A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), The Presentation of the Lord

First Reading – Malachi 3:1-4 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23(24):7-10 ©
Second Reading – Hebrews 2:14-18 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 2:32
The Gospel According to Luke – 2:22 – 40 ©

(NJB)

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), The Presentation of the Lord
Remember this; when you study the myths that fill the scriptures:

God, the creator of the universe; God is not a lord, God is not a king. God does not come into the world at the head of an army.

The temple of God is not a building, it is the human heart.

God does not speak to us through intermediaries and priests, God speaks from the seat of conscience, and there is no other place to listen to God, the conscience of another man or woman, shared with you, cannot replace your own.

Have hope, both for yourself and for all people, God is working within each one of us, God intends to bring us all through the fire. God’s fire does not destroy, it refines, and there is not a single one of God’s children who is exempt from God’s plan.

We will all pass through the fire.

Know 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 something.

If you wish to climb the mountain to find God, that is fine, God is there.

God is in all places at all times and there is no place where God is not.

You will find God on the mountain, or turn to your neighbor and see God reflected in their eyes.

Look in the face of the stranger, see it, see them and behold the face of God, in that holy presence give thanks.

Do not worry about your own holiness, or the holiness of any other person, we all run hot and cold.

Be mindful!

God loved you before creation, when there was only the possibility of you drifting in the latent currents of potentialities, God loved you then before all that you are existed, just as God loves all things and everyone; we are loved by God, and God has made us holy.

There is no vanity in emulating the love that God bears for all God’s children, rather we are command to do it, to approximate that love as best we can.

Look for God’s blessing in the service you provide to your neighbor, to your mother and father, to your sister and brother, find your justification in the quality and extent of the your mercy.

If you look for the God of Jacob, if you do not see God in Jacob you are only looking at an idol.

Listen!

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, and remembrances of past encounters, but if you seek the living God, you will have to look into the heart of living beings.

Remember this, return to the origins of our myths!

The first time we saw God, when the first parent walked with the creator, the world was a garden and that was paradise. In that place there was no talk of kings, or the glory of battle.

Let us return to that.

Listen!

Shun the false narratives and the irrational arguments.

Know that the spirit of God is the spirit of truth, and nothing false has a place in God’s house.

Consider the reading from Paul’s letter for today, it is replete with error.

This is not to say that Paul was dishonest when he wrote this missive, I do not believe that is the case, but you must understand that his view of the world, of the nature of reality, his understanding of that was fundamentally wrong.

Understand this, there is no devil!

There is no power I the universe other than God’s. We are not at war with the forces of darkness, everything is as God wills it.

Pau is telling the truth when he says that Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death, that is the good news in the resurrection, but this was not accomplished by magic or alchemy, such as Paul describes here, it did not happen on the cross.

Jesus was not a priest, and we were not saved by his blood, blood offerings have never accomplished anything for anyone, Jesus was not slaughtered like a sheep on the altar.
He did not atone for our sins through his death, we are accountable for ourselves.

The good news is this:

God loves us, God has always loved us, and we were forgiven even before we sinned.

Jesus did not effectuate the atonement, either with his life or with his death, he came to announce that God had made us as one, we have been one with God since the beginning, Jesus came to instill that faith in us, the understanding that no power can tear us apart.

Consider the Gospel for today, read the narrative carefully.

It is mythology and propaganda, as such it is a deviation from the way, for the way is always found in the service of truth.

The gospel writers gave us narratives concerning the early life of Jesus that are works of fiction, and while their intention was to help spread the Good News, and while they were not acting with malice. Nevertheless, they subverted the real teaching of Jesus, and left the burgeoning movement exposed to human corruption.

The authors of Luke’s gospel ask us to believe this narrative concerning Jesus: that he obeyed the “law,” following the forms of ritual and blood sacrifice that were proscribed in the books of his ancestors, ostensibly lending credibility to claims of Jesus’ holiness.

Jesus did not need this, he did not need these stories told about him to boost his image in the eyes of the people, these lies were a disservice to them and only helped to deliver the church into the hands of priests.

Jesus rejected the traditions that were not helpful to the people, to the poor, the marginalized and disenfranchised, he adhered to the prophetic tradition which insisted that God preferred acts of mercy over animal sacrifices.

Jesus taught us that the way was to be found in service; both in service God, the creator of the universe, and more importantly through the service we provide to one another, not in the fulfillment of corrupt rituals, blood-magic, and paying duties to the temple.

Jesus was not a magician, Jesus was not a supernatural being. Jesus was an ordinary man, who led an extraordinary life, and was killed for ordinary reasons: greed, jealousy and fear.

Jesus only merited the status of Christ insofar as Jesus led a life of service, which he did, serving his people to the bitter end.

We are all Christ, baptized or not, insofar as we follow the way of his example, we are anointed in our service, through our mercy, and by the pursuit of justice.

The mythologization of Jesus was a subversion of the way because it suggested that the ordinary service Jesus called us to, the service he exemplified, came from a place of supernatural power, it didn’t it came through the ordinary compassion of a human being.
First Reading – Malachi 3:1-4 ©

The Lord You Are Seeking Will Suddenly Enter His Temple

The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23(24):7-10 ©

Who is the king of glory? He, the Lord, he is the king of glory.

O gates, lift high your heads;
grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the king of glory!

Who is the king of glory? He, the Lord, he is the king of glory.

Who is the king of glory?
The Lord, the mighty, the valiant,
the Lord, the valiant in war.

Who is the king of glory? He, the Lord, he is the king of glory.

O gates, lift high your heads;
grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the king of glory!

Who is the king of glory? He, the Lord, he is the king of glory.

Who is he, the king of glory?
He, the Lord of armies,
he is the king of glory.

Who is the king of glory? He, the Lord, he is the king of glory.
Second Reading – Hebrews 2:14-18 ©

He Took to Himself Descent from Abraham

Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 2:32

Alleluia, alleluia!

The light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel, your people.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Luke – 2:22 – 40 ©

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), The Presentation of the Lord

A Homily – The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 8:23-9:3 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1, 4, 13-14 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:23
The Gospel of Matthew 4:12 – 23 ©

(NJB)

The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Listen!

The prophet errs when he ascribes a divine motive, or divine action to any event that transpires here on Earth.

God the creator of the universe, God made us in freedom, and the whole of creation as well.

Be mindful.

God does not confer glory on anyone, on any tribe or any nation, and God does not seek glory for God’s self.

The prophet was wrong to speak this way, his error being the error of human ambition, representing the limits of the human imagination, it is a reflection of our sinful nature and our own obsession with personal pride.

However, the prophet was write to speak of this: to speak of hope like a light shining in the darkness, which once perceived, gladdens the heart and brings us joy.

God’s light shines on us from beyond this world, we will not see the fullness of the divine light until we have left the world behind.
Listen!
It is wise to trust in God.

It is less than wise to have a high esteem of your own self.

Embrace God’s judgment!

This should be easy for a person of faith who knows that God’s judgment never appears without God’s mercy, and that God’s wrath never appears without God’s love.

Do not boast about standing upright. No one is innocent.

God does not need to test you, God already known you, better than you know yourself.

Do not shun your neighbors, even if you perceive them to be frivolous, even if they plot; do not be quick to call them evil. Sit where you are invited, open your door to all; only then will you be in the service of God.

Be mindful of this, at all times be mindful:

A house divided against itself cannot stand, and if it cannot stand then it cannot be used for any good, it will shelter no one, harbor no one, the people cannot gather there, talk together, share a meal together or lift up their voices in song.

Do not look to the pulpit or the person preaching there as the final word on the way.

Look to the teaching of Christ, of Jesus who says this: no greater love can a person show than that they give their life for their brother or sister, and that is exactly what Jesus did when the time came, when he was arrested at Gethsemane, put on trial and killed.

Follow the way: love God with all your strength and all your heart and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, this is the whole of the law, and all the wisdom of the prophets.

Be mindful, and be wary of the Scriptures, especially when the authors of the text are attempting to fit their narrative of Jesus’ life into a picture that makes it look as if he is fulfilling a prediction made by a prophet from past ages.

In these cases the literal story is always false, it cannot be relied on for anything, even metaphors, if they rest on false foundations they are suspect and should be treated guardedly.

Even if a prediction was made, and even if Jesus did the thing that was predicted, it is false to suggest that Jesus’ actions were in fulfillment of it.

This is the bedrock of truth, and we know it is true because the future is not predetermined, it never has been and it never will be. God, the creator of the universe made us, and creation free.

Prophets only speak of the future for two reasons; to engender hope, and to warn of danger. There is no other purpose and there is no predictive power in it.

The words of a prophet are always addressed to the people in their own time and in their own place. Prophecy is never meant to guide the lives of future generations, except in cases when the prophet is addressing an issue of universal truth, such as the nature of justice, which is itself unchanging.

Listen!

The Gospel writers were propagandists. They fabricated many of the details of Jesus’ life. They fabricated those details to suit their narrative about who Jesus was, why his mission was necessary, and what his life and death meant for the early church.

In this narrative the Gospel writers place Jesus directly in the tradition of John the Baptist, they do it with the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is a continuation of that narrative, meant to harness the energy of John’s movement, after his arrest and murder.

The narrative in the Gospel for today informs the reader of this, and that is its main intention.
First Reading – Isaiah 8:23-9:3 ©

In Galilee of the Nations the People has Seen a Great Light

In days past the Lord humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in days to come he will confer glory on the Way of the Sea on the far side of Jordan, province of the nations.

The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.

You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase; they rejoice in your presence as men rejoice at harvest time, as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that was weighing on him, the bar across his shoulders, the rod of his oppressor – these you break as on the day of Midian.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1, 4, 13-14 ©

The Lord is my light and my help.

The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink?

The Lord is my light and my help.

There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple.

The Lord is my light and my help.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!

The Lord is my light and my help.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 ©

Make Up the Differences Between You Instead of Disagreeing Among Yourselves

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:23

Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom
and cured all kinds of sickness among the people.

Alleluia!
Gospel According to Matthew 4:12-23 ©

He Went and Settled in Capernaum: in This Way the Prophecy of Isaiah Was Fulfilled

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.
The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

A Homily – The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 39(40):2, 4, 7-10 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14
Alternative Acclamation John 1:14, 12
The Gospel According to John 1:29 – 34 ©

(NJB)

The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Be wary of the voice of God.

Be wary!

Be wary when you hear God speak to you, especially in secret and in private. What you perceive as the voice of God is almost always the voice of your own desires.

Be mindful.

God made us all to be God’s servants, God made us all from light, and to light we shall return.

Listen!

God has provided for our wellness.

Be careful that you do not substitute your will for the will of God, for the will of God who created the universe.

Consider the wisdom of the psalmist who declares that God is the God of mercy, and of listening.

Bend your ear to God; listen with the ear of your heart.

Stretch out your feelings and you will find your way through the troubles of life on Earth, through its filth and misery, as the psalmist says:

Seek salvation, seek wellness, seek freedom from your own sins and do not dwell on the sins of others.

When you are beset with difficulties do not cast blame on others, rather look to yourself, to your own transgressions and seek relief from them by following the way of God, whose command it is to love.

Listen, and be mindful.

We have all been appointed by God to be apostles, to share the gospel, the good news of God’s love for us, and the promise that God has prepared the way for our salvation, for the salvation of humanity, for the salvation of all people in all times and all places.

We are all people of the way; we are all saints in the making.

Remember this!

Jesus is not a lord, he is not our king, he was our brother; Jesus is our friend.

Let us dwell on this for a moment longer; God is not king, or a lord. The creator of the universe does not wear a crown. We do not seek glory as we struggle on the way toward salvation. As we follow Jesus we seek out the lowest of the low, not the highest heaven, we seek to serve those in the deepest dark, returning them to the light of love.

Listen!

Do not repeat the errors of John

Proclaim the truth, we are all born into the family of God; we are God’s children. We are not made the children of God by any power, not by a power that comes from within us, neither by a power that is external to us. We coming into being as children of God, in the Word, by the Word and through the Word.

Our status as children of God is as unconditional as God’s love for us.

Remember this always.

Consider the Gospel for today:

The Gospel of John was written more than one hundred and twenty years after the death of Jesus. None of its authors knew Jesus, or John, and not any of them knew anyone who knew them.

Like all of the other Gospels, John was not written by a single person. It was written by a community of people, and more than any of the other Gospels, it was written as propaganda.

The Gospel of John was written with the intention of arguing for that community’s beliefs about who Jesus was, what the weaning of his life was, and what his death meant to
Christians of their day, it was written to communicate those beliefs to the world.

By the time Johannine Gospel is written, the early church no longer had any concern about ameliorating John the Baptist’s followers, as they did when they earlier gospel’s were drafted. The ethnic Jews in John’s community had either become Christians, or they were considered by the community to be enemies of the nascent Church.

John’s Gospel is overwhelming concerned with depicting Jesus as the cosmic savior. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is the Word of God, who comes to take away the sins of the World.

Jesus is God.

When John the Baptist encounters Jesus, he provides witness for this.

The Baptist does not Baptize Jesus, as he does in the other Gospels, even though he, himself is busy at the work of baptizing.

When he sees Jesus approach, he announces to his followers that Jesus has come, a man greater than himself, one who existed before him (even though he was born in time after him), one on whom the Spirit of God rests, one who will complete the baptism of every believer, because he will baptize them with Holy Spirit and not mere water.

The Gospel of John was the crowning achievement of the early Christian propaganda. Through this vehicle the Church transformed the man, Joshua son of Joseph, into the being through whom the entire universe came into existence.

And this is fine, but it must be understood for what it is, as the expressions of faith and hope, not the recitation of history and fact; it is metaphor, allegory and myth.
First Reading – Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 ©

I Will Make You the Light of the Nations so that My Salvation May Reach to the Ends of the Earth

The Lord said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I shall be glorified’; I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 39(40):2, 4, 7-10 ©

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

In the scroll of the book it stands written
that I should do your will.
My God, I delight in your law
in the depth of my heart.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ©

May God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ Send You Grace and Peace

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

Alleluia, alleluia!

Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!

Alleluia!

Alternative Acclamation John 1:14, 12

Alleluia, alleluia!

The Word was made flesh and lived among us:
to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 1:29 – 34 ©

‘Look: there is the Lamb of God’

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’
The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

A Homily – The First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), The Baptism of Jesus

First Reading – Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 28(29):1-4, 9-10 ©
Second Reading – Acts 10:34-38 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Mark 9:8
The Gospel According to Matthew 3:13 – 17 ©

(NJB)

The First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), The Baptism of Jesus
Listen!

God, the creator of the universe, God wants nothing more from us than this: that we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly through the length of our days.

This is way Jesus taught us. Listen to Isaiah, who made straight the way before him.

Be mindful.

The savior is the person who brings justice to the nations, you will not hear him shouting for the sake of vanity in the streets or on the airwaves, you will not see her cutting people off from their potential, putting them down or diminishing them.

The savior teaches us that justice is expressed through mercy, and that the law subservient to it.

As Jesus taught in his own day: love God with all your strength, and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

This is the Shema, and it is the first article of our faith.

Be kind to the stranger, be of service to your neighbor, love and forgive even your enemies. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and do not do to them what you would not have done to you.

This, Jesus told us, is the whole of the law and the teaching of the prophets.

Keep to this law, keep it as a covenant, keep it as promise between yourself and God. Preach it until the blind see and all those who are the captives of sin have been freed.

Consider the psalm for today:

It wise to believe in the God of creation.

God’s power is infinite and it undergirds everything that exists.

God’s power is present in all times and places.

Truly God is everywhere, there is no place where God is not.

God knows all things, God knows you, even as you know yourself.

Know this: it is not God’s voice we here in the wind above the waves. We do not hear God in the thunder. God does not splinter trees or rend them asunder. God is not active in the affairs of human beings; rather God has made creation, and us in it, free.

God is not a king.

Listen!

God does not intervene in creation, or the free choices of human beings.

God did not so much anoint Jesus, as did Jesus accept the mantle of sonship to God, and the full burden that this entailed, even to the extent that he went to his death and suffered on the cross.

Jesus was free to reject the ministry that was before, but he did not. He was faithful to the end. Setting an example to us all.

Few people will be called to serve in the capacity that Jesus served; few will be called to be tortured, and executed for bearing witness to what is right and good.

Few of us have the capacity to love justice so much that they could humbly endure what Jesus endured, and that is why we call him the Christ.

Follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

Be merciful; be a source of healing in the world.

This is the way of Christ. Do the best you can, not for the sake of your salvation, but for the good of your sisters and brothers, for all women and men.

Be mindful

The reading for today is a pure distillation of mythological tropes common among the Hebrew people.

It carries forward a set of theological themes that were very important in the first century.

It also situates the early Jesus Movement clearly within Rabbinical Judaism, which is otherwise known as Pharisaical Judaism.

In the reading for today Jesus is presented as a Pharisee, as a Jew of the Synagogue, his followers address him as Rabbi, and the central concern among the actors: Jesus, Peter, James, and John, concerns the foretelling that Jesus will rise from the dead.

Know this.

In ancient Judaism, only the Pharisees taught the resurrection of the dead.

Beyond these immediate concerns the writers of Mark’s Gospel were also interested in conveying the message that their teachings were in total alignment with historical Judaism, therefore they depict Jesus as another Abraham, who was also visited by divine messengers, and they show him changed, as Moses was changed on the mountain; furthermore, they show him being given the endorsement of Moses, and also of the prophet Elijah.

This trope is a concrete expression of the faith of the Jesus Movement that their teaching was in alignment with the tradition of the Patriarchs of the Covenant, with the Law Giver and the Prophets.

The writers of the Gospel wanted to convey the message that In Jesus the whole history of the people was complete.

Know this: the narrative is a fiction, these events never happened, they are a literary invention.

It does not transmit a historical truth about the Life of Jesus, but rather a historical truth about what people believed concerning Jesus, roughly fifty years after his death.
Matthew 3:13 – 17 ©

Jesus was baptized by John.

It was the first moment of his public career.

He was baptized, he was purified, he was shriven.

The forms had been obeyed, and the gathered crowds were there to witness, the heaven open, and the Spirit of God, creator of the universe, descending on Jesus like a dove.

John was like Moses at the river Jordan. He was never meant to walk in the promised land. Jesus was like Joshua, he ushered the people in.

John was the elder son, he was not meant to inherit. Jesus was the promised son, in whom the hope of humanity was carried.

John was the goat, at the rite of expiation, Jesus was the lamb taken to slaughter.

High priest and king, they were one with each other.

Believing it does not make it true.
First Reading – Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 ©

Here is my Servant, in Whom My Soul Delights

Thus says the Lord:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.

I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations.

He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets.

He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.

Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed until true justice is established on earth, for the islands are awaiting his law.

I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right; I have taken you by the hand and formed you; I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 28(29):1-4, 9-10 ©

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

O give the Lord, you sons of God,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Adore the Lord in his holy court.

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

The Lord’s voice resounding on the waters,
the Lord on the immensity of waters;
the voice of the Lord, full of power,
the voice of the Lord, full of splendour.

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

The God of glory thunders.
In his temple they all cry: ‘Glory!’
The Lord sat enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits as king for ever.

The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Second Reading – Acts 10:34-38 ©

God Had Anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.

‘It is true, God sent his word to the people of Israel, and it was to them that the good news of peace was brought by Jesus Christ – but Jesus Christ is Lord of all men. You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.’
Gospel Acclamation – Mark 9:8

Alleluia, alleluia!

The heavens opened and the Father’s voice resounded:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 3:13 – 17 ©

‘This is my Son, the Beloved’

Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.

As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’

A Homily – The Second Sunday of Christmas (Year A)

First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 24:1-2, 8-12 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20 ©
Second Reading – Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ©
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Timothy 3:16
The Gospel According to John 1:1 – 18 ©

(NJB)

The Second Sunday of Christmas (Year A)
Be mindful!

There is truth in the sage’s reflection, and much that is false.

God has given us the Spirit of Wisdom, Sophia, who from eternity has issued from the creator like God’s own breath.

The Spirit of Wisdom is God’s own spirit and that spirit animates all that live, all who ever lived, and all who ever will be.

Now Listen!

God’s spirit is not a gift that belongs to a specific people, in a specific place at a specific time.

The Spirit of Wisdom is not property that can be transmitted like an inheritance.

It does not belong in Jacob’s tent, on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem or the house of Israel.

There are no people on the face of the Earth, or anywhere in the universe, who occupy a privileged place in relation to God.

God loves all of God’s children equally.

The creator establishes the material conditions for all things. In God’s wisdom God has established the cycles of life and death. Material power is of no concern to God, ignore the Psalmist when he dwells on these topics, they are not instructive.

God does not seek power, God seeks to be honored by God’s creatures, and we honor God through the service we provide one another.

We honor God when we emulate God’s love for creation, through ministries of healing, taking care of the hurt and the sick, feeding the hungry and welcoming the exile.

Do not follow the Psalmist into error.

The Psalmist fails to recognize that God is truly the God of all people; not merely the God of Jerusalem, of Zion, of Judah and Israel.

God does not favor one people over another, one tribe or one nation.

God does not the fill the belly of one person while allowing another to starve.

God does not favor one army over another, one city over another in time of war.

God does not favor war at all.

The season of winter, of summer, of spring and fall; they do not reflect the judgement of God, they are cyclical, and the weather is wild, it expresses the freedom and chaos of the natural order. In relation to human behavior it only reflects the laws of consequence and causation.

Be mindful!

A good winter is not evidence of God’s grace, neither is a bad summer evidence of God’s judgement.

Love God, and show that love by the love you exhibit to your enemies, to the stranger and to the less fortunate among you.

Remember the life of Jesus, and God; whom he called Father

Consider this:

If you are caught up in the consideration of God’s glory, ask yourself this: What is glory?

God is the creator of the universe. God’s greatest place is in relationship to us, God has said so, and we are God’s children, and God is our loving parent.

Pray this:

May each and every one of us come to the full knowledge of God.

There is hope in the knowledge of God, and remember that the hopes you have for yourself and those you love is to be extended to everyone, even those you do not love, for that is the way that leads to the knowledge of God, and our understanding of our relationship with the divine.

If you think that God has promised riches and glories as the inheritance of the saints, remember this, the first will be last and the last will be first. Know that spiritual riches are not counted in gold and silver, and precious things, but in love, companionship and friendship with God, which we experience primarily through our friendship with one another.

We all need each other.

Good governance requires good people. Know them, understand who they are before you appoint your leaders, put them through a process of discernment.

Choose well.

Be mindful.

Christian faith is not about who Jesus was and how the world saw him, our faith means trust in God, and trust can only be based on our understanding of the creator as a loving and caring being.

Let us reflect for a moment on the Gospel for today.

John’s Gospel is unlike the others. Its authors were the farthest removed from the life of Jesus. They wrote their narrative of his life between 120 and 150 years after his death.

John’s Gospel is also the furthest removed from the actual ministry of Jesus, it is more concerned with the cosmic identity of Christ, with Jesus as the Word of God, more than with the lives of actual people or the ministry of healing, mercy, and justice that was Jesus’ actual occupation.

The gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew are commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels. The events that they narrate are closely linked to each other and follow the same basic pattern; even though there are differences.

Luke and Matthew rely largely on Mark for their structure; Mark having been written first.

Luke came second and took a little step farther back in time than Mark. Whereas Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus, Luke begins with the story of his birth.

Matthew, coming third in the sequence goes a little farther back in time than Luke. Matthew opens with the story Jesus’ descent from Abraham. While John, coming last, takes the reader all the way back to the beginning of time.

John narrates some of the same events as the other gospels do, but with a markedly different character, all designed to tell us who Jesus is, God’s own self.

The historian in me objects to this treatment of the life of Jesus, but it is what it is, and this fiction, having taken hold of the Christian imagination represents a historical reality all of its own.

John’s prolog, which we are given today, tells us very little about the persons of Jesus, or John the Baptist, but a great deal about what Christians believed about God, the creator of the Universe, and about creation itself.

Even though it was a common view in the ancient world that our material condition was essentially corrupt; as evidenced by our experience of pain, sickness, and death. The Christian community of John was articulating faith in its essential goodness.

It affirms the unity and oneness of all creation; having been brought into being through the Word of God, the Logos; God’s reason, or rational will. This tell us that life itself has purpose, it is not random, it not the product of chaotic forces. Creation comes from the goodness and light of the eternal God, it informs that not one thing or being exists apart from God.

The Gospel encourages us in the hope that no matter how bad things are for us as we experience the drama of creation, the darkness will not overcome the light. Also, that the world and humanity itself are worthy of the love of God, so much so that God becomes a human being, living and suffering with us in the spirit of compassion and solidarity.

This teaching is also remarkably esoteric and deeply personal. While encouraging the believer to have hope, it also reminds the reader that they must also persevere in the face of rejection and violence.

Many people to not want to hear the truth. They prefer their own cozy view of the world, they prefer their tribal and national gods, their totems and taboos, their neat philosophies and mores, their magical-realities and superstitions to the sober understanding of what it means to be a child of God.
First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 24:1-2, 8-12 ©

From Eternity, in the Beginning, God Created Wisdom

Wisdom speaks her own praises, in the midst of her people she glories in herself.

She opens her mouth in the assembly of the Most High, she glories in herself in the presence of the Mighty One; ‘Then the creator of all things instructed me, and he who created me fixed a place for my tent.

He said, “Pitch your tent in Jacob, make Israel your inheritance.”

From eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall remain.

I ministered before him in the holy tabernacle, and thus was I established on Zion.

In the beloved city he has given me rest, and in Jerusalem I wield my authority.

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20 ©

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ©

Before the World Was Made, God Chose Us in Christ

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.

That will explain why I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you. May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Timothy 3:16

Alleluia, alleluia!

Glory be to you, O Christ, proclaimed to the pagans.
Glory be to you, O Christ, believed in by the world.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 1:1-18 ©

The Word Was Made Flesh, and Lived Among Us

In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.

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.

The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world.

He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him.

He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:

‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received – yes, grace in return for grace, since, though the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
The Second Sunday of Christmas (Year A)

A Homily – The 8th Day of Christmas, The Solemnity of Mary, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

First Reading – Numbers 6:22-27 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 66(67):2-3, 5, 6, 8 ©
Second Reading – Galatians 4:4-7 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Hebrews 1:1-2
The Gospel According to Luke 2:16 – 21 ©

(NJB)

The 8th Day of Christmas, The Solemnity of Mary, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)
Listen, hear is the formula of blessing:

Only remember this; God, who created the universe, God is not a lord, free God from that earthly title, and free yourself as well.

Know this, the blessing of God rests on all of God’s children, feel God’s presence (it is always with you), and keep yourself in the way of God.

Be mindful.

See God in the face of everyone you encounter, treat them as if they were God themselves; for they are, god dwells within in them.

Peace comes through understanding, God is utterly transcendent, God is not a god of tribes, of nations, or even worlds.

God is the God of all creation.

Listen!

The psalmist is right to ask God to bless all peoples and all nations; to have pity and to be merciful. We are right to seek this fulfillment for it is the promise of God.

Be mindful.
God is not confined to one place, neither to one time, nor does God belong to one people.

God, who created the universe, God is the God of everyone, whether they know it or not.

Seek God’s blessing; seek it not just four yourself, but seek it for everyone.

Listen!

Comsider the teaching of the Apostle:

The death of Jesus was a political murder. It was a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of redemption. Jesus was not purchasing anything for himself, or for us when he was killed on the cross, he was not paying a debt.

Jesus was showing us the way.

Jesus was acting out of love, taking the wrath of the Sanhedrin and the Romans on himself, rather than have that anger visited on his broader group of followers; his family, the disciples and their families.

His sacrifice was not magic, it is not mystical, or supernatural. Jesus was a faithful son of God, exercising ordinary compassion in extraordinary circumstances.

He was acting as a champion of justice.

Jesus demonstrated his faith every day in his ministry of healing, through his loving service, and finally in his death on the cross, he believed in what he taught and he went to his death trusting God.

Be mindful of this.

God’s spirit is with us; the spirit is with us in the memory of Jesus that we hold on to, it is demonstrated in the loving service we provide each other.

God’s spirit animates all of us. We are all God’s children, and all of us are God’s heirs; Christian and non-Christian, alike.

Listen!

God speaks to everyone. God speaks in the secret chamber of your heart.

Listen!

God calls us to justice, to goodness, and to humility.

God call us to service.

Consider the Gospel for today:

There is a lot packed into this short passage.

Before we begin to explicate its meaning we must understand that, Luke, the Apostle, he never met Jesus. Luke was not one of the disciples. Luke was a protégé of Paul, and Paul had never met Jesus either.

Luke and Paul, travelled broadly and met many of those that followed Jesus during his life. Paul met with James, who was Jesus’ brother, but they never met Jesus, and everything they knew about Jesus was hearsay.

It is important to note, that while the Gospel of Luke bears Luke’s name, it was not written by Luke. None of the Gospels were written by individuals, all of them were exercises in collective development, and the writing of them took place over generations, as the communities who authored them did their best to narrate their understanding of the life and mission of Jesus in terms their audience would understand.

The Gospel of Luke says that Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus were visited by three shepherds. This is presented in distinction to Matthews Gospel which says that they holy family was visited by three Magi, who were “wise men” and Kings.

The Gospel of John, the earliest Gospel, and that of Mark, neither of those Gospels treat the subject at all.

Matthew’s community and Luke’s community were writing to very different audiences. As such, they tailored the narrative of the birth of Jesus to their audience. They each in their own way created a fiction that was pleasing to the people to whom they were preaching.

This is the essence of propaganda.

To understand the Gospels, this must be understood first of all. The Gospels contain some legitimate historical data, but the facts are difficult to sift out. They are the product of artifice, they are fictions. The Gospels speak to some truths that are universal, and relate some true events, but they cannot be relied on as a true account.

They speak to us of historical realities but they are not historical narratives.

The Gospels are propaganda, and that is not to say that they are bad, but it is to say that they must be seen for what they are.

Because the gospels are propaganda they are less reliable as a tool to teach us about Jesus, or his mother Mary, more appropriately used to teach us about the diverse Near Eastern and Mediterranean communities that formed the early church.
First Reading – Numbers 6:22-27 ©

They Are to Call Down My Name on the Sons of Israel, and I Will Bless Them

The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘Say this to Aaron and his sons: “This is how you are to bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 66(67):2-3, 5, 6, 8 ©

O God, be gracious and bless us.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

O God, be gracious and bless us.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

O God, be gracious and bless us.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

O God, be gracious and bless us.
Second Reading – Galatians 4:4-7 ©

God Sent His Son, Born of a Woman

When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.
Gospel Acclamation – Hebrews 1:1-2

Alleluia, alleluia!

At various times in the past
and in various different ways,
God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets;
but in our own time, the last days,
he has spoken to us through his Son.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Luke 2:16 – 21 ©

The Shepherds Hurried to Bethlehem and Found the Baby Lying in the Manger

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception

The 8th Day of Christmas, The Solemnity of Mary, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homily – The First Sunday of Christmas (Year A)

First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 127(128):1-5 ©
Second Reading – Colossians 3:12-21 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Colossians 3:15, 16
The Gospel According to Matthew 2:13 -15, 19 – 23 ©

(NJB)

The First Sunday of Christmas (Year A)
Be mindful.

There is wisdom in the writings of Ecclisasticus and also falsehood, they are presented as binary readings of the same precept:

Honor your father and mother.

Honor them, but do not expect a reward for it, neither from heaven or even from them, for there are no guarantees in this life.

Honor you mother and father, your sisters and brothers, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your nieces and nephews, honor them all. Honor your teachers and your classmates, your co-workers and your employers, honor the stranger who comes into your midst, honor them all.

Honoring people is good in its own right. You honor yourself in doing so, and through the service you give to anyone, whether they be near or far from you, through that service you also honor God.

Live a life of honor, do it without the thought of reward to yourself.

Do not fear God. There is no blessing in it. Fear is not a blessing, rather fear is the path to sin and darkness.

Trust God, have faith in confidence in God’s love.

Remember God’s servant, Job. Remember that the Sun will burn you, in the same way that it will warm you; the sun will scorch the earth in the same way that it pours its energy in to the crops.

God sends the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

Be mindful of this wisdom.

God, the creator of the universe, God is loving, compassionate, and wise.

God created all of us with the capacity for each of those qualities, but God also created us in freedom, and we are capable of much more.

We are capable of the opposite.

God has chosen you, as God has chosen everyone. We are all of us, God’s children.

Be loving and compassionate, pour your good will out on all of your sisters and brothers. Do not just mimic the expression of love you are most fond of finding in the world, do the hard work, love even those you do not wish to love.

Let your love for God unify everything you do as God’s servant, volunteer to be of service to the whole of humanity.

Listen!

A life of faith requires support and nourishment, we need it from those near to us. It is not absolutely necessary, but it is most helpful. You may practice your faith in isolation, but it is more difficult. The life of faith is not meant to be lived in a vacuum, it comes to full fruition through our relationships and in community.

Live a life of prayer; yes, but the Apostle is wrong to ask you to do all things in the name of God.

Do what you do in your own name. Take responsibility for your actions, both good and bad, whether they were well intentioned or ill, whether you succeed or fail.

Strive to live a life of prayer.

If you are living and working for God; in whatever industry, in whatever capacity, at whatever calling has come to you through the world, you will be doing it on behalf of your neighbor, your sisters and brothers, your fellow human beings.

You will be working for the benefit of all people, now and in all generations yet to come.

If your work does not allow to you to do this…abandon it.

Be mindful!

There is nothing instructive in the Gospel for today. There is nothing at all in the reading that concerns the way that Jesus instructed us to follow.

What we are given is propaganda and myth, the scriptures are replete with them.

The story cannot be taken for history, it represents an effort by the gospel writers to make Jesus’ life into something analogous to the birth narrative of Moses, to set Jesus in that same tradition, which they succeeded in doing because the narrative of Moses’ birth is also a myth.

It continues the anti-royalist, anti-Herodian tradition of both the Jews of the diaspora and the early Christians.

It qualifies as propaganda insofar as the authors state their motive in connecting the travel and adventures of the holy family to specific prophecies in scripture, they believe that by doing this they are successfully bolstering Jesus’ credentials.

Jesus did not need his credentials bolstered in this way.

Passages such as these teach us little.
First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 ©

He Who Fears the Lord Respects His Parents
The Lord honours the father in his children, and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.

Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins, he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.

Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own, he shall be heard on the day when he prays.

Long life comes to him who honours his father, he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.

My son, support your father in his old age, do not grieve him during his life.

Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy, do not despise him in your health and strength; for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten but will serve as reparation for your sins.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 127(128):1-5 ©

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life!

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!
Second Reading – Colossians 3:12-21 ©

Family Life in the Lord

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.
Gospel Acclamation – Colossians 3:15, 16

Alleluia, alleluia!

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts;
let the message of Christ find a home with you.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 2:13 -15, 19 – 23 ©

The Flight into Egypt and the Return to Nazareth

After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

I called my son out of Egypt.

After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he left for the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:

‘He will be called a Nazarene.’
The First Sunday of Christmas (Year A)

A Homily – Christmas at Dawn, a Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 62:11-12 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96(97):1, 6, 11-12 ©
Second Reading – Titus 3:4-7 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 2:14
The Gospel According to Luke 2:15-20 ©

(NJB)

Christmas at Dawn, a Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)
Listen and be joyful!

What Isaiah says concerning Zion is intended for all the children of God, this means everyone.

The savior does not come as a conqueror, but as a healer, the victory is not over hostile forces, but over death and the trophy is life.

We are the sought after. Wherever we are, in whatever city we dwell, there in that place you will not be forsaken.

The creator comes with blessing for all.

Listen!

It is human beings who are obsessed with questions of kingship, set aside such fetishes.

God is Abba, father; Jesus is brother, teacher and friend.

God is the keeper of a garden, not a palace.

Let Earth rejoice and all people in it. Let us understand that God is a mystery. Let us know that all people are God’s children, and that God has no enemies.

God is the creator of all things, and all things obey the will God, what is in God’s will is justice, and mercy and love.

In the presence of God there will be no dismay. God will wipe away the tears from everyone’s face, all will be invited to the table. The feast will not commence until all of the invited have arrived.

If you have never worshipped a carved image, do not think you are superior to any who have, because idolatry can be found in more than the worship of objects, it is most insidious in the form of ideas and beliefs, doctrines and dogmas and decretals.

Be mindful.

God, the creator of the universe; God loves us.

God offers salvation to all people, and provides for it. Salvation is wellbeing, both in this world and the next. Salvation does not require rituals or rites, nor the magical of mechanism of justification. The salvation God has promised does not happen here in this world, though we can create a facsimile of it if we try happens, salvation takes place in the next world because God wills it. Our salvation does not depend on us at all.

But we are saved in this world simply by trusting in the word of God, by believing in what we hope for, goodness and justice and love.

Do not boast.

Be mindful of how the praise of God can lead a person astray.

God is not in the highest heaven, God is everywhere and in the hearts of all people.

All of God’s children are beloved by God.

God finds favor in all.

Do not let your faith circumscribe God’s love.

Consider the gospel reading for the day:

There is a lot packed into this short passage. Before we begin to explicate its meaning we must understand that Luke the Apostle, he never met Jesus. Luke was not one of the disciples, rather, he was a protégé of Paul, and Paul never met Jesus either.

Luke and Paul travelled broadly and met many of those that followed Jesus during his life. They met with James, who was Jesus’ brother, and Peter, and others, but they never met Jesus, everything they knew about Jesus was hearsay.

It important to note that while the Gospel of Luke bears Luke’s name, it was not written by Luke. None of the Gospels were written by individuals, each of them were exercises in collective development, and the writing of them took place over generations, as the communities who authored them did their best to narrate their understanding of the life and mission of Jesus in terms their audience would understand.

The Gospel of Luke says that Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus were visited by three shepherds. This is presented in distinction to Matthew’s Gospel which says that they holy family was visited by three Magi, who were “wise men” and Kings.

The magi were priests in the tradition of Persian Zoroastrianism.

The Gospel of John, which was the last to be written, and that of Mark, which was the earliest, those Gospels do not treat the subject at all.

The communities of Matthew and Luke were writing to very different audiences. As such, they tailored the narrative of the birth of Jesus in very different ways. Each in their own way created a fiction that was pleasing to the people to whom they were preaching.

This is the essence of propaganda.

Be mindful!

In order to understand the Gospels, this must be understood first of all: the Gospels contain some legitimate historical data but the facts are difficult to sift through. They are the product of artifice, they are fictions, at best they are allegories, analogies and metaphors dressed in myth.

The Gospels speak to some truths that are universal and relate some true events, but they cannot be relied on as a true account of anything.

This is not to say that they are bad, it is to say that they must be seen for what they are.

Because the Gospels are propaganda, they are less reliable as a tool to teach us about Jesus and more appropriately used to teach us about the diverse Near Eastern and Mediterranean communities that formed the early church.

Remember this at Christmas, the saturnalia, and the birth of Mithra.
First Reading – Isaiah 62:11-12 ©

Look, Your Saviour Comes.

This the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look, your saviour comes, the prize of his victory with him, his trophies before him.’

They shall be called ‘The Holy People’, ‘The Lord’s Redeemed.’

And you shall be called ‘The-sought-after’, ‘City-not-forsaken.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96(97):1, 6, 11-12 ©

This day new light will shine upon the earth: the Lord is born for us.

The Lord is king, let earth rejoice,
let all the coastlands be glad.
The skies proclaim his justice;
all peoples see his glory.

This day new light will shine upon the earth: the Lord is born for us.

Light shines forth for the just
and joy for the upright of heart.
Rejoice, you just, in the Lord;
give glory to his holy name.

This day new light will shine upon the earth: the Lord is born for us.
Second Reading – Titus 3:4-7 ©

It Was No Reason Except His Own Compassion that He Saved Us

When the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 2:14

Alleluia, alleluia!

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Luke 2:15-20 ©

The Shepherds Hurried to Bethlehem and Found the Baby Lying in the Manger

Now when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.
Christmas at Dawn, a Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

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)