Sunday Homily (Full Text)

Sunday Homily


Blessed Sacrament Parish

Scripture Readings

Homily by Father James Wheeler, O.F.M.

February 9, 2014 – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time   

10 AM Service

Reading 1            Isaiah 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:

Share your bread with the hungry,

shelter the oppressed and the homeless;

clothe the naked when you see them,

and do not turn your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your wound shall quickly be healed;

your vindication shall go before you,

and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,

you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

If you remove from your midst

oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;

if you bestow your bread on the hungry

and satisfy the afflicted;

then light shall rise for you in the darkness,

and the gloom shall become for you like midday.



Responsorial Psalm        Psalm 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious and merciful and just.

Well for the man who is gracious and lends,

who conducts his affairs with justice.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

He shall never be moved;

the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.

An evil report he shall not fear;

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear.

Lavishly he gives to the poor;

His justice shall endure forever;

his horn shall be exalted in glory.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.



Reading 2            Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,

proclaiming the mystery of God,

I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you

except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,

and my message and my proclamation

were not with persuasive words of wisdom,

but with a demonstration of Spirit and power,

so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom

but on the power of God.


Gospel                 Mathew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:

“You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything

but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;

it is set on a lampstand,

where it gives light to all in the house.

Just so, your light must shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds

and glorify your heavenly Father.”


Healing in our lives takes a long time, doesn’t it?  Life threatening illness, serious surgery, the death of a spouse, a child, a family member —  all these take time to be healed.  If you have been hurt by a close friend or by a family member, it takes time for healing — especially there.  In the section of Isaiah we heard this morning, the people had returned from the Babylonian exile and they had a lot of time to be healed.  They had come home to a land that was still darkened by defeat and humiliation.

To get over this, it took them a long time.  But the prophet Isaiah kept reminding them of the constant presence of God in their lives. In the later vision of the restoration project,  the prophet Ezekiel in Chapter 43 says, “I saw the Lord’s Glory returned to brighten the temple and his people once again.”  There in the renewed presence of God, healing and rehabilitation could begin again.

The physical reconstruction of their land was easy, but the spiritual reconstruction would not be so easy.  The prophet prescribed a program of spiritual exercises for them to be engaged in, to renew their inward spirit, and to reinstate his contemporaries as God’s beloved people.

Isaiah has a long section on fasting in Chapter 58 verses 1 through 14, and that is part of our reading that we had this morning.  He said that, “Fasting without attentiveness to the needs of others is like pious dieting.”

Michael Glazier, in his book The Saving Word, says, “Wilfrid Harrington explains that  fasting should establish a common bond — a weakness  between rich and poor, only the wealthy have something in which to fast from.  The poor have nothing to fast from.  They are fasting every day of their lives.”

Isaiah promised the people that,  “Your world shall quickly be healed and your light shall break forth like the dawn. And the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”  When the needs of others will be tended as carefully as God would tend them, then these things will be realized.  In other words, the spiritual infrastructure of their land will be healed and their relationship with God when they share their bread with the hungry, when they shelter the homeless, when they cloth the naked, when they help the oppressed.

In the Second Reading this morning from One Corinthians,  Paul had learned his lesson when we read in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 17, when he went to the Greeks and tried to be impressive to them by using words of wisdom and they boo-booed him and said,  “Get lost.”  Today in the reading from One Corinthians he says, “I have come to you with the Spirit of God.”  And that’s what he preached, plainly and powerfully, that Jesus Christ had accomplished salvation for us on his cross.  And he knew that Jesus Christ would make a definite conversion in their lives, just as Christ made in Paul’s life at his conversion.

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Corinthian letters, relates a story about a man who was addicted to alcohol.  He changed his life after hearing about Jesus Christ who was crucified and risen.  And this man’s friends and colleagues tormented him saying, “You can’t really believe that Jesus turned water into wine, can you?” 

He said, “You know what, whether Jesus turned water into wine, I don’t know, but in my house I have seen him turn beer into furniture.”  So he knew what had happened when he accepted Christ into his heart and into his life.

That’s a reminder to all of us that we must be centered on Jesus Christ whose cross has forever changed the way we live, and the way we die.

In the Gospel this morning the preceding verses were the Beatitudes.  We would have had them last Sunday at Mass but it was preceded by the presentation of the Lord Jesus at the temple.  But now it continues on when he commissioned the disciples to be the “salt of the earth.”  He didn’t say, “in case you are.”  He said,  “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.”  And the lives they lived were to meet that challenge.

Salt is flavor for food.  The symbol of permanence also is a symbol of salt because of its preservative quality.  I remember living on the farm as a kid and my parents would salt down the hams we butchered with Morton’s salt cure to preserve them for eating during the summer months.  Covenants were sealed with salt because of the symbolism of the perpetuity-lastingness that salt has.  So Jesus is telling not only his disciples, but is telling us here at Blessed Sacrament,  “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.”

So that means that our lives are to be illumined and guided and reflected — reflect the goodness of God in our lives.  Let each one of us impart passion.  Let each one of us impart favor.  Let each one of us impart purity, permanence in our relationships with one another, and with God.

To be salt of the earth and light of the world is to make it a daily possibility for others to taste and see the goodness of the Lord when they see the goodness in our actions and the glory of God manifested through that.

It doesn’t have to be something special in our lives that we be that light, or that salt. 

There was a shocked family standing out on the street as fireman were fighting the fire in their home.  A grease fire had gotten out of control and damaged the kitchen and smoke saturated everything.  They watched in dismay as the fire was being extinguished leaving holes in the walls, scorched beams, broken dishes and a total mess. 

All of a sudden a pizza deliveryman pulled up to the curb.  The young man got out of his car with a large pizza.  The father looked annoyed at the young man and said angrily,  “You must have the wrong address.  I did not order a pizza.  My billfold is there in my sweater in the kitchen that is burning.”

The pizza boy said,  “I know you didn’t order this pizza.  But I saw you all standing outside there by the house and I had to do something.  There is no charge.  Just take this pizza.  Take it easy.  Have something to eat.”  And he returned to his car and sped off.

That young man was the light of the world. 

That young man was the salt of the earth. 

He saw someone in need and he gave something for the family to eat — “take care, take it easy, have something to eat.”  The family was totally amazed.

How many people went by that fire and didn’t stop, didn’t do anything.  Several people I am sure did.  What one man did made a difference in their lives.

Father William Basham remembers a sister, Sister Mary Cleo has, who taught him in high school and college.  She taught 50 years on the high school level and on the college level.  She made math comprehensible and enjoyable for even the most reluctant student.  When she was no longer able to teach, she organized a group of people to collect day-old bread from a bakery and distribute it to the poor.  When she could no longer do that she returned to the provincial house and one day a young Sister walked by her as she was bent over, on a cane, with osteoporosis.  The young Sister went on ahead but when she got down to the end of the corridor she turned around and came back to her and said,  “Sister, I really appreciate the smile that you just gave me, and that you give to all of us every day.”

You know what Sister Cleo has said in response?  “That’s all I have to give now is my smile.”  That blew my socks off when I read that story.  “That’s all I have to give now is my smile.”

You know we have experienced that here in Quincy.  It reminded me of the article in the Catholic Times this week of Pope Francis’s comments saying, “What would our life be like without religious women?”  If you have not yet read that article, I advise you to read it.  The Pope said,  “A church without religious Sisters would be unthinkable.”   He said,  “Every consecrated person is a gift to the people of God on pilgrimage.”  The Pope had just finished celebrating Mass for the Feast of the Presentation on February 2.  He said, “There is such a great need for a religious Sister’s presence in the world and her commitment to spreading the Gospel, to Christian education, to charity for the needy, for contemplative prayer, for the human and spiritual transformation of the young and families, and her commitment to justice and peace.”

He said, “Think what would happen if there were not any Sisters at all in our church. That is unthinkable.”

We experienced that in Quincy when St. Mary’s Hospital was closed.  I heard so many people talk about how the Sisters are really missed. They visited the patients, they took very little salary, but everybody talked about how good they were to the patients.  They were good to me when I was a patient in the hospital.

So if you haven’t read that article about Pope Francis in the Catholic Times this week, I suggest you do so.

Another example is about Steve, an acquaintance of mine, who lives in Chicago. He taught in one of those schools founded by Bill Gates.  He was the athletic director, and the boys’ basketball coach, and the track coach.  He called me one time and told me about this experience he had.

He had an apartment in the south side of Chicago in the African-American community. One time he was driving home about 10 o’clock on a Friday night, and there was an African-American woman standing on a curbside shouting,  “Help me, help me, help me.”  Nobody stopped.  He stopped and went up to her and she said, “My son just came from Indiana and left me his four children to take care of, and I don’t have anything in the house to feed them.”

Steve took her to the grocery store at 10 o’clock at night, got her groceries, paid for them, took her to her home, and she said,  “I never in my wildest dreams thought a white man would ever do this for me.”

Steve was the light in the world that night. 

He was salt of the earth.

And Sister Mary Cleo has was salt and light when she said,  “All I have left to give is my smile.”

Let’s remember that this week.  It isn’t money, but it’s time. 

We heard the choir sings here this morning before Mass,  “Open our ears, Lord, that we may hear.  Open our eyes that we may see.  Open our hearts that we may love — so that people may see the goodness in our deeds, and see the glory of God present in us.”

May God help you this week, and help me this week — to open our ears, to open our eyes, and open our hearts.  At least we can give a smile. At least we can take time to visit with someone who is lonely or is down.

May God Bless You.

Father James Wheeler, O.F.M., is a Franciscan priest of the Holy Cross Friary in Quincy, IL.


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