"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

July 30, 2021

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 25, 2021 – St. John’s, Goshen
The other day I sent a priest-friend a note that the second reading today is “providential,” meaning that St. Paul’s exhortation to unity is more than ever needed in our Catholic Church these days. The controversy these days over the restrictions Pope Francis has placed on the celebration of the old Latin Mass is only one among many others on which Catholics have disagreed since the Second Vatican Council. These disagreements, as you certainly can see from the Internet websites, sometimes become passionate, even angry, even ugly, with dismissive adjectives. Sometimes they are over internal Church matters; sometimes they’re over matters in our everyday world, like political issues; sometimes they’re over the intersection between Church and world. Sadly it often seems that positions on all such matters become more important than what Catholics hold in common.

Other letters of St. Paul, as well as other NT writings, reveal that in the early Church there were divisions, some of them as crucial and as passionate as the ones we see in our Church today. So we shouldn’t idealize the early Church as if it were some sort of golden age. Those early writings also reveal, however, how the apostles tried to deal with division, and we have a beautiful example of that in our second reading. It is worth going over somewhat slowly.
St. Paul begins with a general exhortation: “Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,” he says. He is setting out the criterion, the standard, by which to decide how they are to live their lives. That criterion is set by what God has done for them: they have received a “call”, or putting it the other way around, God has called them, called them into a new relationship with him–all those blessings we have heard described in the last few Sundays–peace and reconciliation with God, the overcoming of enmity between Jews and Gentiles, a new relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. This is God’s gift in Christ, and Paul wants the Ephesians to “live in a manner worthy of the call they have received.” The initiative is with God and his grace: their responsibility was to live up to the gift already given.

What such a life must be is then described: “with all humility and gentleness and patience.” Humility, gentleness, and patience: three virtues that are not self-assertive, but the contrary: humility–not putting ourselves above others; gentleness–not acting harshly toward others; patience–putting up with others, tolerating them, “bearing with one another through love.” And the three virtues are for the sake of preserving “the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” There does not seem to have been a single issue that was threatening that “unity of spirit”, but St. Paul was sure that there could be moments when it would be in danger.

And that is why he sets out the grounds of that unity. Listen to them again: “one body and one Spirit, one hope; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” These are the things that made that group of men and women a community: it wasn’t their race or their ethnic background; it wasn’t their economic condition; it wasn’t their political status–then, as now, there could be great differences among them in all these respects. But something brought them together, despite all such differences, across such differences, something made this group of people more than a hap-hazard group such as the people who might find themselves in the same subway car or on the same elevator. These many people, despite all such differences, were a community, a unity on the level of meaning and value, because they believed the same things about themselves, about the world, about God and because they wished to try to live lives in accord with what they believed.

They were, then, one body enlivened by one Spirit and with one hope; they had one Lord, Christ, who had reconciled them to the Father; through one baptism, they enjoyed a new life in the one Spirit; they aspired to the one goal of salvation; they had the one and same God whom they could call their one Father. They had all these things in common, and in virtue of all these blessings, they were a community which Paul did not hesitate to call the Body of Christ. St. Paul wanted them to live lives worthy of such blessings.

Let’s go back to those three virtues: humility, gentleness, patience. Let’s not assume that we are always correct but learn to listen and learn from others; let’s speak gently, respectfully; let’s be patient, tolerant, toward those with whom we disagree. If we had more of these virtues, if we focused more on what we have in common than on what divides us, if we recognized that others have been as blessed as we, with the same blessings–then we would have, we would be, a Church worthy of the God who has been so generous to us, to us all.

March 30, 2021

Homily for Bernard Lonergan’s 70th Birthday

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: — komonchak @ 4:22 pm

I do not remember how it happened that I was asked to preach at the Mass celebrating the seventieth birthday of Fr. Bernard Lonergan, S. J. It was held at Regis College, Toronto, on January 4, 1975, and there were all manner of Jesuits and of other students of Fr. Lonergan more worthy to take on the task, first among them, perhaps, Fr. Frederick Crowe, S. J., faithful companion and disciple. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I have no memory of how I was invited, and I don’t believe I have any correspondence about it. Obviously, Fr. Lonergan must have either thought of me or agreed to the suggestion of me, for which I am now grateful and awed because in 1975 I was barely started on a theological career and still teaching at Dunwoodie. In any case, here is the homily I gave:


April 9, 2020

Triduum Homilies – 1972-1977

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 11:40 am

These are Holy Week homilies delivered while I was on the faculty at Dunwoodie and serving as chaplain to the Ursulines at the College of New Rochelle:

Triduum homilies – 1972-1977

September 8, 2019

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Five homilies, with essentially the same theme…

Sunday 23 – 1992

Sunday 23 – 1995

Sunday 23 – 2001

Sunday 23 – 2007

Sunday 23 – 2010

August 31, 2019

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 3 homilies

Sunday 22 – 1992

Sunday 22 – 2004

Sunday 22 – 2007

August 26, 2018

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 11:08 am

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 26, 2018 – St. John’s

For five Sundays now we have been engaged in a slow meditative reading of the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, whose entire theme is Christ as the Bread of Life. Jesus presents himself as that bread first of all through his words, through his teaching, and this bread is consumed when people who bring hungry hearts and minds receive it in faith. Last week we heard him speak of himself as life-giving bread in a second sense, through his presence in the eucharist when we eat his flesh and drink his blood under the sacramental signs. We will have noticed that the structure of the Mass, our weekly celebration, follows the structure of Jesus’ words, as we first listen to him through the Scriptures and in the homily and respond with the words of our faith and as from this altar table we then receive him in the eucharist.

Today we near the end of this Gospel chapter and hear that some of those who heard Jesus, even some who had been his disciples, did not believe him or the remarkable claims he was making. As they began to drift away, he asked his closest disciples whether they, too, wished to leave, and, speaking for them all, Peter makes the powerful confession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. We have come to believe and now know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It is impossible to read or hear this exchange without relating it to the scandal many Catholics are experiencing today and which has led some of them to leave the Church and others of them to reflect on and to explain to others, and perhaps even to themselves, why they are staying. (more…)

July 30, 2018

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , — komonchak @ 3:10 pm

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 29, 2018 – St. John’s

Our second reading today, taken from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, sets out a description of what makes the Church the Church. Paul is addressing the Ephesians as a group, but not any hap-hazard group such as the people who might happen to find themselves in the same bus or train or airplane. He addresses them as a community, and the first thing he mentions that makes them a community is that they have all been called: “Walk worthy of the call you have received.” Each of them has been called, yes, but as he will say in a few lines, they were called into a single hope.

But there are other constituents of their common life, their community: they have one spirit, which makes them one body; they have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. No other group of human beings at the time would have been brought together around those principles of unity. This was something new in the religious and cultural world of the time. And it is true still today: no other group of human beings gathers around these principles of unity.

It is only after he reminds them that each has been given a gift to use, that St. Paul goes on to say that there are various ministries given in order to help all the members in their work at building up the Body of Christ that is the Church. But his first emphasis is on what all Christians have in common, and it is to serve that community of faith, hope and love under the one God that the ministries of some exist. Some are singled out for the care of all.

It is because some of those so singled out have not served the Church but have betrayed it that we Catholics are once again suffering so painfully. It is painful for me as a priest to see still more horrors being disclosed again, and I can imagine how much more painful it must be for the parishioners of this parish in particular to be reminded of a frightful past. And now the scandal involves a man at the highest levels of the hierarchy being identified as a serial abuser and removed from office, with a hundred questions arising as to how he could have risen so far even after his behavior was widely known and even brought to the attention of authorities in Rome. I am afraid that we have not seen the end but perhaps only the beginning of disturbing new revelations. I can tell you that the anger among priests is almost palpable, and to judge from my readings of many different Catholic websites in the last few weeks, the anger is just as great among the laity.

That is why I wanted to begin this homily where today’s excerpt from St. Paul’s Epistle begins: with the basic gifts and blessings received in common that make us the Church, that bring us together this morning as a Church, the things that are prior to and far more basic and far more central than the hierarchy: the common calling, the common grace, the common faith, the common hope, and all this under the one God who is Father of all, in the one Lord, possessing the one Spirit. These are what really make the Church the Church, that make us–you and me, here and now, this morning–that make us the Church, and we need to remember them, to treasure them, to cling to them, to make them the primary reality that defines our identity as Catholics, that anchors our own individual spiritual lives.

I don’t think any of you would be here in this church this early morning if that were not already true of you. But it is good to be reminded of it, so that we don’t take blessings for granted and don’t confuse the non-essential with the essential, the peripheral with the central. And let us join in prayer that God would heal his Church of these new wounds and lead those in authority to do all that they can to prevent these outrages from ever happening again.

July 22, 2018

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 4:52 pm

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 22, 2018 – St. John’s, Goshen

I could not read today’s first reading without thinking of how applicable it is to the scandals that have racked the Catholic Church for the last several decades, which savagely wounded this parish in particular, scandals one wanted to think were past and gone but which have surfaced again in the last weeks as affecting men in very high positions in the Church. “Woe to the shepherds,” Jeremiah begins his indictment, “woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture…. You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them.”

It was the lack of care for their people on the part of bishops that most angered people, both in and outside the Church (more…)

January 13, 2018

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 3:02 pm


As we begin a new calendar year, as we begin our walk through the ordinary Sundays of the liturgical year, the Church asks us to begin at the beginning. Last week we celebrated the baptism of Jesus, his empowerment by the Spirit for his messianic ministry. Today we are still there, near the Jordan, with John the Baptist’s testimony: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” And we hear of the calling of the first disciples. The whole public story of Jesus Christ is beginning.

But there is another beginning also stressed in today’s readings, the beginning of faith in the hearts of the disciples. (more…)

October 29, 2017

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 3:16 pm

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 29, 2017 – St. John’s, Goshen

Some things never change. To illustrate the second of the great commandments stated by Christ in today’s Gospel, we heard an extract from the Book of Exodus. The events described in this, the second book of the Bible, date from around thirteen centuries before Christ and were first handed down in oral traditions which began to be written down and combined into a narrative some centuries later. The section from which our reading was taken is known to scholars as “the Book of the Covenant,” because it sets down prescriptions that embody Israel’s responsibility in the covenant, or pact, that God struck with her at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It may have become part of the book long after the Israelites entered the Promised Land, that is, around six centuries before Christ. In other words, we have listened to moral prescriptions, commandments, that are at least 2,500 years old, and were written for a land far away and a culture far different.

But, as I said, some things never change. It is not possible to hear those words without thinking about circumstances and challenges of our own time and place. Let’s look at the text closely, and allow me to illumine the prescriptions by citing a commentary on the Book of Exodus [by Martin Noth], published in Germany 75 years ago, that describes them as “aiming to protect those who are underprivileged in law, work and society (personae miserabiles)”.

And so we have, first: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” (more…)

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