Homily – 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

Good morning once again, everyone.

Like I said, great joy to be with you always back in town.

This is my last weekend here for a little while, so I appreciate the warm welcome.

I also want to thank Francis for finding in one of the closets back here this new, well it’s old actually, sprinkling utensil.

I don’t know what you even call that thing.

[Francis: It’s an “aspergillum”.]

Yeah, it looks like some type of, like, witch’s broom or something, Right.

Anyway, so hopefully you got a little extra water today. Not like you need more water, right?

There’s been rain for, like, what, the past month. But what the heck?

It’s my last way to say goodbye to all of you. I always love the sprinkling.

So thank you for finding that. I should probably just say right now we on this past Monday, we organized the big clean out of the sacristy and some of the other cabinets and the things that we wanted to kind of maybe get rid of but not throw out have ended up on the table back there for your perusal. So please feel free to shop after mass. And if you need a vase or a vase, depending on how you say that they’re back there. Because let me tell you, we have we have enough to open up like a chain of florists. So please help us out by taking anything.

You know, one of the great gifts of coming back to Brooklyn is being on the East Coast and giving me a little more flexibility and mobility to visit family and friends.

And so this past week, I hopped on a train. I went down to Baltimore, Maryland, where my sister and her husband and my two nephews live.

And it’s always great reconnecting with all of them. And as it is, whenever I know that I’m preparing to give a homily for the upcoming Sunday, wherever I go and really whatever I do, I bring the gospel that I’m going to be preaching on with me.

So as I was hanging out with my sister, her husband, my nephews, I was thinking about the gospel that we just heard.

And I was specifically thinking about it when I was sitting on their front porch.

They live like kind of like in a suburban area of Baltimore.

And it was early in the day and it was still kind of sleepy.

The neighborhood was kind of sleepy. The sun was just about to rise or actually it just rose.

But I could also already hear through the pane of glass, the kids running around and going crazy.

You know, anyone who has kids, you understand this, right?

I mean, they’re just running around the house. It’s like, whatever, seven in the morning.

So this contrast of something fairly peaceful outside and like, essentially, like pandemonium inside was just brought me to attention of really asking the question, what is the kingdom that Jesus is talking about?

So this is kind of really where I was. I’m trying to ask myself the question, what is the kingdom that Jesus is talking about?

As I’m sitting in the midst of peace and chaos right now, I bring that up because whenever I read the Gospel, I try to think, “What would it be like if I was there 2000 years ago and listened to Jesus give a teaching like this for the first time?”

You know, so many times we come to church, we hear the gospel, we hear Jesus saying certain types of terminology that we hear so often that it just kind of glosses over us.

And one of those key terms that Jesus talks about is the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of God.

And I was thinking, you know, if I was sitting there 2000 years ago, why would I be interested in knowing what the kingdom of heaven was like?

What does that do for me? Why am I interested in what the Kingdom of God is?

What does that do for me? So the only thing I could think of is that Jesus is speaking some type of word that is that people are trying to latch onto.

Now, I think the word that we could latch onto is “kingdom”, because we have an idea of what a kingdom is, right?

It’s usually connected to a country, a sovereign nation, a certain type of autonomy that that nation has led by the king, by a monarch. And of course, for a lot of the Jewish people who were listening to Jesus, they were probably also thinking and connecting it back to their own history of kingdom.

The Jewish people had a very strong kingdom for not a very long time, though, under King David.

Approximately 1000 years before Jesus showed up on the scene.

So many Jewish people were thinking, I wonder if we’re ever going to have that again.

Maybe this is what Jesus is talking about. We’re going to have a kingdom, a sovereign nation,

free from this Roman oversight that we’re living in here, where our own people will be free to worship.

Because what the kingdom ultimately probably meant was a type of security for people.


To act the way they want to act, worship the way they want to act, and perhaps most importantly, have the people and right relationship with God.

The kingdom, which showed that they’ve been doing things right and God has blessed them with the kingdom.

So I’m sure if I was sitting there listening to Jesus 2000 years ago, a lot of that stuff’s probably floating around in my head as he’s talking about the Kingdom of God.

But as I was sitting on my sister’s porch, I don’t think I was thinking about that.

I was thinking that perhaps what Jesus is trying to get at was really talking more about how can we live in a world of harmony?

What is harmony about? Because most of our day is consumed with a lot of noise and lots of activity, and then also some peace, calmness.

And sometimes which even leads to boredom. How can we find something harmonious between these two ends of the spectrum?

Perhaps that’s what the kingdom that Jesus is talking about.

How can we live harmonious, integrated lives?

We all know that the things that upset us the most are people in situations that are disagreeable.

People have hurt us. People hurt other people.

People for some reason have a different idea on things that somehow cause lots of other people to suffer, whatever it may be.

This discord, this disharmony. It’s something that we know we wish we didn’t have some time,

and sometimes we just kind of get used to it thinking, Well, I guess just that’s just the way it is.

But I really believe that Jesus is offering a vision of the kingdom of heaven that is harmonious.

And what is that all about? Well, as I was sitting there, it made me think about a particular piece of art.

I know how you know this. I used to study art at Pratt over in Fort Greene.

And one of the artists I remember studying about an American artist was a guy by the name of Edward Hicks. H I C K S – a different Hicks than what the street named after over here.

But Edward Hicks lived in the late 1700s, early 1800s.

He grew up very close to where I grew up in Pennsylvania.

And he was a Quaker. And what he would paint was something called the Peaceable Kingdom.

Now, I’m sure if you Google this and you saw the images, you would recognize it right away.

It’s Edward Hicks’ kind of a meditation on the prophet Isaiah, talking about the wolf being next to the lamb with the child to guide.

Sometimes you hear the prophecy during the Christmas time where this is an understanding that things which seem to be so polar opposites so far apart are right smack dab next to each other in this perfect harmony.

Hicks went on to paint this depiction about 62 times over the course of his career.

So he was very much enamored with this idea of the peaceable kingdom inspired by what Jesus is talking about.

The Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God.

But if you were to go a little deeper into Edward Hicks being a Quaker, he was very much inspired by a particular theological outlook on life.

And what that was the “Inner Light”.

Quakers believe that every person has an inner light, that God is not somehow distant in heaven.

God is as close as who you are. God is found within.

And this inner light is what needs to be revealed to the world so that each person could fall into a harmonious relationship with each other.

Now I keep on emphasizing harmony because it’s very clear that each person is unique.

And the way that Quakers would go about trying to discern and understand better what this inner light was through silence.

And even to this day, if you to go to a Quaker meeting and by the way, the Quakers are the one who runs our school right here.

If you were to go to a Quaker meeting, it’s very different than what we’re doing here.

There’s not someone like myself yapping away at the front. It’s complete and utter silence.

And people sit in silence, and when they feel inspired to say something, they’ll say it.

And the congregation, the people there have some type of awareness that that’s somehow the inner light

speaking that they’re feeling moved to reveal what the inner light is saying.

Now, I find this interesting because we may think that we are called to live in unison with each other.

Meaning that somehow it’d be really nice if we’re all believing the same things, thinking the same things, living the same way, doing everything the same way that that would somehow be the way for us to get together.

But ironically or paradoxically, our differences are what brings harmony for those who study music.

You probably understand the difference between unison and harmony.

And fortunately, we have professional musicians here who can give us a little example and one in the audience.

Thank you, Adela. If I were to talk about unison, it’s really just hearing one note.

One. No one noticed, by the way. Okay now.

[Sergio plays one note on the piano].

One note – that was a D flat, by the way. All right.

One note. It sounds nice, right? It gives us a certain type of sense of oneness that registers as a type of tone in us.

But it sounds very different than harmony.

Because harmony is produced when a chord is played.

A lot. Right. I mean, we know that’s far greater than one.

No, unison gets us maybe thinking one way, but the multi dimensions in the universe, really of everything coming together in a chord plays at one time.

[Sergio plays a chord on the piano.]

We’re sort of D flat major, right? This is one of Sergio’s favorite chords, by the way.

That harmony is probably the best way to embody what the kingdom of heaven could be.

Now. I like the idea of the inner light, and I think that has great confluences with different things from Catholic theology as well. So there’s nothing really wrong with the theology of the inner light.

But I think in some ways it sounds a little bit abstract or if anything, we may try to wonder how are we to discern what this inner life is all about?

Well, fortunately, this past week I was also able to experience something else which gave me a window into the notion of inner light.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking an online class on compassion.

It’s a compassion training course. How to become a more compassionate person.

I once again, much like the Kingdom of God terminology, compassion is another word that’s thrown out in lots of religious spiritual circles.

And we think we know what it means, but we don’t really get to the depth of what it means.

Compassion sometimes gets the idea of being nice to someone, maybe giving them something like a gift or something that they may need to help them.

Maybe even feeling bad for them, feeling merciful for them, whatever may be feeling empathetic for them.

But at the heart of compassion, Beginning with that first, those first three letters, “com”, means to suffer with another person.

It’s not just simply you’re feeling bad for someone and you feel like you have it all together and you’re going to help someone who doesn’t.

It’s somehow entering into their suffering as it as if it is your own suffering.

Sounds like fun, right? But we know that we come here to this church, and that’s exactly what we profess.

Every time we look at a crucifix. The whole point of the incarnation is to show that God loves every single part of the human experience, including suffering, that He wants to enter into it, taking it as if it is are his very own.

That is the sign of compassion.

The crucifix entering into the suffering of each and every one of us in this church and each and every person who ever existed or ever will exist.

A sign of compassion. But during the class this past week, we were given a certain lesson to focus on.

And the lesson was of emotion regulation, emotion regulation.

Now, what do you think that is?

Well, it’s simply trying to understand why we feel the way we feel and making connections as to what caused the way that we feel, the way that we do.

To help us in this endeavor. The class offered something called a mood meter.

And if you were to Google mood meter image search, you will find this:


By the way, if you feel like shooting and do on your phone. Now, I’m not offended.

You’re trying to check something else out. I guess I am. But the mood meter looks something like this.

Multiple colors, and it’s a x axis y axis chart that tries to help you to assess what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it.

Because ironically, we have emotions happening all the time that we’re awake, but we don’t always evaluate exactly what it is we’re feeling.

Sure, there’s times where we know where we’re feeling really low, really depressed, and we’re like, What’s wrong with me?

And sure, there’s other times we’re feeling really ecstatic and excited about something.

And we probably could say in those two polls how we’re feeling.

But most of the time it’s hard for us to answer the question, How do you feel?

We usually just say, Fine. But when you think about emotions, there’s two things happening or how to assess them.

What is your energy level and how pleasant are you feeling?

And that’s how the charts designed. The y axis is your energy level.

How much energy do you have right now? And then compliment that with how pleasant you are feeling.

More energy, more pleasantness. And then it lands somewhere here on the chart and gives you a name for that emotion.

If you happen to go right here, it says Pleasant. If you have to go right here, it says, Oh, apathetic.

If you go all the way over here, it’s serene. This means low energy, high, pleasantness.

High energy, low pleasantness is rage.

So you get a sense as to how to name your emotion.

Now, why do I bring this up in light of the inner light?

Because I do believe that the way that the inner light is revealed in the world is through our emotional state.

Maybe many of us start to think that, well, emotions are somehow bad or they sometimes get in the way of what we really want to do.

Everything. That’s who we are. Everything that makes up who we are is somehow God’s gift to us and to the world.

And perhaps the best way to understand what is the inner light trying to do is through our emotions.

And a chart like this can help us name the emotion that we’re feeling.

And over time, if we keep on doing that, that practice of trying to name the emotion, we can start to see connections as to, oh, when this happens.

That’s why I feel this way. Or we can start thinking, Wow, I really enjoy the way I’m feeling now.

I want to sustain that somehow. So maybe I need to continue to do these practices to sustain it.

In a certain sense, you are your own scientist of your body and your emotions.

This is God’s gift to you. This is how the inner light can be revealed.

Now I look at this thinking, well, how can we start to regulate these emotions?

I mentioned before to you, like there’s times where I know I feel very depressed.

And I don’t know why. And it’s terribly frustrating.

And it happens when I least expect it sometimes. And there’s no reason for me to be depressed.

It seems like – I seem like I have everything going for me. Why is Father John depressed?

He shouldn’t be depressed. He has all these great things happening. Well, I am at certain points.

Being able to constantly monitor those times you fall into that can start to connect the dots to figure out where is the root cause of these things.

And of course, there’s other times where I’m on cloud nine.

I had a lot of Cloud nine experiences these last couple of weeks, meeting up with people, going out, having fun.

It’s great to be in cloud nine, but of course I don’t want to be in cloud nine all the time. It’s very – it’s a lot of energy, right?

But being more in touch with our emotions can help us to understand how is the inner light being revealed?

Yet perhaps the most important way for us to recognize when we seem to be going too far one way or too far the other way Is that we need to integrate a practice of grounding.

And that’s the practice I want to offer to you today.

In order to get plugged into the kingdom of heaven right now at this moment in time is to ground ourselves into what is below us, the earth.

There’s a reason why Jesus talks about in very earthy ways about the man who sells everything and digs up a hole and saves or I’m sorry, he has this great prize and he wants to save it by putting it out of a hole and putting it in the ground, getting in touch with the earth.

There’s a reason why he talks about getting in touch with the Pearl of Great Price.

There’s a reason why he wants to talk about the fish. All these things are natural occurrences. Our engagement with the natural world. Grounding ourselves in the natural world is being plugged into the kingdom that already exists.

So let’s offer a practice right now? You could do this with me.

Sit up straight for a moment. Put the kneeler up if it’s down on the ground.

And take both of your feet and plant them right on the ground.

Feel like putting your hands on your knees to affirm that feeling.

But this grounding principle is the way to help regulate our emotions, when things seem to be chaotic. When you open up an email that’s just so terribly frustrating that you don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Sit at your desk and put both feet on the ground, grounding yourself.

Knowing that the emotion has gone one way and it needs to be brought back.

We ground the electricity to be able to make sure that it doesn’t go out of control.

This grounding principle is us connecting directly with the Kingdom of Heaven, which is here and now.

It’s not something abstract. It’s not something that we have to kind of mysteriously discern as inner light.

It is regulated through our emotions right now.

And these grounding principles, I think help us best to affirm the earth below us, God’s gift to us. Which is the very cosmos of the kingdom of heaven that he wishes for us to experience this day.

Pray for each other that has helped to grow in harmony with each other.

Knowing that the sure sign to being harmonious is to be well grounded in God.

Amen. I bless you.