A Homily – Palm Sunday (Year A) Holy Week

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

(NJB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must reject them.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the way of it.

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

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

This will open you to the way.

Consider the words of the psalmist and know this.

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

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

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

Be mindful of this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen!

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

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

This is the good news, it is the gospel.

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

Every other element of this story should be stripped away.

It is all propaganda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosanna in the highest!’

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

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

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

The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue.

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

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

The Lord has opened my ear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Humbled Himself but God Raised Him High

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

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

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

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

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

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

N. He replied:

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

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

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

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

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

C. Not I, Lord, surely?

N. He answered,

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

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

O. Not I, Rabbi, surely?

N. Jesus answered:

✠ They are your own words.

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

✠ Take it and eat; this is my body.

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

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

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

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

N. At this, Peter said,

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

N. Jesus answered him,

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

N. Peter said to him,

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

N. And all the disciples said the same.

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

✠ Stay here while I go over there to pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O. Greetings, Rabbi.

N. and kissed him. Jesus said to him,

✠ My friend, do what you are here for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N. Jesus answered:

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

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

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

N. They answered,

C. He deserves to die.

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

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

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

O. You too were with Jesus the Galilean.

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

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

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

O. This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.

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

O. I do not know the man.

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

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

Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing:

O. I do not know the man.

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

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

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

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

N. They replied:

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

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

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

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

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

O. Are you the king of the Jews?

N. Jesus replied,

✠ It is you who say it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N. they said,

C. Barabbas.

N. Pilate said to them:

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

N. They all said:

C. Let him be crucified!

N. Pilate asked:

O. Why? What harm has he done?

N. But they shouted all the louder,

C. Let him be crucified!

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. Hail, king of the Jews!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✠ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

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

C. The man is calling on Elijah.

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

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

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

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

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

C. In truth this was a son of God.

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

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

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

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

N. Pilate said to them:

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

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

A Homily – Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)

First Reading – Genesis 12:1-4 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):4-5, 18-20, 22 ©
Second Reading – 2 Timothy 1:8-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5
The Gospel According to Matthew – 17:1 – 9 ©

(NJB)

Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Listen!

It is possible for the entire world to be blessed through the actions of a single person.

God, the creator of the universe, God does not intervene in human affairs. God does not show preference to one nation above another, one tribe over another or one person over their sister and brother.

God does not build nations, or intervene in their progress to make them great.

God does not distribute blessings and curses capriciously.

God has made every person, and the entire universe free.

Be mindful of this!

It is fitting to praise God. It is wise to trust in divine mercy; though do not expect God to rescue you from danger, and do not believe that God’s loves any one of God’s children more than any other.

You have heard this said:

God knows all things, God understands all things, but God’s knowledge is not an abstract knowledge of the particular details of individual events. God understands us, our person, our choices, our lives; God’s understands us even as we understand ourselves, only with a clarity that we could never possess.

Trust in God’s plan for you, and for creation, but do not wait for salvation. God made you well at the beginning, go and share the good news.

We are already saved, our salvation is a gift of grace, and no-one is excluded.

We have been given the power to know the truth and love goodness, we are asked to be kind and show mercy.

Let Jesus show you the way.

Know this!

Before the beginning of time, God’s saving purpose was at work in creation. All that we experience here was conceived in the saving will of God.

Let your mind dwell on this.

God has called us to be holy, at all times the voice of God can be heard speaking in the heart, calling to us, inviting us into a life of compassion and wellbeing.

God, the creator of the universe; God does this out of love. It was God’s plan from the beginning of time, that there would not be one of us, not one child of God, not one being in the whole of creation who is outside of God’s plan.

Jesus revealed this through the love he bore, he showed us the way.

Follow it!

The resurrection does not show us that God has abolished death as much as it reveals that the death of the body is merely a transition, which we all pass through on our journey toward the light.

Consider the Gospel for today:

As Christians we are bound to read it in the context of its truthfulness.

Let the Spirit of Truth guide us, even if it means rejecting the Gospel as it is written.

There may have been an event, when Jesus together with James and John went up the mountain by themselves.

It may have been that in this time Jesus taught his companions the essential message that his ministry was in keeping with that of Moses, the liberator, the law giver; and Elijah, the truthteller.

Something like that may have happened but the supernatural events described in the reading for today did not.

God, the creator of the universe, God does not engage in supernatural activities. God is the author of nature and of its laws. God does not violate these laws for any reason.

It may also be that Jesus wanted to connect his ministry to the mythology of Enoch, he may have taught this to the disciples, to preparing them for his passing and his eventual return.

Jesus did warn the disciples that his ministry would lead to his death, but like Enoch, the Son of Man, death would not stop him.

Jesus may have wanted them to believe this, just as he may have wanted them to believe that the ministry of John the Baptist was being carried on through him.

Be mindful!

Read the Gospel in such a way that you strip from it the fantastical elements, the magic and miracles if they are not treated as metaphors, elucidate nothing. Insisting they are real is contrary to the way.
First Reading – Genesis 12:1-4 ©

All the Tribes of the Earth Shall Bless Themselves by You

The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.

‘I will bless those who bless you: I will curse those who slight you.

All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.’

So Abram went as the Lord told him.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):4-5, 18-20, 22 ©

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

The word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with his love.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.
Second Reading – 2 Timothy 1:8-10 ©

God Calls and Enlightens Us

With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!

From the bright cloud the Father’s voice was heard:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 17:1 – 9 ©

His Face Shone Like the Sun

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’
Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)

A Homily – First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

First Reading – Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©
Second Reading – Romans 5:12-19 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4
The Gospel According to Matthew – 4:1 – 11 ©

(NJB)

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Be mindful!

This is the story of creation and the origins of humanity, it is an etiological myth attempting to explain the origins of sin.

It does not explain anything.

The narrative demonstrates a belief that God, who created the universe on the macro scale, is also responsible for bringing life to all of the things and beings with in it. The myth intends to convey the message that creation is good, and that human beings are good.

The myth also conveys the notion that there are laws that govern creation, and human beings were intended to be subject to them, but that we are also free and that the violation of God’s law has consequences.

What is important to know about the divine law and justice is this: With God there is never justice without mercy. When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that already found us.

When we are contrite, our contrition is like a shower that washes us clean. God has forgiven us, god forgave us even before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of sin.

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

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

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

Listen!

The scope of the creature’s actions, and the consequences that flow from sin, cannot exceed the scope of divine intention and the power of grace to heal.

Consider the Gospel reading for today and know that there is no devil, there is no deceiver except the deceiver that lies in our hearts.

God, the creator of the universe, God has given us the ability to know the truth, and to discern good from evil. God has also given each of us the ability to deny the truth, reject it and lie.

The lies we tell always originate in our own heart. We tell them first to ourselves, before we try to convince others about the truth of what is not true.

We face many temptations as human beings. The reading for today highlights three of the most basic forms that the temptation to do evil might take.

The temptation to turn stones into bread is not the temptation to perform a magic trick, it is an acknowledgement that we are at times tempted toward injustice by the simplest and most ordinary things…by hunger and thirst, by the necessity of meeting our most basic needs.

Any of us, when faced with making those hard choices, the choice to feed ourselves, our children, the ones we love, any of us will contemplate breaking the laws of the state, and the laws of God as well.

The temptation to throw himself off the wall of the temple, was not the temptation to rely on a supernatural power for safety and protection, it was the temptation to vanity. The temptation was to believe in ourselves so much that we can risk any danger, even risk our own lives, and therefore the well-being of everyone who depends on us out of the belief that we can do no wrong, or that nothing can harm us.

The third temptation was not the temptation to rule the world, because that is the temptation to fantasy. The temptation is based on the love of wealth and power in any of its species. This is the most ordinary temptation of all.

To succumb to these temptation, to yield to any of them is to suborn our faith in the way that Jesus taught us, and to put in its place faith in our own machinations.

The way of Christ is what Jesus summarized in his presentation of the golden rule; do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Love God with all your strength, and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Walk humbly, serve justice and be merciful all the days of your life.
First Reading – Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 ©

The Creation, and the Sin of Our First Parents

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Second Reading – Romans 5:12-19 ©

However Great the Number of Sins Committed, Grace was Even Greater

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4

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

Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 4:1 – 11 ©

The Temptation in the Wilderness

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple.

‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.
First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

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

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

(NJB)

Ash Wednesday (Year A)
Remember this:

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

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

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

When you go to the people go in modesty.

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

Listen!

With God there is never justice without mercy.

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

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

Be mindful!

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

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

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

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

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

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

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

Be glad.

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

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

Hear this!

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

Proclaim that every day is a day of salvation.

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

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

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

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

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

Know this!

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

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

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

Be mindful of this!

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

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

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

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

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

Let Your Hearts Be Broken, Not Your Garments Torn

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

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

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

Sound the trumpet in Zion!

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

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

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

Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Reconciled to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Reading – Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4, 8, 10, 12-13 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:23
Alternative Acclamation – 1 John 2:5
The Gospel According to Matthew – 5:38 – 48 ©

(NJB)

The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Listen to the word of God and know that there is no justice without mercy.

Give thanks to God, the creator of the universe. Give thanks for the peace of God’s blessing, the blessing of life, and of freedom, of self-determination and every other aspect of our being that allows us to be persons.

Give thanks to those who are loving, to the peacemakers and bless them as you are able.

Bless all of God’s children, as God does, love them all, both the good and the bad, the helpful and the harmful, the just and the unjust.

Remember this, God is not a king, God is not a Lord. God does not favor one group over another. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings.

God has made everyone free.

The living God dwells within the living you, and in the living I. God, the creator of the universe dwells in everyone, in all beings, at all times, in all places.

God dwells in you, and I, and your enemy (whoever that might be), and where God is present, God is present fully.

Be mindful!

Wisdom is wisdom, and folly is folly, and you are not special except insofar as you are loved.

You are loved no-more and no-less than any other.

You are no-more and no-less wise.

You are no-more and no-less a fool.

We are all journeying in the way, and the way leads to God.

Be Mindful!

The grace of God is not transactional.

Love fosters love, but there is always love and God is always with you.

God dwells in all people, regardless of their character and the quality of the life they have lived.

Some people bear witness through the quality of their lives the love that Jesus showed us and asked us to emulate. In others we are confronted with the need to be merciful, and to demonstrate through our own choices the qualities of mercy and forgiveness Jesus asked us to show.

Remember this!

God is present in every person. Some express the love of God, while others call for a loving response.

Consider the Gospel for today, and be mindful.

The old law was the law of retribution. In it, there was no room for mercy. Under the old law it was thought that whether you do good deeds or bad deeds you are paid back in kind, and you are paid back in equal measure.

Most of the religious systems in the world adhere to a view of justice based on this concept. The laws of Karma articulated in Hinduism, are the most succinctly articulated and concisely conceptualized.

Every religion that points its believers to some kind of afterlife, has some variant of a mythology that shows the individual being weighed or measured on the scales of justice, before receiving their eternal reward, or punishment, as the case might be.

In the aforementioned Hindu system of beliefs, the individual remains on the wheel of life until the scales are balanced, and then they are released.

The Jains, the Sikhs and the Baha’i, all imagine something very much the same. They imagine that the soul enters the world in a state of purity and light, but life in the flesh entangles them in the dirty business of existence.

They become soiled.

The task then is to move toward the light, avoiding all things that contaminate the soul. Until, at the end they are once again burning pure and bright.

The old law was a law of retribution.

It was only one stage better than the law of terror which read:

Not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but a head for an eye and a tribe for a head.

Jesus instructed us in the divine law, and the divine law is reflected in the way of mercy; to sacrifice is to forgive, and this is the path to holiness.

Jesus taught us to go beyond what is ordinary, surpass the conventions, teach love and mercy, by being loving and merciful, even to those you would shun or fear.

This is the way and there is no other.

Both Jesus and the Buddha believed that a person could balance the scales in a moment. It did not take lifetimes, we are not in bondage to our past, to our history, to our station, or to our ancestors.

We are good when we are doing good, we burn brightly when we are on fire with compassion.
First Reading – Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 ©

You Must Love Your Neighbour as Yourself

The Lord spoke to Moses; he said: ‘Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them:

‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

‘“You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4, 8, 10, 12-13 ©

The Lord is compassion and love.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.

The Lord is compassion and love.

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion.

The Lord is compassion and love.

The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.

The Lord is compassion and love.

As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him.

The Lord is compassion and love.
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ©

You Belong to Christ and Christ Belongs to God

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:23

Alleluia, alleluia!

If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him.

Alleluia!

Alternative Acclamation – 1 John 2:5

Alleluia, alleluia!

Whenever anyone obeys what Christ has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 5:38 – 48 ©

Love Your Enemies

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

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

First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118(119):1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Samuel 3:9, John 6:68
Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 11 :25
The Gospel According to Matthew – 5: 17 – 37 ©

(NJB)

The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Listen!

God has prepared the way for you, look ahead you can see it. The lane is clear and smooth and yours to take, but on the margins there are ruts and grooves, there are stones and roots, and other things to stumble on.

You may take which ever path you like, because all paths lead to God.

Look into the fire and there is God, dip your cup in the well and there is God.

Water cleanses without hurt, fire cleanses as it burns, in both fire and water we encounter the divine, turn around and God is with you, plant your feet and God is there. Close your eyes and stop your ears, God remains.

God is with you in your heart.

Nothing evil comes from God, and all things bend toward the good.

Be mindful!

God’s law is written in our hearts. God speaks to us there. All other versions of God’s law are merely reflections of the divine law that each of us carries with us.

God’s law is a living flame. Look into your heart see it shimmering there, wrapping itself around the coals.

God’s law is to love, and there is no other law. To love is its own reward. You will receive no other.

Remember this!

Those who do not love are not unloved by God. We are called on to love, even the hateful, love is the only cure for their hatred.

When you petition God; the creator of the universe, do not petition God for favor. Do not ask God for special treatment, do not ask God to prefer you over any other one of God’s children. Do not promise to do for God what is not within your power to do.

Be wise and ask for wisdom.

Do not lie to God, or yourself when you petition God.

Do not ask from God what it already lies within your power to do for yourself.

Be mindful of the sacred text, it has been made a tool for human beings, and there are places, many places that offer us a window on human vanity and nothing more.

There is no mystery in the sacred text, there is only the commandment that we love one another as God loves us. This is the demand that the divine law makes on our conscience; to act mercifully in the interest of justice.

Live a life filled with compassion, and you will be following the way.

When a leader arises in our midst, we must acknowledge them and their appointment if it is a reflection of the will of the people.

When that leadership is pure, and we see that their work is holy, we must acknowledge that, but in the acknowledgment of these things it is important to not embellish.

Remember that god speaks to all people.

God, the creator of the universe; God speaks in the human heart.

Be mindful of what the gospel teaches!

Here is the good news; 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.

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.

God has already forgiven you. You are already saved.

God has prepared you and everyone for eternal life.

Believe it!

Let the goodness of the promise flow through you, begin to live your 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 each other.

The teachings of Jesus cannot be treated like a shell game, though they are, and have been since the beginning, as Matthew’s Gospel illustrates.

The way of Jesus is not a long con, it is not a bait and switch, it is a simple teaching that cannot be controlled or owned by any one group of people.

God, the creator of the universe, God has hidden nothing from you. The truth is in the open for anyone to see.

The wise and the powerful, the learned and the clever, the weak and the meek, everyone has access to the same truth, to the knowledge of God, the understanding of justice, the freedom to hope and love.

Who are the wise and powerful, who are the learned and the clever, who are the faithful and childlike. In every generation, you will see a new group labeling the elder group as out of touch, blind, privileged, in the dark, corrupt.

It is an endless cycle, and the truth remains the same; love justice, be merciful, do good, serve God through the loving service you provide to one another: your family, your friend, your neighbor, the stranger, even your enemy.

That is the way Jesus asked us to follow.

Just because a person is be wise and powerful, learned and clever, or a child of the church, does not mean they recognize the truth when they see it, or act upon when they do.

It is not your station in society, it is not how other people regard you, it is not the titles you have earned, or the ways that you have been marginalized that give us the tell on how you will fulfill the calling to follow Jesus. What matters is what is in your heart, and your willingness to trust in the content of your hope.

Consider the Gospel reading for today.

The way is simple and elegant, and it is among the most difficult of challenges.

The writers of Matthew’s Gospel attempted to summarize Jesus’ teaching on the law. Those who had known Jesus, or who had been instructed in the faith by those who did know him, they believed sincerely that they knew what was in Jesus’ heart.

Nevertheless, their summary of it fell short of the mark, because, as with all matters pertaining to the divine, and to God, the creator of the universe, our human understanding falls short.

Know this, in this passage, the kingdom of heaven which Jesus refers to, is not a place beyond this world. It is the world we live in; it is not the world as it is, but the world as it could be, if we set aside our sins.

Know this, the hell which the gospels refer to is not a place beyond this world, it is not the diametric opposite of heaven, it is the realm of the dead, it is the place where we are, as we are still caught up in our sin.

We have a choice, a choice we can exercise right now; to live in the way of the divine, in a community of peace and love, or to live in a world conditioned by fear and greed, characterized by strife and pain.

If we chose the way, no matter how much we may desire it, we cannot have it, be in it, bring others to it, if we are not reconciled to the community that we live in. If we hold a grudge, if there is enmity, we must address these first and come to a place of healing.

In the way, what we do matters, but our intentions matter as much or more.

A person may not be a thief, but if they covet their neighbor’s possessions there is no peace between them. What we hold in our heart, that determines the nature of our relationships with each other.

Forgive and be forgiven, this is not a transaction, it is a simple injunction.

Let go of the hardness and covetousness in your heart, accept the mercy that is offered to you.

Be loved, and love.
First Reading – Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21 ©

God Predestined Wisdom to Be for Our Glory Before the Ages Began

If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power.

He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer.

Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.

For vast is the wisdom of the Lord; he is almighty and all-seeing.

His eyes are on those who fear him, he notes every action of man.

He never commanded anyone to be godless, he has given no one permission to sin.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118(119):1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 ©

They are happy who follow God’s law!

They are happy whose life is blameless,
who follow God’s law!
They are happy who do his will,
seeking him with all their hearts.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

You have laid down your precepts
to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
to obey your statutes.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Bless your servant and I shall live
and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
the wonders of your law.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Teach me the demands of your statutes
and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law,
to keep it with my heart.

They are happy who follow God’s law!
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 ©

God Predestined Wisdom to Be for Our glory Before the Ages Began

We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end. The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.
These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.
Gospel Acclamation – 1 Samuel 3:9, John 6:68

Alleluia, alleluia!

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

Alleluia!
Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 11 :25

Alleluia, alleluia!

Blessed are you, Father,

Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom
to mere children.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 5: 17 – 37 ©

You Have Learnt How it was Said to Our Ancestors; but I Say this to You

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

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

First Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 111(112):4-9 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 8:12
The Gospel According to Matthew 5:13 – 16 ©

(NJB)

The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Listen.

Meditate on the scriptures and consider their meaning when they refer to the light of God, in this moment we should reflect on the teaching of Isaiah, as Jesus often did.

Be mindful of these precepts:

We are light when we are shine like the justice of God, we are light when we are merciful, we are light when we speak words of love and perform acts of service to those who are in need, this is when we are light.

We are light when we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the poor, and clothe the naked. When we are light we are healed of our own sickness, the sickness in our hearts and in our minds, the disease which clamors for us to horde our wealth, and feed our greed.

When we are giving we are good, and God’s light shines through us like a beacon, it shines in all directions and says to those who see it that we have made a dwelling for God in our heart.

We are light when we release the poor, when we uncurl the clenched fist, when we speak with kindness, and raise up the oppressed, this is when we are light.

When we are light we shine in the darkness, and our shadow departs from us as if we were standing beneath the sun at noon.

Be mindful!

This is what the scriptures are speaking to when they preach to us about God’s light.

Consider the words of the psalmist.

God, the creator of the universe, God is just, righteous and filled with compassion.

The destiny of each and every one of God’s children, is God’s own self; when the seed of the Word that God has planted in each of us, sprouts and comes to fruition, the fullness of the blossom is God’s own self.

Listen!

Righteousness and compassion are their own reward, nothing extra comes to you from God for in exchange for doing good. The Godly life is not a matter of commerce.

Be mindful, what is good true does not require a letter of introduction. A person’s past deeds are not necessarily a prelude to their future actions, the good may to ill, and the wicked may do good.

Take each day as it comes.

We are not called to be guarded or suspicious of each other’s motives, neither are we called on to blindly accept a person’s credentials.

Listen!

We are all in the way, and the way does not exclude anyone. We are all moving inexorably toward God, both the cooperative and the recalcitrant we are all moving toward the divine, the source of all being.

Consider the Gospel for today and know that there are no guarantees in life.

Listen to Jesus as he teaches his disciples, he understood the natural failings of human beings. Jesus knew that a person can be salient and good in one moment, bitter and coercive in the next.

Not even the disciples, as close as they were to Jesus, were free from these propensities. Why would it be any different for the Christian man or woman who follows them.

If you set out to teach, and be a light in the world, then do that. It requires you to live intentionally.

Be mindful of what Jesus said; a lamp, once lit, should be put on the lamp-stand, but even still it requires constant attention. The lamp oil must be refilled, the wick must be trimmed, replaced, and the soot must be cleaned from it.

If you intend to live your life as an exemplar of the way, you must be diligent, watchful, mindful of yourself and humble.

In your pursuit of the light, reflect on the teaching of Isaiah:

“Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin.”
First Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10 ©

Then will your light shine like the dawn

Thus says the Lord:

Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin.

Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.

Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 111(112):4-9 ©

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
he is generous, merciful and just.
The good man takes pity and lends,
he conducts his affairs with honour.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

The just man will never waver:
he will be remembered for ever.
He has no fear of evil news;
with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

With a steadfast heart he will not fear;
open-handed, he gives to the poor;
his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ©

The Only Knowledge I Claimed Was of the Crucified Christ

When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.
Gospel Acclamation – John 8:12

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
anyone who follows me will have the light of life.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 5:13 – 16 ©

Your Light Must Shine in the Sight of Men

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’
The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

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

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

(NJB)

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

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

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

Be mindful.

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

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

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

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

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

Embrace God’s judgment!

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

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

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

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

Be mindful of this, at all times be mindful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is my light and my help.

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

The Lord is my light and my help.

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

The Lord is my light and my help.

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

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

Make Up the Differences Between You Instead of Disagreeing Among Yourselves

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

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

Alleluia, alleluia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NJB)

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

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

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

Be mindful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the psalm for today:

It wise to believe in the God of creation.

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

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

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

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

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

God is not a king.

Listen!

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Jesus.

Do good.

Love justice.

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

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

Be mindful

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

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

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

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

Know this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus was baptized by John.

It was the first moment of his public career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my Servant, in Whom My Soul Delights

Thus says the Lord:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

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

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

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

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

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

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

God Had Anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit

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

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

Alleluia, alleluia!

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

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

‘This is my Son, the Beloved’

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

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

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

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

(NJB)

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

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

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

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

Now Listen!

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

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

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

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

God loves all of God’s children equally.

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

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

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

Do not follow the Psalmist into error.

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

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

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

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

God does not favor war at all.

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

Be mindful!

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

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

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

Consider this:

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

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

Pray this:

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

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

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

We all need each other.

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

Choose well.

Be mindful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Eternity, in the Beginning, God Created Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

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

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

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

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

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

The Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

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

Before the World Was Made, God Chose Us in Christ

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

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

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

Alleluia, alleluia!

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

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

The Word Was Made Flesh, and Lived Among Us

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

He was with God in the beginning.

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

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

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.

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

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

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

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

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

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:

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

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

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