A Homily – Palm Sunday (Year A) Holy Week

The Gospel According to Matthew 21:1 – 11 ©
First Reading – Isaiah 50:4 – 7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 21(22):8 – 9, 17 – 20, 23 – 24 ©
Second Reading – Philippians 2:6 – 11 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Philippians 2:8 – 9
The Gospel According to Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 ©

(NJB)

Holy Week, Palm Sunday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation
Be mindful when you read the Gospel, on this day as on any other. There is much that is false carried in the text, and as Christians we are bound to reject it, we cannot excuse it, or apologize for it We must call out the false narrative, take what is useful from our ponderance of them and move on.

It was a common practice in the ancient world to greet a royal person, a king, a victorious commander or a conqueror outside the gates of a walled city, to cheer him and thank him, to curry favor with him, and to do so by throwing flowers and greenery down along the path in front of him, or her. To do so with palm fronds was quite common in the ancient near east.

When the gospel writers placed these elements within the narrative of Jesus’ final days they intended to communicate the explicit notion that Jesus was heir to King David, Lord of all Judea, and the messiah, or savior that the people had long been expecting, the singular man to deliver them from the rule of foreigners, and to reestablish a Jewish monarchy that would allow them to return to the favor of God.

It is unlikely that anything even remotely like what is described here ever happened, and of course we know that the tortured narrative which depicts Jesus riding into town on the back of an ass and a colt, the foal of ass, makes no sense at all.

No such thing happened, it is a rank exercise in apologetics and propaganda.

Our faith in God and God’s plan for creation do not require that we believe these false narratives, such stories diminish the ministry of Jesus, and make those who read the Gospel as if it were true-in-fact into fools and liars.

We must reject them.

Listen to the prophet Isaiah, take comfort in his courage. Isaiah points the way.

Like Jesus, Isaiah sees the necessity of telling the truth. The people need the truth, justice cannot be had without it.

Be mindful, the reward for telling the truth is often condemnation. There are many who do not like to hear it, do not want to believe that God loves their neighbor just as much as God loves them, they worship a jealous god, one made in their own image of jealousy.

The poor and rich alike, do not want to share.

People are afraid, the world has made them this way. They react with anger and violence to any little thing that comes along to upset their resentment filled lives, which challenge their jealousies and call on them to reject their miserliness.

This is the way of it.

Like Isaiah, you must open your ear and listen, listen with you heart. Open your mouth to share the peace and blessing of God, never in condemnation.

Most important of all, reject fear as the state of being within which all human sinfulness incubates.

This will open you to the way.

Consider the words of the psalmist and know this.

If you have heard that God will not listen to you, because you have lived a sinful life or for any other reason, do not believe it.

The creator of the universe is with you, God knows your innermost thoughts. God knows you as you know yourself, God understands all that you are and all that you struggle with. God feels your experience in the world as you feel it. Your struggles are God’s own.

God has given you the power to save yourself, or to choose surrender. To agonize or be at peace, but God will not rescue you. God will never intervene on your behalf, for as long as you are in the world you will remain free, and responsible for your own choices and actions.

Be mindful of this!

It was a mistake for the apostle to use the power of the pen in order to transform Jesus into a divine being.

Jesus was no more divine than you or I, which is to say that Jesus was created in God’s image and carried within him a seed of the Word as we all do. We may believe that Jesus was more highly attuned to the voice of God speaking within him than most, or even any, but Jesus’ status as a child of God was no different than yours or mine.

Jesus was a man. Jesus shared all of the qualities of humanity with us, because he was one of us. He did not descend from another place, he was born here on Earth to Mary and Joseph., and through his father’s lineage he was descended from the House of David.

Jesus is our brother, and God, the creator of the universe, God is parent to us all.

Jesus is not a lord, did not want to be thought of as one, and God is not King.

God does not seek nor desire glory, and neither should we.

God calls us to lead lives of humility, to accept with grace our role as teachers of the faith. To seek justice and to love mercy throughout the course of our days.

Listen!

Jesus lived and died, and death was not the end of him (if you believe it).

This is the central message of the Christian faith, even a man who was executed as a blasphemer and a criminal, could be resurrected and delivered into a state of blessedness in the afterlife, a world of hope, and comfort and joy.

This is the good news, it is the gospel.

This faith is a blessing to the poor, to the marginalized, to the outcast. The faith instructs them that they are known and loved by God, the creator of the universe, that they will be cared for in the world to come.

Every other element of this story should be stripped away.

It is all propaganda.

The core of the narrative may be true, but everything else that flows from it, all the fantastical hyperbole is nothing but a cascading series of embellishments. Jesus did not die in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus, and the rest of the prophets were not miracle workers and fortune tellers. They were human beings; they died as all human beings do. When they were killed it was at the hands of other human beings, for ordinary human purposes; they were killed out of fear and the motive among their murderers was the strong desire to retain power.
The Gospel According to Matthew 21:1 – 11 ©

Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!

When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village facing you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her: untie them and bring them to me.

If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and he will send them immediately.’

This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Sion, behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest!’

And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’

And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.’
First Reading – Isaiah 50:4 – 7 ©

I Did not Cover My Face Against Insult: I Know I Shall Not be Shamed

The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue.

So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech.

Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple.

The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.

I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.

So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 21(22):8 – 9, 17 – 20, 23 – 24 ©

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Second Reading – Philippians 2:6 – 11 ©

Christ Humbled Himself but God Raised Him High

His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Gospel Acclamation – Philippians 2:8 – 9

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Christ was humbler yet,
even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name which is above all names.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 ©

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

Key: N. Narrator. ✠ Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

N. One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,

O. What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?
N. They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say,

C. Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?

N. He replied:

✠ Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, ‘The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.’

N. The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said:

✠ I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.

N. They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn,

C. Not I, Lord, surely?

N. He answered,

✠ Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!

N. Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn,

O. Not I, Rabbi, surely?

N. Jesus answered:

✠ They are your own words.

N. Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said:

✠ Take it and eat; this is my body.

N. Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, saying:

✠ Drink, all of you, from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.

N. After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them,

✠ You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.

N. At this, Peter said,

O. Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith.

N. Jesus answered him,

✠ I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.

N. Peter said to him,

O. Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.

N. And all the disciples said the same.

Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,

✠ Stay here while I go over there to pray.

N. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them,

✠ My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.

N. And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed:

✠ My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.

N. He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter:

✠ So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

N. Again, a second time, he went away and prayed:

✠ My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!

N. And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy. Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words. Then he came back to the disciples and said to them,

✠ You can sleep on now and take your rest. Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is already close at hand.

N. He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them. He had said,

O. ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge.’

N. So he went straight up to Jesus and said,

O. Greetings, Rabbi.

N. and kissed him. Jesus said to him,

✠ My friend, do what you are here for.

N. Then they came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge. At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus then said,

✠ Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?

N. It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds,

✠ Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.

N. Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture. Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.

The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death sentence. But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement,

O. This man said: ‘I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.’

N. The high priest then stood up and said to him,

O. Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?

N. But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him,

O. I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.

N. Jesus answered:

✠ The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.

N. At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said,

O. He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?

N. They answered,

C. He deserves to die.

N. Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him,

C. Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?

N. Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said,

O. You too were with Jesus the Galilean.

N. But he denied it in front of them all, saying:

O. I do not know what you are talking about.

N. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there,

O. This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.

N. And again, with an oath, he denied it:

O. I do not know the man.

N. A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter,

C. You are one of them for sure! Why, your accent gives you away.

Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing:

O. I do not know the man.

N. At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus. They had him bound, and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.

When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and elders, saying:

O. I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.

N. They replied:

C. What is that to us? That is your concern.

N. And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said,

C. It is against the Law to put this into the treasury: it is blood-money.

N. So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today. The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.

Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question:

O. Are you the king of the Jews?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ It is you who say it.

N. But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all. Pilate then said to him,

O. Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?

N. But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.

At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose. Now there was at that time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd gathered, Pilate said to them,

O. Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?

N. For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message,

O. Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him.

N. The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when the governor spoke and asked them,

O. Which of the two do you want me to release for you?

N. they said,

C. Barabbas.

N. Pilate said to them:

O. But in that case, what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?

N. They all said:

C. Let him be crucified!

N. Pilate asked:

O. Why? What harm has he done?

N. But they shouted all the louder,

C. Let him be crucified!

N. Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said,

O. I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.

N. And the people, to a man, shouted back,

C. His blood be on us and on our children!

N. Then he released Barabbas for them. He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand. To make fun of him they knelt to him saying,

C. Hail, king of the Jews!

N. And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.

On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they had reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothing by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.

Above his head was placed the charge against him; it read: ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said,

C. So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!

N. The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way, saying:

C. He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He puts his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, ‘I am the son of God.’

N. Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.

From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

✠ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

N. That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood there heard this, they said,

C. The man is calling on Elijah.

N. and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink. The rest of them said:

C. Wait! See if Elijah will come to save him.

N. But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said,

C. In truth this was a son of God.

N. And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.

Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him,

C. Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I shall rise again.’ Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciples come and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.

N. Pilate said to them:

O. You may have your guard. Go and make all as secure as you know how.

N. So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.
Palm Sunday, Holy Week (Year A)

A Homily – The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18 (Year A)

First Reading – Joel 2:12-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ©
Gospel Acclamation Psalm 50:12, 14
Alternative Acclamation Psalm 94:8
The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18

(NJB)

Ash Wednesday (Year A)
Remember this:

The anointed one is not a king, Jesus was not a lord. The Romans crowned him with thorns, they mocked him when they called him king of the Jews.

Jesus was a man of the land, one of the am haaretz. Go to him, follow him, through him enter the way of compassion.

It is right and good to pray for the people. It is even better to leave the temple, to leave the church and be with them when they are suffering, but know this: God does not intervene in our lives, God has equipped each of us to deal with extraordinary grief, and hardship.

When you go to the people go in modesty.

Celebrate, rejoice and be grateful, God is with you and God is merciful, but God makes no intercession for us living in the world.

Listen!

With God there is never justice without mercy.

When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that has already found us.

When we possess knowledge and we are contrite, that contrition is like a shower that washes us clean, but God had forgiven us before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of it.

Be mindful!

We are all sinners, we are animals, no different than the wolf or the lion, but God speaks to us from our innermost being, God is present at our core; in this way God gives us the power and the grace to overcome our animal nature and live a holy life; a life of conscience.

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

Do not look for God’s hand in the tribulations we suffer here, or the rewards we enjoy on earth, they are like the wind, fleeting and ephemeral.

Listen to the Apostle, who says that our salvation is the work of God. God has done the work, it began as Saint John said, in the first moment of creation.

The fall, such as it is, happens subsequent to and in the context of God’s saving work.

God has done the work already, Jesus revealed the truth of it, and has entrusted all of us who follow the way with the task of sharing that good news.

Here is the gospel: You are reconciled to God. There is no debt to pay. Allow the burden of sin, and the fear of it to fall away.

Be glad.

It was always God’s plan that we fall and rise together, that we rise and fall as one, because we are one in the goodness of God.

The apostle tells us, in the simplest of terms that the mission of the church is to announce the reconciliation.

Hear this!

Everyone is reconciled in God’s love, in God who created the universe. The members of the church are to be ambassadors of this good news. The church is not, nor should it ever be a recruiting agency, as it is today obsessed with signing up members, for whom the reward is reconciliation.
The reconciliation has already occurred. The mission of the church is to proclaim it.

Proclaim that every day is a day of salvation.

With God there is never justice without mercy. When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that already found us.

When we come to that knowledge and are contrite, that contrition is a the shower that washes us clean, but God had forgiven us before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of it.

We are all sinners, animals, no different than the wolf or the lion, but God speaks to us from our innermost being, God is present at our core; in this way God gives us the power and the grace to overcome our animal nature and live a holy life, to live a life of conscience.

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

Do not look for God’s hand in the tribulations we suffer here, or the rewards we enjoy on earth, they are like the wind, fleeting and ephemeral.

Know this!

It is God who makes us well, who creates in us the possibility of wellbeing. God is our wellbeing, but God is not a king and there are no other gods.

All creation belongs to God, all that is good and all that frightens us, everything comes from God and will redound to the good.

It is good to show our respect for the creator and to sing songs in praise of God, but remember this and remember it always, that God is our loving parent, and has prepared each of us for God’s blessing.

Be mindful of this!

You will have no reward from God in this life, God does not intervene or interfere in human events.

Do not seek glorify or glorify yourself in public. Do not seek admiration from the world at large.

Pray in private, not in public, do not boast of your piety.

Do not brag on how much you give to the world, or how well you pay your employees, do good for the sake of doing good, be fair for fairness’ sake.

Go to your work and to your disciplines gladly, if you are fasting then fast, smile and be happy.
First Reading – Joel 2:12-18 ©

Let Your Hearts Be Broken, Not Your Garments Torn

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.

Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation for the Lord your God?

Sound the trumpet in Zion!

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove.

Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.

Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord!

Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations.

Why should it be said among the nations, “Where is their God?”’

Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17

Our God comes and will not be silent!
Devouring fire precedes him,
it rages strongly around him.

He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth to judge his people:

“Gather my loyal ones to me,
those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for God himself is the judge.

Were I hungry, I would not tell you,
for mine is the world and all that fills it.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of he-goats?

Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;
fulfill your vows to the Most High.

You hate discipline;
you cast my words behind you!
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ©

Be Reconciled to God

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
Gospel Acclamation Psalm 50:12, 14

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

A pure heart create for me, O God,
and give me again the joy of your help.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Alternative Acclamation Psalm 94:8

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Harden not your hearts today,
but listen to the voice of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18

Your Father Who Sees All that is Done in Secret Will Reward You

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Ash Wednesday (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 – 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)

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)