2nd Sunday of Advent – 2017

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.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

33A.   Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31.  As the master in the Gospel readings entrusted his possessions to his servants, likewise the husband entrusts his heart to his wife.  She does not let him down, for “she brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.”  It is her heart that moves her hands to the good of her husband, the poor and the needy and not her charm or beauty that give useful service all the years of her life.  “The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  This is not the fear that is crippling and trembling but the Old Testament fear that respects God as the God over us to be glorified and obeyed in all that we are and do.

Matthew 25:14-30.  In this parable the master entrusts his possessions to his servants to each in proportion “according to his ability.”  When the master came back, he settled accounts with them.  The first two servants doubled their master’s possessions but the third simply returned the master’s possessions without any increase, since he had done nothing.  To the first two the master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Then he rewards them with even greater responsibilities, saying, “Come, share your master’s joy.”  However, to the third he says, “You wicked, lazy servant!” and orders him to be thrown into the darkness outside, calling him a useless servant.  Those who show themselves to be responsible with the master’s possessions will be rewarded greatly but those who are not, shall be punished severely.  St. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:10): “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”  Clearly the master that Jesus is referring to in this parable is himself.  Some say that the possessions or talents that Jesus is referring to are our various abilities.  I think Jesus is referring to the graces he gives us to make ourselves and the world around us better, thus giving him glory and building his kingdom.  His graces are a share in his infinite power with us to enable us to do his will here on earth.  As it says in the Our Father prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To refuse to respond affirmatively to God’s graces to better ourselves and the world around us is to put everything into the devil’s hands to deal destructively with us and the world around us.  Evil is defined by our refusal to use God’s graces, i.e. to respond to God’s intervention within us to move us in the direction he wants us to go, and thus we are an unresponsive, irresponsible people.  In the Nicene Creed we say every Sunday, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  Jesus will simply read back to us our lives.  That will be our testament either to our eternal salvation or destruction.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.  Paul writes, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.”  The ‘day of the Lord’ is an expression that meant the Second Coming of Jesus that was to be the end of the universe and the final judgment day for all.  Paul goes on to criticize the attitude that says ‘Peace and security,’ that is there is nothing to be worried about.  All is well and we do not have to be responsible to any God.  We have everything under our control. But Paul writes, “therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober,” be ready and not caught irresponsibly unprepared as useless servants.

 

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 8, 2020

32A20.   Wisdom 6:12-16.   Wisdom here is personified as a woman who brings the beauty of her wisdom or penetrating understanding to all who wish to grasp far more than the superficial.  The old expression ‘mother wit’ seemed to capture the idea of a wisdom that a simple young girl had to develop to raise young children and steer a young husband so to have a nurturing wholesome home.  Wisdom is developed with the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit who enables us to avoid the pitfalls of getting lost in the emotions that lead one to wander hopelessly in the deviant directions that this world can take us.  Wisdom “makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.”  That wisdom is the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 25:1-13.   Jesus’ parables are pointed, i. e., do not intend to say everything but just make a simple point. By our baptism we are promised or betrothed to the Lord.  The ten virgins or betrothed represent the assembly or people of the Church whose task it is to prepare themselves to be joined as in a marriage, just as a bride and groom, to God for all eternity.  We are a mixed community or assembly, some who take that preparation seriously and some who do not.  The foolish, that is to say, those who did not act wisely, did not prepare themselves to meet the Lord whenever he might come.  The oil that would give them the light to see through the darkness of this world is a life of holiness or union with the Holy Spirit.  Without that light we cannot make our way.  If God comes to call us and we are not ready, the door will be locked.  If we do not strive to be holy day in and day out, making ourselves ready for the Lord whenever he calls us from this life, we will hear him say to us: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”  There is no happy ending for those who live foolishly, not wisely.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  Apparently some of the Thessalonians were thinking that those who had died, which is to say ‘fallen asleep’, before the Lord came the second time at the end of the world, would not be taken up to heaven because they did not stay alive to wait for the Lord’s arrival.  Paul assures them that all, both those who died in Christ and those who remained on earth alive in Christ “shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, console one another with these words.” November is the end of the liturgical year when we must contemplate our spiritual readiness to greet the Lord as we get closer and closer to our last days here on earth.  Now especially we ought to consider his call to stand before him in judgment.  May our life in Christ grow and strengthen daily.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

32A.   Wisdom 6:12-16.  This reading & the psalm calls upon us to see religion far more as a warm relationship that is to be nurtured and developed and grown in our hearts.  I personally see growth in wisdom as primarily the work of God the Holy Spirit so to lead us by union with Jesus to God the Father.  The more we seek it, the more we will find it.  In turn the more we use the wisdom of the Spirit to gain knowledge of the Will of God the Father and in light of that knowledge to become ever more obedient to God’s Will, the closer the Spirit will come to us  to enlighten us even more.  The Spirit will breathe God’s divine life into us so that that is the life we actually live daily.  Jesus in the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:29) said: “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Matthew 25:1-13.  What is this oil that the five virgins had and the other five did not have?  It is the holiness that they have tended to and nurtured over the years that shows that the light or flame of the presence of the Spirit is within them.  They were prepared for the coming of the groom, Jesus, when he was to finally come to call them to be his own in heaven.  The foolish ones had no oil, no holiness because in their foolishness they did not seek the wisdom of the Spirit to grow in the grace or holiness that would show that the flame or the life of the Spirit dwelled within them.  Because the oil of holiness was lacking in the life of the foolish, the Lord, the groom said, “I do not know you.”  In ending Jesus said, “Stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”  To be awake spiritually is to have the life of holiness that comes from Spirit to be our life day in and day out.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.   In the Gospel we are called upon to stay awake and be ready at any hour for the call to judgment, in other words, to be holy always.  However, in the Epistle reading, the reference to “those who have fallen asleep” is to those who died before the Lord has come in the Second Coming, the end of the world, to call his own to heaven.  The belief among many Christians not long after the Ascension was that Christ was to come soon and call his holy ones to heaven but that one needed to be alive to be called.  Paul reassures the Thessalonians and us that at the Second Coming “the dead in Christ will rise first” and then those “who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”  November is the month for us to bring strongly to mind the universal ‘end time’, the Second Coming of Christ and the ‘end time’ for each individual, i.e., our death.  The Lord is the loving God the Father who gives us the Holy Spirit who, with our loving cooperation, sanctifies us to prepare us to be called to heaven.   Jesus assures us when he said to Nicodemus in Mt. 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world the he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

 

PS: The Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual knowledge/guidance of where we are going, what we are to do, the will to do it, and the strength to follow through and maintain the course.

All Saints – November 1, 2020

AllSts20.   Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14.  This book is a form of apocalyptic literature which conveys its messages through symbolic and not literal language and forms.  The number ‘one hundred and forty-four thousand’ or twelve times twelve times one thousand is symbolic.  It is a way of saying that that is the group of people that God thinks should be in heaven: no more, no less.  It is not saying that that is the exact numerical amount that is in heaven.  The amount of souls who are in heaven meet God’s expectation of the amount or perfect number in God’s eyes who would choose to faithfully serve God’s Will.  They are the saints who adore God now and forever.  The last lines of this reading refer to those who endured persecution and remained faithful.

Matthew 5:1-13.  In his chapter 5 Matthew selects Jesus’ words and statements that show that his new people are distinct from the Old Testament People of God.  They are expected to develop further and beyond from the Old Testament People of God.  In his beatitudes Jesus outlines that interior development or maturation process that goes far beyond the Old Testament Torah or Law that are expressed in the Ten Commandments.  The beatitudes internalize what the Torah only did externally.  The beatitudes call for a new holy person to be made; whereas before, the Law only required external things to be done without necessarily changing the inner person to develop into a holy person.

1 John 3:1-3.  “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  By our baptism we have become children of God our Father. We have the right to be saints in heaven if daily we join ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to grow in holiness.  As the suffering and crucifixion were not easy for Jesus, our day by day development in holiness is not and will not be easy for us.  We must live as strangers in a world that treats us as rejected foreigners.  In Matthew 10:34b Jesus said, “I have come not to bring peace but the sword.” In John 15:19 b, c, Jesus said: “But because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”  Holiness and worldliness are directly opposed to one another.  If the world sees us for who we truly are, it will treat us as an absurdity.  As we grow daily to be more and more into the children of God, our goal is to be “like him” so that one can see that we are truly his children in his image and likeness.