everyone, this is my homily for the 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today's Mass can be
found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm
Sadly, again, I
had worked on this homily before the most recent news regarding the sexual
abuse scandal regarding the former Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick, broke Saturday (with him resigning as a Cardinal) As you'll see, this scandal still is very much on my heart and mind and is therefore a part of my preaching. Much like it was hard not to discuss 9/11 for days, weeks and months after that horrific event, this horrific scandal is weighing just as heavily. But I apologize if this homily doesn't go far enough or take into full account where we are with all of this news.
The magnitude of all of this is taking a lot of time to digest. As a priest, my first responsibility is to pray... and to pray first and foremost for all the victims. That's what's been most on my mind these last weeks - those who were not listened too, those who thought they had no voice, those who were not only abused physically, emotionally, mentally - but spiritually as well. The feelings of anger, shame, embarrassment that some in the Church that I love and have given my life to could have done such things - and been protected by others have been difficult feelings to navigate. I know that I'm also called to pray for Archbishop McCarrick and other perpetrators of these scandals. In all honesty I'm not there yet... That's going to take a lot more time for me to be able to do. My previous post on all of this seems a bit dated now and hopefully in time, I'll be able to put some newer thoughts together - but here is the link to that initial post:
What good will that do?
What’s the use?
How often have we encountered these
types of feelings, attitudes, sentiments.
You may have heard them from someone else in response to something you
were troubled by. Maybe you’ve found
yourself saying these things ...
- Someone’s going through a difficult time in
their marriage... they mention it to a family member saying “I was thinking of
looking for a marriage counselor or therapist or something” and they hear “Why
bother? ... as this person gives you a litany of reasons why you shouldn’t
There’s trouble at work or in school – I’ve definitely have had this happen
with both college students I’m ministering too as well as friends, parishioners
even fellow priests - they’re having trouble in school, they can’t register for
a class they need; they’re struggling to understand the material; or they’re
having problems with a supervisor, with a co-worker, in the environment that
they spend a great deal of their life in - and they’re given all kinds of
possible suggestions: why don’t you talk to your Professor, your Academic
Advisor, the Dean; why don’t you sit down with your boss, your supervisor, your
co-workers - “Who cares? No one cares...
nothing’s going to change...”
Most of us have heard and read and been shocked, angered, scandalized,
infuriated, depressed or whatever other words you want to describe - the
stories surrounding the alleged sexual abuse done by Archbishop McCarrick, the
former Archbishop of Newark; the stories of cover ups... and sadly, I’ve heard
from more and more people just disheartened, discouraged, disbelieving in
anything of good in the Church anymore.
I don’t claim to have an answer to those understandable feelings. The layers upon layers of violations of trust
has shook the faith of some of the most devout - where one person in an email said
they’ve stopped going to Mass anymore because they ask themselves “What good
will that do? What’s the point? What’s
know I’ve been on the receiving end of these types of sentiments before when
faced with a trial or overwhelmed with a situation. I know I’ve felt some of these things or even
given into those discouraging thought patters at times myself. It can be incredibly debilitating. Whether just short term where someone feels
they are suffering alone and no one cares - or even worse in the long term
where this mode of thinking becomes something that a person takes deeply to
heart and believes them with a certitude they reserve towards the sun rising,
taxes having to be paid and ultimately one’s demise being certain. Some seem more certain about their demise
than the sun rising. All of us on some
level I think can resonate with those attitudes or have had some type of
experience with these pessimistic feelings. Which is what came to mind
reflecting on this Gospel story.
simply read the headlines for these events from Jesus’ ministry and don’t get
into the nitty gritty of it. So we can
start to hear the story think “Oh this is the one on the multiplication of the
loaves and fishes” and kind of zone out from the details. But it’s there, in the details, that we often
find a lot more depth, a lot more truth.
think about the scene again: Here is
this large crowd coming to Jesus. Why –
because they had already heard and seen and experienced Jesus healing the sick
(that was the first line “a large crowd followed him, because they saw the
signs he was performing on the sick.”) As word spread of people being cured of
these diseases and restored to health - that not only were their physical
ailments relieved; but the personal psychological and mental anguish those
illnesses caused had been healed as well - that has caused this massive buzz to
see Jesus. But with this buzz, with this
crowd, there’s a problem - the people were hungry. Jesus looks to his closest guys - his
apostles asking what do you think we should do?
- poor St. Philip, imagine as an apostle, this is one of the few times you
enter into the Gospel narrative and what was his response recorded for all
eternity in scriptures? Words of
dismissal: - 200 days wages worth of
food would not be enough for them to have a little. St. Andrew isn’t much better as he points out-
“this kid has 5 loaves and two fish” and just as quickly squashes that by
saying “but what good are these for so many?”
What good will this do?
What’s the use?
one sense, I’m relieved knowing that these, two of the 12, two of the closest -
who had a front row seat on everything that Jesus was doing - even
they forgot, even they doubted, even they gave into pessimism from time to
is undeterred by this. And He will use even the tiniest of openings,
the smallest of cracks on those shells of cynicism around our hearts and souls
to amaze us. Think back to what he said
in another parable “if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you’d say to
this mountain move from here to there and it would... nothing would be
impossible for you.” In this Gospel
passage, He illustrates this. He takes
this nameless, generous boy (I’m assuming he was generous and that Andrew
didn’t just grab the food from the kid) and this seemingly small, selfless act
is able to feed thousands.
can’t let the wow factor of the miracle to blind us to the details though. First off to recognize that Philip and Andrew
failed Jesus here. Granted not as
horrendously as more current examples, but for me, I need that reminder that
even when those closest to Jesus (or those we think should be closest to Jesus)
fail, or scandalize, or betray Him and the people Jesus’ loves that doesn’t
stop Jesus from doing what He wants to do...
That doesn’t stop Him from caring
That doesn’t stop Him from
ministering to us.
That doesn’t stop His deepest
desire to attend to our deepest hungers.
Yes, Jesus is able to accomplish
even greater things when the apostles and their successors are faithful, are
selfless, and lay down their lives for Jesus and His flock - and it is good to
remember that we have thousands of years of examples of that - including Philip
and Andrew - who ultimately were crucified for preaching the Gospel of
as he shows here, even when any of his chosen find catastrophic ways to let him
down, nothing will stop Jesus from his mission. If they can’t do it, and He has to rely
on a kid with 5 loaves and 2 fish, then so be it.
is the other even more important point for all of us today - a truth that we
have to really fight hard to protect and maintain - and that is the precious
gift of faith. There’s an avalanche of
reasons to give into despair, to doubt, to give up. Yet, not just in this gospel story, but deep
within each of our stories as well - in the details, sometimes forgotten after
we’ve made up our own headlines - we can find instances of selfless,
sacrificial love that helped bring healing to some tragedy we were facing; we
can recall others who laid down their lives to care for us in a moment of
trial; we can remember how the gift of forgiveness was able to transform a
relationship. It’s important for us to
let those memories be a source of constant renewal – constant reminder of how
the Lord is active, is attentive, is victorious even in the face of things that
leave us shaken and if not worse.
that history that we can see that whatever it is that we’re confronted with -
that is unnerving, depressing, distressing us – and take up the challenge to
look for whatever loaves, fish, mustard seed of faith that we still have, and
make St. Andrew’s words to Jesus’- our words… as we ask Him
“what good are these?” Then in
patient hope, wait to see what it is that Jesus will be able to do with the
simple, but sincere offerings we make.