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Ordinary Time

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

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.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Jacobi)

June 30, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Today in Luke’s Gospel we begin the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. This section of Luke where Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem is a turning point. This journey will take us from the end of Chapter 9 to Chapter 19 in Luke, stretching into the 1st part of November and covering 19 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Jesus invites us to follow him so that we might be taken up with him into glory, but first we have much to learn and he has much to teach us.

First Jesus casts out the demon of violence from among us, teaching us that there will be no “fire from heaven” to consume those who are hostile to his presence. The first teaching along the road is that hospitality has to replace hostility.

Then there are 3 encounters Jesus has with 3 would-be-followers. These encounters reveal excuses that we can and do use for staying put, excuses for not changing our life to conform more fully to His life.

The first would-be-follower is overconfident, unaware that to truly follow Jesus means being “homeless” — that disciples of Jesus never set down roots in this world. Following Jesus means we are not going to fit in any usual camp. The liberals make no sense and the conservatives make no sense— only in living the life which Jesus preaches and lives do we find the way home to lasting rest.

The second encounter can be confusing because Jesus comes across as very harsh, “Let the dead bury their dead.” But we have to understand the cultural issue at play, because there is no indication that the father of this would-be-follower is dead. Even though the culture in which this encounter takes place might suggest a son postpone his own life until a father has died, Jesus proposes that sometimes following him may mean going against cultural expectations. In no way does Jesus deny here love and respect for parents. This is about cultural expectations which hinder discipleship, not about family life.

Then the last one comes with conditions which seem reasonable, but following the way of Jesus Christ does not work conditionally. It is all or nothing. There can be no distractions and no looking back. The eyes, the mind, the heart are all focused on one thing only, making the field of this world ready for God’s harvest, so dedication and commitment are required.

St. Paul, who dedicates himself completely to the way of Christ Jesus, who commits his entire being to proclaiming the Kingdom of God, shows us what prevents us from being “all in” as disciples of Jesus Christ.

He uses the term “flesh” for those things which lead us away from life with the Lord. We usually think of “flesh” only in terms of sexual sins. but Paul is talking about something much broader and much more deadly. Flesh suggests our inborn self-interested hostility to God, our unhealthy self-reliance and selfishness.

In other words, all those attitudes and actions which enslave us, which prevent us from giving ourselves totally to Jesus and to His Kingdom. If we were to read the rest of Chapter 5, contiuing on from where today’s reading ends, we would find Paul mentioning some of these things—idolatry, hatreds, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, envy and others (Galatians 5:19-21).

St. Paul is clear—Christ Jesus has set us free from these “sins of the flesh” that we might live a new life in the Spirit. When Paul speaks of the “Spirit”, he is referring to our new self in Christ, constituted by the presence of the Holy Spirit and governed by the Spirit’s power and action in us. The Spirit grants us new abilities, new capacities for relating to the world and to other people. Once again, if we read a little further along in Chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul describes the outcomes of living in the Spirit and from the Spirit, what he calls the “fruits of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

All of these fruits of a Spirit-filled life concern love of neighbor, which is the most important part of Paul’s teaching in today’s passage from Galatians. For Paul, the whole law, which would like saying all of religious practice, is fulfilled in one statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Earlier in this same passage, Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus has set us free, not to do whatever we want, but to serve one another through love. We have been given, in Christ, the real meaning of freedom— to generously and joyfully and faithfully love our neighbor.

As Paul focuses on the 2nd half of the one great commandment of Jesus– to love God with all we are is the first half & to love our neighbor is the 2nd half— takes us right back to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke. Two Sundays from now in this journey with Jesus up to Jerusalem, he will teach us how to put this commandment into practice with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

To inherit eternal life we must follow the commandment to love God and neighbor, but then the question becomes: “And who is my neighbor?” The answer from Jesus is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which is the framework to what he teaches along the road to Jerusalem. It is this parable which is the key unlocking the heart of discipleship.

In this famous parable, Jesus does not answer the question “Who is my neighbor,” because he is not going to limit our loving to any one group or class of people. Instead the Good Samaritan shows us what it looks like to “be neighbor” to someone in need, to show mercy to a fellow human being who is hurting.

We are expected to share the merciful love of Jesus with others, and not limit it to only a few. This merciful love is meant to be shared with those we like and those we do not like, with those who are in and those who are out, with those who are legal and those who are illegal. For in the Kingdom of God, all people are equal.

To follow Jesus along the road to Jerusalem means we will be challenged to live and love differently. For either the Gospel changes our mind and heart, or it is not the Gospel. For either the Gospel is good news for the poor, or it is not the Gospel. For either the Gospel changes the world, or it not the Gospel.

Following Jesus on this journey to Jerusalem is the path to life, to fullness of joy in the presence of God, the way to be lifted up with Jesus to the delights at the right hand of the Father forever.

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 24, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Last Sunday we began Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” with Jesus turning the world upside-down with his “Blessings and Woes.” Those 4 blessings and 4 woes reveal a theme woven throughout all of Luke’s Gospel of the “great reversal,” which begins in Chapter 1 with Mary’s Magnificat as she sings about how the Lord lifts up the lowly and casts down the mighty, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.” Throughout Luke’s Gospel Jesus is the “prophet par excellence” who turns the world on its head, who challenges his hearers to rethink what they assume to be true.

As I mentioned in my homily last Sunday on the “Blessings and Woes,” Jesus is inviting us to think like him, to see the world and our place in it through his eyes. Those blessings and woes only make Gospel sense when we put on the mind of Christ Jesus. If we only think with the mind of our culture, then we will never understand Jesus’ teaching that the blessed ones are the poor and hungry and sorrowing and persecuted, while the woeful ones are those who place their trust in their riches and seek only to keep their bellies full and to find social acceptance.

If last Sunday’s Gospel called us to “put on the mind of Christ,” then this Sunday’s continuation of the “Sermon on the Plain” challenges us to have the heart of Christ. We can only love as Jesus challenges us to love with his help, inviting Him to love through us, by joining our heart to His.

There is no way we can love our enemies on our own power. Only with Christ’s help can we do so. It is impossible for us on our own power to do good to those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us, but with Christ’s help we can do so.

Only when our heart beats in union with Christ’s heart can we love in such a way.

This kind of loving only makes sense from the vantage point of the cross. There we see in the clearest and fullest way possible the heart of Jesus and what it means to love our enemies and to pray for them.

Jesus practices what he preaches. He lives what he teaches. On the cross, his body broken by the torture of the scourging and the crucifixion, Jesus prays through bloodied lips: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Jesus shows us how to love our enemies by opening up his heart to those who are killing him.

Pope Benedict, in his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love), says the only way we can understand this truth of who God is, is by contemplating the open side of Jesus on the cross. After Jesus takes his last breath on the cross, a Roman soldier plunges his spear into Jesus’ side, opening up for all to see the heart of the Son of God.

In that merciful heart we find our salvation when we make ourselves enemies of God by our sin. In that merciful heart, we find forgiveness for the hatred we carry toward those who have hurt us.

We come to that open heart because we know it is only by his love that we can find new life and the power to love as he does. Only by joining our heart to His Sacred Heart can we do good to those who hate us.

As we stand at the foot of the cross, we see more clearly the lies we live by. Such as: “People are supposed to get what they deserve and deserve what they get.” The truth revealed by the open heart of Jesus on the cross is that none of us actually deserves anything, and yet God has given us everything always.

Living by this truth moves us toward forgiveness of others, instead of judging and condemning them.

The “Sermon on the Plain” in Chapter 6 of Luke’s Gospel is about conversion, inviting us to join our lives more completely to Jesus. These powerful passages in Luke’s Gospel prepare us to enter the Holy Season of conversion, which is only ten days away.

The cross is the central symbol of Lent. During the 40 days of the Lenten Season we recall how we have been marked by the saving cross of Jesus in baptism, and how we are being called to die with him to all the ways we think without him and love without him.

Lent comes around every year as a gift so we might look more closely at our lives and see where they are not yet fully conformed to Christ. To ask the question: “Jesus, show me where I am still blind?” “Where am I still blind to your love and to your call to love with you?”

Lent is a special time of repentance, of turning back to Jesus Christ, of dying with him and rising with him, so we might think with Christ and love with Christ.

So that we can indeed live and love as children of the Most High God and “Be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.”

Then in all cases and in every circumstance we can do to others as we would have them do to us.

Remember: we are not to do to others what they do to us, but what we would want them to do to us.

More to the point, we are to do to them what Jesus would do to us.

When we put on the mind of Jesus and join our hearts to his, then we can abide by this golden rule.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 17, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Farmer Jones was working in his garden one day when one of his pumpkins started talking to him. That’s right, a pumpkin spoke to him. The pumpkin said: “I just woke up. Today, I woke up. I suddenly realized that everything I have comes from outside of me. That the life I have does not come from me. So I give thanks for the soil which feeds my hunger and the rain, which quenches my thirst. I give praise for the sun that warms me, and the wind which cools me.

Because I finally woke up, I’ve decided to give my fruit to Mrs. Jones to make pumpkin pies. Because I’m grateful for all that has been given me, I want you, Farmer Jones, to take the seeds in my belly and plant them next Spring in this garden to bring forth more pumpkins from the earth. And give my shell to your kids that they might carve me up into a ‘jack-o-lantern’ to scare away the bad spirits.”

There are 2 types of persons in this world: There are pumpkins and there are bumpkins. There are those who are awake and know where life comes from, and there are those who are sleepwalking, unaware that all they have and are is a gift from God. There are the “pumpkin people” who place their trust in God, sharing generously what they’ve been give, and there are the bumpkins who fearfully hold onto what they have and are always filled with worry and anxiety.

The evangelist Luke addresses his Gospel to an affluent community whose members are tempted to place their trust in their riches and to hoard what they have. So the blessings and woes spoken by Jesus turns their world upside down, and ours as well.

The poor and hungry and sorrowing and persecuted are much more likely to turn to God in their need, to recognize that everything they have comes from the hand of God. The rich and full and laughing and well-thought-of are much more likely to place all their trust in what they have and make into a “god” what they have and worry constantly about losing it.

These blessings and woes of Jesus have been re-imagined by the famous Jesuit preacher, Fr. Walter Burghardt, to help us understand that we are blessed only if we put on the mind of Christ, who was poor and hungry and sorrowing and persecuted.

Fr. Burghardt says:

“Blessed, fortunate, happy are you who are rich, rich in money or power, in talent or time, because you can do so much for the poor, can lift the yoke of the oppressed. But blessed only if you have the mind of the poor, the mind of Christ. Only if you recognize that you may not do what you will with what you have. Only if you realize you are stewards, that whatever you ‘own’ you hold in trust.

Blessed, fortunate, happy are you who are full now, who are sleek and well-fed, because you are strong enough to feed the hungry, to touch empty stomachs with compassion. But blessed are you only if you have the mind of the hungry, the mind of Christ. Only if you do not take your food for granted. Only if you are uncomfortable as long as one sister or brother cries in vain for bread or justice or love. Only if you experience your own emptiness — how desperately you need the hungry, how far you are from God. Blessed are the full, if you are always hungry.

Blessed are you who laugh now, because you can bring the joy of Christ to others, to those whose days are woven of tears.

But blessed only if with Christ you can laugh at yourselves, if you don’t take yourselves too seriously, if human living does not revolve around you and your needs. Blessed are you only if you take delight in God’s creation and in the presence of the Trinity within you.

You are blessed only if laughter means you let go— let go of all that shackles you to yesterday, to dead hopes, to all that imprisons you in your small selves.”

Blessed are you because you are free, free to be loved and to love more fully.

In the waters of baptism, we became a new creation and were clothed in Christ, joined to him heart, mind, body and soul. As with our own human minds, we have to develop the mind of Christ given to us in baptism and use this great gift, we have to grow in thinking more and more with Christ Jesus and like Christ Jesus.

Each day we have to renew our commitment to put on the mind of Christ. We have to plant ourselves like a tree next to the living waters of our baptism, and realize that the life we have been given is not ours to hold onto but to give away.

So that those suffering from the scorching heat of injustice, might find shade under our branches. So that the fruit we produce might feed those hungering for compassion. So that we may give away a branch here or there to be wood for a blazing fire, providing light to those who walk in darkness and warmth to those whose hearts have grown cold.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Today’s 2nd reading from the 13th chapter of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians is one of the most well-known passages in Scriptures. It is the most popular Scripture reading for weddings because of its emphasis on love.

But the love Paul sings about is not romantic love, which in Greek is “eros.” Rather, Paul uses another word for love in this famous passage — “agape.” Agape is understood as charity or compassion, that is, love which spreads outwards and does not grab or keep for itself. It is the most excellent gift—not possessive, envious, angry, or begrudging. Love that is agape always seeks the good of the other, and the good of others— the common good.

Paul proclaims the power of “agape” because the Corinthians are looking out for their own individual good and are therefore divided. They are seeking the gifts of God in order to be “better” than others, or to lord their gift over others. Thus, there are many divisions in this early Christian community, because they are not loving in an “Agape” way.

Paul teaches them that any gift given by God is not for oneself, but is meant to be used in service of others. Paul has to remind them that no matter what great gifts they receive— knowledge or prophecy, speaking in tongues or a faith that can move mountains, if these gifts are not used in loving service of others, then they are worth nothing at all.

So, this powerful passage, this beautiful hymn to love, is in the end very appropriate for a couple entering into marriage, and for how we are to relate to anyone. For to “agape” another means looking out for the good of the other, building the other person up instead of being puffed up by our own pride, being patient and kind with the other and not seeking one’s own interests. Agape gives us the strength to hold our tongue and reign in our temper.

This kind of love can endure all things, because it is a “godly” kind of love. It is a life-giving love because one freely gives one’s life for the others.

Jesus, son of Joseph and son of God, embodies this kind of love. When we want to see what “agape” looks like, we look to Jesus. God is love — God is “agape” — and Jesus is the love of God enfleshed.

Jesus is always focused outward on the needs of others, what’s best for the other. The gifts he has received he shares with others and in service of others. The life he has been given he gives away daily for others, so that the offering of his life fully on the cross is a natural result of how he lives and loves every day.

Jesus’ “inaugural address”, which we heard last Sunday in Luke’s Gospel, reveals how Jesus understands his mission — what he is to do with his life. He is to “agape,” especially those in greatest need of love— the poor and those who are oppressed by injustice, to open the eyes of those who are blind to the needs of others, to proclaim a year of favor for God’s favorites — those in greatest need of compassion and care.

Jesus challenges the people of his hometown of Nazareth to love in an agape way. But they reject him and his message, even to the point of trying to kill Jesus. Jesus challenges them to look beyond their own interests and learn that they are God’s chosen people precisely so they can reach out to others, especially outsiders, with the love of God.

But the people of Nazareth are held captive by a me-first, Israel-first mentality. They have heard of the mighty deeds Jesus has performed in Capernaum, and they want him to do something for them. They want to profit from his extraordinary gifts.

They especially do not want to hear from the hometown boy of how God’s love extends to foreigners, those beyond their borders, even if these foreigners be in great need— a widow who is starving in Sidon and a Syrian with the terrible disease of leprosy.

The inherent danger of being self-focused, of being concerned only with one’s own interests, is this kind of deadly attitude fuels violence— they try to kill Jesus. But he passes through their midst and goes away.

We do not want to make the same mistake. We do not want Jesus to pass through our midst and go away, because life without him is no life at all. After all, we were chosen by God in baptism and joined to his son in those life-giving waters, so that we might give our lives away in love with Jesus.

As Pope Francis points out, Jesus lives in our hearts, and he is constantly knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to open our hearts and let him out into the world.

With Jesus, with his help, we can love in an agape way. Without him, we are the most pitiable of creatures.

Jesus’ love for us transforms our selfish instincts into loving in an agape way. So that with Jesus, we discover there are no borders to God’s love.