Some years back, as then American pre-election tensions ran high across the country, the BBC, thinking, I suspect, to add historical perspective to the arena of public service, re- broadcast a story first run 60 years ago: “The mayor and corporation of High Wycombe [Buckinghamshire, England] were weighed in today in full view of the public to see whether or not they have been getting- ting fat at the taxpayers’ expense. The annual custom dates back to medieval times and is unique to this Buckinghamshire market town. Weight is no longer an election issue, but for custom’s sake the new mayor, Councilor Lesley Brain, and 24 charter trustees and honorary burgesses obliged by sitting on a specially erected scale to have their weights recorded and compared with last year’s. Traditionally the macebearer dressed in traditional costume rings a bell and calls out the weight. When he adds the words ‘And no more!’ the crowd cheers as a sign of their appreciation and gratitude for hard work done for the community. But if he shouts ‘And some more!’ it means the mayor has been indulging in too much good living at taxpayers’ expense and the crowd jeers and boos.
“In years gone by they would have also pelted the offending person with tomatoes and rotten fruit. Luckily for the new mayor, this year’s crowd was more restrained as the macebearer shouted: ‘Councilor Brain – 13 stone 2lbs – and some more!’ A rather corpulent Councilor R.A. Wood weighing in at 20 stone received a loud ‘Boo!’ as he slid off the scales. “The weighing-in was preceded by the mayor- making ceremony which began at the Mayor’s Parlor in Victoria Road followed by a colorful procession to the Guildhall. The new mayor signed several legal oaths to the monarch, the citizens of High Wycombe and to the clerk of the market. The tradition of weighing the mayor is unique to High Wycombe.” (BBC, May 20, 1958) While we in America tend to use more sophisticated means to identify fat cats, High Wycombe’s age-old method is surely simpler, quicker and so public as to be beyond refutation. That town’s citizenry insists that those who’ve vowed to serve ought to grow lean as the town thrives, not the other way around. It’s a fearful measurement for both those in public service and those of us in religious service. If I ever to get on that scale in High Wycombe, I know for sure that the ceremonial macebearer would call out in a loud voice last year’s weight and then add in a near shout, “And some more!” What lesson might the BBC have been offering America’s elected officials by the replay of that now 60-year-old segment? It’s the same lesson offered by Jesus to his followers as we hear him clarifying the role of discipleship in today’s gospel passage. Simply put, those who’ve vowed to serve ought to grow lean while those they serve thrive. Or, to put it in gospel language, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
BY: Fr. Robert DeLeon, CSC https://www.catholicforlife.com/year-b-homily-for-the- 29th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-1/
Anthony De Mello in his book The Song of the Bird recounts a story of a husband and wife who were conversing. The husband said to the wife, ‘You know, dear, I’m going to work hard and some day we are going to be rich.’ The wife responded: We are already rich, dear, for we have each other. Someday, maybe we’ll have money.’ The wife is aware that to be rich is not necessarily the same as having money and material riches is not the ultimate wealth. Today, our bookshops and libraries contain books on how to be rich. Money has become God, which enjoys allegiance in the modern world. The poor want to get rich quickly and the rich are holding on strongly to their wealth. Some motivational books on how to get rich contain stories of billionaires who started from rags to riches or from having nothing to acquiring everything.
The 10th Chapter of the Gospel of Mark presents us with the story of an encounter between Jesus and a rich young man. This rich man who came to Jesus must have been successful businessman and someone who was economically ahead of his peers. In those days he could have been a prominent merchant and a landlord and in the modern world he could be a captain of industry whose name is listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the fast-growing billionaires. Interestingly, this young man was aware that wealth was not everything and so he came to Jesus with a serious question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him: “You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” The young man replied to Jesus: “All of these I have observed from my youth.” This is to say that by local standard he was a very religious person. He must have been observing every letter of the law, strictly adhering to the commandments and was meticulous in following all rituals and rubrics of his religion. He was contented with this narrow and shallow understanding of religion. Jesus wasted no time to diagnose his spiritual disease. His ailment: an obsession with the love of the law and deficiency of the law of love. Unfortunately, He was not aware of the ultimate demand of the law of love, which is to give nothing less than everything. Jesus looked at him with love and was brutally frank with him and gave him this tough prescription: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” He was totally unhappy about what Jesus demanded of him and so he walked away sad, because he had many possessions – properties, money, industries, etc.
He went away sad because he was unwilling to tow the new path, the perfect way of happiness which Jesus was pointing to him. He was so self-sufficient and self-reliant and was reluctant to empty himself and get rid of the weight of wealth. He appeared to be a man who was deeply immersed in piety and orthodoxy but deficient in radical spirituality. His understanding of religion did not include one essential element, which is the spirit of self-sacrifice. He identified himself with his wealth to the extent he could neither sacrifice his life to the service of others, nor renounce his wealth for the benefit of the needy. The Gospel portrays him as a rich man surrounded by opulence but lacking in the wealth of wisdom. Invariably, he missed the gift of salvation Christ was offering him. After the rich man walked away, Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God…It is easier for a Carmel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shell shocked to hear these words from Jesus and they said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Was Jesus totally condemning all wealthy people? Not at all! He was sending a serious warning to those who belief more in their wealth more than they believe in God. He was sounding a note of warning about the false sense of security that money gives. In the world today, the volume of people’s wealth determines their worth of people. For example, we read and hear about someone who is worth 1 million dollars and another who is worth 10 billion dollars. This false measurement of the worth of the human person tends to say that “We are what we have.” Jesus denounces the idea of obsession with possessions. Beecher captures the message of the Gospel when he says, “In this world, it is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.” Jesus was aware of the common sins associated with the rich, which include stinginess, extravagance, ruthlessness, op- pression, pride, greed, debauchery, exploitation, insensitivity and the tendency to attach their self-worth to their wealth. The world tells us get rich and happiness is all yours, But Jesus on the contrary teaches that material affluence does not necessarily translate into happiness because not many super rich people are really happy people.
The rich young man considered gold more than God. He could not set his priorities right. The book of wisdom provides us with a hierarchy of values where it places wisdom as a gift that is over and above material wealth and political power (see Wisdom 7:7-11). The Psalmist prays to God to teach us the shortness of our life so that we can be wise (Psalm 90). In the book of Hebrews (4:12-13) we discover that wisdom is not necessarily found in wealth but in the Word of God, which is alive and active. It is God’s Word that reveals to us the truth about ourselves, it is the Word that helps us to discern the difference between true and false happiness and it is the Word that penetrates the innermost core of the human person, which is the soul. The rich young man is present in each one of us each time we find it difficult to detach ourselves from what we possess and each time we become obsessed with our possessions
In today’s Gospel Jesus is again being trapped by the Pharisees by testing His view on the issue of divorce. Jesus answered them by referring to what Moses did which, according to Him was due to the hardness of heart of the people. But even then, Jesus pointed out that from the beginning, marriage was destined by God to make a man and a woman one flesh, and no one can put asunder. In a tete-a-tete with His disciples, He stressed its adulterous consequence when one divorces a partner and marries another.
Divorce was a prevailing issue during the time of Jesus. Herod and Herodias divorced their partners and married each other. The Pharisees were divided as to the interpretation of the law on divorce. While they were concerned of knowing Jesus’ view on it, they were more after finding some faults against Jesus. Jesus’ growing popularity had rendered the Pharisees weak and lacking in credibility. On the other hand, as customary of Jesus, He would seize every situation to teach and assert the truth.
Divorce was not allowed from the beginning. It is the same even now. Will “hardness of heart” be a reason to grant it like what Moses did? There are some groups who advocate compassion to those who are experiencing great difficulties in their married life. No doubt, there are marriages that can qualify as irreconcilable. For that, legal separation is recommended. But problems in marriages are still manageable if addressed at the right time and with the right process. Of course, the willingness of the couple is the most vital. Also, we can step back further by seeing to it that the candidates for marriage are well prepared. Do we rather treat couples with kid’s gloves, or do we encourage them to maturely deal with their marital issues?
The Catholic Church has a lot of groups which are concerned with making marriages successful. There is the Couples for Christ, Family Life Movement, Christian Family Movement, and All for Jesus among others. The last one gives a guarantee that all marriage issues may be resolved. They suggest a “marriage Encounter” program, a three-day live-in seminar designed to assist the couples deal with their issues. The rate of success is incredible. As I have said, much of it comes from the willingness of the couple to address their problems.
In the end, marriage is an institution founded by God. Its purpose is not only to generate children for families and the Kingdom, but also to witness to the love of God and His people. Divorce, legal annulments, infidelities, same sex marriages and other modern day attempts to redefine marriage and family are more destructive than compassionate. Freedom has violated itself. Marriages become easily destroyed. Couples do not exert many efforts to maintain their union and family. Children are most affected. Not to mention the possibility of sexual diseases due to physical relationships with different partners. Countries with divorce laws are not better off. In fact, new problems emerged. In all of these, God’s will still rank way up. Science and human logic cannot be at par with God’s will. He is the Author of Life. His ways are the best for us.
RESPONSIBLE FOR CHOICE WE MAKE
In this world it is obvious that whoever sends someone on errand would demand a reply or account from him and every instructor/teacher who is to promote his student to a better grade or level must give tests and expect the best answer or result to do just that. No one comes into this world by himself, and no one comes here without a mission from God who sends us all to this pilgrimage center called the earth. As in the case of a sender of errand or teacher, so it is with God. He watches all our actions here on earth and all we produce as behavior are marked on his score board and shall be used to reward or to punish us.
In the first reading, the gifts God gave freely to Moses without any merit of his was given out in a little proportion by the same God to others such that the seventy elders for once shared in Moses’ prophetic gift. The same God allowed two other men to exercise such gift; Medan and Eldad and this was at God’s own wish and right to do so. The same God who never consulted Moses before the gift did so to the two young men, but Joshua and his likes had to question God for extending such gifts to others. Moses being a man filled with the wisdom and knowledge of God declined from their lure to jealousy and resentment. He refused to heed to their wish to stop them practicing God’s gift. This same scenario repeated itself in the gospel where the Apostles of Jesus led by John forbade a man who was exercising his God’s gift because he does not according to them belong to their league or union. Christ like Moses rebuked them for such act of jealousy and lack of recognition, respect, and accommodation of others’ gifts. In the world, a lot of people prevent others from rising to greater heights or to measure up with them. We find the pull others down syndrome reigning in the life of many even Christians and those who were supposed to know better in Christian life.
Beloved, it is surprising and scandalous to see Christians who believe that the exercise of some spiritual gifts and authority in the house of God is their sole preserve and they possess the power to dish it out to whomsoever they count worthy or who accept to belong to their “cult”. How can human being decide to choose for God who should belong to him and whom he should choose for whatever function/gifts? These are the likes of Joshua’s son of Nun and John the apostle. There are a lot of behaviors we put up in the house of God and in this world that God frowns at; these attitudes are examination questions for God to mark us and record us in his score board. Many decide to cheat on others according to James in the second reading, treat workers inhumanly and with injustice. This attitude and others like scandalizing the little ones and denying others charity are condemned by James in the second reading of today. James reminds us that there is a day of judgment when all that God reckoned will be used to either reward or punish. People can live luxuriously at the expense of others and enjoy their loots and booty, but the truth is that they cannot escape divine punishment. Many innocent and righteous people can be humiliated and killed by the powerful in the society, but they cannot get away with it. Many priests today are kidnapped and killed for condemning political insensitivity of mafia politicians and are monitored in the house of God by these ungodly men. Many can scandalize others in the Church and society by the type of life we lead, yet one day we shall pay for it. But those who do good, render help to God’s work and his chosen ones and his people in general shall receive the prophets’ reward. Beloved, let us know that the precepts of the Lord are perfect and just and gladden the hearts of the righteous on the last day. Let us learn to fear the Lord and respect others; may we find instructions from the Lord’s statutes since great reward is in their keeping, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We’ve all heard it from our older relatives. “In my day we had to walk uphill to school, in the snow, with no shoes on our feet.” My dad was raised on a mountainside in Bluefield, West Virginia. He told me that story. He had to walk down a mountain, across the street, go four or five blocks down the road, and then climb another mountain to get to his school, sometimes in the snow. His walk to school and back home again was no joke.
Susie and I had a Scuba diving instructor named Lenny, who used to tell us that to get back and forth to school and home, he had to snorkel upstream both ways with no fins on his feet. In our lives, on our way to salvation, we too will have to climb our mountains and swim upstream to get to our destination which is Heaven. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is travelling his uphill to Calvary, to a place he really doesn’t want to go. He asks God: “If at all possible, let this cup pass by me.” Jesus is going to a place where he will taste death, and where he will have to swim against the stream of deceit, lies, jealousy and envy. Jesus knows that at the end of his journey, there will be victory!
You and I are called to be servants. Just as in his priestly life Jesus was to be a servant for all, and through his suffering He would redeem the world: Jesus provided the example of the values of Christian living. You and I share in that Priesthood. We are called by God to live a life well lived: A meaningful life of faith, hope and charity. The path is narrow. As we walk, we are either walking towards Jesus, or away from him. There is no middle ground. As they walked, Jesus tries to make the disciples understand, what the will of God is for him. The disciples haven’t a clue what Jesus is trying to tell them. They’re too busy figuring who is the greatest after Jesus. They think he will be a King of a mighty army and that Jesus will deliver them from their adversaries, but they are wrong. Soon they will discover that Jesus is not a King in this world, nor does he have a mighty army. Soon they will discover the true cost of discipleship. Soon they will discover that the cross is Jesus’ total commitment to the will of the Father and discipleship comes with great cost. To be a disciple one has to die to them self and live for others. It is hard to understand for sure, but it is an absolute necessity to make it to heaven.
Like the disciples, we are journeying to Jerusalem, where victory will prevail. And as we are journeying and serving others along the way, the rewards will come. The streams and mountains will slowly fade from sight. We will get a glimpse of heaven, to sustain us on our way. Peace will rule the day. Peace, where the works of Justice and the effects of Charity bring tranquility to order. Peace or Disorder, Tranquility or chaos, walking to, or away from Jesus First or last, which will it be?
Today, may we choose peace in this life that we may have endless joy in the life to come.
Wis 2:12, 17-20
The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace. Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
CHALLENGES OF A GOOD CHRISTIAN
Christianity calls us to God’s way of life that stands for goodness and truth. But in keeping to this godly way of life, challenges are bound. In today’s first reading we see a semblance of the outcry of the suffering servant in the book of the prophet Isaiah (53).
Here the author narrates the evil plots against the righteous one coupled with insults and the desire to see him dead simply because he stands for God and for the truth. (Wisdom 2, 17-20). The only offense the righteous man has committed is because he opposes evil actions, and he reproaches them for their sins. And for standing for what is right; the evil people see his presence in their midst as highly inconveniencing (wisdom 2, 12).
God’s word today is reminding us of the fact that as Christians our ways would be automatically opposed to the ways of the world and so the “world” would be displeased with us. This is the simple reason why Christian’s face persecution from all corners. Just yesterday a lady came to me in tears that her marriage is falling apart, and this is simply because she has been asked to stop her daily prayers at home, which she has vowed not to stop. Upon enquiries it was discovered that the prayers were a cause of great inconvenience to the mother-in-law. This is one out of so many of such cases. Let us be courageous and never give in to persecutions and trials.
Even our master Jesus the Christ was also faced with a similar challenge. In today’s Gospel he called his disciples to himself and instructed them of his imminent trials and persecution, which will eventually lead to his shameful death on the cross (Mk 9, 30-37). But we thank God that his seeming shame would turn to fame. For his cross would later become his ladder to pick up his Crown. The victory of Christ over his enemies is a great assurance to us that even though we may be persecuted now for the sake of God and the truth, our endurance will win us our salvation. There is no need to be discouraged. And there’s no reason to stop praying. Let us remember that winners never give up. And at this point we can’t afford to give up. God is fighting your battle! Have courage. Step into your week of victory.
Fr. Cosmas Ukadike, C.M. https://www.catholicforlife.com/homily
The Discipleship that costs
The readings of today especially the gospel explains that the basis of our faith is in acceptance of Jesus as the Christ the son of the Living God. The Christ who through His sufferings, death and resurrection saves us from sin. If we are to have a share in His suffering and experience the grace of His death and resurrection, we must follow Him daily denying our selves and taking up our cross.
I made up this Joke “Deny your Bible, Take up your phone, and follow-on Instagram or Facebook”. Funny it may sound but this reflects the attitude of many Christians today. Over the years many have captioned this homily “the cost of discipleship” But I choose to caption it the discipleship that costs”. A disciple is a follower or a student who is learning from his master or I choose this more appropriate definition for this homily, a disciple is a person who disciplines himself or herself in the teachings and practices of another. In the Christian context, we are all disciples of Christ. There can never be a true disciple without discipline. Every disciple of Christ must be ready to follow in the discipline of their Master. We need faith and discipline to be true disciples of Christ. Faith because we need to believe in the one, we follow. We need to recognize who He is as Peter did and discipline because we must follow the rules- ‘deny’ ‘take up’ and ‘follow’.
People follow too many things today- Instagram, for one. Many boosts of having many followers on the social media while they themselves have no one to follow. You follow many celebrities and friends online but hardly follow Christ and His ways. You give thumbs up and likes to those you follow on social me- dia but does not like anything about the gospel. You spend many hours watching those you follow on social media but gets bored reading the bible or the homilies we send to you or listening to the gospel preached in Church.
Too many things materially or financially speaking may be costly but the more costly is following as a disciple. It costs nothing monetary but it cost a lot. Many do not follow Christ because he speaks of denial of oneself as the first discipline for His followers. *Self-denial is an act of letting go of the self as with altruistic abstinence – the willingness to forgo personal pleasures or undergo personal trials in the pursuit of the increased good of another* In the first reading of today from the third suffering servant song of Isaiah aspects of Christ’s own life and mission is foreshadowed. Christ’s life is one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. How could Christ have done this if He didn’t deny His Royalty and Kingly prestige to die as a servant. This is exactly what he calls us to do. But this is very hard for us because we are naturally selfish, it is grace that makes the difference in our lives. James without mincing words in the second reading highlights aspects of self-denial in respect to our Faith in Christ. James explains how our Faith in Jesus, the Messiah, should help us to alleviate the sufferings of others by our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. Hence F *AITH WITHOUT GOOD WORKS IS DEAD AND WITHOUT SELF DENIAL, GOOD WORK IS IMPOSSIBLE.*
Peter ran headlong into trouble in denying himself in the gospel passage. Peter doesn’t want Jesus to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. He wants the Messiah according to his wishes. He wants Jesus to arrive triumphantly in Jerusalem and restore Israel. In Peter’s agenda, there is no room for a suffering Messiah who cares diligently for the poor and the oppressed. In our own world, we get caught like Peter. We do not often deny ourselves in order to put the other first. Our agendas and our schedules come first in our daily lives. Our plans and our needs are more important than the others. *Once our plans are set we don’t want to change them. If we do, we upset the status quo. We can’t upset others, because if we upset others then we aren’t being Christian.*
The greatest enemies in the spiritual life are the ‘Self’. When we conquer the self of its selfish desires then following Christ becomes easy. Taking up our cross as Christ took His becomes even much more easier. Your cross could be any suffering you have to endure for Christ’s sake, to be a faithful follower or disciple. Do not forget that the cross is a symbol of victory, so do not give it up. Don’t drop it, face it with faith and courage, God will always provide the strength and fortitude, He will never allow the weight of your cross to bring you down. ” *If God sends you many sufferings it is a sign that He has great plans for you, and certainly wants to make you a saint.* ” St. Ignatius of Loyola Let us, therefore, ask God in this mass and today to strengthen our resolutions to be His faithful followers. To give us the grace to recognize Him in every challenge of life and follow him with perseverance. We pray too for the grace of self-denial so that we may care more for others in works of charity and to make heaven at the end of this earthly life.