Bottom line: Following God's plan not only leads to eternal life. It provides the basis for an abundant life here on earth.
We've had a good summer together. I have to admit I had fun doing the series on gratitude and a number of you told me you appreciated it. I am especially grateful for all who worked to celebrate my 50 years of priesthood. It was not so much a personal event because a priest belongs to the people - not just to the parish but also the broader community.
The next two weeks I will be in Oregon with my friends, Fr. Jim Coleman and Bishop Liam Cary. I'll be taking a longer break in October leading a small delegation to the Mary Bloom Center in Peru. I'm not doing this to get away from the parish but to recharge for my mission as your pastor, your spiritual father. I'm excited about our parish plans for the coming year. I describe some of those plans in the bulletin.
We can see part of our plan in this Sunday's Scripture readings. They lay out a vision for living the Christian moral life. Let's start with Jesus. Speaking about what defiles a person, Jesus says: From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
From within come evil intentions, that is, sinful inclinations that separate a person from God. On the Feast of the Assumption we talked about how we have been banished from paradise. It's a self-banishment. We have exiled ourselves by our sins. Jesus elaborates twelve sinful thoughts and deeds. In the Greek text the first six are plural, indicating sinful acts - acts of unchastity and theft for example. The last six are singular indicating inner dispositions. For example, envy. The literal Greek is "evil eye". It refers to looking with bitterness at the possessions or accomplishments of some other person.
Not only the poor, but also the rich can fall into envy. Once Peggy Noonan interviewed the CEO of a large corporation. He admitted that when he gets a financial report from another company, the first thing he does is go to the list of perks the other CEO gets - use of jets, stock options, etc. If his perks are better, he feels happy. If not, he's feels bad. We, all of us, live in a society of envy - the evil eye.
One other sin to note is blasphemy. It can be translated as slander. It includes gossip, insults and other types of abusive speech. Welcome to social media which has become the devil's playground. We can rightly call gossip blasphemy because it not only hurts other people; it hurts God.
The thing that all these sins and dispositions have in common is that they separate us from God and from each other.
St. James shows the way back: Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. This year we will focus on welcoming the word - obviously in homilies. While I am gone, I have lined up two excellent preachers - Deacon Gene and Deacon Leon. They will give the homilies when Fr. Francisco celebrates the English Masses.
We will ground ourselves in God's word in our parish programs. For example, RCIA, Generations of Faith and First Sacraments. We also have our Men's Bible Study, Women Growing in Faith - and other faith sharing group. Often our Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent de Paul serve as faith sharing groups. I could mention others.
We want to help our parents guide their children in sexual education in a way that is grounded in God's word. You'll be hearing more about that. It will be part of the work of our parish council. I will put something in the bulletin about it.
I'm looking forward to our youth program for middle and high school students. Together with our new youth minister, I will have a meeting with parents on September 20 and then with youth on September 27. We will have some fun together, but will also learn God's word.
As St. James says, if we welcome God's word it will join us back to God and thus save our souls. But you know, following God's plan not only leads to eternal life. It provides the basis for an abundant life here on earth. As our Psalm says: The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
From Archives (21st Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru