February 18, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jas 1:12-18

Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.


No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.


Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,

and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.


Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.


He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Responsorial Psalm: 94:12-13a, 14-15, 18-19

R.    Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.


Blessed the man whom you instruct, O LORD, whom by your law you teach, giving him rest from evil days.


R.    Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.


For the LORD will not cast off his people, nor abandon his inheritance; but judgment shall again be with justice, and all the upright of heart shall follow it.


R.    Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.


When I say, “My foot is slipping,” your mercy, O LORD, sustains me; when cares abound within me, your comfort gladdens my soul.


R.    Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.

Alleluia: Jn 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord; and my Father will love him and we will come to him.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.


Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”


They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread.


When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?


And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”


They answered him, “Twelve.”


“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”


They answered him, “Seven.”


He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Homily

Today's homily comes to us from Thomas Bambrick, SJ,  a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA.


Too often in prayer, I find myself doing all the talking and thinking, leaving little, if any, space for God to get a word in edgewise! Sometimes I even forget that God is there at all!


Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel today seem to have the same issue. They talk among themselves to try to figure things out, rather than focusing on what Jesus is saying and doing right in front of them.


In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius tells us that before we begin our prayer, we should take a moment to consider how God is present to us right now. In other words, our attention should be, first and foremost, on God.


Maybe the invitation for us today is to pause our own thinking and talking so we can be attentive to God, so we can see and hear what God is feeling and desiring for us.

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Reading 1: Jas 1:1-11

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.


Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.


And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.


But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.


The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in high standing, and the rich one in his lowliness,   for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.” For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.


So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Responsorial Psalm: 119:67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I hold to your promise.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


You are good and bountiful; teach me your statutes.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


I know, O LORD, that your ordinances are just, and in your faithfulness you have afflicted me.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.


Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants.


R.    Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live.

Alleluia: Jn 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.


He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”


Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

Homily

There are times when we all look for something abnormal to proclaim God’s presence. In fact it is all around us. There are signs enough of God in our every day: “


"One asked a sign from God, and day by day

The sun rose in pearl; in scarlet set;

Each night the stars appeared in bright array;

Each morn the thirsty grass with dew was wet;

The corn failed not its harvest, nor the wine —

And yet he saw no sign." 


Jesus asks for faith in him and in his words, not in signs and miracles. The sign given in prayer is simply that we pray; not much may happen, but it is our time, our love given to God. Our works for God are action in time. Prayer is time for the heart. God is always at work growing our heart so that it is more like the heart of His Son.


Prayer is a time of faith. Often we get no signs from God of anything more than the fruit of time spent with God. Feelings are not always high in prayer, but a grace of growth in faith and love is always given in prayer. Jesus is not always the man of big signs but is the one of constant and gentle love, given wholly in the sign of his death.


The Pharisees approach Jesus demanding some authenticating sign from God, some spectacular public display, to test whether he is the true Messiah. But, with a sigh that comes straight from the heart, Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." Today, people often look for miraculous signs such as moving statues, revolutions of the sun, or some other spectacular display of God's power to strengthen their faith. The only sign that Jesus gives his own life, death, and resurrection. 

February 6, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Kgs 2:1-4, 10-12

When the time of David’s death drew near, he gave these instructions to his son Solomon:


“I am going the way of all flesh. Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn, and the LORD may fulfill the promise he made on my behalf when he said, ‘If your sons so conduct themselves that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart and with their whole soul, you shall always have someone of your line on the throne of Israel.’”


David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David.


The length of David’s reign over Israel was forty years: he reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.


Solomon was seated on the throne of his father David, with his sovereignty firmly established.

Responsorial: 1 Chronicles 29:10, 11ab, 11d-12a, 12bcd

R.    Lord, you are exalted over all.


“Blessed may you be, O LORD, God of Israel our father, from eternity to eternity.”


R.    Lord, you are exalted over all.


“Yours, O LORD, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory.”


R.    Lord, you are exalted over all.


“LORD, you are exalted over all. Yours, O LORD, is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor are from you.”


R.    Lord, you are exalted over all.


“In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”


R.    Lord, you are exalted over all.

Alleluia: Mk 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.


He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.


He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”


So they went off and preached repentance.


The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Homily

Today Jesus sends His disciples out to preach, teach, and heal.  Jesus was wise.  Jesus knew that since they were beginning preachers they would need support.  He also realized that the disciples would be more effective if they had companions in this ministry.  Thus, He sent them out in pairs.


Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing with them on their journey: no food, no extra clothing, no money.  This meant that His disciples would have to depend on the generosity of the people to meet their needs.  I wonder how Jesus’ disciples reacted to His instructions.  Were they tempted to carry some food or a change of clothing along with them or did they trust that God and generous people would provide for them?


The disciples left and began preaching.  Amazingly, they were able to work miracles!  They drove out demons and cured people who were seriously ill.  Imagine what was it like for these disciples to have the ability to perform healings and miracles, to preach and to teach.  These men were not learned.  They were simple fishermen and workers, yet Jesus empowered them to bring healing and give spiritual food to others.


Today Jesus also calls us to preach and teach.  We are His disciples in our world.  Jesus calls us to reach out and touch others with our love, care, and concern.  In a world in which most everyone is too busy to slow down, we can give the gift of our interest, time, and support.  This may not sound like much of a gift, but a few minutes of being present to another person may be the most precious gift he or she will receive today.

February 5, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 2 Sm 24:2, 9-17

King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.”


Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered: in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand.


Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people, and said to the LORD:


“I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”


When David rose in the morning, the LORD had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying:


“Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: 


I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.’”


Gad then went to David to inform him.


He asked:  “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land, or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you, or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.”


David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty. Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful; but let me not fall by the hand of man.”


Thus David chose the pestilence. 


Now it was the time of the wheat harvest when the plague broke out among the people. The LORD then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.


But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD regretted the calamity and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people,

“Enough now! Stay your hand.”


The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.


When David saw the angel who was striking the people, he said to the LORD: “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong.


But these are sheep; what have they done? Punish me and my kindred.”

Responsorial Psalm: 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R.    Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.


Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile.


R.    Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.


Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin.


R.    Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.


For this shall every faithful man pray to you in time of stress. Though deep waters overflow, they shall not reach him.


R.    Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.


You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me; with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.


R.    Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.

Alleluia: Jn 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.


When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.


They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”


And they took offense at him.


Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”


So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.


He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

Homily

Today’s Gospel reading begins as Jesus and His disciples return home, to his native place. On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and He began to teach. All who listened to Jesus were astonished. They were taken aback at the power of His teaching as well as the power of His presence. This was Jesus, a man they knew very well. He was a man who had grown up in their midst. 


How did Jesus become so knowledgeable and such a powerful speaker?  He was the son of a carpenter, not the son of a rabbi.  Many of the people in his hometown discounted Jesus and His message.  They refused to listen to Him.  After all, who did Jesus think He was to preach to the people who had known Him from birth?


Jesus did not get angry.  Rather, Jesus replied to their comments by saying that typically a prophet is not honored by the people who have known him from birth.  Jesus realized that He was too familiar to the people who had known him as a child. They only saw in Him what they wanted to see.  Thus Jesus was unable to perform any great deeds there as they did not have faith in Him. 


It can be easy to discount the people whom we know the best.  They are so familiar to us that we simply may take them for granted.  Take a moment and think about the people in your life: what are their gifts?  How do they gift you with their love and care?  Do you truly appreciate them?  Do you appreciate their gifts and talents?  Do you let them know how important they are to you? 


Today make time to give thanks for the many people who love and care about you!  In some small way, let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life!

February 3, 2020

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Reading 1: 2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13

An informant came to David with the report, “The children of Israel have transferred their loyalty to Absalom.”


At this, David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem:


“Up!  Let us take flight, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Leave quickly, lest he hurry and overtake us, then visit disaster upon us and put the city to the sword.”


As David went up the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went.


As David was approaching Bahurim, a man named Shimei, the son of Gera of the same clan as Saul’s family, was coming out of the place, cursing as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the king’s officers, even though all the soldiers, including the royal guard, were on David’s right and on his left.


Shimei was saying as he cursed:


“Away, away, you murderous and wicked man! The LORD has requited you for all the bloodshed in the family of Saul, in whose stead you became king, and the LORD has given over the kingdom to your son Absalom. And now you suffer ruin because you are a murderer.”


Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king:


“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and lop off his head.”


But the king replied: 


“What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’”


Then the king said to Abishai and to all his servants:


“If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.”


David and his men continued on the road, while Shimei kept abreast of them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went.

Responsorial: 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R.    Lord, rise up and save me.


O LORD, how many are my adversaries! Many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “There is no salvation for him in God.”


R.    Lord, rise up and save me.


But you, O LORD, are my shield; my glory, you lift up my head! When I call out to the LORD, he answers me from his holy mountain.


R.    Lord, rise up and save me.


When I lie down in sleep, I wake again, for the LORD sustains me. I fear not the myriads of people arrayed against me on every side.


R.    Lord, rise up and save me.

Alleluia: Lk 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


A great prophet has arisen in our midst and God has visited his people.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.


The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.


Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.


Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”


(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)


He asked him, “What is your name?” He  replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.”


And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.


Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine.  Let us enter them.”


And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned.


The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened.


As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. 


As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.


But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”


Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Homily

Today's homily comes to us thanks to John Predmore, S.J.


The story of the Gerasene demoniac is certainly colorful and legendary.  It is the first time in Mark's short Gospel that he took some time to  tell a story. The story shifts from its focus on a possessed man, to the  sacrificial herd of swine, to the people of the area, and back to the  liberated man. Raw human emotions are swirling throughout each verse as  sheer terror grips the onlooker. It comes after a series of parables  describing the kingdom of God and it is the middle of three miracle  stories in which Jesus shows his power over Satan - this time in a case  of demonic possession. The tale is set within the tombs as the people  connected 'death' with 'demonic possession.' Death touches each human  heart uniquely.
 

We are to examine our responses to death. Perhaps we recall the  experience of a deceased loved one or we have dealt with aging or  illness that puts us one day closer to our own death. The thought of  death unsettles us and we want to find meaning in it, and sometimes it  is difficult to do, especially when it involves an innocent person. It  is a mystery to behold and too often, we don't want to do it. We find  clever ways to resist and even deny death. We anaesthetize ourselves to  its presence and we don't want it to cheat us or take us too soon. Death  shows we are powerless.
 

I call to mind a current film, The Rabbit Hole, that will not will any  Academy Awards, but I honor it for its realistic portrayal of a couple's  coping with the death of their four-year old son to a tragic accident.  Their happy suburban world is turned upside down. Becca, the wife, and  Howie, her husband are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt,  recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they  cannot escape. Their ways of coping are diametrically opposed to one  another. Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort in the  familiar. Becca mocks the "grieving parents" support group while Howie  finds solace, but both come in contact with a whole network of friends  who are beset by loss. No one grieves the same way. No plan or timeframe  exists for healing; memories will never fade; the search for meaning  remains elusive. Death is final.
 

Shifts comes in abrupt, unforeseen moments. Becca hesitantly opens up to  her opinionated, loving mother who is still dealing with her son's  death to a drug overdose, and Becca secretly reaches out to the teenager  involved in the accident that claimed her son's life. Howie lashes out  and daydreams about the solace he will find with another woman, a  kindred spirit who lost her daughter 8 years ago. Everyone's life is  shattered. Yet, as divergent their paths are, the couple keeps trying to  find their way back to a life that still holds the potential for  beauty, meaning, laughter and happiness. They needed to take their own  pathways, because not one way is clearly demarked. The same goes for us.
 

Becca and Howie must have felt like the Gerasene demoniac. No one could  help them as no one could help the possessed man. These demons and our  disordered attachments possess us. They define us and we cannot imagine  life without them. They are our identity. Once these demons within us  have life, they multiply and rule over us. Many times, we did not invite  them in but they are part of the cycle of shame we inherited from our  parents, our upbringing, and the events that happened to us. These are  things beyond our control, and they may result from boundaries that were  transgressed against us. It is unfortunate. I'm deeply sorry for what  has happened to you.
 

Look at the chaos it creates within us: debilitating, paralyzing shame,  sadness and loneliness, stifled anger, repressed memories, a life that  is damaged. We are cut off from our true selves. We have fallen far from  our dreams of the way our life ought to be. We don't want these demons  to have power over us anymore. They kill our spirit and we desire to be  liberated and happy. We want our life to have meaning. There is no sense  of hiding these demons. We all have them and they will do their best to  hook us. We present our best face instead of our reality for some  reason. We are broken and we come to realize we need a savior, and only  this savior's deeper affection, only his love can subdue our demons.  After a struggle to keep control, we realize we have no control and we  admit our powerlessness. We are not God. The possessed man did not save  himself. We can't save ourselves.
 

The good news is these demons do not stand a chance in front of Jesus.  When the possessed man catches sight of Jesus, he runs towards him  crying at the top of his lungs. I know I have spent many prayer periods  crying out to Jesus. What does he do? Jesus enters into my chaos. He  doesn't move me. He stays with me in the stillness. He stands there  among the tombs with me with all the shackles and chains binding me up,  and looks at me with love.
 

He desires my liberation, and he asks me to name my demons, to which I  reply, "there are so many of them. They are Legion. I want to be free of  them." He wants me to cry out to him, but to notice that he is looking  upon me with love. I, too, have to clearly name these demons and  acknowledge their power over me, the power I gave them whether  consciously or unconsciously, and I have to let Christ free me - even if  the man is hanging on the cross near death, or already dead and buried  in the tomb. The demons recognize Jesus as the Son of the Most High,  God. Why can't I?
 

I have to let him free me. I have to let him take all my chains and  shackles, anything that weighs me down, and give it to him on the cross  or lay it inside his tomb. I have to do it even though it is going to  weigh him down and cause him even more pain or break his back or even  takes the dying breath from the man. We may further hurt from our doing  this, but it is the reason he came to us. And if I cannot give it to  him, he will understand. My prayer for you is that you will at least  consent to let him take it from you so he can achieve the purpose for  which he came. Give his death the meaning he desires.
 

Like Becca and Howie, you have to find your own way of doing that. It  will be a way that you uniquely can do it, and it may take you great  courage and energy. This man who hangs on the cross or lays in the tomb  is the same man you held in your arms when he was an infant, the same  boy who was swept away into Egypt, the teen you met in his hidden years,  the man who cured and taught and revealed something precious about God  to you. This is the guy who became your good friend. He remains  steadfast to you, even though you deserted him or denied him or fell  asleep on him in his time of need. He is still in front of you reaching  out and saying, "I want to share my heart with you. Will you open yours  to receive mine. It breaks my heart that these demons separate us."  Christ took on our powerlessness because of our powerlessness.
 

Find Christ in this intimate moment of death. He wants to liberate you  so your heart can be brought into his own and to his Father's.
 

Others may be seized with fear and astonishment when they see us like  the man who was once possessed. When we allow Christ to liberate us, we  too will go off and proclaim to others what Jesus has done for us. Our  hearts will be amazed. Our hearts will remember the tender moment of  salvation when Christ called our true selves forth and showed us the  true power of God.
 

"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High?" asks the  possessed man. "Everything," he replies. "I want your liberty, your  memory, your will, your understanding, all that you have and possess.  You are mine."

January 31, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 2 Sm 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.


David, however, remained in Jerusalem. One evening David rose from his siesta and strolled about on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.


David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Joab’s armor bearer Uriah the Hittite.”


Then David sent messengers and took her. When she came to him, he had relations with her. She then returned to her house. But the woman had conceived, and sent the information to David, “I am with child.”


David therefore sent a message to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.”


So Joab sent Uriah to David. When he came, David questioned him about Joab, the soldiers, and how the war was going, and Uriah answered that all was well.


David then said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and bathe your feet.”  


Uriah left the palace, and a portion was sent out after him from the king’s table. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the royal palace with the other officers of his lord, and did not go down to his own house.


David was told that Uriah had not gone home. On the day following, David summoned him, and he ate and drank with David, who made him drunk.


But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his bed among his lord’s servants, and did not go down to his home.


The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab which he sent by Uriah. In it he directed:


“Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce. Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.”


So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew the defenders were strong.


When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab, some officers of David’s army fell, and among them Uriah the Hittite died.

Responsorial Psalm: 51:3-4, 5-6a, 6bcd-7, 10-11

R.    Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.


Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.


R.    Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.


For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”


R.    Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.


I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn. True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.


R.    Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.


Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; the bones you have crushed shall rejoice. Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt.


R.    Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Alleluia: Mt 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:


“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.


Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”


He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?


It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”


With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Homily

There will always be something hidden and mysterious about the kingdom of God. At best we get occasional hints as to what it may be or where it can be found. 


The first parable today reminds us that, while we live our ordinary day-to-day lives, the kingdom continues to grow – we do not know how! It is not we who bring it about but some mysterious power beyond our understanding. This is a consoling teaching for Christian communities under persecution, or who live in a hostile secular environment, or whose numbers are diminishing.


Equally consoling is the second parable which also deals with growth. The smallness of the mustard seed does not prevent its becoming “the greatest of all shrubs” (an exaggeration – but this is not a lesson in botany!). Christians are frequently tempted to want to be the most numerous, most powerful, most influential religion in the world. 


Even if such hopes were fulfilled, this would not guarantee that the kingdom of God had come. As Christians we do better to see ourselves as the mustard seed – small, childlike, humble, and trusting. 


As Jesus says elsewhere: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

January 30, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29

After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house, that you have brought me to this point?


Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD; you have also spoken of the house of your servant for a long time to come: this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD!


“You have established for yourself your people Israel as yours forever, and you, LORD, have become their God. And now, LORD God, confirm for all time the prophecy you have made concerning your servant and his house, and do as you have promised.


Your name will be forever great, when men say, ‘The LORD of hosts is God of Israel,’ and the house of your servant David stands firm before you.


It is you, LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who said in a revelation to your servant, ‘I will build a house for you.’

Therefore your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you. And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth; you have made this generous promise to your servant.


Do, then, bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever; for you, Lord GOD, have promised, and by your blessing the house of your servant shall be blessed forever.”

Responsorial Psalm: 132:1-2, 3-5, 11, 12, 13-14

R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.


LORD, remember David and all his anxious care; how he swore an oath to the LORD, vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob.


R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.


“I will not enter the house where I live, nor lie on the couch where I sleep; I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, till I find a home for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”


R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.


The LORD swore an oath to David a firm promise from which he will not withdraw: “Your own offspring I will set upon your throne.”


R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.


“If your sons keep my covenant, and the decrees which I shall teach them, their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.”


R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.


For the LORD has chosen Zion, he prefers her for his dwelling: “Zion is my resting place forever; in her I will dwell, for I prefer her.”


R.    The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father.

Alleluia: Ps 119:105

Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.R. Alleluia, alleluia.


A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?


For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.


Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”


He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.


To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Homily

Have you opened a new location, redesigned your shop, or added a new product or service? Don't keep it to yourself, let folks know.When Jesus begins revealing the earth-changing coming of his kingdom, he doesn’t want the teaching twisted to their own ends by political agitators or by sensationalists; so he sometimes makes his points in a veiled way – fully explaining them later to a circle of trusted followers.


Once these preachers of his message have mastered its true sense, then everything will come out into the light - just as the householder positions the lamp to fill the whole space. 


Then, too, will be the time for the true follower to let the example of her or his life shine before the eyes of all – the time for that light to shine far and wide like the light from a city illuminated at night.


In the everyday encounters and situations of our lives, are there areas where we can witness to the light of faith and the joy of knowing Jesus? 

January 27, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 2 Sm 5:1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:


“Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’”


When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, and they anointed him king of Israel.


David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years: seven years and six months in Hebron over Judah, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah.


Then the king and his men set out for Jerusalem against the Jebusites who inhabited the region. 


David was told, “You cannot enter here: the blind and the lame will drive you away!” which was their way of saying, “David cannot enter here.”


But David did take the stronghold of Zion, which is the City of David.


David grew steadily more powerful, for the LORD of hosts was with him.

Responsorial Psalm: 89:20, 21-22, 25-26

R.    My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.


Once you spoke in a vision, and to your faithful ones you said: “On a champion I have placed a crown; over the people I have set a youth.”


R.    My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.


“I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, That my hand may be always with him, and that my arm may make him strong.”


R.    My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.


“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and through my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand upon the sea, his right hand upon the rivers.”


R.    My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.

Alleluia: 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”


Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.


And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.


And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.


But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.  


Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”


For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Homily

In Mark the scribes from Jerusalem are Jesus’ severest critics. Here they do not deny that Jesus performs successful exorcisms. However, they claim that, as he is himself possessed, it is by demonic power that he casts out other demons. 


Jesus’ response, pointing to what happens in a divided kingdom or a divided house, is logical and persuasive. Then he compares himself to an intruder wanting to plunder a strong man’s property (the strong man is Satan). It is a curious but effective way to speak about exorcism.


Passages such as this remind us that the world-view shared by Jesus and his critics was very different from ours in the 21st century. We may need to ask, even more insistently than usual, for grace to understand how the story is relevant for us today. 


Always remember that Mark (and the other evangelists) is trying to explain who Jesus is and what it means to call him Savior. That is the heart of the gospel.

January 23, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7

When David and Saul approached (on David’s return after slaying the Philistine), women came out from each of the cities of Israel to meet King Saul, singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums.


The women played and sang:


“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”


Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought:


“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.”


And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.


Saul discussed his intention of killing David with his son Jonathan and with all his servants. But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him:


“My father Saul is trying to kill you. Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning; get out of sight and remain in hiding. I, however, will go out and stand beside my father in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you. If I learn anything, I will let you know.”


Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him:


“Let not your majesty sin against his servant David, for he has committed no offense against you, but has helped you very much by his deeds.


When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great victory for all Israel through him, you were glad to see it.


Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause?”


Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”


So Jonathan summoned David and repeated the whole conversation to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and David served him as before.

Responsorial Psalm: 56:2-3, 9-10a, 10b-11, 12-13

R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.


Have mercy on me, O God, for men trample upon me; all the day they press their attack against me. My adversaries trample upon me all the day; yes, many fight against me.


R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.


My wanderings you have counted; my tears are stored in your flask; are they not recorded in your book? Then do my enemies turn back, when I call upon you.


R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.


Now I know that God is with me. In God, in whose promise I glory, in God I trust without fear; what can flesh do against me?


R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.


I am bound, O God, by vows to you; your thank offerings I will fulfill. For you have rescued me from death, my feet, too, from stumbling; that I may walk before God in the light of the living.


R.    In God I trust; I shall not fear.

Alleluia: 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.


Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.


He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.


And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Homily

The opening words of today’s Gospel state that Jesus and his disciples withdrew from the crowds. I would imagine that Jesus simply needed time for rest, quiet and peace. Crowds are usually draining — especially if everybody wants your attention! 


However, this was not to be. A good number of people from various regions and cities followed Jesus. Despite His longing for quiet and peace, Jesus cured many people. However, as word of His power spread, more and more people kept coming to Jesus. The Gospel also says that unclean spirits shouted out to Jesus. These spirits recognized Jesus as the Son of God. 


Who is Jesus to us? Do we truly recognize Him as the Son of God? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Or is He simply a figure in the Bible? Do we only want Jesus to heal us so we can go on about our lives? If so, will we approach Him and ask Him for what we desire?


Perhaps the more important question is: do we desire a personal relationship with Jesus? This relationship is the greatest gift we can have! Perhaps we should ask for a deeper relationship with Jesus. Will we?

January 20, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 15:16-23

Samuel said to Saul:


“Stop! Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”


Saul replied, “Speak!”


Samuel then said: “Though little in your own esteem, are you not leader of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king of Israel and sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction. Fight against them until you have exterminated them.’


Why then have you disobeyed the LORD? You have pounced on the spoil, thus displeasing the LORD.”


Saul answered Samuel:  “I did indeed obey the LORD and fulfill the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought back Agag, and I have destroyed Amalek under the ban. But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen, the best of what had been banned, to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal.”


But Samuel said:


“Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.


For a sin like divination is rebellion, and presumption is the crime of idolatry. Because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”


Responsorial Psalm: 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

R.    To the upright I will show the saving power of God.


“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your burnt offerings are before me always. I take from your house no bullock, no goats out of your fold.”


R.    To the upright I will show the saving power of God.


“Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?”


R.    To the upright I will show the saving power of God.


“When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it? Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes. He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”


R.    To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia: Hb 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 2:18-22

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”


Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.


But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.


No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.


Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Homily

Today’s Gospel opens as people come to Jesus and ask Him: “why do your disciples not fast?” Everyone knew that the Pharisees fasted, as did the disciples of John. They are curious about the fact that Jesus and His disciples do not fast. Jesus doesn’t respond as they may have hoped He would. Rather, Jesus uses the example of a wedding feast.


Jesus tells his listeners that as long as the bridegroom is at the reception, the guests will continue to celebrate this joyous occasion. The time to fast will be when the bridegroom is no longer with them. Jesus then uses the image of a cloak that is torn and needs to be patched. He tells His listeners that anyone with sense would not use a new piece of material to patch the cloak. Given the difference in the age of the cloths, it would simply make the tear worse. Jesus then uses the image of wineskins. He says that one should never put new wine into previously used wineskins because the skins would burst.


Today, perhaps is Jesus inviting us to “do something new” rather than simply continuing to live out our old (and perhaps unhealthy) patterns? I assume that all of us have at least one pattern in our life that we would like to change. Take a moment and ask yourself: what is one small change I would like to make in my life? How serious am I about making this change?


Change is not as easy. It is easy to make a New Year’s resolution. However, it is much more difficult to keep that resolution. What is the change that you would like to make? What is the change that you desire? What is one simple step you can take to move in that direction? May we pray for one another that we will take that first step!

January 19, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 49:3, 5-6

The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.


Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength!


It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry. And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God.


R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, “Behold I come.”


R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”


R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.


R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2: 1 Cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia: Jn 1:14a, 12a

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. To those who accepted him, he gave power to become children of God.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to John: 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”


John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’


Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Homily

Today's homily comes to us thanks to Fr. J Michael Sparough, SJ.


As swimmers dare

to lie face to the sky

and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air

and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain

freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,

knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.


The Avowal, by Denise Levertov. 


Denise was a British poet, she was born in 1923 and she died in Seattle in 1997. She emigrated not only from Britain to the United States where she taught at Stanford for many years, but she journeyed from Agnosticism to Christianity, to Roman Catholicism. Her father was an Orthodox Jew then he converted to Christianity, and became an Anglican priest. Themes of her poetry are filled with her search for God in the Holy.The poem I just recited for you is called The Avowal.An avowal is an affirmation of a deep faith, of what we believe in. 


The questions for today's liturgy in Ordinary Time are, “Who are we? And who is the Christ?”Who are we? Who is the Christ? 


In today's Gospel we hear John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and calling his disciples to follow him.He names him:“Behold, there he is, the Lamb of God!”


John uses that image, which is so rich, the Lamb of God. We like to use animal images for ourselves don't we? Think of Chicago sports teams: The Chicago Bears! The Chicago Cubs! The Chicago Bulls! Even the shortened version of the Chicago Hawks. 


Nations love images and totems—we identify with their spirit. The bald eagle! The lord of the sky. The fierce king of the skies. Benjamin Franklin suggested that a better animal totem for the United States would be the turkey because we would be less likely to rush into war with a turkey as our motto.


But for Russia, it's the bear; for China,it's the dragon. These are fierce images. Even our political parties have animal totems:Donkeys and Elephants. What's the image for Jesus? The Lamb of God, a gentle lamb. Can you imagine a high school football team being called, The South Barrington Lambs or The InvernessLambs?


Can you imagine what our image of ourselves would be as Americans if were the American Lambs? No, a lamb is gentle. A lamb is meek. And when John uses that image, he evokes, in his listeners the story of Exodus chapter 12: The Israelites are slaves and they're instructed to slaughter the lamb and smear the blood on their lentils, on their door posts,so that when the Angel of death passes by their children would be saved.


Another image is from the Suffering Servant psalm in Isaiah 53: Like a lamb led to the slaughter he was pierced for our offenses—wounded for our sins. 


This image of the Lamb of God is so important that we recite it on Sundays when we proclaim the Gloria and twice right before we receive communion at the fraction right: "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" and the priest holding up the host, "Behold the Lamb of God" echoing those words of John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb who takes our sins upon himself." Who is this lamb and who are we?


John says that he came baptizing with water—a baptism of repentance to wash away sin. But he said the one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. In Johannine theology it points to the divinity of Christ. He existed before me though he was born after me.It points to the pre-eminence of the Christ—a hint at the trinity; [a hint] of this God who baptizes not simply with water, but with the Holy Spirit. And what did Jesus hear at his baptism when the skies were ripped open and the Spirit descended like a dove? John saw that image of the Spirit descending like a dove.


He had had some charismatic experience, some mystical experience, and he was given part of the image.It was like part of a map, and his part of the map was:"Your job is to proclaim that he who is the Lamb of God, the one who is coming who will be the Son of God.He's coming into the world. Get ready folks. That's your job," but John was only given part of the map. He didn't know who it was[that was coming]. Did you catch not once but twice in today's Gospel John says, "I didn't know who he was." 


He knew his cousin Jesus, but he didn't know his cousin's deeper identity. That [hidden identity] had to be revealed by God. The father gave him a hint. He said, "When the Spirit comes down like a dove and remains upon him." The image of a dove would certainly evoke in John's hearers the image of Noah and the ark. 


And you remember the waters cover the Earth and Noah sends out a bird, and it comes back. He sends out a bird and it comes back. He sends out a dove and it comes back with an olive branch in its beak. And then Noah knows that the waters have receded[leaving]the beginnings of a new earth. God is starting over again. And so when this dove descends and comes to rest on Jesus, there's a new beginning—a new creation in Christ Jesus, this Lamb who takes away our sin. This is the Lamb who comes to baptize not simply with water but with the Holy Spirit. And what does John hear about Jesus? What does Jesus hear when that Spirit of God descends upon him but, "You are my beloved."


As we grow into our baptism we grow in the knowledge of who we are, not just as individuals but as a people. We are God's beloved. And the Lamb of God comes to wash away our sin. 


Are we broken? Yes. Are we sinful? Yes. Are we God's beloved? Yes.


I love the way that Fr. Richard Rohr puts it, he says: "We are not loved because we're good, we become good because we're loved."


Do you remember the book from many years ago back in the 70s, I'm okay, You’re okay? The Gospel says, "I'm not okay, you're not okay." But I am beloved and you are beloved. This journey that we make together as a holy family of faith is a journey into believing the truth of our baptism. 


The sacrament of baptism is received once in our life, but what is the task of Ordinary Time? It’s to grow into believing the grace of our baptism, that you and I are God's beloved, despite our brokenness, despite that fact that we're not okay, despite the fact that we do terrible things to one another and to ourselves. 


God never, ever, turns his back on us and the promise is Jesus' blood. Jesus shed's his blood not to appease some angry God, Jesus' death changes nothing in the heart of God because God's promise is eternal love. But that blood shed for us is the eternal promise that we might believe and never forget how much God loves us.Despite our faults and our failings and our inconsistencies as individuals, as a church, as a city, as a state, as a nation and as a world, we are a broken people. 


And still Jesus comes to say, "I love you, I forgive you, let me wash you clean. Let me renew the power of your baptism everyday."


This is the task of OrdinaryTime, to grow in the knowledge of who we are, and we do that as a people. I love what Saint John XXIII wrote in his spiritual journal. He wrote, "We are saved or lost, like grapes in a cluster."


We are saved or lost like grapes in a cluster. We're in it together folks. We can destroy one another with our nitpicking, and with our judgments, and with our categories of who's in, who's out, who's good, and who's bad. Or, we can grow to look at one another with softer eyes and surrender to this grace that we cannot earn, but open our hearts to receive. 


As swimmers dare

to lie face to the sky

and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air

and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain

freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,

knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.


Amen.

January 18, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1

There was a stalwart man from Benjamin named Kish, who was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite. He had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man. There was no other child of Israel more handsome than Saul; he stood head and shoulders above the people.


Now the asses of Saul’s father, Kish, had wandered off. Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go out and hunt for the asses.”


Accordingly they went through the hill country of Ephraim, and through the land of Shalishah. Not finding them there, they continued through the land of Shaalim without success. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but they failed to find the animals.


When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD assured him, “This is the man of whom I told you; he is to govern my people.”


Saul met Samuel in the gateway and said, “Please tell me where the seer lives.”


Samuel answered Saul: “I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place and eat with me today. In the morning, before dismissing you, I will tell you whatever you wish.”


Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head; he also kissed him, saying:


“The LORD anoints you commander over his heritage. You are to govern the LORD’s people Israel, and to save them from the grasp of their enemies roundabout.


“This will be the sign for you that the LORD has anointed you commander over his heritage.”

Responsorial Psalm: 21:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R.    Lord, in your strength the king is glad.


O LORD, in your strength the king is glad; in your victory how greatly he rejoices! You have granted him his heart’s desire; you refused not the wish of his lips.


R.    Lord, in your strength the king is glad.


For you welcomed him with goodly blessings, you placed on his head a crown of pure gold. He asked life of you: you gave him length of days forever and ever.


R.    Lord, in your strength the king is glad.


Great is his glory in your victory; majesty and splendor you conferred upon him. For you made him a blessing forever; you gladdened him with the joy of your face.


R.    Lord, in your strength the king is glad.

Alleluia: Lk 4:18

Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 2:13-17

Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them.


As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post.


Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”


And he got up and followed Jesus. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.


Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”


Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Homily

In his early ministry Jesus was invited to speak in the synagogue, but quite soon the rulers of the synagogue grew uneasy with him, and he was forced out to speak wherever he could, on the roads and the lakeside. He had been marginalized by his own people, and the marginalized were drawn to him, justifiably unpopular people like tax-collectors.

    

Tax collectors were despised bureaucrats who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman occupiers. They were looked upon as traitors. So when the scribes see Jesus eating with such people they are shocked.


The scribes and Pharisees regarded themselves as righteous because they carefully observed various customs that had been added to the Law of Moses, the so-called 'traditions of the elders.' When Jesus says that he has come not to call the righteous but sinners, he is referring ironically to the scribes and Pharisees who see obedience to custom as superior to love of God and neighbor.


The crowds who listened to Jesus were made up of different kinds of people, many of whom had little in common with each other, some of whom despised others. I pray that Christians may be tolerant of diversity in the way that Jesus was.


The sick and those in need usually approach Jesus boldly and directly; the seemly Pharisees approached the disciples. 


Much as we rely on others, may we be reminded always to bring our needs and questions to Jesus, who has all the time in the world for us. 

January 17, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a

All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”


Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them. He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer:


“Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”


Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full to those who were asking him for a king.


He told them:


“The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot. 


He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.


He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers.


He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials.


He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.


He will take your male and female servants, as well as your  best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.


He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.


When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”


The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said, “Not so!  There must be a king over us. We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles.”


When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say, he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him, “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”

Responsorial Psalm: 89:16-17, 18-19

R.    For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.


Blessed the people who know the joyful shout; in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk. At your name they rejoice all the day, and through your justice they are exalted.


R.    For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.


For you are the splendor of their strength, and by your favor our horn is exalted. For to the LORD belongs our shield, and to the Holy One of Israel, our King.


R.    For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia: Lk 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


A great prophet has arisen in our midst and God has visited his people.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.


They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.


When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”


Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”


Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” – he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”


He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.


They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Homily

What an incredible story is today’s Gospel. 


The Lord looked up and saw a stretcher being lowered through the roof. Four men had carried a crippled man up the outside staircase, removed the thatching, mud, and some wooden beams that formed the roof, and lowered their friend carefully in front of Jesus. 


What did those four feel when Jesus told him – affectionately, calling him “Child” – that his sins were forgiven? This was too easy to say. Was it for this, they wondered, that they had taken such pains?


Did Jesus read some hidden anguish in him that hurt more than the paralysis? Jesus restored his peace of soul. Then, with perhaps a smile at the scribes, He bade him pick up his stretcher and walk. Cheers from the rooftop. 


At this point, early on in his ministry, Jesus makes a huge and important claim for himself - that he is God. In claiming that he can forgive sins, he is putting himself equal with God. His action of healing lets the witnesses know he is the Son of Man. 


This statement would haunt him for the next few years as the religious leaders made their plans to have him killed for making himself equal with God. 


In our prayer with Jesus we are meeting God. The divine enters our lives in a special way when we allow the word and the action of Jesus Christ into our lives. In him, God is near. God is not just a vague presence, but the One who forgives, heals guilt, strengthens weakness. 


In the moments of the forgiveness of our sins, we are close to the Divine. Jesus was challenged on his identity when he forgave sins. People said, “Only God can do this.” The miracle that followed gave credibility to the forgiveness of the paralyzed man's sins.


In sacrament and in prayer, God comes nearer to us than ever when our sins are forgiven. Maybe when we forgive each other's we are closest in our lives to the heart of God.


The man who was paralyzed had to rely utterly on his friends to bring him to Jesus in the imaginative way they chose. I think of the trust he must have had in them and consider the trust I have in those close to me.


Despite the evident need of the man brought for healing, Jesus first told him of forgiveness. May we hear Jesus speak to us today, forgiving our sins. 

January 16, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 4:1-11

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel. Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped at Aphek.


The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel. After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.


When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh that it may go into battle among us and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”


So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God. When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.


The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked, “What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”


On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were frightened. They said, “Gods have come to their camp.” They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with various plagues and with pestilence. Take courage and be manly, Philistines; otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they were your slaves. So fight manfully!”


The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.


The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

Responsorial Psalm: 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25

R.    Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.


Yet now you have cast us off and put us in disgrace, and you go not forth with our armies. You have let us be driven back by our foes; those who hated us plundered us at will.


R.    Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.


You made us the reproach of our neighbors, the mockery and the scorn of those around us. You made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.


R.    Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.


Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth.


R.    Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Alleluia: Mt 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”


Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”


The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”


The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Homily

Accepting and curing the leper, Jesus reveals a new face of God. A leper came near Jesus. He was an excluded, impure person. He should be far away. Anybody who touched him would also become impure! 


But that leper had great courage. He transgresses the norms of religion in order to be able to get near Jesus. He calls out: “If You want, You can heal me. You need not touch me! It suffices that You want, and I will be healed!” This phrase reveals two evils: a) the evil of leprosy which made him impure; and b) the evil of solitude to which he was condemned by society and by religion. It also reveals the great faith of the man in the power of Jesus. 


Jesus is profoundly moved and cures both evils. In the first place, in order to cure solitude, He touches the leper. It is as if He said: “For Me, you are not an excluded one. I accept you as a brother!” And then He cures the leper saying: “I want it! Be cured!” The leper, in order to enter into contact with Jesus, had transgressed the norms of the Law. 


Jesus, in order to be able to help that excluded person and therefore reveal a new face of God, transgresses the norms of His religion and touches the leper. At that time, whoever touched a leper became impure according to the religious authority and by the law of that time.


He integrated the excluded person into fraternal living together. Jesus not only cures, but also wants the cured person to be able to live with the others. He once again inserts the person in society to live with others. 


At that time, for a leper to be accepted again in the community, it was necessary to get a certificate from the priest that he had been cured. It is like today in some places. A sick person leaves the hospital with a document signed by the doctor of the department where he had been hospitalized. 


Jesus obliges the person to look for that document in such a way that he will be able to live normally with others. He obliges the authorities to recognize that this man has been cured.


The leper announces the good that Jesus has done to him and Jesus becomes an excluded person. Jesus forbids the leper to speak about the cure. 


The Gospel of Mark tells us that this prohibition does not survive. The leper, walking away, began to spread the news to the point that Jesus could no longer publicly enter into a city, but remained outside in a deserted place (Mk 1:45). Why? Because Jesus had touched the leper. Because of this, according to the opinion of the religion of that time, He himself was now impure and should live far away from all others. He could no longer enter the city. Mark says that people did not care about these official norms, in fact, people came to Him from everywhere (Mk 1:45).

January 15, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 3:1-10, 19-20

During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent.


One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”


Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am.  You called me.”


“I did not call you,” Eli said.  “Go back to sleep.”


So he went back to sleep.


Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. 


“Here I am,” he said. “You called me.”


But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”


At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.


Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”


Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”


When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”


Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”


Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm: 40:2 and 5, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry. Blessed the man who makes the LORD his trust; who turns not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood.


R.    Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, “Behold I come.”


R.    Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me. To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”


R.    Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.


R.    Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Alleluia: Jn 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord. I know them, and they follow me.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.


Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.


When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.


Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. 


Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”


He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” 


So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Homily

Today's homily come us thanks to Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., a senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.


“Here I am,” says Samuel, awakened from sleep by a God who calls to him personally and persistently.  Samuel, in training with the temple priest, Eli, assumes it is Eli who keeps arousing him from sleep. He continues to go to Eli saying, “Here I am”, to which Elli says, “Go back to sleep”, assuming the boy has had a dream or heard some other noise in his sleep.


However, upon God’s third call to Samuel, Eli understands the possibility of God at work here, and teaches Samuel how to respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”


Sometimes we may not recognize the persistent call of God to us in ordinary time and in the midst of our ordinary lives.  Often it may be someone else- through something we read or a piece of music, a homily at Mass, discerning clarity through Eucharist, a spiritual director’s insightful question or dear friend’s keen listening ear- who first hears God’s continual knocking at the walls of our hearts, minds and spirits. 


Today, may we be blessed like Samuel, with the wisdom and grace to take note, to listen to the counsel we receive, and to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Today, may we be blessed to welcome the persistent presence of the Lord more deeply into our lives.

January 14, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 1:9-20

Hannah rose after a meal at Shiloh, and presented herself before the LORD; at the time, Eli the priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost of the LORD’s temple.


In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously, and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives; neither wine nor liquor shall he drink, and no razor shall ever touch his head.”


As she remained long at prayer before the LORD, Eli watched her mouth, for Hannah was praying silently; though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard.


Eli, thinking her drunk, said to her, “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine!”


“It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the LORD. Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”


Eli said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”


She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left. She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast. Early the next morning they worshiped before the LORD, and then returned to their home in Ramah.


When Elkanah had relations with his wife Hannah, the LORD remembered her. She conceived, and at the end of her term bore a son whom she called Samuel, since she had asked the LORD for him.

Responsorial Psalm: 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

R.    My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.


“My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory.”


R.    My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.


“The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.”


R.    My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.


“The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he humbles, he also exalts.”


R.    My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.


“He raises the needy from the dust; from the dung heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.”


R.    My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.

Alleluia: 1 Thes 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Receive the word of God, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 1:21-28

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.


In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”


Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!”


The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

 

All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”


His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Homily

  “The power of Christ compels you.” 


Even if you haven’t seen the iconic 1973 movie about the demonic possession of 12-year old Regan MacNeil, you’ve undoubtedly hear that phrase repeated in pop culture. 


“The power of Christ compels you.”


In the film, those words are used by sickly exorcist Fr. Merrin (heroically played by the eminent Max Von Sydow) to drive the demon from Regan’s levatating suffering body.


It’s a telling scene both in William Peter Blatty’s book on which the film was based and in the film itself. The simple power of Christ Himself is enough to drive a demon from a possessed person. 


“The power of Christ compels you.”


In today’s Gospel, the power of Christ did not just compel the demon from the possessed man, but it also compelled the doubting people to become ultimately “astonished.”


Christ’s manifest power literally moved Hell and Earth. His power – conspicuous in its humility, compassion, love, charity, and longing – compels us as well. 


Today, let us open ourselves so that the power of Christ may compel us as well.

Januray 13, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Sm 1:1-8

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, Elkanah by name, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.


He had two wives, one named Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.


This man regularly went on pilgrimage from his city to worship the LORD of hosts and to sacrifice to him at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were ministering as priests of the LORD.


When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice, he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters, but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the LORD had made her barren.


Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the LORD had left her barren.


This went on year after year; each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the LORD, Peninnah would approach her, and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat.


Her husband Elkanah used to ask her: “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Responsorial: Psalm 116:12-13, 14-17, 18-19

R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.


How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.


R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.


My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all his people. Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds.


R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.


My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.


R.    To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia: Mk 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God:


“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”


As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.


Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”


Then they left their nets and followed him.


He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets.


Then he called them.


So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Homily

If you google “executive recruitment”, you are told to examine CVs or resumés , which list the qualifications and experience of candidates. Then you are urged to hire expert recruiters to interview on your behalf. 


Jesus didn’t believe in those kinds of recruitment methods. 


By contrast, Christ moves along the lakeshore, meets dozens of fishermen, and finally picks Simon, Andrew, James and John. 


He calls them to a global mission. They have no relevant experience and no training for the job. They are ordinary workers, good men. Their CV would be telegraphic: ‘I grew up here. I fish.’


Jesus’ call is simple: “Follow me”. 


The disciples were able to leave everything to follow. Let us pray for the freedom to be able to leave behind or to stay with, whichever way serves God.

January 12, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:


Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.


I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.


Give to the LORD, you sons of God, give to the LORD glory and praise, give to the LORD the glory due his name; adore the LORD in holy attire.


R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.


The voice of the LORD is over the waters, the LORD, over vast waters. The voice of the LORD is mighty; the voice of the LORD is majestic.


R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.


The God of glory thunders, and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The LORD is enthroned above the flood; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.


R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Reading 2: Acts 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying:


“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.


You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.


He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Alleluia: Mk 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered: This is my beloved Son, listen to him.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Matthew: 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.


John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”


Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”


Then he allowed him.


After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.


And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Homily

The Holy Trinity is one of the most intricate and confusing concepts in Christian belief. Yet every Christian, without thinking, involves the Holy Spirit every time they make the sign of the cross “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”


But it is only at one time in the entire Scriptures that all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity make an appearance together: the Baptism of Jesus.  In my humble opinion, this is one of the most powerful and revealing moments in Scripture about the nature of and relationship among the Holy Trinity. 


Jesus’ baptism is the only time we are shown the Holy Trinity together: the Father, who speaks with a booming exclamation of praise from Heaven for His son, humbly fulfilling “all righteousness”, and the Holy Spirit — as Luke goes on to tell us — Who descends from Heaven “like a dove.”


So what an incredibly important and singular act the Baptism of Jesus must have been and must have meant in all of Creation for the revelation of the Trinity. 


Jesus’ baptism was just that: a revelation, or an epiphany. The singular act of Jesus’ baptism by John revealed His nature, His mission, His place in Creation, and the transition in ministry from John as the forbear to Jesus the Redeemer and Christ. 


With Jesus’ baptism today we find the final Epiphany before He begins His public ministry. With last week’s celebration of the arrival of the Magi, Jesus’ existence as son of a virgin — a human child — was revealed to the entire world; with his baptism today, Jesus existence as son of God — with whom He is pleased — is also revealed to the entire world. 


And with these revelations let us bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, invoking the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” 


Today’s readings convey the fundamental mystery that the Triune God reaches out to people with love, seeking the deepest communion with them and calling us to join in ministry.

January 11, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Jn 5:14-21

Beloved:


We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.


If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.


We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the Evil One cannot touch him. We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.


We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. 


And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols.

Responsorial Psalm: 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. The Lord takes delight in his people.


Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.


R. The Lord takes delight in his people.


Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory.


R. The Lord takes delight in his people.


Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches; Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.


R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Alleluia: Mt 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to John: 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing.


John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned.


Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew

about ceremonial washings.


So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”


John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. 


The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.


So this joy of mine has been made complete.


He must increase; I must decrease.”

Homily

Today's homily comes from Carla Orlando, who coordinates Spiritual Direction Services for the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle.


“Who is this Jesus?” and “Who am I?”


The crowd of witnesses are confused in today’s Gospel, not knowing who Jesus is and what to do. Jesus can confuse me, too, baffle and bother me, challenge and confront me, calling me to my choices and my way of life.


In this Ordinary Time, the scriptures point me to a time for growing in my faith. A season, like the Second week of the Spiritual Exercises, which draws me close to Jesus and helps me to better sense who he is and how to follow him.


When I pray with the Gospel stories, allowing the heart and mind of Jesus to enter my whole self and imagination, my faith grows. Like John, the “I” of me decreases as the love and light of Christ increases in me and in my world.

January 10, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Jn 5:5-13

Beloved:


Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?


This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and Blood.


The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth.


So there are three who testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood, and the three are of one accord. If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater.


Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself.


Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.


And this is the testimony:

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.


I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm: 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R.    Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.


Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.


R.    Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.


He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat he fills you. He sends forth his command to the earth; swiftly runs his word!


R.    Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.


He has proclaimed his word to Jacob, his statutes and his ordinances to Israel. He has not done thus for any other nation; his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.


R.    Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Alleluia: Mt 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Luke: 5:12-16

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”


Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”


And the leprosy left him immediately.


Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”


The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Homily

Today’s homily comes to us thanks to Jim Bozik, a permanent deacon at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC, the Jesuit parish in the Diocese of Charlotte.


Many of us are now beginning to settle into our normal routines of work and school as we start a new year.  


Notice what Jesus does after he heals the leper in Luke’s Gospel today: he looks for a place of quiet to pray.   


Our natural inclination is to just pick up where things left off before Christmas, to jump right back into the busyness of our days.  


As we start the new year, a good resolution to consider is to follow Jesus’ lead: to find a few moments each day to be quiet and have a one on one dialogue with God.  Dialogue means both speaking and listening. 


The Examen is a simple way to practice this, but so is just simple conversation and listening. Whether at home or at work, on a walk, in the car or on a bus or train, withdraw from the world for a few moments and spend some quiet time with our Lord.