Wednesday, August 09, 2017

HOMILY for August 6, 2017: 17th Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle A

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Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle A
9:00 and 11:00 St. Mary Magdalen
August 6, 2017 
The “Beloved”? All of Us!
 (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

The Message: Beloved

The message today is clearly about Jesus himself.

But, of course, this focus also leads to us.  There is a message for us about (1) Who we are and (2) How we are to live.

Jesus: Beloved

The Gospel passage says that Jesus is “transfigured.”  

The word means that he himself doesn’t change, but his appearance to others changes.  Peter, James and John see him differently from how they have ever before seen him.

Now, these three disciples are probably aware of the description of “The Ancient One” – that’s the expression used in the Book of Daniel, our first reading.  Daniel has this vision of “The Ancient One” – God the Father.

He sees light and brightness surrounding the Father and testifies that, “His clothing was bright as snow, and his hair white as light.”

In a similar way, the disciples see Jesus’ “face shining like the sun and his clothes as white as light.”  So, for this reason the 3 disciples made the connection with “the Ancient One.”

They now know for sure that Jesus has a unique relationship with God.  They are, in fact, ready to say that he is one with God. And perhaps even that in some way he is God. 

And then a voice from a cloud nails it down for the disciples.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  “This is my beloved Son.” 

The disciples hear words that confirm what they are seeing.  This man whom they have been following, Jesus, is the Son of God.     

Christians: The Beloved

One of our Catholic theologians takes these words spoken from the cloud a step further.

He says that God is saying the same words to us.  “You are my beloved daughter.  You are my beloved son.”

God is saying these words to each of us who is connected with Jesus through baptism. 

I would hold that these powerful words — “God’s unconditional love for us” — form the foundation of our self-worth and give us a basis for our self-esteem.

So, maybe each day it would be good to prayerfully imagine God saying these words to us.  They give us a footing for the day – to live out of that sense of self-worth.

Maybe we can especially hear God saying these words when we feel down, when we feel failure, when we feel left out and when we feel put down by others.  If we let ourselves hear these words in those moments, we can continue to live out of our inherent worth as persons.

This will help us not to give up on life and not to strike back at others.  We will know intuitively that we are okay and worthy no matter what is going on.

All: The Beloved

Now there is one more message here about Jesus and about us.

The passage says that Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus.  

Moses is the giver of the Law and Jesus says that he, Jesus, comes to fulfill the Law.  The Law says that we are not to kill and now Jesus says that we are not to act with destructive anger in any way.

Elijah is the last great prophet and Jesus says that he, himself, also comes to fulfill the prophets. 

The prophets say to care for the poor and the stranger and now Jesus says that when we care for these persons, we are actually caring for him.

So Jesus fulfills what Moses and Elijah say.  He respects them and accepts what they say and takes it further.

He doesn’t bash or trash them as a way to assert himself and his teaching. The message here is that we also are not to bash and trash.

We are not to shame and humiliate others.  We are not to do this in a one-on-one relationship or in front of others. 

We don’t have to do that to feel worthwhile and good about ourselves because our self-worth, remember, comes from God.  We are God’s beloved sons and daughters.

We don’t this to others because they also are God’s sons and daughters.  We need to recall, and recall, often those words from the cloud today.


Quite a passage of Scripture this morning!

A great statement about Jesus and who he is.  And a great statement about who we are and how we are to live!

HOMILY for July 30, 2017: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

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17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
St. Mary Magdalen 9:00 and 11:00
July 30, 2017 
Standards for the Kingdom of God
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

King Midas

In the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware region, there are some auto repair shops called Midas Auto Repairs.

I guess they are pretty good places to get repairs on your car, but what interests me this morning is the name Midas.  That was the name of a king in Greek mythology with a very interesting legend.

The story goes that one day a stranger visits Midas and finds the king in his treasure room.  Surprisingly, Midas is sad that his wealth is so limited. 

The visitor asks him, “King Midas, what would you like?”  And Midas replies, “I wish that everything I touch would turn to gold.”

The next morning, the king awakens and discovers that his wish has been granted.  At first, he is elated, but almost immediately, there are problems.

His bed has turned to gold and now it isn’t very comfortable.  His glasses turn to gold and now he cannot see through them.

His biscuits and coffee turn to gold and now he cannot eat or drink.  Quickly Midas realizes that his wish was a big mistake and that he cannot live on gold alone.

King Solomon

Well, this legend from Greek mythology is a helpful way to appreciate today’s Scripture passages.

In the first reading, King Solomon, like King Midas a very rich king, has the opportunity to ask God for whatever he wants.  But, instead of asking that everything he touches turn to gold, Solomon asks for wisdom.

Yes, he wants to lead his people wisely.  This wish of Solomon’s can help us understand Jesus’ point in today’s two parables.

Both parables are about individuals who sell everything they own to have enough money to buy that one thing that they really want.  Jesus explains that the field with the treasure and the pearl both symbolize the Kingdom of Heaven.

This expression – the Kingdom of Heaven – means the presence of God within us or our having a close relationship with God.  Jesus’ point is that we should make this our number one priority.

Three Standards

If we look at King Solomon, we can see three standards for knowing if we are really seeking the kingdom of heaven.

First, notice that Solomon’s request for wisdom is not only for himself, but also for the good of others. 

So, by way of application, we might ask does my desire for say, a promotion at work include my hope to provide better for our family?  Does my desire to become a physical therapist express my interest in helping others to feel and live better lives?

Second, notice that Solomon’s request for wisdom is really about developing gifts he already has, that gifts of ruling, fundraising, and building.

So, we might ask whether our passion for achieving some goal like getting on the soccer team or for playing the piano in the school chorale really express the good use of our God-given gifts?  Or is our drive to get change careers, move into a bigger home or get into a certain university really respond to what we sense God is calling us to do?

Third, notice that Solomon’s request for wisdom has more to do with who he is, not what he has or owns.

So, while we may have our eyes on a new SUV or taking a fancier vacation, are we clear that those things aren’t really what will make me happy or have happy relationships? 

Or as successful as we are in the world of financial management, are we really, at a deeper level working at becoming more patient, thoughtful, truthful, fair and compassionate?


The bottom line today is: Am I seeking the kingdom of heaven?

With all the goals we have and with all the energy we expend to achieve them, where does being closer to God fit in? That’s the issue before us today.

And the readings, especially in the person of Solomon, give us three standards for evaluating how well and where God fits into our efforts.

1.    Are the things that we want not just for ourselves, but in some way also for the good of others?
2.    Are our passions, drives, and activities about developing the gifts God has already given us?

3.    And finally, are we more invested in who we are as a person, not what we have?