Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Saint Peter Church, Plymouth MA
  • Wisdom 7: 7-11
  • Hebrews 4: 12-13
  • Mark 10: 17-30

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”


In today’s Gospel, we learn about the rich young man, who came to meet Jesus. Now, picture this, Jesus is ready to depart on a journey; he has his Apostles and other disciples with him. He begins to leave, when up comes this young man, who, by his dress, is obviously a wealthy man. And he comes to ask a question “What must I do to earn eternal life?” Jesus is ready to go, so you can hear the impatience in his voice; he gives the standard reply any rabbi would give; he quotes from the the commandments. The young man replies with fervor that he has keep the commandments since he was young. Jesus stop short, he hears the intensity in the reply, he senses the possibilities in this young man. And he gives a reply from his heart, a personal teaching to this young man. And the young man cannot accept it! He walks away!


At that moment, I can imagine the disappointment that Jesus must have felt. You can hear it in his voice when he he tells his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the people are flabbergasted by this statement. Now keep in mind, the societal structure in Jesus’ time was much different from our own today! We have a class society made up of the wealthy, middle class, low income, poor, and destitute. In Jesus time, there was, as one scripture scholar put it, the haves and the have nots! The haves were nobles, rich landowners, merchants who catered to the rich, political leaders, and leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem. The have nots, were farmers, herdsmen, laborers, craftsmen, fishermen; who, because of Roman taxes, could barely scratch up enough money to survive! To people like these, they dreamed of being wealthy, to have wealth meant they had made it. And to have Jesus tell them that the wealthy could not enter the kingdom of God, must have blown their minds! You can hear the disbelief in their voices! If the rich cannot make it, how can we? Jesus tells them, tells us that to follow, to live the Gospel, will come with trials and persecutions; but with it also a fellowship of believers, to support each other along the way; and to eternal life at the end of the journey!


Now we are a society that is fascinated with the lives of the rich and famous, I mean, who has not watched at lest one episode of the Housewives series, or have not read at lest one society magazine, like “People,” or the tabloids. We envy the rich,we wish we could have a tenth, a fraction of their wealth. Yet, Jesus cautions us, in very strong terms, that success and wealth does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom. Remember the prime commandants, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart! And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is inviting us to cross the threshold into a new way of looking at the world, a new way of living in this world. One in which we share what we have with the poor and needy. That we look on each person that we come in contact with as a brother or a sister; a fellow traveler in this journey of life and faith, supporting and comforting each other during the hard times. And accepting each other. Standing together against a world where only money and status count, and might, whether through wealth or force of arms, makes right. If we can stand against that, then the blessings Jesus has promised will indeed be ours; and we will enter into eternal life in the age to come!

Feast of Saint Clare

Illustration by Mark Balma

Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.

From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.

Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:

O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him,
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

Saint Clare died on August 11,1253.

Feast Day of Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.

A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”

From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Once more, people of Irish descent; and those would like to be Irish, are celebrating the Feast day of St. Patrick. In this country, on this “holy” day, people would celebrate in bars and pubs, although maybe not so much during these COVID days! Individuals and families will feast corned beef and cabbage; and there will be the wearing of the green. Real, and what passes for “real” Irish music will blaring out in homes, stores and cars.

Sadly, we tend to forget what the churches are asking us to remember today, the story of a man of faith. As a young man living in ancient Britain, Patrick was kidnap by Irish raiders; taken to wild Ireland and sold as a slave. He would later escape, returning to his homeland. But he felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary. He would study and was ordained a priest; he was later consecrated a bishop, and sent to Ireland to establish the Christian faith there. He would be successful in his efforts. A Celtic style of Christianity would soon developed, which disappeared for awhile, but is experiencing a rebirth. Eventually, it would be Irish monks, coming over into Europe, that would lead to a rebirth of Christianity in Europe itself, as it recovered from the Dark Ages.

The following is part of a prayer, attributed to Saint Patrick, it speaks to his deep spirituality; Saint Patricks Breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.

“Blessed be God, in his angels and in His saints!”

2021 AD begins!

The first day of 2021 is almost over! Outside our apartment window, I can hear rain falling. A storm is sweeping over us! It has been a quiet day, dinner was leftovers from an earlier meal. I have been sending “Happy New Year” to relatives and friends over Messenger and Facebook! Now I am wondering what the year 2021 has to bring.

The pandemic is still roaring across the country! I have been fortunate to be able to work at home, earning an income and maintaining my health benefits. But after all this time working my computer, on a folding card table, it is getting old! I miss coworkers, a change of scenery. And I am sure my wife would love to get my workstation out of her living room!

My ministry as a Deacon has sort of become more internal. I do get to assist at Mass once a month and am able to preach. But the parish congregations are sparse, social distancing and mask wearing are mandatory. Virtual meetings and prayer gatherings are becoming the new normal. Yes, I am a Zoomer!

As year 2020 comes to close, and year 2021 is just getting started, things do not look that great! Besides the already mentioned pandemic, there are other issues affecting the nation and the world at large. In this country, we have just been through a largely divisive elections season. And the the results are still being challenged by factions among our politicians. The question of U.S. democracy surviving has been raised.

Within our Catholic Church, there are signs of cracks in the Bark of St. Peter! Persons who claim to be loyal to the Papacy, are questioning the legitimacy of the current Pope! The Church is still struggling to justly react to child sexual abuse. And the Church has to deal with issues of women’s role within it’s structure; the role of the laity in Church governance. And among all other issues, are the questions about how we are to be Church in the world.

And sadly, the discussion about the above matters, both secular and religious, has been quite divisive (to put it mildly)! The internet, the World Wide Web, blogs, Facebook, Tweeter; gives everyone an unfettered platform to argue, sometimes violently.

We have forgotten that we are called by Jesus to love one another, even those we call our enemies! We need to return some sort of civility to the discussions. There may never be a total accommodation, but at least we can part, recognizing that while we may disagree, we are still part of the same community!

This blog has been silent for a long time. I cannot say I will always be able to overcome this writer’s block, but I will try! I will try to be civil and respectful in my writing. Let’s see what 2021 brings! Blessings!!

Good Pope John

October 11th – Feast of St. Pope John XXIII

“All powerful and ever living God, you called St. John XXIII to guide your people by his word and example. With him, we pray to you; watch over the pastors of your Church, with the people entrusted to their care, and lead them to salvation.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen!

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer, Common of Pastors.

Crack in the Wall of Vatican Secrecy!

It is very rare for any information to come out on what happened during a Conclave that elects the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It appears, however, that Gerard O’Connell, Vatican Correspondent for the Jesuit magazine, America has found such a crack in the wall of silence. The information he gathered is now contained in a book he has written “The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History.” It being published by Orbis Books, and I hear it will be in the stores in late April , 2019. An excerpt from the book was posted, March 22, 2019, on the America magazine website.

In the excerpt, Mr. O’Connell describes what took place in the Sistine Chapel during the first ballot of the Conclave, the preparations for it, how the ballots were marked, the ceremony involved in casting a vote, the counting of the ballots, and the disposal of the ballots, describing the elaborate system of creating the right smoke from the burning ballots in the stove, so that the crowd in St. Peter’s Square would know if a new Pope had been elected or not. There was a surprise for the cardinals when the results were announced; of the 115 cardinals present in the Conclave, at least 23 of them received at least one vote. Keep in mind, a two-thirds majority of cardinals voting was required for election. Reading the vote tallies, reported by Mr. O’Connell, one name stood out for me; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, an American, who came in fourth, with 10 votes!

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP

It was not too much of a surprise to see that voting result. In the days leading up to the Conclave, the Italian press took notice of a Cardinal, who most of the time in Rome wore the brown robe of a Franciscan Friar. The American news media began to pick up the story. And soon Cardinal Sean was considered one of the papabile, the first American in my memory. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, 74, is a member of Franciscan Order of Capuchin. Ordained to the priesthood in 1970, he studied at the Catholic University of America, and graduated with a MA in religious education, and a Ph.d in Spanish and Portuguese literature. After some years as an university professor, he began ministering to the Latinos living in Washington D.C. He would eventually be appointed episcopal vicar for the Hispanic, Portuguese, and Haitian communities in the Washington, D.C. archdiocese. In 1985, he became Bishop of St. Thomas, V.I. In 1992, he was installed as the Bishop of Fall River, MA. It was there that he addressed the sexual abuse by clergy scandal, that was coming to light in the Diocese. He would be sent to the Diocese of Palm Beach, FL.,in 2002, to address again a clergy sexual abuse scandal coming to light. He would be at Palm Beach for only a year, when he was sent to the Archdiocese of Boston, MA. The Archdiocese had been rocked by reports in the Boston Globe, of clergy sexual abuse, and cover up by Church officials. The Archdiocese was also going through an, in my opinion, ill considered process of consolidating parishes, that caused additional trauma to parishioners.

Since his appointment in 2003, Cardinal Sean, again, in my opinion, has been a key person, pushing the Catholic hierarchy acknowledge the facts of clergy sexual abuse, and caring for the victims of that abuse. He was appointed by Pope Francis to an advisory council of Cardinals, called to come up with recommendations to reform the bureaucracy of the Vatican. He chaired a commission of clergy and laity, including survivors, to examine how the Vatican has failed to respond to the crisis, put forward corrections. When both Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis visited the United States, Cardinal O’Malley arranged to have them both meet with American clergy sexual abuse survivors. Now, word has been leaking out that there is tension between Cardinal O’Malley and Pope Francis over the slow pace of reforms being implemented. Some Vatican observers felt is was significant that the Cardinal did not play any significant role in the planning of the meeting of heads of the national conferences of bishops to discuss the issue of clergy sexual abuse in the world wide Church. That said, he did address the gathering about the issue.

With Pope Francis seeming to still be in good health, it is way too early to discuss a future Conclave, but, aww heck, let’s go for it. Now Cardinal O’Malley is 74 years old, chances are good he will be one of the electors in the next Conclave. Question is will he once again be considered one of the top papabile. Conventional wisdom is that it will be unlikely, the Cardinals of the Southern Hemisphere and Asia would never support the election of an American Pope. Still, conventional wisdom went out the window with the election of Pope Francis! The Holy Spirit always wins out!

Second Sunday of Lent – A Short Reflection

“Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.

Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27

We have experienced many tragedies in our world, in our country, in our community, and in our Church. Our world has been shaken by the massacre of innocent Muslims in New Zealand. Our country continues to experience natural disasters. Communities in my home State have witnessed shocking violent crimes. And the Church still struggles with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

And we speak out, where is God in all this? We seek the Lord to come to our aid; to give us comfort. The truth is that he is always with us. He is present in ones who give us help and comfort. He speaks through those who speak up for the poor and forgotten. And we feel his Presence, when we are still, and listen for his voice.

Pope Francis in Arabia

There is an opinion out there that President Trump, and his statements and actions, have been sucking the media oxygen from other newsworthy stories that are in the world. Case in point, the fact that Pope Francis is visiting the United Arab Emirates, the first Catholic Pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

Pope Francis

Conventional wisdom is that he is making this visit to promote cordial relations between the two largest international faith communities in the world. Speculation has it, that in trying to establish friendlier relations with Arab leaders, the Pope is trying to improve the lot of minority Christian communities that exist in the majority Muslim nations. John Allen, Jr. of Crux Now, has some good analysis of this trip.

It can be said that Pope Francis is walking in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Francis lived during the time of the Crusades, when Muslim armies had occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land; and Christian kings, knights, and common soldiers were marching to reconquer them. Much blood had been spilled during battles and massacres. And the slaughter showed no sign of ending.

Onto this stage of hatred and killing, came this barefoot Italian holy man, dressed in a patched brown robe, with only a few companions. He traveled to Egypt and went first to the Crusader camp. It is written that Francis was horrified at the conditions he found. Soldiers who were suppose to be on a holy quest, were boasting of the Arabs they had killed, of the wealth they had plundered, and the women they had abused. He saw the sick and the wounded, and supposedly work in what they called hospitals, to care for them. He became more determined to end this war, by going, unarmed, into the Muslim camp, convince them to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and negotiate a peace with the Crusaders. Anyone of the Crusaders who may have heard this plan would have thought that Francis was either suicidal, mad, or both. They fully expected to see his head on a pike soon.

In what could only be considered a miracle, Francis found himself before the Sultan, who could not figure out who he had before him. Francis did not threaten God’s wrath, but instead he spoke of God’s love. He proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of a loving God, in whom all people were one. Francis showed respect to the Sultan, and a desire to stop the slaughter on both sides. Ultimately, Francis failed to convert the Sultan, but he did win his respect. As a token of that respect, the Sultan gave an ivory horn to Francis, which is said to be on display in the Basilica dedicated to him in Assisi. Francis is also said to have received a pass that allowed him to visit the Holy Land. What the Crusaders could not win by force of arms, Francis achieved by only loving the Sultan and his people.

Pope Francis is now on the Arabian Peninsula, hoping that by showing respect and love in the same way, he will be able to win peace in the region, and tolerance for his flock. Through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, may God make it so.