Sunday Homilies

from Father Kevin Laughery, Troy St. Jerome and St. Jacob St. James Parishes, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Note: Comments from this page do not reach me; instead, email: kl@kevinlaughery.com

The Podcasts

From Bishop Paprocki, September 2, 2018


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


The past few weeks have seen an unprecedented unfolding of a highly disturbing series of events in the Church here in the United States. In June, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former priest of the Archdiocese of New York and Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C., was removed from public ministry for credible and substantiated allegations of abuse of a minor. In July, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.


On August 14, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury reported that more than 300 priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by church leaders who covered it up. Then, on the heels of that devastating report, On August 22 the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States—officially called an Apostolic Nuncio—wrote an extensive letter claiming that Pope Francis knew about the sex abuse allegations against former Cardinal McCarrick for years, but chose to cover up the charges.

The reaction to hearing this convergence of distressing reports has been very understandable anger and even outrage on the part of many people—including myself. While I felt compelled to respond immediately to the news, since that time, I have only experienced increasing anger, disgust, and a desire to act.
The words from Jesus in the Gospel of Mark about the evils that come from the violation of the natural law are critical to keep in mind as we reflect on the recent revelations of what can only be described as horrifying abuse and neglect of authority among some priests and bishops of the Church in our own country. We may notice that all the things Jesus lists are the subjects of the Ten Commandments: “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

As Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, the original and proper use of law is to help people to live virtuously. It is to encourage their basic goodness, and to help them live together in harmony. The basis of all Gospel teaching about law is that there is the eternal law of God, and the natural law within humans, which shares in the eternal. The summary of the natural law for us is the Ten Commandments. These are not arbitrary rules imposed upon us by a stern God. They are reminders of the best part and highest aspirations of the natural human law that lives within all of us. Given that we are fallen creatures, we sometimes forget how to live in harmony with each other and with God. The Ten Commandments remind us of how to do this. Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten or ignored these basic precepts.

In light of this current distressing situation, I have called for a response that must include several components, namely, public prayers of repentance and acts of atonement, new measures for review of bishops’ handling of cases and a reaffirmation of my own commitment to a zero-tolerance policy in our diocese, and a call for spiritual renewal at all levels of the Church. I would like to share additional detail and perspective on each of these three components of response — especially the first.

With regard to public prayers and acts of atonement, I am personally committing myself to a period of prayer and fasting in reparation and atonement as a way of confronting this crisis in our Church on spiritual grounds. Specifically, I am abstaining from all meat and alcohol (except the sacramental wine used at Mass) for forty days, which I began on August 28, the Feast of Saint Augustine, and will continue until October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. During those weeks, I will also fast between meals on Fridays. On October 7, I plan to run a marathon in Long Beach, California, with the LIFE Runners, a pro-life running group. There is a lot of pain involved in training and in the actual running of a marathon. In the past, I have offered up that pain for various intentions. This year I am offering the pain of my marathon training and running in repentance for the sins of all clergy—bishops, priests and deacons. I will also include this intention in the many rosaries that I will pray in the course of my running.

Further, at 7:00 PM on Monday, October 1, the Feast Day of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus — known as the “Little Flower” — I will lead a liturgical service of “Repentance and Prayer for those Harmed in the Church” at our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. Each of our Deans will conduct this liturgical service of “Repentance and Prayer for those Harmed in the Church” at the same time at a location to be designated in each of our deaneries. As sins of sexual depravity and complicity in their cover-up have deeply infected and wounded the Church, it is crucial that we pray for these evils to be eradicated from the whole Church.

Our priests will also gather for a liturgical service of “Repentance and Prayer for those Harmed in the Church” at the beginning of our upcoming Convocation of Priests on Monday evening, September 17, at 7:00 PM at Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Maryville, Illinois.
As I have previously said, we bishops of the United States must offer public prayers of repentance and acts of atonement for the sins of all bishops, priests and deacons. Having spoken with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), it is my understanding that we will have prayers of repentance and acts of atonement at our next meeting in November in Baltimore.

I humbly invite all of you to join me in the holy battle for purification of our Church throughout the world and here at home by participating in prayers of repentance, by fasting, and by coming to the prayer service on October 1 at 7:00 PM at the Cathedral or at the location in your deanery. The nature of the battle at hand can be seen in these well-known verses in Genesis: “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground’” (Gen 4: 9-10). There is no such thing as private sin. The horrible sins that we have all endured learning about — and the souls of those damaged by them — hurt us all in the mystical body of Christ. In the same way, the prayers and sacrifices of the faithful are effective in bringing about spiritual healing to the whole Body of Christ.

In addition to public prayers of repentance and acts of atonement, I reiterate my increased resolve and continued commitment to a zero-tolerance policy in this Diocese, and all the practical steps outlined in my statement of August 19. I pledge our diocese’s full cooperation with law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect our people. We will review the firm commitments we have made and the concrete steps we have taken to protect against clergy misconduct in our diocese. We are also willing to consider any additional actions that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have called for a profound spiritual renewal at all levels of the Church. When I say all levels, I include not only bishops, priests and deacons, but also the highest level of the hierarchy, the Pope. In his August 20th letter to the People of God, Pope Francis writes, “With shame and repentance, we acknow-ledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” I presume that he includes himself among the “we” to whom he refers. Indeed, in a letter this past April 11 to the bishops of Chile, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for his “serious errors of assessment and perception.” In a meeting with abuse survivors in Chile this past May, Pope Francis said, “I was part of the problem, I caused this and I’m sorry.”
Now, with reference to the situation in our own country, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has revealed a set of facts and circumstances that are deeply troubling as they relate to the awareness, actions, and inactions at the very highest levels of the Church. Archbishop Viganò has provided his written testimony stating that Pope Francis “must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests. In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover for him.” When asked about this aboard the papal plane on his return flight from Ireland on August 26, Pope Francis said, “Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this.” Frankly, but with all due respect, that response is not adequate. Given the gravity of the content and implications of the former Nuncio’s statement, it is important for all the facts of this situation to be fully reviewed, vetted, and carefully considered. Toward that end, Pope Francis, Vatican officials and the current Apostolic Nuncio should make public the pertinent files indicating who knew what and when about Archbishop (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick and provide the accountability that the Holy Father has promised.
Over the past few days I have given several media interviews to reporters inquiring about these matters. I have pledged to share as much information as possible and work for solutions to rectify the situation. One reporter asked what I would say to people whose faith in the institution of the Church has been shaken by these scandals. I answered by saying that, ultimately, we are not called to put our faith in an institution; we are called to put our faith in Jesus Christ. Our Lord gave us the Church as a means to help us to get to heaven, but the Church is not an end in itself. Our Lord also gave us bishops, priests and deacons to help the Christian faithful on this journey of faith. We must never forget that this is a ministry of service and not of privilege.

Even in the face of adversity, we must remain convinced that Christ has not abandoned us, and so we must not give up on our commitment to live as His disciples. We must recognize that this is exactly what Satan wants, for he is the prince of darkness. He wants us to turn our back on our Lord and His Church. On the contrary, like the disciples in the early Church, we must use this unfortunate set of circumstances to commit ourselves to live ever more fully for Christ as His disciples. We must keep saying “yes” to God for the rest of our lives.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

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The anguish of the People of God is met by the utterly personal gift of Jesus' very flesh and blood.

Direct download: KML_2018-08-19_1030am.mp3
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This was recorded at St. James.  The acoustics are quite different.  I recall the image of the pelican feeding her young with her own blood.

Direct download: KML_2018-08-11_530pm.mp3
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Ephesians focuses on the renewal of our minds, another way of describing conversion.

Direct download: KML_2018-08-05_830am.mp3
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This was a difficult homily to give.  You will soon hear why.

Direct download: KML_2018-07-22_830am.mp3
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If people get paid to speak on God's behalf, do they just end up saying what the employer wants to hear?

Direct download: KML_2018-07-15_830am.mp3
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The definition of slavery might well be what Psalm 123 presents: always having one's gaze upon the master, never turning away.  But this figure is given to us because we must not miss God's mercy and love toward us.

Direct download: KML_2018-07-08_830am.mp3
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Might we take the time now to dust off the much-maligned word, NICE?

Direct download: KML_2018-07-01_830am.mp3
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Did you ever notice how the births of Jesus and John are at the solstices?

Direct download: KML_2018-06-24_830am.mp3
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The Kingdom of God is manifested in the surprising growth which occurs within and among us.

Direct download: KML_2018-06-17_1030am.mp3
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The Holy Eucharist cannot be separated from the Easter mystery and all which occurred as Jesus gave himself for our salvation.

Direct download: KML_2018-06-03_830am.mp3
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Embrace and submit to the paradox of God, one and three.

Direct download: KML_2018-05-27_1030am.mp3
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The gifts of the Holy Spirit lead to the growth in us of the Spirit's fruits.  Surely we must want to live this way: carried and calmed by joy, peace, and all the other fruits of the Spirit.

Direct download: KML_2018-05-20_830am.mp3
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"God is love."  We may struggle to understand the pull of love.  We find our answers as we appreciate that "God is love."

Direct download: KML_2018-05-06_830am.mp3
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In our polarized society, we must recognize our absolute need to be branches on the one vine, Jesus, who leads us out of tribalism into life-giving union.

Direct download: KML_2018-04-29_830am.mp3
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This was First Communion weekend in my parishes.  "This is the church, this is the steeple" leads to a discussion of the Church as the people, and of our need to be shepherded.

Direct download: KML_2018-04-22_830am.mp3
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We used the Gospel from the Easter Vigil: Mark's account of the discovery of the empty tomb.  We can identify with the fear which the women felt when they were charged with announcing Jesus' resurrection to the world.

Direct download: KML_2018-04-01_930am.mp3
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As we near the celebration of the Passion of the Lord, the image of the grain of wheat becomes very helpful to us.

Direct download: KML_2018-03-18_830am.mp3
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The homiletic treatment of the strange story of Abraham and Isaac.

Direct download: KML_2018-02-26_830am.mp3
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I never was able to do an audio re-creation.  Here is my outline.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Parishes of St. Jerome, Troy; St. James, St. Jacob; St. Elizabeth, Marine

2018 LENTEN SPEAKER SERIES

Thursday, February 22, 2018, 6:00 pm

St. James Catholic Church

Second of six speakers:

Father Kevin Laughery, Pastor, St. Jerome and St. James Parishes

Topic: Abraham and Isaac.

This weekend’s Scriptures (Year B) are: Gn 22: 1-2. 9a. 10-13. 15-18/ Ps 116: 10. 15. 16-17. 18-19/ Rom 8: 31b-34/ Mk 9: 2-10

(Mass reading citations for every day are at kevinlaughery.com/lc.html; the texts for every day are at usccb.org/bible/readings/.)

I.  Theological orientation

A.  Our need to be familiar with Scripture (the Bible)

1.  Review of our need for context

2.  Awareness of various origins of specific Scriptures

B.  The “theology of story” has influenced me deeply.

1.  “Truth” is not to be equated with, say, journalism.

2.  Very little of Scripture could be called “journalistic.”

3.  All of Scripture is true!

4.  Book Tellers of the Word, by Navone and Cooper (available online, including through amazon.com)

C.  Why do we tell and listen to stories?  Because of the truth in them!

1.  Again, truth is not to be equated with journalism.

2.  We remember and tell stories because of their dynamism, and how they demonstrate necessary change (conversion) in people as they enter into relationship with God.

D.  Truth and conversion

1.  We are all seeking truth together.

2.  Conversion is the fundamental experience of the Christian on the path to fullness of relationship with God (Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology).

3.  We have intense, dramatic moments of conversion by which we find that our very orientation toward God is fundamentally changed!

4.  We have less dramatic moments of conversion which, I trust, we take in stride.

5.  We formulate narratives (“stories”) by which we make sense of God’s work upon us, and share them with fellow Christians (but, please, learn to summarize!).

6.  Our process of conversion, as lived out among non- Christians, leads to possible conversion for such people, but more on the level of the perception of our integrity of life than on “heady” arguments.

II.  Transition to Abraham and Isaac

A.  Teaser: Langston Hughes and his phrase “a raisin in the sun” (used by Lorraine Hansberry as title of play)

B.  Teaser was chosen as a 20th-century expression of the futility which we find as a theme of the Abraham-Isaac incident; see also the Book of Job and “the triumph of impotence.”

III.  Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22: 1-18   

A.  In our 1969 (current) Lectionary for Mass, this Sunday’s Old Testament reading is Genesis 22: 1-2. 9a. 10-13. 15-18.

B.  Many non-Catholic Christians, although they have adapted the Catholic lectionary for their own needs, are somewhat scandalized by the heavy editing Catholics have done.

C.  Besides occurring on this Sunday of the three-year Lectionary cycle, this incident is the second Old Testament reading of every Easter Vigil, on which occasion one may repeat the edited version or the straight narrative, Genesis 22: 1-18. 

D.  It is believed that Genesis and the other books of the Pentateuch were compiled from several sources (probably four) which themselves were written between the 900s and 400s B.C.

E.  Abraham is believed to have lived at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. (2000 B.C. or later).

F.  Need we add that this is not journalism?

IV.  Fundamental themes of Genesis 22

A.  Futility: This is what I believe stands out to most of us as we come to know and appreciate this story.

1.  The birth of Isaac was a great wonder which Abraham and Sarah had yearned for.

2.  So now he is to be offered up as a holocaust?

B.  The singularity of the believer’s relationship with the one God.

1.  Other nations had a multiplicity of gods.

2.  Abraham’s insight: there is only one God.

C.  The absolute character of this same relationship.

1.  Life itself comes from God alone.

2.  God, the Lord of life, justly takes back life once given.

D.  Sacrifice

1.  When we read the Bible all the way through, we cannot help but wonder about Old Testament customs of sacrifice.

2.  We suppose that such practices are backward. 

3.  Do we not engage in such practices ourselves?

4.  Sacrifice would seem to arise out of the believer’s sense of insecurity about our relationship with God.

5.  Temptation to offer human sacrifice (see Micah 6).

6.  Perfectionism

a.  Religious practice as “being good”

b.  Perfectionism as self- defeating behavior

c.  Perfectionism as a state of arrested personality development

d.  New Testament discussion of sacrifice: Hebrews (esp. chaps. 9, 10)

E.  Light shed on the Christian mystery

1.  “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust” (22: 8 — not in this Sunday’s edited version)

2.  Do we see how appropriate this reading is for the Easter Vigil?

F.  Connection with the other readings of this Sunday

1.  Psalm 116: I will pay my vows

2.  Romans 8: God did not spare his own Son

3.  Mark 9: Transfiguration: Wondering about the meaning of “rising from the dead.”

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I told numerous people to find here a recording of my February 22 presentation in the "Lenten Speakers Series" of my parishes.  It was on Abraham's resolve to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering/ sacrifice.  I turned on my recording device but apparently did not then press "Record."  I will try, in the next few days, to record an equivalent of my talk; it will not, however, include the numerous occasions of riotous laughter.  

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On February 4, I apparently did not turn off the recorder, so that homily was part of a several-hours-long file.  Sorry.  February 11, I did not preach.

This homily was preached at a retreat for 7th- and 8th-graders, just after the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida.  If we are to understand human behavior and, especially, the ways in which we succumb to temptation, we cannot demonize even the most egregious sinners; we must understand ourselves as being on a continuum which includes those who do unspeakable things.

Direct download: KML_2018-02-18_400pm.mp3
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Can gift cards heal?  We need to consider all the various ways in which people need to be healed, and we will grasp this possibility.

Direct download: KML_2018-01-28_830am.mp3
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The homilist did not preach January 14.  -- We certainly need to know the context of this episode in the book of Jonah if we are going to appreciate how God works with an unwilling prophet.

Direct download: KML_2018-01-21_830am.mp3
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Imagine being embarrassed on behalf of one's entire country, as we try to negotiate the boundaries of unity and diversity.

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We consider the impossibility of counting the stars, the impossibility implied in sacrificing one's son, and the impossibility of having one's heart pierced by a sword.

Direct download: KML_2017-12-31_830am.mp3
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The homilist did not preach on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (it was the deacon's turn).  Imagine the figurines of a Nativity scene being set up on a battlefield.  That's the whole point of Jesus' Incarnation.

Direct download: KML_2017-12-24_500pm.mp3
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In risk and in ritual, joy emerges.

Direct download: KML_2017-12-17_830am.mp3
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The Book of Consolation (beginning at Isaiah 40) aids us as we remember that God never tells us, "You are something wrong."

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