Ready or not, the season of Lent begins Wednesday. Yes, we celebrate Ash Wednesday in a couple of days. Are you ready, do you know how you are going to draw closer to our Lord this season? What you’re going to give up or take on this Lent? Perhaps you’re thinking, whoa I can’t believe the season is upon me already, so maybe I’ll just do what I’ve done before. Well, before you think about falling into that pattern of doing what you’ve always done, let us first think about what the purpose of lent is and reflect on what Jesus says in our Gospel today. Have you ever thought about what the purpose of Lent might be? Maybe you’re thinking, well it is to prepare for Easter. Yes, you’re right, then what is the purpose of Easter? As you know, during Holy Week and Easter we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Easter and the Resurrection is the source of our salvation, the source of the forgiveness of our sins. A couple of weeks ago, St. Paul in the second reading said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; you are still stuck in your sins”. Jesus took all the sins of humanity, past, present, and future, to the Cross, and by his Death and Resurrection, then we have the forgiveness of our sins, that is, we don’t have to be stuck in our sins. Therefore, if the purpose of Lent is to prepare us for Easter, then it should be said, that the purpose of Lent is to help make the Death and Resurrection of Jesus effective in our lives, which will lead us to grow in our discipleship of following Jesus more closely. Have you thought about that- the purpose of Lent is to help you grow in holiness and follow Jesus more closely? Many people tend to give up something, usually something small, during Lent, and then look forward to taking it up again, sometimes over-indulging after Easter. If that has been you, think about if have you met the goal of growing closer to God by doing that? It is OK to give up something, even something small, but we must do it for the purpose it is intended. The purpose is to grow and strengthen your self-discipline so that the discipline can then be applied to another area of need in our lives. But ideally, the purpose of Lent is to begin something that will help bring about a lasting change in us away from sin and closer to God. Now let’s look at the Gospel for a few ideas.READ MORE
Our Gospel today continues the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in which Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are to live as set apart from the world, which as we just heard is a very high expectation. Jesus calls us to ‘love our enemies’. Yes, Jesus means those people we so often try to avoid because they annoy and frustrate us, we are called to love and do good to them. And if that isn’t hard enough, Jesus seemingly commands his disciples to do the impossible: be merciful as our Father is merciful. So often, we can hear Jesus’ teaching and perhaps feel a little, OK, better said, A LOT overwhelmed and unqualified, just like the first disciples must have felt. However, in this homily instead of trying to stir us on to do that which is so difficult, let me reflect on our 2nd readings from this week and last week to help shed light on one very critical aspect which makes our difficult task possible, and not so unbelievable as the first disciples must have thought. Indeed, this critical point makes it possible for us, but it also heightens the urgency and severity to Jesus’ words, and should make it more convicting for us. To do this, I am going to need your participation. Throughout this homily, I want you to be thinking about one very important question. That very important question is: Why are there so many atheists and agnostics in the world today?READ MORE
To begin my homily, I have two questions for you: First, raise your hand if you want to be happy? I know that’s a crazy question, of course all of you raised your hands because we all want to be happy. In fact, true happiness is what we were made for! Good, today Jesus tells us how to be happy.
Second, raise your hand if you want to be a Disciple? Good, I do too. If you remember in last week’s Gospel, Jesus called Peter, James, and John to become fishers of men and they left everything to become Jesus’ disciple. This week in our Gospel, Jesus gathered the 12 disciples with a large group of people and began to teach them what it means to be a disciple. So those who raised your hand and said you also wanted to become Jesus’ disciple, listen up. Our Gospel reading says that Jesus “raised his eyes to his disciples and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours”. Sound familiar? Yes, today we heard Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. You are probably familiar with Matthew’s Beatitudes- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted, and so forth”. And even though both Gospels say ‘Blessed’, the Hebrew word Jesus uses in both versions more accurately means ‘happiness’ or ‘to be happy’, of course if you follow Jesus’ directions, you indeed will be both happy and Blessed! There are also some differences in Luke’s version compared to Matthew’s. First of all, Luke uses the 2nd person- and he says ‘blessed are you’, rather than Matthew’s more general 3rd person- in which he uses ‘blessed are they’. And secondly, Luke’s version is more rigid and imposing, as there is a whole list of woes or curses included, which is quite the different tone from Matthew’s nice and comforting version. Therefore, can you imagine the disciples listening intently as Jesus looked into their eyes and said, “Blessed, Happy are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Happy are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. I imagine those words were consoling, after all, keep in mind, the 12 disciples left behind their families, their jobs, and all the comforts of home to follow Jesus. But then Jesus goes on to say, “Happy are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in Heaven”. I can imagine the disciples after hearing this last declaration of what it means to be happy, were like ‘I don’t want to think about people hating, excluding, and insulting me. Uh Jesus, can you go back to what you said earlier, those are more comforting?’READ MORE
Welcome back, class. Again, keep in mind that in this section of the class we are discovering who God really is. And so, if you remember last week, we learned that Jesus went into the synagogue of his home town, and read the prophecy from Isaiah in which the future Messiah, the Anointed One of God, will bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Then Jesus startlingly declared that that prophecy, the long-awaited coming of the Messiah, had been fulfilled in their midst. In other words, Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Before I go more into today’s lesson which describes who God is, first, let’s look at how the people responded to Jesus’ declaration that He was the Messiah, “all were amazed at his gracious words that came from his mouth”. Amazed at his gracious words, I’m hoping I’m misinterpreting how Luke meant it. But if not, what a reaction! In other words, ‘oh good, thank you for being the Messiah’, oh, gee, thank you for being the One who brings good news and freedom’. Gosh, I sure hope they didn’t get it, or really did not fully understood the magnitude of what Jesus was saying, because I’d expect jumping up and down for joy, I’d expect they would be running to tell everyone who they saw, or at the very least a little more heartfelt gratitude, anything other than a passing thanks without much meaning. But wait, that rings familiar to me, isn’t that how you and I can sometimes approach God? With so much indifference, like we don’t really recognize the magnitude of who He is, and we don’t really know or fully understand all that God has done and is doing for us.READ MORE
My brothers and sisters remember that in last week’s Gospel we heard the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, which was Jesus’ first action of many that revealed him to have God-like powers. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus unambiguously verbally declare Himself, for the first time, to be the Messiah, the Anointed One with the Spirit of God. So today is what I like to call the Mic-drop Gospel. For those of you who are, say under 25 years old, a mic-drop is when someone says something so amazing, so shocking, that it leaves everyone else speechless. In which no one can, or dares try to, say anything to counter or top what was just said, it’s that striking. For the audience in that synagogue, I imagine it took several minutes for everyone to pick up their jaws from the floor and even begin to process what Jesus just said, let alone think about what the ramifications of what he said are. Even though our Gospel today stops there, leaving us and everyone gathered to process what Jesus said, next week’s Gospel will pick up right where this left off. So, for those who don’t like cliff-hangers and can’t wait for next week to hear what the people thought and what the ramifications were of what Jesus said, go ahead, I give you permission, class, to read ahead. No really, go ahead, I encourage you, as is good to do every week, to read ahead and reflect for yourself in preparation for next Sunday. But for today, let me unpack the amazing words Jesus said, so that we too can be astonished, and begin to process what they mean for us.READ MORE
I really love our Gospel today. I can honestly say that it is one of my very favorite stories of the Bible. While the actual narrative is fairly short, if one would take the time to consider the detail of what’s going on in this story, to consider and imagine the reality of what’s taking place in each of the lines John presents us with, one could very well walk away with the idea for a best-selling novel, or hit movie, or on a more practical plain, some real solid take a-ways that can radically deepen our spiritual life.
Now my guess is that if you asked several people what the Wedding Feast at Cana was all about that some of the most common things we might hear is that it is where Jesus performed his first miracle, what John called a sign. Others would say, or add to that, that the events of Cana was the start of Jesus’s ministry, that it served as his “Coming Out Party” if you will.READ MORE
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