy knows this to be true when especially when giving away
what he has to Jesus for Jesus to bless and break and share.

The multiplication of the loaves occurs in all four Gospels, but only in John’s Gospel
is this boy mentioned and what kind of loaves are given to Jesus to bless and share—barley loaves.
This is the bread for the poor and of the poor, the only bread the poor can afford to eat.
So, this boy shares all that his family has to eat for the day.
By doing so, he reminds us that those who are “poor” teach us
about the generosity of God and the providence of God and the goodness of God,
and that for those who trust in God there is no need to worry if there will be enough, because there are always leftovers—always more than enough.

Those who live under the illusion of scarcity also live under the illusion of separateness.
Believing there is never enough and that one has to protect the little one has,
leads to people separating themselves from others.
When one lives a life based on scarcity, one builds walls to keep others out,
to protect the “little” one has.

Looking at the world which God created through the lens of scarcity
causes one to make one’s group or tribe or political party into God.
Looking at life from the perspective of scarcity causes one to
demonize those who are different or who have different opinions.

The barley loaf boy and those like him teach us the truth that we are all one family
under God, that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.
The barley loaf boy reminds us that every single one of us came into this world
with nothing and will take nothing with us when we leave this world,
so we are all united in our daily dependence on the generosity of God.
The barley loaf boy, by his generous gift, challenges us to see what is most real and true–
that the hand of the Lord feeds us, giving us all we need.

Indeed, as Jesus distributes to the large crowd what the boy has given him,
that truth becomes evident, for the hand of the Lord feeds them,
providing them with what they need…and more.

Once we recognize and embrace the truth that we are all poor,
that our daily bread comes to us from the hand of a loving Father,
then the illusion of separateness shatters.
We see others as our brothers, not as enemies in the fight over scarce resources.
Instead of building walls, we build longer tables to welcome our sisters
to the feast of God’s goodness.

St. Paul challenges us to “live in the manner worthy of the call you have received.”
Called by God to this feast of his love, to this bountiful meal where we are fed
by the gift of His Son given to us and for us, we are to live likewise.

Living from the reality of the Holy Communion we share, we model our lives
on the Generous One who gives his life away, so we might do the same for others.
If we are going to be one body in Christ, we live the virtues Paul proposes:
humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance.
All these virtues involve putting ourselves in second place
for the sake of promoting oneness in Christ.

When we live from the Christian worldview of abundance, when we are aware
of how much we have received, then it does not make sense to be selfish.
When we know the great generosity of God shown to us in the grand gift of His Son,
it makes no sense to look out for ourselves at the expense of others.

For we have been given more than what appears to be.
In fact, we are more than what we appear to be.
We have the potential to feed a world hungering for God’s saving love in Christ.

Christ’s love and His life, given to us in this Eucharist,
are meant to flow through us to others.

When shared, His love and His life grows stronger in us,
becoming more than enough for us and more than enough for others.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

14TH SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Ezekiel 2: 2-5 + Psalm 123: 1-4 + 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 + Mark 6: 1-6
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Gospel passages from Mark the past two Sundays and today have helped us reflect on the meaning of “faith.”
We have seen how in these accounts that faith equals trust,
that to believe means to trust in Jesus.

The disciples in that sinking boat, swamped by fear, are chided by Jesus
for their “little faith”—they struggle to trust completely in Jesus
and to entrust their lives totally to his care.
The woman whose body will not stop bleeding and the father whose daughter dies
both entrust themselves to Jesus, trusting that he has the power to heal a chronic illness as well as the power to raise a child from death.

Today, at the other end of the spectrum, are the people of Jesus’ hometown.
The evangelist Mark correctly diagnoses the problem with the people of Nazareth—
their problem is unbelief, which basically means they distrust Jesus.

The hometown folks are hard of face and obstinate of heart.
They are arrogant and full of contempt for Jesus, thinking they know him,
because they knew him when he was a kid and knew him as a handyman.
The people of Nazareth think Jesus is full of himself, but that is a projection—for they are so full of themselves they cannot receive Jesus nor trust in him nor his message.

The power of this unbelief, of this mistrust of Jesus and trusting only
in their long-held assumptions about him, is that Jesus is not able to work
any mighty deed there. Wow!

Notice in this Gospel passage that the people never address Jesus directly.
They never enter into conversation with him, they never call him by his name-
they only make assumptions.
They know things about Jesus, like the names of his family members, but they
do not know Jesus because they refuse to do what is most human and most vulnerable:
to enter into a conversation with him, to ask questions and seek to understand.

Instead of talking to him, they talk about him.
Instead of treating him with human dignity as someone with a name
who has the potential to change and grow, they put him in a box.
They assume so much.
I will not break down that word, “assume” in this public setting,
but let’s just say that if I assume something about you I make a fool out of you and me.

One of the reasons that all the prophets in the Old Testament invite their hearers
to repentance is because repentance simply means the willingness
to rethink one’s assumptions.
The prophet straddling the Old and the New, John the Baptist, invites the people
into repentance, to change the way they think, so they can receive someone
completely NEW, who shatters their assumptions about God and God’s ways—Jesus.
Jesus also invites people to repentance, to examine their assumptions about God
and other people in order to take on his mindset.

The essence of not having faith, of distrust, is that you believe or trust your current assumptions and opinions so much that you distrust anything new that comes your way.
Psychologists call this “confirmation bias.”
They tell us that our brains are wired to accept ideas that confirm what we already think, and to reject anything that challenges our assumptions.
Those who make tons of money off the Internet understand confirmation bias,
which is why the algorithms which run Facebook take us to sites and groups
which confirm what we already think.

Without even knowing it, we become a prisoner of our own assumptions.
The result–we never come to know others who are different from us.
That’s why it is so easy today to demonize and discard those who think differently
than we do.

In the gospels, the opposite of confirmation bias is repentance.
The word literally means to “think again” or “to change your mind.”

Trust enables us to rethink our assumptions, to see the world and others in a new way.
Jesus constantly is saying, “Have faith” because he is calling others to trust in Him.
As the Son of God in human flesh, he sees things that we do not
and invites us to this new way of seeing.
As the Wisdom of God fully human, he wants us to break free of our confirmation bias.

The invitation he extends daily to us is to be his disciple,
a word which literally means “to sit at the feet of the Master,”
so we might learn how to see others as he does
and love others as he does.

But the journey of discipleship is painful because we have to go through the death,
the letting go, of assumptions that sometimes have to be rooted out of our hearts.
What Jesus is about is heart surgery, for when we change the way we think,
then our hearts are transformed as well.

We are not only daily being called to repentance, but also we are called to be prophetic.
By our baptism, when we put on Christ, we were given a part in His prophetic ministry.
As it was with Jesus, so we too can expect rejection as we live out the Gospel.
He experienced rejection and so will we.

Whenever we speak out defending the dignity of human life,
whether that be against abortion or against capital punishment or against racism,
we risk rejection.
Whenever we bring to light the assumptions that people live by
which are not in accord with the teachings of Jesus, we can expect to be rejected.
As it was with Jesus, so it will be with us his disciples.

But the Scriptures today not only challenge us to persevere in our prophetic call
in the face of rejection, but also challenge us to examine when we have rejected others.

We are invited to think about the times we have caused this pain by rejecting
our brothers and sisters who opinions and ideas, looks and behavior
are not in accord with our own.

But we are also invited by this Gospel to look carefully at how easily
we reject others who come to our borders,
do not speak our language, or have an accent.
We have to wonder if this is not in some very real way a rejection of the very One
who has come for us, given us so much, and asked so little.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

13th SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24 + Psalm 30 + 2 Cor. 8: 7, 9, 13-15 + Mark 5: 21-43
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: June 27, 2021

These two miracle stories in Mark’s Gospel are set within
the larger context of four consecutive accounts of Jesus’ power over chaos.
These four accounts of Jesus’ power to save are found at the end of Chapter 4
and in the entirety of Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark.

Last Sunday, at the end of Chapter 4 in Mark, we encountered Jesus’ power
over the chaos that erupts in nature as he calmed the powerful storm on the sea of Galilee.
At the beginning of Chapter 5, before the two accounts found in today’s Gospel,
Jesus reveals his lordship over the power of evil, as he sets the Gerasene demoniac free from the legion of demons possessing him.

Today we see Jesus’ power over a chronic illness which no doctor can cure
and then his power over that which causes the most chaos in human life—
death itself—as he raises the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed.

Sometime in the next few days, pull out your Bible and read these four miracle stories,
because they are intended to be read together as one account of Jesus’ saving power.

Jesus is called “Lord” because we believe he has power over anything
that could cut us off from His love.
We rightly name Jesus as “Lord” because he has power over everything
that tries to snatch us away from Him and the gift of His Life.
Those who turn to Jesus in faith open themselves up to his saving power,
as we see in the faith of the hemorrhaging woman and in the faith of Jairus.

Remember, as we saw in Jesus’ calming of the storm, when Jesus speaks about faith,
he is speaking about a reality that is the opposite of fear.
He is calling forth trust, which is relational, that we trust in Him and his power to save,
a trust that trumps fear, which is always trying to drown us.

The woman who has been bleeding for 12 years is at the end of her rope.
She has spent everything and received nothing in return.
Not only is she penniless, not only are her life savings gone, but she is also
a social outcast because of her constant flow of blood making her impure, unclean.
The Mosaic law is clear—because she bleeds she cannot enter the temple.
Surely she cannot help but feel completely cut off from God.

For 12 years she has sought healing to no avail.
For 12 years she has been unable to enter the temple and offer sacrifice for her sins.
For 12 years she has been tempted to give into fear and give up on God’s care for her.

But she has enough trust in Jesus, enough confidence in his power to heal and to save her, that she reaches out to touch him, confident that will be enough.
There were many in that crowd that jostled against Jesus that day,
who came into contact with him that day, but none with such trust in Jesus’ loving power.

This woman who had no name, this street woman who knew only pain—
not just physical, but emotional and spiritual—is rightly identified by Jesus
as a daughter of God—her faith has made her well.

When Jairus hears the news of his daughter’s death, that Jesus and he are too late
to save her from her sickness, surely he thought his future was lost to him.
Not only his daughter’s future lost to death, but his as well, for all the dreams he had
for her, all the things he had hoped to see her enjoy in life—snatched away in an instant.

But notice the words of Jesus to this faltering father:
“Do not be afraid, just have faith.”
In other words, do not let fear swallow you, but place your trust in me.
Jairus came to Jesus, trusting in his power to save his daughter from sickness,
and now he must make a greater leap of faith, that Jesus also has power over death itself.
As Jesus lifts up his daughter from the sleep of death, Jairus sees his trust is not in vain.

To “have faith” does not mean that we will not be afraid
or that fear will never try to swamp our lifeboat.

Rather, to “have faith” means that in the middle of the most fear-filled times of our life, we surrender ourselves to the Lord of all life and the Lord over death.
Because of our ongoing relationship with him, we trust that there is nothing
that can separate us from his love which always brings us new life. (cf. Romans 8: 38-39)

Because Jesus is Lord, we are imprisoned by our past no more.
Because Jesus is Lord, we are no longer defined by the circumstances of our present.
Because Jesus is Lord, we do not fear the permanent loss of our future.
Today, in this Eucharist, we reach out in faith to touch the Lord of life,
and he comes to save us once again from all that threatens to destroy us.
He says to us: Rise up with me now to new life.

And he gives us something to eat, the very gift of Himself and a share in His life.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Job 38: 1, 8-11 + Psalm 107 23-26 + 2 Corinthians 5: 14-17 + Mark 4: 35-41
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, June 20, 2021

Storms on the Sea of Galilee happen suddenly, swiftly, and destructively.
One minute it is calm and the next a violent squall whips across the water.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John are fishermen—they know how dangerous
storms on the Sea of Galilee can be.
But even though they are veterans of such sudden storms, they are still fearful.

A storm on the firmness of land is one thing—a storm on water is another.
One can sink, one can drown in a storm on the sea.
Plus, one does not know what monsters lurk beneath the murky waters—
those dangers that cannot be seen, that live in the watery depths.

But for Jesus, there is a bigger disaster than the storm at sea, a greater danger.
That is the disciples lack of faith—they have not yet placed their trust in him.
This is the bigger concern for Jesus—that the waters of fear
have swamped the hearts of his followers, so that their trust in him is drowning.

Remember the parables Jesus taught his disciples before this storm
which revealed that trust was one of the qualities of a person who wanted
to be good soil, receptive to the word of God.

Like a storm on the Sea of Galilee, storms can appear out of nowhere in our lives.
or in the lives of loved ones, with no warning at all.
One minute life is calm, and the next minute are lifeboat is being battered
by the waves of fear.
All it takes is a few words. “You have cancer.”
“Your son has been in an accident.”
“Your husband has Parkinson’s.”
Then fear starts to drown any trust we have in the Lord.

We cry out in our despair to the Lord Jesus,
“Do you not care that we are perishing?” “Do you not care?”
The response from the One who wants to teach us about trust, who wants to teach us how to grow in faith: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

The storm of sickness, whether our own illness or that of a loved one,
has a way of testing our faith, of making us feel abandoned by God,
or at the very least as if God is asleep.
The watery waves of fear pour into our boat, and we feel like we are sinking.

However, especially during stormy times of illness,
the Lord Jesus is with us, in the boat with us.
He does care about our bodily sickness, but his greatest concern
is our relationship to him—can we allow our trust in his saving power to grow during the violent squalls that strike our life?
He says: Quiet! Be Still! Listen—I am with you.

When we pour out our heart to him,
when we tell Him about the fear rocking our boat,
then He can pour into our lives the gift of His peace—
a quiet stillness that is so real, so powerful, so life-giving.

From the very beginning of the Church in the first century, the boat was an image of the Church, of the Christian community, tossed about by the challenges of life.
But remember—it is a boat that holds other members
of the Christian community—we are never alone.
That is one of the reasons why the Church exists, so we might know
that Christ is with us through others.

We know this is a most concrete way
in and through the presence of others with us in the storms of life.
We know this in a powerful way through their prayers.

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker on a car which said: “Nature is my Church.”
Now, for me personally, I encounter God’s presence
and the beauty of God’s creation in nature.
But nature cannot replace the great gift of being united to other people of faith,
of being strengthened by the loving presence and prayers of others on this journey.

We find strength in this knowledge that we are not alone
and thus courage to face the storm head-on.
Slowly but surely a transformation takes place,
from the “old” creation of a fear-dominated life
to the “new” creation of a life marked by a deepening trust in the Lord.

Every storm that strikes our lives is an opportunity to grow in faith.
Now that may not be our initial reaction.
In fact, when storms strike, fear may be that which rises in our hearts first.

But as we go through life, we begin to understand that
storms are simply a part of life.
So, we do not pray that these storms will not strike our boat,
but rather that we will have the ability to grow in trust of the Lord when they do.

Then we can sing with the psalmist:
“Let us thank the Lord for his love, for the wonders he does.
For when we cried to the Lord in our distress, he rescued us.”

We cry out to the one who keeps on patiently teaching us
about the power of God’s love in our life,
This power is greater than any storm, even the storm of death itself.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi