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Cycle A

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 Ascension of the Lord

May 24, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



We human beings do not like change. In fact, the older we become, the more we dislike change, for we are creatures of habit. Then a pandemic comes along and changes everything, even the way we worship.

So, we feel uncomfortable wearing a mask to Mass. We are not able to sit in our regular pew but are ushered into the building and basically told, “You will sit here.” Then there’s the awkwardness of receiving Communion with a mask.

I do not like the changes, either. I do not like wearing a mask giving out Communion nor while conversing with you before or after Mass. A mask hides my smiling face from you as I greet you, one of the best ways I can say without words, “I am glad you are here.” I do not like shortening the Mass nor shortening my homily, though some of you may like both these changes. I do not like that we are not singing, especially as we prepare to move into a new building that was built for singing. I do not like giving out Holy Communion at the end of Mass, as if this were a drive thru where you picked up Jesus and left as quickly as possible.

But when it comes to the common good, it really does not matter what you or I like. All these changes which cause some discomfort are about something bigger than our small, selfish desires. They are being made at this time for the Common Good, for something bigger than “me”—for a collective “we”—and to receive the Eucharist.

We are in this together, and we are called to look out for and care for and protect others. So, unless you are wearing one of those special N95 masks, the face covering you are using is not so much for your protection as it is for others around you in case you have to cough or sneeze. Physical distancing, not singing, shortening the Mass are all about provide a safer environment for everyone. Besides, the sacrifices we are being called to make for worship pale in comparison to those in the medical field on the front-line and other essential workers, as well as the ultimate sacrifice made by those we remember tomorrow on Memorial Day.

The challenge we constantly face is we live in a culture of hyper-individualism. So, moving from the cultural virus of hyper-individualism to living lives of sacrificial love can be difficult. We can only do so by the power of the Spirit of Love, by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Every day we breathe in the cultural air of hyper-individualism, which is a breath of stale, polluted air compared to the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Our culture tells us in a million different ways: Do what makes YOU feel good. Do what YOU want. No need to worry about others, because it is your life to live as you want to live it.

But when we breath in the fresh air of the Holy Spirt, our eyes are opened to see a different reality. We see the truth that we are all interconnected. We are one human family, not a bunch of countries or tribes or factions. By the light of the Holy Spirit we recognize that what each of us says or does impacts others for good or ill.

It is challenging to live a life different from what our culture teaches us, because the virus of hyper-individualism is invisible, it’s in the very air we breathe. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we move into a different way of living, and be protected from the death of navel gazing and narcissism.

To move beyond me to a collective we, to move beyond selfish desires and actions to living for the Common Good, we need a powerful antidote, the antidote of the Spirit. In order to re-pattern our lives on the Lord Jesus, in order to conform our lives to His and truly be Christian, we need the power of the Holy Spirit. To be patient with others and ourselves during these trying times, we need the Holy Spirit to produce this fruit in our lives. To be loving and kind, we need the Holy Spirit to produce these fruits in our lives.

So, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Transform this bread which will be placed upon this altar into the Real Presence of the Risen Lord, so that as we receive the Body of Christ, we will know He remains with us always.

So, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Change us from separate individuals into One Body, with Christ as our Head. Then we know the truth of His promise, that He remains with us always in His Church.

So, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Transform each one of us into something more, into a living temple of God’s presence in the world. Flow through each of us as a river of life-giving mercy into the world. Then the Lord Jesus who remains with us always can come through us to others.

So, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”


Homily for 5th Sunday in Lent

March 29, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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Massive change came to this country this month. For Catholics it came in a way never ever imagined—not being able to come together to celebrate the Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist.

Many feel like strangers living in a strange land, wondering when life will ever return to “normal” again. Many feel like they have been entombed in their own homes, and that the land they have lived in all their lives has changed into a place of exile.

To just such a people the Word of God comes through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” (37:12) To a people living in exile in Babylon, unable to worship at their temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks, assuring them that what God promises he will do— he will restore their lives and their land and their temple. To a people living in America, sheltering in place for 2 weeks now, who feel like they’ve been enclosed in a tomb, God speaks: I will open your tombs and have you rise from them.

During this time of COVID-19, a time of paralyzing fear and overwhelming anxiety, the Lord God promises to remove the stones from the tombs we live in, calling us into the light of a new day, restoring us to our place of worship, and granting us new life.

With the man born blind last Sunday, we could only be healed by Jesus by admitting our blindness. The gift given to those who recognize their blindness is that Jesus, as the Light of the World, can then help them see. So this Sunday we can only receive this new life by recognizing we are not fully alive, by acknowledging we live in tombs, some of our own making.

As the One who is Resurrection and Life, Jesus keeps calling us to new life, to a more abundant life, to a life lived more fully in the radiance of His saving love. Many of us go through life thinking we are certainly alive, but this Gospel suggests there is more to life than simply making it from one birthday to the next. This Gospel helps us to recognize that we are dead people because of the deeds of our lives that are not signs of life.

These can be sinful attitudes which we are blind to that deaden our hearts and souls, so we cry out: “Lord, I am blind. Help me to see.” Or during this time when life has slowed down for so many of us, we can see more clearly how being so busy, running hither and thither from one thing to the next, is a way of being entombed. Why? Because we never take time to reflect upon what is essential and who is most important, and then act on those convictions.

So, we join Martha by professing our belief in Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. Remember, “to believe” in John’s Gospel is not an intellectual act, but a movement of the heart outwards toward the other. The Greek word “pistouen” from which the English “to believe” comes from simply means “to give one’s heart to.” Martha and Mary and Lazarus, in their long-lasting friendship with Jesus, have given their heart to Jesus, and he to them, over and over and over again.

Today the Risen Jesus, the One who is Resurrection and Life, calls us with Lazarus to come out of the tombs we live. He brings life out of death, joy from the well of sorrow, and fills us with hope when uncertainty and fear cloud our vision.

As St. Paul reminds us, the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. By our baptism, the life-giving Holy Spirit dwells in us, each day empowering us to enter more fully into life with the Spirit-led One, Jesus the Christ.

This Spirit, which is stronger than death itself, also enlightens us to understand the deeper significance of the life we have been given in the Risen Christ. Lazarus was resuscitated—he would live a little longer, but then he would eventually die. Risen Life, the life we now share in with Christ by the power of His Spirit, enables us to “never die.” As we give our hearts and entire lives to Jesus, when we breathe our last breath on this earth, we pass over with Him who is Resurrection and Life to take our next breath of the fullness of life eternal.

The Spirit which transformed Jesus’ human body into a glorified body, a body in which he still lives and will live forever, is the same Spirit dwelling within us by baptism.

These bodies, these earthen vessels, carry about in them a treasure untold, the very life of God. We have not yet entered into the fullness of that life, but we are experiencing a taste of it now. So do not fear the death of these mortal bodies, for our hope rests in the Lord and our eternal home is with Him.

The Holy Spirit gifts us with fortitude to persevere in our trust in the Lord. The Spirit of the Living God grants us the courage to keep entrusting our lives and the lives of our loved ones into the hands of God.

We are invited to drink more deeply of this Living Water given us at baptism, to immerse ourselves more fully into this Water of Life, and to allow this River of Grace, who is the Spirit of life, to carry us forward into a future full of hope.