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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 11, 2018

Deacon Bill Hough


There are times when the Scripture readings really speak to me. For instance, today – “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept … seats of honor in synagogues” – next to the priest. It is a good reminder that in today’s self-centered secular world, we will only find true satisfaction when we keep our focus on God.

And that’s what our readings are about today – faith and trust in God who will always provide. This faith and trust are present in our two poor widows, one in our first reading from the first book of Kings and the other in the gospel reading from Mark.

You may remember this Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. The king of Israel at the time, Ahab, had married Jezebel, who worshipped the god Baal. She made the people of Israel worship her god and was out to destroy any prophet of the God of the Israelites. Elijah went into hiding, but before that, God had him announce a period of drought on all who worshipped Baal.

In our reading today, God has sent Elijah to the widow in Zarephath. She has nothing and is at the point of death from famine. However, Elijah guarantees that her flour and oil will not run dry until the drought is over. She believes and her trust in the word of God through Elijah is her salvation.

In our gospel reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem. His criticism of the scribes will soon lead to His death. But He has something to teach us. The poor widow is an example to His disciples. She has given everything she has and trusts that God will provide for her.

He contrasts the widow with those who are only concerned with their own wealth and honor.

It is not a bad thing to be rich or famous (or wear long robes). It becomes a problem when riches and fame become more important than the love of God and neighbor. I had a boss who once estimated that ninety percent of people who were rich and famous were not happy because they always wanted more. It is hard to argue with that when you look at the distance in today’s world between those who have and those who do not.

Jesus accused the scribes of this self-centeredness. However, we all must beware of this. Even the Apostles at times had a difficult time understanding the message of Jesus. Just a few weeks ago, we read about James and John who wanted to sit at the right hand of Jesus. The others were angry – because they didn’t think of it first.

The late Jesuit priest and scripture scholar Daniel Harrington pointed out the minor characters in Mark’s gospel who do respond to the message of Christ. Not only the widow in today’s reading, but he also includes the woman with the hemorrhages, the Gentile woman with the sick child, blind Bartimaeus, and the friendly scribe in last week’s gospel.

Father Harrington said that these minor characters remind us that genuine holiness resides in a humble and generous spirit that loves and is totally dependent on God – something that the Apostles eventually did learn.

Advent begins in just three weeks, so we are just a few weeks from the end of this liturgical year when we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Mark has given us some special parting gifts these past two Sundays. Last week we heard the entire meaning of Christian life – to love God and neighbor. This week we have the lesson of humility and trust in God alone.

Our challenge is to go out and to live these lessons.

With the grace we receive today from Jesus in His Word and in His Body and Blood, let us offer our lives to God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Then, as we go throughout this week, let us share this grace with all we meet.

All Souls

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 2, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

Of the three Theological Virtues—faith, hope, and love— we focus most of our attention on faith and love and neglect the vitally important virtue of Hope. The celebration of All Souls Day brings back into focus the centrality of hope in our lives of faith, a hope which leads us to love more joyously and generously.

Christian hope is not an abstract wish, and it is not a worldly optimism that somehow things will get better in the future. The hope we share in Christ is concrete and real. It confronts the wrenching reality of death and does not run away from sorrow.

It is a life-giving hope which the Good Shepherd protects and nourishes in us as he leads us through the dark valley of the death of our loved ones, and through the dark valley of our own death.

Every time we make a Profession of Faith at Mass, we express this hope to receive the gift of life beyond this life. “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

This is a hope which no one can snatch away from us, an anchor in the stormy seas of this life, a hope which does not disappoint.

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks powerfully of this hope which does not disappoint. Why is this so? Paul is crystal clear: “because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” So the virtue of hope, so important for us in today’s world, flows from the love of God given to us—it is a divine gift.

God’s love which sustains and strengthens our hope is given to us in abundance, for it has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Spirit first given at baptism. Not a drop here and then a drop there, but this water of new life, this love which energizes hope, has been poured into our hearts.

Christian hope roots itself in a person—in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Son of God is sent by the Father into the world, not when people in our world have turned away from sin and are worthy to receive such a great gift, but He comes before anyone is worthy to receive such a great gift.

There is more good news to enrich hope, because as St. Paul states so clearly, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The love which sustains our hope is undeserved, unearned, complete gift. The One who is Love enfleshed gives himself to us before we are ever worthy of him, to reconcile us to the Father and to one another, to be the source of our hope forever.

The one day in history which tilted our lives and the world forever toward hope and away from despair was that first Easter Sunday when Christ Jesus rose from the dead. From the place where hope dies—the tomb—life blooms again. So now even the place of death becomes a place where hope lives.

The will of our Heavenly Father who sent His Son into the world as the living symbol of hope is that the Son should not lose anything of what the Father gave him. In Jesus, nothing and no one is lost to us. Everything and everyone can be found in Him who is the source of all hope.

We often use the word “loss” when we speak of death. We tell others we are sorry for your loss, and we pray for those who have suffered through the loss of a loved one. When we encounter the reality of death in the searing sorrow over the death of a loved one, we can feel like we have lost them, that they are lost to us. We also feel lost, for everything in life is different without them. We feel disoriented in our daily routine which used to include our beloved dead. Nothing seems to be same—even food tastes different salted with sorrow. Little things happen throughout the day which remind us of them, and we feel even more deeply the loss of their physical presence.

It is right there, in the midst of great grief, in the middle of searing sorrow, that the Lord of all hopefulness finds us. To remind us that nothing and no one is lost to him, that he came to seek out and find those who are lost. That because everything, that’s right every thing, has been created through Him and for Him, that even our beloved animal companions, our favorite blooming plants and golden leafed trees, are not lost—they are found in Him. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians says of Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and earth was created, things visible and invisible. All were created through him, all were created for him.” (1:15-16)

Our beloved dead linger with us, and continue to bless us, even when their physical absence bewilders us and breaks our hearts still. For in Jesus, all of them are still alive. In Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, they still live, just in a different way. Life for them, and for us, has changed, not ended.

Today’s Gospel passage from the evangelist John assuring us that nothing is lost in Jesus is taken from the middle of Chapter 6 in what has been called the Bread of Life discourse. It is the chapter in John’s Gospel where he lays out a powerful teaching on the Eucharist, as Jesus teaches that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have life in Him.

Thus, every time we come to the table of the Lord, we are found by the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and joined to Him who is the Source of our Hope. We also find those we thought we had lost here with Him, for he brings them with Him.

So we are joined to them, our beloved dead, at this sacred meal, and they to us, in the One who is the reason for our hope, in this banquet pointing us to the heavenly feast.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

October 28, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


You and I are invited to take the place of Bartimaeus in order to learn how to be better disciples of the Lord Jesus. For you see, this encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus happens at the end of the central part of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus has been teaching his followers how to become his disciples. Bartimaeus shows us the way.

His cry: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” becomes our cry. The New American Bible translation which we use for our Mass readings uses the word “pity” but the word closer to the original Greek is actually, “mercy.” “Jesus, have mercy on me!” For with this blind beggar, we first need to realize our complete and absolute dependence on Jesus.

That we are broken beyond repair and only he can heal us. That we are sinners who do not do the good we want but the bad we desire not to do. That we are stuck along the roadside of life, stuck there because of some hurt or pain or suffering, known or unknown, which prevents us from getting up and going forward with Jesus. So, we cry out, “Jesus, have mercy!”

Note that Jesus responds to this urgent plea of great need, that even with all the noise and commotion around him, Jesus hears the cry of great need. For Jesus is always alert to those who cry out to Him for the gift of His life-giving mercy, a divine gift which saves and renews and restores.

Then when we are called to Jesus’ side with Bartimaeus, we also have to throw aside our cloak, whatever it is that we wrap around us as our security. We are invited to leave behind the things that we rely on for “warmth” and instead be warmed to the core of our being by the loving gaze of Jesus. We throw aside our cloak, those things we use as our “security blanket” and go quickly to Him in whom we are protected from the power of sin and evil and everlasting death.

So, we take courage with this blind beggar and go to Jesus with our every need, from small to great and discover not only that he hears us but wants to help us with everything that burdens us.

Next comes Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” It is the same question he addressed to James and John in last Sunday’s Gospel, and their desire was for the best seats in his coming kingdom, for power and glory. Note that Bartimaeus has a different desire, a deeper desire, a more profound desire. “Master, I want to see.”

Now in the Gospels, sight is something much more than light striking one’s retina and an image forming in one’s brain of what is right in front of one’s eyeballs. In the Gospels, seeing is always connected to faith, an insight into who Jesus is and what Jesus teaches. To see in this way means admitting that one is blind, that one does not recognize Jesus or understand completely his challenging teachings.

This is why once Bartimaeus “sees” the first thing he does is follow Jesus on the way. Jesus is on the way from Jericho to Jerusalem, where out of love for the world, he will suffer and die, giving his life so that all might be able to live forever in the light of God’s love. For those who see who Jesus is and understand that his words are the words of everlasting life, the daily call is to die with him to whatever in us that is not of God and rise with him to newness of life.

In the 3 predictions of His Passion preceding this encounter with Bartimaeus, Jesus has been teaching us how to see who He is and thus see our life and others through his eyes. Mark uses this pattern of Jesus telling his disciples about his upcoming Passion, which they then respond to with blindness (misunderstanding), so Jesus follows up with a teaching meant to open their eyes and ours.

The 1st prediction of His Passion in Chapter 8 of Mark is followed by the first teaching: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 )

So many are blind in our culture because they do not deny themselves but instead are self-absorbed, looking out only for what’s best for them and them alone. Disciples of Jesus see that the only way to fullness of life is to direct our lives outward toward others, to move from selfishness to self-giving with Jesus.

So, we cry out, “Jesus, help us to see where we are still blinded by our selfishness!” This blindness can be seen not only in those who make the choice to abort the new life growing within them because it will be too much of a burden, but also this blindness afflicts those who choose to make “gun rights” an absolute right, more important than the foundational right of others to life itself. I am still haunted by the words of a father whose son was killed in one of the many mass killings over the past decade, “You say you have a right to own a gun. Well, my son has a right to life.” It is selfish to believe that one has the right to own whatever kind of weapon one wants, especially when that weapon can be used to kill many people in a short time. This particular blindness has devastating effects, so that no place of worship is safe, not a synagogue, Christian church, nor mosque, and the places of education where are children need to feel safe in order to learn are now places where they fear for their lives. “Lord, help us to see where we are still blinded by our selfishness!”

Jesus’ 2nd prediction of His Passion in Chapter 9 is followed by the 2nd teaching: “Whoever welcomes a little child such as this welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37 )

A heart of hospitality—welcoming the “other” as if they were Christ himself— is an essential characteristic of being a disciple of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Jesus challenges us to see Him in the most powerless, the poorest, the stranger from another land, the one who can do nothing for us. To see Jesus in them and by welcoming them, to receive Jesus himself.

Some political leaders, including our president, play on our fears of the “other,” and this fear blinds us to Christ in them asking us to welcome Him, to help him. So we cry out: Jesus, help us to see where we are blinded by our fears of the other.”

The 3rd Prediction of His Passion in Chapter 10 of Mark is followed by the 3rd teaching: “The one among you who serves is the greatest of all.” (Mark 10:43 )

This teaching addresses a blindness of which so many of us suffer, thinking we are better than this or that person because of their race or color of skin or sexual orientation or political ideology. When we have a heart of service, we see what we all share in common—our humanity. When we bend our knee to wash the feet of others, we cannot stand over them in condemnation or anger or hatred.

Rhetoric encouraging violence against those who are different from us or disagree with us has consequences, as we have seen in the pipe bombs being sent through the U.S. mail this week. Words which demonize another person or group, spoken by the leader of our nation or by any one of us, have consequences because these words inevitably lead to violence.

When we have a heart of service, we join our lives to the Son of David, the King of Kings, the one who came not to serve but to serve & to give his life that we might be reconciled to God & to one another and live in peace. So we cry out: “Jesus, help us to see where we are blind to the violence we encourage against others.”

A healthy self-denial, which leads us out of ourselves into a life of hospitality & service, helps us to see who Jesus is and who we are called to be with him.

We desire to see Jesus more clearly, so we might follow him more nearly, joining our lives to his more fully.

We desire to see Jesus more clearly, so we might love him more dearly, and thus love Him in every word we speak and in every deed we do.

Jesus, we want to see you! Hear us and have mercy on us!!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

October 14, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


Two men appear in the verses of Mark’s Gospel we have just proclaimed; one at the beginning another at the end. One of them has no name, and the other is called, Peter. They are both men who have been looked at love.

In the case of the first man, it is the only time in all the Gospels that Jesus is said to have looked with love on an individual. It is the gaze of divine love that should have completely overcome this man and moved him to give up everything at that moment. Yet, it does not happen. The reason why is worth our thought and some reflection. We could learn from him.

In the case of Peter, the Gospel doesn’t ever say that he was looked at with love, but we can only hope that this was what Peter saw as he sat there in the courtyard of the High Priest when a cock crowed the third times. The Gospel tells us that Jesus turned and looked at him. Why would we think that look would have been anything other than the look of love? Unless our lesser selves imagine a look of reproach, like, “I told you so”, or a “how could you?” We know what that looks like don’t we? We also know how to give look, but that is not what he saw.

That man with no name could easily be us. He seems to have been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, that he does not notice how Jesus looks at him, and that’s a shame. The story might have ended up differently had he just looked up into that loving gaze.

But no, he has too many possessions to look after. In reality, they possess him. He can’t imagine his life without them. What Jesus asks of him is not just to help the poor, but to become poor. Judging from his question, that man thinks that there is something he can do to gain eternal life, and here we see the difference between him and Peter.

Having given up everything, Peter and his companions begin to discover that this “eternal life” is a free gift given by the loving Father to those who do not deserve it. At the moment of his greatest shame and sorrow, Peter looks at the face of the friend and master he has just denied and he sees the look of love.

Jesus demands the best of us. That is what he asked of that man and of Peter and the Twelve. The challenge: “If you want to be perfect” is issued to all of us as well.

However, the thing we might be called upon to sacrifice in order to take up that challenge could vary for each of us. We have to look into our own hearts to see what it is that we would have to give up in order to respond. We are reminded like the nameless man and Peter that we are invited to come along with Jesus, that life is a pilgrimage to God’s eternal kingdom.

To accept the invitation of Jesus means we must travel lightly and remember that salvation is always what God accomplishes in spite of us. Eternal life is not something we can earn, buy, or accomplish on our own.

Those who trust in themselves and their possessions have it all wrong. Only those who trust in the saving power and redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation.

What he asks is sacrifice. It is the sign language of love. What Jesus knows is that there is no point in forcing people to make sacrifices. If you take things from people, they are impoverished; but if you can get them to give them up, they are enriched.

With these 2 men before us today, we have a choice to make and a model to follow. One leads to sadness. The other leads to the joy of forgiveness and eternal life.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

September 23, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

“What were you arguing about along the way?” (Mark 9:33 ) Jesus’ question is met by silence, because the disciples have been arguing about who is the greatest. But now, under the loving yet challenging gaze of Jesus, it all seems so foolish. What can James or Peter or Andrew or Matthew say?

Jesus has been teaching them that dying to one’s selfish inclinations is the way to life, that the way to a more abundant life is to turn away from self-centeredness and live for others. They’ve spent the whole day focusing on self and who is the most important. How could they have wasted so much time or been so foolish?

In Jesus’ presence we see so clearly how putting “me first” is not His way nor the way to follow Him. When we pray, which is simply being conscious of Jesus’ presence and entering into a conversation with him, we discover that we are passionate about things which are not of lasting value. That in our desire to be right all the time, we hurt others.

Each day we are invited to answer the question Jesus poses to us as we walk along the way of discipleship with Him. What were you arguing about with your spouse? Your response could be: Oh, how foolish I was. How selfish I am, thinking my needs are more important than my spouse, that I am more important. What were you arguing about with one of your friends? Oh, how foolish I was, how self-centered, trying to prove the superiority of my position. What were you arguing about with your co-worker? Well, my coworker is of a different political persuasion than I, but I showed her and cut her down a notch or two. But how foolish I am, lording myself over her and making her feel so small.

Three times in the very center of Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer, die and rise, and each time they don’t get it. So, each time he uses their “misunderstanding” as an opening to teach them even more clearly what it means to follow him along the way of the cross. Today’s teaching follows the 2nd prediction of his Passion along the way to Jerusalem. His teaching—the greatest among you will be the servant of all. Not just by serving a few select people, but by being a servant to all people.

In Jesus’ 3rd prediction of His Passion in Chapter 10, it’s as if James and John don’t even hear what he says, because they ask for the best seats in His Kingdom, and then the others get upset at the brothers for doing so. So, Jesus teaches them again that in his Kingdom it is not about glory and honor and making one’s importance felt, but about service, using himself as an example, Jesus refers to himself as Son of Man, his favorite title for himself, as he states: “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 10:45 ).

He will reinforce this teaching at the Last Supper, getting on his knees to wash their dirty, stinking feet.

Just like those first followers of Jesus, we struggle to hear his words and to remember his example of life-giving service. Instead of washing feet we are tempted to take the opposite perspective, to stand over others, to look down on others from our perch of self-righteous judgment. From this perspective, we see ourselves as better, as more important, as being always in the right.

Getting down on our knees to wash others feet gifts us with a totally different perspective. We have to look up at others, and as we do so, we realize we are not better than them, more important than them. Rather we see what we share in common—that all of us have feet that sweat and stink because that’s part of the human condition. From the vantage point of service, we see that we are all human beings.

In fact, from the perspective of being a servant to others, we realize something even deeper, that we are all children of God.

One of the penances I often give to children when they come to Confession is to go home and ask their parents: “What can I do for you?” I picture their mom or dad, upon hearing this question, initially being speechless, their jaws dropping open in amazement.

This kind of attitude within a family—“What can I do for you”— transforms family life by building each other up and strengthening the life of the family. Those who used to be self-centered widen the circle of their concern to include the needs of other family members.

This kind of attitude also transforms the human family into being what it has been made to be—the family of God. When we daily ask of others, “What can I do for you?” there is no time nor energy for arguing about who is the most important.

Instead of judging people only on what they can do for us, we ask what we can do for them. Then our eyes are opened, and we see that we are serving Christ himself.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

September 16, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Over the last several weeks we“Whoever wishes to save his life loses it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35) This is what St. John Paul II called the “law of the gift.” Pope John Paul II stated it this way: “Man can only find himself through the sincere gift of self.” This teaching of the 2 nd Vatican Council, repeated incessantly by St. John Paul II, unmasks the deception of a life focused on self. If I seek only to preserve myself—my interests, my comforts, my preferences— I lose everything. But, if I learn to sacrifice myself, if I learn how to be a gift to and for others, I not only bless and affirm the God-given dignity of others, I find myself and “save” my life in the process.

The “law of the gift” helps us better understand the mystery of the cross and what it means for us to carry the cross. Instead of focusing solely on ourselves, we deny ourselves and follow Jesus, who is the example of what self-giving love looks like. We participate in carrying HIS cross, not just any old cross. For the cross is simply an instrument of torture that was used not only to kill Jesus but other condemned criminals. BUT Jesus’ cross is different for on it he gives himself completely to the Father out of love and for us out of love. The innocent One dying for the guilty, the Son of God for the sons and daughters of men, emptying his life that we might share in divine life and death destroyed.

So, to carry the cross does not mean suffering through illness, because that is self-focused. Besides, everyone at one time or another suffers from sickness, whether they are Christian or not. Instead, to carry the cross means to help others in their time of illness, to be the healing hands of Christ to them.

To deny oneself and follow Jesus in carrying the cross does not mean when disaster strikes my life, this is my cross to carry. Every human being faces and deals with disaster at one time or another in their life. Instead, to carry the cross means reaching out to help carry people who are impacted by disasters in their life. Just as well, to carry the cross does not mean struggling through the burden of sorrow over the death of a loved one. Once again, that is self-focused, not other-directed. To carry the cross instead means to lift up others who are being crushed by the weight of their sorrow, to dry the tears of those who weep, to bring them the hope of new life by our self-giving love.

What you are willing to give up for someone reveals your love for them more than words can ever say. Real love and sacrifice are never far apart. Love which is the real deal is always connected to the gift of self. In fact, it’s not what we take and have which makes us rich, but rather what we give up. St. James in his letter proclaims the same truth in a different way by stating that faith without works is dead. True faith is faith put into practice. Real faith acts on behalf of others, especially those in greatest need. Faith Works! Today we are given an opportunity to put our faith to work, to love in a sacrificial way, by responding generously to the annual Catholic Charities Appeal. Our sisters and brothers who need our help will receive it through the many excellent service programs of Catholic Charities. I invite forward Molly Bernard to speak with us about the good works Catholic Charities does in our name and with our sacrificial support.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle

September 2, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


We have finished our Scripture summer vacation through Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel and now return to the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel for this liturgical year. We spent the last 5 Sundays coming to know more fully Jesus as the Bread of Life who gives his flesh for the life of the world, who hungers for union with us, that we might live and love with Him and in Him. As we are drawn deeper into this intimate union with the Word of God made Flesh, we recognize more fully with Peter that he alone has the words of everlasting life. That Jesus is the Word of everlasting life.

Today in Mark’s Gospel the words Jesus speaks to the Pharisees & scribes help us to see more clearly the danger of hypocrisy and the importance of integrity in our life of faith. Some of the Pharisees and scribes focus only on the externals of religion, following the rules. They neglect the heart of religion, the most important law of God to love God by loving one’s neighbors. (Remember in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus puts no limit on who one’s neighbor is.) Jesus looks into the heart, while they focus only on external appearances.

Jesus hangs out with those whom the religious hypocrites of the day consider to be sinners, whom they would never get close to for fear of being contaminated and becoming unclean.

These “religious” ones believe that someone like a deaf mute is a sinner, thinking that such a person has done something terribly wrong to be punished by God with such a serious disability. However, Jesus sees those who struggle with disabilities and sickness as revealing the glory of God and knows they trust in God’s care more than the healthy do.

The Pharisees see a tax collector as a traitor, working with the Roman occupiers and making money off his own Jewish brothers and sisters, whereas Jesus looks into the heart of Matthew the tax collector and sees an apostle.

The religious leaders see a prostitute and label her a sinner while Jesus gets to know these women as warriors who do whatever is necessary to provide for their starving children. The Pharisees and scribes believe those who are rich are blessed by God, and conversely that those who are poor must be cursed by God. But by caring for the impoverished, Jesus shows that the poor are God’s favorites.

Judgment spews from the Pharisees and scribes—they judge others on the externals. Mercy flows from Jesus, because he sees into the heart, and as Savior has come to save those who need him. Such Pharisees and scribes never even attempt to know those they consider sinners, because these “pious” ones stand at a distance judging, while Jesus dines with sinners, feeding them with the gift of God’s saving mercy.

The Pharisee in each one of us is convinced that by keeping the rules we can earn our salvation. The Pharasaical temptation is to think we can save ourselves by focusing only on externals, by perfect observance of the rules.

This kind of thinking leaves Jesus out of the picture. There is no purpose and no reason for a Savior in this kind of system. In his debate in today’s Gospel with the Pharisees, Jesus takes a stand against this kind of thinking. Salvation is from the hand of God made visible in Christ. It is a free gift, not something we can earn and then think we can deserve. Jesus is the perfect gift come from God the Father who saves us from ourselves. For we all fall into the trap, in one way or another, of thinking we can earn our salvation.

The danger with this kind of thinking is that it leads to judging others as unclean, as unworthy, as outside of God’s care. If we think we can earn salvation by earning the approval of God, then we think we deserve it by what we do, and thus those who do not do the same are condemned. When we focus only on the externals, it is easy to be both jury and judge in our relations with others and consider them to be outside of God’s care and thus outside of ours as well.

Jesus’ message—pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to what resides in your own heart. For from within the heart arise thoughts which make one unclean, which defile a person. The Savior of the World, the one who is the Word of Life, waits on us to invite him into a deep-sea dive into the depths of our heart. With him we can plunge into the darkest recesses of our heart and ask him to save us from whatever death-dealing attitudes reside there.

On Judgment Day I think we will be asked by God not whether we perfectly followed the “rules” but whether we loved our neighbor and thus demonstrated our love for God.

According to St. James, one of the 12 apostles who learned at the feet of Jesus, religion which is pure and undefiled before God is this : “to care for orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1: 27) That’s right—loving the most vulnerable in our world, reaching out to lift them up in their time of struggle and suffering—this is what real religion looks like.

This is what it means to love the Son of God, who became poor that we might become rich in God’s mercy.

As we journey through these Sundays of September, we will keep returning to the Letter of James and his challenging teaching on what real religion looks like.

The word of God in this letter will lay bare the temptation of our hearts to judge others on appearances. James will point out that even in an assembly of Christians gathering for worship, this deadly dynamic continues to play out, as we welcome the well dressed person and shun the poor person in shabby clothes. Think about it— how would you react if a homeless person came in here looking for a seat?

Or Christians only offer prayers of blessing for those who have nothing to wear or no food to eat, instead of clothing and feeding them in their need.

A living faith, as James points out, leads to good works, for we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only. If we want the living Word of God to take root in our hearts and dispel the darkness living there, then we are called to love him present in the least of our brothers and sisters.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 26, 2018

Deacon Bill Hough


Over the last several weeks we have been reading the sixth chapter of John which began with the feeding of the five thousand, followed by Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. In this chapter, Jesus tells us in order have eternal life with Him, we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Today we come the end of this chapter and His disciples must to choose to believe and follow Him or choose to walk away. Many do choose to return to their former way of life. But then we hear one of Peter’s great professions of faith, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced you are the Holy One of God”.

Throughout these weeks, Father Jacobi has stressed that if we truly believe in these words of Jesus which He emphasized at the Last Supper, “This is my body, this is my blood” then we will come to Church each Sunday with an attitude of thanksgiving and reverence.

As Catholics, we believe that by these words of institution spoken by the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ – we call this transubstantiation. Not all Christians believe this – some believe in consubstantiation – that Jesus is present in some way for a short period of time. Others only see communion as a symbol. However, Jesus Himself told us that this truly becomes His Body and Blood and that we need this Body and Blood to have life within us.

I encourage you to really listen to the words that are spoken today – not just the readings, but the whole Mass. Justin Martyr, one of the Fathers of the Church who lived in the second century wrote about the worship service of the early Church. He describes the breaking of the bread and the epiclesis where the Holy Spirit is asked to come down during the consecration of the bread and wine. He talks about praying the psalms and reading from Scripture followed by exhortation – the homily.

Whenever I’m at a wedding or funeral Mass, I am always more aware of what’s being said because I know there can be a lot of non-Catholics attending the Mass. I try to listen through their ears and wonder what they are thinking when the priest says, “Do this in memory of me – This is my Body, this is my Blood”.

We can rejoice that we are still being fed by the same Word and Eucharist that fed the Church from the very beginning. We celebrate as Jesus commanded us. If we truly believe this, Christ tells us we will have eternal life with Him.

A gentleman came up to me one time and had a serious question, “If we are working to get to heaven, then shouldn’t we want to die?” My first reaction was to say, “Well, we all want to go to heaven, but God probably has something He wants us to do while we are here on earth”. He went away thinking that was a reasonable answer.

Now, though, after reflecting on these Gospel passages of John, I want to change my answer. We may have to die to go to heaven, but we don’t have to die to taste eternal life in the Eucharist and in our relationship with Christ. Jesus provides that for us here and now if we let Him.

We can have a lot of gods in our life – obsession with money or power, prejudice, hatred, and (sometimes my favorite) holding grudges. Satan is very good at feeding us with these desires. However, they don’t satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Only the Good Shepherd has what we need to be truly satisfied. He is the Bread of Life who wants to radically change our life with His Word and with His Body and Blood.

We read that the Apostles believed and received Him by faith.

Others “murmured” and walked away. They could not listen to these “hard sayings”.

Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life”.

He gives us the same choice today – to believe or not.

To whom shall we go?

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 19, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

In this part of the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus uses very vivid physical images to emphasize an essential spiritual truth—communion with Him is only way to true life. Some people hear these words—“”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”—and think Jesus is promoting some kind of cannibalism— but that is not the case at all. Rather he is referring to the complete gift of himself to us, and as we receive the Risen Lord we are granted a new kind of life—eternal life. We hunger and thirst to take all that Jesus is into ourselves, that he might transform our hearts and minds into his.

This spiritual food of the Eucharist transforms us into “other Christ’s.” Communion with the Risen Jesus means integrating his consciousness into ours. The way Jesus communicates his consciousness is by his death, as he says: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” His total self-gift on the cross is the heartbeat of the Mass and the foundation of love.

So, when Jesus expresses his desire for us to eat his flesh and drink his blood he is emphasizing this complete giving of himself to us and for us. Entering more fully into this life giving relationship with him, we come to an abiding awareness of divine love transforming death into new life. That in him, joining ourselves to Him in a very intimate way in Holy Communion, we die to an old way of living, and with him we rise to new life.

When we respond “AMEN” to the words, “The Body of Christ”, we are committing ourselves to the person of Christ, to His way of life: to thinking and living and loving and acting like Him. Every time we come forward to be nourished by His Body and His Blood we are committing ourselves to Him, not simply saying that we believe he is really present in the Eucharistic elements. Our belief in the Real Presence is only manifest by the effect that our relationship with the Risen Jesus has in transforming our lives to be more like his.

So, communion with Christ means union with his heart, a heart open to all people, a heart full of compassion for those who suffer, a heart open to refugees and immigrants, to those who live on the margins. Communion with Christ helps us think with Christ, to put on the mind of Christ, for he is always intent on doing the will of the Father.

This is the way to wisdom, while fools follow their own will, yielding to shallow desires. Those who are in Communion with Wisdom-Enfleshed put out into the deep, exploring with Christ’s help the deepest desires of their life. There, illuminated by Christ’s love, they discover the will of the Father.

The point of eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking His blood is to the deepening of our relationship with Him, of growing in Communion with Him. The point is the bond with Him that such a sacred ritual meal establishes. It is about Comm-UNION, uniting our lives to the life of the Son of God.

We share in this life in Christ with one another. We only come to know and experience and taste the goodness of the Lord in our union with others, which is also the bond that Holy Communion establishes. We are joined to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, as we share in this holy meal.

From this community of faith we call “Church” we have received wisdom which has been passed down to us through the ages. This wisdom, this Living Tradition, guides and forms our relationship with the Lord of all life. So that it is not enough to simply “believe” that the bread and wine have been forever changed into the “Body and Blood of Christ.” Something more is required, and it is revealed in the very word, “Communion.” By receiving this great gift, when we say “Amen”, we are also stating that we are in union with our brothers and sisters in the beliefs we hold in common. Such as our belief in the role of the Pope as the leader of the Church and primary teacher of the Faith, or our belief in what the church teaches about the God-given dignity of every human life, or our assent to the moral teachings of the Church. That’s why if someone who has not become Catholic, but who believes that Christ is truly present in this bread and wine, needs to also come to learn about what we believe in order to be in “communion” with us.

Receiving the Eucharist demands that we prepare for such a great gift. We will never be completely worthy to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, but we can properly dispose ourselves to receive this wonderful gift. The Church offers us some basic regulations for properly disposing ourselves to receive Holy Communion.

One needs to be free of mortal sin by confessing such sin in the Sacrament of Penance. A mortal sin cuts us completely off from God and is a rare sin. Examples of mortal sin are murder, adultery, apostasy. If you have chosen to cut yourself off from the Church and her sacraments and have been away from Mass for more than a few months, then celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Sacrament of Penance) is necessary.

The Church requires all Catholics to confess their sins at least once a year in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Fast from food & drink for one hour before receiving the Body & Blood of Christ.

If married, then be married in the Church. One of the laws of the Church is to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you need an annulment for a previous marriage, one of the deacons or I can help with this process. Those who are divorced and not remarried are able to receive Holy Communion.

Those who are not Catholic, or Catholics who are not properly disposed, can come forward in the Communion line for a blessing, including little children.

As we eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation, we discover a mysterious truth–we are never fully satisfied. That in being given a share in divine life, we hunger and thirst for more. We discover that the God who comes to us cannot be possessed by us, or captured and held onto.

Which is why we keep coming back, some of us daily, others weekly, to be fed.

So that eventually everything we hold onto, even our very life, can be given as a gift to God.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

A teacher asks his students: “Who can tell me what the Solemnity of the Assumption is about?” A little boy offers this response, “It means that Mary was so holy that we just assume she went to Heaven.”

This little boy’s response connects with the Gospel passage from Luke proclaimed on this holy day. Mary’s holiness flows from this simple truth— she does ordinary things with extraordinary love.

We are called to do the ordinary day-to-day things with love, and what happens without us ever being fully aware of it is God works through us to bring His Son into the world. God does great things in and through us when we respond with simple deeds of love for those we encounter in our daily lives. Matthew Kelly speaks about this in terms of “moments of holiness”.

We mistakenly think that holiness is made up of extraordinary acts of sacrificial love every day, when the truth be told, holiness comes from ordinary acts of love every day. There is no way that every hour of our life can be filled with extraordinary deeds of faith, hope, and love, but there are moments each day when we can ask what another needs and act. This is the road to holiness, the path to abundant life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, upon hearing that Elizabeth is pregnant, asks a simple question: “What does my cousin Elizabeth need?” In doing so, Mary leaves behind her own concerns and affairs and goes to Elizabeth’s side. When a visit seems appropriate, Mary acts. No piddling around here. She goes in haste to the hill country to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth in her time of need.

We should not ignore the simple ordinary things that in the end, when taken all together, make a person great, noble, or holy. Mary is taken body and soul into heaven as a consequence of an ordinary life lived by a mother and faithful servant of God. For Mary and for us, it will be the ordinary days that determine who we are.

The pattern here is asking and acting. What does someone need followed by an action responding to that need. The result is something more than we might imagine, for like pregnant Mary we bring Christ to others, to everyone we serve.

When Mary is visited by the archangel Gabriel, she is told she will be the mother of the Son of God. She has to trust that this will happen through the power of the Spirit, the mysterious workings of the Spirit. She is not told that her son will be tortured, executed on a cross, and rise again. She says “Yes” to a future she does not know. But the One she says “Yes” to, the God of the covenant, is worthy of her trust.

Mary does not try to figure it out. She trusts that God’s promises to her will be fulfilled. She is an example of letting God do God’s work, without trying to figure it out. Sometimes I think we spend too much time trying to figure out life instead of trusting that God will work it out.

When we can pray with Mary’s response of trust at the beginning of the day, “Let your will be done in me” and seek to carry out that will by asking and acting, then at the end of the day we will moved another step forward on our long journey home. Then at the end of our life we will find an open door in the home of heaven.

For the glory of Mary assumed bodily into heaven is simply a preview or foretaste of our glory. Her risen body is with the risen body of Christ her Son in the new creation. So it shall be for us who say “Yes” to the love of God by acting in ordinary ways of love.