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Homily

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

September 16, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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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


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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


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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.


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 12, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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The bread of life which Jesus gives his disciples are both his teaching and the sacramental breaking of bread that we call the Eucharist. It is easy to forget that the precepts of the Gospel are a communion with Christ comparable to the grace we receive through the sacraments. So, the Church teaches us that Christ is present in the Mass not only in the bread and wine transformed into His Body and Blood but also in his word. (GIRM #27)

The table of God’s word and the table of the Eucharist go together. They cannot be separated—the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are one inseparable act of worship on which the Mass is founded.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, which lays out the Church’s understanding of the Mass, states the following about the Liturgy of the Word (GIRM #29): “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.” God speaks! Christ is present!! We need to pay attention and listen carefully.

In the Scripture readings at Mass, the table of God’s word is spread before us like a great banquet, so we might taste and see the goodness of the Lord. It is appropriate that our response to this gift is one of gratitude: “Thanks be to God.”

In order to fully benefit from this living bread come down from heaven, we have to prepare our hearts and minds to receive this great gift. In order to receive the seed of the living word of God, we need to prepare the soil of our hearts.

So, it would be a good practice during the week before coming to Sunday Mass to take 5-10 minutes to read the Sunday Scripture readings. You can also come to church early before Mass, pull out your hymnal, and prayerfully read over the Scripture readings. The hymn board always lists the number where these readings can be found. When we prepare in this way, then we can actively listen and receive more fully this living bread come down from heaven. I encourage you to actively listen to the Scriptures proclaimed during the Mass by putting aside your hymnal and resisting the temptation to read along. Instead listen and be surprised by what you hear. Because people are actively listening to God’s word, do not come into church during the proclamation of the Word of God. Our eyes control what our ears hear, so we can be easily distracted by movement and then stop listening attentively to the word being proclaimed. The ushers have been instructed to only allow people into the church during the singing of the Responsorial Psalm between the first two readings or during the singing of the Alleluia.

Therefore, prepare to receive the living bread of God’s word by being at Mass on time. The Introductory Rites of the Mass leading up to the Liturgy of the Word— the opening song, the Kyrie, the Gloria– all prepare our minds, hearts, bodies and souls to be fed by God’s Word.

In the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, the Church also notes that Christ is present at the celebration of the Mass in the assembly gathered in His name. (GIRM #27)

How can we best honor Christ’s presence in others at the Mass? I’ve already mentioned one way—come early for Mass so you can enter fully into worship with brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

Come early, but do not leave early! God is not asking much of us—one hour out of 168 hours in a week to worship Him in communion with our brothers and sisters. After all, as Matthew Kelly points out, the founder of the movement of those who leave right after taking Communion is the one who left early during the 1st celebration of the Eucharist—Judas Iscariot. Certainly there are exceptions when you may have to leave early, when there is something very important, like having to get to a job on time, but this should be the exception, not the norm. Stay through the singing of the closing song. After the singing of the closing song, we have a tradition here at Holy Spirit of everyone kneeling in silence to say a short prayer in gratitude.

We honor Christ present in others by being hospitable in the pew. Don’t be a pew-end hugger, making people crawl over you, but move to the middle of the pew so that others will feel welcome to sit in your pew.

Show respect to others by not leaving the church during the Mass, unless for an emergency. Parents may need to leave Mass with an infant or small child in order to calm them down or take them to the nursery, but children should not be leaving during Mass on their own. Parents please take your kids to the restroom before Mass begins, so that they will not be leaving Mass and serving as a distraction to others.

The way we dress for Mass is also a way of honoring Christ present here. This is not a sports arena or stadium where we come as spectators to be entertained but rather the temple of the living God where we meet the King of Kings. The way we clothe ourselves should reflect this knowledge, and also be a way of respecting the presence of Christ in others here. People dress up when they go to a wedding. Here we are participating in the wedding of the Lamb. Here we receive the one who has “married” humankind by becoming one with us, and who joins his body to ours in an intimate communion of love.

Finally, do not remain in church after Mass talking to others for more than a few minutes. Extended conversations should be carried out in the gathering area or hall or outdoors out of respect for your brothers and sisters who want to remain in the church and pray, or out of respect for those coming to the next Mass to pray.

Christ Jesus is present in those who gather in His Name to celebrate the Mass, and we honor and respect Him by the way we honor and respect one another.

Our Communion is not just a gift from God. It is not something we get. It is something we become. When the gift is accepted, it changes us and becomes a bond by which we become a people in covenant who care for those around us and for all who are children of God.

You cannot put our your hand or open your mouth to receive the Body of Christ without receiving the whole body and all its members. The bond of our friendship in Christ is reflected in our attentiveness to each other.

Look around at your sisters and brothers, who are the dwelling place of Christ. See the beauty and the suffering, the young and the old, the tired and the lonely, and those filled with promise. In communion, we are all of these things.

When we are exhausted from trying to be kind, compassion, and forgiving, when we are worn out from trying to be who we are—the Body of Christ, God will provide a little cake or some water, some nourishment to get us going again on this wonder-filled journey of faith.


18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 5, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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In John’s “Bread of Life” discourse, which we will hear during these 4 Sundays in August, Jesus presents a symbol which functions on multiple levels. The word “bread” comes up over and over again in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, and it has several different meanings.

At its root, the “bread” Jesus speaks of is the life he shares with the Father. In this bond of love, Jesus finds everything that sustains him. When the devil tempts him in the desert, after 40 days of fasting, to turn stones into loaves of bread, “One does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Or when Jesus is engaged in a conversation with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s well, and his disciples show up with food from the nearby town and urge him to eat something, he replies: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” (John 4:32)

He offers this bread to his disciples through his teaching: those who follow his commandments will encounter the same all-sustaining love from the Father. Those who put what he teaches into practice will open themselves to receive the love of the Father. God the Father’s love is constant, but we allow ourselves to receive it completely when we live as the Son did. Those who follow Jesus’ example—who love as he loves— will be drawn into this life-giving love.

This bread of which Jesus speaks in this Bread of Life discourse is also Jesus’ physical body, which Jesus offers completely to the Father on the cross for our redemption. As we will hear Jesus say next Sunday, “The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

Finally, the bread of which Jesus speaks in John 6 is his continuing presence in the Eucharist, which we his disciples continue to celebrate today.

The life-giving bread of Jesus’ teaching, the remembrance of his broken body on Calvary, and his continuing presence with us today are all captured in the Sign of the Cross. The sign of the cross is one of the symbols of the celebration of the Eucharist, what many Catholics call “the Mass.”

When we gather to be nourished by the teachings of Jesus at the table of the Word and to be strengthened by his body and blood from the table of the altar, we experience the power of his redeeming love for us flowing from the cross. One of the acclamations sung during the Eucharistic Prayer speaks of this mystery: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death until you come again in glory.”

We are only here because of the saving death of the Son of God. This gift of his life, drawing us into the mighty mystery of the Father’s love for us all, is central to our faith, is foundational to belief. The cross is the key unlocking the door into the home of the Trinity, into dance of love between Father and Son and Spirit, to which we are invited.

We begin the Mass with sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We end Mass with the same sign: “May Almighty God Bless you in name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

There are other times in the celebration of the Mass when we make the “sign of the cross,” such as before the proclamation of the Gospel. The minister says, “A reading from holy gospel according to John” and the people respond, “Glory to you, O Lord.” Then we all make a small sign of the cross on our forehead, lips, and heart, saying quietly: “May the word be in my mind, may the word be on my lips, and may the word be in my heart.” Making the sign of the cross in this way reminds us to listen with an open mind and an open heart to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel, so these saving words become like food on our lips.

In the reforms made to the celebration of the Mass some 50 years ago at the 2nd Vatican Council, the sign of the cross was limited to these basic times, because before it was being used too much and this sign had lost its power. It was like a baseball player before stepping into the batter’s box making the sign of the cross and not even thinking of what he is doing nor what he is saying or what it means. So, the sign of the cross is no longer required during the consecration of the bread and wine during the Eucharistic Prayer nor after one receives Holy Communion.

The sign of the cross reminds us why we are here—because of the love of God shown to us through the saving death of His Only Son.

We are signed with the cross before our baptism, and then joined to this saving action of Jesus in the waters of baptism. Dying with Jesus in the waters of baptism and rising with him to new life, we are joined forever to the living Body of Christ, the Church. This living body is often called the “Mystical Body of Christ.” By baptism, we become members of a people saved by the blood of Christ poured out on the cross. True Christian faith is never about “Jesus and me” but always flows from “Jesus & we.” We only come to know the love of the Lord in a community of faith, never alone or on our own.

God saves a people, not disparate individuals. Look at how God does this in his relationship with the people from whom will come His Son. The gift of manna is given to them all in the desert, so that they all might be fed and strengthened. This gift of bread from heaven is given not just to Moses. Not just to Aaron. Not just to Miriam, but to the entire people of Israel.

The Last Supper was not a private affair between Jesus & the beloved disciple, John, but a communal celebration between Jesus and all the apostles.

In the celebration of the Eucharist we remember we are saved as a member of God’s people by leaving the destructive practice of individualism at the door of the church. You know, the kind of individualism which says I can do what I want, when I want, and forget the rest of you. We leave our own private piety at the door of the church. In here, it’s not about me doing whatever I want to do, but always about us doing things together.

Someone is not going to be saying the “Hail Mary” while the rest are praying the “Our Father.” Someone is not going to stand while others kneeling, though some may have to sit when others kneel because of bad knees or advancing age. A person who genuflects immediately before receiving Communion draws attention to themself and appears to be saying by genuflecting, “Look how holy I am.” Instead, we all pay homage to the living Lord we are about to receive in Communion with the same action, by a slight bow of the head.

We even sing together, and that includes the men, too, especially those men who are fathers whose children are watching for an example of how to worship. We give back to God the praise that is God’s due in song, and as we do so, according to St. Augustine, we pray twice.

What we do in worship at the Mass, we do together, as the People of God.

The response of the beloved, the response of we who are so greatly loved by God, is to love God in return with everything we have and are. We do that in a very special way at the celebration of the Eucharist, as we offer to the Father, with the Son, our lives in a grateful sacrifice of praise.

When we actively and fully participate in singing, responding, and listening, we are open to receive the Lord as he comes to us. When we consciously do so instead of mechanically going through the motions, then we become aware of the Lord’s saving presence in our midst.

We are not spectators. We are not here to watch and be entertained. Rather we give everything we are to the Lord—the attention of our mind, the devotion of our heart, the movement of our body, the focus of our soul, and tongues that speak and sing.

We come here not to “get” something, but to “give” our lives to the Father through His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in doing so to receive more fully the love and life of God.


17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B – Feast of Fr. Stanley Rother

July 29, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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Fr. Stanley RotherThe miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish is the only miracle account to appear in all 4 Gospels. In fact, Matthew and Mark include 2 different versions of this story in their Gospels, so Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitudes appears 6 times in the Gospels. Obviously this narrative was very important to early Christians. Why was it important?

This miracle shed light on the early Church’s experience of the Eucharist, where from so little came so much. From a little bread and a little wine the eternal Son of God gave these first Christians the gift of Himself. The One whom the whole world could not contain shared the abundance of His life with them in what appeared to be so little.

In addition, the early Church experienced the multiplication of its members through the celebration of the Eucharist. From a few faithful followers of the Risen Christ there was born a community of faith spreading like wildfire across the known world. There was always more of Himself that the Risen Jesus wanted to share with those who hungered for him.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves also propelled the early members of the Church to care for those in greatest need. As Jesus fed the hungry, so would Jesus’ followers.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how those who joined the first Christian community would sell their possessions and place the proceeds at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to those in need. Also, the early Christians became known for feeding the hungry and taking care of the poor who were not Christian. An emperor hostile to the Christians commented on this fact, noting that Christians “support not only their own poor, but ours as well.”

So, the early Church’s experience of the Eucharist and its care for the poor flowed from the miracle of the loaves where Jesus fed the multitudes and there was even food leftover.

The miracle of Eucharist was at the very center of Blessed Stanley Rother’s life. Growing up on a farm in Okarche, Oklahoma, as a member of a German-Catholic family, to the end of his life in Guatemala, the bountiful blessing of the Eucharist nourished Stanley Francis Rother on his journey of faith. From the time he received his First Holy Communion in the early 1940’s at Holy Trinity Church in Okarche until he received his last Holy Communion that last week of July 1981, the celebration of the Eucharist sustained Blessed Stanley.

He came to know the super-abundance of God’s love for him in Christ Jesus as he received the great gift of the Living Bread come down from Heaven week after week. Working hard on the family farm six days a week, Sunday came as a welcome day of rest and rejoicing, the feasting at the table of the Lord leading to the Sunday feast at the family farm. Franz and Gertrude Rother, the parents of Blessed Stanley, passed on to their son the gift of Faith, teaching him by word and example to trust in God’s goodness and generosity, to trust that the hand of the Lord would feed him and provide for all his needs.

As a priest, the celebration of the Eucharist was the Source and Summit of his daily life of faith. It was only by being so intimately joined to the Risen Lord in the Eucharist that Fr. Rother could serve his people joyfully and generously. Feasting on the Good Shepherd’s love for him, Fr. Rother could shepherd his people in Guatemala through the dark and dangerous valleys of life.

The incredible miracle of the Eucharist, the great and unimaginable gift of the Son of God’s life given to and for His people, would define the end of Fr. Rother’s life on earth. The words of Jesus became his own — “This is my body, given up for you” — as he laid down his life in love of the people of Santiago Atitlan. The words of Jesus took flesh in Fr. Rother’s life—“This is my blood, poured out for you”—as he poured out his blood on the floor of his own rectory.

Blessed Stanley knew that as long as he gave to Jesus the little he had, that it would be multiplied beyond what he could imagine.

Blessed Stanley’s generous service to the poorest of the poor in a remote corner of the world also flowed from the bounty of the Eucharistic celebration. Because of the miracle of the Eucharist, where a little bread and a little wine given to God become the living presence of the Eternal Son of God, Blessed Stanley knew that as long as he gave to Jesus the little he had, that it would be multiplied beyond what he could imagine. That the as long as he gave to the Lord what he had, the Lord would use it in ways he could never ever dream of before.

For example, take Blessed Stanley’s skills as an Oklahoma farmer. He put these to use in Guatemala to help his people reap a much more productive harvest from the land. By teaching them how to make the best use of the land and showing them modern farming techniques, what had been a few loaves became enough food to feed thousands.

Or look at the way Blessed Stanley came to know and love these people who were at first, strangers to him. Arriving without knowledge of their difficult language, he patiently persevered in getting to know those placed in his care, living and working alongside them, cultivating their faith, learning their language, respecting their dignity and earning their trust. Blessed Stanley would learn the native Tzutihil language, celebrate Mass in Tzutihil, and even make possible a printed translation of the Bible in Tzutihil.

He would go to his parishioner’s homes to share a meal with them, even though their food was much different from what his mother fixed him on the farm in Okarche, and even though their food was never completely sanitized. So, without fail after dining in their homes he would become ill upon returning to the rectory, but that did not prevent him from going out again to share another meal, Fr. Rother knew how important it was to his people that he be in their homes and receive what they had to share with him.

Stanley Francis Rother’s example of a faith-filled life centered on the Eucharist reminds us that the call to holiness is for everyone. Blessed Stanley’s life challenges us to live out our own unique call to love God by loving our neighbor.

In March of this year, about 6 months after Fr. Rother was beatified, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation entitled: “Rejoice and be Glad: The Call to Holiness in Today’s World.” In this wonderful little book, the Pope challenges every Christian to live out their baptismal call to holiness, and he gives very practical advice to do so.

Pope Francis points out that the call to holiness comes to us in our own uniquely gifted lives. That this call is for everyone, each in his or her own way. Our response to this call of the Lord will look different in its specific details from Fr. Rother’s response, but what will be the same is love will be the driving force.

So, the Pope says:
For those who are married love one another as Christ loves the Church.
For those who work, do so with integrity and skill in service of others.
For those who are parents and grandparents, take up your responsibility to teach your children the ways of the faith. F
or those in authority, live out this vocation not by making your power felt but by seeking the common good.

Whatever our station in life, young or old, single or married, we are invited to share the life and love of Christ we receive at the Eucharist.

Fed by the Lord of Life, we become living bread for a world hungering for God.


To learn more about Blessed Stanley Rother’s life, the cause for his canonization, or the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine being built in his honor, visit http://stanleyrother.org/.


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

July 15, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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Amaziah, chaplain at the national cathedral in Bethel, has a lot to lose if the reforms of Amos are adopted. That is why Amaziah wants Amos out of there, and he wants him quiet.

Amaziah sees religion in “civil” terms, existing to promote loyalty to the status quo, the royal house, and to nationalism. As chaplain in the royal sanctuary, Amaziah’s job is to keep things smooth and nice so that the government will remain stable and in control.

Amaziah asks no questions, and he never rocks the boat. He apparently never reflects much on the fact that the worship in that place had deteriorated into people simply going through the motions in order to satisfy their religious obligations.

Enter Amos, vine dresser and shepherd, a no-body from no-where, disturbing things, and making it difficult to conduct business as usual. Business as usual in northern Israel means a prosperous economy built on taking advantage of the poor, and Amos rocks the boat by pointing out this injustice.

Enter Jesus, carpenter and itinerant preacher, a no-body from the no-where town of Nazareth, disturbing things and making it difficult to conduct business as usual.

Enter the disciples of Jesus, not just those twelve, but you and me, if we’re worthy of the company. Just ordinary folks from no place in particular, who because we might dare to take our Baptism seriously, are not going to conduct business as usual. For our baptism calls us to participate with Jesus in his prophetic role to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

If we get the picture here, the status quo is in trouble, unless we’re part of the picture and find our future in business as usual like Amaziah.

The Gospel in which we are formed suggests that poverty, dependence on the hospitality of others, and a sense of urgency mark the Christian enterprise. But too often in the status quo, “poverty” is something we avoid, dependence on others is looked upon as a failure, and the only urgency we really feel is to protect ourselves and our stash of this world’s goods. What Jesus proposes for his disciples is total trust and dependence upon God, a radical departure from the attitude of successful competition, which tricks us into thinking that what we have we have earned, when in truth, everything we have is pure gift from God.

Paul reminds the Ephesians and us that in Christ Jesus, we have been given everything—every blessing, an abundance of graces — such is the generosity of our God. In Christ, we know that there is always enough to go around and thus no need to hoard.

Sent by Christ to preach repentance, we know there is always space to spare, always time to give, always bread to break, and always treasure to share. We walk lightly, unburdened by the insatiable need to acquire and accumulate.

Thus, we disciples are instructed to take nothing. All that we have to give is what we have received from Jesus Christ. These are qualities which cannot be contained in a sack or a money belt.

Remember, Jesus placed his confidence in that rag-tag group he had called away from fishing boats and tax tables, from everything familiar and comfortable. There was no evidence at all that they would be capable of doing what he asked, but he sends them and they go. It should be noted that he sent them all, not just some of them. He sent proud Peter and doubting Thomas, and even one who would later betray him.

We are left to decide whether we are outside this story looking in, or whether we too are being sent. If Jesus sends us out in his name, then he must know we have what it takes to do what he asks. It all begins with following his teaching and his example to place our total trust and complete dependence in God our Father.

We are challenged by these readings to look at our missionary endeavor seriously. To examine how much we might be like Amaziah, set in our way, secure with things the way they are, and satisfied with business as usual.

Repentance, a change of mind and heart, is serious business. In fact, it’s not an option for the disciples of Jesus.

If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual, which continues to take advantage of the helpless and the poor, which incarcerates more women and minorities than we want to admit, is in trouble. If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual, which tolerates racism and finds entertaining the ridicule of those who are different, is in trouble. If repentance is the focus of the mission, then business as usual which insists upon vengeance while calling it “justice”, which continues to kill the unborn and treat pet animals better than our greatest treasure, the elderly, is in serious trouble.

What Amos the prophet and Paul the apostle and Mark the evangelist propose to us is that remaining true to our identity and our mission in this life means rocking the boat, unsettling what is settled, and leaving nothing in us or around us untouched by the Gospel.

The biggest and most obvious of social, political, and economic issues cannot remain unquestioned and untouched by disciples sent in the name of Jesus.

The most personal, relational, and spiritual issues cannot remain unreformed and unmoved by those of us who carry the Gospel message.

Christ longs to take possession of us in and through this Eucharist.

So that we might be sent forth in his name as his glad and faithful people, allowing the Gospel to inform and influence all that we say and do.

Then kindness and truth will embrace, and justice and peace will kiss.


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

July 8, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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The people of Jesus’ hometown think they know him, because they know a lot about him. They know he is a carpenter. They know his family. They know the house where he grew up.

But they don’t know him. They know things about Him, but they do not know who he is. There is a huge difference between actually knowing someone—their hopes, dreams, their life story—and knowing certain facts about them.

Because they have an image of who Jesus is in their minds, they cannot accept the real person standing before them. Jesus could only do a few healings there, which the local folks would surely point to as proof that this hometown boy is not what he’s cracked up to be. See how easily this judgment of another becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The people of Nazareth have, in their hard-heartedness, rejected Jesus.

They ask questions about Jesus, such as, “Where did he get all this?,” when they should instead be asking soul-searching questions about themselves. Such as: Why am I closed off to him? Why am I slamming the door in his face? Why am I so obstinate of heart?

What happens in Nazareth happens daily, over and over and over again. One person thinks they know who another person is because they know things about that person. Or one group believes they know what another group is like because they know things about that group. In this kind of pre-judging, hearts are hardened, minds are closed, and people rejected.

It happens to us as Catholics in a state where we are very much in the minority and members of other religious denominations think they know us because they’ve heard things about what we “believe”, although most of that information is false. Like, “You Catholics worship statues.” Or, “You don’t know anything about the Bible.” Or, “You Catholics can do whatever you want and then just go ‘confess’ it to a priest.”

But this kind of pre-judging also happens in today’s fear-driven climate about protecting our borders. It happens when people reject immigrants or refugees without ever getting to know them, without every coming to know their stories or why they would risk their lives just to come to our southern border.

It also happens daily in politics, when Republicans reject Democrats and Democrats reject Republicans without folks from either party listening to and coming to know those of the other party. This is the reason our nation is so polarized today.

After all, what does polarization require? Two poles. By that I do not mean two people or groups of people disagree with each other. That is actually what democracy requires. What polarization requires is two people or two groups of people who disagree, each of whom believes that the other is entirely at fault and is politically irredeemable, or even worse, thinking the other person or politically party is morally irredeemable.

Pope Francis sees all of this clearly for what it is. The phenomena involved in polarization reflect a deeper spiritual crisis today, within you and within me. That is why the most important thing Pope Francis has ever said about politics or other things that divide us is: “I am a sinner.”

The 1st question he was asked in his very first interview, was: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” To which the pope replied: “I am a sinner, constantly in need of God’s mercy.”

I suggest this is where we should start the reform of our politics and of our nation, by recognizing our individual complicity in the sin of polarization, by what we have done and by what we have failed to do, and by asking for the grace to change. Today everyone seems to zoom in and focus only on the “difference” of the other person. We can begin the conversation by focusing on what we share in common, rather than on our differences.

Back in the early 1970’s a potluck dinner group was formed in Ardmore, Oklahoma called “Let’s Talk.” This group was a response to the race-riots of the late 1960’s. This group brought together African-Americans and Anglo-Americans of different religious denominations to share a monthly meal together, to share conversation, and to hear a speaker on an important topic of the day.

My mom and dad were part of this group of black and white people interested in getting to know each other, which meant by default, so were my brothers and sisters and I. I still remember the good food and playing together with other kids, who I had never known before.

My mom had me memorize Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ famous “I Have a Dream” speech for the 4-H speech contest, and then when Gloria, one of the African-American members of the Let’s Talk group found out I knew Dr. King’s speech, she had me give it in front of the group. I still remember as a 10-year giving that speech in front of that group of adults.

More than anything Jesus spoke about was a dream he had, and this Dream was called “The Kingdom of God” where all people could live in peace with each other and rejoice in God’s goodness and love.

Jesus was all about bringing people together, even people very different from each other. Why else would he call Simon the Zealot and Matthew to be his apostles? Simon belonged to a political party which advocated the violent overthrow of the Roman occupiers and Matthew, the tax collector, who collected taxes from his own people for the Romans.

Jesus ate with sinners and gave his life so that we human beings would finally see that there is only one race, and that is the human race, and that there is only one Father of us all.


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