Truthful Prophetic Mercy, 18th Monday (II), August 1, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop, Founder and Doctor of the Church
August 1, 2016
Jer 28:1-17, Ps 119, Mt 14:13-21


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  • Throughout this Jubilee of Mercy, we’ve been focusing on how Jesus’ mission is to help us to become “merciful like the Father” by helping us to receive God’s mercy in such a way that we’re so thoroughly changed by it that we allow his mercy to overflow through us, together with our own compassion, toward others. We see in today’s Gospel how Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity for the crowd,” or, a better translation of the Greek verb splagchnizomai, he was sick to his stomach when he saw the needs of the crowd. Today he responded by healing and feeding, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, the verb splagchnizomai likewise introduces three other actions: forgiving, teaching and asking us to pray for laborers and calling those praying to be those laborers to grow in mercy by sharing God’s gut-churning mercy for others in these five ways.
  • Today we’ll ponder the way the Lord extends his compassion toward us through feeding us by teaching and how he wishes to involve us in that work. In the miracle, which he could have worked ex nihilo, he began with what the disciples could scrounge up, five loaves and two fish. He wanted to involve them in his miracle of mercy. That’s part of his plan from the beginning, as we will see in the life of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, especially through sacred preaching and through the work of bringing people to conversion and extended to the converted the gift of the mercy of the Lord.
  • In today’s first reading, we see a false mercy. The “prophet” Hananiah was just telling people what they wanted to hear, rather than preaching to them what the Lord revealed. He told them that the Babylonian captivity that had just begun — as King Nebuchadnezzar had brought away King Jehoiakim and many of the nobles — would end within a couple of years, and rather than bring them all to conversion, he made them proud and falsely confident. The message that God had given to the prophet Jeremiah was totally different, as everyone would find out.
  • There are false prophets in every age. There were in the 18th century when St. Alphonsus lived. These were ones who were either laxists not bringing people to repentance or rigorists who were not communicating to them God’s mercy and scaring them from God and his true loving nature. St. Alphonsus, in founding the Redemptorists to preach the mercy of the Redeemer in Missions seeking to bring people to conversion and holiness, indefatigably preached and heard confessions as did so many of his spiritual sons. Eventually when he was 49 and could no longer preach in person as much because of rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, and many other maladies, started to write books, and before he died 42 years later, had written 111, an extraordinary output that flowed from his zeal. His works preach still, two centuries after his beatification (in 1816). At the beginning of Mass we prayed, “O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue,” — referring not to St. Alphonsus but to us and those who have come after him — “grant that we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven.” The Lord is seeking to raise up in our own day new examples of the virtue of divine mercy that so motivated St. Alphonsus in his day.
  • Today as we come together for Mass, we are aware that Jesus has never stopped looking with mercy on the crowds and now, starting with bread wine — God’s gift of grain and grapes and the work of human hands — he makes the greatest miracle of all, the one that brings us to the source and summit of his compassion and makes us capable, in communion with Him who is Mercy incarnate, of doing this mercy in memory of him.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 JER 28:1-17

In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah,
in the fifth month of the fourth year,
the prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, from Gibeon,
said to me in the house of the LORD
in the presence of the priests and all the people:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
Within two years I will restore to this place
all the vessels of the temple of the LORD which Nebuchadnezzar,
king of Babylon, took away from this place to Babylon.
And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah,
son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah,
and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,’ says the LORD,
‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”
The prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah
in the presence of the priests and all the people assembled
in the house of the LORD, and said:
Amen! thus may the LORD do!
May he fulfill the things you have prophesied
by bringing the vessels of the house of the LORD
and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place!
But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing
and the hearing of all the people.
From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied
war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms.
But the prophet who prophesies peace
is recognized as truly sent by the LORD
only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.
Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke
from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it,
and said in the presence of all the people:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so, within two years
I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
from off the neck of all the nations.’”
At that, the prophet Jeremiah went away.Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke
from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah,
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:
Go tell Hananiah this:
Thus says the LORD:
By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
A yoke of iron I will place on the necks
of all these nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
and they shall serve him; even the beasts of the field I give him.

To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said:
Hear this, Hananiah!
The LORD has not sent you,
and you have raised false confidence in this people.
For this, says the LORD, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth;
this very year you shall die,
because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.
That same year, in the seventh month, Hananiah the prophet died.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102

R. (68b) Lord, teach me your statutes.
Remove from me the way of falsehood,
and favor me with your law.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let those turn to me who fear you
and acknowledge your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let my heart be perfect in your statutes,
that I be not put to shame.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Sinners wait to destroy me,
but I pay heed to your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Alleluia MT 4:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.