A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23(24):1-6 ©
Second Reading – Romans 1:1-7 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 1:23
The Gospel According to Matthew 1:18-25

(NJB)

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Listen!

God is not a politician.

The creator of the universe is not a kingmaker. God does not give victory in battle; appointing winner and losers. God, Immanuel, the God of Jesus Christ is with all people, at all times, in all places.

God loves each and every one of God’s children equally.

God stands with all people, whether or not any of them stand with God.

Be mindful of this.

All things and person have their being in God. God is the foundation of all that is. Without God there is nothing, and in nothing there is not even the possibility of being.

If you wish to climb the mountain, to find God, that is fine, do it, God is there. Or, you may simply turn to your neighbor, and see God reflected in their face. God is there.

See them, behold the face of God, in that holy presence give thanks, give thanks with your neighbor, demonstrate God’s faithfulness to you, demonstrate it through love.

Do not worry about your own holiness. God loved you before the creation of the world; when only the possibility of you existed, you were loved. This is true of all things and beings, of everyone; as they are loved by God, they are holy.

Look for God’s blessing in the service you provide to your neighbor, to your mother and father, to your sister and brother. Be justified in one thing, the quality and extent of your mercy, the degree to which you cleave to justice, and the service you give to those in your midst. .

Remember this:

God is not confined to the pages of a book, or by the ink on a scroll, neither is God bounded by the history and mythology of a people. Look to those things for glimpses of God, for the remembrances of past encounters, but seek the living God in living beings.

Always bear this metaphor in mind: the first time we saw God, when the first parent walked with the creator, the world was a garden, and that was paradise. There was no talk of kings, and no talk of glorifying God in battle. Let us return to that.

Do good and reject evil.

Remember, Paul was not chosen. He chose to preach the Gospel.

Remember this, Jesus was descended from David through his father Joseph.

Remember, Jesus was not a lord or king. He was a Rabbi and a healer

Jesus lived among us an example of grace and its fulfillment. He was not a conduit of grace. His mission was not to confer on human beings something that they lacked, but to activate in them something that is inherent, an innate capacity for good and a receptivity of the love of God.

Consider this:

Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Joseph was of the House of David. She became pregnant before their wedding, according to the design God had put in place for the propagation of human life.
Joseph had second thoughts about marriage, and about being a father, but in a moment of conscience, listening to the spirit of grace within him, he made a choice, and he embraced the truth, taking on the responsibility to raise his child.

He took Mary as his wife; he brought her into his house. They named their child Joshua, after the great hero of the Israelites. In that trust they pinned their hopes on him, in that hope and trust (faith) they encountered the presence of God. They knew then that God was with them, inasmuch as they were with each other.

If Joseph had succumbed to his fear and weakness (and that was a real possibility), in that time and place Mary would have been destroyed. She would have become an outcast, she would have had no standing in her community, she and her child would have died.

Joseph was humbled by his weakness and his moment of doubt. In that moment he learned what it means to truly love.

He choose good, he rejected evil.

If you believe it.
First Reading – Isaiah 7:10-14

The Maiden is With Child

The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’

Then Isaiah said:

‘Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men without trying the patience of my God, too?

The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign.

It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23(24):1-6 ©

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
on the waters he made it firm.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
who desires not worthless things.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.
Second Reading – Romans 1:1-7 ©

Our Apostolic Mission is to Preach the Obedience of Faith to All Pagan Nations

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead. Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 1:23

Alleluia, alleluia!

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 1:18-25

How Jesus Christ Came to be Born

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)

A Homily – The Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 145(146):6-10 ©
Second Reading – James 5:7-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Isaiah 61:1 (Luke 4:18)
The Gospel According to Matthew 11:2 – 11 ©

(NJB)

The Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Listen to the prophet, this reading from Isaiah is a prayer of hope.

Be mindful, do not take the words that are given here as literal truth.

This is a prayer for healing and restoration, a prayer for salvation, something which God will lead everyone to…but not in this life, this is not a prayer concerning our expectations for this world.

The things we hope for, God’s deliverance, those hopes are for the next world, God will not intervene in the events of our lives, not in the here and now.

We have the choice to live our lives as if we believe in the things we hope for, which is faith, or whether we do not.

In the next world we shall witness the whole creation in the exultation of God, we shall not be concerned with ephemeral things, such as glory.

We will face our fears and watch them disappear. Have courage now, and patience while we wait.

Do not wish for the vengeance of the God, or divine retribution to be visited on your enemies, rather seek to have no enemies, forgive those who have hurt you, and ask for their forgiveness in return.

This is a prayer for healing, seek in your own heart the will to see everyone healed.

In that moment you will experience something of the everlasting joy that awaits us all the love God.

Listen to the psalmist!

Praise God, creator of the universe. Praise God, with words and song.

God is the author of our salvation, do not trust in princes and kings. And know that God is not a king.

The life of a human being, the time of humanity on earth, our window on life is only a brief flash in the night. We are born, we breathe for a time, and then we are gone.

The Earth itself will not survive the dying of the sun.

Happy are those whose help is God, the creator. Happy are those who assist God in the divine work of mercy and justice:

Lift up the oppressed, wherever they are: feed the hungry, free the prisoner, teach the ignorant.

Pray for your own faults to be forgiven, your own blindness lifted.

Advocate for those who need an advocate, care for those who cannot care for themselves. Find those who are lost in their wickedness and bring them home.

Be mindful!

If we think of the second coming of Jesus as an actual return; we are mistaken. Jesus will not return in the flesh, because that is against nature, and we each have only one life to live on Earth.

If we think of Jesus coming to Earth as God, of his coming to bring about the end of time; we are mistaken. God will not intervene in the life cycle of our planet, because God made us and our planet free.

The apostle was wrong to engage in prophecy of this nature.

Be mindful of this error. Do not repeat it.

Take these words to heart: be patient, live a good and loving life; even in the midst of turmoil. When we live in the promise of the divine way, the divine way becomes the reality of our lives.

Praise God, and pray for God’s servant. When the will of God is done, the message is clear and the mission is pure.

Love one another, as God loves you.

Consider the Gospel for today:

John came before Jesus. It is said that they were cousins, but the evidence for this claim is scant.

It is said that James, the apostle and bishop of Jerusalem was Jesus’ brother, but that claim has long been rejected by the Church.

There is no way for us to know the veracity of these claims, and it does not matter.

John came before Jesus, for a time they worked as contemporaries. It is said that they met at the river Jordan where John was carrying out his ministry of baptism, for healing and repentance.

John baptized Jesus at that time, the moment is presented in the Gospel as a passing of the torch from John to Jesus.

There is no way for us to know if this event ever even happened, or if it did that John and Jesus viewed this moment in this way.

It does not matter. The legacy that has been preserved in this accounts informs us in ways that the actuality behind those events cannot…because the actuality is unknown and unknowable

John prepared the way for Jesus as the Gospel for today indicates. He was arrested shortly thereafter, and shortly thereafter he was murdered.

John and Jesus belonged to a movement, a movement of the people, the am haaretz, a movement for the people, a movement calling for justice, for unity, and salvation.

They saw their work as something connected to the prophets. They were reformers, they were people whose preaching synthesized the sacred texts. They boiled the commandments down to their essence and returned them to the people in the simplest form.

“Love God, with all your strength and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

That is the whole of the law, and all the words of the prophet were summarized therein.

Many of John’s followers became followers of Jesus. Leaders in John’s group became leaders among Jesus’ disciples, but not all who had followed John came along. It is to these people that this gospel is pointed.

It was written to remind them of the sequence of events; first John, then Jesus.

It this was the exploitation of an ancient theme among the Hebrews. It is a story reflected in the patriarchalt narratives, God’s expressed favoritism for the younger son; for Able over Cain, for Isaac over Ishmael, for Jacob (Israel) over Esau, for Joseph over all of his brothers.

The gospel of today is a piece of politics. It is a message to the holdouts among John’s camp, expressing love and pride in the work of John, while telling them in no uncertain terms that the way forward was with Jesus.

This was the beginning of Church politics, and as with all such actions, it healed some aspects of the divide, while exasperating others.

Such is the way of human beings.

Be mindful.
First Reading – Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 ©

God Himself is Coming to Save You

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom, let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil, let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy, everlasting joy on their faces; joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament be ended.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 145(146):6-10 ©

Come, Lord, and save us.

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

Come, Lord, and save us.

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.
Come, Lord, and save us.

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

Come, Lord, and save us.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – James 5:7-10 ©

Do Not Lose Heart; the Lord’s Coming Will Be Soon

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Gospel Acclamation – Isaiah 61:1 (Luke 4:18)

Alleluia, alleluia!

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 11:2 – 11 ©

‘A Greater than John the Baptist Has Never Been Seen’

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.

‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’
The Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)

The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homily

2019.12.08
First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 ©
Second Reading – Romans 15:4-9 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 3:4, 6
The Gospel According to Matthew 3:1 – 12 ©

(NJB)

The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)
Listen!

Let your heart be filled with hope, let it overflow.

Consider the words of the prophet, his encouragement to the people; he speaks with one eye on the past and one eye toward the future, Isaiah dwells in the midst of crises and promises the people a return to the way of justice, of peace for the people, of an end to the violence and conflicts that had come to be an ordinary feature of life..

Hope is eternal, and though God, the creator of the universe, though God does not interfere in our lives or with the order of creation, nevertheless the divine purposed is draw all things and all people to God’s own self, through the eternal mystery of God’s own being. If not in this world then in the next.

God’s promise is real and true, but God will not come to our rescue in this world.

God has made you and me, God had made us, and the world absolutely free, God will not intervene in our choices or spare us from their consequences.

Remember this, God is not a king.

Listen to the apostle; the teaching of the prophets, of all our sages and seers, consider the lives of the patriarchs as they are recorded in the sacred texts, they have one purpose, to furnish hope in the hearts of the people.

Our path is lit by the lamp of hope, so that in its light we may abandon fear and find ourselves free to love one another as Jesus taught us.

Our faith is belief in the things we hope for; a world governed in justice and mercy, a world at peace.

Be mindful!

The understanding of history is a great tool. The Christian tradition has always attempted to root itself in historical realities, though with greater and lesser degrees of success.

The study of our tradition gave birth to modern historical criticism; without which, as a culture, we would have no understanding of the uses and limitations of history whatsoever, and that took eighteen hundred years to develop.

Our stories, our narrative about the life and mission, the arrest and killing of Jesus are a part of the testimony of our faith. It helps us to locate in time the singular moment when our cultural commitment to the teachings of Jesus took place.

We remember the rule of Tiberius, heir to Augustus, and the reign of Herod, and governance of Pontius Pilate.

We recall the role that Pilate played in the killing of Jesus, we shout it out at every hour of every day in all parts of the world; that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried. This story is told unceasingly and without end.

It is long since time that we, as heirs to the ministry and teaching of Jesus, forgive Pilate for the role he played in that political murder.

John the Baptist taught us to repent, and be forgiven, but Jesus taught us to simply forgive, and thereby to accept the forgiveness that has already been issued.

Jesus forgave those who killed him he asked God to forgive them when he was up on the cross.

It is time we do the same.

The promise of Isaiah, which John echoed in the wilderness, this promise cannot be realized until we take up our part in it.

God is the author of our salvation, but we are the agents. It is incumbent on us to proceed with the healing, if the human race is to be healed.

Remember!

John the Baptist was a social critic, and that is the role of the prophet, he stood within the tradition and criticized its institutions.

John the Baptist was not alone in this, he dwelt on the margins of society along with those who saw and experienced the same troubles as he did. They were on the margins both figuratively, and literally, they represented a new movement and preached a new path for the people. They were so controversial that they had to do their preaching away from the towns and cities. That is what they did, the preached in the wilderness and the people came out to see them.

Isaiah did not foretell the coming of John the Baptist. In fact, Isaiah was not a real historical figure, but the school of Isaiah, those who wrote in his name, they offered their criticism of their tradition, and assured people that when they were gone others would come.

They foresaw that.

John did the same thing. He knew his days were numbered, and he knew another would come after him. He might even have known that Jesus of Nazareth would pick up his work, but that fact is unimportant, because he knew that if not Jesus, then another would follow; sooner or later another would follow.

That is still true today.

The prophets are among us, they are preaching and teaching and pointing out the way. The prophets are present in every generation. The voice of the prophet is present in the heart of every human being; waiting, nascent, patient, desiring to be voiced and heard.

Do not believe that being baptized and being a Christian makes you special. Being a member of one of the tribes of Israel did not make the Sadducees or the Pharisees special.

Being a Christian does not impart a special gift to anyone, only a special responsibility, a sacred burden to speak with the voice of a prophet, to demand that the unjust be just, to kindle hope in the hopeless, and to be merciful toward the outcast.

This is the way: serving the good, loving justice and being merciful to all of those within your power, or whom you have the power to help.

Do not be distressed or afraid of the harsh language in the gospel. Do not be afraid of the fire, because in scripture, fire is a symbol of our encounter with God. The fire that never ends, the eternal fire burns in the heart of God. We know this because God, and God alone is the arbiter of the eternal, and there is no other eternal being who is not God.

Listen!

Our encounter with God is a moment of transformation, of transfiguration, it comes to every person, and depending on who you are or how ready you are to experience it, the encounter might be painful, but it is not destructive.

The fire of God refines, just as the power of love, and justice, and mercy do.

Be like John. Preach the faith, love what is good, walk humbly in justice and mercy.

Spread the good news; God loves you.
First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10 ©

A Shoot Springs From the Stock of Jesse

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)

He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.

His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked.
Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his hips.

The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion feed together, with a little boy to lead them.

The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together.

The lion eats straw like the ox.

The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand.

They do no hurt, no harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters swell the sea.

That day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples.

It will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 ©

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

O God, give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

In his days justice shall flourish
and peace till the moon fails.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the Great River to earth’s bounds.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

For he shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

May his name be blessed for ever
and endure like the sun.
Every tribe shall be blessed in him,
all nations bless his name.

In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.
Second Reading – Romans 15:4-9 ©

Christ is the Saviour of All Men

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 3:4, 6

Alleluia, alleluia!

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 3:1 – 12 ©

The One Who Follows Me Will Baptize You With the Holy Spirit and Fire

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

The Second Sunday of Advent, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homliy – The First Sunday of Advent, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 2:1-5 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 121(122):1-2, 4-5, 6-9 ©
Second Reading – Romans 13:11-14 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Palms 84:8
The Gospel According to Matthew 24:37 – 44 ©

(NJB)
Listen to the prophet

The Law of God is one law for all people. The purpose of the law is to lead the people to peace.

This is the law:

Love God with all your strength and all your heart and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Remember this: Zion is a metaphor, it stands for the center of our being, Zion represents our heart, each of us individually and the whole of us collectively.

Zion is the heart of hearts, and in the deepest chamber of our heart is the holy of holies, the place where God; the creator of the universe has written the immutable law.

It is there in the heart of hearts where God has inscribed the indelible commandment; that we love one another as God loves us, and that we return God’s love through the service we give to our neighbors, our friends and family, and the stranger in our midst.

It is in the other that God is present to us.

When the law is fulfilled in us our salvation is complete and the savior’s work is done, death will have been defeated, pain and suffering will have departed from the world.

When the law has been fulfilled we will have no need for anyone to come with power and authority to adjudicate between us. When the law has been fulfilled the world will be at peace, the people of God, all people in all places at all times, God’s children will be as one.

Consider the wisdom of the psalmist: you were conceived in the womb of salvation

Open your eyes, you do not have to seek that which has already found you.

Consider again the words of the psalmist and forget all the talk of secure cities, and ramparts, and thrones. God has nothing to do with them.

God, the creator of the universe, the living God is not a tribal deity.

God, the creator of the universe, the eternal God does not belong to one people, one nation, one world or one galaxy.

God is infinite and eternal and beyond our comprehension, and God yet with us and within us; God is the being through whom and in whom we have our existence.

Stay awake!

Listen to the apostle; it is always dark somewhere in the world, and somewhere in the world it is always light. It is easy to hide in plain sight. It is hard to work for the good and keep it private. Whether in private or in public, live up to the expectations you have set for yourself in your relationship with the divine.

Know that God loves you; Act as if everything you do will be known by all, because it will in the end when God is all in all.

Forget all about dressing God in glory, God is not a nationalist, and promoting that image of God is to promote a god of fear, a false image.

Promote the God of love, a God beyond all tribalism, all national borders and boundaries.

Reject the image of God as king, dread lord, and tyrant.

Promote a God of humility, as Jesus was humble and taught us to be; live decently and free from addiction.

God is the creator of the entire universe, all lands belong to God; all seas, all planets, all stars, all galaxies; along with everything and everyone in them.

God did not end the captivity of Jacob, they Israelites did.
Be mindful, this is not hubris; it is the truth.

It is a greater hubris to think that God loves a special people, a single tribe above all others than to think that the Israelites escaped bondage under their own power.

Know this!

God is never angry or indignant with the people, God will not rescue us from the plight and misery of this world; that is for us to do for ourselves, but more importantly it is for us to do for each other.

Consider the Gospel for today, and know that the future history of the world has not been written.

Any suppositions about our future on Earth is merely guesswork. Some guesses are more informed than others, we can speak in terms of possibility and probability, but we cannot know anything about the days and nights to come.

Nothing is fixed, change is the only constant and everything is uncertain.

There are thousands of ways in which the plans we have laid, or the hopes that we cherish can come undone; lightening will strike, a tornado will blow, a meteor will fall, a volcano explode. A person in the fullness of their life may trip and fall, hit their head and die, leaving everything behind them without, it can happen without warning.

The promises we have received from God are not for this world.

God has promised to bring an end to suffering, injustice, hunger, illness. We can believe in this promise, but those promises are not of this world. These promises concern the world to come, a world in which human beings are not subject to the vicissitudes of the material condition, or the hungers of the flesh.

I cannot speak of that world, I will not pretend to because I have never seen it.

No one living has.

Our belief in a loving God, our hope in the words of the prophets, our trust in the Gospel, these allow us to believe that this world is real, but anyone who pretends to know for certain is over stating their case, or simply lying.

This is what we have been taught, and we should stick to it: we can live out our present lives as if the actuality of those promises were real.

That is the secret of the Christian way.

If we are just and loving, if we care for one another, then we do not have to wait for the end of time, or the world to come. We can experience something of the promise in the here and now.

In those moments, God is with us. God is always with us, but in those moments when we are working with God to bring about that better world, then God is with us in a special way, in a sacramental union.

If we trust in the reality of the things we hope for, we make it easy to live our lives as if it were true, and thereby manifest it for ourselves.

To the extent that fulfill the promise in our own lives, the presence of God is engendered among us. It is like inviting Jesus to have a seat at the table, he will have come. That will not the end of things, but the beginning.
First Reading – Isaiah 2:1-5 ©

The Lord Gathers All Nations Together Into the Eternal Peace of God’s Kingdom

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills.

All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles.

Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 121(122):1-2, 4-5, 6-9 ©

I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’

It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.
For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgement
of the house of David.

I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’

For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
‘Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!’

I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’

For love of my brethren and friends
I say: ‘Peace upon you!’
For love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.

I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’
Second Reading – Romans 13:11-14 ©

Our Salvation is Near

You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted. The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon – let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel Acclamation – Palms 84:8

Alleluia, alleluia!

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 24:37 – 44 ©

The Son of Man is Coming at an Hour You Do Not Expect

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.

‘So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
The First Sunday of Advent, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Advent

First Reading – Micah 5:1-4 ©
Responsorial Psalm – 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©
Second Reading – Hebrews 10:5-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Lk1:38
The Gospel of the Day – Luke 1:39-44 ©
(NJB)
The prophet Micah foresaw the coming of the Prince of Peace, of Jesus of Nazareth, who was Joshua bin Joseph, the child of Mary, who Saint Paul called the Christ.

Note well; Micah’s prophecy was not a reading of the future. We know this because the future is not predetermined. God, the creator of the universe, God made us and it free.

Micah’s prophecy is an expression of hope, of trust in the way of love, which he believed all people are called to.

As all prophets must do, Micah called our attention to the troubling times we are facing. There is sorrow and there is pain and there is a deep sense of alienation felt among the people, of isolation from each other and of separation from God.

This is the human condition

As a good prophet does, Micha pointed toward our future, to the hope that the Christ will come, the archetype of peace to which all human should aspire, a peace that all leaders should seek to serve.

It is easy to read things the wrong way, consider the words of the psalmist for today

The psalmist misunderstands the natural unfolding of historical events for the will of God. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings, God is not the author of our history past, or our future histories; we are.

God is the shepherd of all people, not of Israel only, and not of the Church founded in Christ’s name.

God does not reside on a throne and God is not the general of armies. Armies and kingdoms are human institutions and when we imagine God in the role of emperor or king, price or warrior we do a disservice to God, who created the universe, and everything in it. God who loves all of God’s children with the same equal share of the divine, the infinite and eternal love.

God will not rescue anyone from human the human dilemma, not in this life, whether it is long or short, easy or hard, there is no deliverance from it, save by our own action, and but for the love of our family and friends, or the stranger if we are so fortunate.

Remember this:

God’s face shines on everyone, look for it in the face of your neighbor, in the face of your enemy, in the faces of those who persecute you. God is as much present in them as God is present in you, and where God is present God is present fully.

God did not rescue the Israelites from Egypt. They rescued themselves, and they committed horrible atrocities and considerable crimes along the way. I am not talking about the promises they broke to God, God knew that they would. They murdered and plundered, killed and robbed, put dozens of tribes to the sword along the way.

God forgave them, and loved them anyway.

God did not send the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Ptolemy’s, or the Romans, to punish them.

God did not destroy the temples.

Each of those conquering Empire’s did what they did for their reasons in their own time, just as the armies of Joshua son of Nun did in his.

The only lesson we are to draw from it is this, God will not protect you, or show you favor in this world. We are all subject to the vicissitudes of change and the random nature of change.

It is up to us, God’s children, to love, show mercy, mete justice, and care for those downtrodden. We are called it.

Service is the seal of our baptism, we are called to it. It was the call to service that Jesus heard when he accepted his death on the cross, his life was sealed there too.

Note well:

Saint Paul the Apostle made a tragic error in his early formulation of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and the reason for his death.

When Jesus said, “God wanted no sacrifice, takes no pleasure in holocausts, or sacrifices for sin, he meant it.

Jesus did not mean to suggest that his own death was the sacrifice God wanted, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not that his death become an oblation to God or a holocaust rising to the heavens.

He was murdered plain and simple, it was a political assassination.

Know this:

Jesus stood in the tradition of the prophets against the cult of animal sacrifice, because he knew that the cult of sacrifice was a corrupt practice, one that burdened the poor, bankrupting them to fatten the wealthy.

That is why he turned the tables of the money changers over in his tirade at the temple.

That is why the priests plotted his murder and conspired with the Romans to achieve it.

God, the creator of the universe, God takes no pleasure in blood sacrifices and burnt offerings. They are a contrivance, witchcraft, ineffectual and meaningless.

The only sacrifice God desires, is the sacrifice of service, offered in love, engendering hope.

Your loving service to your neighbor, is the offering God wants from you, service which furthers the ends of peace, fosters trust, seeks justice, and teaches a love for the law of God that was written in your heart.

Pay attention:

The writers of Mark’s gospel begin their narrative when Jesus was a man, an adult at the beginning of his public ministry.

The early Christians wanted more, and so the authors of Luke went back in time and narrated a fable about his conception and birth. In this fable, or myth (whatever you think it should be called) they attempted to tie up various loose ends in the stories that were being told about Jesus.
They wanted to unite different factions of the Christian movement in that was already falling apart just a half-century after his death. This particular narrative from today’s reading, was meant to appeal to the followers of John the Baptist.

It brought forth the notion that Jesus and John were actually cousins, and that even though John was older, he was a follower of Jesus from the time he was in the womb.

Just as John’s mother was subordinate to Mary.

It is a story, a fable, a myth; the whole thing is a fiction.

It is an unfortunate fiction, because a great deal of theology and doctrine has been hung from these exercises in make-believe, and such fictions were in themselves naked political calculations meant to manipulate the burgeoning movement.

The succeeding Gospels each in their turn reached back further in time. The writers of Matthew inserted a confusing genealogy; tracing Jesus’ heritage back to Adam, through David on his father’s side, and yet, at the same time, the Church insists that we believe Joseph was not his biological father.

The writers of John begin their narrative with the beginning of time itself, and the creation of the universe.

It is sad to note, that over the centuries, what people believed about these fables, ended up being the cause of extreme, bitter and deadly partisan conflict among Christians, setting aside the actual teaching of Jesus; to love your enemies, and pray to for those who persecute you.

Remember this when you pray; remember the errors of the church, the fictions of Luke, the mistakes of Paul, the carelessness of the psalmist, and remember the hope of Micah, that the proper expectation of the faithful is for the reign of peace.

First Reading – Micah 5:1-4 ©

He Will Stand and Feed His Flock with the Power of the Lord

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.

The Lord is therefore going to abandon them till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.

Then the remnant of his brothers will come back to the sons of Israel.

He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God.

They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land.

He himself will be peace.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.
Second Reading – Hebrews 10:5-10 ©

God, Here I Am! I Am Coming to Obey Your Will

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
Gospel Acclamation – Lk1:38

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the handmaid of the Lord:
let what you have said be done to me.

Alleluia!
Gospel – Luke 1:39-45 ©

Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

A Homily – (The Third Sunday of Advent)

First Reading – Zephaniah 3:14-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Isaiah 12 ©
Second Reading – Philippians 4:4-7 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Is 61:1 (Lk4:18)
The Gospel of the Day – Luke 3:10-18 ©
(NJB)
Hear this and remember it, God, the creator of the universe, God is not a warrior.

God does not intervene in human affairs, either to pass judgement or to grant reprieve.

God has no enemies.

God is love.

There is wisdom in the words of the Prophet, listen to it.

Be patient; salvation flows from the wellspring of God, from this life into the next.

Great are the deeds of the creator, the creator of the universe is great. God set the galaxies spinning in their course through the heavens, the stars in their clusters, and the planets in their orbit

It is the desire of God, creator of the universe; it is the desire of God that all people be well, be happy, be loving and good.

God desires that we be tolerant and care for one another, that we serve the happiness of our neighbors through charity and in love.

Herein lies the peace of God, in the work of a servant.

God knows us, each and every one of us, God knows what we struggle with, God knows the content of our dreams.

Praise God, and give comfort to God’s servant, when the will of God is done, the message is clear, and the mission is pure. They are one in the same thing, the message and the mission is love.

Here the Good news.

The authors of Luke want to tell us about something about Jesus, through a narrative concerning Saint John the Baptist.

Take a moment and reflect on the wisdom of John has given to us here.

The spirit of truth was in him, as it is in all of us. We are created in the divine image, in the image of God, God made us.

We are with innate capacities for reason, wisdom, and love. It is these qualities we are referring to when we say that we are made in the image of God; creator of the universe.

Everyone and everything in the universe, every moment of time flows from and is sustained by the providence of God.

We did not then (in the time of John), and we do not now need to wait for the anointed one, for a Christ to preach to us and tell us the truth.

The truth is spoken all around us, in ordinary moments, in normal conversation, the truth is speaking to you in your own heart, at the core of your being; you may find it in the seed of God’s Word that is germinating within you; just as it was spoken by John to those that followed him, and by Jesus who came later.

“What must we do?” The people asked.

John and Jesus responded according to the best tradition of the prophets

Give.
Share.
Act mercifully.
Be kind.
Act justly.
Be well.
Act lovingly.
Do no harm.
Ahimsa

Execute your offices and fulfill the trust that has been placed in you faithfully; do it without corruption.

There is nothing extraordinary in these precepts. This is the ordinary way of life that we are called to.

Nevertheless, this message stunned the people who heard it preached from the Mount of Olives, by the River Jordan, to hear the truth spoken so simply, with such conviction. It alarmed those who listened so much so that they thought John might a divine being, and they became conviced that Jesus was.

Why is this our response to the truth when we hear it?

It is precisely because the solution to the world’s sickness (the desire to sin and the love of evil) is so simple that when we try to imagine these solutions coming to fruition in our own lives, we get lost in the overwhelming reality of what is.

We are awash in sin and the consequences of sin, our and everyone’s, both the living and the dead. As if we were trying to hold back an ocean of greed, hate and fear with a wall made of paper, as thin as a wish.

In the here and now, we all know what the solution is, and yet we do not faith in one another, we do not trust that each of us will do our part to stop. This is because it is evident that many have no desire to do their part, no desire at all.

The realities of sin and evil are so prevalent, so vast that when we try to imagine a resolution to them with the only solutions that are available to us (love and mercy), the scope of the problems takes on a cosmic significance.

Remember this:

No matter how great the reality of sin and evil are, they are rooted in time and space, they are finite, as such, they are infinitely less than the infinite love of God.

This is the mystery of the Gospel

John was wise when he set aside a claim to divinity; when he set aside the expectation that he was himself an anointed being come to solve the world’s problems. He knew that they would not be solved in his lifetime, not in the final sense, because sin and evil are a part of the human condition.

He also knew that another would come to pick up his mantle, to carry on that work, he was confident in this knowledge because he understood the nature and role of the prophet, and that the truth is spoke in every generation, in every community, in all times.

John was wise to point his followers to the future, because we are led into the place of justice and mercy only by our desire for it. We are led by the power of hope, and through the expectation of its realization.

It is not necessary for us to believe as the Gospel writers did, that John was pointing to the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, because, if it had not been Jesus, it would have been someone else, as it will be someone else in our own future, because God’s redemptive work never ends.

When we are on God’s threshing floor, we must understand that we arrived there as we are, a complete person, we came as the whole stalk of wheat.

That is how we encounter God, in our entirety; each of us as a whole person.

The wheat and the chaff are not separate people, sinners and saints. We are each of us the wheat, and the chaff together, saint and sinner combined in one body.

It is the encounter with the divine that frees us from the compulsions and addictions that bind us to our sins.

Gods winnowing fan blows against us like the wind, it is the breath of the Holy Spirit blowing over us and flowing into us; freeing us from the fear and hate, from the desires that cause us to lie, cheat, steal, to harm our neighbors, even those we love.

The Spirit ruhah carries us to the fire where all of that doubt is burned away, not in a fire of prosecution, judgement and destruction, but in the fires of transformation, purification, and hope.

When we pass through it, we become a new creation.
First Reading – Zephaniah 3:14-18 ©

The Lord, the King of Israel, is in Your Midst

Shout for joy, daughter of Zion,
Israel, shout aloud!
Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.
When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.
Responsorial Psalm – Isaiah 12 ©

The Rejoicing of a Redeemed People

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds;
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Second Reading – Philippians 4:4-7 ©

The Lord is Very Near

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.
Gospel Acclamation – Is 61:1 (Lk4:18)

Alleluia, alleluia!

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.

Alleluia!
Gospel – Luke 3:10-18 ©

‘Someone is Coming Who Will Baptize You With the Holy Spirit and Fire’

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.
The Third Sunday of Advent

A Homily – (The Second Sunday of Advent)

The Gospel of the Day – Luke 3:1 – 6
Gospel Acclamation – Lk3:4,6
Second Reading – Philippians 1:4-6,8-11 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 125(126) ©
First Reading – Baruch 5:1-9 ©
(NJB)
Integrity and Mercy, these Are the Splendor of God

Bear this in mind:

In the scripture reading for today, from the Prophet Baruch to the Apostle, Saint Paul, we must take Jerusalem and Israel as representative of the whole people of God, we must see these images as humanity writ large.

The hope expressed in the scripture, from the Psalms to the Gospel, is a hope for the whole human race, it is not selective, it cannot be limited to a select group of people in a specific time and place.

Remember this, the splendor of God is not the splendor of royalty. We must not seek the honor of princes or of queens and kings.

The glory of God is the glory of service, we should not expect any reward other than peace.

Though it may be true that our work is met with enmity, remember this, God, the creator of the universe, God has no enemies, and we may not regard those who oppose us as such. They are God’s children, even as we are. They are equal recipients of God’s love.

The path of God’s servant may be arduous, but at the end of the day there is rest.

Do not expect God to prepare the way, for God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings, set those vain notions aside and take up the mission in faith and trust

It was not God who released the Jews from captivity, from bondage in Egypt or in Babylon. It was Moses and Joshua. It was the Emperor of Persia.

Those were great deeds, marked by heroism and courage and mercy.

The clemency offered to the Jews, which led to the diaspora, honored the fellowship that all human beings share. Insofar as all good deeds have their origin in the goodness of the creator, then yes, God deserves the credit.

Nevertheless, it was the free choice of the Persian King to release those who had been enslaved and allow them to return to their homes. That was Cyrus not God who exercised that agency.

Many of those who were freed by the Persians never returned Judea, they remained living in the diaspora, carrying on their traditions in foreign lands, becoming citizens, building synagogues sharing the faith of their ancestors among them.

Some of those who were released returned to Judea, and chose to regard their neighbors and cousins as gentiles, as impure and as outcasts.

This was unjust, and out of alignment with the will of God. It is a mistake that has been repeated over and over again, in their history. It is an error they are living through in the modern day.

Listen to the Prayer of the Apostle

Listen to the Apostle, we are the objects of God’s love, every single one of us.

The creator of the universe loves us.

God has set out to make a good work through our agency, God will see it through. God will not abandon anyone.

The work will be completed and no-one shall be lost.

This is the hope of the Gospels, this is the good news.

Listen, the Apostle prays for you, he prays for everyone, in so doing the Apostle echoes the prayer of Jesus, the prayer of God’s own self; it is a prayer of love, a prayer of hope and a prayer of faith.

God has placed God’s trust in us. God trust is not a façade.

God has placed God’s hope in us, God’s hope is without measure.

God has placed God’s love in us, like a fruit that will flower forever.

To Emulate Jesus We Must Practice Forgiveness

Understanding of history is a crucial component of understanding the gospel. The Christian tradition has always attempted to root itself in historical realities; but with greater and lesser degrees of success, often with outright failure, and intentional malfeasance.

Nevertheless, the study of the tradition gave birth to modern historical criticism; without which we would have no understanding of the uses and limitations of history whatsoever

That only took eighteen hundred years of scholarship to develop.

Our narrative about the life and mission, the arrest and killing of Jesus are a part of the testimony of our faith.

Our understanding of these events is aided when we are able to locate the point in time, the singular moment when our commitment to the teachings of Jesus took place.

Jesus was born during the reign of Tiberius, heir to Augustus, and during the Herodian dynasty’s, he came of age and started his mission when Pontius Pilate was governor of Palestine.

We recall the role that Pilate played in the killing of Jesus, we shout it out at every hour of every day in all parts of the world; we proclaim that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried.

This story is told unceasingly and without end.

It is long since time that we, as heirs to the ministry and teaching of Jesus, forgive Pilate for the role he played in that political murder.

Just as the Apostle prays for us.

John the Baptist taught us to repent and be forgiven, but Jesus taught us simply, to forgive.

Jesus forgave those who killed him, even as they were killing him, asked God to forgive them when he was up on the cross.

It is time we do the same. This is the character of mercy that we are called to.

The promise of Isaiah, which John echoed in the wilderness cannot be fulfilled unless we do.

Remember, God is the author of our salvation, but we are the agents. It is incumbent on us to proceed with the healing, if the human race is to be made well.
First Reading – Baruch 5:1-9 ©

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever, wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:

Since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven, since the name God gives you for ever will be, ‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’

Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east:

See your sons reassembled from west and east at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.

Though they left you on foot, with enemies for an escort, now God brings them back to you like royal princes carried back in glory.

For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills, the filling of the valleys to make the ground level so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.

And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel at the command of God; for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and integrity for escort.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 125(126) ©

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels
the Lord worked for them!’

What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.
Second Reading – Philippians 1:4-6,8-11 ©

May You Become Pure and Blameless in Preparation for the Day of Christ

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.
Gospel Acclamation – Lk3:4,6

Alleluia, alleluia!

Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight,
and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

Alleluia!
Gospel Reading – Luke 3:1-6 ©

The Call of John the Baptist

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.
The Second Sunday of Advent

A Homily – The Gospel According to Luke – 2018.12.02

A Homily – Luke 21:25-28,34-36 ©
The Gospel According to Luke – 2018.12.02
Gospel Acclamation – Psalm 84:8
Second Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 24(25):4-5,8-9,10,14 ©
First Reading – Jeremiah 33:14-16 ©
A Prophetic Tradition, and the Problem it Presents

The Christian Church is steeped in the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew people.

Jesus was a prophet. He was not a fortune teller, or a seer, he was a vocal critic of the power structure that governed the people in his day. He was a witness to suffering and injustice, in response to both of those he called for love and mercy.

Remember this and remember it well; God, the creator of the universe, God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings. God does not establish royal houses, or tear them down. God does not do those things, because God has made us free.

God has made humanity, and each human being individually, and the entire created order in freedom. Having made us this way, God does not interfere in the course of human events.

God’s only intention is to teach us the way of justice, and lead us to it through love and mercy.

God does not choose between contending tribes or nations, winners and losers. God has no favorites, God has no enemies.

God will not reach into our world to save us from disaster.

But, if you follow the way, you will learn the means to be at peace, even in the midst of calamity, you will learn to be generous in times of abundance and scarcity both.

Listen to the psalmist; lift up your soul, lift your spirit, give your life to God, creator of the universe, to God who gave it all to you.

Lift up your spirit and ask for mercy, lift up your soul and forgive…not merely those who have done you wrong, but also God, who made you as a creature who can experience pain, who delivered you into existence in an unjust world.

Do not expect God to take sides with you in any conflict; that is vanity.

God loves all of God’s children fully and equally. God does not discriminate between one child and another.

God does not have favorites.

If you ask God to punish the faithless, the promise breakers, you must know that you are asking God to punish you yourself.

We are all faithless.

When you pray, pray for wisdom and guidance, pray for those in the knowledge that God desires that you be well.

Know this, always bear it in mind, if you pray for God to do anything for you are praying in vain. God has made you and all of creation free, God will not intervene in your life, either to your benefit or your detriment, to reward you or to punish you.

God is merciful, God allowed for your existence even knowing of all your crimes; since the beginning of time God knew them, God has not forgotten them, and God loves you anyway.

Remember this when you pray, all the ways of God are kindness and mercy.

Follow the example of God, as we see it reflected in the person of Jesus.

Love one another and the whole human race; love as God desires it; love one another even as God loves you.
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God’s purpose in creating us with hearts and minds, with the knowledge of right and wrong, in creating us with a conscience, in creating us in the divine image; God’s purpose in this design is so that we may love.

God’s will is that we reflect the divine.

To be a follower of Christ, to be a Christian; is not about what you believe, it is not about what images or ideas you have in your mind about who or what God is, or is not. To be a follower of Christ, to be a Christian has nothing to do with the structure of sacred rituals you adhere to, or what songs you sing.

It has everything do to with what kind of life you lead.

It is the desire of God that we lead a moral life, a just life, a life characterized by good works, by charity and compassion; God desire that we live a life of love in service to our sisters and brothers.

We find our well-being in this, and that is what it means to be saved.

Remember this on the first Sunday of Advent, and carry it with you throughout the year. God is the creator of the entire universe, all lands belong to God; all seas, all planets, all stars, all galaxies; everything and everyone living therein.

God did not end the captivity of Jacob, the Hebrews did, with Moses and Joshua leading them.

This is not hubris.

It is greater hubris to think that God loves a special people, a people chosen above all others, than to think that the Israelites escaped bondage under their own power.

Reflect on this. Think deeply on it as we consider the Gospel reading for the day, and the trouble with prophecy.

The authors of Luke report to us that they have given us the words of Jesus.

The authors of Luke never met him, and in presenting this myth they place lies in the mouth of their friend and their teacher.

Jesus never spoke about the end of the world. We know this because Jesus spoke the truth, and he did not know anything about the end of the world, he was concerned overwhelmingly with the injustice and suffering he was witness to in his own time.

He did not seek to motivate with fear, Jesus was a beacon of love.

When the sun spends the last of its nuclear fuel; that will be a sign of the end of the world (billions of years from now).

If the moon were to slip in its orbit, that would be a sign of the end of the end of the world (but only the world as we know it).

The stars are in fact so distant from us, that what happens with them can have little to do with what happens here, and long before our sun burns itself out, our galaxy will collide with another, that collision will radically change life on this planet (billions of years from now), when human beings won’t even be recognizable as human beings anymore.

God, the creator of the universe, made us and our world, the entire universe free. God does not interfere, or intervene in our lives and our choices. Because we know this true, the only futures we can predict are those that flow naturally from their antecedents that are present in reality, right now.

We can predict climate change; because it is happening, and the antecedents for it were laid down decades ago we cannot stop it.

We can predict the continuation of wars, of terrorism, of economic injustice, because they are present realities and matters of statistical certitude.

We can predict the continuation of social injustice, not because God has decreed that these things will come to pass, but because we have not made the determination to change them ourselves.

The only liberation we will have from the vicissitudes of this life, will come at the end of life.

God will not stretch out God’s hand to save us from any danger.

Pay no attention to those who use fear to shape your faith. They are liars.

God wills that you live a life without fear and the things that flow from fear; hate, anger, greed, and violence.
First Reading – Jeremiah 33:14-16 ©

I Will Make a Virtuous Branch Grow for David

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:

‘In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 24(25):4-5,8-9,10,14 ©

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Second Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ©

May You be Blameless When our Lord Jesus Christ Comes Again

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Gospel Acclamation – Psalm 84:8

Alleluia, alleluia!
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help.
Alleluia!

That Day Will be Sprung on you Suddenly, Like a Trap

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’ (NJB)
The First Sunday of Advent

A Homily – Luke 1:26 – 38 ©

The Gospel According to Luke – 2017.12.24

 

Mythology

Whatever the truth is regarding the birth of Jesus, who would have been known by his family and his people as Joshua son of Joseph, if in fact there was such a child born to Joseph and Mary, If fact Joseph and Mary are actual historical persons, the mission of Jesus as reported in the scriptures, the way of Christ is not served by false narratives.

The stories of Jesus’ birth, the annunciation as we have it presented here, these are myths. They are propaganda and lies.

The way of God is not served by lies, God, the creator of the universe, God is the God of truth.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

 

4th Sunday of Advent

A Homily – John 1:6 – 8, 19 – 28 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2017.12.17

 

Prophetic Movements

The reading for today is revisionist narrative. It does not represent the teaching of Jesus.

It is false and propagandistic, it represents the worst tendencies of the early church to stifle dissent among its members and sweep its competitors, the followers of John among them, over the fast-hold of the threshing room.

Jesus was not God, the creator of the universe, and John was not sent by God to bar witness to anything.

John, and Jesus, like all prophets, bore witness to injustice and rose up to speak against it.

They were killed for it, put to death by the prevailing powers of their day.

In their heart, they heard the voice of God, in the same place where God dwells in each of us, as we were all created in the divine image, imago dei, we each bear a seed of God’s Word within us, and where God is present, God is present fully.

The light that John bore witness to, is a light that is within us all.

Christians are called to follow in the way of Jesus, as Jesus followed in the way of John; the way is a path of service, and sacrifice, be Christ like and anoint yourself with these, follow the light of these.
The Messenger, in the Wilderness

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:

Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

 

3rd Sunday of Advent