Worthy of Jesus, Fifteenth Monday (II), July 14, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha
July 14, 2014
Is 1:10-17, Ps 50, Mt 10:34-11:1

To listen to an audio recording of the homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Yesterday we pondered Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, Seed and Soil. Jesus stressed that he wished us all to receive his words and work of salvation and sanctification on good soil, embracing it with faith and understanding, allowing that seed to go and cooperating with God in bringing about abundant fruit. That’s a very helpful starting point to examine the word that Jesus wants to inseminate in the good soil of our heart today, to understand God’s frustration expressed through Isaiah, to grasp Jesus’ challenges in the Gospel, and to appreciate the beauty of the American saint we celebrate today, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
  • In the first reading, we get the beginning of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, whose vocation story we heard on Saturday. Isaiah calls the Israelites “princes of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah,” pointing out that they are behaving toward God and others in the immoral way the inhabitants of those infamous towns sought to harm rather than welcome God’s angels. Through Isaiah God was indicating that the Israelites were only going through the motions of being faithful, that they were not receiving his word on good soil but rather were hypocritically violating the very word they supposedly were praying. God told them that it didn’t matter to him how many rams, calves, lambs and goats were sacrificed, how much incense was burned, how many assemblies and octaves were called, how often they spread out their hands in supposed prayer. The reason is because their hands were full of blood, their lives full of misdeeds. He insisted, “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” These are parts of God’s perennial message that he had given them through Moses that they were ignoring, because they had received it on hardened or rocky soil.
  • God continued the same call to conversion and to the bearing of fruits consistent with walking in God’s ways in the Responsorial Psalm. He asked, ““Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?” He says he will show his saving power to the “upright,” not to those who think all God wants are burnt offerings of animals while they refuse discipline, ignore his words, and live unjustly toward God and neighbor. They weren’t bearing fruit from the seeds he had planted but wild grapes.
  • In the Gospel, Jesus made clear to the apostles that he wants them to act on the words of God. He had reiterated that the most important commandment of all is to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength and had begun to reveal to them little by little that he not only was sent by God but was God’s own son. He wanted them to bear fruit from that mega-seed that had been planted. He wanted them to put God first. That’s why he said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” He’s not telling them not to love family members, just not to love them as much as they love God, because they don’t love him with all they have if they’re placing family members first. Many receive this command of the Lord on rocky or thorny soil and eventually their love of God wanes because familial loves begin to trump. Many resist God’s being placed first. That’s why he says at the beginning of today’s Gospel that one of the consequences of their placing him first will be divided families.”“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” This is not because Jesus wants division, but he knows that it’s inevitable. Sin divides and that’s what will divide a family, when people want to prevent their loved ones from loving God first and most.
  • Jesus is the grain of wheat who fell to the ground and died but in dying bore eternal fruit (Jn 12:24) and he wants us to bear the same fruit. That’s why he adds, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” If we are truly loving Jesus as God, then we will follow him. We will account our spiritual life with him even more valuable than our physical life and will sacrifice our physical life for that spiritual life rather than sacrifice the spiritual and eternal for the physical and mortal. One of the real litmus tests as to whether we’ve received the Gospel on good soil is whether we are really placing God first, above all the other goods on earth, above all our other loves, above even our own life. That’s a sign that our spiritual life is not being choked by the thorns of worldly cares and anxieties, the lure of pleasure and money and material things about which we talked yesterday.
  • We need to be frank and say that Jesus is calling us to a high standard of life and commitment in response to his love. It’s certainly challenging, perhaps even crucifying, to relativize everything else in life to the love of God. But it is doable and it is beautiful. We see that in the saint whom the Church celebrates today, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the native American from Auriesville, New York who was canonized by Pope Benedict two years ago. She was a Mohawk orphaned at a young age when smallpox decimated her village claiming the life of her parents and brother. She was raised by her uncle, the chief of the Turtle tribe, and two aunts, who were fiercely resistant to Christianity. They sought to prevent her contact with the “black robes” (the Jesuit missionaries) and marry her off at a young age, but she had already been moved by a desire to give herself totally to God as a Christian. She sought instruction and baptism against the will of her uncle. Even though familial and tribal loyalties are incredibly strong among the native Americans, after her baptism at the age of 19, she needed to flee to Kahnawake, just south of Montreal, in order to love the Lord with all her mind, heart, soul and strength. She dedicated herself to a life of prayer and mortification, adoring Jesus kneeling in the snow outside the Church before it would be opened early each morning and staying there until the last Mass was celebrated at night, sleeping on a bed of thorns in reparation for the sins of her tribe and for their conversion, caring for the sick and elderly. What gave her strength to love like this was the love of the Lord for her, shown especially in the Eucharist. She was a person who didn’t offer worthless holocausts and put the words of God behind her. She was one who learned to do good and did it, who heard the pleas of orphaned children and widows and cared for them, who loved discipline, who offered a sacrifice of praise, who loved God more than family members, who took up her cross, who lost her life in Jesus and joined him in eternity at the age of 24, just five years after her conversion. She was worthy of Jesus. She bore fruit that continues to last into eternity. She walked in the right way and now she sees the salvation of God, from where she intercedes for us that we may follow her on that same path and experience that same salvation and joy.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
IS 1:10-17

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs and goats
I find no pleasure.When you come in to visit me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies,
octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands,
I close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 50:8-9, 16BC-17, 21 AND 23

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think you that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Gospel
MT 10:34-11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.