A Homily – The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A) The Ascension

First Reading – Acts 1:12-14 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,4, 7-8 ©
Second Reading – 1 Peter 4:13-16 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:18
The Gospel According to John 17:1-11 ©

(NJB)

The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A) The Ascension
Be mindful!

Prayer is good, though it is nothing without charity.

Go out and do good, love one another as Jesus did.

That is what we are meant to take away from the reading from the Book of Acts.

God is good.

Open your eyes and you will see God’s goodness, you will see the goodness of God even in the faces of your adversaries.

See them.

God is good.

Open your ears and you will hear God’s goodness, even in the voices of your opponents.

Listen to them.

God is good.

God loves you, and God loves all people.
Open your heart to the people, even your enemies, invite them to your table

Share with them.

Be mindful!

If you share in the sufferings of Christ, know that you are on the side of justice and mercy.

And know this, if you are suffering and it is not because of the love you bear to all people, then your suffering is not the suffering of Christ

One way or another, do not boast of your suffering, it is unseemly and arrogant.

Be humble!

You will get nothing extra for your service to God, your share in God’s blessing will be the same as that of anyone and everyone else.

Remember the laborers in the vineyard.

We may have faith in this, because God loves all people equally, and the spirit of God, of God who created the universe; that spirit rests on all people without distinction, we share in it the same.

Good and bad, we are the same.

God, the creator of the universe, God abandon’s no-one.

God will leave no orphans, no-one shall be left apart, stranded in the throws of sin.

Not one of us will be lost.

Consider the Gospel for today.

Consider how the apostles get it wrong…again

Be mindful of how the writers of John’s Gospel reveal their fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus and mission.

Strive to be more patient than they were.
Listen!

The ministry of Jesus was centered on real people, actual people living real lives, facing real hardship in the real world.

His gaze was focused toward us on Earth with him, not on the heavens, or some imagined and ephemeral glory.

Jesus was not here to seek glory, or power, or dominion over mankind.

Jesus was selfless and meek; he gave everything away, including his life.

There is a kind of power in this, but it is not power in the sense of force or energy, or miltant might. Our word power, comes from the Latin potens, potare, meaning ability.

Jesus possessed power insofar as he possessed the ability to love.

Jesus was not a Gnostic, but the writers of John would make him out to be one.

He did not teach a secret doctrine.

He himself wrote nothing down.

Jesus taught by the word of his mouth, and more significantly through his actions.

He proclaimed justice and promoted love; through healing and sharing, and community work.

Jesus prayed, but he only gave us one prayer, in that prayer he prayed for bread to feed the people, he asked for mercy, and the strength to be merciful.

Know this

If or when the Church is finally able to emulate the life and teaching of Jesus, then and only then will Christ have risen within it.
First Reading – Acts 1:12-14 ©

The Apostles All Joined in Continuous Prayer

After Jesus was taken up into heaven the apostles went back from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, to Jerusalem, a short distance away, no more than a sabbath walk; and when they reached the city they went to the upper room where they were staying; there were Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Jude son of James. All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,4, 7-8 ©

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

Alleluia!

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?

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

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.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
have mercy and answer.
Of you my heart has spoken:
‘Seek his face.’

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – 1 Peter 4:13-16 ©

It is a Blessing for You When They Insult You for Bearing the Name of Christ

If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you. None of you should ever deserve to suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone of you should suffer for being a Christian, then he is not to be ashamed of it; he should thank God that he has been called one.
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:18

Alleluia, alleluia!

I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord;
I will come back to you,
and your hearts will be full of joy.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 17:1-11 ©

Father, It is Time for You to Glorify Me

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him, let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him.

And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world was. I have made your name known to the men you took from the world to give me.

They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now at last they know that all you have given me comes indeed from you; for I have given them the teaching you gave to me, and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you, and have believed that it was you who sent me.

I pray for them; I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you: all I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified. I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.’
The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A) The Ascension

A Homily – The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday

First Reading – Acts 2:42-47 ©
Responsorial Psalm 117(118):2-4, 13-15, 22-24 ©
Second Reading – 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©
Sequence – Victimae Paschali Laudes
Gospel Acclamation – John 20:29
The Gospel According to John 20:19-31

(NJB)

The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday
Listen!

The early Christian communities flourished because they believed in one another, they trusted one another, they relied on one another. They held their possessions in common and the lived according to their beliefs. They shared their food, their clean water, their way of life.

Because of their example their communities grew.

It was not their faith in the risen Christ that caused their communities to grow, it was their faith in each other, and the way Jesus instructed them to follow, they were strengthened by this and the example that Jesus set. These are what allowed the early Christians to flourish, even in the face of persecution.

This is not to say that the good news of the resurrection was not a binding doctrine for the early Church, it was. However, what bound the early Christians even more closely together was the living witness they brought to Jesus’ ministry, both during his life and after his death, a witness they shared far and wide.

They bore witness to the fact that God, the creator of the universe, is kind, loving and merciful.

Jesus taught this above all things, and for a few short years it was the principle teaching of the Church he founded. Jesus taught that God is a loving parent, abba, and God approaches God’s children in the spirit of love, always, even when God is exercising judgment and administering justice, there is always love.

The Church, like God, has no enemies.

God does not dwell behind the wall of a city, a temple, a cathedral or a basilica.

There are no gates barring access to God, there are no barriers, in the world or in the mind, or in the true dogma of the Church.

God is in all places, at all times and in the hearts of all people.

God is with us!

God does not favor one child over another.

God is a bringing of life, not death. God loves peace, not war.

Remember!

God is the parent of everyone, the creator of the universe, and everything in it, and the resurrection of Jesus (if you believe in it) is a gift of hope. It is a reason to trust in what had theretofore been unseen, and what has been promised to everyone.

Whether we believe in the resurrection or not, this does not matter, the resurrection is the destiny that God has set in place for every person, God has promised that not one of God’s children will be left in the dark.

All will be saved.

What faith in the resurrection does is this: Faith makes it easier to live the good life. When your belief in God’s love for you is firm, it is much easier to pray for those who persecute you, to love your enemy, to lead a just life, a life of humility and mercy.

What faith in the resurrection is not is this: Faith is not an article of belief that a Christian holds onto, like a golden ticket that will grant them access to paradise.

Faith will not protect you from evil, either from within or from without.

Be mindful of what Saint Peter taught, because Peter was mistaken about a great many things.

Peter praises the faithful for their love and devotion to Jesus, for their belief in Jesus as the Christ, as an object of devotion, as an idea fixe, transforming our image of Jesus into an idol; calling Christians to give their love and devotion to an image, instead of to the way of life that he preached and taught.

Do not tell people to be happy in their suffering, justifying it on the grounds that they are suffering for a great cause.

Do not tell them this!

If a person is suffering and they have no choice, so be it, but do not tell them it is God’s will; rather boost them up, support them, give them hope, but do not speak to them about the honor and glory of their suffering, and do not promise rewards for their suffering in the next life, do not promise these things in the name of idols.

When Christian faith moves away from the living tradition, and ceases to be way of life, when it stops being about people, becoming a partisan thing, a thing of ideology and doctrine, then the way is lost.

Consider the bankrupt theology present in the sequence from the mass today, it demonstrates much of what is wrong with Christian dogma and doctrine.

Know this:

Jesus did not die on the cross as a sacrificial victim. Blood does not serve to expiate sin, it never has and it never could, that is not the way that the world works, and God has always said that God desires mercy, not sacrifices.

Only love transforms sin, it does so through the power of mercy, and forgiveness both offered and accepted, that is what transforms sin.

Know this:

God is not a general and Jesus is not a warrior, there is no war taking place between Heaven and the forces of sin and evil, there never has been and there never will be.

All the powers of sin and evil are infinitely less than the infinite power of God, there is no contest. From God’s perspective the trauma of sin is a thing to be mourn, not something to fight against, or draw battle lines to countermand.

Sin is not something you cleave with the sword of wrath, but heal with the salve of grace.

God is not a king and Jesus did not seek a royal station, these are human aspirations and we do a disservice to the way by clinging to them.

God comes to us as a loving parent, and Jesus walked with us as a friend, be mindful of this when you are at prayer.

Jesus led an extraordinary life and died at the hands of his political opponents in a rather ordinary way.

Let us reflect on this and reject the lofty language that seeks to make more of it than it was.

Consider the Gospel for today.

On the second Sunday of Easter the narrative moves us away from the ministry of Jesus and into the life of the early Church, into the era of partisanship.

John’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred-twenty years after Jesus died. The reading for today contains some fascinating glimpses into the life of John’s community.

John says that on the night Jesus was crucified the apostles hid in the upper room for fear of the Jews, indicating the deep division that had already taken place between the nascent church and the Jewish people who founded it.

Jesus and the apostles were themselves Jewish.

Ninety years before John’s gospel was written, Saint Paul was active in his ministry to the gentiles, arguing with St. Peter about the notion that gentiles must first become observant Jews before they could join the Church.

St. Paul won that argument.

The church opened to the world, and ninety years later it would come to see the Jewish tradition, from which the Church emerged, and all of its people, as anathema to itself.

There was great concern for the Church and its authority in this time. The Church’s understanding and image of Jesus was changing in dramatic ways. Jesus becomes reimagined as a priest doing priestly things; commissioning the disciples, instantiating their office and empowering them to pass judgement on people, to forgive or not forgive sins as the disciples saw fit.

This flies in the face of the historical Jesus, a man who was not a priest, but a prophet.

Jesus forgave sins, and encourages the disciples to forgive sins, not because they had the special power to do so, but because God, the creator of the universe, forgives sins. When the prophet proclaims absolution, they are not exercising a special power, they are proclaiming the will of God, and announcing something that has already happened.

The Gospel for today encourages the people to respond to mystical deeds and magical happenings; ghostly apparitions and visions, as if the claim that these supernatural events took place lent a greater authority to the work they were engaged in.

Many are taken in by this sort of thing, it is an appeal to magical thinking, but those types of appeals are always fabrications and lies.

In the final passage the gospel writer put forth the notion that the miracles were real, they were performed so that people would believe that Jesus is (in a special way) the son of God, and that through this belief they would become eligible to enter the Church named after him, and thereby become candidates for eternal life.

The construction of this ideology is this: Come to the church where the Gospel is given, learn the name of Jesus Christ, believe that he is the Son of God, receive that belief as an object or an article of faith, present that belief at the gates of heaven, and be rewarded with eternal life.

The scheme of this tradition, which will be familiar to most Christians, this scheme is Gnostic.

The church rejected Gnosticism and these themes in the same era that John’s Gospel was written.

We should also reject them.

This is the meaning of faith: Trust; have faith trust in God.

The meaning of faith is not belief, belief in a proposition or an article of dogma.

Christian faith is not: Believe in Christ so that you can be saved.

It is: Trust God, you are saved already.
First Reading – Acts 2:42-47 ©

The Faithful All Lived Together and Owned Everything in Common

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.
Psalm 117(118):2-4,13-15,22-24 ©

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let the sons of Aaron say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let those who fear the Lord say:
‘His love has no end.’

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

I was thrust down, thrust down and falling,
but the Lord was my helper.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and victory
in the tents of the just.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.
Second Reading 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©

You Did Not See Christ, Yet You Love Him

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.
Sequence

Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary:
say what thou didst see
upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
he goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!
Gospel Acclamation Jn 20:29
Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus said: ‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

Alleluia!

The Gospel According to John 20:19-31

Eight Days Later, Jesus Came Again and Stood Among Them

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday

A Homily – Holy Week, Easter Sunday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©
Sequence – Victimae Paschali Laudes
Gospel Acclamation – 1Corinthians 5:7-8
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©

(NJB)

Holy Week, Easter Sunday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation
Receive the Easter message:

Follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

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

This is the way of Easter; place your hopes in it and believe in the way.

The way is the law, and the law is life.

God’s law is written in hearts. God speaks to us there, do not doubt it.

This is the good news.

The Creator of the universe, and everything in it, God speaks to us in terms of love and mercy, God instructs us in the way of kindness.

All other versions of the law are merely reflections of the divine law, dim and imperfect.

God’s law is like a living flame. Look into the flames and see the truth shimmering there, wrapping itself around the coals.

It is good to uphold God’s law, to demonstrate mercy and compassion through right living, it is a blessing to everyone.

We are truly alive in the world. Our faith calls on us to live as if we believed that the promise of our salvation were true, as if it were true already accomplished and accomplished full.

This is the meaning of the Gospel, the good news that Christ has risen. To possess Christian faith is trust in this proposition, it is trust in the belief that you, and everyone, will rise as Christ did, not in a transactional way, as an exchange for our “belief,” but merely because God loves us.

Imagine the holy family of God, God who created the universe and everything in it. Imagine the holy family, by which I mean the entirety of creation. Imagine all of us living in the garden now; at peace, without want or enmity, living in that place where we are able to see clearly, that our relationships with each other are more important than gold, political power or any other earthly treasure.

Celebrate the feast of Easter, take part in it and accept the way that Jesus pointed instructed us to follow, the way he showed us through his life, his death and resurrection. It does not matter if any of it is literally true, or not.

Believe in it, even in the dark times, even in times as dark as the first Sunday morning, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb.

They were at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It was Mary Magdala who anointed him for burial, she was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had risen.

It was dark when she arrived at the tomb, but not completely, and in the dim light of morning she saw a hint of the truth that would unfold as the sun rose to fill the day with light.

She saw the stone rolled away from the tomb and found the tomb empty.

At first she assumed that someone had come and removed the body of Jesus, taken him and hidden him somewhere.

She hurried to find the others, to tell them what she had found.

When the other disciples arrived on the scene and explored the empty tomb for themselves, the understanding of what had transpired began to take hold among them.

They saw the empty tomb, the burial garments cast aside, and they understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

On that belief, and on the strength of their witness the Church was born

Know this, the Church was not built on the foundation of Peter’s faith, which faltered and failed on the night Jesus was arrested. It was built on the faith of women, like Mary and the others women who never abandoned Jesus, who did everything in their power to make the path that was in front of him smooth.

Throughout his ministry it was the women among his disciples who understood his mission, who fully comprehended the power of his message, including the necessity of responding to it in faith. They responded with trust, not with propositions and creeds, but with actions and their living witness; the women in Jesus’ company were never confused about his mission. They always understood how it would end.

While his male disciples tripped over themselves, doubted him, doubted each other, vied for supremacy, betrayed him, denied him, sold him into captivity; while all of that was going on, the women were steadfast by his side, comforting him, tending to him easing the burden of what lay ahead.

They anointed him, they witnessed his trial, they set aside their fear, they stood by him as he was crucified, they buried him, they waited by the tomb, they prayed for him and they were the first to see him risen.

They followed him to the end, as an example to us all.
First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©

‘We Have Eaten and Drunk with Him After His Resurrection’

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘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. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©

Look for the Things that Are in Heaven, where Christ Is

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
Sequence

Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary:
say what thou didst see
upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
he goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!
Gospel Acclamation – 1Cor5:7-8

Alleluia, alleluia!

Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed:
let us celebrate the feast then, in the Lord.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©

He Must Rise from the Dead

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Holy Week, Easter Sunday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

A Homily – Holy Week, Holy Saturday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

First Reading – Genesis 1:1-2:2 ©
Psalm 103(104):1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24,35 ©
Second Reading – Genesis 22:1-18 ©
Psalm 15(16):5, 8-11 ©
Third Reading – Exodus 14:15 – 15:1 ©
Canticle – Exodus 15 ©
Fourth Reading – Isaiah 54:5-14 ©
Psalm 29(30):2, 4-6, 11-13 ©
Fifth Reading – Isaiah 55:1-11 ©
Canticle – Isaiah 12 ©
Sixth Reading – Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4 ©
Psalm 18(19):8-11 ©
Seventh Reading – Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28 ©
Psalm 41(42):2-3, 5, 42:3-4 ©
Epistle – Romans 6:3-11 ©
Psalm 117(118):1-2, 16-17, 22-23 ©
The Gospel According to Matthew 28:1 – 10 ©

(NJB)

Holy Week, Holy Saturday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation
Listen!

Take this away from the story of creation, and set everything else aside:

God created the Earth and everything in it and saw that it was good, from the beginning to the end God saw that it was good.

God created human beings in God’s own image, as rational creatures God created us, male and female we were made as beings in relationship, and God saw that it was good.

God saw the whole of it, all of us and God saw that we were good.

Remember this!
God is the creator of the universe, the eternal God is the first source and center of all things.

The infinite God engenders all potentialities, and yet interferes with none of them.

The universe that God created, God created it free from coercion, and yet the entirety of what is, moves according to God’s eternal purpose.

Therefore listen and be mindful, because there is much that is errant in scripture.

God did not interact with Abraham in the way God is depicted as doing in this tale from The Book of Genesis.

God never ordered the sacrifice of Isaac, but the culture Abraham came from did. His culture demanded that he make a sacrifice of his firstborn son.

Abraham rejected that demand, showing the people that God would accept something different in return: a lamb in the place of a human child.

It is not that God wanted the sacrifice of the lamb, God did not. Blood cannot serve for the expiation of guilt, only mercy can achieve that.

But God desired a reform in the tradition of Abraham’s people, God desired movement away from the horrors of human sacrifice.

Abraham gave God what God wanted.

This same impetus is reflected in the last acts of Jesus in this world. He gave his life, not as a sacrifice, but so that others would be spared.

God did not want Jesus’ blood, but God loved what Jesus did, God loved him for his fearlessness, for the compassion he showed his people and the mercy he showed to his persecutors on his way to his death on the cross.

Be mindful!

Jesus’ death was not a cosmic event, it was a political murder, it was ordinary in every respect.

There is nothing more to it than that.

Saint Paul and the Gospel writers did a disservice to the Church when they narrated his death as such, they deviated from the way when they translated the story of his death into a substitutionary sacrifice for the expiation of sin.

Jesus was not a goat or lamb, and good never desired the blood of animals for anything.

It was never that.

Take strength from the example of Jesus and trust in God. Faith and confidence are their own reward.

God is good, and all that is good flows from God, everything flows from divine and exists within it.

Look for the good of God in all creation, in everything that unfolds, find the good in you.

There are no alien gods, there are only misconceptions of the one God, including our misconceptions, be especially mindful of them.

All images of God are the stuff of idols, whether they are made of metal, of stone, of wood, or of words, whether they are painted on canvass, or merely colored in the mind.

God calls all of Gods children to God’s self, no one is left out, none are abandoned, not one is lost.

Listen!

It is shameful to portray God as a murderer.

It is shameful to praise the death and destruction of human beings, even those with whom you are fighting.

It is shameful to tell lies, through myth, fable and song, it is shameful to tell lies about the divine nature, and God’s plan for the human family.

Know this:

God, the creator of the universe, God is the parent of us all. God does not lead armies, God does not favor one person, one family, one tribe, or one nation above another. God does not intervene in human affairs, except to saythis:; love one another, be merciful to each other, forgive.
God is not a king. The creator of the universe is not a warrior or a general. God is not the Lord of Hosts. God is the divine parent, parent to us all, including those who have done you wrong.

Be mindful.

The blessings of the lord are often depicted with images of great wealth and ostentatious power.

This is not the way.

What is true in the prophet’s words are these sentiments:

God will never leave us, and the peace of God will not be shaken,

We may not always be able to discern the presence of God., but God is with us. Even when we are disconsolate, unhappy, and feel like we are lost at sea. God is there, experiencing our tribulations with us, and God will deliver us from them in the end.

God, who created the universe, will not intervene in your affairs. God will not lift you up, God will not strike you down. God will not be angry with you, but God does love you, and God’s love is forever.

Listen to the prophet!

The grace of God is free, and all the good things God has in store for us are things God promises to deliver to everyone.

The covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the covenant God made with Moses, Joshua and David, is the covenant God made the prophets, with Jesus and is meant to be a blessing on all people, wherever they are, no matter how near or how far.

God promises to deliver everyone to a state of blessedness, the stranger and the sinner alike.

Preach it!

This is the grace of God, this is the way which Jesus instructed us in, this is the way to the fruits of paradise.

There is wisdom in the words of the prophet, follow it:

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

Great are the deeds of the creator, the creator of the universe is great.

Listen! Hear these words!

For some life is nasty, brutish and short. Some are born into suffering and die in it; without ever experiencing a moment of relief.

For most life a mixture of sorrow and joy; of grief and delight, of pleasure and pain. How the world apportions these to the individual is not according to any divine plan.

God made us free, and the creator of the universe does not intervene in our affairs.

There is no magic key, there is nothing we can do to bring the favor of the world to us, except that we be mindful, cautious and loving to one another.

We can prepare for famine and prepare against the onset of war. We can treat each other fairly and grow strong in our relationships to one another and the world.

Blessings will flow from there.

But we cannot prepare for the lightning bolt, it strikes without thought of who might be standing in its path.

When the scriptures tell us that the plight of the children of Israel, their expulsion from their homeland, their exile and their suffering were brought about by God, to punish them for their sin, know that this is false.

We suffer what we suffered because of the choices we make, our shortsightedness; we suffer for the choices other people, because of their cruelty, and sometimes we suffer for no reason at all.

God does not intervene in the lives of human beings, in our politics, in our wars, or in our conflicts.

When the scriptures suggest that God will rescue the same people and restore them to their proper place, it is the same old canard. God does not intervene in the lives people or the politics of human beings.

When we pray for deliverance we are praying for spiritual freedom and the grace to transcend the world. God’s rescue of the people of Israel is a metaphor. It is meant to inform us that no matterwho sinful and deviant we are God still loves us, and though we may not feel as if we deserve it God will save us all. God will save us in spite of ourselves.

Take comfort and joy in the presence of God, the creator of the universe is always with you.

When you are persecuted it is not God who has forgotten you, rather it is your persecutors who have forgotten that you, like they themselves are children of God, they have forgotten that God loves you as much as God loves them.

Do not fail to remember this when the wheel turns and you are in a position of power over others. Remember to see the face of God shining in the faces of all others.

Be mindful.

Jesus was not raised to new life for an extraordinary reason, but for the ordinary reason that God intends to raise all to life, out of the superabundance of God’s love.

Eternal life is not the reward a Christian should seek, as if it were payment for having lived a just life, or through the exhibition of grace and mercy.

True life is ours when we live well.

We defeat death when we stop fearing it.

We come to our authentic life when we free ourselves from the fear of death allowing us to live for what is good and beautiful and true, this is the way that Jesus followed, and instructed us to do the same.

It is true that the God is kind, loving, and merciful.

It is true that God comes to God’s children always in this way, even when God is exercising judgment and administering justice.

God has no enemies. God does not dwell behind the wall of a city. There are no gates barring access to God.

The divine dwells in all places, at all times, and in the hearts of all people.

God does not favor one child above another.

God is a bringing of life, not death.

God loves peace, not war.

Consider the Gospel for today, the narrative of the empty tomb, and know this, know that the mythological tropes in this story are not in the least bit instructive.

The tales of an earthquake, the conversation with the “Angel” of the lord, whose face was like lightning and whose robes were white as snow, these images do not elucidate the way.

They do not teach us anything.

What is important is this: It was not the twelve men who we know of as Jesus’ disciples who first heard the Gospel, and who first proclaimed it, it was two women: Mary of Magdala and the other Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus.

This could not be unwritten, and it tells us that the earliest leaders of the Church were these brave women.

It is important to life them up, to celebrate their faith in a world that sought to dismiss them.

That is the Eater miracle.
First Reading – Genesis 1:1-2:2 ©

God Saw All that He Had Made, and Indeed it was Very Good

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness he called ‘night.’ Evening came and morning came: the first day.

God said, ‘Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.’ And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault ‘heaven.’ Evening came and morning came: the second day.

God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven come together into a single mass, and let dry land appear.’ And so it was. God called the dry land ‘earth’ and the mass of waters ‘seas’, and God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.’ And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the third day.

God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years. Let them be lights in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth.’ And so it was. God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, the smaller light to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came and morning came: the fourth day.

God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.

God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.

God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.

Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing.
Psalm 103(104):1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24,35 ©

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
clothed in majesty and glory,
wrapped in light as in a robe!

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

You founded the earth on its base,
to stand firm from age to age.
You wrapped it with the ocean like a cloak:
the waters stood higher than the mountains.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow in between the hills.
On their banks dwell the birds of heaven;
from the branches they sing their song.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

From your dwelling you water the hills;
earth drinks its fill of your gift.
You make the grass grow for the cattle
and the plants to serve man’s needs.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your riches.
Bless the Lord, my soul!

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.
Second Reading – Genesis 22:1-18 ©

The Sacrifice of Abraham, Our Father in Faith

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

Rising early next morning Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place God had pointed out to him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there; we will worship and come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

Abraham called this place ‘The Lord Provides’, and hence the saying today: On the mountain the Lord provides.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’
Psalm 15(16):5, 8-11 ©

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
Third Reading – Exodus 14:15 – 15:1 ©

The Sons of Israel Went on Dry Ground Right into the Sea

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground. I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them. So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horsemen. And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’

Then the angel of God, who marched at the front of the army of Israel, changed station and moved to their rear. The pillar of cloud changed station from the front to the rear of them, and remained there. It came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. The cloud was dark, and the night passed without the armies drawing any closer the whole night long.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong easterly wind all night, and he made dry land of the sea. The waters parted and the sons of Israel went on dry ground right into the sea, walls of water to right and to left of them. The Egyptians gave chase: after them they went, right into the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

In the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and of cloud, and threw the army into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could scarcely make headway. ‘Let us flee from the Israelites,’ the Egyptians cried. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians!’

‘Stretch out your hand over the sea,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘that the waters may flow back on the Egyptians and their chariots and their horsemen.’

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and, as day broke, the sea returned to its bed. The fleeing Egyptians marched right into it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the very middle of the sea. The returning waters overwhelmed the chariots and the horsemen of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea; not a single one of them was left. But the sons of Israel had marched through the sea on dry ground, walls of water to right and to left of them.

That day, the Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. Israel witnessed the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians, and the people venerated the Lord; they put their faith in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.

It was then that Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord:
Canticle – Exodus 15 ©

Hymn of Victory After Crossing the Red Sea

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!
Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea!
The Lord is my strength, my song, my salvation.
This is my God and I extol him,
my father’s God and I give him praise.

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!

The Lord is a warrior! ‘The Lord’ is his name.
The chariots of Pharaoh he hurled into the sea,
the flower of his army is drowned in the sea.
The deeps hide them; they sank like a stone.

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!

Your right hand, Lord, glorious in its power,
your right hand, Lord, has shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your glory you crushed the foe.

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!

You will lead your people and plant them on your mountain,
the place, O Lord, where you have made your home,
the sanctuary, Lord, which your hands have made.
The Lord will reign for ever and ever.

I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!
Fourth Reading – Isaiah 54:5-14 ©

With Everlasting Love the Lord Your Redeemer Has Taken Pity on You

Thus says the Lord:

Now your creator will be your husband, his name, the Lord of Hosts; your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel, he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit, the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth? says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment, but with great love will I take you back. In excess of anger, for a moment I hid my face from you. But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah when I swore that Noah’s waters should never flood the world again. So now I swear concerning my anger with you and the threats I made against you.

For the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken, says the Lord who takes pity on you.

Unhappy creature, storm-tossed, disconsolate, see, I will set your stones on carbuncles and your foundations on sapphires. I will make rubies your battlements, your gates crystal, and your entire wall precious stones. Your sons will all be taught by the Lord. The prosperity of your sons will be great. You will be founded on integrity; remote from oppression, you will have nothing to fear; remote from terror, it will not approach you.
Psalm 29(30):2, 4-6, 11-13 ©

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead,
restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.

Sing psalms to the Lord, you who love him,
give thanks to his holy name.
His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life.
At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.

The Lord listened and had pity.
The Lord came to my help.
For me you have changed my mourning into dancing:
O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me.
Fifth Reading – Isaiah 55:1-11 ©

Come to Me and Your Soul Will Live, and I Will Make an Everlasting Covenant with You

Thus says the Lord:

Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.

With you I will make an everlasting covenant out of the favours promised to David. See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples, a leader and a master of the nations. See, you will summon a nation you never knew, those unknown will come hurrying to you, for the sake of the Lord your God, of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving; for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
Canticle – Isaiah 12 ©

The Rejoicing of a Redeemed People

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

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

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

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

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

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

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Sixth Reading – Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4 ©

In the Radiance of the Lord, Make Your Way to Light

Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life; hear, and learn what knowledge means. Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies, growing older and older in an alien land, sharing defilement with the dead, reckoned with those who go to Sheol? Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Had you walked in the way of God, you would have lived in peace for ever. Learn where knowledge is, where strength, where understanding, and so learn where length of days is, where life, where the light of the eyes and where peace. But who has found out where she lives, who has entered her treasure house?

But the One who knows all knows her, he has grasped her with his own intellect, he has set the earth firm for ever and filled it with four-footed beasts. He sends the light – and it goes, he recalls it – and trembling it obeys; the stars shine joyfully at their set times: when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’; they gladly shine for their creator. It is he who is our God, no other can compare with him. He has grasped the whole way of knowledge, and confided it to his servant Jacob, to Israel his well-beloved; so causing her to appear on earth and move among men.

This is the book of the commandments of God, the Law that stands for ever; those who keep her live, those who desert her die. Turn back, Jacob, seize her, in her radiance make your way to light: do not yield your glory to another, your privilege to a people not your own.
Israel, blessed are we: what pleases God has been revealed to us.
Psalm 18(19):8-11 ©

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

They are more to be desired than gold,
than the purest of gold
and sweeter are they than honey,
than honey from the comb.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.
Seventh Reading – Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28 ©

I Shall Pour Clean Water Over You and I Shall Give You a New Heart

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own land, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions. I then discharged my fury at them because of the blood they shed in their land and the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in foreign countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. And now they have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of the Lord; they have been exiled from his land.”

‘But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone.

‘And so, say to the House of Israel, “The Lord says this: I am not doing this for your sake, House of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord – it is the Lord who speaks – when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes. Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land.

‘“I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.”’
Psalm 41(42):2-3, 5, 42:3-4 ©

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

My soul is thirsting for God,
the God of my life;
when can I enter and see
the face of God?

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

These things will I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I would lead the rejoicing crowd
into the house of God,
amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving,
the throng wild with joy.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

O send forth your light and your truth;
let these be my guide.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

And I will come to the altar of God,
the God of my joy.
My redeemer, I will thank you on the harp,
O God, my God.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.
Epistle – Romans 6:3-11 ©

Christ, Having Been Raised from the Dead, Will Never Die Again

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 117(118):1-2, 16-17, 22-23 ©

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 28:1-10 ©

He Has Risen from the Dead and Now He is Going Before You into Galilee

After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’
Holy Week, Holy Saturday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

A Homily – Holy Week, Good Friday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

First Reading – Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 30(31):2, 6, 12 – 13, 15 – 17, 25 ©
Second Reading – Hebrews 4:14 – 16, 5:7 – 9 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Philemon 2:8 – 9
The Gospel According to John 18:1 – 19:42 ©

(NJB)

Holy Week, Good Friday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation
Be mindful.

The future is not set, and God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings.

Know that the word of God will come from places you do not expect, and from people you have discounted, just as it came from Jesus.

Know this:

The only way we can be healed through the suffering of others is if by witnessing their trials we change what is in our hearts.

There is no other way.

Be mindful.

Consider the words of the psalmist.

God’s refuge is not of this world, The protection God promises is beyond this world.

Have faith in the promises of God.

Trust in God, but do not hope for God to take sides with you in your in your conflicts on this Earth or in the satisfaction of your ambitions.

God will not intervene. God will not rescue you.

And yet the strength of God is in you, the strength to persevere in patience, and love.

Listen to the voice of God in your heart; listen to God tugging at your conscience, let that voice be your guide.

Consider what the apostle says, ask yourself this:

Is it true that in Jesus, the Son of God, there is no sin?

Is it true that all things come into being and have there existence in Jesus, who is God’s eternal Word?

Is it true that not one thing exists apart from God, who is Jesus?

I ask again; is it true that in Jesus there is no sin?

Is there sin? What is it?

Paul saw Jesus as a “high priest,” of sorts, not as God, and in his role as priest he was seen as connected to his followers in an intimate way, connecting them to the divine as an intermediary.

Jesus is depicted in the Gospels as someone who understands people, who relates to them.

We confess that God made every one of God’s children and destined each of us for eternal life. There is no exception, because all things exist in God, and in God’s Word, not one thing exists apart, even human sin.

God asks of us that we walk in justice and pursue the good joyously; knowing that whatever we suffer here is temporary.

It will pass away.

Be mindful of the Church and its vanity.

Jesus was a man like any other, and his death was an ordinary murder.

Do not preach anything else.

When you are the Gospel for today you must be mindful of the mythological nature of the narrative.

The events surrounding the passion did not happen the way John describes them, if they even happened at all, and John’s narrative if far different from those of the other Gospel writers. John imbues them with a theological meaning which was not present in the earlier history of the Church.

Without getting into the particulars of what specific events may or may not happen, we should be mindful to address the theological claims that John makes, insofar as they do or do not elucidate the way.

Elucidation of the ay is the purpose of the Gospel.

Remember, nothing is written.

God made human beings and the whole of creation free, Jesus was free and the future that he faced was not predetermined. He did not know for certain what would happen to him when he went into the Garden, though he went knowing that there would be danger.

Jesus did nothing for the sake of fulfilling prophecy, and it is a misinterpretation of scripture to suggest that when Jesus gave himself up so that others would be spared he did so to fulfill the maxim that the Son of Man would not lose a single one of his followers. The claim that Jesus would not lose a single one is an eschatological claim having to do with the time beyond time when God’s purpose in creation has been fulfilled. It had nothing to do with the dilemma present in his circumstances.

Finally, be mindful of the teaching concerning Jesus’ kingship. Jesus is not a king, he came as a prophet, he came to speak the truth, and he came as a friend.

He died as he came, true to his word.
First Reading – Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 ©

The servant of the Lord, an expiatory Sacrifice

See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human – so will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him; for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before:

‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground.

Without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.

And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.

But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low.

Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.

On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.

Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.

By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?

Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living; for our faults struck down in death.

They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong
and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.

If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content.

By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.

Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 30(31):2, 6, 12 – 13, 15 – 17, 25 ©

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

In you, O Lord, I take refuge.
Let me never be put to shame.
In your justice, set me free,
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
It is you who will redeem me, Lord.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

In the face of all my foes
I am a reproach,
an object of scorn to my neighbours
and of fear to my friends.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Those who see me in the street
run far away from me.
I am like a dead man, forgotten in men’s hearts,
like a thing thrown away.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

But as for me, I trust in you, Lord;
I say: ‘You are my God.
My life is in your hands, deliver me
from the hands of those who hate me.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Let your face shine on your servant.
Save me in your love.’
Be strong, let your heart take courage,
all who hope in the Lord.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Second Reading – Hebrews 4:14 – 16, 5:7 – 9 ©

The Lord Burdened Him with the Sins of All of Us

Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.
Gospel Acclamation Philemon 2:8 – 9

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!

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.

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
The Gospel According to John 18:1 – 19:42 ©

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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

N. Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said,

✠ Who are you looking for?

N. They answered,

C. Jesus the Nazarene.

N. He said,

✠ I am he.

N. Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time,

✠ Who are you looking for?

N. They said,

C. Jesus the Nazarene.

N. Jesus replied,

✠ I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.

N. This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost.’
Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter,

✠ Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?

N. The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people.’

Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter,

O. Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?

N. He answered,

O. I am not.

N. Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered,

✠ I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret. But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.

N. At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying,

O. Is that the way to answer the high priest?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offence in it, why do you strike me?

N. Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him,

O. Aren’t you another of his disciples?

N. He denied it, saying,

O. I am not.

N. One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said,

O. Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?

N. Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crew.

They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said,

O. What charge do you bring against this man?

N. They replied,

C. If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.

N. Pilate said,

O. Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.

N. The Jews answered,

C. We are not allowed to put a man to death.

N. This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.

So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, and asked,

O. Are you the king of the Jews?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?

N. Pilate answered,

O. Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.

N. Pilate said,

O. So you are a king, then?

N. Jesus answered,

✠ It is you who say it. Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.

N. Pilate said,

O. Truth? What is that?

N. and with that he went out again to the Jews and said,

O. I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?

N. At this they shouted:

C. Not this man, but Barabbas.

N. Barabbas was a brigand.

Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying,

C. Hail, king of the Jews!

N. and they slapped him in the face.

Pilate came outside again and said to them,

O. Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.

N. Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said,

O. Here is the man.

N. When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted,

C. Crucify him! Crucify him!

N. Pilate said,

O. Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him.

N. The Jews replied,

C. We have a Law, and according to that Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the Son of God.

N. When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus

O. Where do you come from?

N. But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him,

O. Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.

N. From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted,

C. If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.

N. Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews,

O. Here is your king.

N. They said,

C. Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!

N. Pilate said,

O. Do you want me to crucify your king?

N. The chief priests answered,

C. We have no king except Caesar.

N. So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate,

C. You should not write ‘King of the Jews,’ but ‘This man said: “I am King of the Jews.”’

N. Pilate answered,

O. What I have written, I have written.

N. When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another,

C. Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.

N. In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled:

They shared out my clothing among them.

They cast lots for my clothes.

This is exactly what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother,

✠ Woman, this is your son.

N. Then to the disciple he said,

✠ This is your mother.

N. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said:

✠ I am thirsty.

N. A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said,

✠ It is accomplished;

N. and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath – since that sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:

Not one bone of his will be broken; and again, in another place scripture says:

They will look on the one whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus – though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews – asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well – the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time – and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Holy Week, Good Friday (Year A) A Holy Day of Obligation

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 – Easter Sunday (Year C)

2019.04.21 – (Easter Sunday) C

First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©
Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ©
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©
Alternative Reading – Luke 24: 1-35

(NJB)
Listen, and keep this in the forefront of your mind: God does not intervene in creation, or the free choices of human beings.

God does not intervene in our lives, at any point in time and space.

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

Jesus was free to reject the ministry that had been laid before him, but he did not. He was faithful to the end. Setting an example for all of us, demonstrating through his life and death the true meaning of the way.

Few people will be called to serve in the capacity that Jesus served; to be tortured and executed for a cause that 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, anointed with his blood and tears.

If you call yourself a Christian 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, for the stranger among you; the migrant and the refugee, even for your enemy.

Follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

Be merciful; a source of healing in the world.

This is the way.

Do not forget it.

To the extent that the Apostle deviates from this message, he is wrong, he is perpetrating lies for the sake of politics and propaganda.

This is a tragic disservice to the memory of Jesus.

It was not to Jesus of Nazareth that the prophets gave witness; not to Jesus specifically, but to the spirit of God that dwelt within him, and in every other person who has taken to themselves the mission of divine suffering.

Jesus never encouraged us to believe in him so that we could be saved, but to believe that we are saved; by God, ipso facto, out of love, simply because we are.

Saint Paul never saw the resurrected Jesus, but he did see in himself something that was Christ like, and divine. He taught us to see the same thing in each other, the figure of the risen Christ.

He moved us toward grace.

Listen!

It is true that the God is kind, loving, and merciful.

It is true that God always comes to God’s children in the way of kindness, love and mercy, even when God is exercising judgment, and administering justice.

God has no enemies.

God does not dwell behind the walls of a city.

There are no gates barring access to God.

God is in all places, at all times and in the hearts of all people.

God does not favor one child above another.

God is a bringing of life, not death.

God loves peace, not war.

If you meet victory in battle or in any other conflict or contest, do not confuse this with God’s will.

Be mindful of this.

Let us not pretend that life is waiting for us on the other side of the veil.

True life is the life we live here on Earth. We are called on by our faith to live this life as if we believed that the promise of our salvation were true, and already accomplished.

Imagine the holy family of God, of God who created the universe and everything in it.

Imagine living with the holy family in that garden now, at peace, without want or enmity, imagine that place where we can see clearly that our relationships with each other are more important than gold, and silver, more important than anything.

That is the place of true life, and we are called to live that life openly.

We must make a change, go back to our beginnings, to the simplicity of a child’s heart and grow ourselves anew.

Consider the teaching of the Apostle.
For the Apostle; yeast is an agent of change. It transforms us as it does bread.

We are the bread.

The apostle wants to take us back to a place before we were corrupted by the yeast of worldly influence, by the corruption of sin.

In this metaphor, yeast is the power of sin.

The followers of Christ are asked to reject the yeast and return to a state of purity, returning us to the unleavened state, a place that is simple and good.

Adding yeast to the dough allows the bread to rise, it adds flavor and pleasure, but it also corrupts the loaf.

The Gospel reading for the day does not offer a great deal of theology to engage with. The narrative is brief. And relatively straight-forward.

It was dark on Sunday morning, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb. She had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It was she who anointed him for burial, and she was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had risen.

It was dark when she arrived at the tomb, but not completely, in the dim light of morning she saw a hint of the truth that would unfold as the sun rose, and fit illed the day with light.

She saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and found the tomb empty.

At first she assumed that someone had come and removed the body of Jesus; taken and hidden him somewhere.

She hurried to find the others, to tell them what she had found. When the other disciples arrived on the scene and explored the empty tomb for themselves, the understanding of what had transpired began to take hold.

They saw the empty tomb, the burial garments cast aside, and they understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

On that belief, and on the strength of their witness the Church was born, but the Church was not built on the foundation of Peter’s faith. It was built on the faith of women; the women who never abandoned Jesus, the women who did everything in their power to make smooth the path that was in front of him.

Throughout his ministry it was the women who surrounded him, the women who always knew, who always understood the power of his message. They were never confused about his mission. They always understood how it would end.

While his male disciples tripped over themselves, doubted him, doubted each other, vied for supremacy, betrayed him, denied him, sold him into captivity; while all of that was going on, the women were steadfast by his side. They anointed him, they witnessed his trial, they stood by him as he was crucified, they buried him, they waited by the tomb, and they were the first to see him risen.

God bless these women, and their faith, it was a comfort to Jesus in his final hours.

After all that they had witnessed those same foolish men put the women aside. Took over the narrative, and did their best to wash their names from the Gospel.

The story of the church became less and less about Easter morning, and more and more about the days and weeks that followed.

The Gospel writers became confused with questions about who Jesus was, about his rank among the prophets, about his historical connection to Moses, about the proof of his ministry that was given in the scriptures/

In their confusion they began to make up stories to validate their claims, and this was all unnecessary.

It was contrary to the Spirit of Truth they were ostensibly committed to serve.

They had learned a great deal from Jesus about the way, but not enough. They continued to fall back on their same mistakes, mistakes that were fueled by fear and ignorance, arrogance and pride.

Jesus did not perform miracles in order to prove to anyone that he was a child of God. He stressed the fact that we are all the children of God, even the leper and the thief, the unmarried woman and the outcast.

Jesus did not come to work magic, to provide signs and wonders, because that is not how God, the creator of the universe, works in the world.

The core truth in this Gospel passage is not the long story about encountering Jesus, listening to him expound the scriptures, offering proofs and arguments.

The signal truth is this, “they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”

They had the opportunity to see Jesus in the man they encountered on the road, but they did not see him in this stranger.

They had the opportunity to see Jesus in the faith of the woman at the tomb, but they could not understand it, or accept it in the moment

Jesus was dead, and yet the way which he had personified remained in front of them, the way is the living witness of God’s intention for creation.

The disciples were finally able to see the way, when they broke bread with the stranger, they found it in the meal they shared and not the words and arguments that were spoken.

The way is community.

Jesus is found in the trust we give to others.

The way is sharing things in common.

Jesus is present in the hope we kindle in the stranger.

The way is love.

Love has no boundaries, not even death can stop it.
First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©

‘We Have Eaten and Drunk with Him After His Resurrection’

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘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. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©

Look for the Things that are in Heaven, where Christ Is

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ©

Get Rid of the Old Yeast and Make Yourselves Unleavened as You were Meant to Be

You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Alleluia, alleluia!

Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed: let us celebrate the feast then, in the Lord.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 20:1-9 ©

He Must Rise from the Dead

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Luke 24: 1-35

Why Look Among the Dead for Someone who is Alive?

On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but on entering discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there not knowing what to think, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women lowered their eyes. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?’ And they remembered his words.

When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.

Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.
They Recognised Him at the Breaking of Bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
Easter Sunday – Easter (Year C)

A Homily – The Fifth Sunday in the Ordinary Time (Year C)

First Reading – Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 137(138):1-5,7-8 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 15:15
Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:19
The Gospel of Luke 5:1-11 ©
(NJB)
Be mindful of what the prophet teaches.

Always be mindful, move carefully through the symbols in the script.

Understand this, a host is an army. Using this rope the prophet does, what the prophets and the church have often done, he has depicted God, the creator of the universe, as the commander of an army, as a king clothed in glory.

This image of God is errant.

God is not a king, and God has no use for armies. God is the infinite and the eternal, the first source and center of all that is. God is the unmoved mover, the cause of causes, and all other powers, no matter how great they might be, may as well be nothing in comparison to the infinite.

God comes to us not as a king, but as a brother, the face of God is reflected in our mother’s, God is a friend and God pursues our friendship with love.

Now, be mindful of what the prophet teaches.

Listen to the prophet relate the story of his encounter with God, encountering God in a state of shame, but God loves him anyway, even though he is unclean, in his encounter with God, through God’s ministry he is healed.

Pay particular attention to how the healing is conducted, it is accomplished through fire, through a burning coal set against the mouth of the prophet, and the touch of fire comes as the grace of God.

The fire is a gift.

God’s fire is a purgative, the fire of God heals, and the result of the healing is that the prophet’s spirit is renewed, restored to the status of messenger, of servant and friend.

Remember the teaching of the prophet, whenever you read the sacred text, the fire of God, from beginning to end, the fire of God does not destroy, it healing and restorative.

So it is and so it will always be.

Remember this.

It is right to praise God; the creator of the universe.

Praise God’s mercy wherever you see it, be merciful on behalf of God, because God has no greater wish, than to see we Christians who aspire to be God’s servants, express the divine through love.

Trust in God; God who has no need glory, who leads us on the path to humility, as Jesus did, in Nazareth.

Remember this.

God made us free, do not expect God to take sides in our struggles with one another, or intervene in our affairs, any such hope is hubris, it is vanity, and it misses the mark.

Listen to how the teaching of the apostle is presented to the church. Be mindful of the inconsistencies, there are lessons to be learned in each and every one.

Know this.

The Gospel does not bring salvation (not in the ultimate sense), it does not bring salvation inasmuch as it announces it.

The formula of the good news is not: Believe so that you can be saved.

It is: Believe, have faith, you are saved already.

The salvation that the Gospel delivers is salvation that comes to us in this world, it is the fruit of living well, of living justly in communities that care for one another, as Jesus taught.

The Gospel is fulfilled in this world in communities that are bound by love and trust, and hope in both the promise and the gift that Jesus proclaimed and belong to those who have the courage to follow in his path.

For Jesus that path ended in death, it ended in his murder on the cross, but that was not the end of him; he continued, as we all will, he was raised from the dead, for death had no claim on him.

He defeated death and the powers of sin, and now death has no claim on us either. More importantly, it never did, because the work of Christ did not begin on the Cross, or with the resurrection, but before creation, in the beginning with the Word of God.

Jesus did not die so much “for our sins” but because of them, and he was raised in accordance with God’s plan, to bear witness to God’s love and mercy.

Be mindful, and do not hesitate to check the apostles and the saints and the doctors of the church when they are wrong, they are often wrong.

The apostle was wrong when he said that Jesus died for our sins.

As I have said, Jesus did not die for our sins, but because of them. He was buried and entered into eternity. When he appeared it was not first to Cephas and then the Twelve, it was first to his mother, and the other Mary’s who never left his side, even when all of the other disciples, including Cephas, betrayed him, denied him and fled.

Remember this, this is one example among many of the errancy of scripture; Paul, or whoever was posing as Paul, withheld the truth when they were writing this letter.

A Christian must always be a servant of the truth.

A Christian must always be careful not to confuse humility with pride, and it is easy to do for a believer, or anyone whose aim is piety.

When you here a Christian proclaim “I am the least,” what they often mean is, “I am the greatest.” They will say…”my work was not the greatest because the great work I did was really God’s. It was God was acting through me.” What they mean when they say this is that they will strike you down if you challenge them because their authority is the same as the authority of the creator, this is wrong.

This is dangerous thinking, but never far from the halls of power, in the church and everywhere.

Be mindful of the Gnostic implication at the beginning of this reading. They are a trap.

The author issues a claim to power and authority that is out of step with what they Church ultimately came to hold as true. It says that salvation is dependent on what a person believes, and this is a lie.

Salvation is dependent on the love of God and the love of God alone, a timeless love without condition, one that emanates from eternity and promises to make all things well..

The reading for today says that what we have been taught to believe comes in an unbroken line of authority, and that this is the benchmark of true doctrine. But this is false, there is no unbroken line of authority, there are only us sinners, doing our best to discern the will of God, and each of us failing in our special ways, some of us more than others.

Listen to the Gospel.

The greatest commandment is love, and love is the whole of the law.

To love one another, to give of one’s self to another, there is no greater gift.

The love that we are called to is not the love we call desire, though to desire and be desired is an experience of great joy.

The love that we are called to is not the love that we have for family and friends, though that love, which we experience as belonging is a source of great comfort.

We are called to move past the love we have for family and friends, because to love in that way is only a short extension of the love we have for ourselves. We are called to move past the love we call desire, and that love by which we see ourselves in the faces of our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, the love that connects our ambitions to the ambitions of our friends. We are called to love in a greater capacity than that.

We are called to love to the point of selflessness, to love even those who are against us, to love our enemies, to forgive those who have hurt us and done us harm, to feed the stranger and protect them…to do so out of love.

Remember this.

When you hear the call, and you have discerned that it is God who is calling you, then you must obey.

Consider the gospel reading for today; set aside the notion that Jesus used some magic powers, that he performed a miracle to fill the nets with fish, when earlier in the day there were no fish to be found.

This is not a story about fishing, and there is no such thing as magic.

Listen to the spirit of truth and you will know that this is true.

This is a story about moving beyond boundaries, reshaping context, exceeding expectations, and organizing the work of one’s partners in ministry.

In the first paragraph we see Jesus teaching in a crowded place. Does this mean that the crowds following Jesus were so great that they pushed him into a boat?

Possibly, that is a common reading…but consider for a moment that Jesus and his followers were preaching in a crowded field, in a place and time filled with many voices contending for the attention of the people, and that the ministry Jesus was concerned with was not an ordinary ministry. Jesus was actively involved in changing the expectations of the people, he did that skillfully by drawing them outside of their context, and this was illustrated dramatically by his stepping into a boat, leaving the shore and teaching from a place that was detached from the normal mode of living.

Jesus skillfully leads his closest followers into this new mode of teaching, as a result their efforts, which had earlier met with failure, were now manifestly successful. By going beyond their boundaries they were able to engage more people than they were able to minister to in their normal context. Because of their success, they in their turn needed to call for more support.

Their work required them to train more teachers.

In the final paragraph we here Simon-Peter asking Jesus for forgiveness on account of him being a sinful man.

It would not have been a sin for Simon-Peter to have been incredulous at the notion that Jesus would teach them a thing or two about fishing, if it was actual fishing that they were doing; because Simon-Peter was a fisherman, and the son of a fisherman, whereas Jesus was the son of a carpenter. This would not have been incredulous at all.

Be mindful.

Doubt is not a sin, especially when the expressed doubt is in regard to the expectation of a miracle or the workings of magic; that is not doubt, it is common sense.

When Simon-Peter was asking to be forgiven for his sins it was an acknowledgment that his former way of seeing things, of viewing people, of understanding relationships, was a mode of life rooted in fear, prejudice and privilege; that way of life was sinful, and Simon-Peter was right to seek forgiveness for that.

His desire to be forgiven was an acknowledgment of his previous failures, like Isaiah before him, who approached the divine reality in a spirit of shame, needing first to be healed before he could serve the divine as a messenger of salvation. His submission is an indication that he understood something of the new way that Jesus was leading him toward, and proof that he trusted Jesus in spite of his ignorance.

First Reading – Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8 ©

‘Here I Am: Send Me’

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings.

And they cried out to one another in this way, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’

The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:

‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:

‘See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 137(138):1-5,7-8 ©

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

All earth’s kings shall thank you
when they hear the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:
‘How great is the glory of the Lord!’

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ©

I Preached What the Others Preach, and You All Believed

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve. Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless. On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.
Gospel Acclamation – John 15:15

Alleluia, alleluia!

I call you friends, says the Lord,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.

Alleluia!
Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:19

Alleluia, alleluia!

Follow me, says the Lord,
and I will make you into fishers of men.

Alleluia!
The Gospel of Luke 5:1-11 ©

They Left Everything and Followed Him

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Homily – The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading – Isaiah 62:1-5 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 95(96):1-3,7-10 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ©
Gospel Acclamation – 1saiah 3:9, and John 6:68
Alternate Gospel Acclamation – 2 Thessalonians 2:14
The Gospel of The Day – John 2:1-11 ©
(NJB)

In the reading for today from the prophet Isaiah, we receive an expression of profound hope for the future of Israel and by extension the whole world.

Was Christians, and as theists we are called on to brandish that hope, carry it forward, not only for ourselves, but for all people in all places at all times.

Following the thought of Isaiah we come to understand that this hope is like the hope of a young couple entering into marriage. They do not know what the future will bring but they are determined to face it together, believing that together they can endure whatever comes their way that threatens to overwhelm them.

Together they are stronger, together they are wiser, together they are better, and the love they share with one another, in the view of the prophet, it is like a bright and beautiful gem, it is a crown upon their heads or a beacon on a hill lighting up the night.

Listen to Isaiah and bear in mind, the prophet speaks from a position of wisdom and ignorance both, as do we all, knowing some things and not knowing others.

Isaiah speaks well of faith and hope but not of God’s activity in the world. There are other things expressed in the reading for the day than the hope Isaiah points to, He also speaks of his belief in that God, the creator of the universe has played a role in shaping the destiny of Israel, and by extension the world.

Know this:

God has made both us and the entire creation free. God does not coerce anything or anyone. God does not intervene in worldly affairs, either for our benefit, or to our detriment. We are free, as individuals and in the collective whole.

This is what our faith tells us to look to God for, to deliver us to a place of safety and joy, of love and rest, bring us to a place of wellbeing, not in this world, but the next.

God has promised to deliver us when we are done with this world, not now, but after.

Listen!

It is right to praise God; the creator of the universe. It is right and good.

It is right to treat our discourse concerning God with respect and honor; God is holy and our discourse should keep in mind the sacred nature of God’s blessed work, but it is wrong to think of God as a Lord.

Disregard the psalmist when he speaks in this way and remember, god has already judged the world, God has judged the entirety of the created order, god Judged it at the beginning while seeing the end, God judged it and proclaimed that it is good.

This is what our faith instructs us to believe.

God is not to be feared, but trusted.

Be mindful.

As a theist I will happily proclaim that there is only one God, I will tell you that the infinite can only be expressed by the numeral one, the infinite is one, one undivided, indivisible being.

There are no other God’s, but we should respect and strive to understand all of our language concerning the sacred, pertaining to the reality of the divine, from whatever culture or whatever nation it comes.

There is only one God, and none of us understand God perfectly. No one ever has.

Remember this:

God’s salvation is close.

Have no fear, the ministers of God are ministers of hope.

The glory of God does not come and go according to our deeds and merits. God is always present, God is present in all times and all places. God is with you now.

Believe it without fear.

God’s salvation reaches everyone, not because any of us deserve it, but simply because God loves all of us, every last one of us.

Be mindful.

God welcomes our participation in the work of the faithful, and there is much work to do. There is a role for everyone to play, both inside and outside the church, but mostly outside of it, with the people, with those feeling most alienated from the divine.

Everyone of us comes to that work with different gifts, different abilities and talents, we are called on to use them for the benefit of our brothers and sisters, for those who share the same faith and for those who do not.

Listen!

The reward for your faithful service is peace, it is peace in this life, and the knowledge that you have lived well, acted justly and done good.

Do not fear.

God has prepared you for eternity, but eternal life is not your reward. It is a gift of love that God has extended to you, simply for being you.

We are given the thoughts of Saint Peter to think, Peter who denied Jesus three time on the night he was arrested, Peter would have us believe that he follows Jesus because Jesus has the secret message that leads to eternal life,. He is thinking like one of the Gnostics here, as if there passcodes and secret ways that would lead a person upward on a journey through the heavens, until the come to the place of everlasting paradise.

Saint Peter puts this forward as if this were the purpose of the Gospel as if believing that Jesus is the “Holy One of God” is the key to receiving it the benefit he seeks.

This faith is born from fear, from a fear that God will not deliver on God’s promise, that God is not with us, and that our salvation is something God cannot manage without us.

Reject this fear.

The Gospel is this; it is simply this. God loves you, and you are saved.

You are not saved for anything that you have done, you did not earn it, you are saved because God loves you. There is nothing more to it, there is nothing that you have to do, and the same is true for everyone.

The promise of salvation is not that you will be spared from suffering and torment in hell, or that when you are judged God will forgive you.

The Gospel is this: God has already forgiven you. You are already saved you have been since the beginning, when God looked on creation and proclaimed that it was good.

God has prepared you, and everyone for eternal life. Believe it!

Let the goodness of the promise flow through you now, start living this life as if it were true.

We are not called to believe in the idea that Jesus is this or that, the Holy One of God, we are called to act on the principles of his faith, to live lives of charity and service to one another other.

From the beginning, God chose all people to receive the sanctifying spirit, God created each person in the divine image, have placed within them a seed of the eternal Word. Through the Good News given to us by Jesus of Nazareth we learn to trust in the truth of that proclamation.

As people of the faith we have a duty to adhere to the truth. The spirit of God is the spirit of the truth, of truth shining in the darkness.

Consider the Gopel for the day, ask yourself this: Where is the truth in this myth?

Jesus was not magic.

God is not a miracle worker.

Read literally; this story is a lie. Jesus never turned water into wine. It is likely that the entire event never happened, that the entire thing is make believe.

There was no wedding at Cana.

Mary did not call on Jesus to work wonders. People did not follow Jesus because they saw him to wonderful tricks.

That is the truth behind this reading.

So what is happening here? This it is not a story of who Jesus was or what Jesus did, we are not called on to believe anything about those things based on this narrative. It is a story that tells us something of what people came to believe about Jesus a hundred or so years after he was killed.

It may be a story about Jesus and John the Baptist. It may be an apology of sorts; a defense of Jesus given to the followers of John, insofar as John came first, but John was the lesser of the two prophets of that era. The people might have expected the best to come first, like the wine at the wedding, but like the stories of the Patriarchs, the second son was favored more, and so Jesus came to surpass John.

It might be that, that would be a fair reading of the mythological trope. This is the best understanding. The Wedding of Cana is not a miracle story, it is a parable. It intends to convey a simple set of beliefs; Jesus did not come to carry the mantle of John, his work is not an extension of the former. Jesus came carrying the promise of the covenant.

He came with a different teaching altogether, and a radical departure from the prison of the law, he came to preach on a message of love, of service and humility in the furtherance of the good.
First Reading – Isaiah 62:1-5 ©

The Bridegroom Rejoices in His Bride

About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I will not grow weary, until her integrity shines out like the dawn and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity, all the kings your glory, and you will be called by a new name, one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.

You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord, a princely diadem in the hand of your God; no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’, nor your land ‘Abandoned’, but you shall be called ‘My Delight’ and your land ‘The Wedded’; for the Lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 95(96):1-3,7-10 ©

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ©

The Spirit Distributes Gifts to Different People Just as He Chooses

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose. One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.
Gospel Acclamation – 1saiah 3:9, and John 6:68

Alleluia, alleluia!

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening:
you have the message of eternal life.

Alleluia!

Alternate Gospel Acclamation – 2 Thessalonians 2:14

Alleluia, alleluia!

Through the Good News God called us
to share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia!
Gospel – John 2:1-11 ©

‘My Hour Has Not Come Yet’ – ‘Do Whatever He Tells You’

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Homily – The Second Sunday of Christmas, The Epiphany

First Reading – Isaiah 60:1-6 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2,7-8,10-13 ©
Second Reading – Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 2:2
The Gospel of the Day – Matthew 2:1-12 ©
(NJB)
The words of the Prophet must be understood in metaphorical terms. There is no other way to read them.

Isaiah is speaking to us about inclusiveness, he is projecting his understanding that the God of the Hebrew people is the God of all people. The one and only God, the creator of the universe is God over everyone, and that we are united in this, ven though we cannot see it clearly in the present world.

Isaiah expresses the hope that at the end of time, all people will be united in actuality, there will be no division among us, no war, no enmity, everyone will have been brought to the table by God and we will share a common feast.

This is not an expectation of hope for this world. It is an expectation of hope for the world to come.

Isaiah understands that God will not affect these changes in the lives of the people today, he takes the long view. He is looking to the eschaton.

Remember this when you are reading Isaiah, or any other passage from scripture; God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings, God does not appoint rulers and kings.

God; creator of the universe, God will not rescue you in this world.

God has made you, and us, God has made the world itself absolutely free, God will not exercise any form of divine coercion, God does not intervene in our lives, whether to our benefit or to our detriment. God will not intervene.

Note well: God is not a king. God has no desire for us to pay homage to God as if God were.

Be mindful of this; human beings are obsessed with mysteries, conspiracies. God, the creator of the universe, God has no such obsession.

God has made the truth plain and easy for us to know.

The only mystery is why human beings have such a hard time understanding it, once they have heard it.

The secret to the good life is written in our hearts, we all possess, it is not kept from as at all. The secret is an open secret, and if we receive it, believe in it, we can have in the small measure of our lives the realization of the hope that Isaiah spoke to. We can have the blessing of unity, through the mutual recognition of one another’s dignity, and through love.

Jesus and all of the prophets speak to this: Love God with all of your strength, all of your heart, all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.

Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you.

This is the sum of the revelation God gave us in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus himself give us this formula and tells us that it contains the entire teaching of the law and the prophets.

Saint Paul elaborates, he tells us this, between faith, hope and love; the greatest is love. He says that if he speak in the tongues of angels, and of men, but does not speak lovingly, then the words are nonsense, they are so much noise.

Remember this, carry it forward and have it present with you at all times, but especially when you are at prayer or reading scripture.

If we are not interpreting the scripture through that lens we are not understanding it all.

The words of the Prophet must be understood in metaphorical terms. There is no other way to read them.

Consider the Gospel for today, the message here has nothing to do with the core values of the faith. The reading is the beginning of an argument meant to influence our perception and understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was, not what he came to do. This is an important distinction for the faith.

Mark’s gospel, the earliest, has no reference to these events presented in the reading from Matthew for today, no reference at all, and John’s gospel, the latest skips over them completely.

Luke’s gospel relates a similar set of events, but in his narrative Jesus is visited by three shepherds, not the Magi.

Apologists for the gospel tradition claim that Luke and Matthew were relating separate events, and they encourage us not to conflate them.

Let us proceed with the understanding that no such events actually took place, what we have in both gospels, is a work of narrative fiction, they are a myths, as such they are packed with metaphorical and allegorical meanings.

They are not to be taken literally.

Let us proceed with Matthew’s gospel. He tells us that three wise men, the Magi, come to Jesus and Mary after his birth and do him homage. They present him with gifts of gold and other offerings befitting a royal person, treasures of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

This is real wealth, enough to set Mary and Joseph and the Holy family up for life. If we accept this story as fact we can no longer believe that Jesus was the son of a humble carpenter.

The image is intended to establish the image of Jesus as a royal person, as the heir to David’s throne, like Herod feared, it is intended to show Jesus as a contender.

The popular interpretation of this reading is to view the Magi themselves as not just wise men, but as kings in their own right, putting their encounter with Jesus on the level of a diplomatic mission, they are of the same class, and they present gifts of the type that the laws of hospitality would demand royal powers share with each other.

The reading not only builds on the foundation of Jesus’ kingship, which the writers of Matthew begin in the presentation of Jesus’ genealogy. It also connects him to the priestly class of ancient Persia, the astronomers and priests of Zoroaster, to which Pharisaic Judaism owes a significant theological debt. This is the Judaism of the diaspora, otherwise known as Rabbinical Judaism, the sect of Judaism to which Jesus and the disciples, and Paul of Taursus belonged.

The myth is intended to convey these points and those points only, that Jesus is the heir to David, and that he is connected to mysteries of the ancient and influential Persian tradition. The same Persian tradition that was practiced by the emperor Cyrus when he released the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, so that they could return to Judea and rebuild the temple. The same Cyrus who viewed the God of the Persians, Ahura- Mazda, as one and the same with the God of the Hebrews.

The Herodian intrigue is of secondary importance to these messages. It complements the message concerning Jesus’ identity, and sets up the Herodian dynasty as a group of villains that the disciples, along with John the Baptist and Jesus will have to contend with throughout their lives. In addition the drama with Herod at Jesus’ birth topologically connects the birth of Jesus to the birth of Moses, and while these are important cues, they are not nearly as important as the main theme, which I have articulated above.
First Reading – Isaiah 60:1-6 ©

Above you the glory of the Lord appears

Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples.
Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.
Lift up your eyes and look round: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons from far away and your daughters being tenderly carried.
At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart throbbing and full; since the riches of the sea will flow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will cover you, and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing the praise of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 71(72):1-2,7-8,10-13 ©

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

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.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

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.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba
shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

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.

All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.
Second Reading – Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6 ©

It Has Now Been Revealed that Pagans Share the Same Inheritance

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 2:2

Alleluia, alleluia!

We saw his star as it rose
and have come to do the Lord homage.

Alleluia!
Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12 ©

The Visit of the Magi

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

The Second Sunday of Christmas
And the Epiphany of the Lord