Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily

22nd Sunday of Year A

September 3, 2003

September 3, 2003

Greatest Extremophile of All Time

My God, I could have bought back two more people with this ring.

Mary Lou Retton Losing to Win

Begin w/ Anecdote

YouTube player

Greatest Extremophile
of All Time

Probably, you’ve never met these creatures called extremophiles. This is because they are extremely small microorganisms which live in environments where the Fahrenheit temperature ranges either from 170 to 215 degrees (water boils at 212 °F), or down to several degrees below freezing point — or in acidic media. One such extremophile is Pyrococcus furiosusPyro is only one of many microorganisms attracting the attention of scientists today. Biotechnologists are learning a lot from such microorganisms living way out there, in dangerous places like hot springs, polar ice caps, salty lakes and acidic fields. They live in conditions that would kill humans and most plants and animals. Extremophile microbes are also busy industrialists, reports The Futurist magazine, because they produce enzymes that are enormously useful in the food, chemical, pharmaceutical, waste treatment and other industries. Suppose you need an enzyme to replace bleaching by Chlorine …. (Cynthia G. Wagner, “Biotech Goes to Extremes,” The Futurist, October 1998).

Today’s reading points us to the Greatest Extremophile of all time. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus reveals himself to be an “extremophile,” showing his disciples that he “must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21).

Begin w/ Anecdote

YouTube player

My God, I could have bought back two more people
with this ring.”

There is a powerful scene in the movie Schindler’s List. In the beginning of the story, a Czech businessman named Oskar Schindler builds a factory in occupied Poland using Jewish labor because, in those tragic days at the start of World War II, Jewish labor was cheap. As the war progresses, however, and he learns what is happening to the Jews under Adolph Hitler, Schindler’s motivations switch from profit to sympathy. He uses his factory as a refuge for Jews to protect them from the Nazis. As a result of his efforts, more than 1,100 Jews were saved from death in the gas chambers. You would think that Oskar Schindler would have felt quite pleased with himself, but at the end of the war Schindler stands in the midst of some of the Jews he has saved, breaks down in tears, takes off his gold ring and says, “My God, I could have bought back two more people [with this ring]. These shoes? One more person. My coat? Two more people. These cufflinks? Three more people.” There he stands, not gloating but weeping with regret that he has not done more.  

I wonder if one day you and I, as followers of Christ, will ask ourselves, “Could I have done more? Have I truly borne the cross of Christ?” That is the first question on today’s test: Is our Faith sacrificial? Is it costing us something?

Begin w/ Anecdote

YouTube player

Mary Lou Retton Losing to Win

In the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton became the first American girl to win a gold medal in gymnastics. To accomplish this extraordinary feat, she had to make sacrifices during her two years of intensive training prior to the Olympics. While other teenagers were enjoying themselves with a full schedule of dating and dancing, Mary Lou Retton could only participate on a very limited basis. To improve her skills, she had to practice long hours in the gym; to nourish her body properly she had to follow a strict diet and practice long hours, and to increase her confidence she had to compete frequently in meets. — But what Mary Lou Retton gave up in terms of good times and junk food was little compared to what she gained when she won her Olympic gold medal. What she lost in the usual social life of a teenager she found in the special setting of becoming a champion gymnast – acceptance, camaraderie, and respect. 

Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic experience illustrates somewhat Christ’s paradox in today’s Scripture: “Whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Source: Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho

Fr. Tony's Homily

Fr. Tony’s

22nd Sunday of Year A

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website. These homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

True, Dynamic Christian Discipleship

The readings for this Sunday remind us that Christians are called to live their lives in a different way from others around them. Christian discipleship demands honesty, the willingness to suffer (“take up your cross”), generosity (“to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God”), and readiness to follow Jesus by obeying his commandment of love. Today’s readings explain how this Christian mission should be accomplished. They explain how we should know and live the will of God, accepting the suffering involved in doing so. These readings tell us as well that while suffering is an integral part of our earthly life, it is also our road to glory. There is no crown without a cross.

1st ReadingIs 22:19-23

Jeremiah, in the first reading, is a certainly a prototype of the suffering Christ. He tried to live the will of God bravely facing confrontations and persecution, and he continued to proclaim His message  because  the message itself “becomes like a fire, burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” 

CONTINUE READING - 1st Reading Comments

The first reading: Jer 20:7-9 explained:  The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C. to about 580 B.C. Most of his work was done in Judah’s capital, Jerusalem. Jeremiah was sent by God, “to tear up and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow” (Jer 1:10). He tried to keep this people, who lived in an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing, faithful to God. Jeremiah was regarded as a traitor by his own people because, as God’s mouthpiece, he had to foretell the dire results that would follow from their plan of revolt against the mighty power of Babylon. So, he became depressed andcomplained bitterly to God. The English word jeremiad means an elaborate and prolonged lamentation or tale of woe. Today’s first reading is the purest of jeremiads. In it, Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of tricking him and offers us a powerful description of someone suffering for obedience to his conscience. 

The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

2nd ReadingRom 11:33-36

In the second reading, Paul advises the Romans and us (Rom 12:1-2): to ‘’offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God by explicitly rejecting the ungodly behavior of the world around us and by discerning and doing the will of God. He learned from his experience that commitment to God’s will required an attitude of non-conformity to one’s contemporary culture and drew hostility and physical danger on him because of his fidelity to Jesus.

CONTINUE READING - 2nd Reading Comments

Second reading (Rom 12:1-2) explained: In the second reading, Paul advises the Roman Christians that they must live their Christian lives in such a way that they differ both from the Jews and from the pagans. St. Paul calls them to adopt an attitude of sacrifice in their worship of God.  In order to do this, they must explicitly reject the behavior of the world around them. Paul tells them, and us (Rom 12:1-2): “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” to God.  Paul then explains that the sacrifices that should be offered are not the animals or grain of Jewish Temple worship, but their bodies “as a living sacrifice … spiritual worship.”   In this way, by non-conformity to their own age, they should differ from the Jews and the pagans, which would cost them suffering and sometimes their very lives, as we, in our turn, must do. Like Paul’s Christians, we, too, must “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect,”– and then do it!

The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

Gospel – Mt 16:13-20

In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples by surprise when, after Peter’s great confession of Faith, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” After correcting Peter’s protest, Jesus announces the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Unless we constantly remind ourselves of the demands of this difficult vocation from God, we will fail to be the kind of disciples that Christ expects us to be. 

CONTINUE READING - Gospel Comments

Gospel exegesis“Get behind me, Satan!” After Peter had confessed his Faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, explained to the apostles what the Messianic Mission and their responsive discipleship really meant. Jesus realized that, although he had predicted his suffering and death three times, his disciples were still thinking in terms of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. That is why Peter could not bear the idea of a suffering Messiah. It was then that Jesus rebuked him so sternly,“Get behind me, Satan,” in an attempt to nullify what was, in fact, a  temptation of the evil one urging Him to shrink from doing  the work for which He had come. It was the same kind of rebuke He had delivered to Satan in the wilderness. 

Origen suggests that Jesus was saying to Peter: “Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It’s your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go.”  Satan is banished from the presence of Christ, and Peter is recalled to become, again, Christ’s follower. “

This foundation-stone-become-stumbling-stone stands as a cautionary tale for all of us who are called to serve with authority in the Church, a reality that surely extends to parents with respect to their children and teachers with respect to students.” (Fr. Reginald Fuller).  

The Good News is that, by the grace of God, rehabilitation is not only possible but likely, if we pray.  Like Peter, the Church is often tempted to judge the success or failure of her ministry by the world’s standards. But Jesus teaches that worldly success is not always the Christian way. That is why Jesus decided that the time had come for him to confront the forces of the scribes and the Pharisees at the seat of their power, Jerusalem, realizing fully well what the agonizing consequences would be.  

Three conditions of Christian discipleship: After correcting Peter for trying to divert him from what would be his way of the cross in Jerusalem,   Jesus declares three conditions for anyone who would become and live as his disciples: a) deny yourself b) take up your cross and c) follow me.

A) Self-denial means evicting selfish thoughts, desires, and tendencies from our hearts and letting God fill our hearts with Himself. It also means being cleansed of all evil habits, enthroning God in in our hearts, and sharing Him with others.

B) Carrying the cross with Jesus always entails pain and suffering. Our personal sufferings become the cross of Jesus when:  1) we suffer by serving others selflessly; 2) we give ourselves — our health, wealth, time and talents – to others until it hurts us; 3)  we join our physical, mental or emotional sufferings to Jesus’ and offer them with him to the Father in reparation for our sins and those of the world; and we work with the Spirit Who is purifying us through our personal sufferings or penitential practices.

C) Following Jesus means that, as disciples of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God by obeying Jesus’ commandment of love. To follow someone who has asked us to “take up our cross” daily seems foolish.  But in the words of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “to be a fool for Christ is the greatest compliment the world can give. You and I are in good company, because most of the saints embraced the Cross of Christ and were considered fools for doing so.”  The Catechism teaches, “The way of perfection,” that is, the path leading to holiness, “passes by way of the Cross” (CCC #2015).  “There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (CCC #2015). “Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (CCC #2015). 

Losing life, finding life: Matthew was writing for the Christian community in the bitterest days of persecution – AD 80-90. Hence, he emphasizes Jesus’ teaching that a man who is faithful may die for his Faith in Jesus, but in dying he will live. The man who risks everything for Christ finds life.  On the other hand, the man who abandons his Faith for safety or security may live, but he is actually dying. History is full of noble souls who risked their lives for the sake of others. If certain scientists had not been prepared to take risks, many a medical cure would not exist.  If mothers were not prepared to take risks, no child would ever be born. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that there are constant opportunities for us to choose to be true to the Gospel.  But the world is essentially opposed to the Gospel and those who live out its truths.   Archbishop Desmond Tutu was questioned once as to whether or not he was a politician.  He answered, “No, I am not. I am a Church person who believes that religion does not deal just with a certain compartment of life. Religion has relevance for the whole of life, and we have to say whether a particular policy is consistent with the policy of Jesus Christ or not, and if you want to say that that is political, then I will be a politician in those terms….My role, the role of people of Faith, is to be able to say: ‘Thus saith the Lord.'”

The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000. It may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

Life Message


22nd Sunday of Year A

We need to be extremophiles for Christ

True disciples of Christ are: 

a) truly compassionatethey are willing to visit the infected and the sick in hospitals, the incontinent elderly, the handicapped, and those who suffer dementia in nursing homes, and AIDS patients in hospices;

b) truly humble: they are able to see that every good gift comes from God alone, and that His gifts to us of time, personal talents, and resources should inspire gratitude, not pride;

c) truly patientthey are committed to working with challenging children, adolescents with problems, young adults who are struggling with their Faith, with the intellectually challenged, and with those suffering dementia;

d) truly forgivingthey are willing to forgive, not just once or twice but again and again, because they know that God has forgiven them again and again;

e) truly loving: they willingly visit people in prisons, in retirement homes, and  in homeless shelters;

f) truly faithfulthey are living out a committed, trusting relationship with God, with spouse, with family and friends.

We need to ask these questions as we examine our conscience

A true disciple examines his or her conscience every day asking three questions about discipleship:

a) Did I sacrifice a part of my time, talents, and income for my parish and the missionary activities of the Church?

b) Did I practice self-control over my thoughts, words, deeds, and use of mass media, and put loving restriction on the cell phone and Internet activities of my children?

c) Did I train my children in my Faith in a loving, providing, redeeming God by encouraging them as we spend some time together as a family praying and reading the Bible  and by teaching them through example and word to pardon each other, to ask for God’s pardon for  our own sins and failures, to thank God for His blessings and to participate in the Sunday school classes and youth programs? 

We need to ask additional questions

Does my Church offer a Faith strong enough to command a sacrifice on my part? Do I have enough Faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ’s sake? Can a Church in today’s self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the Gospel? Jesus’ challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than a “feel-good” spirituality. A true disciple asks, “Am I willing to sacrifice something for the Kingdom?”  What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr’s death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing Faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? How can I offer even the day-to-day sacrifices of my Faith that demand things I don’t want to do or give?  Can I sacrifice some of my time in order to visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can I sacrifice my job security and refuse to “go along” with a policy that is unjust? Can I sacrifice my need to be in control and let Christ do with me whatever he may will? Can I refuse to let my children watch television programs filled with sex and violence?


Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily