Eden and OliviaAt first, Mom was repelled by the very idea. Her teenage daughter wanted to get a pet rat? Living in Brooklyn, the only rats she knew were those horrible little creatures scurrying across the subway tracks. And their bad rap as carriers of disease didn’t help.
“No, Mom,” Olivia said, frustrated by her resistance. “It wouldn’t be like that! This would be a lab rat. You’ll see. They’re so sweet and really smart.”
Mom finally relented. The next day, Olivia brought home Eden. Eden was small and white, with a pink, hairless tail and ruby eyes, a rescue from the snake food cage at PetSmart. At first Mom kept her distance as Olivia would feed her from own plate; the sight of Eden’s ropy tail curled around Olivia’s neck unnerved Mom — but Mom soon found Eden pretty adorable, as the little rodent held a noodle in her oddly human paws, gobbled it up and washed her face afterward.
But Eden proved to be more than adorable. High school was not a happy place for Olivia, whose quiet personality didn’t fit into any of the Girlworld cliques. Eden’s unconditional love proved to be a “soothing balm at home after a long day (there was just one infamous day when Olivia sneaked Eden into school, with consequences). Olivia seemed to relish having a companion who was a misunderstood outsider, like herself.”
Mom soon came to appreciate the little, uh, rat: “Even though she chewed holes in a few bath towels, and littered the table with nibbled bits of the morning’s scrambled egg, I couldn’t deny the beautiful way Eden softened the hard edges of school’s social craziness and academic pressure. When I was a teenager I smoked cigarettes, got stoned and drank more than I could tolerate to alleviate my own social anxiety. My daughter now had a rat to calm hers. I only wish Eden had come into our family a few years earlier.”
Olivia is now in college — and Eden has made the trip with her. “When I take care of Eden, it’s like taking care of myself,” Olivia says.
Enough said on the value of a little friend whose simple but essential needs keep Olivia mindful of her own best interests.
Father James Gilhooley
1. “Tell that woman that I want her here in the White House.” Professor John Kenneth Galbraith, the world-famous Harvard economist and author of four dozen books and over a thousand articles, also served as economic advisor to four American presidents. In his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, Galbraith illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family’s housekeeper: “It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. President Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. “Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.” “He is sleeping, Mr. President. He has instructed me not to disturb him.” “Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.” “No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.” When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. “Tell that woman that I want her here in the White House!” Today’s Gospel reminds us that perfect and graceful obedience to God is real love, and so is more rewarding than reluctant obedience. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2. “To Hell on Monday”: There was a book written by C. Mooney entitled To Hell on Monday. It depicts well the Christian who conforms outwardly to the law, is seen regularly at Mass, offers the required contribution, belongs to parish organizations, and pays the dues, functioning on Sundays in a very conspicuous way. Then on Monday, he throws religion to the devil. The law of God is put into his back pocket and he forgets all about it in his marital relations, his sense of justice to his household servants and his sense of moral decency; with the seventh commandment (thou shalt not steal), in competitive business, he forgets there is also an eighth (thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor). Where is the Christian sense in this man? Is it in the pocket? Further, there are those whose practice is far better than their words. They claim to be tough, hard-headed materialists, not attending Sunday Masses but somehow, they are discovered silently, secretly, doing kindly and generous things, as if they were ashamed of their goodness. They profess to have no interest in the Church and in religion, yet when it comes to the point of action, they live more Christian lives than many professing Christians – Robinhood style. “Action speaks louder than words.” (Fr. Benitez). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3. Blind obedience: How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge, the American storyteller wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked outdoors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that is exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he did not move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. Later with tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.” This, and more, is the kind of obedience to which Christ has called us. The short parable in today’s Gospel illustrates what true and graceful obedience is. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4. A Non-Catholic Minister recently quit the ministry after more than 20 years of faithful, dedicated service and became a funeral director. When asked why he had changed vocations, he said: “I spent 10 years trying to straighten out John and he’s still an alcoholic. Then I spent three and one-half years trying to straighten out Harold and Susan’s marriage problems and they ended up getting a divorce. Later I tried for two years to help Bob kick his drug habit and he is still an addict. Now, at the funeral home, when I straighten them out, they stay straight! Perfect obedience!”
5. One night an Admiral on a US Navy Battleship ordered a certain course. The navigation officer, seeing a light in the distance, reported that the battleship now seemed to be on a collision course with another ship. So, the Admiral ordered his radio officer to send a message to the on-coming ship that it should change its course 10 degrees to the south. The reply came simply, “Change your course 10 degrees to the north.” After two more unsuccessful exchanges, the Admiral, now quite furious, came thundering into the radio control room, grabbed the microphone, and bellowed into it, “Do you know that you are talking to an ADMIRAL in the UNITED STATES NAVY?!” After a brief moment of silence, the even-tempered reply came back, “This is a lighthouse; alter your course 10 degrees to the North.” So, when God’s Word asks us to do something, and we wonder why, we need to remember Whom we’re talking to! If we want to avoid disaster in this life and the next, we really need to obey His orders!
33- Additional anecdotes
1) Rigorous Arabian horse training: Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers demand absolute obedience from the horses and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing. The trainer forces the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose and of course they start running toward the water, but just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water, but they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience he gives them a signal to go back to drink. Now this may be severe but when you are on the trackless desert of Arabia and your life is entrusted to a horse, you had better have a trained, obedient horse. We must accept God’s training and obey Him in words and deeds as demanded by the short parable in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) For ladies only: The old television show Candid Camera had a classic episode in which two telephone booths were placed next to each other. One booth was labeled “Men” and the other “Women.” As the camera recorded the scene, no one who used the booths violated the signs. Men used only the booth labeled for men, and women used only the booth labeled for them. Even when there was a line for the men’s booth and the women’s booth was empty, no man used the women’s booth. There’s this story from the New York Post. On November 30, 1971, five heavily armed men shot out the glass doors of a New York bank and entered the bank firing automatic weapons, wounding twelve people. One of the bank tellers ran from the robbers and made it to an upstairs women’s restroom. One gunman chased her, but he stopped at the door to the ladies’ room, shouting at her to come out. When she refused, he went downstairs to help his colleagues finish robbing the bank. He might be a murderer and a thief, but he would not enter a women’s restroom. [William Lutz, The New Doublespeak (HarperCollins Publishers, 1996).] Americans are basically tuned to obey the rules. But there is a problem of motivation. Their sins are generally ones of omission. They are like the young man in today’s Gospel who had good intentions. The problem was putting those good intentions into action. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) The speed of light: William Tarbell was explaining the consequences of light’s traveling at 186,000 miles per second. “It means the starlight shining in your window left the star about the time Shakespeare was writing his plays. The light has been traveling all that time to reach you and provide its light. In the same way, the work of the first disciples still influences you. Centuries ago, men and women were commissioned to make disciples of all nations. Although they have been dead for almost two thousand years, the effect of their work has traveled through history and touched us. It is felt in our lives and in our Churches today.” [Dr. William P. Barker, Tarbell’s, (Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook Church Ministries, 1994).] A handful of people 2,000 years ago with no social status or higher education or political influence turned the world upside down. Why? It was because they were totally dedicated to Christ. Like the first son in Jesus’ parable, they repented of their infidelity to Jesus during his arrest and surrendered their lives to Jesus with total commitment. There is no limit to what we can do in this world if Jesus truly is our Lord. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) “Keep me out of Your way.” Father Mychal F. Judge, the fire department chaplain who, while ministering to the fire fighters working at Ground Zero, was killed by falling debris from the Towers. In Father Mychal’s pocket was this prayer that he always carried with him:
Tell me what You want me to say, and Keep me out of Your way.” [“Walter Scott’s Personality Parade,” Parade Magazine, (Jan. 6, 2002, p.2; September 29, 2002).]
6) Andrew the apostle: A pastor met one of his members on the street who had missed Sunday Mass the previous Sunday. “What did you preach about on Sunday?” the man inquired. “I took my text from John 1 and spoke about Andrew,” was the reply. “Andrew!” the parishioner exclaimed in surprise. “Why, I hardly remember him at all among the disciples. He didn’t write any of the books of the Bible, did he? What made you talk about him?” The priest smiled. “I don’t suppose many people would call Andrew great, but the one significant thing about him is that every time he is mentioned in the Bible, he’s introducing someone to Jesus! First, we see him bringing his brother Simon to the Lord. Next he’s escorting a young lad to the Savior who miraculously used the boy’s simple lunch to feed a multitude. And finally, he is directing a group of seeking Greeks to Jesus.” The parishioner walked away thoughtfully, for he had received a new glimpse of the importance of that unpraised apostle (Illosaurus). We need more Andrews in the Church. We need more disciples who are directing their friends and their family to Jesus. Christ has called us to make an impact on this community. “Yes, Father, I will go.” We are those who have said we would go. The question is, have we gone? Is Christ Lord of our lives? Are we having an impact on those around us? (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) Good intentions are not enough: There was an example of someone with good intentions in Life magazine. His name was Goold Levison. He was a photographer and an inventor. In the early days of photography, cameras were large, stationary and slow, hardly conducive to shooting candid photographs or what Levison called “instantaneous pictures.” So, he and his partner George Bradford Brainerd invented their own camera, which they patented in 1885 as the Brainerd-Levison Hand Camera. The pair took the camera along on outings to the New Jersey shore, to Canadian forests and, most often, to scenic spots near their homes in Brooklyn. Their partnership ended with Brainerd’s death in 1887 at the age of 41. That same year, Levison invented a camera that could take a series of pictures in rapid succession. It was a real breakthrough. Unfortunately, the distractions of family concerns and other projects kept him from completing the paperwork to patent his invention. This delay cost him his shot at immortality. In 1891, Thomas Edison also invented a camera that would take pictures in rapid succession, but it was he, not Levinson, who patented the motion picture camera. (3) Goold Levison intended to patent his own camera. We can be sure of that. There were other pressing matters, though, and he never got around to it. Good intentions. It’s a shame good intentions are not enough. We would all be millionaires if they were. The second son in Jesus’ parable had such good intentions, but no actions. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “Tomorrow, I will fly south.” The great Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once told a story of a flock of geese that was starting to head south to escape the blast of wintry winds. The first night they landed in a farmer’s yard and filled themselves with corn. Next morning, they flew on. All, that is, except one. “The corn is good,” this big goose said, “so I will stay and enjoy it another day.” The next morning, he decided to wait still another day, and another after that, enjoying the delicious food. Pretty soon he had developed a habit. “Tomorrow I will fly south,” he said. Then came the inevitable day when the winds of winter were so severe that waiting longer would mean death in the frozen wastes. So, he stretched his wings and waddled across the barnyard, picking up speed as he went. But alas! He was too fat to fly. He had waited too long. The lazy goose represents the second son in Jesus’ parable. [Dr. Robert H. Schuller, Reach Out for New Life (Garden Grover, CA: The Cathedral Press, 1977 and 1991), pp. 25-26.] (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Be available, sensitive and accountable: Daniel Webster once said, “The most important thought I ever had was that of my individual responsibility to God.” The word that we are hearing today is accountability. TV Evangelists find that they need to be accountable to somebody for how they spend the vast sums of money that are donated to their ministries. Our highest officials in Washington must be accountable for how they wield the awesome power of their offices. Every man or woman needs to be accountable to somebody, or else human nature has a tendency to abuse place and privilege. But, as Webster reminds us, the most awesome accountability is our accountability to God. Life is a gift that has been entrusted to us. We are stewards of all that we have, all we are, all we hope to be. We are not our own. We are His. One day we shall be held accountable by God for how we have lived our lives. He shall judge whether we have been a blessing or a burden, one who lifts up or one who puts down, a person who inspires others to their best or one who lives only for self. Today’s parable challenges us to be available, sensitive and accountable now, as we prepare for that final accounting. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) Indignant protestor or a well-intentioned procrastinator. A certain nurse won the admiration of her entire community with her patience, her cheerfulness, her genuine concern for others. She gave far more of herself than anyone could ever expect. Her salary was inadequate by any standard, and one day a physician friend spoke to her about that. “Nurse,” he said, “Why don’t you get out of this backward little community and go where they will pay you a decent salary. God knows you are worth it.” With a smile she answered kindly, “If God knows I’m worth it, that’s all that matters to me.” Does God know you are worth it? Are you an indignant protestor or a well-intentioned procrastinator? Many of us are. God needs laborers for the vineyard. Can He count on you? Can you pass the test of availability, sensitivity and accountability to Him? (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Why there are no great leaders: Henry Steele Commager, the great American historian, asked why it is that today we have so few great leaders when, at the beginning of this nation’s history, over two hundred years ago, there were so many. We had a population in those days of just a few million people, maybe equal to the population of San Diego County, spread along the Atlantic seaboard in little towns and villages. Yet that generation, the 18th century, produced Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the Adams family, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the list goes on and on. It is a galaxy of leadership that we in our time, with over two hundred million people, cannot possibly match. Not with all our wealth. Not with all our technological sophistication. Not with all the higher education that is available to everybody in this country. Not with all the computers. We have not been able to produce leaders the quality of which we saw in the 18th century. Why is that? And Commager listed a number of reasons. But he said that the one common denominator of all the 18th century leaders was that they had a sense of obligation to posterity. They had a sense of duty. They were motivated by a moral obligation to serve the highest that we know, offer their leadership in that cause. Today’s parable challenges us to be committed to a noble cause with a sense of duty. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) Things are not always what they seem to be. Macaulay Culkin’s portrayal of a “good kid” was so convincing that when he played a “bad kid” in a movie called The Good Son, the effect was stunning. Macaulay played against his stereotype. He appeared to be an ideal boy, polite, courteous, and obedient. Since he was perceived to be all good, when things went wrong around his house the blame was just naturally placed upon his less charismatic brother. It was only at the end of the movie that his parents learned that this son, who appeared to be good, was, in fact, evil, and that things are not always what they seem to be. Isn’t that what Jesus taught in his parable of “The Two Sons?” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Communication gap: A father once tried to talk to his son about how college was going: The father said, “How are things going?” The son said, “Good.” The father said, “And the dormitory?” He said, “Good.” The father said, “How are your studies going?” He said, “Good.” The father said, “Have you decided on a major yet?” He said, “Yes.” “Well, what is it?” asked the father. The son said, “Communication.” So, it goes as parents and children try to talk to each other. So it was for the two sons in Jesus’ story. (William J. Carl III). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) “I am the Jesus you say you love!” There is a story that comes out of the Second World War that will haunt you if you think about it. It is about a little Jewish boy who was living in a small Polish village when he and all the other Jews in the vicinity were rounded up by Nazi troops and sentenced to death. This boy joined his neighbors in digging a shallow ditch for their own graves. Then they were lined up against a wall and machine-gunned. But none of the bullets hit the little boy. His naked body was splattered with the blood of his parents, and as he fell into the ditch, he pretended to be dead. The grave was so shallow that the thin covering of dirt did not prevent him from breathing. Several hours later, when darkness fell, this 10-year old boy crawled out of his grave. With blood and dirt caked on his little body, he made his way to the nearest home and begged for help. A woman answered the door and immediately recognized him as one of the Jewish boys marked for death by the Nazis. So she screamed at him to go away and slammed the door. Dirty, bloody, and shivering, this little boy limped from one house to the next begging for help. But he always got the same response. People were afraid to help. Finally, in desperation, he knocked on a door, and just before the lady of the house could tell him to leave, he cried out, “Don’t you recognize me? I am the Jesus you say you love!” The lady froze in her tracks for what seemed like an eternity to the little boy. Then with tears streaming down her face she threw open her arms. She picked up the boy and took him inside to safety. Sometimes we need to be reminded that when we do it unto the least of these, we do it unto Him. Christian Discipleship as explained through today’s Gospel parable, is a call to availability. It is also a call to sensitivity. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) “My gift to you!” An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife, enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career. When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “My gift to you!” The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then with a shock we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we’d do it much differently. But we cannot go back. Build wisely! (Fr. Lobo). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) Two converts. An aged Rabbi who lived an exemplary life and converted many people to his ancestral religion was distraught when his son embraced Christianity. After his death, he appeared sulking and sad before the Almighty. “What is the matter, Rabbi?” asked God, deeply concerned. “It’s my son,” cried the rabbi, “He abandoned our Faith and became a Christian!” God replied in a consoling voice, “Don’t worry, friend, I understand you perfectly – My Only Son did the same thing!” Today, conversions create either conflict or consolation depending on who converts whom to what, and why. We can reflect on today’s reading from the prism of conversions: Internal and external. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deeds). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) The Brothers Karamazov. Along with Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, Sigmund Freud considered Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov one of the three greatest works in world literature. In Freud’s interpretation, the three Karamazov brothers symbolize the nature of man. The eldest son, Dmitri, is a wild wastrel. He represents man dominated by sensuality. The next son, Ivan, is a teacher, writer and atheist. He symbolizes the intellectual dimension of man. The young son, Alyosha, was a novice at a monastery. He stands for the spiritual nature of man. The three Karamazov brothers were abandoned by their father Fyodor after their mother died. They reassemble now to do battle with their father and claim what is rightfully theirs. Their conflicts reflect those of Everyman, which occur not only in his soul, but also in his relationship to God. Today’s Gospel parable tells another symbolic brother story. The first-asked son was told to work, refused to go, but later regretted it and went. The second-asked son was told by his father to work in the vineyard, said he’d go, but never went. Jesus interprets the brothers’ story himself. The first-asked son represents the tax collectors and prostitutes whose lives have been a “No” to God, but who now repent and enter the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the second-asked son symbolizes the Jewish leaders who professed to be religious, but who did not respond to the Baptist’s call to repentance. In point of fact, both groups have their faults, but at least the group who turn toward God is to be preferred to the group who turn away from him. The ideal for us is to live in such a way that what we profess and practice meet and match. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) “Now sit down and listen.” There is Zen story about Master Bankei. His talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. Once a self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to debate with Bankei. When he saw that an audience had been attracted to the Master, he was overcome by anger and jealousy. He went to the Master and challenged him: “Hey, teacher!” he called out. “Wait a minute! Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?” The Master’s peace and strength of mind and heart were not at all affected by any disrespect people showed him. He accepted the challenge and said: ”Come up beside me and I will show you.” Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher. Master Bankei smiled. “Come over to my left side.” The priest obeyed. “No,” said Bankei, “we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here.” The priest proudly stepped over to the right. “You see,” observed Bankei, “you are obeying me, and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.” Today’s Gospel parable is about an obedient and non-obedient sons. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) St. Stephen Walks the Walk: This kind of integrity is something that all of us admire in others but find difficult to live out ourselves. Contemplating the saints can help strengthen our weakness. St. Stephen of Hungary was a great example of real faith. The Magyar [MAG-yahr] tribes invaded southeastern Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. Stephen was the elder son of the first Christian leader of the Magyars. Unlike his father, who had accepted Baptism mainly for political reasons, Stephen took his Christian identity seriously. At age 22 he succeeded his father and began his life-long work of bringing stability, order, and justice to the rival Magyar tribes, so that the Christian Faith could take deeper root in the souls of his people. Eventually, he was crowned the first King of Hungary by Pope Sylvester II, and he successfully turned the chaotic territory into a prosperous and organized nation. Through all his struggles, he strove to fulfill his royal duties in life in a way that would please Christ, dedicating himself entirely to the spiritual and material good of his subjects. He was often found in disguise, distributing alms to homeless people and cripples camped out in the city streets. His disguises were so good that once the crowd of beggars actually threw him to the ground, stole the money and food bags he was using to hand out offerings, and left him in the dust. He overcame great opposition to institute a policy whereby every group of ten towns was required to construct at least one Church and support at least one priest, so that all his citizens could receive the Sacraments and be instructed in the Faith. No corruption stained his regime, and when he died at 63, his tomb immediately became a favorite place of pilgrimage and devotion. (E- Priest). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) St. Euplus Goes the Extra Mile: This kind of integrity – not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk – is something that all of us admire in others but find difficult to live out ourselves. Contemplating the saints can help strengthen our weakness. St Euplus (YOU-pluhs) is a unique example of this kind of spiritual integrity. He was a Christian who lived in Sicily in the early 300s, when the Roman Emperors were initiating their final and most brutal persecutions against the Church. He had a passionate love for the sacred Scriptures and used to study scrolls of the Gospels constantly. When a new edict came out condemning the Christians and demanding the destruction of all Christian writings, Euplus refused to hide. Instead, he marched right up the governor’s palace, with a copy of the Gospels under his arm, and turned himself in for being a Christian. When questioned, he defended the truth of Christ valiantly and intelligently, refusing to compromise his Faith. So, the governor threw him into prison and confiscated the sacred books. Three months later he was dragged out of the prison and interrogated again. And again, he courageously professed his faith in Christ and refused to worship the pagan Roman gods. When asked if he still kept the forbidden writings he said yes, he still did. Of course, he had no book, so they asked him to explain. He answered, pointing to his heart, “They are within me.” And truly they were. In fact, his heart was so firmly immersed in Christ that instead of renouncing his Faith, he suffered torture, threats, and, in the end, execution by decapitation. (E-Priest). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) St. Ambrose humbling himself in obedience to Christ: This is success according to Christianity: loving our neighbors as ourselves. The only way to live up to this seemingly impossible standard of success is by following the example of Christ, who, as St. Paul stresses in today’s second reading, “humbled himself.” Humility is a mark of every true Christian, and every saint. Take St. Ambrose, for example. He was the governor of Northern Italy, one of the most important provinces in the Roman Empire during the 300s. He governed with wisdom and justice and the people regarded him as a father, even though he was still a young man. The bishop of the district died, and there were heated arguments about who should be appointed as his successor. During a public discussion in the Cathedral, divisions were so intense that violence was about to break out. Suddenly a little child’s voice arose: “Ambrose for bishop! Ambrose for bishop!” The whole crowd took up the cheer – they had found a solution, someone more interested in the good of the Church than in his own ideas or career, someone who could unite them all! What was Ambrose’s reaction? He was so horrified by the thought of being given such a powerful and prestigious position that he actually tried to flee the city by night. Only the direct intervention and command of the Emperor convinced him to agree to become bishop of Milan. And as such, his humility made him an unstoppable force for faith, compassion, and justice throughout the next twenty years. (E-Priest). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) Conversion Experience: Thomas Merton was orphaned at 16, became a communist at 20, and found Christ at 23. At 24 he became a New York Times reporter. At 26 he put all his possessions in a duffle bag, went to Kentucky and became a Trappist monk. In his best-selling spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton described the first step in his conversion process. He writes: “The whole thing passed in a flash. I was overwhelmed with a sudden and profound insight into the misery and corruption of my own soul. I was filled with horror at what I saw… And my soul desired escape… from all this with an intensity and urgency unlike anything I had ever known before.” Merton goes on to say that for the first time in his life he prayed – really prayed. The story of Thomas Merton illustrates the kind of change of heart Ezekiel refers to in today’s first reading. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
25) Internal Obedience: To put the will of God into action we need internal conversion. Thomas Merton had a tragic life. His father and mother died of cancer at an early age. His brother died in an accident. His guardian abandoned him. He became a skeptic and lived an immoral life. He fathered a child out of wedlock. In the end he abandoned the woman and the child and restlessly wandered through life. On the advice of friends he went into a Franciscan monastery. Hearing his story, no religious congregation was willing to admit him. He was close to despair and perhaps not too far from suicide. At last he reached the Gethsemane Abbey of the Cistercians. Like a shipwrecked mariner reaching the shore, he grasped all the straws available. He was twenty-six years when he entered, and he died at fifty-three. The last few years of his life contain remarkable glimpses of his human and divine love. He penned The Seven Storey Mountain, and his later spiritual classic Seeds of Contemplation made him a world-wide spiritual master. Merton is a modern St. Augustine. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
26) Never Too Late! Leonard Cheshire witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki. The city went up in flames, thousands were killed, and thousands were maimed for life. After Nagasaki he was a changed man. On his return to England he resigned from the Air Force, became a devout Catholic and vowed to spend the rest of his life working for peace. He plunged into social work and founded Cheshire Homes for the terminally ill and disabled. Tom Talbot was an alcoholic. He spent all his life in this terrible vice and troubled everyone. One day, in a drunken stupor as he lay on the roadside mired in his own iniquity, he looked for someone to give him money for a drink. In his utter helplessness he looked for assistance from the Almighty. He quit alcohol and changed his whole life. Today he is an example for all alcoholics. To do the will of God, an inner change is necessary. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
27) Actions speak louder than words: A Manager of a well-known firm was told by his officials that one of his officials was swindling money. The culprit was called by the Manager and given a promotion to be a supervisor. He was surprised but continued with his old habit of swindling money. When the Manger was informed he promoted him to a yet higher level as one of the officers. But the man did not change. Finally, he was appointed as the personal secretary of the Manager. In his dealings with the Manager he discovered that the Manager was aware of this man’s greed and yet had not punished him but given more and more opportunities to improve. He was embarrassed and changed his ways. Within a year he had become popular among his co-workers for his sincerity and transparency. It was little wonder that after the retirement of the Manager, he was chosen to replace the Manager. (Robert D’Souza in The Sunday Liturgy; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
28) It isn’t how the journey starts, it is how it ends: The great wit, C. S. Lewis, started out a doubter. He saw British Christianity as a pale and bloodless business. It did not excite him. In fact, to his reasoned, calculating way of thinking, Christianity made very little sense. It smelled of superstition and made promises about the future he was sure it could not make good on. But C. S. Lewis came to see that he was missing something. He began to slide into a cynicism about life that frightened him. He wanted something to believe in. Someone who was on the Christian pilgrimage helped him to see that there was room for him in the parade. Not suddenly, but rather quietly, unspectacularly, Lewis came into the Christian camp. We know the rest of the story: He became a great intellectual apologist for Christianity, writing and speaking to confound the critics of the Faith. He was the reverse of Ralph Vaughan Williams, taking on the critics of the Christian faith in Britain in a series of radio broadcasts which became enormously popular among a population growing steadily more indifferent to Christ. A similar story can be told of Malcolm Muggeridge, a British thinker who in later life came to see that the Christian Faith made far more sense to him than clinging to agnosticism. He, like Lewis, became an apologist for Christianity. He said “yes” to the invitation, after he first had said “no.” It isn’t how the journey starts that counts. It’s how it ends that matters. [Michael A. Sherer, And God Said Yes! (CSS Publishing Company; quoted by Fr. Kayala.) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
29) “I’m sorry it was the last part of the ninth (inning) that I came to know Christ.” Baseball great, Ty Cobb, played 3,033 games and for twelve years led the American League in batting averages. For four years he averaged over 400. However, his spiritual life had not kept pace with his sporting career. Converted to Christ while near death on 17 July 1961, he said, “You tell the boys I’m sorry it was the last part of the ninth (inning) that I came to know Christ. I wish it had taken place in the first half of the first (inning).” If there is a lesson to be learned from Cobb’s experience, perhaps it could be expressed as follows: As long as a person draws breath, it’s never too late to change course; it’s never too late to shift one’s center of gravity; it’s never too late to exercise the prerogative of changing one’s mind. In today’s first reading, the prophet Ezekiel was attempting to impart a similar lesson to his contemporaries. (Patricia Sanchez). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
30) Testimony of the “no-no” but eventually “yes-yes” son. The following personal testimony of the “no-no” but eventually “yes-yes” son is very inspiring (cf. “Meet El Serio” in Extension, Fall 2014, p. 14-16). When he was a teenager, Jaime Torres used his leadership skills to create a gang. Now, he is using those same abilities to lead gang members out of trouble. In 1986, at age 14, Jaime moved to California with his parents and three brothers. His parents found work – as a janitor and seamstress – and sent the boys to school. As Jaime looked for something to do, he found a gang. He shaved his head, wore baggy clothes and started writing rap songs about the power of gangs. But his gang didn’t bring him power – still a “nobody” and it was dangerous. So, he started his own gang. People followed him, but so did trouble. Drugs. Alcohol. Crime. Threats to his life. And worse, the death of friends. Jaime’s parents drove him to Rogers, Arkansas, to start a new life. Again, Jaime was lost. He continued with gang life and drugs and was arrested. He felt trapped. Desperate. And then came a moment of grace. He joined a youth group at a Catholic church and something clicked. He realized that “Jesus was looking for people in the streets, like gang members. Jesus was an ally.” So, Jaime begged Jesus to help him out of his situation. “Jesus didn’t want people in the streets to end up in jail or cemetery”, he said. Suddenly, Jaime imagined a new mandate – he could help Jesus find people on the streets and keep them safe and alive.
Jaime took his mandate seriously. In fact, he gave himself a nickname: El Serio (the Serious). As he explained, “When you’re in a gang, it’s serious. You could lose your life. If Jesus comes into your life, He’s serious, and you need to listen.”
He gave up drugs and alcohol and started writing a new kind of rap song – “Jesus en el Barrio” (Jesus in the Neighborhood). With his bald head, sunglasses and crucifix dangling from his neck, Jaime started performing “Jesus en el Barrio” to crowds that got bigger and bigger. To reach even more listeners, he produced a CD. People wanted to hear his song, but they also wanted to hear his story. And it turns out; they wanted help with their own problems. Jaime knew he could do something. In 2003, Jaime started Fuerza Transformadora (Transforming Force or FT), a movement to reach out to young people who were facing the same challenges he had faced. He asked for weekly meeting space at Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers. After Masses, he made announcements: “If you’re struggling with your family or with drug problems, we have a group for you. Come see me.” He went to parks where kids were milling about and brought them bulletins for Mass. He walked the streets, found addicts and talked to them. He went to high schools and gave presentations to students. The weekly meetings grew. (…) In addition to Fuerza Transformadora, Jaime now works for the Diocese of Little Rock. He is married and has a child. But despite his mainstream activities, he remains in a class of his own. When he enters a room, people stop. With three CDs under his belt, he knows his audience. He knows his mission. He knows how to bring the Church into hostile territory – places of drugs, gangs, and violence – and how to find followers. He understands the importance of the Church adapting to those on the margins, so they don’t fall through the cracks. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
31) “O LORD, WE HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU AND DISOBEYED YOUR WILL.” In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king?” “I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” “Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” When King Henry died, a statement was written, “The King learned to rule by being obedient.” Christ was obedient to the will of his Father unto death, even death on the cross. As his disciples, we, too, are called to be obedient to the will of God. Christ expects us to be faithful to him where he puts us, and when he returns, we’ll rule together with him. (Fr. Lakra). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
32) Not doing something that was promised: The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, released a study of twenty-one high-potential executives who were terminated or forced to retire early from their companies. The one universal character flaw which always led to downfall was not doing something that was promised. Motivational speaker Cavett Robert learned from an English professor long ago that “character is the ability to carry out a resolution long after the mood in which it was made has left you.” The second son had good intentions, but he never made it to the vineyard. Dale Carnegie said that one of the most tragic characteristics of human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of cultivating the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
The generals looked at each other, somewhat stupefied. Finally one of them submits a second request to the computer: YES WHAT? Instantly the computer responded: YES, SIR.
The Pharisees, like these generals, were accustomed to people saying "Yes, sir" to them. They were the religious authorities. They were used to being treated as such. But there was a new teacher in town, a teacher who was threatening their authority. The Pharisees were alarmed. They feared Jesus' popularity, his ability to heal and to perform miracles. In their eyes, Jesus was preaching heresy and leading people away from the religious traditions that defined the Jews. The Pharisees wanted to expose him as a fraud.
It was in this context that Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard."
The boy immediately said, "No." Later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to his other son and said the same thing. This one answered, "O.K." but he never got out to the vineyard...
Once there were two couples. Couple A were married in a large, beautiful church ceremony. They pledge life-long faithfulness and love to each other in the moving words of their vows. However, their life together has been one of abuse -- both physical and verbal. They both have been unfaithful to each other.
Which couple would you say is doing the will of God?
Both need change of hearts -- couple A in the way they act towards each other and couple B in their attitudes about the importance of the words in a public ceremony.
Another analogy might be with those who attend church and say all the right words, but whose lives fall somewhat short of John's "way of righteousness" and others who live exemplary lives; but who want nothing to do with "organized religion" and the public expression of their faith.
Both need "a change of heart".
Brian P. Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
He said, "Every month, that woman would come in and ask me who was behind in their grocery bills. It was usually some family who had sickness or death -- or some poor woman trying to feed her kids when her husband drank up the money. She would pay their bill and she made me swear never to tell. But, I figure now that she is dead, people ought to know -- especially those who benefited from her charity who have been most critical of her."
"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you."
But C. S. Lewis came to see that he was missing something. He began to slide into a cynicism about life that frightened him. He wanted something to believe in. Someone who was on the Christian pilgrimage helped him to see that there was room for him in the parade. Not suddenly, but rather quietly, unspectacularly, Lewis came into the Christian camp. We know the rest of the story: He became a great intellectual apologist for Christianity, writing and speaking to confound the critics of the Faith. He was the reverse of Ralph Vaughan Williams, taking on the critics of the Christian faith in Britain in a series of radio broadcasts which became enormously popular among a population growing steadily more indifferent to Christ.
A similar story can be told of Malcolm Muggeridge, a British thinker who in later life came to see that the Christian Faith made far more sense to him than clinging to agnosticism. He, like Lewis, became an apologist for Christianity. He said "yes" to the invitation, after he first had said "no."
It isn't how the journey starts that counts. It's how it ends that matters.
Michael A. Sherer, And God Said Yes!, CSS Publishing Company
Meanwhile, the kid with less talent gets less help and less pressure. He is left to struggle in worse schools combating pressure from gangs. He has to want to play or it isn't going to happen...