Homily Themes on Social Justice, Lent Sundays, Year C, with Year A for RCIA



Pope Francis.  

   Evangelii Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation: Joy of the Gospel).  

   Laudato Si' (Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home).

   Misericordiae Vultus (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)

Fuller, Reginald.  Preaching the Lectionary.

Hollar, Larry.  Hunger for the Word:  Lectionary Reflections on Food and Justice, Year C.

Kavanaugh, John F.  The Word Encountered: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures.

Living Liturgy, by Liturgical Press




catholicclimatecovenant.org.  Homily resources, prayers of the faithful, bulletin announcements




columban.org.  Sign up to receive weekly prayer by email


Principles of Catholic Social Teaching [Source:  www.usccb.org]

·      Life and Dignity of the Human Person

·      Call to Family, Community, and Participation

·      Rights and Responsibilities

·      Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

·      The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

·      Solidarity

·     Care for God's Creation


An Examination of Conscience:  Laudato Si'

Begin, like Laudato Si',by placing ourselves in relationship before God. “Praise be to you, my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth” (no. 1) who “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted upon her by our irresponsible use and abuse” (no. 2).

We are invited to listen to our neighbors, the earth, and to God. Listening to the cries of the poor and the cries of the earth, we are invited into an examination of conscience. Pope Francis implores “it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone” (no. 202); “the emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own, and consume….  In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears” (no. 204).  We must look into our own hearts seeking ecological conversion as individuals and communities. 

·     Am I listening to the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor? 

·     Do I respect the human dignity of vulnerable communities around the world, people I will never meet? 

·     Do I consume more than I need?   Am I wasteful?  

·     Are my standards and goals set by personal desire or by what God is calling me to?

·     Do I renounce selfishness in favor of more deeply choosing God and the common good? 

·     Do I respond in solidarity, cooperating with others as instruments of God for the care of creation, according to my own culture, experience, involvements, and talents?


1 Lent C:  Life & Dignity of the Human Person.  Call to Family, Community, and Participation (Faithful Citizenship).  Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.  Peace.

1streading:   Issue of immigration/refugees, rescuing from oppression.  

Psalm: I will deliver them.  God is the refuge of those who are in trouble.  

2ndreading:  No difference between Jew and Greek—anti-racism.

Gospel:   Resist the temptation of power.  What are our idols?  Who do we worship?  In baptism anointed to serve, but temptation is to serve self, not others.

Thoughts and Examples:

·     Message of Laudato Si'

·     We forget that our forebears were immigrants and refugees, that USA is a “land of immigrants.” The task of developed countries to help all to a place “flowing with milk and honey.”

·     The reverse of JFK: in today's USA it's “ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you.”    

·     “Affluenza” defense

·      Donald Trump


1 Lent A:  Rite of Election:  Examination of Conscience

1streading:  Can God be trusted?  Would God demand suffering?  Peace images: dove, rainbow, olive ranch. Conflict impacts environment negatively.

Psalm:  Guides the humble to justice; teaches the humble the way.

2ndreading:  Is God really for us?  Covenant is with Noah and his sons and every living creature.  

Gospel:  Urgency: a crisis point/impelled into the desert. Joy of the Gospel #220:  It is a virtue, a moral obligation, to take responsibility for citizenship. Joy of the Gospel #20:  All are asked to obey the call and get out of their comfort zone.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     Toledo water crisis; lead abatement ordinance in Toledo. 

·     Keystone XL Pipeline; Arctic platform gone; Shell Oil devastation in Nigeria.

·     18-year-old Oregonian Kelsey Juliana, walked across America to draw attention to global warming in the Great March for Climate Action.  Just out of high school, she’s co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit to force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment.  “You don’t have to call yourself an activist to act,” she says. “I think that’s so important that people my age really get [that] into their heads. As a younger person, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not… It’s important that youth are the ones who are standing up because of the fact that we do have so much to lose.”


2 Lent C:  Life and Dignity of the Human Person.  Call to Family, Community, and Participation.  Year of Mercy.  

1streading:   Abraham the father of faith in three major religions. Diversity/tolerance/acceptance of the other.  Trust in God to do the impossible; pretty high odds sometimes, can take a long time, leadership is important.

Psalm:    I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.

2ndreading: Paul critical of those who occupy themselves with “earthly” things—power, wealth, self.  Nomadic roots:  immigrants, refugees.   Justice for each person in the Year of Mercy.  “Glorified body” is segue to many parts/one body.  Dignity of each person.  

Gospel:  Transfiguration.  Jesus with Moses and Elijah:  embodies the tradition; we are global.  Have to preserve the earth for our grandchildren.  Set up the booths:  cannot enclose or capture but have to move from the deliverance (exodus) of the past to freedom from enslavement.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     Flannery O'Connor wrote about imperfect, non-mainstream, side show settings, bringing realization that the incarnate God takes on all of us.  

·     Movie The Danish Girl.

·     Today's aliens—transgender people.   

·     Marriage issues: between man and woman.  

·     Joy of the Gospel #276:  It often may seem God doesn’t exist, but something new sooner or later brings fruit.  


2 Lent A:  

1streading:   All the communities of the earth will find blessing in you: welcoming refugees and immigrants. 

Psalm:    God loves justice and right.  

2ndreading: God calls us to be holy.

Gospel:  Transfiguration.  Listen to him:  get up and don't be afraid.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     Fear-driven politics in this presidential election year. 

·     Canadian welcome to Syrian refugees.  

·      Toledo groups helping with refugee resettlement. 

·     Blade and Toledo Community Coalition efforts to combat racism.  


3 Lent C:  Care for Creation.  Solidarity. Subsidiarity.  Call to Family, Community, Participation/Faithful Citizenship. Year of Mercy.  

1streading:    Burning bush:  all the bushes are burning, but we don't notice God's presence.  We see what we want to see.  The cry of the oppressed.  Slavery and human trafficking.  God in creation.  

Psalm:    God is kind and merciful.  Year of Mercy.  God relies on usto bring mercy/compassion/freedom.  Mercy is compassion and reconciliation, not just a feeling.  It's a reaching out.  Extending the “welcome back” means not judging those being welcomed back.  

2ndreading:   We're all in this together.  Inclusiveness.  

Gospel:  Need to change.  Giving the fig tree another chance is like Francis' Year of Mercy.  Nature metaphor in both first reading and in Gospel: need to bear fruit/get our act together; need to keep growing/thinking/changing.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     If we want to address racism, what needs to change in MY thinking?  If we want to care for creation, what needs to change in ME?  

·     Problems with the system:  redlining, Ferguson, criminal justice system working like a debtor’s prison for the poor, check cashing storefronts, payday loans, car title loans, reverse mortgages. 

·     Joy of the Gospel #268, #272, #274. 


3 Lent A:  First Scrutiny

1streading:  thirst for water.  Why do this? To die?  God will be there.  People are thirsty and hungry; must share food and water.  Important for life to have “living” water.  God’s love flows freely and comes from unexpected places, like the rock.  

Psalm:  Harden not your hearts.  

2ndreading:  at peace through Christ.  Hope will not disappoint.  

Gospel:  Disciples are surprised that Jesus is talking with a woman: inclusivity.  Context has not changed:  Middle East today; immigration, refugees, women, race, ethnicity. Pope Francis:  Who am I to judge?  Cf. Joy of the Gospel #268, #272, #274.  Need to question/ponder:  where is God?  How is God to be served?  


·     Boulder-Jalapa Friendship City Projects built schools and water projects in the Jalapa Valley of northern Nicaragua, e.g, in the community of Champigny, every house now has a tap with clean water.  

·     Denver Catholic Worker house/shared homily:  at peace, at home.  People at Mass were Catholic Workers, the homeless, marginalized, supporters of the House.  Same experience at Toledo St. Martin de Porres:  when we allow diversity, it brings joy and peace.  

·     Nicholas Kristof, New York Timescolumnist, wrote that white people just don’t get it; we need to socialize.  Barbara Coleman, after experiencing the six sessions of the anti-racism Dialogue-to-Change group, invited all participants, black and white, to dinners at her house, forming social friendships among diverse people.  

·     Oblate Dominic had to face his prejudices when he went to the University of Illinois in the late 1940s to study math and was surprised to find that these whiz-bang black guys were smarter than he was.  

·     Terrorist attack on French magazine prompted by religious and ethnic hatred.  

·     Pope Francis’ first trip outside Rome was to Lampedusa, a small Italian island where the Astalli refugee center is the first port of call for migrants arriving in Italy from all over the world:  He tied the death of 80 migrants to the “inhuman global economic crisis, a serious symptom of a lack of respect for the human person”. Calling the Lampedusa tragedy “shameful”, he asked everyone to renew efforts “to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated”.  

·     TUSA meeting: What are thesepeople doing here?  

·     Martin Luther King: it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning.  

·     Art therapist, working with a pregnant black woman, found that she was afraid to go home with the child because of her abuse husband.  The therapist offered to take the baby and raise it herself.  The first African American to be part of her family, the 6’2” sophomore added his piece to the family’s Thanksgiving prayer:  I’m really grateful to be part of your family.  


4 Lent C:  Year of Mercy.  Life and Dignity of the Human Person.  Rights and Responsibilities.  Call to Family, Community, and Participation.

1streading:  Freedom in the promised land:  need for prison reform/restorative justice; find ways for the ex-offender to make it right.  Prison fuels crime. Majority of incarcerated are minorities, reflecting racism in the system.   Immigration reform.  Welcoming refugees.  

Psalm:   God is good. 

2ndreading:  We are the “righteousness”, the very holiness, of God.  We have a responsibility to do justice. 

Gospel:   The father forgives without a word—mercy.  Easy to identify with one of the sons—do we act so that we can begin to identify with the father and his unquestioning welcome back?  The older son missed a great party.   The younger son's fall into poverty is the story of many of today's trafficked persons—vulnerable, lured by the idea of a good life but taken advantage of and put to work at hard labor with no resources to get out and live in decency.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·      America Magazine:  Fr. Kelly and restorative justice in Chicago (http://americamagazine.org/issue/city-under-fire).  

·     2016 State of the Union address

·     Lucas County efforts to use alternatives to imprisonment


4 Lent A: Second Scrutiny

1streading:  Appearances are deceiving.  Learn what God wants.  David was the youngest, but in line.  God chooses the unexpected; ordinary people have wisdom from lived experience, like David as a shepherd knowing God as a shepherd of the people.  The Spirit of God rushed on David, not the older brothers. 

Psalm:  God is my shepherd.  

2ndreading:  Living in darkness.  Light—wake up!  Have no part of deeds done in darkness.  Catechumens are becoming enlightened.

Gospel:  Blindness. We are all born blind.  We see what we want to see and so are prejudiced. Have to see what’s real.  Speak truth to power, like the blind man, even when they don’t believe.  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     CIA keeping torture secret from State Department.  

·     Japanese POW hated the Japanese so much he wouldn’t let them kill him.  He met annually with other POWs, and one year they were in a hotel where Japanese businessmen came to stay.  He stopped hating when he realized that “those guys weren’t even born when that went on.”  

·     U.S. Congress members looking at issues.  

·     Midrash:  A king wanted to be close to his people and have them close to him, so he prepared a beautiful palace and opened the doors.  They all rushed in but got waylaid going down the corridors and byways.  The king’s son went looking for him and found him sitting on a campstool in the middle of a field.  

·     It’s all gift, but does it trap us?  Can we find God in all this stuff?  

·     Situations can overcome blindness:  athletic teammates focusing on the same goals can learn to get along despite differences. Integration of a school leads to lifelong social connections that would never have happened had they stayed separate and segregated.  

·     Fr. Greg Boyle: invites gang kids into the program where they have to work alongside rival gang members; after a few weeks, one stepped up to protect a co-worker from his own gang, saying “Leave him alone. That’s my cousin.”  

·     Pam, asked how her adopted son would handle the pressure of being biracial as he grew older, said, “At least he’ll go out there knowing that he’s loved.”  

·     The work of justice is overcoming ignorance, moving from darkness to light.  

·     A man with three sons had lived in the valley all his life, as had his ancestors before him, as far as anyone could remember.  He sent his first son to go out as far as he could and bring back news of what he found.  He was gone for some time and came back to show his father stones he had found in the river.  The man sent his second son who, after some time, came back with wood from trees he had found on the hillside.  Then he sent the third son, who was gone a very long time.  He came back empty-handed but excited.  He had gone to the top of the mountain and seen the other side.  


Lent 5 C: Care for Creation.  Year of Mercy.  Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.  Call to Family, Community, and Participation.  Life and Dignity of the Human Person.

1streading:  Turn wasteland/desert into orchards.  Use and abuse of the environment.  

Psalm: God does great things for us; restores our fortunes.

2ndreading: Run the race; keep eyes on the prize; happy to love all things.

Gospel:  Fidelity in relationships.  

Thoughts and Examples:

·     Israel's kibbutzes—agriculture in the desert; breadbasket of the Middle East

·     Gas prices plummeting—media encouragement to buy more because it's cheap in spite of problem with fossil fuels and climate change

·     Would I be willing to give up “stuff” to keep my eyes on the prize?  Americans have arrived and so are no longer inclined to work for social justice, e.g., to support labor unions or minimum wage high enough to support a family.  

·     Year of Mercy: much needed healing/repair after divorce; requires lack of condemnation; no pre-judging of “sinners”


5 Lent A:  Third Scrutiny

1streading:  Faithfulness written on their hearts.  Rise from the dead.

Psalm:  Create a clean heart in me.  

2ndreading:  the Spirit dwells in you.  

Gospel:  Jesus is the way to life.  We are in tombs and are freed by faith.  Untie them from social sin (lack of education for the poor, slavery, poverty).  Rise up!  What’s holding you back?  

Thoughts and Examples:  

·     Retreat in 1980s at Estes Park in Denver:  What do you mean by giving life?  To affirm, to make it better for someone.  

·     Observe-judge-act. 

·     If I were on trial for being a Christian, what evidence could I cite?  

·     What’s holding you back?  Why can’t I do what needs to be done?  Why can’t we act? Boycott of Guatemalan coffee in 1980s.  Group wanted to picket a local coffee shop:  did not want to do it; afraid of what people might think. Failing to act is like holding back the gift of the resurrection.