First Sunday of Advent – December 2, 2018

Adv1C18. Jeremiah 33: 14-16. The Lord God promises “to the house of Israel and Judah” that he “will raise up for David a just shoot.” In the Advent season we understand this to be applied to Jesus, who “shall do what is right and just in the land” by being the Messiah that will redeem the people.

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36. Here we go back to November’s theme of the Second Coming of Jesus with the terrifying signs of the end of the universe. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Then redemption is hand for those who have remained faithful to the Lord but destruction for those who were forgetful of Jesus and lost in worldliness.

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14. As we live out our daily lives we must constantly lift our souls in prayer to the Lord so not to be lost in the lowliness of this world. A wonderful daily prayer is the first lines that have been given to us in today’s psalm: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me: teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.” It is so easy to get lost in ourselves, thinking that we have it all figured out and can do it on our own. The psalm says that the Lord will only teach “the humble his way” but ignore the proud who do not feel they need God. “The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear” or respect God for who he is in relation to us, the almighty, loving Father helping his children who need to be cared for daily.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2. “Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming for our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” As the God who created us to be loved by him, we should love one another, as he loves us all. We should love the love that God has for us and love his will which is the supreme expression of his love for us. In loving God’s will for us and acting in obedience to his will, we are made “blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” Loving God’s will for us means that we conduct ourselves in way that is pleasing to God

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – November 25, 2018

34BKing18. Daniel 7:13-17. Jesus uses this term ‘Son of man’ from the book of Daniel to refer to himself. I take it to be a practical way for Jesus to refer to himself as truly human, yet beyond the capacity of human perception, infinitely more than human. In this passage in Daniel, God, the Ancient One, makes the Son of man king receiving “dominion, glory, and kingship,” with “all peoples, nations, and languages” serving him. Unlike an ordinary human king, “his dominion is an everlasting dominion.”

John 18:33b-37. The religious leaders of the Jews felt greatly threatened by the popularity of Jesus and that Jesus had confronted them on their using religion as tool to serve themselves and not the faith of the people. They accused him before Pilate but it appears that Pilate could not get a handle on what the charges were that deserved such a furious upset against Jesus. Strangely enough he was trying to get Jesus to tell him what he had done. Jesus certainly did not appear to be the kind of person who was attempting to be king or military leader of anyone. Jesus answered Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To Pilate that response made absolutely no sense. It is as if, we might say today, they were from two different planets or worlds. Truth for Pilate was holding down his job with the emperor. Truth for Jesus is the reality that is eternal, the Alpha and Omega, the same that always was, is now and always will be. Truth is the very person of God. Everything else lives for a short while and is dead the next. As Jesus said in John 14:6a, “I am the truth, the life and the way.” Everything else is fraudulent, falsely claiming to be the truth.

Revelation 1:5-8. “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” He is the shepherd king, leading us by the sacrifice of himself on the cross from our being sinners to becoming saints into his kingdom, to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (taken from Preface I of the Sundays in Ordinary Time) In Romans 6:5, Paul writes, “If, then we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” Daily we are priests, not as ministerial priests saying the words of consecration but as lay persons who offer up our lives with Jesus on his cross through prayer so that we may live with him in heaven forever.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 18, 2018

33B18. Daniel 12:1-3. The book of Daniel predicts that “there shall be a time unsurpassed in distress.” The wise and “those who lead many to justice” will live shining “like stars forever” but “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

 

Mark 13:24-32. I think that to begin to make sense of this reading one must go to and read the whole of Mark 13. Jesus refers to a whole number of things that will happen in the future, combining them in a sort of stew as one that might be cooking over a hot fire. In Mark 13:2 Jesus, in roughly 33 AD referring to the temple, says, “There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.” In fact the Jews, rebelling against the Romans, go to war against them in 66-70 AD and lose. The Romans destroy the temple in 71 AD. In time Jesus says there will be many disastrous events that will occur, but for followers of Christ, “these are the beginnings of the labor pains.” Christians will be imprisoned but he says do not worry about how to respond. Jesus says in Mark 13:11c, “For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit” who speaks through you. He continues in Mark 13:13: “You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

 

Then Jesus says in Mark 14:14a, “When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not” (Jesus does not say what or who this is, perhaps Satan himself), you must flee. In Mark 14:22-23, he continues: “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect. Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.” In the next verse which begins our Sunday reading, Jesus says in effect the whole universe will disintegrate, “and then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out his angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” In absolute contrast to his first coming as a helpless infant, Jesus, now in his second coming as the mighty King calling his own, his elect, who have been loyal to him to the end, up into heaven. Then Jesus seems to be at odds or variance with himself saying at first that he does know when these things will happen when he says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” and then saying he does not know when these things will take place, saying, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the only the Father.” My own understanding is that when Jesus says that these things will come to pass before this generation passes away is that each generation must think that the end may come before they pass away so that they may always be watchful and alert. The term ‘elect’ is that Jesus chooses those who choose him.

 

Hebrews 10:11-14. Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. Jesus, being divine as well as human, only needed to offer one sacrifice. The Judaic priests who were simply human had to make many sacrifices. When we join ourselves to Jesus’ sacrifice, we are made perfect. He is God the Son who comes in power and glory.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 11, 2018

32B18. 1 Kings 17:10-16. What a heart-wrenching account! “Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” Elijah was able to bring the life–sustaining power of God to her aid, saying, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The Lord provided in her dire need. In Luke 1:53, Mary says, “The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”

Mark 12:38-44. Jesus calling his disciples to himself, saying, “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” God judges us individually on how much we do with how much we have. Judgment is based not on a competition, one against the other but rather on our own individual effort. When we are giving to God, we only give what God has given us. He knows well what we are capable of. God is perfectly just, true to himself as a Father loving each of us, his children fairly. He also condemns the scribes because they are only working for their self-interest and esteem. “They will receive a very severe condemnation.” This Sundays’ Psalm 146 says, “The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.”

Hebrews 9:24-28. Christ, who died for our benefit on the cross, ascends to heaven to “appear before God on our behalf.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Infinitely superior to the priests of the Old Testament who had to offer sacrifices continuously, Christ offers himself only once on the cross to take away the sins of many. He will come “a second time, not to take away sins but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” Christ suffered and died so that we may be his holy people, sinners made by the Lord into saints, prepared to enter heaven to adore him forever.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 4, 2018

31B18. Deuteronomy 6:2-6. Moses gives the Hebrew Law or Torah to the Hebrews with its hundreds of commands and prohibitions. From my personal point of view this regime of training and discipline is like what a loving parent gives to their little children. In the New Testament this same loving God expects that his sons and daughters will have developed to point where He then only has to give only far fewer commands that are far broader in the scope in what they demand of us. The best example of this is Matthew 5:48 where Jesus simply says: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In the Old Testament Law, God promises that observance will lead to a long life and to “a land flowing with milk and honey” as a reward. I believe that observance of the Law in the proper spirit was given to the Hebrew people as the sure way to help them to grow in that all-consuming love of the Lord that is demanded by the first of the two great commandments.

Mark 12:28b-34. We always hear and read the command: “You shall love the Lord our God.” Unfortunately it can easily give the impression that love begins with us. 1 John 4:19 clearly states: “We love because he first loved us.” We go next to 1 John 4:9-10 which says, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” As we daily grow in the love that God has for us, we become more capable in turn, of loving God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. We cannot give what we do not have. The only way to have a genuine life of love is to get it as a gift from God himself. God is the ultimate source or root of all goodness. Jesus says in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Secondly, we cannot love what we do not properly respect. To respect God means to hold God in our hearts and minds for the person God truly is: all-knowing; all-powerful; all present; all-loving. However, we cannot truly and fully grasp who God is because he is infinite and we are finite. Because he is “the Lord our God” and we are not God, we must live in total submission to his Will. God is love; his Will is love. To live in anything else but a total submission to the Will of God is not to live in his love. In John 14:21 Jesus says: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” In John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” If God does not give us the love with which to love we can have no true love for God. To truly love God or neighbor means that God himself must live within us as the source of our life and love.

Hebrews 7:23-28. “Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” Jesus, “who has been made perfect forever,” is the perfect priest to appeal to God for us. In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Jesus who loved us so much that he died on the cross for us is the sure way to heaven for us. He is the sure way for us to live with our becoming love as he is love.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 28, 2018

30B18. Jeremiah 31:7-9. “The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.” “They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them.” “For I am a father to Israel.” As the psalm response for Psalm 126 says, “The Lord had done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” For their disobedience Israel had been led off to captivity by the Babylonians. They had served their time in reparation. The God of Israel loves his People and with paternal care leads them back to their homeland.

Mark 10:46-52. Bartimaeus hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by but, probably because he has heard that Jesus has done miraculous things that only the Messiah could do, he calls out to him addressing him with the messianic title, son of David, instead of Jesus of Nazareth, which was his secular name. Bartimaeus, in crying out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me,” is saying what we say at the beginning of Mass: ‘Jesus, have mercy; Christ, have mercy’. It was his way, and now our way, of requesting: ‘Make me physically whole; make me spiritually holy’ or ‘do great things for me’. As Jesus’ Father led Israel out of the dark times of slavery, Jesus leads a son of Israel out of the darkness of his blindness. When the disciples said to Bartimaeus, “‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you,’ he threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Traditionally Bartimaeus’ response to the invitation of Jesus is looked upon as his way of saying by his actions that he has abandoned seeking his strength from his own personal resources but is now totally dependent on, i.e. put his faith, in Jesus. Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your ‘faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” As with the remnant of Israel in Jeremiah, the Lord has done great things for Bartimaeus and he follows the Lord with great joy. In the darkness of his blindness his faith opened him to be filled with the power of God. Our weaknesses invite us to no longer be dependent on our own resources but rather to put our faith in the strength of the Lord. Life is journey of having the sight to see Jesus leading us on the way to heaven and not be lost in the blindness of an earthly life.

Hebrews 5:1-6. Every high priest in the Old Testament was just a human being but chosen by God. Being human even the high priest “is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.” Jesus too was called by God his Father to be the high priest. It was the Father who glorified the Jesus, saying to him: “You are my son: this day I have begotten you!” The God sets up the scenario for Jesus to be the high priest who opens up the gates of heaven by offering himself on the cross so that we may be delivered from captivity to sin to live in the promised land of heaven. Now we can say: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 21, 2018

29B18. Isiah 53:10-11. Suffering for the sins of others because God wishes it of him, God’s servant will be rewarded abundantly.

Mark 10:35-45. The brothers, James and John, ask of Jesus that, when he comes into glory and power, they want to be closest to the center of power which would mean that the other ten would be in lower and lesser positions than they. Of course, the other ten became indignant on hearing the boldness of their request. Jesus denied their request saying that that was not his to give. However, much more important to Jesus was that seeking power over others was not his goal but rather serving others. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to first among you will be the slave of all.” God is love and he is the model of what we should be. Though all-powerful he did not impose himself on us because he wished us to be loving as he is loving. He created us with free will so that we could make the choice on our own be loving or to reject love. To be loving means that we must be lowly when to be lowly is what love requires as when Jesus chose to be a helpless infant; to suffer as when he suffered for us; to die as when he died for us. He made God’s almighty divine power subject to his desire to be loving rather than overwhelming us with might. For God love lords it over power and might, making power and might the servant of love. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Paul writes in Philippians 2: 5-8: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, ‘Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found to be human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross’”

Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus, always remaining God, nonetheless became human so to become the great high priest who offered up himself on the cross to redeem us from our sins. In his humanness Jesus came to “sympathize with our weaknesses,” being “tested in every way yet without sin.” As the song says, “We have a friend in Jesus.” We can live with confidence and without fear knowing that his infinite love for us drew him from the heavens so to be close to our side by embracing humanity into his very being. His humanity and his human life on this earth assures us that he can sympathize with us so to help us when we need it and be merciful to us.

Psalm 33. The last verses of this Sunday’s psalm say: “Our soul waits for the Lord who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.”

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 14, 2018

28B18. Wisdom 7:7-11. “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” As I see it, the wisdom that is sought is to see things as God sees them to the degree that we as finite beings are capable of grasping a part of the whole of things. This world seems to be willing to have an almost infinite number of its visions of what it wishes to call the truth: whatever one feels to be true whenever one wishes to feel a particular way. Truth is not a personal choice or selection process. There is only one truth or reality and only God is capable of seeing the whole of it. However, God can, according to his will, give to whomever He wishes the wisdom to understand or grasp whatever that person needs to know for his salvation. Without wisdom we will waste away our lives without achieving anything that has true lasting value.

Mark 10:17-30. A man asks Jesus, “’Good teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” To ask this question he must have felt that he was not getting the job done by just being a faithful Jew. Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.’” Interestingly Jesus does answer him solely out of his humanness perhaps because that was all that the man could see in front of him, Jesus in his humanity; secondly, because he had not come to the point of recognizing Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is saying that God is the root or radical source of all that is truly good. For anyone else to have any goodness, they must draw it from God. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’ At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Jesus was calling on this man to let go of his earthly possessions so that, in turn, he would be free to take ahold of spiritual ones but he had not come to the point of having the wisdom to see the timeless value of the heavenly treasure and the passing value of the earthly ones. Following Jesus daily we have, even here on earth, the greatest treasure that exists. When Jesus looked at him with love, Jesus had given himself to him. Not having the wisdom to recognize what he had been given, the gift that was Jesus himself, he rejected the greatest of all gifts. The Holy Spirit works with everyone daily to mature gradually, growing more and more in the Lord so that our eyes of our hearts see more clearly and we are no longer blind fools. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” To give up everything does not necessarily mean that we must dispossess ourselves of our material things, because, while still living in a material world, we need material things. Rather we do need to develop spiritually so that, at the very root of our being because we live so deeply in Christ, we recognize that we belong to Christ, our very self and all that we own, even our bodies. We have no need to have anything because we have the one and only thing that is necessary, Christ. Jesus himself belongs to us because he has given himself to us and daily we grow in accepting that gift. That is the true wisdom that lives in the one and only truth, Jesus who said ‘I am the truth’.

Hebrews 4:12-13. “The word God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” The word of God is the expression of God that comes from his heart of love for us to bring us to be love as he is love. God’s inner self does not want us to be just dreamy, affectionate, comfortable and lost in a painless world. The word of God also wants us to bleed because pain and suffering should never stop us from loving as he loved, no matter the cost. The divine love we are called to pierces through all obstacles. His love cost him dearly to leave heaven and live as a helpless baby, cost him effable pain in his humiliating treatment, physical violence and excruciating death on the cross. We read in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” The word of God, his wisdom given to us, does not allow us to live in the illusion that we have done enough to be heaven-bound, but pierces through our desire to feel comfortable by walling out the challenges of divine love. Yet the word of God allows us also to feel confident in God’s hands because nothing is impossible for God.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 7, 2018

27B18. Genesis 2:18-24. The Lord said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” God created various animals and birds; “but none proved to be suitable partner for the man.” Casting “a deep sleep on the man,” “God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’” “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”

Mark 10:2-16. When questioned by Jesus, the Pharisees “replied, ‘Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss’” his wife. However, Jesus recalls the divine authority who established the original inviolability of marriage in the Old Testament so to assert that marriage was never meant to be broken apart. He says: “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus proclaims that, if husband or wife divorce and remarry, the second marriage becomes an act of adultery against the first spouse. On his way to creating a New Covenant, Jesus gradually does away with the old Mosaic Law bit by bit. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Though Jesus reminds every one of the making of woman from man’s rib, he is fundamentally asserting the inviolable sacredness of marriage comes from the love that he has given us which is the measure of the love we must have for one another. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, Paul gives a practical discourse on marriage & virginity in which he makes it clear that, if we choose to daily live by our faith in Christ, i.e., to truly belong to Christ, then we must live in love as Christ is love and not only not break our bonds of marriage but to daily live our marriage in Christ’s love. For this natural world having sex is for the continuation of the species in the here and now. For the natural world the concept of eternal love is non-existent because there is no eternity. Nature just wants to keep things going as long as they can be kept going naturally for just as long as that works.

Hebrews 2:9-11. “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” He makes us who are of the flesh of this earth a holy people whom he can call his brothers and sisters. In 1 Corinthians 15:44, Paul makes it clear that by our union with Jesus that what “is sown a natural body,” “is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.” Living just naturally is to be just another animal of this earth; living spiritually is to activate our God-given potential to be children of Almighty Loving Father.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 30, 2018

26B18. Numbers 11:25-29. “Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied,” i.e., speaking in enraptured enthusiasm, but not foretelling the future. When others who had not gone out to the special gathering were given the gift of prophesy, Joshua objected. Moses responded, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” Moses rejoices in the generosity of the Lord.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48. That same generosity is given to someone who drives out demons in Jesus’ name but is not in the group that follows Jesus. Jesus does not want anyone to prevent him, responding, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus feels that anyone who does good in his name and out of belief in him will be rewarded as will any of his followers. Then Jesus goes on to say that if anything precious to you or a part of you, such as a hand, foot or eye, causes you to sin, i.e. causes you to do evil, cut it out of your life because it will lead to your eternal destruction. As human beings we receive the capacity to do many things with the free will in how to use those God-given abilities. Choose to do all in Jesus as the root of all we do. That will always lead us to do what is truly good.

James 5:1-6. James makes it clear that it is worthless to treasure earthly things that will rot and corrode as will our very flesh someday but fail to do good for the needy that the Lord will remember forever. Choose to value what will serve us eternally.

Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14. The last verses say, “Cleanse me from my unknown faults! From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant: let it not rule over me. Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin.” As humans being it is easy for us to deceive ourselves, to not see ourselves as we truly are in the eyes of God. True humility requires that we leave lots of room in our lives for God to lead us. The childlike attitude of last Sunday’s Gospel demands that we always have an attitude that is willing to learn.