Fr. Kelly

Our Sunday Journal is a brief reflection on the scripture readings of the day by Father Kelly, a senior priest in the Diocese of Saginaw.

Receive an email Would you like to sign up to receive our Sunday Journal?
Click here.

Fr. Kelly is interested in your response to the Gospel or his reflection. He invites your comment on his journal entries.
Click here for the response form.

A A A

32 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 12:38-44
November 11, 2018

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year. The week after next is the Feast of Christ the King, and then we begin the cycle of salvation all over again with the Season of Advent.

One might consider the Sunday Readings of these final weeks as a “survival guide.” In truth, the entire Gospel is rightly considered a “survival guide.” That was the primary purpose of Jesus’s mission and ministry. The Father sent The Son into this sinful and dangerous world so that humanity might see and learn how we can survive our journey through darkness and arrive safely home to Eternal Light. Jesus, Himself, explained that He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Those who follow His ways and live in His truth will survive and enjoy eternal life and light.

Last Sunday, you may recall that in response to a very sincere question posed by a good and faithful person, Jesus declared “The Truth.” And “The Truth” is that the first and greatest of the commandments is: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Through this week’s Readings, The Church offers us two dramatic examples of The Way to live The Law of Love. The Old Testament widow of Zarephath, and the widow that Jesus pointed out making her contribution to the Temple treasury are more than sources of inspiration. We remember them and learn from them, not because they obeyed the laws of hospitality, or tithing, but rather, because they are examples of unconditional love for, and trust in, God.

Each responded to what would seem, to most, as unreasonable demands with extravagant trust. Each is an example of the kind of self-sacrifice which can only be motivated by love. In this way, both women are like GPS…offering guidance and directions to keep us on course…so we can survive the dangerous journey through time. And when we look towards the direction they are pointing, we see Calvary far off in the distance. I wonder if the courage, trust, and love of these two women helped Jesus stay the course as He followed The Way to The Cross?

In any event, their stories are important chapters in the “survival guide.” They remind us that there are times in each of our lives when we will be faced with what appear to be unreasonable demands. When we experience these Calvary moments, if we are true to the Law of Love, and respond with total self-sacrifice, we will survive!

31 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 12:28B-34
November 4, 2018

Seventy-two hours of the last full week of October, 2018, will long be remembered as among the darkest days in American history. At least they should be.

It began on Monday, when the first of several suspicious packages that would be delivered to various prominent Americans over the next few days was discovered on the front steps of one of those targeted. The packages contained what appeared to be pipe bombs.

Wednesday, a gunman failed in efforts to break into The First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, Kentucky, home to a predominantly black Christian community. Determined to vent his hatred, he simply walked into the nearby Kroger Store and opened fire on African Americans in the middle of grocery shopping. Two men died.

Finally, on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, a gunman attacked worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven worshippers were killed and several others seriously injured.

If they had not already, the people gathered in prayer were about to pray The Shema. This is a prayer inspired by Deut. 6:2-6, also referred to by Jesus in this week’s Gospel (Mark 12:28). The name for this prayer is the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen,” the first word of the passage. The Shema is a declaration or profession of faith in the One True and Living God. It is a centerpiece of Jewish liturgy, comparable to The Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer.

The observant Jew sees the recitation of The Shema as a daily obligation. The Shema is prayed morning and night…and is kept close at all times; always on the mind, in the heart, and on the lips.

We tend to think of prayer as a way for us to talk to God. But Jesus doesn’t call The Shema a prayer. The Lord identifies this passage from the Old Testament as “The First,” in other words, the greatest, of all the commandments. And then, He takes a further step and stretches this “Law of Love” to include all humanity.

As this infamous final week of October 2018 came to a close, federal and state prosecutors were busy framing charges against those accused, who survived the violence they caused. We hear words like hate crime, domestic terrorism, obstruction of religious freedom, in addition to murder and manslaughter. The death penalty is being sought. Spiritually…if they can’t find it within themselves to seek forgiveness, the perpetrators of these crimes are already sentenced to death. These unthinkable acts of violence are indefensible violations of God’s commandment to live in love. The only hope for reprieve is conversion and contrition.

While few respond to the feelings of hatred with such ferocity, even fewer can honestly say that they have survived 72 consecutive hours without violating The First…the greatest of all commandments. Moreover, even fewer can honestly say that they have perfectly observed “The Second”…in spite of the fact that there is no other greater commandment than these!

LISTEN! HEAR!

This is a commandment…an obligation from God! LIVE IN LOVE! If everyone in the world were to obey these commandants for just 72 hours…think of how this world would be!

30 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 10:46-52
October 28, 2018

Where does it hurt?

That’s a question that Moms ask toddlers with a high degree of frequency. Am I right, Moms?

Towards the end of our lives, EMS responders, doctors, nurses, caregivers, and concerned loved ones react to the moans and groans of the elderly by asking the very same question…Where does it hurt?

During the “in between” years of our lives, when we feel the need to seek medical attention for whatever reason, the process of healing begins with the same question. Maybe not framed in the same simple way…but still, the patient initiates the healing process by explaining where it hurts. Even when the injury or condition is open and obvious, the person seeking relief needs to identify the source of pain.

We see that very same interaction between blind Bartimaeus and Jesus the healer. Although The Lord didn’t ask the simple question: Where does it hurt? and while it must have been clear to everyone what the man’s disability was, still, Jesus gave the man the opportunity to explain where it hurts.

On the surface, this passage presents itself as a straightforward healing, but there are elements all along the way that suggest that there is more at play here than eyesight. For example, why would the crowd try to quiet him and block his efforts to heal?

Once recognized by Jesus, he threw off his cloak and sprang forward. Could this detail be Mark’s way of telling us that, in spite of The Lord’s summons, the crowd was still trying to restrain him…hold him back from being healed? If so, they failed.

Jesus asked Bartimaeus the question that triggers relief: Where does it hurt? The man was obviously blind, but, still, Jesus asked that all important question. Of course, he replied: Master, I want to see! The Lord’s reaction is another little detail that alerts us that something even more miraculous was at work here, beyond giving vision to a blind man. Jesus attributes the healing to strength of faith. Could this possibly mean that the healing involved more than 20/20 vision? Could it mean that, because of his faith, the man was given spiritual insight to follow Jesus? Because he did. That’s how the drama ends…with Bartimaeus following Jesus.

I wonder if we might apply this miracle story in our own spiritual lives? For example, every Sunday morning when we get out of bed and join our sisters and brothers to share in Eucharist, in a way, we are ignoring the voices of the crowd. In order to worship, we ignore the kids begging to sleep in…the invitations to brunch…the Sunday morning news program that is too interesting to miss…even the weather. We shrug off another cup of coffee or the lure of our recliner and spring up and “go to Mass.”

Think about the first thing we do after the ritual greeting. Gathered together in prayer, even before honoring God with the Gloria, we enjoy the Penitential Rite. When you think about it, isn’t that a way for the Lord to say to each of us: Where does it hurt?

It seems to me that if we answer that question honestly and with sincerity of heart, we trigger the healing process that comes through the rest of the Eucharist. Isn’t the Penitential Rite our opportunity to tap into the healing power of Jesus Christ by telling the Lord exactly what we need?

And if we do that…speak truth…and tell God where it hurts…maybe we can expect to hear the words Jesus spoke to the blind beggar: Your faith has saved you!

29 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 10:35-45
October 21, 2018

Talangka’ is the name of a variety of “shore crab” found in the Philippines. Plentiful, they are an inexpensive food source for many families. Purchased live in the markets, they are stored in large, uncovered baskets. In spite of the fact that the crabs use their pincers and legs to crawl up the sides of the baskets in an effort to escape, no cover or lid for the container is needed. The crabs are each other’s jailers. Just as one crab reaches the top, the one behind latches on to it, and pulls it back in an effort to make its own escape. One crab in a basket would successfully win its freedom. Add a second crab and neither will escape because they will continually drag each other down.

What appears to be instinctual behavior on the part of these little creatures, reminded Filipinos of a certain pattern of very intentional and negative human interaction. So, when out of envy or ambition, one individual or group of individuals tries to advance their own interests or ambitions, at the expense of someone else, their behavior has come to be called: “talangka’.”

Talangka’ mentality is not confined to the Philippines. Social scientists have identified it as a universal human characteristic. Simply put, “crab mentality” is an attempt to better one’s own position at the expense of someone else.

Should an example of crab mentality be needed, check today’s news from our nation’s capital. If the “swamp were to be drained” a whole lot of crabs would be scurrying for cover. Actually, it seems that no one is immune. When you give it some thought, you will recognize this behavior in the work place, at school, in sports, in the neighborhood, within faith communities and possibly even within families. “Crab mentality” is all too common. What’s shocking, is to encounter this anti social behavior, that is so destructive to our relationships, in the Gospel and among the Apostles!

Not acceptable!

But as we hear in our Second Reading: we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been similarly tested in every way, yet without sin. Himself experiencing our imprisonment, Jesus offered His crucified Self as our means of escape. Through Jesus, God has placed The Divine Self at the very bottom of the basket. Rather than trying to escape, The Lord become humanity’s way to freedom. Planting Himself in the very center of sin and death, and fastened securely to The Cross, it appeared to the foolish that there was no way out for Jesus. In truth, The Cross is humanity’s means of escape. If this is hard to understand, don’t panic. It even took awhile for the Apostles to grasp.

James and John were ambitious. They were climbing to the top. When the ten heard this they became indignant. The others stood ready to latch on and drag the two back into place with a variety of arguments. Jesus did it with the sobering reminder that to be in relationship with Him, one must unselfishly embrace The Cross.

By dragging each other down, we all remain imprisoned. It is by embracing The Cross that we can all be set free. Christ has set us free!

28 Sunday in Ordinary Time
MK 10:17-30
October14, 2018

I have never heard a homily, or, for that matter, preached a sermon on this Sunday’s Gospel that I’ve been completely comfortable with. I feel uneasy about the rush to judge the “rich young man.” Sure, he walked away crestfallen. And then there is Jesus’s reaction to consider. The Lord’s teaching about wealth and worldly possessions barring entry into The Kingdom definitely seem inspired by, if not directed at, the young man. But there are so many questions left unanswered. We don’t even know the name of this guy who is such a provocative figure in The New Testament.

For one thing, I would like to know how he acquired his money. Was this inherited wealth or did he prosper through hard and honest work? We tend to place greater value on and guard those things we have earned through our own efforts.

I am also curious as to how he used his wealth. Was he totally and completely self-involved? Did he use his money to gratify appetites that are self-destructive or even lethal? We see so much among the rich and famous these days. Was it like that back then? Or, could he have been a philanthropist who was mindful of social justice issues?

It would also be interesting to know how he happened to become acquainted with and attracted to Jesus. Was he simply looking to hook his wagon to a rising star? Did he understand that Jesus was the Messiah? More importantly, did he know that the Messiah was destined to suffer and die and that His disciples were expected to pick up their own crosses and follow?

This young man certainly provokes many questions that we should ask ourselves.

A good starting point is the fact that we are heirs to the Kingdom of God because The Messiah did suffer and die for us. Do we fully appreciate, value, and protect this great gift of salvation? Or do we take it for granted, failing to show our appreciation by joining in the hard work of building The Kingdom of God?

How do we use the wealth of blessings gifted from God to each of us? Are we focused only on ourselves and satisfying our own perceived needs and unquenchable desires? Do we lack a sense of social justice and concern for those in need?

Just why is it that we pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ? Moreover, do we fully comprehend that discipleship, at its very core, involves embracing our own personal crosses, even while helping others to carry theirs?

This nameless young man’s encounter with Jesus provokes a litany of questions and an examination of our conscience. Will we walk away from this Gospel sad and crestfallen?

Sunday Journal Archive