Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 10, 2019

5C19. Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8. Isaiah, on feeling that the frame of the house shook and filled with smoke, cried out, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.” The seraphim touched the mouth of Isaiah with an ember taken from the altar and said, “Your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” When the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here I am; send me!” Before the great display of the power of the Lord, Isaiah felt his own profound unworthiness because of his sinfulness. However, it was by God’s power that he was made worthy and so enabled Isaiah to be God’s prophet to his people.

Luke 5:1-11. Jesus, knowing what he planned to do, got into Simon’s boat so that he could preach to the crowd that was on the shore. Jesus then ordered Simon to put out into deep water and lower the nets for a catch. Simon, yet to be named Peter, acquiesced to Jesus’ command despite the fact that he thought the effort would be fruitless because they had gotten nothing after fishing all night. Simon, stunned at the sudden great catch of fish to the point that their nets were tearing, “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’” As with Isaiah, God turned sinful men into people who were missionaries worthy to fulfil God’s calling to bring people into God’s kingdom. “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”

1 Corinthians 15:1-11. When we read the epistles, it should be with the mind that Paul is responding to some issue or need in the church community to which he writes. In other words, we only know one part of the dialog. Next week we read further that the issue he is responding to this week is that some said that there was no resurrection of the dead. This week Paul lays the groundwork to assert the genuine resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Paul says that Jesus himself appeared to many after the resurrection, including to Paul himself. Then Paul digresses to how unworthy Paul was to be personally called by Jesus, since Paul intensely “persecuted the church of God.” Paul asserts that it was and is by the grace of God that he is what he is, a very effective missionary for the church of God. As with Isaiah and Peter, now with Paul, God turns a sinner into a person who was a missionary worthy to fulfil God’s calling to bring people into God’s kingdom. Without God no one can be holy; with God we cannot be anything but holy.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 3, 2019

4C19. Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19. God in his divinity is without the limitations that we live with and take for granted. He is without beginning or end. So God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew the horrific opposition Jeremiah would face. God says, “Be not crushed on their account.” He makes him like “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass” against all the rejection he will get from Judah.

Luke 4:21-30. In saying, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus is saying that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him to bring glad tidings to the poor, in other words, that he is the prophet being sent by God the Father. The people in the synagogue where he gave his short talk, “asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’” They were really saying we saw him grow up in our midst just as an ordinary, local person. How is it that all of a sudden, he claims to be a prophet? Secondly, the people complained that he has worked many wondrous miracles in Capernaum but not here in Nazareth. Jesus’ purpose in working miracles was to build faith in those who were open to believe. It made no sense to work miracles for those who had a closed mind and a hard heart as did those he had grown up with. In answer to them Jesus replies that God the Father worked miracles for the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian were not Jews. They were greatly angered by that reply because as God’s People they thought that they had an irrefutable claim and sole ownership of God’s good works. In pointing out that God had chosen other people to be generous to instead of the Jews, it challenged the assumption that, in being chosen by God, all other peoples were rejected by God with no right to God’s good works. Not only did they not know who Jesus was; they did not they were in God’s eyes.

1 Corinthians 12:31- 13:13. Earlier in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul relates that the Holy Spirit gives varied spiritual gifts to the whole body of the church or Assembly of God’s People coordinating and providing for the various interrelated functions of the body so that the body can operate as a single efficient unit. The gifts vary in such a way that, working together harmoniously, the body can operate or function as an efficient whole or entity. Above the ordinary gifts that the Spirit gives, Paul makes it clear that there is a spiritual gift that is greater than all the rest that all of us should strive for. Paul goes on to say that he has grown in knowledge since his childhood. He is the point now, he writes, that he has grown to know only partially and indistinctly; but what he does know is that greatest of all gifts is love. Genesis 1:27 says: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” Since 1 John 4:16b says: “God is love”, and we are made in his image and likeness, then we must be love which is to say that we must, not only be loving, but that our very person must be love as God is love. In Matthew 6:9, Jesus teaches us to pray by calling God our Father. As sons and daughters to our Father God who is love we must be love because we are the offspring of the One who is love. Love is not just something we do but who we are. This is his glad tidings to the poor. God will make rich in God’s love.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 27, 2019

3C19. Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10. The Law or the Torah was God’s way of making the Hebrews into his faithful Chosen People. The faithful practice of the Law was to unite them together as one people belonging to the one God. Ezra the priest was speaking to the people as God’s representative. He told that rejoicing in the Lord must be their strength. That must be our strength too.

Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21. Luke, the evangelist, writes to his readers as though writing to one person named Theophilus, which means in Greek “one who loves God’. “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” As the human aspect of Jesus was given over to the power of the Spirit so should we be daily, following the example of Jesus. As Ezra read the Scriptures to the people, so does Jesus. Jesus reads from Isaiah 6:1-2 what Isaiah had written regarding the restoration of God’s people to their land but now applies this passage to his ministry to establish a new People of God as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Jesus says to those in the synagogue, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-30. “We were all given to drink of one Spirit,” since the many members of the church, using our many Spirit-given gifts for the benefit of the whole body of the church make us one body with Christ as the head, as did the Law make the Hebrews one in God. As Ezra proclaimed the Law of the Lord to unite the people as one people in God, so too Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of the Old Testament in his Person and ministry to create a one, new people of God. It would seem that Paul wrote this section to address problems in the Corinthian community where there may not have been adequate respect for the spiritual gifts that others had received and /or some members were claiming that their gifts were superior to others thus creating dissension and disunity, thus offending the unity that God’s Church must have.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 20, 2019

2C19. Isaiah 62:1-5. Isaiah looks forward to the return of the Hebrew captives to Israel. “So shall your God rejoice in you” as his people returns to his embrace as his bride. What great things God will do for his people because his love for them is so great!

John 2:1-11. When reading John’s gospel, it is absolutely necessary to realize that, more than than not, he intentionally writes with two levels of meaning. First there is the obvious first meaning or understanding that the text is speaking on a physical, everyday layer of meaning, i.e. the text says just what the common understanding is and nothing more or less. However, then John the Evangelist expects us to delve into the deeper, more profound meaning he really wants us to perceive. From the first reading we can see that God wants to see his relationship to his people as a marriage that involves the deep caring that the groom should have for his bride and not just as two people passing each other on the street. In the coming of Jesus into the world God is forming a new bride whom he wishes to marry in yet a deeper love than before. Returning to the first obvious level of meaning we should recognize that the disciples of Jesus were, what I refer to, as a lower blue-collar class of hard working people who were used to living a hard and hardy style of life. In other words, there is a good chance that the reason why the feast ran short of wine was that Jesus’ disciples drank most of it. Mary is confronting her son with the problem of the lack of wine because she feels he has the responsibility to deal with the shortage that his disciples have created. At first he is reluctant because he seems to feel that “My hour has not yet come” to work miracles. Yet Mary persists by saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” I feel that Jesus still remains obedient to his Mother and to God the Father who speaks through Mary. Jesus superabundantly provides for the wine that ran short by turning six stone jars filled with water into 120 to 180 gallons of wine, almost 900 bottles full. There is a deeper level of meaning to be uncovered in this stupendous miracle. I believe that Jesus works this miracle at the beginning of his ministry to say that, what was the water of the Old Covenant, he now turns into rich, fine wine, the infinite abundance of his redemptive love that is the New Covenant that Jesus initiates in his ministry. Jesus brings to the world a love that is akin to a deep love a bridegroom has for his bride to make something, new, deeper and better. The headwaiter remarks, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus thereby announces that he is taking what was good in the Old Testament times and making it infinitely better by his ministry. John does not relate the reaction of Jesus’ disciples to this miracle directly but indirectly when he writes rites, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-11. “There are different workings (spiritual gifts or service) but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” “One and the same Spirit produces all of these (spiritual gifts), distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” Through his ministry Jesus is building a new Holy People of God through the work of the Holy Spirit that includes all peoples and not just Jews. Psalm 96 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all you lands.” “Tell his glory among all the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.” Through Jesus’ ministry God’s power flowed then and now into all peoples to build his new Church, to create his new bride.

The Baptism of the Lord – January 13, 2019

BaptC19. Isaiah 40:1-2, 9-11. God makes the way ready for his people to return from their captivity in Babylon. God is the glorious savior of his people who benefit from their God’s power. He is not only awesome but gentle, loving and caring. “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22. The people were captivated by the severe holiness of John, asking him if he might be the messiah. “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.” Continuing on, he said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The Messiah who is to come will give the Holy Spirit to lead the people to repentance while those who do not repent will be burned and consumed by an ‘unquenchable fire.’ In Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels Jesus is baptized by John; but in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is baptized after John’s ministry has ended because John has already been imprisoned by Herod before Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:20-21). In Luke’s Gospel after John’s ministry ended, Jesus’ ministry began. After Jesus “had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’” The presence of God, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father’s verbal affirmation testified that this person, Jesus who appeared to the people, only in earthly human form is truly the divine Son of God. At Jesus’ death when “the centurion and the men with him who keeping watch over Jesus experienced the earthquake” and all the calamitous events that were happening, “they said, ‘truly, this was the Son of God!’”(Matthew 27:54) Jesus was the divine son of God, spoken of in the baptismal formula: “in the name of the Father and of the Son, and the holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19); but at the same he was the human son of God and of Mary. (Luke 1:35) Jesus was and is both human and divine. In his divinity the Son of God had no beginning, since divinity cannot be created; in his humanity he did have a beginning, then an end in his death on the cross and then a new beginning in his resurrection with a glorified body. Adam is called son of God because he was created by God to be a human being in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26 & Luke 3:38b). However, Adam had no existence before God created him, as did the Son of God.

Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7. Grace in Hebrew is said to mean favor, i.e. that is one who is graced has found favor with God. When, as Jesus says, “you are in me and I in you (John 14:20b), Jesus shares himself with us, i.e. his life, his love, his knowledge, his power, so that we grow more and more in the image and likeness of God. As I understand it, grace is that sharing of his divine self with us. In John 15:4a, Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” “Because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior so that we might be justified by his grace.”

Psalm 104. “O Lord, my God, you are great indeed! You are clothed with majesty and glory.” The Lord has shown by the infinite goodness of his works how glorious he is! Without him there is nothing that is good. “When you send forth your spirit,” “you renew the face of the earth.”

The Epiphany of the Lord – January 6, 2019

Epiph19

“Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar.” All nations come to worship Yahweh, not just a select Chosen People, the Jews. All peoples are God’s peoples.

Matthew 2:1-12. The magi come following the star that leads to the “newborn king of the Jews.” The star is the light that leads to Jesus. It shines for all peoples. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has no overcome it” (John 1: 5). King Herod was the darkness who wanted to extinguish the light but was destined to fail because the source of the light (God) is infinitely more powerful than the source of darkness (the devil). See how diabolic Herod is when he sends the magi to seek Jesus and says, “When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” The darkness that is so deep seeks to devour the light that is the Christ. The non-Jews, the magi, “prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” The star was God’s way of inviting in the Gentiles to take Jesus as their Messiah. They followed the light sent by God to lead them to eternal life. The Holy Spirit does that for us daily. “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1: 3c-4).

Hebrews 1:1-6. “The mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body.” The revelation is the light that takes away the darkness. Jesus is the revelation that he is the Messiah, Savior of all peoples. We who daily follow the light, the Holy Spirit, shall be people of eternal life. “Then you shall be radiant at what you see.” ( from the first reading)

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 72. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” A society that honestly honors the place that God deserves because he is God worships him. God has created us out of an intense love for us because his divine nature is love. The very least we ought to do is to love him as the divine giver of love and recognize him as who he truly is, the infinite divinity. The way to let God be God in our lives is to worship him in our prayers daily. If we don’t do that, then he is no longer genuinely present to our hearts and minds. We end treating him as a non-existent entity in our lives. Practically speaking, by not giving God the place he deserves in our daily routine, we live as atheists. Let us worship him daily

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – December 30, 2018

FAMC18. 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28. God was always active and involved in the lives of his Chosen People, the Israelites. He guided them through the prophets he personally appointed and raised up. In order to understand this first reading please read the first chapter of the book of Samuel. God answers the prayer of Hannah by allowing her to bear a son, Samuel. Through Samuel, God was to lead King David and his People to be a great nation. In the third reading God gives Mary a son Jesus to lead the peoples of all times to heaven.

Luke 2:41-52. Mary and Joseph are referred to as Jesus’ parents because Joseph is Jesus’ father by adoption. Joseph is, in effect, Jesus’ earthly father. God is still Jesus’s heavenly father but in part exercises his fatherly care through Joseph while Joseph is still alive. I believe this incident of the Holy Family in Jerusalem has been given in the Scriptures to further confirm that Jesus was both thoroughly human as well as thoroughly divine. Jesus’ divinity had to carefully keep enough of a distance from his humanity to allow his humanity to be fully human because his divinity is so incredibly powerful that his humanity would have been overwhelmed, if his divinity became too involved with his humanity. Around the age of twelve a Hebrew boy can celebrate his ceremonial age of becoming a man, his bar-mitzvah, fully responsible to follow the Law. Jesus in his humanness had achieved a certain level of maturity by the age of twelve that he was able to sit “in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions,” to the extent that “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” However, at the age of twelve he had not yet gained the mindfulness to think of asking his parents for the permission to remain in Jerusalem. In no way did Jesus mean to reject obedience to his parents but was simply being thoughtless in his humanity. He was to grow yet further in his maturation process. This passage continues on saying, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” This gospel finishes by saying, “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” In his divinity he was all-knowing and so could never learn more but in his humanity he needed to and did learn more and more as he grew older and older.

1 John 3:1-2, 21-24. “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” In our liturgy at the beginning of the ‘Our Father’ prayer it says, “We dare to say, Our Father.” How can we be so bold to call the Almighty Creator, Our Father’? Jesus, his son, make it clear that his Father wants to be a loving, caring Father, but also a demanding Father to us. His demand is that “we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them.” By being obedient to his will, which means the same as keeping his commandments, we become his children and he, our Father. We are living in him and he; in us; he is our home and we are his home. In other words, we are at home with the Lord daily, sharing endless fellowship with the Lord, much in the same way we feel at home with our families, friends and fellow workers. The Holy Spirit enables us to be his obedient children, who grow in holiness daily, developing more and more in his likeness as his children, even while we live in a world that rejects God as our Father.

“We do not know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” I believe that means that, as God took our humanity through Mary, when we go to live as God’s children in heaven, he will share with us, in some way or another that is not known to us now, some of his divinity.

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 23, 2018

Adv4C18. Micah 5:1-4a. The Lord announces to Bethlehem, where David was born, “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord.” “His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 89 & Psalm 132:11-12, God declared that an heir of David would rule forever. We understand that person to be Jesus the Christ.

Luke 1:39-45. Mary has just been told, right after she accepted her God-given assignment to be the Mother of God-made-man, that Elizabeth in her old age is to bear a child. She immediately recognizes that Elizabeth will need help. The sixth-month old child in Elizabeth’s womb is so Spirit-filled he “leaped in her womb,” because God-made-man has arrived in Mary’s womb. “Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,” blesses Mary and her awesome, divine child and expresses her astonishment that Mary, despite her spectacular calling has come to help Elizabeth in her lowliness. Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary then, after she has answered her call to duty to Elizabeth, rejoices that God “has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” to rejoice that “the Mighty One has done great things for” her. It seems to me that Mary had been long-suffering in her unrecognized closeness to God amidst many others who were of no account in the eyes of God yet held in high esteem by many in this world. They were ones who were “arrogant of mind and heart” and others rich in the things of this earth. Mary had put her life in the hands of God and not of this earth. God not only was helping Israel his servant but also Mary his handmaid, “remembering his mercy,” for those who “have favor with God.”

Hebrews 10:5-10. “When Christ came into the world,” God the Father was not looking for just another Old Testament/Covenant offering. He desired to show the infinite depths of his love for the whole world. Jesus, both divine and human, was to be the once-and-for-all offering. God “takes away the first to establish the second” Covenant. God became a helpless, tiny baby to purposely put himself in the hands of those who would contribute to his handing himself up as a sacrificial redemption for our sins to God the Father. His incarnation and birth into humanity and then death on the cross were one seamless act of redemption. In a sense the Annunciation/Incarnation, celebrated on March 25 which tends to fall around Holy Week, is an integral part of Holy Week as one seamless act of redemption. He became flesh (John 1:14) so to offer himself up on the cross in the flesh (1 Timothy 2:5-6a) (Rom 6:8).

Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2018

Adv3C18. Zephaniah 3:14-18a. “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad with all your heart!” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” The people of Judah at that time had for the most part abandoned the practice of the Torah and any faithfulness to the God of Israel. The prophet Zephaniah seeks to strengthen those who were still loyal to God by encouraging them to rejoice in the God who was still loyal to them.

Luke 3:10-18. In Luke 3:8a, John the Baptist says, “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.” He tells those who have more than enough, to share; to tax collectors, be fair; to soldiers, do not be unjust. Then John says that the Messiah is coming who will baptize them “with fire with the Holy Spirit and fire” and not just water as he does. The Holy Spirit is to bring repentance and holiness; the unquenchable fire, to cleanse the world of sinfulness.

Philippians 4:4-7. The Entrance Chant verse for this Sunday says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” Since the word ‘rejoice’ in Latin is ‘Gaudete’, this Sunday from the times Latin was the language used in the Mass has been called ‘Gaudete Sunday’. Where there is Jesus, as the Lord of one’s life, there is joy even in times of suffering. Paul goes on to write: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When we live our lives out of the giving hand of God, then we have it all, we will never lack anything.

Responsorial Psalm from Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6. “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.” The water that the Lord gives us at the fountain of salvation is a share in his holiness that entitles us to live with him in his household of heaven with his family, the saints.

Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018

Adv2C18. Baruch 5:1-9. The people of Israel were led into slavery by Babylonians, as a punishment for their gross unfaithfulness to God. God, ever faithful despite the lack of loyalty of his people, gathers his own back to him. “See your children gathered from the east and the west as the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring then back to you.” He has made their way back easy: lowering “every lofty mountain,” bringing the gorges up “to level ground,” cooling their way with “every kind of fragrant tree,” “for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory.”

Luke 3:1-6. Luke locates the work of John the Baptist in real time by listing the real people of those times because this was a genuine historical event: his proclamation of the Messiah. “The word of God came to John” because he was a prophet, even more than a prophet (Luke ). Then John roughly quotes Isaiah 40:3-4 and a bit more paraphrasing the ideas expressed in the rest of Isaiah 40. Luke builds on the Baruch and Isaiah to say that God is now freeing us from captivity to sin to once again be a blessed people of God. John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin which is our Advent way to make straight the way of the Lord to our hearts.

Psalm 126. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” This is what the Hebrews proclaimed when they, captives of Zion, were brought back by the Lord to Zion. We likewise proclaim the greatness of Lord toward us when we experience being brought back from sinfulness into the holy company of God.
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (code words to mean when Jesus comes the second time.) “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase evermore,” “so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (the Second Coming) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” Let us welcome the Messiah as sinners who have become saints through the work of the Spirit.