3 weeks ago, Christ was born, and today we flash forward 30 years and celebrate when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and begins his public ministry. So today is the last day of the Christmas season and tomorrow starts Ordinary time.
Most likely, 99% of us here today have been baptized, and for many of us, our baptism was many years ago. And so very few of us remember our baptism and perhaps have lost touch with what really happened, and what the effects are. In today’s society, there are many baptized people in the world but often times we would not be able to recognize those who have been baptized to those who have not; and so the effects of baptism is stripped of it’s power, even for us too. Therefore, for many people, when they think about what baptism is, they might think of as a cleansing or purification, or they think of it simply as an initiation into a faith or a belief, like what you do to be initiated into a club or secret society. In fact, for some Protestant denominations, even if a person was baptized as Catholic or even another Protestant denomination, they have their new members be baptized again because it was not in their faith or belief system. And don’t get me wrong, we are baptized into a faith, into a system of beliefs, into the Church, but it is much more than just an initiation into an organization or club. What I want to do today is, with the help of our Scripture readings and the Catechism, to highlight what the Catholic Church teaches the effects of baptism are, and help us to reflect on if those effects are active in our lives. The opening paragraph on baptism in the Catechism as it succinctly mentions the effects of baptism. Paragraph 1213 says, “Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons (or children) of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission”.READ MORE
Today is called the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord- epiphany means revelation or manifestation. And so today, we celebrate God revealing and manifesting Himself. For the Magi in our Gospel, seeing the star and finding the Christ-child was an epiphany, a realization, in which they were able to the see the revelation of God, to whom they in did homage and worshipped.
However, as I was preparing this homily, I was intrigued by our 1st reading from Isaiah, and not for the obvious reason because it is a prophecy in which gold and frankincense would be brought to a king, which of course the Magi in our Gospel did bring, and that praises were to be sung to the Lord. But I was intrigued by and with this homily want to reflect on the first 2 lines of our 1st reading. As a reminder, the first verses of our 1st reading is this: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and dark clouds cover the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory”. In that context, Jerusalem referred to the Jews, the people of God, as Jerusalem was the city in which the people of God lived. But now, today, Jerusalem also refers to the Church, the new Jerusalem, the new city of the people of God. So really, it refers to all of us, and so, in a way, this prophecy can and should be spoken about us also. In this verse, the word ‘glory’ is used twice- ‘the glory of the Lord shines upon you’ and then ‘over you appears His glory’. When I first read this, knowing the context was to include you and I, I pondered what exactly is ‘glory’- we hear the word often, but rarely do we think about what it means. What is God’s glory, what exactly should shine upon us and appears over us? Intrigued, I did what every good Catholic would do, right? I went to the Church’s google, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do you ever do that, become intrigued by something- like something you read or maybe a Church teaching- and want to learn more about it, so you do a little research in the Catechism? If you don’t, you should, there is so much more we can learn and love if we were a little more curious and investigative! Anyways, I looked up ‘glory’ in the subject index of the Catechism, read a few of the paragraph’s in which ‘glory’ is spoken of, and focused on 2 paragraphs. By the way, the numbers in the Catechism refer to paragraph numbers, not page numbers. And in case you might be wondering where I am going with this, hang with me, it really does help shine light upon Epiphany and Christmas.READ MORE
This season is full of many traditions. If you watch any Christmas movie, especially the Hallmark movies, they are chalk full of Christmas traditions, and sweet memories. My family certainly has some. If you were to visit my parent’s house you would see my Christmas stocking that my mom made when I was a baby still hung in the same place that it, and each of my families’, has been for over 40 years, and you would find prominently displayed on the tree the torn and crumpled ornaments that my sister and I both claimed we made in grade school. Similarly, for you, each family here probably has your own little traditions, perhaps centered around the Christmas tree. You might bake and decorate Christmas cookies together and enjoy the same types of food every year. Even being here at this Christmas Mass might be a tradition for your family. All of these traditions bring with them many kind of different memories. And all these many Christmas traditions are good because they bring the family together and fill our hearts with warmth and joy. However, the Christmas traditions are only temporary, family will disperse again, at some point the Christmas tree will die, and all the lights and decorations will come down. The cookies will be eaten, and the Christmas festivities will come to an end. But my brothers and sisters, traditions are not solely what Christmas is about. Christmas is about God’s gift to us. God’s gift to us is His son, the true and central purpose of this holiday season. For over 2000 years; since the 3 wise men traveled, a group of shepherds cautiously approached, and the choirs of angels rejoiced, Jesus’s birth has been celebrated. However, the birth of Jesus Christ is not a tradition, it is so much more. The birth of Jesus is not just something that we remember or do every year, like a tradition. Even though the Christmas festivities end, the celebration of Jesus Christ does not come to an end, because He doesn’t have an end. The celebration of our Savior is eternal and we should be celebrating that gift. In fact, as our readings and Scripture confirm, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Even though creation has had a beginning, and will have an end, as Scripture says, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. It is Jesus who, ‘through whom all creation came into being’. Therefore, in Jesus, the Creator has entered into his creation. The eternal has entered into time and space, the divine has become human. What a gift!READ MORE
On this 3rd Sun of Advent the Church calls us to re-focus ourselves in this season, which is why we change the color of the candle that we lit on the Advent wreathe, as well as the color of my vestments. This 3rd Sunday is called Gaudete, means to rejoice. So also, our readings keep to that theme: “Shout for joy”. “Sing joyfully”. “Be glad and exult with all your heart”. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, Rejoice”. Those are the opening lines from our 1st and 2nd readings. So today, I want us to reflect on the difference between true and authentic Christian Joy and the superficial happiness of the world; and then help to explain how to attain and keep that authentic Christian joy. First, you probably know about the superficial happiness that I’m talking about, and the mask that people tend to put on on the outside, but inwardly they are far from happy and content. The worldly happiness tends to be short-lived and is so dependent on other people and circumstances around us. I can see by the nodding of your heads that you know well that kind of superficial worldly happiness. On the other hand, Christian joy is the joy and happiness that is long-lasting, it is deep-seated, and is not so dependent on people and circumstances. It is not a mask that is seen on the outside only, but it is a deep interior joy and peace which consistently and naturally affects what others see on the outside. Do you know and have that kind of joy? If you’re thinking I’m not really sure that I do, then this homily is for you, because I will help to explain how to attain it, so listen up. For the rest of us, we probably want to have that joy always be continually deepening within us, therefore, this homily is really for all of us.READ MORE
My brothers and sisters, now with the beginning of a new liturgical year, we enter a new cycle of Gospel readings, this year, the year C of the cycle, we hear mostly from Gospel of Luke. Luke, in addition to being a physician, is an historian, and so he is conscious about writing the historical fact of the time and place of the real events. Have you ever wondered why God came into that place at that time? Even though you and I might so often skim over the unfamiliar names and places mentioned in the Gospels, they are important because not only do they give credibility of the historical real events, but they also give meaningful context to the readers who did know of the people and places mentioned. And so, Luke begins this Gospel: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, … during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas”. Even though you and I have heard of the names of Tiberius Caesar, Pilate, Herod, and so on, in hearing and reading the Gospels, we probably don’t really know who these people were. Each of the names mentioned were people who had made wrong choices and had done evil things. For example, Tiberius was the emperor from year 14AD to 37AD, so 23 years, for the entire adult life and ministry of Jesus. Well, of all the emperors of Rome, it is written that Tiberius was the most depraved and wicked. Even though the Roman empire was peaceful during his reign, Tiberius’ personal life was extremely immoral. Similarly, the Gospels speak of the dishonesty of the governor, Pontius Pilate. There are non-Christians’ accounts that testify that Pilate was known for corruption, acts of insolence, inhumane cruelty and murder of untried, un-condemned people. Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, that is how the politicians behaved at that time, so what about the religious people serving in the Temple? Luke specifies that Annas and Caiaphas were high priests at that time, unfortunately, Annas and Caiaphas were both deposed from their high priesthood for various wicked acts they were engaged in. Therefore, Luke is giving the reader the political and spiritual context of the times, times in which there were evil leaders, corrupt governors, and even scandalous high priests.READ MORE
Today we begin the 4-week season of Advent, which is, of course, preparation for the birth of Christ in a manger at Christmas. So, be honest, when you heard the Gospel today, how many of you thought that we made a mistake and read last week’s readings instead of today's? If you were expecting to begin hearing about Mary and Joseph and the nice peaceful first coming of the baby Jesus, instead of the terrifying signs of the end of time and the 2nd coming of Christ in great power and glory, that is understandable. But we need to reflect on the importance of both of the comings of Christ and ask ourselves: how are we approaching the second person of the Trinity who is both fully human and fully Divine?READ MORE
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Church gives us our readings to prepare us for the coming of the end of time and the 2nd coming of Christ in Glory. Truly we are drawing near to the end, as next week is the last Sunday in Ordinary time in which we proclaim Christ to be King of the Universe, before we begin the new liturgical year with the season of Advent in just 2 weeks. Instead of focusing on our readings directly, today I want to proclaim what the Church calls the 4 last things- Judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. On Monday, I talked to our brothers and sisters who are possibly becoming Catholic in the RCIA process on these last things, and it was brought to my attention that maybe not all this truth, or the Scripture it comes from, is known by the average Catholic. In the month of November, beginning with All Souls day, the Church calls us to pray in a special way for all the souls in purgatory. I hope this teaching will be a reminder for many of you, but will be convicting to all of us, and hopefully inspire us to do more for our deceased and living loved ones and neighbors.READ MORE
You have heard of the sermon on the mount, well this is a sermon on the Amount. I heard another priest used that and the congregation laughed, so I thought I would try it. If you do not find it funny, don’t blame me. But seriously, my brothers and sisters, we should be challenged by our readings today, let us reflect on them and upon our lives. Even though the word is not mentioned, the question I ask you to reflect on is: Do you have the attitude of stewardship?READ MORE
My brothers and sisters, in the chapter before our first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses gave the people of God, including you and I, the 10 commandments written on 2 tablets- the first tablet of 3 focusing on love of God, and the other inscribing the next 7 focusing on love of neighbor. And in our 1st reading today, Moses instructs the Israelites, all the people of God, to “keep throughout the days of your lives all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper according to the promise of God”. The 10 commandments are, then, a blueprint for our lives given to us by our Creator. They are a written decree or covenant made with God, and if we keep the commandments all the days of our lives, then we will have a long life. Which alludes also, the opposite, if we don’t keep the commandments, then we will bring a spiritual death upon us. This spiritual death occurs by our committing a mortal sin and not keeping a commandment. But if we are careful in observing all the commandments then we will have a long life, we will grow and prosper. Thus, our happiness is wrapped up with us keeping the commandments.READ MORE