2017 Homilies

February 12. Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Sirach 15:15-20 / I Corinthians 2:6-10 / Matthew 5:117-37
Homily: We are All One
Sirach says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God.”  Our culture is tempted to focus on the commandments more than on the choosing.  But the reign of God can be thought of as more like the “naked streets” of Vietnam and elsewhere, which demand awareness, communication, and deliberateness.  A true community recognizes that we are all one.

September 17; Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Sirach 27:30-28:7 / Psalm 103:1012 / Romans 14:7-9 / Matthew 18:21-35
“Mercy” comes from the Latin Misericordia. Literally, it means entering into the heart of another’s misery. That takes a compassionate soul. The king in the Matthew narrative was magnanimous in his eagerness to forgive an enormous debt owed by one of his servants. That’s the example we are asked to consider and imitate here.

“Mercy” comes from the Latin Misericordia. Literally, it means entering into the heart of another’s misery. That takes a compassionate soul. The king in the Matthew narrative was magnanimous in his eagerness to forgive an enormous debt owed by one of his servants. That’s the example we are asked to consider and imitate here.

We cannot survive without mercy any more than we can without justice. We demand justice. But we beg for mercy. There’s a difference. Mercy comes from a different place.

September 24; Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Isaiah 55:6-9 / Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18 / Philippians 1:20c-24, 17a / Matthew 20:1-16a
The homily began with a story from Peru. A baker who labored diligently to feed the village was indignant that a poor man stood outside his shop and smelled the baking bread while offering nothing in payment. When the baker dragged the poor fellow to the village judge to demand payment, the judge merely shook coins in his hands: “There you go. The sound of coins. Fair trade for the smell of baking bread.”

We are “worthy” of our daily bread, not because we can afford it, but because we are all members of the same village. Worthy means we all get to smell the bread, and nobody should pay for smells. Nobody. Everyone is worthy in the eyes of God. That’s why Isaiah encourages us to seek him. If the baker and co-worker looked for the dignity in the other, there would not have been a story at the beginning of this homily. Jesus would have had no parable to share today. “Think of this the next time you smell bread, or hold it in your hands.”

October 1; Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Ezekiel 16:25-28 / Psalm 25:4-9 / Philippians 2:1-11 / Matthew 21:28-32
A look back on the life of Dave Hoehnen for all those who did not know him or were not able to come to his memorial service. He was a faithful son, one that was already in the fields working when the father in the gospel narrative went looking for someone to go there.

Dave’s “attitude” was always inclined toward service. A Christian has to assume a proper attitude as well, and our most accessible points of reference are often those who share our values, our beliefs. The “Dave Hoehnen’s” among us. There is scripture, and there is this granite slab, but in 2017, we do well to check in with one another if we are going to know what to do, and when to do it. And we never want to forget the why. We want to measure up, we assure the prophet Ezekiel. And Paul says we need to have Christ’s attitude.

October 8; Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Isaiah 5:1-7 / Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20 / Philippians 4:6-9 / Matthew 21:33-43
Bob planted three grapevines as part of a “wall to wall” renovation of his yard in Cleveland Heights this summer. It will be a couple years before there will be any jelly, and there will likely never be any wine from this modest plantings. But the grapes were planted with purpose, they have a mission, and they have a caretaker.

Our nation was unsettled this week by news of a devastating shooting in Las Vegas a week ago. Once again the cry for gun legislation reached the rafters while others were saying, sadly, there is nothing we can do in the midst of this chaos. But Bob remembers that in the big cities in Viet Nam, the chaotic “look” of the traffic does not result in carnage. Bikers make eye contact and negotiate as the move carefully through the intersections.

Laws will never be enough, in any culture. But if, in our conversation about the right to own or our obsession with guns, we make eye contact as we negotiate, maybe we can resurrect a culture of interconnectedness, concern for the neighborhood, the safety of children, a healthy balance between freedoms and responsibilities.

October 15; Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Isaiah 25:6-10a / Psalm 23:1-6 / Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 / Matthew 22:1-14
What is your favorite moment at a wedding? Sarah (my daughter) likes to watch the face of the groom as he looks for and catches sight of the bride. My son David likes the idea that the party is for the guests as much as it is for the couple. The gospel today is all about the wedding feast to which the invited guests would not come! So the servants were sent to the crossroads to corral anyone who could come. The king will have his banquet hall filled!

Bob shared short stories about three guests at the wedding: one was a special needs student of his from the 80’s, another was a man who had suffered a stroke, and the third was a woman with cerebral palsy. All three celebrated to the fullest. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, the guests from the crossroads, to enter in and respond to the invitation of the king: “Be my guest.”

October 22; Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Isaiah 45:1, 4-6 / Psalm 96:1-10 / 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b / Matthew 22:15-21
A riddle: What is the difference between a stepping stone and a stumbling block?
Answer: Where you put your foot!

The disciples of the Pharisees were sent to Jesus to “trip him up” with the question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” Jesus replied that the church and the state need to be paid. Do both!

Pope Francis recently challenged world leaders to look at the big picture when he told them to stop pointing to world hunger as the problem when it is just the direct result of “conflict and climate change.” Address both! He urged them to address those problems and the hunger might finally be resolved.

Congress is in the midst of legislating a new tax code; we are “laying down the law” about taxes. “Lay” and “law” are the same word; they come from the same root. We make the laws we live by. But one-percenter Chuck Collins in his book “Born on Third Base” suggests that we should support the nonprofits and pay our taxes rather than take a deduction and deprived schools, clinics, and entitlements the funds they need. Pay both!

October 29; Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Exodus 22:20-26 / 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10 / Matthew 22:34-40
“My Dog Has Fleas”

Every one of us could have answered the question from the Pharisees this morning: “What is the greatest commandment?” And we might even have been able to recall that Jesus followed up in the same breath with: “And the second is like it . . .”

The two commandments are old and can be traced back to ancient Hebrew Scriptures in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. It is how the two dance together that makes life interesting. Vatican II calls the two of the “greatest commandment.” But the late Richard McBrien says the two are not “entirely the same.” I John 4 suggests that it is not possible to say we love God whom we do not see if we do not love our neighbor whom we do see.

The preacher this morning suggested we can appreciate the interplay here by imagining Jake Shimabukuro reaching for his ukulele. He is the most remarkable uke player on the planet. An unassuming Japanese young man born and raised in Hawaii, you would never know by looking at him that he could play as well as he does. But just a few minutes into a piece he wrote as a tribute to the four notes used to tune his ukulele will leave you with no doubt that the two make remarkable music together. Perhaps the two commandments were, in the mind of Jesus, supposed to make the same wonderful sound together.

November 5; Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Malachi 1:14b—2:2b, 8-10 / 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13 / Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus warns his listeners not to follow the example of the Pharisees. Their scriptural message is worthy of our attention, but there is a toxic disconnect between what they say and what they do. Their example has no substance. They are not willing to share our burden. They seem to be intent on letting their listeners do the heavy lifting.

We listeners need to “test” with fire what we hear, even from teachers. Fire purifies with a dying and rising that can capture our attention.

We are bombarded daily with invitations to “like” and “follow,” and all this arrives conveniently in our pocket, on our phone. It is up to us, however, as “friends” and Community members to discern what is best. Fire is a process and it takes time. Reform is part of growth that deserves our attention and the collaboration of the Spirit.

November 12; Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Wisdom 6:12-16 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  / Matthew 25:1-13
The wise and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew remind us of our own foresight, or lack thereof. We are the lamps that much light the way for the groom. Do we have sufficient oil? What is the oil for our lamp?

The reading from Wisdom suggests that the precious gift of wisdom is readily available. We shall “find her sitting by our gate!” Imagine a dog waiting for us there, tail wagging and jumping up and down at the sight of us coming.

We remembered the deceased family and friends of the Community today. More than 150 names were written in the book that was placed conspicuously near the altar. We imagine that foolish or wise, those faithfully departed are in a very good place. We ask them today to help us believe we will someday share in the wonder that is theirs.

In the meantime, let our memory of them be inspiration and oil for our lamps.

November 19; Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings:  Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / 1 Thesssalonians 5:1-6 / Matthew 25:14-30
Matthew recounts a familiar story of an owner who entrusts his servants with vast wealth while he is away. When he returns, he praises the two servants who doubled their money, and berates the one who buried his. But a coin in a pocket is like a coin buried unless it is valued by others. And Bob buried a coin he received from his father in 1985, in a box, out of sight. But the gold coin was valued by others who invested their coins wisely. And just as the value of their coin appreciated, so did Bob’s. He was grateful.

Bob shares a story about Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turk who immigrated and founded Chobani yogurt. Hamdi was a “shepherd and a warrior,” to use his own words, and he wandered between the two. He was tending goats for weeks on end at age eleven (Chobani means “shepherd” in Turkish), and he was an activist in college. He knew how to make cheese, so yogurt was not too much of a stretch. But he became a warrior and advocate for refugees when he needed workers and found them in a center near his East Edmeston NY plant.

He managed the transportation and interpreters, and he declared that everyone is welcome at Chobani. 20%s of his current 2000 employees are refugees. They are the gold coin in his pocket. Yogurt, now, is just the pocket.

November 26; The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Readings:  Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28 / Matthew 25:31-46
The gospel was proclaimed a little differently today. Half of the assembly was charged with baaa-ing like sheep while the rest were tasked with imitating goats. Matthew 25 is the source for the corporal works of mercy: feeding, quenching, welcoming, clothing, healing, and liberating. (Burying the dead and “Care for our Common Home” round out the list.) The proclamation today was followed up with verse that suggested our images of “final judgement” ought to be replaced with a more deliberate focus on decisions we make, day in and day out, to introduce “mercy” into our world. If is our everyday decisions that shape the reign of God. And it is the Promised One in the gospel who suggests to both sheep and goats that when they fed or quenched or “not,” it was he who was cared for or ignored.

December 3; First Sunday of Advent
Readings:  Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7 / 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 / Mark 13:33-37

“Lord, if only you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (From Isaiah, the first reading) Be careful what you pray for . . .

“The next voice you hear . . .” were the last words of a movie by the same name. It was released in 1950 with James Whoitmore and Nancy Reagan, two of the 2.5 billion people of the world, glued to radios, straining to hear the voice of God. If “we are the clay,” and “[God]is the potter,” the old black and white film depicts an entire world eagerly waiting to be formed by their God.

Advent is a time of anticipation. It is a season in which God does not speak more clearly, but we listen more carefully. Surrounded by darkness, we look for the tiniest thread of light.

Bob Kloos was a lump of clay a few months ago, very content to sit with family and friends in the last row. He has shared with a few friends the story of how he got from there to the presider’s seat, and thought this would be a good time to tell the rest of the Community how that happened.

December 10; Second Sunday of Advent
Readings:  Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 / 2 Peter 3:8-14 / Mark 1:1-8


December 17; Third Sunday of Advent
Readings:  Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 / 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 / John 1:6-8, 19-28


December 25; Christmas
Readings:  Isaiah 52:7-10 / Hebrews 1:1-6 / John 1:1-18

At one of the midnight masses Bob celebrated more than 40 years ago, some in the congregation were surprised by a word in the first reading from Isaiah. The liturgy was “in the gym” for the overflow crowd and we did not have a second lectionary with a binding strong enough to make the trip across the parking lot. So he typed the readings using a typewriter. A typewriter is a mechanical device with keys and a ribbon. You had to strike the keys to make the letters appear on paper.

Instead of “a son is given to us” Bob typed “song.” And the lector read it. Bob heard the “g” just like almost everyone else did. The first thing he did in the homily that followed shortly thereafter was apologize for the typo. But forty years later, he has no regrets. “For just as a child is born to us, a song is given to us.” Tonight, today, every day, we celebrate that song: “The word was made song, and dwells among us.”

Bob then went on to describe a party at the Studio Foundry, a bronze sculpture studio not far from 7100 Euclid. It’s a messy place except for the week just before the party. The owner is quite a banjo player, and he always invites his “finger picking” friends. They sit in a circle, tune, play a few bars, and then they let loose. It’s wonderful. Everyone’s toe is tapping to the sound.

If we can add the lyrics with our everyday lived witness, the “song will be given to us.” It will be messy, but maybe that’s just another typo. “Messy Christmas” to you all.

December 31; The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Readings:  Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3 / Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12,
17-19 / Luke 2:22-40


There are quite a few members of the Community who are older than the pastor. They are the Simeons and Annas of the assembly.  Those two were in the Temple when the newborn was presented by Joseph and Mary.  Simeon prayed aloud that he could now rest in peace because his “eyes had seen the salvation” of all Israel.  Anna too was rewarded for her watchfulness.  We should be grateful for the watchful wisdom in this space.