4th Sunday of Advent – 2017

Adv4B17.   2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16.   Through the prophet Nathan, God says, “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’” God goes on to assert that it is he who gets things done, using David as his servant.  In the narration that follows, using the word ‘I’ eleven times, God makes it clear that it is his omnipotence that has accomplished the good things that have been done for Israel.  It was not David but God with David’s cooperation who accomplished all the good.

Luke 1:26-38.  The angel Gabriel, sent by God, announces to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,.”  Mary responds, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary accepts her role as servant of God’s will, as David had been ages before.  Since Mary recognizes that it will not be by her action that this birth will occur, she asks the angel, ‘How can this be?”  “And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” It is God’s power with Mary’s cooperation that brings about the wondrous divine act of divinity taking on humanity so that in his humanity Jesus is able to offer himself up to the Father as a redemptive sacrifice for our sins and so open the gates of heaven to those who wish to enter by living out a life of faith in Jesus the Christ.

In the Christmas Vigil Mass, Isaiah (62:5) proclaims, “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you.  And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”  Through Mary all humanity that serves God as Mary did, in a sense, becomes a bride to God.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”  In the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:10b), the five wise virgins went into the wedding feast with the bridegroom.  At the judgment time those who have filled their lives with holiness become the bride of Christ, the new Jerusalem (Revelation. 21:2), God’s holy people.

At the end of the first reading, God says through the prophet Samuel, I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.  Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”  Through Mary’s son Jesus, God fulfills his promise.  In this Gospel reading, the angel says to Mary, Jesus “will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his Father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Romans 16:25-27.  Paul glorifies God who has made known to all nations the mystery kept secret for long ages that Jesus is Lord and so we ought to obey him by putting our faith in him.

Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29.  “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord,” for fulfilling his promises made to David.

3rd Sunday of Advent – December 13, 2020

Adv3B20.   Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11.    The Lord God has anointed the prophet Isaiah to proclaim a year of favor to reconstruct what was broken; to enable those who were unable, since they were without adequate resources; to free those who were bound up or held back so that all may be made whole and productive.  The prophet rejoices from the depths of his heart in his God who works such wonders.  The Lord God has made him glorious like a garden that bears new growth out of what was barren before.  All nations will be will be amazed at the glorious work of the Lord God.

Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54.  In these verses from the Magnificat Mary exults in the spectacular work of the Lord in her.  She rejoices that God has filled her lowliness with his magnificent  blessing on her.  The Almighty has used his might to raise her up from her relative insignificance, someone who was not worthy of anyone to pay any attention to her, by the great things he has done for her.

John 1:6-8, 19-28.   As Isaiah was sent from God, so was John the Baptist.  He witnesses, declares, testifies to the coming of the Lord God into this world.  At first the representatives from the Sadducees, then those from the Pharisees question John.  John declares that he has the same task that Isaiah had, i.e., to prepare the way of the Lord.  The Pharisees ask John as to how he has the right to purify or baptize.  John answers that his baptism is only by water.  The baptism that has divine power belongs to the one who is now following him, one who is far greater than he.  Our first reading from Isaiah proclaimed that God was about to do something wondrous.  In the Magnificat Mary rejoices in what a spectacular thing God has done in her.  In this gospel reading John the Baptist prepares the Jewish nation to receive their Messiah, the light who will take away the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.   In this conclusion to his letter Paul encourages the Thessalonians to maintain order in their church community so to be found holy at the coming of the Lord.  This reading continues the theme of this Sunday’s reading to joyfully ready oneself to greet the coming Savior.

3rd Sunday of Advent – 2017

Adv3B17.   Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11.  God’s Spirit anoints Isaiah to announce God’s empowerment to the lowly, i.e. the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners.  Isaiah, made by God the glorious herald of freedom for the captives of Israel, proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”  Through Isaiah God brings the good news of his restauration of the People of Israel.

Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54.  Paralleling Isaiah’s joyful proclamation, Mary likewise rejoices in the work of God to raise up the lowly, i.e., Mary, her very self, as well as all those who have so little but do respect God as the God over them, especially Israel.  Mary and Israel are mentioned as servants of God’s Will.  On this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing, both Isaiah and Mary renew in us the spirit of rejoicing in the Lord always, for the God who is everything good forever, comes into our lives to give us the eternal joy of his life.

John 16-8, 19-28.  When the people saw the miracle of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, getting back his power of speech they said in Luke 1:66b: “’What, then, will this child be?’  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”  Zechariah proclaims in his Canticle about John the Baptist, in Luke 1:76: “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” This Sunday’s Gospel says John came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him (Jesus).” The end of St. John the Evangelist’s Gospel, John (20:31) says, “but these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of god, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”  John the Baptist’s testimony as well as the Scriptures shine the light on Jesus preparing us to receive him our Savior and God.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.  Paul gives us ways to help us have Jesus as the God of our lives.  First, “rejoice always.” If God is truly the God of our lives, we will necessarily be joyful because we have everything that is good and we have all that forever.  Secondly, “Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks.”  Be in ceaseless communication with the Lord, both speaking to him and allowing him to communicate with us so that our life is a never ending life with Jesus within us as we see him always working for our good in our lives.  Jesus tells us in John 15:5b, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (good). Third, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Do not let the ways, which the world has ingrained in us, drive us to shut him (the Holy Spirit) down.  Fourth, test everything.  The devil’s wiles are endless and he is a genius in twisting what seems to be good into evil.  Fifth, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  To go to heaven, the home of the saints, we must become saints.  We become saints by cooperating with the Holy Spirit who, because he is God, can and will make saints of those who work with him and not against him.  God, who is always faithful, is working within us to make of us his true sons and daughters.  We need to be faithful to the One who is always faithful, collaborating with him daily.

2nd Sunday of Advent – December 6, 2020

Adv2B20. Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” Because the Hebrews had in effect disowned their God by their acts of disobedience to God, God allowed the Babylonians to ravage and enslave Jerusalem and Judah (what remained of Israel). The Hebrews were punished “double for their sins.” However, God promises restoration after the captivity. “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” “Jerusalem, herald of good news” will proclaim, “Here is your God!” “Here is his reward with him.” “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs.” God restores Jerusalem. This scripture points us to our restoration and redemption from sin with the arrival of our savior, the baby Jesus. Psalm 85 says that God “proclaims peace to his people.” “The Lord himself will give his benefits.”
Mark 1:1-8. The prophecy announces the coming of a messenger from God to proclaim the coming of the Lord. He is John the Baptist who proclaims “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Baptism is at once the purification from sin so to be enabled or readied to develop and grow as a holy person, reborn in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 3:8-14. Once again the scriptures warn us to be ready to be judged by the Lord at any moment. However, this time Peter warns of Jesus’ second Coming when “the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements (all physical things) will be dissolved by fire.” Nevertheless “according to his (Jesus’) promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwell.” To ready ourselves for that end time that waits for us Peter encourages us to think about “what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion.”

2nd Sunday of Advent – 2017

Adv2B17.   Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11.  The Lord God is the good shepherd leading his flock, his Chosen People, out captivity in Babylon back to Jerusalem.  He speaks comfortingly to his flock, assuring them that they have made due reparation for their sins.   In his glory and might he has made the road easy and welcoming for them, as a loving embrace for his chosen ones.

Mark 1:1-8.  This reading is a parallel to the first one from Isaiah.  John the Baptist is appointed by God to prepare the way for the Messiah by heralding his arrival.  John prepares the way for Jesus by “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  With the forgiveness of our sins the Messiah can dwell in our hearts as King over us who now truly belong to him.  John needs to make it clear that he is not the Messiah because he presents himself as such a strong, outstanding figure that might well be mistaken for the Messiah himself.  John baptizes with water as the symbol of purification from our sins but Jesus will baptize with God the Holy Spirit who is the one of the Holy Trinity who is attributed with the work of purification from sins and the consequent sanctification of souls. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:5: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”  Paul writes in Titus 3:5: “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.”

2 Peter 3:8-14.  Peter writes that Jesus’ Second Coming happens when “the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire.”  In other words, place your life in the hands of the one who is forever and not in the here today and gone tomorrow. Peter continues, “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Further on, he writes, “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”  It is God the Holy Spirit who has the power to sanctify us in preparation for the coming of Christ.  Let us live daily in his power within us.

1st Sunday of Advent – November 29, 2020

Adv1B20.    Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7.  The Hebrews had wandered from God’s ways, so much so that God let them be punished by being taken away into captivity by the Babylonians.  Our reading has the Hebrews crying out to God, “Behold you are angry, and we are sinful.”  “You have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.  Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are the work of your hands.”  As with clay we cannot make ourselves into anything on our own without God.  We will just remain a clod.  However we are a ‘clay’ that must cooperate with the potter.  Our choice is to reject the work of our potter or to unite ourselves to the work of God our potter so that we may be a person who is the work of God’s hands.  What will it be?

Mark 13:33-37.    We think of Advent as a time to prepare for Christmas, Jesus’ first coming.  However, this first Sunday of Advent this Gospel calls upon us to “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Jesus tells his disciples and us to be prepared to be called from this life at any moment.  The way to prepare for both Christmas and our departure from this life is to grow in holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  Jesus became human to lead us to his Father in heaven.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9.   “God will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   The expression “the day of the Lord” in New Testament means the day when the Lord will come the second time.  The tempting ways of this world, the devil and our own human nature to do as we will can lure us into losing our rootedness and stability in the Lord so that we will not be prepared to meet him when he comes the second time as the king of the universe.  We came to belong to Jesus by the grace given to us who enriched us in every way.  “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  God is the rock on whom we must build our foundation.  Day by day He is giving us eternal victory, as we draw life from him who accompanies us as our daily companion.

1st Sunday of Advent – 2017

Adv1B17.   Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7.  The Hebrews all too often departed from the Lord’s ways.  “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?”  Isaiah appeals to Yahweh to once again make his presence felt so that he occupies his proper place over his people.  “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.”  To live with God as the God of one’s life leads to great rewards; to live without him, to great destruction.  “Yes, O Lord, you are our father; we the clay and you the potter: we are the work of your hands.”  As in Jeremiah 18:4-6, Isaiah is asking God to remake his people according to his will.  Come be present and active and no longer hide your face from your people.

Mark 13:33-37.  “Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful!  Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  “May he not come finding you sleeping.”  To be asleep to the work of our salvation putting that work off to another time leaves us vulnerable to be called unprepared and therefore lost.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6: “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.  We are not of the night or of darkness.  Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.”  To be children of the light and day is to be the father’s children who live daily in the light of his Son’s goodness.  A bit further Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:3-9.  I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way,” “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.”  The Corinthians were spiritually rich in Christ and so are we so that because we live in him now we shall live in him forever.  “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  His faithfulness is endless toward those who keep faith in him.  As we live in fellowship with Jesus now, we will live with him forever in heaven.

 

 

Christ The King – November 22, 2020

34KingA20.   Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17.  “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” “I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.”  After expressing such deep concern and caring for his sheep as the God who loves us dearly, God says, “I will judge between one sheep and another.” We as his sheep are responsible for our behavior.  Some of us obediently follow our shepherd but some do not.  Judgement will separate those who followed our God loyally from those went their own way.

Matthew 25:31-46.  At his first coming to earth, Jesus came as a helpless baby.  When he comes the second time, he will come the king “in his glory, and all the angels with him.”  “He will sit upon his glorious throne and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another,” the good from the bad.  He will send the unrighteous or unjustified “to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.”   Neither the righteous nor the unrighteous recognized Jesus in the lowliest and neediest of people. However, the righteous were compassionate to those who were in need; whereas the unrighteous were not.  To be righteous or just means to be at one with the mind of God or to think and act as God thinks and acts and would have us also do.  The leper in Mark 1:40-41 knelt before Jesus and pleaded to Jesus to make him clean. Jesus “moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

In this Sunday’s parable the king said, “Whatever you did for one the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  The least or the lowliest of humanity seek God’s help because they are without any resources to help themselves.  God fills their helplessness with his pity and compassion.  God is there in them because of his love for them.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28.   “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life: Christ the firstfruits; then at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  For he must reign.”  As Adam, our forefather in the flesh, died, we human beings must also die in the flesh.  However, Jesus, our brother in the flesh with the power of his divine origin, resurrects us from earthly death so to give us, who belong to him, eternal life.  At his second coming Jesus reigns as the king who destroys all other claims to authority and power, even death itself.  With all challengers to God’s authority laid waste, it will be clear that God is “all in all.”  God is everything.  All that is not of God, in union with him, will be worthless.  God’s plan in the fullness of times was “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10)  God put all things beneath Jesus feet “and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22)

Christ The King – 2017

34A/King17.   Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17.  Yahweh is greatly distressed at how badly their leaders have led the Hebrew peoples.  Through Ezekiel the prophet (Ezekiel 34: 20b-21), Yahweh says, “Now will I judge between the fat and lean sheep.  Because you push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them out.”  In today’s reading it is the sleek and the strong who have taken advantage of the lost, the strays and the sick.  Yahweh comes as judge to straighten out what had become crooked, to empower those who were powerless, to strip naked those who overpowered the weak.

Matthew 25:31-46.  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory” “upon his throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” He will judge them as a king judges his people.  As David was king and a shepherd, like the Son of Man takes on the image of shepherd as well as king.  Continuing in this same line of imagery, the king tends his people as a shepherd his flock of sheep and goats. The sheep are portrayed as the obedient ones who meekly follow the commands of the shepherd, whereas the goats are the impetuous ones who do as they wish and not as the shepherd wishes.  To the sheep, the king says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  To the goats he says, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Then he says what the sheep did that made them sheep and the goats that made them goats.  The king says of himself, “when I was hungry,” which is to say that he himself was the one who was without food. Those designated as either sheep or goats are puzzled because neither saw the king being hungry. So they ask, “When did we see you hungry?”   The king replies, “Whatever you did for the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  He identifies himself with those in need.  God is love.  His love unites him to those who are in need of his help.  We do not have a God who is distant from us.  Because of his very nature as an all-loving God, he is together with us in our need.  Our deepest need is to be with him in heaven.  Jesus said in John 5:44-45a, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly father.”  God’s love extends to all.  When we refuse to love anyone as God loves them, we are refusing to love God himself.  “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28.  “For since death came through man; the resurrection of the dead came also through man.  For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”  The sin of Adam and our sins divorce us from God and his love that is true life.  Jesus’ love for us on the cross overwhelms sin and its fruit, death.  At the Second Coming, “when everything is subjected to him, the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.”  God the Father is God over all with his Son at his right hand.

 

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Nov. 15, 2020

33A20.    Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31.  “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.  Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”  A worthy wife means that she is a woman of great worth.  With her he has a spectacular thoughtful gold mine of a woman. She is unbounding riches, a treasure of boundless productivity.  She is a bonanza of goodness who makes the ultimate use of the capabilities that God has given her.  That is what today’s Gospel calls us to.

Matthew 25:14-30.   Life is a gift that we were not able to ask for, since no one can ask for anything if someone is not living.  While life is a gift, it is at the same time a demand, that we live the life that we have been given and live it to the fullest. In giving us life, God gives or shares with us something of his very self, as a mother shares something of herself in giving life to her child.  Our gospel parable says that the master “entrusted his possessions to them.” In this case his possessions are what belongs to the master, in the sense that his possessions are a share in what makes up who he is.

He shared his possessions “to each according to his ability”, so that each person had the capacity to develop or grow those possessions or gifts.  They are gifts or talents that enable us to make something more of ourselves, likes seeds that have the capacity to grow, so to develop us, and so make us more of who our master is. The master has great joy which he shares with his servants when he sees his servants mature by developing their God-given gifts, as does a parent who sees ones’ children develop beautifully and graciously.  The servants who were productive with the talents or gifts given them saw or viewed this as an opportunity or privilege from which they and their master could benefit.  On the other hand, the servant who buried his talent or gift saw this as a threat issued to him by a master whom he feared.  The servant who refuses to live his God-given life to the fullest but instead buries his potential to develop and grow is choosing to bury his life, his very self.  The choice is to move up or down but never to stand still in the same place.  That, of what God gives us and we do not use, withers or is lost.  God no longer puts any more of his efforts or grace in those who refuse to grow in Christ.  Instead God puts even more of his grace into those who choose to be productive.  Why should God waste his time and effort on what is useless?   “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich” in the abundance of God’s goodness in him.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.  “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  “The day of the Lord’ is the day when Jesus comes the second time at the end of the universe but also can be the day when the Lord calls us individually from this world.  Jesus said in the parable of the ten virgins, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)

“For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.”  The children of the darkness refuse to take seriously that we can be called to face our Judge at any time.  Readiness is to live every moment in the Lord who is the light.