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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 29, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


In this parable, Abraham informs the rich man suffering from eternal torment that his brothers back on earth have “Moses and the Prophets” to guide them to repentance. If they will simply heed these instructions from Sacred Scripture, his brothers will be saved.

“Moses” is shorthand for the first 5 books of the Old Testament, called the Pentateuch, The Jews of Jesus’ day attributed the authorship of these 5 books to Moses. In these 5 inspired books, over and over again the people of Israel are reminded that those who have, have been given what they have, to share with those who have not. Three special categories of people are identified to be cared for in a special way: the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (also referred to as the “alien in the land”).

The prophets challenge the people to care for the poor and remind them that not doing so will ultimately lead them away from God and into exile. Every year on the Friday after Ash Wednesday we hear the text from Isaiah stating that if we want God to hear our cries, then we need to listen to the cries of the poor and attend to their needs. (Isaiah 58: 6-9) Today and last Sunday the Church challenges us with the fiery words of the prophet Amos. Last Sunday Amos warned those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land and this Sunday his warning is directed against those who seek only their own comfort and disregard the needs of others.

The living Word of God, which cuts like a sword to the very essence of what is important, is very clear— God is for the poor and God’s people must be so as well. Like a mother who pays special attention and takes extra special care of one of her children who is in greatest need, so is God when it comes to the poor.

The Word made Flesh, who is the Son of Mary and Son of God, is also for the poor. We have heard numerous times in this year of the Gospel of Luke how Jesus is for the poor.

In his inaugural address at the beginning of his ministry in Luke, Jesus proclaims: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Lk 4:18)

He then goes on to reach out to heal those who are hurting, to lift up those hungering for God’s mercy, and to teach by way of parables about God’s special concern for the poor. Think of the Good Samaritan who helps the man who has been robbed and left half-naked and practically dead on the side of the road, or the impoverished prodigal son who comes back home penniless and in tatters.

At the end of last week’s parable, Jesus warned that one cannot serve both God and mammon (Lk 16:13). Immediately after that statement and a little before today’s parable about Lazarus and the rich man, Luke states: “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things, and sneered at him.” (16:14). So to them Jesus addresses the parable of the great reversal, the parable of the Rich Man and the poor beggar, Lazarus. The consequences are clearly spelled out for ignoring the cry of the poor at one’s very own door.

Note that Jesus does not condemn the rich man for his wealth, but because he does not share anything of his abundance, not even a scrap of food, with Lazarus. Jesus ate meals with those who were rich, and his ministry was supported by the generosity of several well-off women. (Lk 8: 2-3) What is important is what one does with God’s gifts, and the warning from Jesus is that riches can blind one to the needs of others. Also note that he does not propose a program for combating world-wide poverty, but challenges his followers to put his words into practice by first of all helping the one in need on one’s doorstep, at one’s front door.

We must not forget, either, that Jesus was not only for the poor but that he became poor that we might become rich in God’s grace. Born in a stable far from his home, he soon became a refugee on the run from the murderous wrath of King Herod. Jesus traveled around the countryside preaching and teaching, depending on others to support him and his merry band of followers. He died without a single possession to his name, naked on the cross.

The Son of God was poor and he was for the poor.

The real sin of the Rich Man in today’s parable is that he was blind. He allowed his riches to blind him to the person of Lazarus at his door. His self-centeredness also caused him to be deaf to Lazarus’ cry for mercy.

The challenge, then, is to ask the Lord Jesus to heal our blindness and help us to see the human dignity of the poor at our door. To ask him to open our ears deafened by the screed of individualism and see how we are connected, how we are to be in solidarity with those who suffer in any way.

Too many people treat the poor person or the immigrant or the refugee as a problem instead of seeing them as a human being with inherent dignity, deserving our respect and love and care. Too many people in our own land see the poor as a threat to our security or our material wealth instead of as a God-given opportunity for us to do what we have been commanded to do: share our bread with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, let the oppressed go free.

St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast day was this past Friday, wrote the following: “Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.”

As our St. Vincent de Paul Conference continues this saintly man’s work, they operate on the same principle, going two by two to visit those who cry out for help, to hear their story, and to treat them first of all as a fellow human being, and to see even deeper the Son of God crying out for help.

This practice of “encounter,” which Pope Francis teaches frequently, changes the equation. When we can encounter the one in need as our brother or sister, as one like us, and see in them the face of Christ, everything changes. We want to share what we have, and we do so joyfully and generously. But as long as we wall ourselves off from the poor, we can be as blind as the Rich Man. As long as we build barriers between “us and them”, we become as deaf as the Rich Man was to the cries of Lazarus.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 15, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


The Son of God comes into the world, becoming flesh of our flesh, in order to show us who God is and what God cares about. God’s Son seeks out & finds those who are lost & brings them home to His Father. By how he lives, Jesus teaches us about God’s longing for us, God’s great desire for us. By what he teaches, Jesus reveals the inner life of God, the very nature of God.

The nature of God is to find those who are lost, and these 3 famous “Lost and Found” parables in Luke’s Gospel reveal this passion. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus putting these parables into practice. On his last stop on this long journey to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters “lost” Zaccheus in Jericho and clearly states his mission: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Leaving Jericho, he will then arrive in Jerusalem, where on the cross, Jesus will reveal to what extremes God will go to save what was lost.

It is somehow ingrained in human nature to be lost, or at the very least, to feel lost. Perhaps this is because imprinted in the deepest part of who we are is the knowledge that we have come from God, and all our life is spent finding our way back to our eternal home.

In this life-long journey home, we mistakenly think we have to find God, as if God were hiding, but actually the reverse is true, for we are hiding from God. From the very beginning with Adam’s choice to try and make himself into God, we human beings have been hiding from God, & God has been tirelessly looking for us. God’s question to Adam after his sin, as he hides naked among the trees in the garden, is a question God asks eternally of humankind: “Where are you?”

In Jesus Christ, we discover God’s passionate desire to find us where we are. In Jesus, our Heavenly Father proclaims: “Everything I have is yours!”

Today we come to this holy place to be found by God in Christ Jesus. We come feeling lost for any number of reasons, longing to be found by God’s mercy in Christ and to be renewed by His merciful love.

We find our way home to this banquet table of the Eucharist, and eventually to the heavenly banquet, with the help of others. Together we find the way, especially when we are feeling lost and cannot seem to find the way forward.

In the summer of 1992 I went to Italy with some good friends. We started our trip by meeting one of their friends, Sylvia, in a very small town about an hour and an half outside of Venice. We arrived in Sylvia’s town and immediately drove to Venice for a day visit. When the day ended, Sylvia took a couple of our group in her car and led the rest of us in our rental car back to her home in the country.

I was a passenger in the rental car, and I remember the terrible sinking feeling, when about 20-30 minutes outside of Venice, those of us in the rental car realized we were not following Sylvia’s car, that we had lost her. This was in the days before cell phones, so we had no way to call her. Also, we did not have her home phone number, nor did we remember the name of the little town she lived in. We felt so foolish and so very lost.

We stopped in the first town we came to and tried to communicate with an Italian policeman, but it was impossible. We were lost and did not know how to find the way home. However, as we left that first town, one of my friends saw a landmark that he remembered— a large round grain silo. “Turn here,” he said. Another friend saw a building that jarred her memory—“Turn there,” she said. I saw something familiar along that road as well which pointed us to our next turn. As we each remembered this or that landmark, we found our way home that night. Alone, we would have been lost, but together, we were found.

It’s one of the best reasons for the existence of the Church—together we journey home.

We “lost ones” are given to one another to help one another remember the way home. We remember the One who is our way home, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, as he finds us in our wayward wanderings and carries us on his shoulders. His life-giving words are a lamp unto our feet, showing us the way forward. We remember that He has destroyed death and restored life, so in Him and through Him and with Him we find newness of life, even now.

So that found in the eternal embrace of God’s love, we are sent forth from this place to find others who are lost and bring them home. This is what disciples of Jesus do— we seek out and find the lost. We invite them to join us in the never-ending party of God’s merciful love in Christ. We rejoice because we who were “dead” have come back to life again in Him.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 8, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Paul’s letter to Philemon is the shortest book in the Bible. In this very brief letter, Paul encourages Philemon to embrace the dream of Jesus, to live as a member of the kingdom of God.

Onesismus is Philemon’s possession—he is a slave of Philemon. Onesimus ran away from his master, encountered Paul, become a Christian and then a helper to Paul during his imprisonment. Paul calls the runaway slave “my child” and “my own heart” and challenges Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he were Paul himself. So, Paul is sending Onesismus back to his master, Philemon, as more than a slave— as his brother in Christ Jesus.

Philemon lives in Colossae and is a member of the Christian community Paul has established in that Greek city. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Philemon and the other Christians in Colassae hear more about this dream of God for humanity Christ Jesus:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all in all.”

Jesus Christ breaks down the barriers between God and humankind, and also the walls human beings build between each other. By preferring Christ above everything else, by making one’s relationship with Jesus Christ the top priority in one’s life, one discovers with St. Paul that there are no longer distinctions that divide us, but Christ is all in all.

In Christ, our family expands beyond our nuclear family to include the family of humankind. The relationships of love we have with our own particular family members are meant to strengthen us to love of others as our own brothers and sisters, to include in “our family” the Christ who lives in the refugee and immigrant, the hungry and homeless, the vulnerable and voiceless ones.

In order to live from our identity as adopted sons and daughters of our Father and brothers and sisters to the Son of God, we have to renounce and reorder. Living the dream of Jesus, bringing the Kingdom of God to earth, means renouncing the hold that other things have on our life in order to prefer Him above all things.

That’s the meaning of the powerful phrase of Jesus, you cannot be my disciple without hating father and mother, wife and children…. That Semitic expression Jesus uses with the word “hate” means in our terms, “love less.” In other words, we are to love Jesus first and foremost and then all the other “loves” of our life fall into place, into proper order.

Renouncing possessions means there is no-thing which can take the privileged place of God in our life. No-thing can be made into an absolute, because when this happens, we become enslaved to it. When our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in our life, we experience more freedom. When we are living out the dream of Jesus for a world where all people live as sisters and brothers, then we see that our possessions are given to us to share with others, especially those in most need.

What we have been given by God is more than just material things but also time— 1440 minutes each day. How we spend our time says something about our relationship to Jesus and our desire to further the Kingdom he establishes. What we give our time to speaks volumes about what holds importance in our life.

Renouncing the stranglehold that possessions can have on our life is one way to renounce our life, to prefer a grander and greater and more expansive life in Christ over the small, self-contained, self-centered life. To “hate” our life means rejecting the demands of our “ego”, means rejecting the temptation to live life with a small “l”. To prefer Jesus Christ, to make him the center of our life, means living life spelled with a capital “L”. In Him, we discover abundant life, a life which takes us out to others.

A life spent pursuing God’s dream for us after the example of Christ brings meaning to our life and gives our life eternal consequence.

Preferring Jesus Christ over family relationships, above any thing we have, making him the center of our life and not our selfish, death-dealing desires— all of this naturally leads to taking up our cross. Because as we follow Jesus along the way to Jerusalem, we are going to the cross with him. After all, the cross is his destiny and ours.

Christian discipleship means following where he leads, and he leads us to the cross, the most powerful image of sacrificial, life-giving love.

Sacrificial love is the energy the sons and daughters of God bring to building towers which connect heaven to earth and opposing the forces that want to diminish the dignity of human life. Empowered by the Spirit of the Crucified and Risen Lord, we can love sacrificially. We can enter into the battle with Christ Jesus to oppose the “isms” of our day– consumerism, materialism, secularism, sexism, racism, nativism—and emerge victorious.

From the perspective of our relationship with Jesus Christ, and empowered by his Spirit, the sacrifices of discipleship look radically different from an ego-driven life. An ego-driven life— a self-centered life—views discipleship as way to costly, as giving up “stuff” we need, and sacrifices as painful. In a Christ-centered life, sacrifice becomes the act of self-giving which makes life holy and fashions a future never seen before.

We all pay a price. There is a cost to every decision, to every action which demands our time, energy, attention, our very life. We are “spending” our life away each day, in minutes and hours we will never recapture.

We can spend our life being enslaved by the desire for more money and more stuff. We can spend our life focused on the small, death-dealing desires of the ego. We can spend our life pleasing others instead of God.

Or we can choose to spend our life following Christ Jesus as his disciples. To be worthy of Jesus we follow Jesus rather than follow the expectations of anyone else. Discipleship demands something of us–it is costly. It costs something of us, more than we can even imagine. But the reward is beyond our best and brightest and most glorious dreams.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 25, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Notice Jesus does not answer this question. Salvation is not about numbers—how many are getting in? Salvation is not about who gets in, because then we humans start doing the judging on who is worthy and who is not.

This Gospel passage challenges exclusive thinking, challenges religious elites and nationalists, as Jesus emphatically states that people of all nations and races will come to the feast at the banquet table in the Kingdom of God. They will come from every direction, from every place on earth. Even the people who are least respectable, who are the ones Jesus gets accused of associating with by the holier than thou folks who judge and condemn him for the company he keeps.

The warning Jesus issues to the questioner is exclusive thinking and a judgmental attitude will lead one to be on the outside looking in. The very mindset of separating out who is worthy or not puts one outside looking in, in danger of being locked out of the feast.

So Jesus’ answer is basically, “Pay attention to yourself.” You strive to enter through the narrow gate and stop wasting your energy judging others. But what are we striving for?

We are striving to be like Jesus, to make his values our own. Jesus comes from a heart set on God that cooperates with the divine Spirit to love all people, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Jesus loves God his Father with every cell in his body, and he pours out his life in love of his neighbor.

It is not easy to center our life on love of God and love of neighbor. It is a life-long discipline.

Discipline, as the author to the Hebrews reveals, signifies learning and knowledge. Discipline involves education and training and instruction, but also correction and punishment. The sacred author of Hebrews clearly indicates that maturing into a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father is not easy. It requires effort, struggle, even suffering.

The instruction comes from the stuff of our life, from living life itself. From the pains and joys of each day, we are taught by God how to mature into actually living like his children. From the classroom of life where we encounter the suffering and delights of each day, we are challenged to respond in being more generous and loving and merciful and kind, and so take on the values of the Beloved Son, Jesus.

God keeps teaching us and instructing us. The root meaning of the word “discipline” in the Letter to the Hebrews is the kind of training which comes from being instructed and trained. Sometimes that instruction is painful, because it demands that we change, that we die to an old way of thinking and living in order to begin a new life. Like a good teacher, our heavenly Father helps us learn by making us stretch beyond what we thought we were capable of, and he places before us the example of His Son.

One of the most demanding teachers I had in high school was my English Composition teacher, Mrs. Harris. Her class was hard—she expected a lot from us. But she prepared me for college and eventually for seminary by teaching me how to write, how to compose essays, reports, research papers, and stories. I could not of done so well with the many papers I had to write in my seminary studies if I had not been “disciplined” (instructed) by Mrs. Harris. I could not so readily write a daily Mass homily or Sunday homily or put together a talk if I had not gone through the “fire” of her classes on English Composition. I struggled initially with the idea of an “outline” for writing a paper, but Mrs. Harris’ insistence that we learn how to do “outlines” before even writing helps me to this day.

Now at the opposite end of the scale was my class on Oklahoma history, taught by one of the football coaches who expected nothing from us. We had fun in his class playing “paper football” games but I learned hardly anything about the history of our State, which I regret today.

The Master Teacher, the One who is Truth itself, the beloved Son of God, instructs us every day through His Spirit. To be his disciple literally means to sit at his feet and learn from him, Notice how close that word “disciple” is to the word, “discipline.”

I am still learning, and I have so much more to learn. I am still striving to enter through the narrow gate.

The Gospel is the handbook, the guidebook, shedding light on who we are called to be. In fact, the “narrow gate” is the Gospel—with its call to faith, to generosity, to forgiveness, and to justice, especially for the poor.

It is not enough to eat and drink with him at this table. It is not enough to simply listen to His teaching in this place. We are invited to assume his values, to be like him, to look like him, to invite Him into our lives so that our lives might be changed.

Christian faith is not a matter of going with the flow, of simply pursuing what makes us feel good, of engaging in a comforting spiritual hobby. Our relationship with Christ Jesus is to be rooted in the innermost parts of our being. This relationship is meant to transform our lives and how we love.

Just as Jesus’ struggle and obedience made it possible for his 1st disciples to do the same, everyone who strives today to enter through the narrow gate makes it a little easier for another to follow. Our faith and our struggle continue Christ’s work of salvation, of bringing all people from all races and places into the feast that is the Kingdom of God.

For the more we strive, the more we understand that salvation is accomplished in surrendering ourselves to the saving love of God, a divine love which makes brothers and sisters of us all.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 18, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Jesus is a man on fire, on fire with the redeeming love of God Jesus burns with a profound passion to establish the Reign of God, a kingdom of justice and peace. A kingdom where peace is the fruit of justice, where all God’s people live in right relationship with each other. Jesus is so consumed with love of His heavenly Father and with a desire for all of his heavenly Father’s children to live in peace, that he is willing to be baptized in his own blood poured forth from the cross.

The fire of Jesus’ love brings warmth to those whose hearts have grown cold in despair. The fire of Jesus’ love brings light to those who walk in the darkness of suffering. The fire of Jesus’ love purifies hearts that have grown hard with indifference and apathy.

Jesus’ words and life are meant to call people, all people, to repentance. Remember, to repent does not mean feeling sorry but to change the way you think.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ constantly challenges us to change the way we think about ourselves, others, and God. Division happens not because of Jesus or his message, but because of the effects of what he does and says.

People are challenged to make a choice— I will change the way I think, and so change the way I live and love OR I will not. This is where the division comes in, as some choose to follow Jesus, to learn from him, to grow in their understanding of what is required of them to live as children of God. Then there are those who refuse to listen, who refuse to change their minds, who even plan and plot his death.

From the time Jesus was born, he was a threat to those in power, as the Holy Family fled as refugees into Egypt, escaping the murderous intents of King Herod. As an adult, Jesus tells Pilate, “I came into the world to testify to the truth,” (Jn. 18:37) and then he is tortured and killed for doing so.

To live the Gospel message, to establish the reign of justice and peace, is challenging. We face opposition from others who resist our efforts at bringing about the Kingdom of God. It can be difficult to be merciful and kind in a culture which encourages retribution and revenge. We do separate ourselves from others, we are divided from them, when we disturb them with the tough love of kindness and the humble deeds of mercy.

The first followers of Jesus struggled to put Jesus’ teachings into practice. Remember back when we began this journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel, when he wanted to pass through a Samaritan town, but the Samaritans there would not allow him passage. Recall the reaction of James and John— “Lord, do you want to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (cf Lk 9: 52-56) Jesus rebuked the Sons of Thunder who wanted to call down lightning upon their enemies, and instead they went peacefully on to another town.

It can be exhausting to work for peace in a world that glorifies violence. The peace of Jesus Christ is much more than the absence of war— it is when all people live in right relationship to each other, when the goods of the earth are shared justly so that no longer a few hold onto most of the world’s wealth.

Recall Jesus’ inaugural address in Luke’s Gospel: “I have come to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind.” (cf Lk. 4:18) Those who benefit from the status quo, from the way things are, do not want to see how they have to change. They would rather remain blind, refusing to recognize Christ in the stranger and the oppressed, in the poor and the powerless.

Jesus came into conflict with those who exploited the weak and the poor. His dream of all people being welcome in the Kingdom of God brought him into conflict with the narrow minded and the bigoted.

Promoting and defending the dignity of every human life is exhausting in a culture of death. Responding to vengeance with forgiveness is challenging. Working for that peace which is the full fruit of justice is a tiring task.

But we are invited to persevere in running this race of faith and to not give up hope.

One Saturday morning back when I was a college freshman I entered a 3 mile race. The race began on a steep hill right outside my dorm room. I sprinted down that hill and for the first mile or so I was staying with the leaders of the race. But then a little while after mile one I felt as if my lungs were on fire and my legs felt like lead. I could not keep running.

I started walking, trudging along with my head down, wondering how I was going to finish the race. A little kid came running by me and shouted out— “Come on mister, you can finish the race.” His words gave new life to my legs and fresh breath to my lungs. I started to run again, and I did finish the race.

God sends people into our lives who encourage us to persevere in running the race of faith, especially when we are tired and worn out, especially when we grow weary and lose heart. God sends people here on earth, as well as those who have gone before us to heaven. They encourage us by their prayers and their love to keep on keeping on. They are the great cloud of witnesses, who surround us each day, and urge us on.

All of them say, “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.” (cf >Hebrews 12:2

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven was declared in 1950, but this great “Easter feast” had been observed ever since the 5th century in the Church. How fitting that the mother of the Crucified and Risen Jesus should share with her Son in his bodily glory in heaven. Mary has experienced the resurrection of the dead, and in this great Marian feast, we glimpse our destiny—where she has gone, we hope to follow.

So, Mary was lifted up into heavenly life as a complete person, body and soul. We, too, long to follow where she has led.

This is a very “bodily” feast, a grand celebration reminding us of the importance of the human body. We human beings are enfleshed spirits. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We learn about God and experience God’s tender, life-giving care in and through these bodies of ours. We learn in and through our 5 bodily senses. In fact, that great scholar of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, taught that the only way we learn is in and through our senses, in and through these bodies.

This grand feast of the importance of the human body makes me pity the angels. That’s right, I pity the angels. Because they are pure spirit, they will never experience the joy and delight of being human with bodies that revel in God’s goodness through our senses.

I pity the angels, because they have never tasted a homemade chocolate chip cookie or savored a cold drink on a hot summer day. I pity the angels, because they have never heard their name sound forth from the lips of a loved one nor heard the soaring beauty of a Mozart symphony. I pity the angels, because they have never seen a glorious Oklahoma sunset nor seen their child take his very first step. They have never felt snowflakes on their face nor the caress of a loved one. I pity the angels because they have never smelled bacon cooking.

In and through our bodies, we experience the beauty and delights of being human, of God’s care. In and through these bodies, we also love others and love God.

Mary loved her son, Jesus, in and through her body. She loved Jesus not in an abstract way, but in a very concrete way through her body.

Her body was the Ark of the New Covenant, containing and holding and protecting and nurturing the Son of God in her womb. She felt him growing in her womb, moving at times, kicking at times, and her body was intimately joined to his. For 9 months she carried in her body the One whom the whole universe could not contain.

Then she fed the newborn babe with milk from her very own body as he suckled at her breasts. Later she would feed him through the work of her hands, fixing thousands of meals for Jesus.

With her hands she would wipe the dirt from his face and the tears from his eyes and fix up a scraped knee or mashed finger from a hammer. (Joseph!) As a mother, she would shower her son with bodily affection— with countless hugs and kisses.

Mary held him tight when he decided to leave home and strike out on his own, and then had to let him go. Mary held the broken body of her son against her own body, as he was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms. Then she had to let him go as he was buried in the tomb.

In and through her body, Mary sings the praises of the God who has done great things for her. Who lifted her up to be the mother of His Son, and who lifted her up to share in his eternal glory.

Our destiny is to join Mary in enjoying the fullness of life, body and soul, in heaven. Our preparation to be loved in such a perfect way, is to give ourselves away in love of others through these bodies given to us by God.

For we love God our Maker and Creator not in an abstract, thinking about Him kind of way but in the very concrete actions of love expressed in and through these bodies.

These bodies of ours have become temples of the Holy Spirit by baptism. In these bodies, we are joined intimately to the Risen Lord as we eat His body and drink His blood in Holy Communion.

With the Blessed Virgin Mary, we sing the praises of God who has done great things for us. With our Mother in faith, we sing the praises of God who one day will lift us up body and soul to share in the fullness of life in heaven.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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


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


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.