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Monthly Archives: July 2019

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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We know from the opening verse of today’s 1st reading that the Lord God, under the disguise of the stranger, is visiting Abraham. But Abraham is not aware that it is the Lord God visiting him until the end of this encounter. He simply performs the customary hospitality which is part of life in the Middle East.

However, Abraham goes beyond what is customary to prepare a feast for these three strangers, who in some interpretations represent the Trinity, the Triune God. With his wife, Sarah’s help, he feeds these strangers fresh homemade bread and fresh meat—the best steak possible—a sign of extravagant hospitality!

Abraham could have reacted in fear to these three strangers and rejected them. Or he could have simply hid away for a while and ignored them. But Abraham chose to receive them with love, and in doing, so received the Lord God. The gift of life he shared he would receive back a hundredfold in the promise of new life giving to barren Sarah and him— a long awaited son would soon be theirs.

Martha and Mary welcome the Son of God in disguise as he visits their home. Under the disguise of the hungry visitor, the Son of God enters the home of Mary and Martha.

Mary has a sense of the divine presence in Jesus, so she sits at his feet to soak in his words and bask in his loving presence. Now from Abraham and Sarah’s example, we know this is not the typical kind of Middle Eastern hospitality.

On the other hand, by preparing the meal, Martha is doing what is expected. However, she is not focused on welcoming the stranger, but on her lazy sister. Jesus does not criticize Martha for her good work—it is important— In fact, I suspect she is a very good cook and Jesus enjoys the meals she prepares. Jesus points out to Martha that she feels burdened and anxious because she is not focusing on Him. She is not bringing her burdens to Him, but focused only on what Mary is not doing. Martha is anxious because all her thoughts and energy are focused on “lazy” Mary. In effect, Jesus’ response to Martha is “Pay attention to yourself, Martha, not to Mary, and pay attention to me—give me your whole heart and mind and strength in preparing the meal.”

I think if Martha would have invited Jesus to help her, he would have gladly joined her in the kitchen, and Mary would have joined them. All three would have been in the kitchen sharing life with each other. The only thing Jesus wants is be with Martha in everything, to have her invite Him to be with her in her work and her play, her rest and her rising.

We are to invite Jesus into every part of our lives. We are to welcome him in every person who touches our lives, especially in the stranger.

Blessed Stanley Rother, whose feast day we celebrate next Sunday, did this. He left his native Oklahoma to live thousands of miles away in Guatemala, loving Jesus present in the stranger in Santiago Atitlan. Fr. Rother did this in a simple yet profound way by sharing meals with his people in their homes. He became the presence of God to them by breaking bread with them at their tables.

Every time Fr. Rother went to a parishioner’s home to eat he knew he would be sick afterward, because they could not sanitize their food, and he would suffer as a result. But he rejoiced in his suffering, because it was a redemptive suffering, a suffering in love of the other, so he would go again and again to share meals with his people.

Fr. Rother gave his life away to his people day after day, so the natural consequence was for him to give his life fully for them in his martyrdom. His death was the result of a life poured out in loving God living in the stranger.

Now the people of Guatemala are coming here in great need. With Blessed Stanley Rother’s help, can we welcome Christ in them?

Loving one’s neighbor means pursuing what is best for the other before pursuing what is best for oneself. Abbot Benedict of Conception Abbey, Missouri, in an article last year in the quarterly publication of Tower Topics, writes how the Rule of Benedict calls this kind of loving “good zeal” or “the way to God.”

Abbot Benedict points out that the way to God begins with showing respect to one another, supporting one another in weakness, and pursuing what is best for the other. He explains that hospitality and charity toward others leads to fruitful prayer and contemplation. In other words, love of neighbor leads to love of God in prayer, which is why I believe St. Luke placed the Parable of the Good Samaritan immediately before this encounter between Jesus and Mary and Martha.

There are many methods and books available about prayer. But those methods will not be fruitful unless we are seeking to love our neighbor.

The Son of God, the stranger from another world who has made our world his home, sits down at table with us here. We welcome him as our guest, but actually he is always the Host of this meal.

Thus one of the words for the bread which becomes the body of Christ–the HOST.

He comes to satisfy our hunger, to take away our fear. He comes with His peace to lift the burden of our worries and anxieties. He will be our strength and our guide on our own journey to the new Jerusalem.


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 14, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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What must I do to inherit eternal life? That’s the question, right? The most important question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? But if eternal life comes to us by loving God with all that we are (mind, heart, being, and strength) and loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we want to know, with the scholar of the law, who our neighbor is we are to love.

The scholar of the law, having spent his life immersed in Sacred Scripture, knows the specific command to love one’s neighbor as oneself is found only one place in the entire Hebrew Scriptures, in the 19th chapter of the Book of Leviticus. “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18) But he also knows that a few verses later in this 19th chapter of Leviticus, the Word of God says: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for the alien as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19:34) (Now the word “alien” does not refer to creatures from another planet, but to the foreigners living in the midst of the people of Israel.)

But what about aliens who do not live in one’s village? What about strangers or people met along the road? To the scholar of the law, the command to love one’s neighbor is still unclear. He wants Jesus to clearly define who the neighbor is, to put some boundaries around this commandment to love, to place some limits on it.

Notice Jesus does not answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”. In fact, the man who is half-dead, who is helped by the Good Samaritan, could be anyone from anywhere—he has no name, no identity, no race, no ethnicity, and is not identified as belonging to the nation of Israel or any other nation. The only thing that identifies him is he is someone who is in need.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us what it looks like to be neighbor by treating whoever is in need with mercy. Jesus turns the whole question of “Who is my neighbor” on its head. Instead of judging whether others are worthy of love and then limiting one’s love to this or that group, Jesus instead challenges us to judge ourselves to see whether we are neighbor to those in need.

Being neighbor to those in need flows from compassion, which gives birth to mercy. Compassion—feeling with others, opening ourselves to their pain— leads to doing something for them.

The priest and the Levite are self-centered and selfish— they do nothing at all for the man in need. The Good Samaritan is moved by compassion and treats the hurting man with mercy. Why?

Martin Luther King puts it this way. The priest and the Levite, upon seeing the man half-dead alongside the road, ask themselves: “If I help this man, what will happen to me” The Good Samaritan acts with mercy because he asks himself a different question: “If I do not help this man, what will happen to him?”

The English word, “compassion”, in this Gospel text comes from the Greek word: splanchnizomai. It literally means to be moved in one bowels, to be moved in the depths of one’s person. It is the same Greek verb used to express what happens in the Merciful Father’s heart when he sees his prodigal son returning home, propelling the Father to run out and embrace his wayward son. It is a strong feeling, very different from pity, for to “pity” someone simply means we look down upon them—”you poor thing.” To have compassion means to feel in our heart something of the pain the other feels.

Compassion leads to doing something, to acting with mercy. Compassion can be felt, but mercy needs to be enacted with the body. Compassion is the fuel for concrete acts of mercy, for tending to the wounds of others.

This parable of mercy reveals that love of neighbor, being a compassionate neighbor to others, demonstrates one’s love for God. For we cannot love the God we do not see if we do not love the neighbor we can see. (cf 1 John 4:20)

Love of God is seen most clearly in love of neighbor, and cannot be separated from love of neighbor. By neglecting our neighbor in need, we distance ourselves from God.

This commandment to love neighbor extends beyond individual interaction to the way nations interact with each other, as our Pope pointed out on January 7th in his address to the Vatican diplomatic corps. Pope Francis’ plea this past January to the ambassadors of the Holy See might be summarized as, “Put Your Neighbors First Again.” He challenged all nations, America included, to go beyond policies which isolate them from the rest of the world and instead recognize our shared humanity, which goes beyond borders.

The reality of global interdependence, according to Pope Francis, is that all peoples have their common origin in God. Also, all peoples share a common destiny, to return to God who made them for himself.

Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Catholic Social teaching is built on this foundational truth, from which flows respect for the dignity of every person, respect for every human life.

So, fear must be overcome by respecting the dignity of the other, and that hatred which fear easily gives birth to must be vanquished by compassion.

When the foreigner, the Samaritan, is held up by Jesus as a model for acting with mercy, can we not act with mercy toward the foreigner? The United States is at its greatest by attending to the needs of our neighbors first, especially those in greatest need.

In Jesus Christ, we see God and humanity come together. In Jesus Christ, we see God and the neighbor come together. In Jesus Christ, we see God is love, and that to love God, we must love the neighbor.

Jesus Christ is the Good Samaritan who binds our wounds, who lifts us up and loves us into new life, and then sends us forth to do the same.

Now we have an answer to the Gospel of last Sunday regarding how we are to proclaim the Kingdom of God. We are sent by Jesus as one of the “72” missionary disciples to love as we have been loved: to love our neighbor, placing no limits on who that might be; to be a neighbor to others hurting along the road; to act with Mercy!


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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Last Sunday we began our journey to Jerusalem with Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. On this journey we enter into a special school of discipleship where he teaches us what it means to live in the Kingdom of God and how to share the good news of that kingdom with others.

This good news is meant to be shared with the entire world, thus the sending of 72 disciples to share it. That number—72—comes directly from the 10th Chapter of Genesis— when it was thought there were 72 nations in the whole world.

Every single one of the baptized is given this mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, of bringing this Good News into the whole world. But what exactly is this good news?

St. Paul summarizes it in only a few words— the cross of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God has erupted in the world because the King of Kings generously poured out his life in absolute love for His Father on the cross. We are swept up into this love that makes us a new creation in baptism, a love giving us a share in divine life and divine joy.

This news seems too good to be true—while we were still sinners Christ died for us. This news appears too good to be true—the Son of God by dying has destroyed the power of death—we have nothing to fear. This news seems too good to be true—Jesus Christ loves us, he gave his life to save us. But as we receive Christ Jesus, we realize it is true, for he is God’s gift freely given to us.

Sharing the Good News is not meant to be difficult because it is first and foremost about our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Before we can be sent as one of the “72”, we need to know Him and his love for us. For we cannot share what we have not received. We cannot give away what we have not accepted.

St. Paul calls himself the greatest of sinners because of his persecution of Christ, yet knows he is loved beyond all reason by the same Christ Jesus. That’s why Paul only boasts in the cross of Christ.

Some in the Christian community in Galatia reject this good news, listening to other preachers who tell them they have to do something more than respond in faith to Jesus. These “false preachers” have convinced some of Paul’s flock that they have to be circumcised and follow all the prescriptions of the Jewish Law before they can become Christian. Because of his experience of Christ’s unmerited love for him, Paul knows this is not true. Rather, he proclaims that Jesus’ love changes us, makes us into a “new creation.”

Being Christian is not supposed to be complicated. Simply receive the One who has been looking for you all your life long, the One who driven by love seeks out and finds the lost, bringing them home to the Father of all.

Experiencing His saving love, we naturally wants to share it, to give it away to others.

How we share this Good News is important, too. That we are loved comes first, but then proclaiming the Kingdom of God only happens in relationship to others. Evangelization—sharing the Good News—happens as a result of relationship. That’s why preaching on street corners does not do much good— the preacher does not know the people to whom he is talking, nor they him.

Notice how we are sent into the world by the Lord Jesus. He does not tell us to take much at all — other than our very self to others. In other words, sharing the Good News is a ministry of Presence. For 3 years Jesus traveled around Israel without a job, with nothing to his name, depending on others to feed him. He brought the Kingdom to life in and through his very person, by his loving presence, by the relationships he nurtured and developed with others.

The same is true for we Christians, who carry Him in our very persons to others. It is good to know the Bible, but we do not need to be able to quote chapter and verse. It is good to know the basic beliefs of our faith, but we do not need to know the Catechism of the Church backwards and forwards. We do not need to be trained in the latest, greatest program on evangelization. We do not have to have all the answers, but rather be willing to be with people in their questioning and doubts, in their struggles and fears. By being present to others in love, we bring them to the Lord of Love.

So, we proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God by making a friend, growing in friendship with that person, and then bringing them to the Lord.

Notice how this is the pattern in the mission of the 72. They taking nothing with them. They are to trust that there will be those who will receive and welcome them, who will want to grow in relationship with them. They do the very human thing of sharing meals with those who welcome them. They sit down at table and break bread with others, getting to know them.

Only after doing this, do they cure the sick and announce the Kingdom of God. Making a friend comes first, being a friend follows, and then the Kingdom of God can not only be proclaimed but received.

The definition of a Christian is someone who has come to know a Christian. It’s all rooted in the relationship. The Kingdom of God is at hand— close enough to touch in us— as we extend our hands in compassionate love to others.

There is another relationship that is essential to fulfill our mission to proclaim the Kingdom. That is the relationship with other vital Christians, with those who are on the same journey as us and given the same mission of bringing the Good News of God’s love to the world. We do not and cannot do this alone. There is a reason Jesus sends us out in “pairs“.

We are strengthened and encouraged by our relationships with other vital Christians. Finding nourishment from a community of Faith sustains us in our mission. So we come back together to the table of the Lord to experience once again the saving gift of His Presence as he feeds us with His body and blood.

We go out, not alone, but with the support of one another, to share the love and life we have received.