Architect’s rendering of the final plans for the new church at Saint Mary Magdalene
Baptism of Michael Rodman - Fr. Kelly, Riley & Nicole Rodman and baby Michael.
Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Family
Dec. 29th 2014 Year B
Fr. Tim Kelly
Reading 1SIR 3:2-6, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.
Reading 2COL 3:12-21
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
GospelMT 2:13-15, 19-23
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.
St. Augustine once said that Mary conceived Christ in her ear and in her womb. The culture was aural and so hearing the Word was the norm in an illiterate society.
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
Joseph rose from sleep, took the child in secret and went down to Egypt to protect the child and his mother from the murdering Herod. He went out into the darkness and left behind the possible life of a Nazareth carpenter, with wife and child, and all the comforts of that life. He goes out into darkness, but the darkness did not overcome him. He did not become a dark soul, possessed by dark thought and dark feelings. For, Matthew has introduced Joseph to us as a man of dreams, a just and righteous man who dreams dreams of God. He reminds me of the man, perhaps it was king David, who walks in the valley of the shadow of death and comes out unharmed. Matthew had to sit in darkness down there in Egypt. But though he sat in darkness, there was light in him, the light of trust in God. Just as those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light sprung up in Matthew even in the middle of dark exile and trouble. Matthew 4:16
In the Fourth Gospel, there is that striking and cold image of Judas the traitor rising from the table of the Last Supper, and going out into the darkness. His heart was just fed with the Bread of Life Himself, Jesus the Lord. But his heart was full of dark thoughts. His heart had shut out the light of grace, the heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Judas has blocked out forebearance for the opinions and personalities of those around him, making himself the judge of what God wants. He walks out into the valley of the Kidron stream, and goes about his demonic work of selling the Son of God to politicians and priests. Judas also reminds me of king David, who walks in the valley of the shadow of death in Psalm 23, and comes out unharmed.
The Son of God, in mortal danger from King Herod takes refuge in the dark kingdom of Egypt, the traditional enemy of Israel. He knew darkness in his family, he saw the grim faces of Mary and Joseph as they wondered if God had abandoned them to be permanent exiles in Dark Egypt. Jesus was a child of the light and human trouble cast dark shadows over his childhood. Even Jesus was not untouched by the power of darkness. Even 30 years later, the power of dark forces surrounded him as he was executed at Calvary. “Darkness came over the whole land from the sixth to the ninth hour.” Mark 15:23. And at the end of those three hours, he succumbed to their power, his life taken away while darkness seemed to triumph.
No family is untouched by darkness, because no family has the perfection of heaven. Family homes are sometimes chambers of tension and anger, warm hearts turned cold by forgetfulness of first love. Tragedy can strike anywhere and we are sometimes in that valley of the shadow of death.
But the evil king dies and again, the angel speaks to Joseph the just man in a dream. ““Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” God brings light into the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he send them home in safety. Light did conquer darkness and Jesus grows up in his own country.
Light does come eventually. It seems hard to believe sometimes when the nights are long and the dawn seems to have forgotten to rise. Joseph had to wait out the evil Herod and sit in Egypt with nothing but hope.
Light always triumphs in the end. But we have to have patience and we have to be people with patience and hope and trust. Many families here have things going on behind your closed doors that darken the lives of parents and children alike. That is certain, just as night inevitably gives way to darkness. But the sad moments never last and God always comes to rescue us. I am a living proof of that. So are many of you here. Joseph had to wait, before he was rescued. So did I and so did many of you here.
The great news is that God always comes. He never lets us exiles forever. Joseph gets back home and lives a happy family life. So will you if you trust Him who never forgets us.
The Top 10 Movies about the Saints
By James Martin, SJ
Rare is the saint's biographer who can avoid these words in the first few pages of the book: "His life would make a great film!" Or "Her story was like something out of a Hollywood movie!"
Some lives of the saints seem tailored for the cinema, so inherently visual are their stories. The series of brightly colored frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi, by Giotto, could be a storyboard pitch for a movie: Francis and his vision at San Damiano, Francis preaching to the birds, and so on. In his book A Brief History of the Saints, Lawrence S. Cunningham notes that there have been, since the talkies, over 30 versions of the life of St. Joan of Arc. Again, one can identify the visual elements with ease: her visions, her meeting the Dauphin, her military conquests, her martyrdom.
The lives of other saints, especially founders of religious orders, are more difficult to dramatize, since they often move from dramatic conversion to undramatic administration. It was long rumored that Antonio Banderas (the cousin of a Jesuit) was set to play St. Ignatius of Loyola on screen. But any marketable screenplay would end after the founding of the Society of Jesus. Few moviegoers would want to slog through an hour of Ignatius sitting at his desk composing the Constitutions or writing one of the 6,813 letters he wrote during his lifetime.
In our time, some saints and near-saints had a closer relationship to their film biographies. In 1997, Mother Teresa approved a script by Dominique LaPierre based on her life, which would star Geraldine Chaplin. "Bless him and his film," she said. On the other hand, when Don Ameche approached the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1949 to obtain the rights to Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, the abbot, Dom James Fox, said no. (For his part, Merton had been thinking along the lines of Gary Cooper.) After turning down the actor, Dom James asked Mr. Ameche if he had made his Easter duty that year. (He had.)
Films can be a fine introduction to the saints. And sometimes the movie versions are as good as any biography for conveying the saint's special charism. Here is a roster of the ten best films and documentaries about holy men and women, listed in order of their release.
Actress Jennifer Jones as St. Bernadette Soubirous
- The Song of Bernadette (1943). Busloads of Catholic schoolchildren were taken by enthusiastic priests, sisters and brothers to see this movie upon its release. Since then, the story of the Virgin Mary appearing to a poor girl in a backwater town in Southern France in 1858 has lost little appeal. Based on the novel by Franz Werfel, the movie is unabashedly romantic, with a luminous Jennifer Jones as St. Bernadette Soubirous and the handsome Charles Bickford as her initially doubtful but ultimately supportive pastor, Abbé Peyramale. Some find the score overripe, the dialogue saccharine and the acting hammy (Vincent Price all but devours the French scenery), but the stalwart character of Bernadette comes through. So does the shock that greeted what initially appeared to be a little girl's lie. (In reality, Bernadette's parents beat her after hearing their daughter's tale.) "The Song of Bernadette" effectively conveys Bernadette's courage in the face of detractors and her refusal to deny her experiences, despite everyone else's doubts.
- Joan of Arc (1948). Cinéastes may still sigh over "The Passion of Joan of Arc," the 1928 silent film starring Maria Falconetti and directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer, but this Technicolor sound version is unmatched for its colorful flair. At 33, Ingrid Bergman was far too old to play the 14-year-old girl, and too statuesque to portray the more diminutive visionary, but the movie makes up for those shortcomings with the intensity of Bergman's performance and the director Victor Fleming's love of sheer pageantry. Watch it also for the foppish portrayal of the Dauphin, and later, Charles VII, by José Ferrer. You can tell that he's going to be a bad king.
- A Man for All Seasons (1966). It is hard to go wrong with a screenplay by Robert Bolt (who also penned "Lawrence of Arabia" and, later, "The Mission"); Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey; Wendy Hiller as his wife, Alice; and Robert Shaw as an increasingly petulant and finally enraged Henry VIII. Here is a portrait of the discerning saint, able both to find nuance in his faith and see when nuance needs to give way to an unambiguous response to injustice. The movie may make viewers wonders whether St. Thomas More was as articulate as his portrayal in Bolt's screenplay. He was, and more, as able to toss off an epigram to a group of lords as he was to banter with his executioner before his martyrdom. Read Thomas More, by Richard Marius or The Life of Thomas More, by Peter Ackroyd, for further proof.
- Roses in December (1982). During a time when the fight for social justice and the "preferential option for the poor" is often derided as passé, this movie reminds us why so many Christians are gripped with a passion to serve the poor, as well as the lasting value of liberation theology. The bare-bones documentary is a moving testament to the witness of three sisters and a lay volunteer who were killed as a result of their work with the poor in Nicaragua in December of 1980. "Roses" focuses primarily on Jean Donovan, the Maryknoll lay missioner, chronicling her journey from an affluent childhood in Connecticut to her work with the poor in Latin America. The film's simplicity is an artful counterpoint to the simple lifestyle of its subjects and the simple beauty of their sacrifice.
- Merton: A Film Biography (1984). I'm too biased to be subjective about this short documentary about Thomas Merton, produced by Paul Wilkes, the Catholic writer. Almost 20 years ago, I happened to see this film on PBS and it started me on the road to the priesthood. Last year, I had the opportunity to watch it again and found it equally as compelling. A low-key introduction to the Trappist monk and one of the most influential American Catholics told with still photographs and interviews with those who knew Merton before and after he entered the monastery. The best part of this film is that by the end you will want to read The Seven Storey Mountain, and who knows where that will lead you?
- Thérèse (1986). This austere work is a rare example of a story about the contemplative life that finds meaningful expression on screen. Alain Cavalier, a French director, deploys a series of vignettes that leads the viewer through the life of Thérèse Martin, from her cossetted childhood until her painful death. It doesn't quail from showing how difficult life was for Thérèse in the convent at Lisieux, nor the physical pain that attended her last years. But it also shows the quiet joy that attends the contemplative life. A masterpiece of understatement, "Thérèse," in French with subtitles, reminds us that real holiness is not showy, and the Carmelite nun's "Little Way" of loving God by doing small things, is made clear to us through this gem of a movie.
- Romero (1989). One of the great strengths of this movie about the martyred archbishop of San Salvador is its depiction of a conversion. Archbishop Oscar Romero moves from a bishop willing to kowtow to the wealthy to a man converted—by the death of friends, the plight of the poor and his reappropriation of the Gospel—into a prophet for the oppressed. Raul Julia invests the archbishop of San Salvador with a fierce love for the people of his archdiocese that manifests itself in his work for social justice. The actor said that he underwent of a conversion himself while making the film, something that informs his performance. One scene, where Romero wrestles with God—half aloud, half silently—is one of the more realistic portrayals of prayer committed to film.
- Blackrobe (1991). Admittedly, Bruce Beresford's film is not about a particular saint. Nevertheless, it hews closely to the lives of several 17th-century Jesuit martyrs, including St. Jean de Brébeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, who worked among the Hurons and Iroquois in the New World. (The protagonist, who meets St. Isaac in the film, is named "Father Laforgue."). Some Catholics find this movie, based on the stark novel by Brian Moore, who also wrote the screenplay, unpleasant for its bleak portrayal of the life of the priest as well as for its implicit critique that the missionaries brought only misfortune to the Indians. But, in the end, the movie offers a man who strives to bring God to the people that he ends up loving deeply. The final depiction of the answer to the question, "Blackrobe, do you love us?" is an attempt to sum up an entire Catholic tradition of missionary work.
- St. Anthony: Miracle Worker of Padua (2003). In Italian with subtitles, this is the first feature-length film about the twelfth-century saint best known for helping you find your keys. Hoping to become a knight in his native Lisbon, Anthony is a headstrong youth who almost murders his best friend in a duel. As penance, Anthony makes a vow to become a monk. He enters the Augustinian canons but is soon caught up with the lure of Francis of Assisi, who accepts him into his Order of Friars Minor. The movie successfully conveys the saint's conversion, the appeal of the simple life and the miraculous deeds reported in his lifetime. The only drawback is that, if medieval portraiture is to be believed, the film's Anthony looks more like Francis of Assisi than the fellow who plays Francis of Assisi
- The Saint of 9/11 (2006). You may know Mychal Judge, O.F.M., as one of the more well known heroes of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Father Judge, a beloved fire chaplain in New York City, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, while ministering to the firefighters in the north tower. What you may not know is that the Franciscan priest was also a longtime servant of the poor and the homeless in New York City, an early minister to AIDS victims when many others (even doctors and nurses) shunned them, and an experienced pastor at three parishes. This remarkable new documentary is a clear-eyed look at Father Judge's life, showing how his faith enabled him to deal with his alcoholism (through Alcholics Anonymous) and accept his homosexuality (he was a celibate priest), reminding us that sanctity always makes its home in humanity. An Irish Mercy sister, who knew him during a sabbatical in Ireland says simply, "He was a good man who loved so many." It is the best movie about the priesthood in years. And, in a nod to the first movie on the list, the film notes that besides his devotion to the homeless, to the sick and to his beloved firefighters, the Franciscan priest Judge enjoyed another devotion: to Our Lady of Lourdes and to St. Bernadette.
James Martin, S.J., is associate editor of America and author of My Life with the Saints.
SERMON for the THIRTY THIRD SUNDAY
2014 PARABLE OF THE TALENTS - Fr. Tim Kelly
Proverbs 31 is a hymn of praise to the worthy wife, one who takes her gifts and uses them for the sake of her husband, her family and her community. She is wise and worthy because she knows that whatever dignity and merit she possesses is all a gift from God.
To know Matthew’s Gospel is to understand the proposition that everything belongs to God, who is not simply the Creator of all, but is concerned for his creation. In many Matthean parables, the Master goes off to a far place and entrusts the wellbeing of his fortune to servants. Matthew is directing his remarks to a Jewish audience primarily. They are his own people and he understands their belief that they are God’s Chosen People, and that God has given them the land. There is, after all, one God, One People, One Land and one Temple. This strong belief in their exceptional position has corrupted many of them into believing that the Land, the temple and the status as God’s people is their own. They have forgotten that they are renters, servants to whom the property has been entrusted for a short time. They consider themselves landlords whereas they are only birds of passage, ships that cross each other by night, only such stuff as dreams are made on. They have forgotten that their dignity comes from their relationship with God, not from ethnic or personal worthiness.
Unlike our meaning of the word “TALENT”, no such significance was attached to it in the time of Jesus. Talents were enormous amounts of money. This master was ruler and lord of a great fortune.
Just how generous he was matters may shock you.
A talent, from the Greek word tálanton was a round gold disk. In the Greek measurement, it was equal to 6,000 drachmas or denarii, the Greek and Roman silver coins, in weight, equal to about 75 pounds of solid gold. Some scholars say that it was the equivalent of twenty years wages for a working man. So when Jesus spoke of talents in the Parable of the Talents ( Matthew 25:14-30 ) he was referring to the largest unit of currency at the time. By the current price of gold, a Roman talent was worth $1,426,200. Any man who can entrust millions of dollars in untested servants has to be either very rich or very crazy.
God makes generous gifts to his servants. In Christian language, the talents are Grace, an unmerited, freely given gift. At baptism, the gift of Divine Grace is freely imparted by a generous God. It is a talent. It is God’s very essence to be a giver of precious treasure. In the Old Testament, the character of Ruth is referred to as the worthy woman by Boaz, who would later take her as his wife. Ruth lived her life virtuously, understanding that her dignity was God-given — especially aware that she was not even a member of the chosen people by birth. Yet, from her inherent dignity she was willing to risk anything and everything—put it all on the line—for Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law. God was pleased with Ruth because she fulfilled his desire that she act as his image and likeness. Nothing is closer to the heart and personality of God than generosity and mercy.
But where God is angry is where Cain abuses his great gift of life and having a brother by killing that brother, God marks him off from human society. Cain received, but Cain did not share his treasure, that talent. God is angry when David, having received a kingdom from God, abuses the gift by scandalising the people with his affair with Bathsheeba, and by killing her husband Uriah the Hittite. David received, but David did not share and nourish his God-given talent.
The master’s gift of five talents - $7,000,000 is accepted as investment by the servant. It is pure gift and is not his own. It will never be his, just in his care for a while. But for now, God’s gift is in his hands and he decides to grow and nourish that grace in himself. He grows more and more like his Master.
The first two servants know their inherent dignity as sons of the Lord/Master and are willing to risk it all…all the wealth that the Master has lavished upon his servants. They believe that in pouring it out, it will come back to them in excess.
The unworthy servant refuses to take a chance, put it all on the line, risk anything. He is the embodiment of the pusillanimous person—the classic “small soul.” He lives in fear and external pressures dictate everything about him. There is little or no internal strength, so driven by fear is he. So even the great sum that he has received, in a sense, withers away. For him it is poison and danger. For the other two servants, it is potential and challenge. For him, it is grace for himself so that he may be saved. For the other two, it is a free chance to learn how to grow more and more like the Master. What he thought he had, he does not have at all.
Life and the world many times tell us to defend oneself at all cost: be self-defensive, self-regarding, self-protective. Trust no one. But, once in a little while, things happen which crack through such lies to show us that we might have to leave behind all that we thought we knew and considered important. But in order to gain the more, we have to leave the “little heartedness” behind.
The story of the address by King George VI on the first Christmas of World War II was delivered in a frightening and scary time. But the king chose to strengthen the resolve of the people by reminding them that they must trust the Almighty. Like the three servants to whom the treasure has been given, they must use that treasure, all the gifts they have, for the sake of their political freedom.
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way.”
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, Our Lord who was conceived by the
Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered
under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell on the third day He arose again
from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the
Right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will
come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the
communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection
of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.