Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily

23rd Sunday of Year A

September 10, 2003

September 10, 2003

I Must Forgive

But I Have Many More Bridges to Build

Don't Allow Them to Turn You Again Into Their Prisoner

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I Must Forgive

Sister Helen Prejean, in her book Dead Man Walking, tells the real story of Lloyd LeBlanc, a Roman Catholic layman, whose son was murdered. When he arrived in the cane field with the sheriff’s deputies to identify his son David’s body, LeBlanc immediately knelt by his boy’s body and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

When he came to the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he realized the depth of the commitment he was making. “Whoever did this, I must forgive them, I resolved,” he later told Sr. Prejean. LeBlanc confessed that it had been difficult not to be overcome by the bitterness and feelings of revenge that welled up from time to time, especially on David’s birthday. 

But for the rest of his life, forgiveness was prayed for and struggled for and won. He went to the execution of the culprit Patrick Sonnier, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Before sitting in the electric chair Patrick Sonnier, the murderer said, “Mr. Le Blanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what I did,” and Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head, signaling forgiveness he had already given. 

Today’s Gospel reminds us and challenges us to continue on the path to forgiveness and reconciliation.

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But I Have Many More Bridges to Build

The following beautiful story, “The Carpenter”, circulated through the internet, gives a glimpse on how to promote mutual and forgiving love in our community. 

Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.  Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.

“I’m looking for a few days’ work”, he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?

“Yes”, said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week there was meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day – measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide; his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge! A bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all!

And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward him, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you”, said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on”, the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”(

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Don’t allow them to turn you again into their prisoner!

When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, he had a question on his mind: “When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela,” the former President said, “I woke my daughter at three o’clock in the morning. I wanted her to see this historic event.” Then President Clinton zeroed in on his question: “As you marched from the cellblock across the yard to the gate of the prison, the camera focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, and even hatred, in any man as was expressed on your face at that time. That’s not the Nelson Mandela I know today,” said Clinton. “What was that about?” Mandela answered, “I’m surprised that you saw that, and I regret that the cameras caught my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day, I thought to myself, ‘They’ve taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they’re releasing you, but there’s nothing left for you out there.’ And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, ‘Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don’t allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'” [Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000).]

You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. You see that, don’t you? There are many people who are imprisoned by their own anger, their own hurt, their own inability to let go of the past and move on. Here’s the other thing we need to see about forgiveness: THERE IS ONLY ONE PLACE YOU CAN FIND THE ABILITY TO FORGIVE. It is at the throne of Christ. 

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

Fr. Tony's Homily

Fr. Tony’s

23rd 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.


The common theme of today’s readings is the impact of our membership in the Church on our “private” lives. Being members of the Church means we belong to the single Body of Christ and form a community of brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, therefore, the “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all the others in our Faith community. That is why we have to be meaningfully present to, and take responsibility for, other people.  Inhuman behavior against defenseless people, like child-abuse, elder-abuse or spouse-abuse, is something about which we need to be really concerned, to the point of taking appropriate action to protect the victims. This individual responsibility in a Christian society includes, as today’s readings remind us, our responsibility for each other. Perhaps the most painful obligations of watchful love are fraternal correction and generosity in forgiving and forgetting injuries

1st ReadingEzekiel 33:7-9

In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a “watchman for the house of Israel,” obliged to warn Israel of moral dangers.  If Ezekiel should refrain from speaking God’s word given to convert the wicked, God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked. 

CONTINUE READING - 1st Reading Comments

The first reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9) explained: In today’s first reading, the Lord God defines the role of an Old Testament prophet. The prophet is Ezekiel who was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and brought from Jerusalem to Babylon in 597 B.C., together with King Jehoiachin of Judah (Ez 1:1-3), and most of the nobles of the country. “You, son of man,”Yahweh addresses His prophet, “I have appointed you watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear Me say anything, you shall warn them for Me.” 

Like a watchman, the prophet exists only for the good of others, in this case, those deported with him from Israel to Babylon. He is to give them God’s words, to challenge them, and to correct them from time to time, so that if they should go wrong, the responsibility would be theirs.

Here, Ezekiel gets straightforward orders from Yahweh, assigning responsibility to him and to the people, with no ifs, ands, or buts tolerated. God charges Ezekiel with the responsibility of remaining faithful to his prophetic mission, confronting the wicked with their own wickedness as the Lord God instructs him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the Church to the same responsibility for confronting the sinful. Very few people in the world today would consider themselves accountable and responsible for anything that happens in the society, but the truth is that we are. For, as Christians, we are all God’s prophets, God’s representatives, God’s watchmen, set on elevated places to give warning of approaching danger to our brothers and sisters.

The prophets of all times have a grave responsibility for their people’s salvation. None of us can retire from the task of being watchmen. As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today’s first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Gal 6:16). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see Jn 20:21-23). (Scott Hann). 

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

2nd ReadingRomans 13:8-10

In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we should have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing and correcting the sinner.  Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness. 

CONTINUE READING - 2nd Reading Comments

The second reading, (Romans 13:8-10) explained: After finishing his treatment of doctrinal questions on Christ and our relationship with him, Paul used to write an application of the doctrine to the day-to-day behavior of the congregation receiving the letter. In today’s reading, after urging the Christian converts of Rome to obey their lawful civil authorities, and after discussing the inability of the Mosaic Law to save anyone, no matter how well he may keep it, Paul adds such an application. He seems to be saying, “You still want the Law? I’ll give you the real law! Love one another. That fulfills the law.”

If God is not known and loved, there can be no basis or motive for true love of neighbor. It is only the Presence of God in each human being and the recognition of others as God’s children that can form a sound basis for the love of our neighbors.  

In short, love is the basis of the law, and we fulfill the law by loving our neighbor. Paul reminds us that love requires that we should watch out for one another’s souls, and love specifies the way our watchful care of one another should be exercised. Mutual and self-giving love is to be the motivation which guides all rescue efforts, whether physical or spiritual. 

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 teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian, not only to assist his neighbors in their temporal and spiritual needs with material help and prayer, but also to aid with correction those brothers and sisters who have damaged the community by public sin. If the erring one refuses a one-on-one, loving correction by the offended party, then the Christian is to try to involve more people: first, “one or two others,” and eventually “the Church.” Finally, Jesus mentions the efficacy of community prayer in solving such problems, for Christ is present in the praying Christian community.

CONTINUE READING - Gospel Comments

Gospel exegesis:  Today’s Gospel deals with the relationship of members of the Church to each other and highlights one of the most painful responsibilities that we have towards others, namely fraternal correction. Matthew expands a saying of Jesus, originally concerned primarily with forgiveness (compare the shorter version in Lk 17:3-4), into a four-step procedure for disciplining members in the new eschatological Community of the Church. 

In the seventeenth century, the great Anglican priest and poet John Donne reminded us, “No man is an island, entire unto himself.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples about relationships among members of the Church, because through Baptism we assume a serious responsibility for our fellow-believers. Suppose a son or daughter, friend or acquaintance, relative, neighbor, even parent or teacher, does “something wrong” to us, whether the sin is of commission or omission. By outlining a four-step process of confrontation, negotiation, adjudication and excommunication, Jesus tells us how to deal with and finally mend a broken relationship within the Christian fellowship.

 1) Confrontation:  The worst thing that we can do about a wrong done to us is to brood about it. Brooding can poison our whole mind and life, until we can think of nothing else but our sense of personal injury. We mustn’t gossip either.  Hence, the first step proposed by Jesus to the one who has been wronged is that he should go to meet the offender in person, and point out lovingly, but in all seriousness, the harm he has done.  This first stage is designed to let the two people concerned solve the issue between them. If it works out at that level, that is the ideal situation. “You have won back your brother.” Abraham Lincoln said that only he has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.

2) Negotiation:  Suppose the first step does not resolve the situation and the person refuses to admit wrongdoing and continues the bad behavior injuring both himself as well as  the one he has injured. This creates a problem, for example, among young persons, where a friend steals or shoplifts, uses drugs or drinks excessively, hangs around with a bad crowd, plans to run away, contemplates suicide or abortion, or just “goofs off” in school. Here, the second step is to take one or two other members of the Church along with the wronged person to speak to the wrongdoer and to act as confirming witnesses. The taking of the witnesses is not meant to be a way of proving to a man that he has committed an offence. It is meant to assist the process of reconciliation by emphasizing and explaining calmly the gravity of the situation. Nowadays, we call that an “intervention” and the group may also include a qualified third party – counselor, teacher, priest or physician. The Rabbis had a wise saying, “Judge not alone, for none may judge alone except God.”

3) Adjudication: If the negotiation step does not resolve the situation either, the third step is to have the whole Church or community of believers confront the wrongdoer. The case is brought to the Christian fellowship because troubles are never amicably settled by going to a civil court of law. Further, the Church provides an atmosphere of Christian prayer, Christian love and Christian fellowship in which personal relationships may be righted in the light of love and of the Gospel. Finally, in matters of honor and shame, the community is the final arbiter, for the community suffers from the wrong. 

4) Excommunication: If the offender chooses to disregard the believing community’s judgment, the consequence is “excommunication.” This means that if none of the three steps has brought a resolution of the situation, then the wrongdoer should be treated like “a Gentile or a tax collector.”  That is, the wrongdoer should be put out of the Church with the hope that temporary alienation alone may bring the erring person to repentance and change. The sinner is expelled because every obvious case of unrepented sin denies the Gospel’s power and the Church’s mission of reconciling sinners to God and to the community. But the excommunication should be carried out with genuine grief (1 Cor 5:2), not with vindictive glee over another’s “fall” or self-righteous pride. 

Many Scripture scholars think that Jesus would not have suggested this step, and that it is a personal addition by Mathew. They wonder how this type of expulsion can be squared with Jesus’ openness to sinners, including corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes, or with the story of the Prodigal Son. But let us remember that Jesus’ reception of these people depended on their change of heart and the abandonment of their sinful ways, for only these responses enabled them to be reconciled with, and able to receive and respond to the love of God and of the community.  Jesus concludes the action plan by stating that all his disciples have authority to “bind or loose,” that is, to settle conflicts and legal cases between community members. In addition, Jesus gives the assurance that when the Church community gathers in Jesus’ name, in the spirit of prayer, to hear a legal case, Jesus is there to guide and ratify the procedure. 

Four requisites for fraternal correction recommended by “Doctrinal Outlines.” Four things that can make the spiritual work of mercy of “admonishing the sinner” or fraternal correction effective rather than destructive are supernatural outlook, humility, consideration, and affection. Fraternal correction is only to be given because we are convinced God wants it for the sake of the person we are correcting and those affected by him. We pray about him and for him, asking the Holy Spirit if He wants this correction made and how it should be made. That is what a supernatural outlook enables us to do.   

Humility is necessary because we are sinners ourselves and fail in many ways. We could just as easily have the same fault, and we certainly have other imperfections. Nevertheless, God wants us to help each other. It is also necessary to be considerate, that is, to say what we have to say in the least hurtful way possible but without beating around the bush. It is so easy to humiliate another, and no one likes being corrected. Finally, the correction should be given out of love and concern. The motive for the correction is the true good of the others, not the corrector’s own benefit. That is true affection.

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, conclude their remarks on today’s Gospel thus: “The perspective of evangelical discipline remains that of forgiveness. A community is Christian in the measure in which all know and want themselves to be responsible for the good of each member. This concern about others’ salvation must be at the heart of every cell of the Church, especially the heart of the family. This is why charitable correction is a duty that, although, difficult, devolves on everyone.”

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

Fr. Tony’s Life

23rd Sunday of Year A

We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper

Modern believers tend to think that they have no right to intervene in the private lives of their fellow believers; so they pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother or sister to give up his or her sinful ways. Others evade the issue saying, “As a sinner, I don’t have the moral courage or the right to correcsomeone else.”

But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have the serious obligation to correct one who has injured us in order to help our neighbors retain their Christian Faith and practice, especially through our model Christian lives. Have we offered advice and encouragement to our friends and neighbors and co-workers when it was needed, and loving correction in private where that was possible?  

Let us admit the fact that a great part of the indifference to religion shown   by our young men and women is due to lack of parental control, training, and example. If the children of Christian families grow up as practical pagans, it is mainly because the Christian Faith has meant little or nothing to their parents.  It is a well-known fact that when parents are loyal to their Faith in their daily lives, their children will, as a rule, be loyal to it.

We need to gather in Jesus’ name and work miracles

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the good we can do together, and of how we can do it. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If any group of us will gather, work, and act with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we become much more than simply the sum of our numbers. Two becomes more than two, and three becomes more than three. The sum of our individual ideas, resources, and abilities becomes much more because of the synergy that God’s Presence provides.

In our Faith community, we act together so that we may help one another in God’s Name, thereby multiplying our resources and ability to do what God calls us to do. Today, Jesus makes it clear how important we are, one to another.

Through our links to one another in Christ, a capacity rises in our community, enabling us to draw on God’s power to make healing and life-giving love more effective among us, His people. We come together, we stay together, we work together –- in our Lord’s Name, bringing to focus the Presence of God and unleashing the power of the Spirit –- to transform our lives and the lives of all God’s children.    

When we gather in Jesus’ name, the action opens our hearts to allow Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, to be a part of us and of what we do. That is what we experience at each Eucharist—we in Him and He in us. 


Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily