Providing the Word of God.

February 28, 2017


The Price of Happiness

Reading 1 – SIR 35:1-12

To keep the law is a great oblation,
and he who observes the
commandments sacrifices a peace offering.
In works of charity one offers fine flour,
and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise.
To refrain from evil pleases the LORD,
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the LORD empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.
The just one’s offering enriches the altar
and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.
The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.
In a generous spirit pay homage to the LORD,
be not sparing of freewill gifts.
With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,
and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously, according to your means.

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 50:5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23

R. (23B) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia – see MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus,
‘We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Reflection

Once there lived a dog. He was very hungry. He wandered here and there in search of food. He got a juicy bone from a butcher’s shop. He felt very happy. He took the bone and ran away. He reached on a bridge of a river. He saw his own shadow in the water. He thought that there was another dog with a juicy bone in his mouth. His mouth watered and he wanted to snatch that bone from him. He started barking on him and as he opened his mouth, the bone fell down from his mouth in to the river.

That has to be one of my favorite and earliest stories I have ever hears, probably for the first time as a young child. As an adult, it makes perfect sense to me now when it comes to not only greed but the unhealthy attachment to possessions and money. Today in the Scriptures for this last day before the Great Season of Lent, we have this theme brought front and center for our attention.

“Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.” (First Reading)

Here, the generous person is to be  so passionate for spiritual riches and insight power that he literally sleeps well at night and enjoys peace during the day. At some point, every person must ask themselves, “How much wealth do I really need?”

The problem with an unexamined life is that wisdom is lost in the shuffle and the fight for having things and control lead one away from the very purpose and meaning of life. It also tends to drown out the desire for what is good, holy and good to be a solid, complete and integral human being. It turns the whole world into a conquest rather than a matter of conscience, a party rather than a privilege.

The other side of the danger of greed and avarice is what it does to the soul. The more we want things that will not last the less we long for and look for the things of Heaven, that is, time and space our for spiritual lives. We become more like animals that survive in the proverbial “dog-eat-dog” world where the only value a person has is measured by dollar signs and bottom lines.

 

“Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this worlds so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God.” (CCC 2548)

“The promise of seeing God surpasses all beatitude (supreme happiness). In Scripture, to see is to possess. Whoever sees God obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hared, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

(St. Francis of Assisi)

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February 27, 2017


Impossible vs. Difficult

Reading 1 – SIR 17:20-24

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Responsorial Psalm – PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (11A) Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Alleluia – 2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”

He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, 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 looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

Reflection

Riches were traditionally seen as a sign of God’s favor. Jesus sees things differently: the power of God and reliance on him alone are the only way to win God’s approval. As for those who are rich it will take a miracle to get them into the kingdom of God. The miracle will not consist of getting them in with all their wealth but by getting them to give it up by sharing it with the poor.

Peter takes up what Jesus has said. ‘What about us? We left everything and followed you.’ It is as if he were asking, what’s in it for us? Jesus replies, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – but not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

In other words, those who make great sacrifices for Jesus will be rewarded both in this life and in the world to come. Unlike the rich young man, Jesus’ disciples will enjoy a great social and religious fellowship in the here-and-now as well as in the age to come. But Jesus (or Mark) strikes a realistic note: all this will involve persecutions – just as it will for Jesus. Jesus is proclaiming a great reversal of the world’s values: the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts will have precedence over the rich in God’s kingdom.

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February 26, 2017


person kneeling in front of cross

Humility as the Cure for Worry

Reading 1 – IS 49:14-15

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my LORD has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6A) Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
With God is my safety and my glory,
he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.

Reading 2 – 1 COR 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.

Alleluia – HB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective;
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Reflection

Do Not Worry: “Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (First Reading)
Do Not Worry: “Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.” (Responsorial Psalm)
Do Not Worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow.” (Gospel)

Over 70 times, the words “humility ” and “humble” appear on the pages of the Sacred Scriptures. Given that the word “love” is echoed over 500 times, we can safely assume that humility is an essential spiritual tool and gift for all of us on the journey to Heaven. It certainly is clear that humble people are also intrinsically aligned with truth and justice and they readily exude happiness:

Let’s start our reflection by exploring what exactly humility is. Well known and well-read author John Piper submits the following as to the five truths about humility as revealed by God:

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ. 
2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got. Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights. 
3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary. 
4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing. 
5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it. But humility also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others. 

Humble people know that we are in front of a great mystery which God has placed in front of each and everyone of us. Life is not just about a series of human encounters which exist on every psychological level of effectiveness, but rather about being prepared daily for the Resurrection of Jesus in our lives when we die and beyond:

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Gospel)

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February 25, 2017


Reading 1 – SIR 17:1-15

God from the earth created man,
and in his own image he made him.
He makes man return to earth again,
and endows him with a strength of his own.
Limited days of life he gives him,
with power over all things else on earth.
He puts the fear of him in all flesh,
and gives him rule over beasts and birds.
He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears,
and an inventive heart,
and filled them with the discipline of understanding.
He created in them knowledge of the spirit;
With wisdom he fills their heart;
good and evil he shows them.
He put the fear of himself upon their hearts,
and showed them his mighty works,
That they might glory in the wonder of his deeds
and praise his holy name.
He has set before them knowledge,
a law of life as their inheritance;
An everlasting covenant he has made with them,
his justice and his judgments he has revealed to them.
His majestic glory their eyes beheld,
his glorious voice their ears heard.
He says to them, “Avoid all evil”;
each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men.
Their ways are ever known to him,
they cannot be hidden from his eyes.
Over every nation he places a ruler,
but God’s own portion is Israel.
All their actions are clear as the sun to him,
his eyes are ever upon their ways.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:13-14, 15-16, 17-18

R. (see 17) The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Man’s days are like those of grass;
like a flower of the field he blooms;
The wind sweeps over him and he is gone,
and his place knows him no more.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward children’s children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Alleluia – SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:13-16

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Reflection

“He created in them knowledge of the spirit; With wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them.” (First Reading)

We begin yet another week with Lord Jesus close at our side. We ask Him never to leave us but also to show us how to stay focused and humbled as we move forward. A possible answer comes to us from the first reading from the Book of Job. He was the one as you remember who seemingly lost everything and yet gained a renewed love and trust in the Lord. Even in the face of horrible ruin and disaster, he never lost faith.

“And his justice toward children’s children among those who keep his covenant.” (Responsorial Psalm)

This quote from the Responsorial Psalm today also reinforces this heart-felt and rock-solid attachment to the Lord Jesus who clearly has been know to try and test our faith. The goal is sure and simple. Do not give up and do not despair. The best is yet to come.

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these..” (Gospel)

And while we wait in hope, Jesus give us the most awesome example of peace and strength: a child. This is true greatness. A child trusts and loves with completeness and wholeness. A child has a deep joy that no one can take from him or her. Children know that they are loved and hang on to that for dear life. And a child knows exactly what it means to serve. Consider what William Barclay has to say about this passage:

There are so many wrong motives for service.

(i) There is the desire for prestige. A. J. Cronin tells of a district nurse he knew when he was in practice as a doctor. For twenty years, single-handed, she had served a ten-mile district. “I marveled,” he says, “at her patience, her fortitude and her cheerfulness. She was never too tired at night to rise for an urgent call. Her salary was most inadequate, and late one night, after a particularly strenuous day, I ventured to protest to her, ‘Nurse, why don’t you make them pay you more? God knows you are worth it.’ ‘If God knows I’m worth it,’ she answered, ‘that’s all that matters to me.’” She was working, not for men, but for God. And when we work for God, prestige will be the last thing that enters into our mind, for we will know that even our best is not good enough for him.

(ii) There is the desire for place. If a man is given a task or a position or an office in the church, he should regard it not as an honor but as a responsibility. There are those who serve within the church, not thinking really of those they serve, but thinking of themselves. A certain English Prime Minister was offered congratulations on attaining to that office. “I do not want your congratulations,” he said, “but I do want your prayers.” To be chosen for office is to be set apart for service, not elevated to honor.

(iii) There is the desire for prominence. Many a person will serve or give so long as his service and his generosity are known and he is thanked and praised. It is Jesus’ own instruction that we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. If we give only to gain something out of the giving for ourselves, we have undone much of its good.

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February 24, 2017


Reading 1 – SIR 6:5-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 119:12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35

R. (35A) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
In your statutes I will delight;
I will not forget your words.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia – JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:1-12

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

Reflection

Today we begin again with our journey toward the Father and we are clearly given instructions along the way: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.” (First Reading)

What this means is the way we treat one another has everything to do with how truly we believe in the mercy and love that God shows for us each and every day. The words of  the Responsorial Psalm should ring and echo deeply in each one of us:  “Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.”

Without love in this life, we can never know peace or happiness. And unless we understand that true love emanates and finds its source in the love that Jesus has for each one of us, as it is expressed in good solid friendship and marriage, we will not be able to know His own will for our lives. This is why mercy is so important in our day-to-day interactions with each other:

God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to Him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. … It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as He is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits.” This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in His patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of His love.  (Poe Francis)

 

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February 23, 2017


salt shaker world

Reading 1 – SIR 5:1-8

Rely not on your wealth;
say not: “I have the power.”
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: “Who can prevail against me?”
or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?”
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wealth,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (40:5A) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia – 1 THES 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Reflection

We all the plight of salt for us today—we are to avoid it especially if we have high blood pressure. However, it seems to be everywhere, on our tables, all in our foods, and even sometimes on the snowy roads. However, it would be better to investigate, if for just a short while, the significance that salt had in Biblical times.

  1. Salt was valuable. Some people were even paid with salt (which is where we get the word “salary”).
  2. Salt was connected with healing and purity. Saltwater was applied to infections and wounds (it helps heal afflictions of the skin). Newborn babies were washed with saltwater.
  3. Salt was connected with preservation. In the years before refrigeration, salt was one of the most common ways of preserving meat and fish.
  4. Salt was connected with flavor. Salt adds spice to life; it brings out the flavor in food.
  5. Salt was an image for wisdom. Gregory the Great said, “Now by salt is denoted the word of wisdom. Let him therefore who strives to speak wisely, fear greatly” (Pastoral Rule 4.12).
  6. Salt was connected with worship and covenant. Scripture says, Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings (Lev 2:13). So the use of salt was ordered first for the meal offerings, and afterwards for “all” offerings, including the “burnt offering.”
  7. Scripture speaks elsewhere of a “covenant of salt.” For example, Don’t you know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? (2 Chron 13:5) The covenant of salt refers to the imperishable and irrevocable quality of the engagement made between the two parties to the covenant.
  8. The use of salt to signify and ratify what was sacred was widespread. There is a Latin saying attributed to Pliny the Elder (and Virgil, too), Nulla sacra conficiuntur sine mola salsa (Sacred things are not made without salted meal). (Research courtesy of Msgr. Charles Pope) 

So you see, judging by these standards, it is clear that the you and I as Christians are to purify, sanctify, and preserve our own lives and by extension the wounded and decaying world which we often find ourselves. We are to bring a sort of spiritual flavor to life around us:

“Delay not your conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day.” (First Reading) and….”He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” (Responsorial Psalm)

What is then, the great, spiritual result of being salted with fire? We saw this effect in the vest last phrase of the Gospel today: “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Let us then accept the purification of being salted with fire as our only true hope for peace. When Jesus burns away our envy, we no longer resent gifts of others; we finally can rejoice in them and come to appreciate all that the lord for everyone, even me. This certainly brings peace. When we allow the Lord to burn away jealously and greed from all relationships, we are able to be grateful for what we have because there is no longer any resentment. Again, there is peace. When the Lord burns away all bitter memories of past hurts and gives us the grace to forgive, an enormous amount of poison goes out of our souls and bodies making us all ready and equipped to love and to be kind, generous, and patient. Peace, again, at last!

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February 22, 2017


St Peter

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Reading 1 – 1 PT 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia – MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Reflection

Today the church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter which helps all of us during our spiritual journey to acknowledge and confirm the mission given to St. Peter by Jesus Christ as teacher and pastor of the Universal Church. Here is the opening prayer for the Mass celebrated around the world:

“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Why are we celebrating “a chair”? While this is a very good question, it may take a while to answer: First, there is a physical, ancient and ornamental chair located at the very end of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Second, there is the spiritual authority that this chair represents. In addressing this authority, Pope Benedict XVI explained it this way:

This is a very ancient tradition, proven to have existed in Rome since the fourth century. On it we give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his Successors.

“Cathedra” literally means the established seat of the Bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese which for this reason is known as a “cathedral”; it is the symbol of the Bishop’s authority and in particular, of his “magisterium”, that is, the evangelical teaching which, as a successor of the Apostles, he is called to safeguard and to transmit to the Christian Community. The See of Rome, after St Peter’s travels, thus came to be recognized as the See of the Successor of Peter, and its Bishop’s “cathedra” represented the mission entrusted to him by Christ to tend his entire flock. . . .

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.

Let’s now take a look at the Readings for today: Our First Reading is an instruction in the first place for those who are ordained ministers in Christ’s Church but–in an extended way–it serves as instruction for all of us, for we all influence others and should set the same example of being authentic followers and disciples of Jesus. Remember, you and I may be the only Bible some people will read today. Pope

The Gospel clearly establishes the deep desire and longing of Jesus to keep the Church going and shepherded throughout the centuries. it is an-going gift of love that Christ has for us in giving us shepherds after His own heart. But like we say in some business circles, we have a “committee chair” for this or that, the Chair of St. Peter refers to the occupant, not the furniture. St. Peter’s incredible and phenomenal life is perhaps best summed up in the account of his meeting with Jesus after the Resurrection. Jesus asked him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16b). Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. . . . Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (John 21:16c, 17b). And he still does.

Pray for the Pope today. And if you have any kind of authority in this world, pray that you may be able to say to Jesus: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

 
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February 21, 2017


Jesus surrounded by children

Childlike vs. Childish

Reading 1 – SIR 2:1-11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (see 5) Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.

Alleluia – GAL 6:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Reflection

Childish and childlike have roughly the same definition—of, like, or related to a child or childhood—but childish has negative connotations, and childlike usually does not. Childish is often synonymous with words like infantile, immature, silly, juvenile, and foolish, all of which are usually negative. Childlike is closer to words like innocent, trusting, unfeigned, and pure, which are not negative.

“My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials.” (First Reading)

Clearly the Readings today call us to consider, or re-consider what kind of faith we are carrying today in the midst of the world and circumstances we find ourselves. The awesome clue we discover today is this pearl nestled in the Gospel:

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Gospel)

Childish Faith

  1. Good Christians don’t have pain and disappointments.
  2. God wants to make us happy.
  3. God always answers prayers.
  4. Faith will help us to always understand what God is doing.
  5. Good Christians are always strong.

Childlike Faith

  1. God uses our pain and disappointment to make us better Christians.
  2. God wants to make us holy.
  3. Sometimes He answers with “No” or “Wait.”
  4. Faith will help us to stand under God’s sovereignty even when we don’t have a clue about what God is doing.
  5. Our strength is in admitting our weakness.

Here is the heart of the matter: Childish faith is self-centered and demanding. It expects God to shield us from all difficulties and to make life comfortable for us. In contrast, childlike faith focuses on God. It trusts Him to use even difficulties for our good and His glory.

Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.” (Responsorial Psalm) 

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February 20, 2017


Praying man

Wisdom and the Defeat of Evil

Reading 1 – SIR 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5

R. (1A) The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Alleluia – 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

Reflection

“All wisdom comes from the LORD…He has poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished her upon his friends.” (First Reading)

In the Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J. writes:

“Modern theology defines miracle as a phenomenon in nature which transcends the capacity of natural causes to such a degree that it must be attributed to the direct intervention of God.”

How many miracles (acts of power) did Jesus perform? There are thirty-seven recorded miracles in the Gospels; twenty-eight involved healing of the sick, casting out demons, and resuscitation of the dead; nine miracles had to do with the natural world.

Why did Jesus perform these works of power? The people of Jesus’ time believed that all physical and mental disorders were caused by sin (evil). In their view, contrary to our modern perspective, whenever Jesus healed the sick, performed exorcisms, and restored life to the dead he was showing his supremacy over evil. At times the Lord insisted that their faith was essential for Him to exercise His healing powers. We read about some of this morning in the Readings for today:

“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”

Without removing the obvious importance and centrality of the effect of demonic possession, evil and the constant spiritual attack on the human soul, let us take a look at these interesting verbs from the Gospel that in fact describe the overthrow of the soul from an a outside source: seize, throw, grind and become rigid. These could also describe the effect of anger and anxiety on the human body. These overwhelming emotional experiences do in fact put the heart a great risk, increases the possibility of a stroke, weakens the immune system, and basically causes an early death than normal. For these experiences, which all of us must bear from time to time, we need and therefore beg God for Wisdom: 

“This kind can only come out through prayer.”

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February 19, 2017


Hateful man

The Cure For Hatred

Reading 1 – LV 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. (8A) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2 – 1 COR 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Alleluia – 1 JN 2:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection

“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” —Ann Landerslove

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” —Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” —Jesus Christ, the Lord

The First and Second Readings make one thing very clear to all of us as we keep going through all of our lives: Love is the goal.

Now, what that does that mean? In a day and age where everything seems to take on some sexual overtone, it is good to be clear and honest when we say “love.” Moses began a great discussion for us today when he shouted out to the people, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” In other words, we might say, God wants us close to Him because He loves us so much. And we stay close to Him by listening closely and following Him even closer. This is the underlying purpose of the Law. It binds us together as a community while strengthening our mutual respect and by staying close to God we hopefully stay close to each other who are following the same Lord.

Jesus teachingWhen Jesus announced that we are also to love our enemies, I am sure that drew a gasp from His first audiences. Unfortunately in a way for some, the English Language really doesn’t do Love any justice in the words that we have available to us to describe. The Greek Language, however, does go deeper: There are at least three different levels (and word) for Love. Quickly, for our purposes here, we will suffice to name 1. Eros, which could be describes as passion, attraction and simple. Then there is Filia, which is like or esteemed kind of friendship, for another person, or even for a hobby or for one’s neighbors. Then there is Agape which is the kind of love that surpasses all the others and says: “I love you so much that I will sacrifice for you wanting the best for you even if means doing without for me.” (must be careful here about promoting co-dependence)

If and when we begin to love our enemies, even appreciate them for their service to us, our love for our friends and families increases. And when that increases, our capacity to love God more and more also flourishes. This is the hope of Discipleship: that we become more loving people.

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February 18, 2017


Spiritual gaze

TRANSFIGURATION

Reading 1 – HEB 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

Alleluia – MK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

Reflection

Crucifixion
The Only Real Gate to Heaven

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (First Reading)

The Letter to the Hebrews contains a vision and dream of one who wish to follow the Lord Jesus without reserve or without regret.  It serves as a counter balance to what Jesus will reveal about Himself, not only to the Apostles, but you and me right here, right now. We will survive even the most painful of tests to our faith.

“I will praise your name for ever, Lord.” (Responsorial Psalm)

The Son of Man is glorious in every regard, worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.

“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” (Gospel)

Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of Christ as God, the Son of Man, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death. You and I need the same.

And God said He was pleased and we should listen.

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February 17, 2017


Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel:
Monument to Confused Speech

Reading 1 – GN 11:1-9

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.
While the people were migrating in the east,
they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another,
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city
and a tower with its top in the sky,
and so make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that they had built.
Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down and there confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.”
Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth,
and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel,
because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world.
It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Alleluia – JN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:34—9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

He also said to them,
“Amen, I say to you,
there are some standing here who will not taste death
until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

Reflection

What was the sin surrounded by the infamous Tower of Babel? There are clues that we can find especially in the the fourth sentence of our First Reading. There are four major troubling areas: 1) They desire to build a city. 2) They desire to build a tower in the city that reaches to the heavens. 3) They desire to make a name for themselves. 4) They do not want to be spread over the whole earth. Numbers #1 & 2 correspond to numbers #3 & 4. Building a city is the way one avoids being dispersed over the whole earth and building a tower as high as the sky is at least one way people make themselves famous, thinking they are as great as God and giving in to the obsessive need of being praised.  The city and tower are the outward expressions of their inward sinfulness. These are selfishness, arrogant egoism, and the want to live without the help of God trying to fend for themselves.

God’s will for us is not found in what others think or care about us but simply in knowing and trusting that God knows and loves and cares for each and everyone of us. Our safety and security are found in loving and praising Him all the days of our life.  Keep in mind that this happens after experience of Noah and the flood, which was a clear and dramatic warning for all humanity. What we sadly read is that there is still so much more confusion, just as existed before the Great Flood. In fact, it appears that humanity is no better since the emergence of Original Sin with Adam and Eve. We clearly need help from the surmounting and infectious confusion that has invaded our society.

Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, clears up the confusion. Let us hear again what He said to us in the Gospel:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The only way to rise and shine above the darkness and confusion is to bear witness to Christ, live in His amazing grace and be ready to ask forgiveness and impart it to others in this life.

With this in mind, we are strengthened by The Word of God and fed with the Bread of the Eucharist. This is the only way to greatness that Jesus has died for us to share and eternally enjoy. We can then agree and sing with His beautiful words found in today’s Alleluia Verse:

“I call you my friends, says the Lord, for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.”

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February 16, 2017


Child playing in the rain

What Do You See?

Reading 1 – GN 9:1-13

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them:
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth
and all the birds of the air,
upon all the creatures that move about on the ground
and all the fishes of the sea;
into your power they are delivered.
Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat;
I give them all to you as I did the green plants.
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting:
from every animal I will demand it,
and from one man in regard to his fellow man
I will demand an accounting for human life.

If anyone sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
has man been made.

Be fertile, then, and multiply;
abound on earth and subdue it.”

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23

R. (20B) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Alleluia – JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Reflection

After  along 40 days and nights, Noah and his family finally were able to walk upon dry earth and witness a new beginning of life and love. The period of darkness and evil atmosphere was over and a virtually a new day had begun. So what did they see? It was beautiful in every way a natural occurrence could be. It was the sign of hope and redemption and the promise of things to come for the rest human history:

“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

There would never be a complete end to the hope of where we are destined and how we should arrive at the promise of Heaven. God had not given up on us and gave us a sign that even better things were going to happen, if we just watched and waited.

“But who do you say that I am?”

Jesus as the fulfillment of the Father and the complete and entire hope of humanity would come to save us from the vicious flood or darkness and evil and bring the same kind of joy and hope for each of us to carry with us for all time all the way to the promised land of Heaven. Just as Noah and his family recognized the hope of the rainbow, so Peter and the disciples, the new occupants of the Ship of the Church, would recognize in Jesus that same eternal joy of love which God the Father has promised, what he brought about in Christ who died to win eternal life for us.

What do you see? Nothing but beauty!

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February 15, 2017


Flowers breaking through ground

Reading 1 – GN 8:6-13, 20-22

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch he had made in the ark,
and he sent out a raven,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
It flew back and forth until the waters dried off from the earth.
Then he sent out a dove,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
But the dove could find no place to alight and perch,
and it returned to him in the ark,
for there was water all over the earth.
Putting out his hand, he caught the dove
and drew it back to him inside the ark.
He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark.
In the evening the dove came back to him,
and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!
So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth.
He waited still another seven days
and then released the dove once more;
and this time it did not come back.

In the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life,
in the first month, on the first day of the month,
the water began to dry up on the earth.
Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.

Noah built an altar to the LORD,
and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird,
he offered burnt offerings on the altar.
When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself:
“Never again will I doom the earth because of man
since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start;
nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.
As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (17A) To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia – EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

Reflection

In today’s Scripture passages, we have a front-row seat to the miraculous intervention of our Merciful God upon the human race which He so willingly created and so willingly redeemed. First, there was Noah. We recall earlier how God Himself even regretted starting humanity when all the terrible evil and disobedience erupted. It was time to start all over and thus, the flood waters came and soaked the earth, destroying everything there except those people and animals safe inside the ark. But was that the end of the story? After 40 days, and then some, it was time for a second start, a new order and a clean beginning:

“He waited still another seven days and then released the dove once more; and this time it did not come back.”

In the Gospel, something very similar although not that obvious is presented. A blind man was brought before Jesus who takes his own spittle and then lays His hands upon him. Was that the end of the story? Far from it:

“Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.”

Our God is a loving and merciful God! He seems never to give up on any of us and continues to seek restoration and renewal in every possible avenue and opportunity. He is that way with us today. Allow Jesus to lead you into a second start, a new order and a clean beginning—every morning!

Then, we will be able to exclaim with the Alleluia Verse:

“May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.”

 

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February 14, 2017


Heart with butterflies and flower

Noah’s Ark, Evil Leaven and St. Valentine

Reading 1 – GN 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10

When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,
and how no desire that his heart conceived
was ever anything but evil,
he regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and his heart was grieved.

So the LORD said:
“I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created,
and not only the men,
but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air,
for I am sorry that I made them.”
But Noah found favor with the LORD.

Then the LORD said to Noah:
“Go into the ark, you and all your household,
for you alone in this age have I found to be truly just.
Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs,
a male and its mate;
and of the unclean animals, one pair,
a male and its mate;
likewise, of every clean bird of the air, seven pairs,
a male and a female,
and of all the unclean birds, one pair,
a male and a female.
Thus you will keep their issue alive over all the earth.
Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth
for forty days and forty nights,
and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth
every moving creature that I have made.”
Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him.

As soon as the seven days were over,
the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 29:1A and 2, 3AC-4, 3B and 9C-10

R. (11B) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Alleluia – JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Reflection

In the Old Testament Reading for today, the scene is quite bleak: “When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.” 

The only possible solution for this archetypal quagmire was to just to save what you could, count your losses, wash everything clean and start all over. Thus, Noah’s Ark would be the only safe place to live and be freed from the overwhelming sinfulness outside and safe from the flood that would destroy the evil that had been inflicted and begin all over.  The famous Ark would come to be understood as the quintessential symbol of the Church where, by similar analogy, all could come and be free from the ravages of sin and death. Those inside were saved: “Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him. As soon as the seven days were over, the waters of the flood came upon the earth.”

In the Gospel we are introduced to the images of leaven, bread and once again the method of escaping evil and avoiding death. To the Jew leaven was the symbol of evil. Leaven was a piece of dough kept over from a previous baking and fermented. To the Jew fermentation was identified with putrefaction and therefore leaven stood for evil. Sometimes in Jewish circles, the word “leaven” was used very similarly as much as we would use the term “original sin” or even the natural evil of human nature.  So when Jesus in the Gospel issued His warning, what he was saying in essence was, “Be on your guard against the evil influence of the Pharisees and of Herod. Don’t you go the same way that the Pharisees and Herod have already gone.”

Today, much of the world celebrates St. Valentine’s Day and perhaps has been drowned in the overtly display of romance and candy and flowers, etc. However, there is certainly much more to the story: He was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudius who persecuted the church at that particular time. He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died. The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them because of the edict.

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius. In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to a dear friend whom he had miraculously cured from blindness, signing it, “from your Valentine.”

What St. Valentine, Noah and the Lord Jesus Christ mean to all of us today and always is that there comes a time where we have to lay our life upon the line for what we believe. We are called to avoid evil and evil influences and with great faith and the power of the Holy Spirit we can all accomplish this. Noah and his family took great risks and leaped in faith to save humanity while St. Valentine did the same to save the mystery of sacramental love in matrimony. Jesus, far from being leaven, is truly the Bread of Life for the world which always leads to new life and wholeness of existence.

 

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February 13, 2017


Reading 1 – GN 4:1-15, 25

The man had relations with his wife Eve,
and she conceived and bore Cain, saying,
“I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.”
Next she bore his brother Abel.
Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.
In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD
from the fruit of the soil,
while Abel, for his part,
brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not.
Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.
So the LORD said to Cain:
“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.”
When they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The LORD then said: “What have you done!
Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!
Therefore you shall be banned from the soil
that opened its mouth to receive
your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear.
Since you have now banished me from the soil,
and I must avoid your presence
and become a restless wanderer on the earth,
anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him.
“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.”
So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

Adam again had relations with his wife,
and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth.
“God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said,
“because Cain slew him.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 50:1 and 8, 16BC-17, 20-21

R. (14A) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“You sit speaking against your brother;
against your mother’s son you spread rumors.
When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia – JN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.

Reflection

The Great Books of the Bible were written nearly anywhere from 450 years before the Birth of Christ to about 90 AD.  But in many ways, they read as if they were written last week. There are seemingly endless amount of examples of the blind leading the blind into the deep void of everlasting fire. God loves His people but it looks like many reject this awesome gift. Religious leaders are negligent and just tell people what they want to hear, faithful couples are leaving their loves preferring sorcerers, liars and insanity-driven power trips while the world seems to be bent on destroying itself. Sounds like a description of the news this morning.

The First Reading today is taken from the very first book of the Bible where the first murder takes place with the unfortunate and sad story of Cain and Abel: “The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” If we stopped right there, we would no doubt be swallowed up in fatalism and despair and that is why the Psalmist bids us to repeat several times over:  “Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.” So what are we to do? Once again, the answer comes to us through the Gospel of the Day: “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Rather than insult the Lord God looking for shows and signs, we look for Him in the deep recesses of our souls when we empty ourselves and begin to pray. What does the Church teach us about prayer?

Prayer is the life of the new heart (CCC 2697)  Christians throughout the centuries have maintained three main expressions of prayer: Vocal, Meditation and Contemplation.  Together, they make a phenomenal path to peace and holiness, not to mention sanity:

Vocal: We are body and spirit so it is important to express our spiritually feelings outwardly [we speak]

Meditation:  The mind searches to understand what God is saying [we think, imagine, desire and feel]

Contemplation: “We are alone with the One who loves us.”  [God speaks, we listen and experience]

The one who asks through vocal prayer, receives; the one who seeks through meditation, finds; and the one who knocks at the door of contemplation, can change the world one soul at a time.

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February 12, 2017


Man giving a helping hand to another

Always There

Reading 1 – SIR 15:15-20

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;
he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

R. (1B) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
You have commanded that your precepts
be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statutes!
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Be good to your servant, that I may live
and keep your words.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,
that I may exactly observe them.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Reading 2 – 1 COR 2:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,
not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
and which none of the rulers of this age knew;
for, if they had known it,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

Alleluia – cF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 5:17-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife – unless the marriage is unlawful –
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

Reflection

“If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.” (First Reading)

If I told you that the Lord is calling out to you each and every day, would you believe me? You might ask, “How could He? There are so many of us?” But then, by that same unspoken assumption, how could He keep us all alive each and every day? “There are so many of us!” The fact of the matter is simple: if we are alive that means He loves us, and if He loves us that He is always close to us and therefore speaking, calling out, talking and attempting communication constantly.

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (Second Reading)

St. Paul in the Second Reading calls to use all the powers of imagination and hopeful dreams to envision the immense love that God has for us and for that reason alone we can trust Him with every fiber of our being. We realize that God is omnipresent, that is, He is everywhere. That translates into a very beautifully spiritual concept about grace in the moment. No mater where we are, be it emotionally, physically, spiritually, that’s where God is because,  transversely, that’s where we are.

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” (Gospel)

And yet because of our human condition, we can and in fact tend to drift away a little here, and a little there. Even our speech becomes our own undoing as we are challenged in the Gospel today.

That reminds me of that cute little dialogue between a couple that had been married, not for very long time, but well seasoned, you might say: While driving out together one beautiful afternoon, the wife turned to her husband and offered this soft lament:

Wife: “Do you remember when we first met, how you used to always open the door for me?”
Husband: “Yes.”
Wife: “Do you remember how you used to sing out loud to all our favorite songs?”
Husband: “Yes.”
Wife: “Do you remember how we used to sit real close together, snuggling side by side when we used to go out driving?”
Husband: “I never moved.”

Exactly! Neither has the Lord. God is always there no matter what. you see, my friends, what we have is a lifelong task of listening, obeying, following which is then followed by a series of wandering, taking things for granted and feeling distant. And the good news here for you and me is simple: God is with each of us in our movements of growing, maturing and unfolding from one stage of life to another.

The next time today you experience a beautiful sunset, a graceful dove in flight, the sweet smell of new baby, the laughter of a loved one and the cool breeze against your sweaty brow, it’s time to say: “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Alleluia Verse)

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February 11, 2017


hand reaching for choices

CHOICES

Reading 1 – GN 3:9-24

The LORD God called to Adam and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with meB
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
On your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

To the woman he said:

“I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing;
in pain shall you bring forth children.
Yet your urge shall be for your husband,
and he shall be your master.”

To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat,

“Cursed be the ground because of you!
In toil shall you eat its yield
all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you,
as you eat of the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return.”
The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

For the man and his wife the LORD God made leather garments,
with which he clothed them.
Then the LORD God said: “See! The man has become like one of us,
knowing what is good and what is evil!
Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand
to take fruit from the tree of life also,
and thus eat of it and live forever.”
The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from which he had been taken.
When he expelled the man,
he settled him east of the garden of Eden;
and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword,
to guard the way to the tree of life.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 90:2, 3-4ABC, 5-6, 12-13

R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Before the mountains were begotten
and the earth and the world were brought forth,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Alleluia – MT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Reflection

“You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!””  (First Reading)

Everyone has literally thousands of choices to make every day. They can be separated into the same groups of options as our old Testament Reading from Genesis: Obedience or Disobedience,  Life or Death.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t? Everything I do and say today will either be life-giving or life-taking. I must decide how I will spend this day.

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” (Gospel)

Jesus knows that we all hunger in this life. He also realizes that evil is abounding everywhere tempting and confusing our otherwise innocent hearts and minds. However, the Lord helps us with the inner courage and wisdom to know the difference of these two choices I will have today and every day of my life: He tells me I have to die to self so that the cross I carry will strengthen my heart and free will so that I will become that free person who chooses life.

“In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.” (Psalm)

And then, there’s this awesome guarantee: If I just follow the Lord, obey His commands, deny myself which is the cornerstone of the journey I choose to walk with Him, I can always rely and trust in the great mercy of God.

Time to choose.

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February 10, 2017


Living an Open, Free Life

Reading 1 – GN 3:1-8

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden
at the breezy time of the day,
the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (1A) Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

Alleluia – ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 7:31-37

Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Reflection

In our passage from Genesis, we see how evil works and at times succeeds. There is always confusion, lies and insincere proposals. When humans fall, it is because they cannot see beyond the empty talk, vain pride and ultimate hatred for God and goodness on the part of evil. In the New Testament, Jesus, the fulfillment of all the promises of the Father and the words of the Prophets, commands the man’s ears, and all humanity, to be released and focused: “…then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)” (Gospel) 

What does this mean for you and me today?

First, God is plainly preparing each and every one of us on a daily basis for the work and challenge of His Kingdom, whether that is at work, school, family and/or all the personal relationships that are found in between.

Second, we need to seek out honestly the life-giving truth of all our disagreements and relationships so that we are in fact ready to do God’s will, rather than our own. Doing God’s will ultimately makes us the happiest and most fulfilled. Isn’t that what you want?

Third, allowing pettiness, jealousy, hatred and anything that robs us of peace spells disaster for the future. I really like what Rick Warren once said: “We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love, because when we don’t trust him, we don’t obey him.” 

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February 9, 2017


empty bird cage

Created for Freedom

Reading 1 – GN 2:18-25

The LORD God said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD 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;
this one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (see 1A) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Alleluia – JAS 1:21BC

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 7:24-30

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.

Reflection

We are created in Freedom and for Freedom:

There once was a man named George Thomas, a preacher in a small town. One Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a an old bird cage and
set it on the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the preacher began to speak:

“I was walking home through town yesterday when I saw a young boy swinging this old bird cage. caged birdsOn the bottom of the cage were little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there, son?” “Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.

“Take ’em home and have fun with ’em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do?”

evil cats

“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy.
“They like birds. I’ll take ’em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh?? !!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing. They ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?” the pastor asked again.
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?” The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill.
$10 bill
He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.
The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.
Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. “Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ’em,” Satan glared proudly.

“How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?” He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your blood, tears and your life.”

Jesus said, “DONE!”

 

Then He paid the price.

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February 8, 2017


hearts

Clean and Unclean

Reading 1 – GN 2:4B-9, 15-17

At the time when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens—
while as yet there was no field shrub on earth
and no grass of the field had sprouted,
for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth
and there was no man to till the soil,
but a stream was welling up out of the earth
and was watering all the surface of the ground—
the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,
and he placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow
that were delightful to look at and good for food,
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The LORD God then took the man
and settled him in the garden of Eden,
to cultivate and care for it.
The LORD God gave man this order:
“You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden
except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
From that tree you shall not eat;
the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 104:1-2A, 27-28, 29BC-30

R. (1A) O bless the Lord, my soul!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
All creatures look to you
to give them food in due time.
When you give it to them, they gather it;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

Alleluia – SEE JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth:
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Reflection

I just watched a five-minute video chronicling the rescue of a dog that had been chained to a fence for about 10 years. The owner just had the poor creature to bark at strangers and fed it every other day just to keep it alive.  The narrator of this story was a young woman who passed the dog twice a day as she walked to and from work for about 18 months and mentioned that although it barked at everyone, she felt that all that meant was that it needed attention. Day by day, she neared the fence, gradually gained the dog’s trust and finally took the steps to rescue the animal. It was hard to fight back the tears watching the dog take its first bath, having grease and grime removed lovingly from its coat then released into a large backyard of a new home with a family and two other dogs. The reaction to a new life of freedom was, as they say these days, priceless.

Because of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, all Christians  have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. A life of authentic freedom and holiness cannot breathe while the flesh (our “old self”), that is, self-interested hostility toward God, continues to block what God has always wanted for us, a life in the Spirit. God has given us both Freedom and Free Will. He has also showed us the consequences of each choice and every decision. What makes us impure is not from the outside, it is from within the human person with the ability to act or not to act.

This remains a constant challenge to put to death the evil deeds of the body through life of the Spirit especially as news of immorality, crime and destructive behavior flood the airwaves and dominate some conversations. In Mark’s Gospel today, such events serve as signs and warnings for every generation of Christians everywhere to rely on the mercy of God and to be soberly aware of the lasting consequences we face by turning away from Him and living in the flesh, producing no fruit just impurity: “From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Gospel)

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

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February 7, 2017


person thinking

Creation and Discipleship 

Reading 1 – GN 1:20—2:4A

God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed–the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”

God created man in his image;
in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed–the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.

Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2AB) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!

Alleluia – PS 119:36, 29B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees;
and favor me with your law.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”

Reflection

“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” (First Reading)

“Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees; and favor me with your law.” (Alleluia Verse)

These specific references can help us realize several things about living the Christian Life, being a disciple and a follower of Jesus Christ:

1. We have been marked in this life and claimed for someone or something. Our choice now is to determine for whom by how we live.
2. As Christians today, we can expect to be punished as was Our Savior, in the court of popularity, greed, hatred and the Godless.
3. Remaining faithful to the end, which comes secretly or unexpectedly and without being ​seen, “like a thief in the night,” we are promised to take our place with the Lamb who has been slain and led to the “springs of life-giving water.” (Rev 7:17)

Because the Victory is so great and the reward eternal, to those whom much is given, much is expected.

Talent is God-given: Be humble.
Fame is man-given: Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given: Be careful.

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February 6, 2017


three crosses on top of world

Creation and New Life

Reading 1 – GN 1:1-19

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed–the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed–the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth,”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth that
bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the fourth day.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 104:1-2A, 5-6, 10 and 12, 24 and 35C

R. (31B) May the Lord be glad in his works.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
With the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.

Alleluia – MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Reflection

The First Reading and the Gospel we have for today are almost like literary bookends with God our Father in the very moment of Creation and Jesus, His Son, also upon the water ready to teach, preach and heal. It is certainly a tale of two creations and the renewal of the human heart. This is why we must watch and wait:

Over 30 years ago, there was a ship off the coast of Massachusetts that was reported lost at sea. There were a reported 45 men on board, most of whom were residents from a small fishing town near Plymouth. For the first week, wives, children and family members set up make-shift camps along the seashore to wait and watch for any signs of recovery. After 10 days, some of those grew tired and even discouraged and began to make their way back to their homes, still leaving a smaller remnant of those would stay vigilant. Finally, on the 15th day of their disappearance, the vessel sailed back into harbor, all aboard hungry and tired, but certainly safe and alive. It was said that one of the men looked sad as he disembarked. He just shrugged and walked  his way to his little cottage of a home to the surprise of his wife and children. But he still looked upset. “What’s wrong, dear?,” asked his wife. “Why weren’t you out there with the other families on the shore when we arrived?,” he responded. “We were waiting for you, honey,” came his wife’s explanation.

“But you weren’t watching…

Do you think that’s splitting hairs? Maybe. However, the slight difference in the words can be of dramatic importance when we apply them to waiting for the Lord. Waiting seems to be passive, as if I can have many other priorities or concerns because, after all, “when He comes He comes, right?” Watching implies vigilance, continued hope and deep resolve. “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 14:25) Watching is active, on-going and, yes, life-changing. Let’s be sure. Whether you and I are waiting or watching, it will be the same Lord. But, how will we be different?

God is worth waiting for; His time is always best. Watching for Him makes our hearts ready and open and joyful to meet Him at any given moment and that makes a difference on how we live.

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February 5, 2017


world in a light bulb

Light of the World

Reading 1 – IS 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (4A) The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
R. The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
R. The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.
or:
R. Alleluia.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear.
Lavishly he gives to the poor;
His justice shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 – 1 COR 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,
proclaiming the mystery of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of Spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.

Alleluia – JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Reflection

The Readings today are all about becoming and remaining a disciples of Christ, a true Christian, and a remarkable light for the world:

“…then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” (First Reading) 

“The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.” (Responsorial Psalm) 

“so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (Second Reading)

“You are the light of the world.” (Gospel)

I want to follow Christ.
That is my choice today.

You and I know that there will be obstacles, momentous distractions and even dark disappointments, but no matter what, we can always go back to that one fundamental phrase that shapes all the other choices in my life: “I want to follow Christ.”

This is what it means to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. You see, everything in our life is a reflection of choices we have made. Each of the decisions have lead and are leading us to yet another choice ahead. The ultimate choice is the one to gain access to heaven through the blood of the Lamb who was slain who is Jesus.

TreeAnd with that fundamental choice for Christ, there is the most awesome bonus anyone could ever dream of or imagine: “Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just.”

“The choices we make, dictate the lives we lead.”  (William Shakespeare)reaching for Jesus, faith

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” (Dag Hammarskjold)

“God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.” (Jim Elliot)

 

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February 4 , 2017


clock with minute and hour hand pointing to listien

Reading 1 – HEB 13:15-17, 20-21

Brothers and sisters:
Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have;
God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.

Obey your leaders and defer to them,
for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account,
that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow,
for that would be of no advantage to you.

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead
the great shepherd of the sheep
by the Blood of the eternal covenant,
furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will.
May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia – JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 6:30-34

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Reflection

One day, a priest friend of mine took a bus load of people on a 5-day pilgrimage. During the bus ride onto the next stop, they passed a huge sheep farm where he took the opportunity to preach on this very Gospel passage that we have for today: “When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”CityOfAgape Ireland countryside

As they all began to have lunch behind this magnificent backdrop of more than 500 sheep grazing on the hillside, a man appeared from behind the hill launching the peaceful sheep into a blood-curdling frenzy that visibly upset the pilgrims, but most especially their priest-leader.

The owner of the farm saw what was happening from afar and walked over to see if he could lend a hand. “What’s the problem, Father? Everything all right?”

little lambs“Well, no,” came the subtle response. “I just got through teaching all these good people about how Jesus is the gate for all the sheep, that He is the Good Shepherd, and we just witness a massive panic attack right before our eyes with all these sheep!”

“Oh, you’re OK, Father. You see that man over there? He is not the shepherd. HE IS THE BUTCHER.”

The message for all of us looks evident: Whose voice are we hearing? How do we know it belongs to the Good Shepherd?

Let’s begin this week by first asking the Lord to slow us down so we can listen, for wisdom to know the difference in tone between the butcher and the Good Shepherd, and the courage to listen and follow the right voice. 

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February 3, 2017


man with angel and devil around him

The Patron Saint of a Good Conscience

Reading 1 – HEB 13:1-8

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.
Let marriage be honored among all
and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,
for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Let your life be free from love of money
but be content with what you have,
for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you.
Thus we may say with confidence:

The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 27:1, 3, 5, 8B-9ABC

R. (1A) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
For he will hide me in his abode
in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Alleluia – LK 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart,
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread,
and people were saying,
“John the Baptist has been raised from the dead;
That is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”;
still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”
But when Herod learned of it, he said,
“It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers,
and the leading men of Galilee.
His own daughter came in and performed a dance
that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once on a platter
the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner
with orders to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Reflection

“Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (First Reading)

Today’s Readings from the Letter to the Hebrews and St. Mark’s Gospel passage describing  the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist reveal great mysteries on several different levels. First and foremost is the level of Divine Revelation which all of these encounters set the stage for the greatest moment on earth, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The last prophet of all time was actually related to Jesus for whom he prepared, not only with his words and wisdom, but also and most dynamically, with his own blood, his very life.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (Responsorial Psalm)

St. John’s life was hinged, from the very moment of his conception, on the Messiah, the only One who could save the world from itself, from evil and from final damnation. It made sense, then, that he would live as man ready to face Jesus in this life and the next. He held himself away from evil which then put his life in mortal danger when confronted the demented and deranged life of Herod, Herodias and a world that was not willing to accept Jesus as the Christ.

“Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John,  knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody.” (Gospel)

What shall we learn today?:

CityOfAgape Multiple personalitiesFrom Herod: From both secular history and the Biblical accounts, it is clear that Herod was a tormented, powerfully insane man with at least 3 or 4 different personalities. His marital record reads like a fifty-cent paper-back novel and the trail of blood he left behind knew no prisoners, including from his own family. Not having a focus in this life, not realizing that it is Jesus that awaits us at the beginning and the end of each day, at the start and conclusion of each life, will undoubtedly lead to horrible consequences and disasters.

From Herodias: This pathetic woman shows us what a messy concoction is produced when you mix anger, ambition and arrogance together in one frail mind. She goes down in history as the one who killed the one man who had the courage to confront her sinful life. She silenced St. John so she could sin in silence. She did, however, forget one very important element of the cycle of life: she may never have had to meet The Baptist again, she still had to meet God.

From St. John the Baptist: “Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart,
and yield a harvest through perseverance.” 
(Alleluia Verse)
 The last great prophet is clearly a man of courage, preferring death to a life of lies. He lived for the Truth and he died for it. He lived for Jesus and died for Him. We might even consider St. John the Baptist as the Patron Saint of a good conscience because without one we all die.

Let us Pray:

O God, You raised up St. John the Baptist to prepare a perfect people for Christ.  Fill Your people with the joy of possessing His grace, and direct the minds of all the faithful in the way of peace and salvation. Grant that as St. John was martyred for truth and justice, so we may energetically profess our Faith in You, and lead others to the Way, the Truth, and Eternal Life.

Amen.

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February 2, 2017


Baby surrounded by people

The Feast of the
Presentation of the Lord Jesus

Reading 1 – MAL 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Reading 2 – HEB 2:14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels
but rather the descendants of Abraham;
therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.

Alleluia – LK 2:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – LK 2:22-40 or 2:22-32

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
Band you yourself a sword will pierceB
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Reflection

As we come today to the 50th Day after celebrating  the great mysteries of Christmas, we come to the Feast of the Presentation whereby Jesus must undergo three very important rituals to remain obedient to the Law and re-affirm His humanity. It also involves the shedding of the First Blood of Jesus in the Temple which begins the process of life and death by which we are all to be saved by the Blood of Our Lord on the Cross.

1. Circumcision: This was the beginning of the passageway of every Jewish boy who was to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth with a ceremony so sacred that it could even be administered on the Sabbath. It was an entrance into the Jewish religion, the culture and family whereby the child received his proper name. St. Paul in Colossians, Chapter 2: 11-12: “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in Baptism in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” 

2. Redemption of the First-born: Do you remember the last plague inflicted upon the Egyptians because of their stubbornness and refusal to “let my people go,” as Moses had demanded from Pharaoh? All the First-born of the land was marked for the death that night — even the first-born among the cattle! Why? It was because this was the ancient way of acknowledging that every life was/is sacred to God. There was therefore a ceremony called the Redemption of the Firstborn found in the Book of Numbers. Today this Jewish rite called ” pidyon haben,” (פדיון הבן‎) is still carried out invoking the text from Exodus recalling the 10th plague levied against the Egyptians, specifically upon the Pharaoh.  Here is yet another pre-reference toBaptism as the Jews, having been liberated from their slavery, walked through through the waters of the Red Sea which had been parted just as a Christian is passed through the parted waters of Baptismal water to enter the Church.

3. Purification after Childbirth:  A person or object (within Jewish culture) could become “ritually impure,” (טָמֵא) in a number of ways: contact with a dead body, dead animals, and certain bodily fluids including the contact with the natural after-birth phenomena. For the new mother, she was allowed to go about daily business but she could not enter the Temple or share in any religious ceremony until she was purified. Although the Law proscribed a lamb and a pigeon for this purpose, it also allowed — if she could not afford the lamb,  she and her husband could offer just another pigeon. The offering of the two pigeons instead of the lamb and the pigeon was technically called “The Offering of the Poor.”  It was this kind of offering that Mary and Joseph brought this day reminding us all that Jesus was born into a common household much like yours and mine — a home where there were no luxuries, a home where every dollar had to be looked at twice, a home where the members of the family knew all about the difficulties of making a living and the haunting insecurity of life. Simply stated, it was a humble home with humble occupants.

We could summarize, reflect then apply today’s great Feast accordingly:

Baptism

Circumcision = Baptism
Redemption = Salvation
Purification = Humility

Baptism marks our entrance with Jesus into His Mystical Body, the Church. There, as members of His Body, we are redeemed, ransomed, bought-back, or truly saved by the shedding of His Blood with the bright promise of immortality. If we truly understand and internalize this mystery, our attitude toward God, others and ourselves will be marked with humility and gratitude. This, then, becomes OUR PRESENTATION unto the Lord praying manGod.

“Now I can Die!”  Finally, let us close with this beautiful figure of Simeon: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” (Gospel)
He is described as Righteous, Devout, Patient and in the Temple.
I’d like to suggest that he become the “patron Saint” of parishioners everywhere! What does that mean and what is the application for you and me today? Let’s take a look:

praying womanRighteous, spiritual and honorable, ethical and fair
Devout, faithful and religious, sincere and genuine
Patient, forgiving and gentle, persistent and enduring
In the Temple, he actually went to Church.

Someone once said that going to Church makes you as much as a Christian as walking into a garage makes you a mechanic. While that is both stoic and cynical, there is more truth to it than I think many of us are ready to accept. However, although there are many imperfect reasons people go to Church, today we have a great reason to make Sunday the day we accomplish the most important goal for the week and for our lives. Remember Simeon. Remember the promise made to him. Try to imagine his joy when he was finally able to see the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace and actually carry Jesus in his arms, right there in the Temple. That could be you and me! This approach has the distinct possibility of making all the difference of the world for us. If we let Him, He will make all things new again: praying boy

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

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February 1, 2017


Flowers breaking through ground

Reading 1 – HEB 12:4-7, 11-15

Brothers and sisters:
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.

Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as his sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

Strive for peace with everyone,
and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God,
that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble,
through which many may become defiled.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:1-2, 13-14, 17-18A

R. (see 17) The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward children’s children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Alleluia – JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Reflection

The rejection of what is good always has dire consequences.

How often have you and I heard someone ask us, “Does God punish?” One of several dictionary entries defines “to punish” as: 1a :  to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation :  to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation and 2a :  to deal with roughly or harshly :  to inflict injury on :punishment

What about another common questions we hear?: “How can God send anyone to Hell?”

Both the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews and Christ, our High Priest today show us a great insight, not only to these questions, but also to the mystery of sin and death, mercy and redemption.

The basic issue lies with the questions we ask: God does not punish as much as we suffer the consequences of our behavior. Everything we say and do in this life will bear fruit in this life and the next. 

Heaven/HellAnd since that statement rings with truth, how does one come to grip with the consequence of hell for the kind of life that Jesus clearly marks as one deserving of eternal damnation?

I heard a brilliant homilist once make that clear to me when he said the following: “God does not send anyone to hell, rather, we sin ourselves there.”

The Gospel confirms these results when we see what happens when people place any and all obstacles in their way to believing in and trusting in the Lord God Almighty: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

The great news today cannot be lost in the philosophic and theological discussion about hell and merit and punishment but rather to always remember that goodness and kindness will follow us should we place all our hope in the One who is Love for all. flock of sheep

The Alleluia verse really sums it all beautifully for us:
“My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.”

 

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