13th S. 2021: Courage to Approach

Today’s homily is for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 27, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here

Today’s Gospel juxtaposes the disciples’ lack of faith last week during the storm with two people who are commended for their great faith–the woman with the hemorrhage, and the man whose daughter was sick. As was said in the Aleluia, “Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.” 

From the book of Wisdom we heard a foundational truth, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living…God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” This is God’s plan: unity, love, wholeness, and life! Brokenness, sin, sickness, sadness, and death are not of God, but are of the evil one; of Satan and of those who follow him. But life and light, and love and truth, are of God and are the distinguishing characteristics of his disciples. 

Both the woman with the hemorrhage, and Jarius’ daughter were at the very edge of existence. Not in the center lane living in the fullness of life, but on the edge–like those who tragically, live along the train tracks, the freeways, under bridges, and along the margins we still see today, no doubt both by their own doing, but also due to a variety of circumstances beyond their control; they live along the edge. 

For twelve years the woman had been suffering, and bleeding, and had spent all she had. Pitifully, she dragged herself along the ground just to touch the tassel of our Lord. She had hit rock bottom. No money. No family. And her hemorrhaging made her ritually unclean, unfit for the community. What faith, to know that when everyone and everything else had failed–our Lord would not. That’s beautiful. 

It’s no coincidence that Jarius’ daughter was also twelve years old, alive only for as long as the woman had suffered. Certainly she had means–her father being a synagogue official–yet both of their futures were bound up in Jesus. The little girl was in her room and near death as well. Both of these lives were separated from family, friends, and the community, but our Lord brings them back…because of their faith. That’s what he does.

My brothers and sisters, we too need to call upon the name of the Lord, and in our brokenness and sinfulness, reach out in faith to touch his tassel in the sacrament of reconciliation. But we also need to call upon the angels and saints, and ask for their prayers that we might be strengthened and experience the fullness of life for which God has destined us. 

I think it’s important to point out that the woman was healed because of her faith, and Jarius’ daughter was healed because of his faith. This Gospel is a wonderful example of what protestant Christians teach about the importance of knowing Jesus and personally calling upon him for mercy and healing. They are right and it’s powerful. But it’s also a wonderful example of the power of intercessory prayer! On the strength of Jarius’ faith, and on his intercession for his daughter’s sake, she is healed. Both women return to life, return to family, return to the community, and share in the goodness of the Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus. 

And finally, we need to be intercessors for others as well. The saints of the Church did not start caring about bodies and souls only when they entered heaven, but were concerned about them, and, like our Lord, reached out to them along the highways and byways during their lifetime–and so should we. We are called to share our Lord’s concern for the homeless and the helpless, the addicted, and those who have hit rock bottom. First and foremost, we must pray for others, our sons and daughters, and the helpless, hungry, and homeless. Pray for their healing and their conversion. But also look into ways that organizations are supporting them in their temporal needs. Organizations like Food for the Poor, Unbound, The Wheel Chair Foundation, The Men’s Shelter, the Gospel Mission, and many others, who are in the trenches of bringing life, dignity and hope, to the broken, the addicted, and those on the margins of society. Join me in prayer for these organizations and their good work, but also in supporting their economic needs. St. Paul’s letter to Corinth is for us, “your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.” What do you have yet still to offer to others in need?

Today’s Gospel challenges us and all to be the woman who reaches out to our Lord, but to also be Jarius, and go to Jesus so that others might find life, find joy, and return to the table of dignity, of hope, and resurrection.

12th S. 2021: Wild Ride

Today’s homily is for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 20, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here

A very happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there reading this blog! What a wonderful gift and responsibility. 

How old do you think a child should be before taking him or her on the Giant Dipper roller coaster, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk? My wife’s family has gone to Santa Cruz for a weekend trip every year since before she was born, and the tradition continues to the very day. We are looking forward to the trip next month. I went first as a boyfriend, then as a husband, and now as a father. It’s a wonderful trip, and we enjoy the beach, the games, the rides, and being with one another…oh, and Pizza My Heart. My sons enjoyed the pizza, and the beach, and the games…but at what age do they get to enjoy the rides…not the kiddie rides, but the roller coaster? I remember when Luke was just tall enough to go on the Giant Dipper, California’s oldest roller coaster. 2024 marks its 100th anniversary!

As we made our ascent, Luke was screaming, “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!” He was hysterical, but it made my wife and I laugh out loud. He was so afraid, but we were perfectly calm. We’d been on it a hundred times. We knew the track. We knew the end. We were not afraid. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples were filled with fear! They were terrified! And while they were stressed out and afraid, our Lord was at the stern of the boat sleeping soundly. Waves were crashing, the disciples were afraid, and Jesus was sleeping like a baby. Why? 

As the 1st reading taught us, God made the land, and made the sea. He had not only been on it a hundred times, he was its very creator! The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said, “Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” 

God made the sea, and the wind, and even the storm. “We’re in the midst of a storm?” Jesus says, “You think I’m worried? Please.” Jesus isn’t worried because he knows how it goes. He knows the ride. He’s like my wife and I on the Big Dipper! We weren’t worried. But so many times in our life we are like the disciples, and like my son, Luke, on the Big Dipper. We get stressed out. We’re on a wild ride. We see only what is right in front of our face and we are terrified. But our Lord is calm in the midst of our storm, waiting only for us to call upon us–even with little faith. 

I think the important lesson for us in today’s Gospel is to first recognize that with or without Jesus, we should expect storms in our life. Some of us are going through them even now–a bad health report, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, difficulties with our family, or a number of other storms that come up in this life. The Lord is with us, but just because we think it’s a huge issue, does not necessarily mean it is! In fact, I can’t count the number of times I thought it was the end of the world, but it wasn’t…not yet.

All the same, when we find ourselves in a storm, like the disciples, we should go to our Lord, wake him up and scream in his face! That’s called prayer–specifically it’s called lament. Let Him know how we feel. Let him know we’re afraid. And ask him how in the world he could be asleep when we are going through so much!! 

He will probably chastise us for our lack of faith, that’s true, but he will also calm the storm. Going to our Lord will always bring us to a place of greater peace. Being a person of prayer who leans on and cries out to the Lord will not only strengthen our relationship with Him, but also open our eyes to see how He works in our life and in the world. Jesus cares about our struggles, our pain, and our suffering, but he also knows that it’s just a storm, and if we cling to him, we will spend eternity with him forever, no matter where the ride takes us. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for the Lord is at my side.

11th S. 2021: Every Place God Is King

Today’s homily is for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 13, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here

Today we reflect for a moment on the Kingdom of God. What exactly is the Kingdom of God, anyway? Jesus taught us to pray for the coming of the kingdom when he taught what we call the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” St. Cyprian of Carthage said the kingdom of God is Christ Jesus himself, “whom we day by day desire to come,” and “because in Him we shall all reign.” The Catechism, in paragraphs 541, we read, “The Father’s will is ‘to raise up men and women to share in his own divine life.’ He does this by gathering men and women around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, ‘on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom.’”

Jesus never tells his disciples what it is exactly, but he starts his public ministry by announcing, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in this good news.” (MK 1:14) He tells them it is at hand, and in parables what it is like, challenging them to reflect a little bit…don’t be afraid to reflect a little bit. Our Lord says it’s like a man who scatters some seed, then day after day it grows until the harvest. That’s pretty amazing, and anyone who has ever planted from seeds knows the joy of seeing that first delicate blade appear out of the dirt after putting a seed into the ground. 

And Jesus invites us to consider further that maybe the seed was a mustard seed, once planted, although one of the smallest seeds on the earth, it grows to become one of the largest plants, with branches so large that birds of the air find rest and shade. Joy, growth, rest and shade. When I was teaching religion at Sacred Heart we were studying the Kingdom of God and I asked my students what they thought it was. Many answers were given, and then, presented as the most obvious truth, a student said, “Mr. Valgos, the kingdom of God is every place that God is King.” That’s it. God bless the child that sees the truth so clearly. The Kingdom of God is every place that God is king. 

It is God’s Word, Jesus Christ, which is planted in the rich soil of our heart where it begins to grow. But not just in my heart, but in ours. And we are bound together by the Holy Spirit that creates the Church–those who have been called out of darkness into God’s glorious light. In my favorite Marvel movie, Thor Ragnarok, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins says of their city, Asgard, he says, “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.” Asgard is wherever my people stand. The Kingdom of God is not a place, it’s a people, it is the Church, gathered together around the table of the Eucharist and looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness, when our Lord returns. 

And so how are we that kingdom, then? As the Gospel says, like that blade of green that rises up out of the dirt, we too rise up and bring life and joy everywhere we go. As we continue to participate in the sacraments of faith, remain united to each other, pray, fast, give alms, and work for justice, and as we gather for Eucharist to remember, and both look forward to and announce the judgement of the living and the dead, that seed that is in us individually, and communally, continues to grow. 

As Ezekiel said, this is God’s work. God plants us high on the mountain and causes us to grow. We put forth branches and bear fruit, and become the majestic cedar, beautiful and strong. Believe that God is at work in you, in us, making you beautiful and strong. Believe that as the kingdom grows in us we become sanctuaries of peace and rest for our friends at school or our coworkers who are going through a difficult time. Our faith puts forth these amazing branches where fearful and exhausted birds find peace and love…where they find God. The kingdom of God is not a place, but a people. It is a people who are filled with life and love, joy and peace. We make God present in a dark world. We bring the light and love of God, we cast out demons, fear and darkness, and bring healing and hope.

The Kingdom of God is everywhere that God is king. Make God king of your marriage and of your family. Allow God to be king of your friendships, and schools and workplaces. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.