16th Sunday Homily - Deacon Bill Finnegan


Throughout the Liturgical Year, there are many references to the concept of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Indeed, in my lifetime, I have heard hundreds of homilies (and given quite a few) on the Good Shepherd.  Today is another such day.  But this day is different because of the contrasting images in the readings, particularly the First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel.

In the First Reading, Jeremiah indicates the LORD’s unhappiness with the shepherds of His people, Israel.  He says, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.”  “Woe” is a strong word, especially when it comes from the mouth of God!  I did a quick study and found a number of such statements in the Bible:

•         Woe to God’s enemies (Isaiah),

•         Woe to God’s faithless people (Hosia),

•         Woe to those who are complacent in their … religion                                       (Amos),

•         Woe to a godless world (Revelations),

•         Woe to those who cause others to sin (Matthew),

•         Woe to the one who betrays the Son of Man (Matthew). 

And then there are the famous woes in St. Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain, when each “Beatitude”, each blessing for those who do right, is offset by a corresponding “Woe” for those who fail to do what is right.  The “woe” that we heard today deals with “bad” shepherds of the Lord’s flock.  A shepherd is called upon to lead the sheep to the safety of the pasture and care for them there.  The leaders of the People of God in Jeremiah’s time were doing the exact opposite - scattering the flock, leading them astray.  This had God distressed, to say the least.  

In the Gospel reading it is a different story.  Here Jesus sees His people as wondering about aimlessly, as sheep without a shepherd.  Today’s story is connected to last week’s Gospel.  Remember how last week, Jesus sent His Apostles off two-by-two into the world to spread His word and to cure the sick.  Deacon Bill, the younger, pointed out that Jesus told them not to take any stuff with them.  “Stuff” for the Apostles, and for each of us, as we try to work for Jesus, is just a distraction!  (My fellow deacon challenged me with his homily because, as many of you know, I have lots of stuff - & not only my stuff, but Fr. Ernie’s stuff, as well.  But that is my problem). 

Today we heard how those same 12 returned to Jesus, having completed their mission.  Did you notice that it never says how long they were gone, presumably for quite a while?  But their mission was successful, since they “reported all they had done and taught”.  A commentary on the Gospel of Mark, that I use as one of my sources for my homilies, says this is a very important statement.  Teaching the faith is the primary mission of all of who would be followers of Christ.  The fact that, as the reading says, “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat”, is a testimony to the effectiveness of their teaching.  People, in “great numbers” were choosing to become members of the flock.  While the numbers please Jesus, they also distress Him, because of the lack of shepherds. 

There is one concern that I have with this reading, and it has to do with the trip across the lake.  Jesus, in some sense as a reward, invites The Twelve to accompany Him to a place of rest, away from the madding crowd, so to speak.  So they set off by boat.  I don’t know know who was doing the rowing, but it certainly was not “The Boys in the Boat” (the 1936 Olympic rowers from the University of Washington - and there were only 8 of them)! 

When I was growing up in NYC, each summer, for the first 3 weeks in July (now), my family would go on vacation to a small lake in upstate NY (a 4 1/2 hour drive).  It was a wonderful place for a teenage boy - swimming, fishing, an afternoon family softball game everyday at 3PM, and they even let the girls play!  But the highlight of my day was to get in the rowboat and head across the lake, away from everybody.  No one walking around the lake could get to my destination before me.  The lake was much smaller than Lake Gennesaret (aka, Sea of Galilee) on which the 13 set out, but none-the-less, how could everybody get there before them?  Keep in mind, this is way before the time of cell-phones, iMessaging, and flash mobs.  How did all these people find out about where Jesus, et al., were going and beat them there?  How they found out, I don’t know.  But how they got there - I believe they ran as fast as they possibly could!  When you find the truth, you have to run to it. 

When Jesus arrived at the “deserted place”, it was no longer deserted, but rather overflowing with a “vast crowd”.    It was at this point that Jesus was moved with pity for the people and saw that they were “like sheep without a shepherd”.  But He was to become The Good Shepherd, as prophesied by Jeremiah in the first reading, and as recounted in the Psalm of David, himself a one-time shepherd, in the Responsorial Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” 

Jesus would also appoint other shepherds to guide His Church.  Eleven of the twelve who returned from their first missionary journey would be those initial shepherds.  (Additionally, there would be a replacement for the “one who betrayed the Son of Man”!)  The descendants of those first shepherds are today’s bishops, with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis as the Shepherd of the Universal Church, and Archbishop Paul as the Shepherd of the Local Church.  The Lord’s admonition by Jeremiah also applies to these modern shepherds, in the same way it did to the shepherds of old.  Woe to those who lead their people astray. 

But shepherding can be even more localized and more personal.  Fr. Andrew is the shepherd of all of us who “flock” to Mass here week after week.  It is his role to guide us all in the ways of Christ and expose us to the Love of God, as he offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice to sustain us.  He is to lead us on our Faith Journey to the Green Pastures here on Earth, and to the House of the Lord in Heaven. 

As parents and grandparents, we too share in the “shepherding” mission of the Church.  We are charged with ensuring that our children/grandchildren do not stray from the teachings of the Church and from the Faith that we have hopefully instilled in each of them.  I don’t want to end on a down note, but “woe” to those of us who fail in our mission as a good shepherd.



15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily - Deacon Bill Tunilla 

The comedian George Carlin once said, “That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is, a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes we gotta move to a bigger house. Why? So we can have more room for more stuff.

Sherry and I found out last June just how much stuff we really had when we moved from Anchorage to the Valley.  After 5 kids and spending 14 years in large house we accumulated a lot of stuff.  The funny thing is you don’t realize it until you move your stuff into a smaller dwelling.  Reality sets in and you ask yourself how did I accumulate so much stuff? Then comes the hard part what should I keep and what do I donate or throw away?

In our Gospel reading from Mark today, Jesus instructs his disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.  No food, no sack, and no money in their belts.  They were however to wear sandals but not a second tunic. 

Jesus’ instructions regarding their traveling gear may strike us as a bit odd.  How many of us would set out on a long journey without money or a few suitcases with some of our stuff.  I would say most of us would have hotel reservations and we might bring snacks and or load the RV with plenty of good food to eat.  We wouldn’t leave it to chance that somebody along the way would feed, clothe and shelter us.  Yet Jesus sends his Apostles out like refugees with just the clothes on their backs, sandals and a walking stick.

For us to better understand this passage we need to paint a picture in our minds of what the Jews in Palestine wore in the time of Jesus.  Normally there were five articles of dress; the tunic, himation, girdle, headdress and sandals.

The tunic was simply a long piece of cloth folded over and sewn down one side. It was long enough to reach almost to the feet. Holes were cut in the top corners for the arms.

Such garments were commonly sold without any hole for the head to go through. That was to prove that the garment was in fact new, and allowed the buyer to arrange the neck-line as he or she wished.   The outer garment was called the himation.  It was used as a cloak by day and as a blanket by night.

The girdle was worn over the tunic and himation.  The skirts of the tunic could be hitched up under the girdle for work or for running. Sometimes the tunic was hitched above the girdle, and in the hollow place made above the girdle a parcel or a package could be carried.

The headdress was a piece of cotton or linen about a yard square. It could be white, blue, black or sometimes made of colored silk. It was folded diagonally and then placed on the head so it protected the back of the neck, the cheek-bones, and the eyes from the heat and glare of the sun. It was held in place by a circlet of easily stretched, semi-elastic wool around the head.

And finally there were the sandals. They were merely flat soles of leather, wood or matted grass. The soles had thongs at the edges through which a strap passed to hold the sandal on to the foot.


Jesus also told them to take a walking stick, a biblical symbol for authority but no food, sack or money.  So why is this poverty Mark speaks about so important to the mission of the apostles?  Mark does not explain or tell us but 3 reasons can be surmised. 

First the apostles had to learn not to rely on their own resources but on Gods providence.  Since the apostles were occupying themselves with God’s work, God would occupy himself with their daily needs.  St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us, “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant to you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.”

Second their bare simplicity of life would help them stay free of distractions and to focus wholly on the mission.  Their need for food and shelter would come forth from the generosity and hospitality of those to whom they ministered to.

When I gave more thought to this aspect of true discipleship I thought of how John the Baptist was called to baptize our Lord.  He did not have much to hinder him from crying out to the crowds and sharing God’s message with the world.

The third is their lack of material possessions lent credibility to the message since they were preaching the gospel out of conviction and not for personal gain.  That’s why Peter was able to say to the cripple at the temple gate, “I have neither silver nor gold but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean rise and walk.  

So we can see that the mark of the Christian disciple was utter simplicity, complete trust, and the generosity which is always to give and never to demand.

Having stuff is not a bad thing but it can become a distraction stealing our time and causing us anxiety and worry.  Our stuff can lead us away from our mission as Disciples of Christ bringing the good news to others.  By virtue of our baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ all of us are called to this mission. 

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus states, for where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.  So where is our heart?  Do I put God first and the mission we are called too?........Or is more of my time and energy devoted to earthly pursuits and gaining more stuff?  


The 14th Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Baptism is a new beginning of divine life. Through Baptism, our original sin is removed and we are adopted as God’s children. By Baptism, we are incorporated into Christ, becoming the members of the mystical Body of Christ. The reason why I am mentioning baptism in the beginning of my homily is that I’d like to bring up three offices that are given to us through baptism.

Baptism makes the baptized an alter Christus, another Christ. This is why every candidate for baptism is anointed with oil, just as priests, prophets, and kings in the Old Testament were anointed to receive their offices. Likewise, we all take the three offices that are given through baptism. Do you know what they are? Yes. Priest, prophet, and king. The Catechism of Catholic Church says, “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole people of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.” (CCC 783) Jesus Christ is the High priest, Supreme prophet, and Heavenly king and we, as His people, are incorporated into these three roles through baptism.

As priest, Jesus sanctifies, that is to say, He reestablishes the lost link between divinity and humanity; as prophet, He speaks and raises the voice of the truth; and as king, He leads us on the right path, giving guidance to humankind. Briefly speaking, as priest, Jesus is the life; as prophet, He is the truth; and as king, He is the way. We, as the baptized, are already given these three offices, and are supposed to embody them into our lives.

But especially today’s readings tell us about the office of prophet. The first reading deals with the witness of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was called to be a witness to the Lord’s words. The Spirit of the Lord entered him and commanded him to fulfill the mission as God’s prophet: “You shall say to them (the Israelites): Thus says the Lord God!...they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” Jesus also presented Himself as a prophet in today’s Gospel. He revealed the truth to those with whom He spoke. Even though Jesus couldn’t perform any mighty deeds in His hometown except for curing the sick, His miracles themselves were the confirmation of the truth He spoke. This is the prophetic role, speaking the truth. Jesus Christ is the Supreme prophet. Like I said, we share in Christ’s prophetic office by nature of our baptismal vocation. So, we, too, have the call to witness to the truth by our words and lives. These two readings tell us how to live prophetic lives and how to raise prophetic voices to the world.

Recently we had a good example about the prophetic life, speaking the truth. ACCB (Alaska Catholic Conference of Bishops) put out a letter about border separation. It says, “They arrive at our borders looking for a better life. Unaccompanied minors whose parents tell them go, run for your lives. Single mothers fleeing with their little ones to escape sex trafficking by local gangs. Families and asylum seekers trying to find a better life, free from violence and extortion. The human toll currently happening at our borders is unacceptable on so many levels. We, the Catholic Bishops of Alaska, stand in solidarity with Bishops from across the United States condemning this deplorable situation. It must come to an immediate end. Executive and congressional leadership must work together in solving this crisis.” Likewise, if we don’t find God’s justice, mercy, and love in the world, we are supposed to speak up with the prophetic voice, that is to say, we are to say that there is love, mercy, and the truth in God. Like Jesus challenges the hometown people’s mindsets and speaks the truth to them in the Gospel, we are supposed to play the prophetic role in our lives that is granted through our baptism.

Then how do we raise the voice and tell the truth to the world? There is an answer in today’s second reading. St. Paul describes how eagerly he prays to God that his thorn be pulled out and removed. But what God tells him is: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” After this prayer, St. Paul boasts about his weakness rather than what he is good at. This is an amazing confession from Paul. Could you brag about your weakness? Could you be proud of your shortcomings? This is a strong spirituality expressed from his firm faith in God. Paul knows God becomes more powerful when we become weaker. How do we speak the truth? Yes. We leave room for God in our lives by becoming weaker before Him and admitting that God is everything. God who takes more space in our prophetic vocation speaks the truth to the world. We are only tools that have human weakness and divine power.

Today’s readings are a challenge to all of us. I personally am weak in speaking the truth. Sometimes I know this is the right thing to do but have no courage to do it. But I always try to ask God for help because I am weak. My spirituality is not high enough to boast of my weakness. I try to admit God is the truth and the truth is speaking itself when I humble myself and make a room for God in my life. We all have this mission. Let us follow the example of St. Paul when the prophetic office should be practiced. And then we’ll say as Paul does, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily - Father Michael

Good evening / morning, my brothers and sisters. I have a question for you today. How many of you have eternal life? Raise your hand those of you who believe or know that you have eternal life. Okay, thanks. Some have it and know that they have it. Eternal life, what is it? Regarding eternal life, the Holy Bible states, “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” [This is the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 verse 3.] To know God is to have a daily personal relationship with Him. Therefore, to have eternal life means to know God in order to be able to eternally enjoy a personal relationship with Him in His heavenly Kingdom.

 Today's readings from the Holy Scriptures speak of the gift of eternal life. The First Reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us, "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.” When the Lord God created the light, the dry land, the trees, the sun and the moon, the water creatures, and man, 'it was good.' Seven times, the words "It was good" are repeated in the First Chapter of the Book of Genesis. The Holy Bible teaches us that hell is not here on earth. If some think that hell is here, it is because they are creating their own hell.

 For those of us who live a righteous life, we have a different perception of the world. While we are physically present on earth, we are not of this world. Our hearts are set on Jesus, our living hope, and our salvation. That has been promised to those who live a life of righteousness through their living faith in Christ.

 Thanks to the living sacrifice of Jesus, we have the assurance of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. God created us in His own image, so we may inherit His Kingdom. But, to have eternal life in the Kingdom of God, we must excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in eagerness and in our love towards one another.

 For our salvation, Jesus died for us, so that we may share our Christian love with one another. As He gave of Himself, He asked us to give of ourselves. He asked those who have an abundance to share their wealth with those in need, so that those who have little, do not have too little. As today's Gospel Reading tells us, Jesus shared generously. Reaching out to the synagogue leader who had faith in Him, Jesus raised his daughter. We also heard how a woman was healed of twelve years of hemorrhages, simply by touching the clothes of the Lord Jesus. It was a miracle, a miracle of God. The Son of God was there for them when they needed Him the most, after much suffering.

 Today some answered they have enteral life or know that they have it. Blessed are those who have it and who know that they have it! However, ordinary people, like me, will think of this. How much more are we willing to suffer before we place our complete faith in Jesus? Are we now walking our living faith in Christ, so we may qualify to inherit our salvation? Eternal life in the Kingdom of God is to be acquired by the grace of God through our good works by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. If we say that we have faith in Christ and we do not shine in good works, we can not have eternal life. Our gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God is rooted in Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we shall inherit the Kingdom of God as worthy children of the Lord Almighty.

Page 1 2