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Monthly Archives: January 2016

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-7

LUKE 4:21-30  KEY VERSE: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (v.24).

How would you describe the personality of Jesus?

If we were asked that question we might say that Jesus was merciful, forgiving, compassionate, honest, holy, and so on.

We might even take Saint Paul’s description of love found in this Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13) and apply that description to Jesus by replacing the word “love” with his name. We might say that Jesus was patient, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude. He did not seek his own interests. He was not quick tempered. He did not brood over injury. He did not rejoice over wrong doing but rejoiced with the truth. He was able to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

However, this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 4:21-30) reveals qualities of Jesus that we may overlook. Jesus was brave, courageous, and bold.

God’s words in today’s First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a “prophet to the nations” and like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus was speaking in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. At first all in the congregation ” were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips ”

But it did not take long for praise to turn into derision as those present began to ask, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Who was this carpenter’s son to be preaching to them? Who was he to be claiming that the prophetic words spoken by Isaiah about the one who would bring good news to the poor and healing to the afflicted applied to him?

But rather than explaining himself or changing his message to appease his critics, Jesus pointed out that prophets are never appreciated by the hometown crowd. Then to illustrate his point he reminded them of Elijah and Elisha whose wondrous deeds were done for Gentiles and not for their fellow Jews, not for their own people.
When the crowd reacted with fury, even attempting to throw Jesus to his death, Jesus did not run away in fear. Instead, “Jesus slipped through the crowd and walked away.” Jesus faced down his bullies. Jesus was brave, courageous, and bold.

Jesus acted as he did because Jesus knew who he was as God’s beloved Son. He knew his mission and purpose in life. He realized that God was with him. He was strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus knew that what the prophet Jeremiah was told in Sunday’s First Reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19) applied to him as well. ” So now brace yourself for action. Stand up and tell them all I command you. Do not be dismayed at their presence, I, for my part, today will make you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze to confront all this land: They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you –it is the Lord who speaks.”

If Jesus were not brave, courageous, and bold, he would have fled when threatened, he would have made his personal safety his first priority. Those qualities that Jesus demonstrated in the synagogue in Nazareth were seen throughout his ministry, especially during his arrest, interrogation, passion, and death.

As followers of Jesus Christ it is no surprise that we are to be kind, merciful, compassionate, and loving. But we are also to be brave, courageous, and bold when it comes to witnessing to our faith and defending the values of the Gospel. “Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation” (CCC 1816). And we can be such Christians with the courage and strength that come from the Holy Spirit.

Each time we make the sign of the cross, we proclaim the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that redeems the world. The Trinity dwells in us and is the source of our discipleship with Jesus.

The joy of the Gospel is inseparable from our share in the sufferings of Christ. Whether we encounter it physically or in the sacrifices of service, we are united in Christ. Whether we are called to carry the Gospel to far-off lands or to our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces, we are united in Christ.

The Eucharist we celebrate today expresses the sign we received at baptism. The Communion we receive unites us to him and to one another. Now, as Christ renews his commitment to us, let’s renew our commitment to him, to being his faithful prophets in word and example.

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Posted by on January 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-3

LUKE 1:1-4, 4:14-21
(Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30)
KEY VERSE: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21)

We witness in today’s Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a “Sabbath,” a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).

The people greeted Ezra “and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’.” And, as today’s Epistle teaches, we received a reminder from St. Paul that all together we, the Church, are, in fact, “Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. ”

The Church is NOT something to belong to. Nevertheless, sometimes people talk about joining the Church like they do about joining the Rotary Club or the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. The Church, committed to God, is very different, of course. It is – we are – the body of Christ.

Neither is the Church something to watch on television as interested spectators. For us, we are necessarily partakers and contributors. We are not like the audience at a concert, but we are like members of the orchestra making the music – God’s music, following our Christian values.

We are the body of Christ, and each of us individually is a member of it. But we are not individuals WITHOUT the body – only WITHIN it. We are not Christians alone; we are not separate actors choosing our own views without reference to the faith. Always, we are together – parts of the whole. And our congregations, the Church, are part of the body of Christ.

St. Paul drives home this point as he expands his view of the body of Christ by using the image of a human body. He enlightens us with telling examples of its parts – hand, ear, eye, nose, feet, and head. Each has its special function. As we consider what we are as the Church, we do well to remember this. As different parts of a human body make their contributions, each of us finds a particular contribution to the Church, finding a ministry that suits us and complements the others.

And, we expand these ministries beyond the confines of the congregation as we all apply our ministries in making the work of Christ effective in our daily lives for the sake of all around us.

But, we dare not forget to balance these individual roles following another aspect of St. Paul’s analogy. It takes all parts of a human body working together to produce the functioning of a healthy one. We must work together, recognizing the equal importance of all ministries and all members and all people. St. Paul illustrates this in language we can never forget. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Each, he insists, is equally indispensable. All of us, doing our parts, are indispensable.

And, we must also expand this view beyond the confines of the Church. In the broken and fearful and often desperate world in which we live, conflict and contention and extremism and lack of civility on many sides seem to have become the rule instead of the exception. Far too often, people in all sections of our country and of the world choose sides, ascribe to an “us versus them” mentality, and draw lines in the sand. How can we take Paul’s wisdom that no one can say “I have no need of you” and extend it to all people and all places to make this sense of Christ-like unity understood and accepted?

As the body of Christ, we are the activity and the continuing presence of Jesus in the world. The Church is the means by which Christ remains involved in the world. So, we, his body, are Christ’s representatives on earth.

We, the Church, are Christ for others – at work, at home, at school, in the community, and in the life of our congregations.

What our world needs is for us to be the body of Christ. And how we begin to do that might well be found in today’s Gospel. The very first thing Jesus did as he began his ministry was to go into the midst of the community in which he had lived his entire life and declare what the world needed. He did so by reading from the Prophet Isaiah.
How do we, as the continuing body of Christ, in our time and our places do what Jesus read about? How, in word and in action, do we “bring good news to the poor?” How do we, in word and in action, “proclaim relief to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind?” How do we, in word and in action, “let the oppressed go free?”

How do we, in the expression of the catechism, “proclaim the Gospel, and promote justice, peace and love?”

A fearful and anxious world, filled with far too many people who are hungry and oppressed, wounded and hopeless, await an answer from the Church – from us – the body of Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10

JOHN 2:1-11  KEY VERSE: “Do whatever he tells you” (v 5).

Think of these first weeks after Christmas as a season of “epiphanies.” The Liturgy is showing us Who Jesus is and what He has revealed about our relationship with God.

Last week and the week before, the imagery was royal and filial – Jesus is the newborn king of the Jews who makes us co-heirs of Israel’s promise, beloved children of God. Last week in the Liturgy we went to a Baptism.

This week we’re at a wedding.

“There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.” It’s not just any day. It’s a day that strives for goodwill, for abundance and joy. Despite the fact that every wedding is a cliché — how could it be otherwise? — and despite the army of wedding professionals waiting to capitalize on your special day, a wedding remains the basic metaphor we have for things turning out right in the end.

Which is exactly why this wedding, with its water-to-wine miracle, marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in the Gospel of John. John is setting the scene for everything that comes after, and telling us what he thinks life as a follower of Jesus is really about. As Marcus Borg writes in his book titled simply Jesus, “The story of Jesus is about a wedding. And more: it is a wedding at which the wine never runs out. More: it is a wedding at which the best wine is saved for last.”

John clearly thinks this is a very important story for understanding who Jesus is, and yet this is a story that occurs only in his Gospel. The other Gospels make no mention of Jesus turning water into wine. Our lectionary runs in a 3-year cycle — one year each for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John doesn’t get a year to himself: instead we get little bits and pieces of John in each of the three years. Where Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell variations of the same basic story about Jesus, John goes off in his own direction. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are more narrative, sticking to the facts of Jesus’ life and inserting Jesus’ teaching as it was preserved in early manuscripts. John is different: more interpretive and intellectual. John wants to show us not just what Jesus says and does, but what Jesus means. And what Jesus means is life, joy, abundance, and peace. John is convinced that the Christian life is meant to be a comedy, not a tragedy. Despite how dark things might seem out there in the world, despite the fact that the path to life will lead Jesus — and us — through death, despite all of this: things will turn out right in the end. God is in control, leading us to light and life in Jesus.

John goes on to tell us about a wedding. Marriage as a metaphor for the union of God and humankind runs throughout the Bible. In the passage from Isaiah that we heard today, God is the bridegroom joined in union to God’s people Israel:“no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’, nor your land ‘Abandoned’, but you shall be called ‘My Delight ‘and your land ‘The Wedded’; for the Lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding. Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.”

A wedding in the ancient world was an unparalleled feast. Celebrations continued for days on end. For the poor people Jesus grew up among, a wedding meant a pause from seemingly endless labour and a chance to eat and drink abundant food and wine, in stark contrast to the meagre rations that made up their typical daily fare. The life that God intends for us is a life where there is enough: an abundance that springs from God’s own abundance.

But God intends more for us than mere sustenance. There should be enough wine, and it should be good wine, the finest wine. The marriage supper God invites us to is meant to bring us pleasure and joy. The life God intends for us is one filled with beauty and contentment and all good things. It is a lie to think of pleasure as immoral. As we see at this wedding feast where Jesus reveals himself, the day of banquet and feasting is also the day of reconciliation, joy, and peace. Only when there is enough to go around, plenty to be shared freely, can old resentments be washed away and new companionship begin to grow.

Despite John’s tendency to show us the otherworldly, mysterious and ethereal side of Jesus, this miracle makes a strong case that the Christian life is grounded in simple, daily pleasures like good food and wine: following Jesus is more about earth than heaven. God became incarnate not to pull us out of our bodies and into heaven, but rather to bring heaven down to us, to bring the peace and abundance that is God’s intention for all people and places into every corner of human life. We are blessed with this feast at the Eucharistic table week-by-week and day-by-day, blessed with enough and more left over to share. And in our joy we are called to go out into God’s world and share God’s invitation: the table is set for all! Come and dine.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

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SUNDAY, JANUARY 10, LUKE 3:15-16, 21-22
(Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38)
KEY VERSE: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v 22).

In the Gospels of this Christmas season, which began on December 25 and that will end this Sunday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the authors have been introducing us to Jesus. They have been letting us know who this Jesus is, the one we will be hearing more about in the weeks ahead as the Gospels unfold.

In the Gospels of Christmas Day, Luke told us that Jesus was “Christ and Lord” while John proclaimed Jesus to be the Word who was “in the beginning with God” and the light that shines undimmed by the darkness.

In the Gospel read on the Feast of the Holy Family, Luke revealed that even as a boy of 12 Jesus was filled with a depth of wisdom and understanding that astounded the teachers in the Temple. He was like no other Jewish boy.

In the Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord, Matthew told us that the birth of Jesus was heralded by a shining star that attracted magi to come with gifts for this “newborn king of the Jews.”

Now in this Sunday’s Gospel for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22), Luke summarizes what has been so far revealed about Jesus. Luke makes it abundantly clear that this figure was unlike any other to walk the pages of the Bible or to walk the land of Judah. Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and God’s “beloved Son” with whom the Father was well pleased.

We are reminded that as we listen to his words in the Sunday Gospels, we will be hearing God speak to us. We have been reminded that as we hear of him forgiving sinners, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, driving out demons, and feeding the hungry, we will be seeing the compassion and mercy of God in action. We have been reminded that in Jesus we have a window into the very heart of God.

Unless we understand who Jesus truly is, we will never fully appreciate the Gospel – the amazing story of God revealing himself and inviting us to have a personal relationship with him.
The identity of Jesus is all about relationship – his unique relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. His identity as the prophetic Messiah will become manifest in the relationships he establishes with his disciples and those to whom he ministers. He will embody what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed about the Servant of God. Jesus will not proclaim his message by crying out or shouting. He will not crush the bruised reeds of this world – people who are fragile and easily overwhelmed by life. He will not snuff out the flickering lights of hope that people carry in their hearts. This Jesus, sent by the Father and driven by the Spirit, does not crush or overwhelm but offers new life to us. This is who he really is and what he is all about.

On this feast, each of us is invited to reflect on our own baptism. In that sacrament our true identity was received and affirmed. Each one of us is a beloved daughter or son of God. As we come to realize our identity more deeply, we are changed. That experience is transformative. It changes the way we envision our lives, other people, and what is really essential in life. It is easy to resist that experience of God’s transformative love because it can seem threatening to us. Sometimes we choose to keep God at arm’s length. But the more we invite God into our lives, the more we come to appreciate that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. And we become more free, more truly human.

Jesus’ experience of living as God’s beloved Son impelled him toward his mission of proclaiming the Reign of God. As God’s beloved daughters and sons, we are commissioned to continue the mission of Jesus — “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring forth prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” It is by strengthening our relationships with God, with our sisters and brothers in Christ, and with the people we are sent to serve, that we realize our identity – that we become who we really are. Along the path of that journey, God speaks in the hearts of each one of us: “You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased.”

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

ACO_Home_Epiphany_2007

MATTHEW 2:1-12 KEY VERSE: “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (v 2).

An “epiphany” is an appearance. In today’s readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.

Suppose for a moment that FedEx or StarTrack Express was operating when Jesus was born. Do you imagine the magi would have used that company to deliver their gifts to “the newborn king of the Jews?”

Just consider the time and stress they would have saved themselves by not traveling to Bethlehem. They could have beautifully packed their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, attached a heartfelt note to each one, and then have them shipped Priority Overnight. And if the carriers were unsure of where to go, they could have just followed the star.

However, as we know, the magi had no such option, and even if it had existed they would still have made the trip themselves. They wanted to do more than simply deliver gifts to this newborn infant whose birth was marked by a star in the sky.

This Sunday’s Gospel reveals that the magi wanted to see this child born in Bethlehem. The Magi’s pilgrimage in today’s Gospel marks the fulfilment of God’s promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler’s staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17). to offer him their homage, and to present him with gifts that indicated their understanding of who this child truly was.

He was a king worthy of precious gold, a priest deserving of frankincense to offer in worship, and a prophet whose broken body would be anointed with myrrh. Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba. Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6, 4:6,14).

One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke 11:31). He has come to reveal that all peoples are “co-heirs” of the royal family of Israel, as today’s Epistle teaches.

The magi came so they could personally be in the presence of one whose birth had been heralded in the heavens and prophesied in the scriptures. While they gave him wondrous gifts to be sure, they also gave him the best gift they could offer, the gift of themselves.

In doing so, the magi gave Jesus the very gift he had given them and the entire world. Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh and came among us. God did not simply give us gifts; he became the gift. He came to be with us in the child of Bethlehem.

The gift of our presence is truly the best gift we can give another person. The gift of our time, our attention, our concern, our understanding, our love is better than anything that we place in a box and have delivered to someone’s door.

This season of Christmas proclaims that the God who came at Bethlehem is still among us. God is present in word, in sacrament, in his Church, in holy and loving people, in the ordinariness of human life, and above all in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

In return what God wants from each of us is the best gift the magi brought that first Christmas- they brought themselves.

His manifestation forces us to choose: Will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? God wants our presence and our love. God wants us to draw ever closer to him. Those are gifts that cannot be wrapped and shipped; they have to be personally delivered.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2016 in Uncategorized