FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, August 1, 2021:
A priest friend of mine tells a story of a time a few years ago when he was asked to preside at a very fancy wedding. The wedding was as lavish as you would imagine, with all the bells and whistles. After the ceremony, he went to the reception which was held on the grounds of a grand mansion. Laid out before the guests was the most sumptuous buffet you could imagine. There was a large table as long as the eye could see with an ice sculpture in the middle, and arrayed around it were piles of lobster, shrimp, and shellfish of every kind. As he was about to say grace, the shy flower girl stood by his side trying to see what was on the table. She asked what was going on and Father explained that everyone was getting ready to enjoy all the delicious food. The little girl then stepped on her tip-toes to get a better look at the table. She saw all of the lobster, shrimp, and everything else and said, “But, when does the good food come out? When do we get Froot loops?”
We find ourselves today in the midst of a four-week cycle that invites us to reflect upon the incredible gift of the Eucharist. Last week we saw the multiplication of loaves and fishes; next week Jesus tells us that He is “the bread of life;” and the week after would normally end with Jesus reminding us that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood “has eternal life.” This year, though, the final week will be pre-empted by the Assumption of Mary. While these weeks focus naturally on the material of the Eucharist – this bread from Heaven, this manna in the desert, this flesh and blood – today reminds us that there is more to eating than food. Jesus said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In other words, Jesus is asking a simple question, and it’s the same one really that the flower girl was asking: what are we really hungry for?
Jesus offers us the most incredible food ever – a food that feeds the body not merely for a moment, but feeds the soul for eternity. But, what He wants to know is if this is what we want to eat; if this is what we truly hunger for. We know that we are faced with many competing hungers – things that get in the way of God like hungers for wealth, power, material goods, or popularity; and of course other hungers that come from God like the hunger for love, truth, holiness, happiness, and everlasting life. In our Gospel, Jesus addresses this issue with those who pursued Him after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. He wants to know – are they only looking for signs and wonders? Do they just want more bread? Are they hungry only for things which satisfy the body today or are they really hungry for what matters – the things that can satisfy the heart and soul? Jesus echoes the question posed by the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
We are reminded that only God can satisfy the spiritual hunger in our heart and soul – the hunger for truth, for holiness, for completeness, for wholeness, for happiness, and for love. So, what are we hungry for? Jesus wants us to be hungry for a life of love and service, the kind of service He modeled during His time among us. He wants us to be hungry for forgiveness that connects us to God's mercy and kindness. He wants us to be hungry for a life of holiness and purity that reflects God's own holiness. And, He wants us to be hungry for a life of obedience to God’s will and trust in God’s plan for our lives, which gives witness to the wisdom of God. In other words, we are called as St. Augustine said to “become what we receive.” This is what the Eucharist is all about – not that we merely consume the Body and Blood of Jesus today, but that we become it; that we become Christ in our world, to one another; that we become what we receive today.
And it all comes down to that initial question – what are we hungry for? Are we hungry to be fed on the bread that the world offers? That is a false bread, and will only satisfy for a moment but leaves us ultimately incomplete. Or do we hunger for the bread that comes from heaven; the miraculous bread-become-Body and wine-become-Blood made present in our midst on this altar? The Lord wants to know today that we hunger for Him and Him alone. He is ready to feed us once again today and everyday. Let us hunger for what only Jesus can give.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
May the Lord give you peace,
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 25, 2021:
I had the great privilege of being at Fenway Park on Thursday night as the Red Sox beat the Yankees in a 10th inning walk off. It was my first time being in Fenway since before the pandemic began; and so it was a wonderful night of something resembling our former normalcy. Of course, while I was there we were remembering some great moments in this century long rivalry. Of course, the greatest moment in this Sox-Yankees relationship was the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory ending an 86 year curse. Maybe the greatest moment in sports history. Of course, with the Olympics now underway in Tokyo, I have also been thinking of some of those great sports moments. Like Michael Phelps record 23 Olympic gold medals. But, I think, the greatest Olympic moment would have to be the 1980 winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey team defeated the dominant Soviet Union for the gold medal. This rag-tag group of American amateurs handed a major upset to the seasoned Soviet team who were expected to win gold easily. That game ended with the iconic voice of Al Michaels as he shouted out, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The U.S. hockey team in that moment accomplished what seemed to be the impossible and we still refer to this moment as the “Miracle on Ice.”
Now, of course, in the proper theological sense this was not a miracle, even though it was spectacular, but the question uttered at the end of that game speaks to us today – Do YOU believe in miracles?
We know that our secular world makes no room for miracles or spiritual realities and is instead limited only to what can be observed and verified. We are taught to be skeptical when things seem too good to be true. Today's Gospel is a good example. Some look at today’s story of the feeding of the 5,000 with skepticism. Skeptical scholars question whether or not Jesus actually fed that many people. Maybe the miracle is that everyone shared, they say. But the eyes of faith open us to the possibility that God does indeed accomplish miracles in our midst. Faith tells us that Jesus did feed a multitude, Jesus did heal those who were ill, Jesus did cast out demons, He did raise the official’s daughter and His friend Lazarus from the dead, Jesus did Himself rise from the dead, and He perhaps closer to our own experience – Jesus does offer us His real Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the forgiveness of our sins in Confession, and so much more. These things are all spectacular, and beyond the ordinary, but we believe because our faith convinces us that with God anything – in fact, everything – is possible.
In our passage today, John mentions two disciples by name: Philip and Andrew; and they for us represent two types of faith. Philip is the skeptic, not ready to accept a miracle. To the problem of all these hungry people Philip responds, “Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little,” he says. Andrew, on the other hand, makes room for miracles and so he becomes a partner in one with Jesus. Andrew says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Now, Andrew was realistic enough to know that five loaves and two fish were nothing before a crowd of more than 5,000, yet he had enough faith to see that it was enough for a start. His faith helped him to see that possibility, to know that with miracles, God builds on nature. Perhaps Andrew remembered the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus didn’t make wine out of nothing at Cana; He made it from something – the water presented to Him. Andrew understood that it’s the disciple’s job to provide the basic something which Jesus in His love would then transform, like water into wine; or that He could multiply, like bread and fish to feed a hungry crowd. Expectant faith does not make us fold our hands, do nothing, and simply look to heaven. Rather it encourages us to make our best contribution – our own five loaves and two fish – knowing that without it there would be no miracle. You see, a miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us and through us, and in turn us working with God.
A skeptic looks at the feeding of 5,000 and says, “That probably didn’t really happen.” But the person of faith looks and says, “5,000 people is that all? Jesus has been miraculously feeding millions, even billions of people through his Body and Blood at Mass for over 2,000 years.” Have you ever stopped to realize that you and I are part of the greatest miracle of multiplication that has ever happened, each and every time we worship? Jesus spoke those words once, 2,000 years ago, “This is my body. This is my blood,” and the Eucharist continues to be multiplied in our presence since then. At every Mass we simply offer Jesus simple bread and wine to work with, and for more than 2,000 years He continually transforms that into His true Body and Blood; His real and abiding presence in our midst.
So, we should believe in miracles, not only because we have faith, but also because we have eyes that see this miracle at every Mass, hands that touch and hold and receive this miracle, and bodies that consume that miraculous bread-become-Body over and over again.
God needs us to do our part and whatever we do, He will multiply, He will transform – often with miraculous results. If we truly believe that Jesus did heal, cast out demons, raise people from the dead, institute the Eucharist, rise from the dead – if we believe these things, just imagine what God can do in our lives if we’re open to Him.
So what have you got to offer Jesus today? He will take anything. He will take our simple prayers and transform them into glory; He will take our simple loves and multiply them into a kinder and more compassionate world; He will even take our sins and transform them into holiness of life. Whatever we bring – no matter how simple, how meager – Jesus will transform in to grace and goodness; joy and peace; happiness and holiness. But, we have to do our part.
Jesus often said, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” Let us pray today and everyday to have the expectant faith of Andrew, to be open to what God wants to do in our lives. Let us today and always bring our meager offering to the Lord with the certainty that He can change it, multiply it, transform it into a miracle. Through our faith, truly miraculous things will happen. Do you believe in miracles?
May the Lord give you peace.
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 18, 2021:
Finish this sentence with me, “One small step for man…” Right, “…one giant leap for mankind.” I was reminded of that famous line as I was reading an article about the first moon landing this week. Tuesday marks the 52nd anniversary of that historic moon landing, which happened on July 20, 1969. I don’t really have a personal memory of the event, as I was 10 months old at the time, but we’ve all seen that famous footage of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of his lander onto the surface of the moon. Maybe you do recall that moment vividly.
One of the more surprising stories of that day, though, is one that is not so widely known, but it is one that speaks deeply of faith. Neil Armstrong, of course, gets all the credit as the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, and speak his famous first words, but the other astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, also did something that was spectacular and profound, as a man of faith.
He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement to the listening world, “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, prayed. This is his description of the moment, “In the radio blackout, I opened little plastic packages that I had brought which contained some bread and wine. I poured the wine into a chalice my church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture where Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ Then, I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the elements of holy communion.”
It is amazing to think that among the first words spoken on another world were the words of Jesus Christ, the same One who made the Earth and the moon. It was a humble and holy act of remembrance. “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said. In the peacefulness of the Sea of Tranquility, Buzz Aldrin had traveled all the way to the moon and remembered The One who made it possible.
This image of the moon landing is a helpful one as we reflect on our Gospel today. Jesus invited His apostles to “come away…to a deserted place and rest awhile.” Now, you cannot find a more deserted place than the surface of the moon, in the quiet place known as the Sea of Tranquility. And of course, the middle of July is a time of year when many of us seek out our own “Sea of Tranquility,” our own quiet place where we try to unwind. It’s summertime which means vacation time. I returned a few weeks ago from my vacation at the beach, which for me is an annual tradition and one of my favorite quiet places.
Summertime and vacation time is an important time to renew our bodies, rest from our work, engage in different, relaxing pursuits. But, we also need to make the time to renew our souls, our spirits, and our faith. This year perhaps more than usual we carry the stress of this pandemic in our bodies, we carry the anxiety of this time in our hearts and minds. We need time to decompress, relax, enjoy – and renew. During my vacation, my favorite times are at sunrise and sunset at the beach. There is something so beautiful and spiritual about those moments; something that connects me deeply to God in creation. It renews me and renews my soul.
Buzz Aldrin travelled all the way to the moon, and his first act was to find that quiet time to be renewed by God. Like him, we too need to find that time to allow God’s abiding presence to renew our souls in the ways that only He can do.
Every Mass, every moment of prayer, is a chance to “go away with Jesus and rest awhile.” Right here in this church is that chance to leave the world behind and exist in the midst of holiness and let God speak to our hearts. Nothing offers us more refreshment and renewal than the time we spend with God immersed in prayer.
My friends, the job of being a faithful Christian isn’t all work. It’s also rest and prayer; renewal and refreshment. It is seeking out a quiet place to find peace we need in our lives. In the chaos of daily life, each of us needs to return to Christ, and to find a deserted place to rest, a sea of our own tranquility for prayer with our God.
As we recall what transpired on the moon more than 50 years ago, let us remember that the deepest and most tranquil sea is one we often take for granted. It is the ocean of God’s love available to us every time we pray. So let us meet God in that tranquil place and let Him renew us one small step at a time.
May the Lord give you peace.
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