April 8, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.


Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.


I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.


The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.


He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together.


Who disputes my right? Let him confront me.


See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm: 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34

R.    Lord, in your great love, answer me.


For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons, because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.


R.    Lord, in your great love, answer me.


Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for consolers, not one could I find. Rather they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.


R.    Lord, in your great love, answer me.


I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving: “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the LORD hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”


R.    Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel according to Matthew: 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”


They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.


On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”


He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘“


The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.


When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”


Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”


He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”


Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”


He answered, “You have said so.”

Homily

We often think that Judas must have been different, obviously worse than the other disciples. If that were true, everyone would have suspected him when Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” They would have thought: “It must be Judas. He’s always been bad. He’s capable of betraying Jesus. I don’t know why Jesus picked him.” Instead, Judas did not stand out as any worse than they were. If he did, they would have immediately suspected him. Each one of us, as well, could become a Judas little by little, first by giving up our principles on smaller matters and then later on more important matters. In the Christian life there always needs to be a healthy tension of straining forward and of watchfulness. The one who is trustworthy in small matters is trustworthy in greater matters.


The apostles are all asking, “Is it I?” Why? Was there some widespread desire to betray him of which they were barely keeping control? No, but they were in a very dangerous situation. The Pharisees had decided to kill Jesus. The apostles know it. That’s why the whole group had gone to stay in Jericho for a while. Jerusalem was too dangerous. They can imagine themselves following Jesus to the Temple the next day, being singled out in the crush of the crowd and then having their life threatened to provide information about where Jesus can be found at night. They wonder what they would say. With my life on the line would I betray Jesus? This is why they ask, “Is it I?” When push comes to shove, what comes first in my life? Would I ever consider selling out on Jesus for something or someone else?


Judas had everything he needed to be a great apostle. He had a magnanimous heart, which is why Jesus picked him. God never destines anyone for failure. So what happened to him? At some point he stopped working on his friendship with Jesus. Some would point to the moment of the discourse on the Bread of Life recorded in John 6. Judas couldn’t accept that he needed to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood. Jesus must be wrong, and therefore he is a false Messiah. John 6:64 tells us that Jesus knew who his betrayer would be. Jesus gives Judas a chance to leave the group and remain an honest man in John 6:67. Instead, he stays, becoming a hypocrite – a “devil” in Jesus’ words – and begins the path that will lead to betrayal. Knowing that my faith is the most precious gift I have received from God, do I watch over and nourish my faith so that it grows and is strong?


Lord, we have betrayed you so many times, even when we do such a simple thing as not saying grace in a restaurant out of fear that others will realize I am a believer. May the experience of your Passion and death help us to have the courage to live by our convictions at all times.


Today may we live all the demands of our faith, especially in the moments when they point us out as a follower of Christ. Today may we not betray him, even in the smallest way.

April 7, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. 


The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.


He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.


Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God.


For 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, he 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: 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17

R.    I will sing of your salvation.


In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me.


R.    I will sing of your salvation.


Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.


R.    I will sing of your salvation.


For you are my hope, O LORD; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.


R.    I will sing of your salvation.


My mouth shall declare your justice, day by day your salvation. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.


R.    I will sing of your salvation.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel according to John: 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”


The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.


One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.


So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.


He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”


Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”


So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.


After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.


So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”


Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.


Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor.


So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.


When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”


Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”


Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.”


Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”


Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

Homily

In that very moment Judas knows he has made his fateful decision as Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  None of the other disciples realized the significance of the words.


First, that of Judas. Judas is no outsider but one of the inner circle of the Twelve.


Jesus announces solemnly: “One of you is going to hand me over.” The statement comes like a bombshell. For all their weaknesses, they cannot imagine any one of them planning such a thing. Peter asks the Beloved Disciple, who is closest to Jesus (in every sense of the word) to find out who it is. “It is the one to whom I hand the piece of bread after dipping it in the dish,” says Jesus.


Jesus hands over the morsel, a symbol of sharing. It is probably part of the bitter herb, dipped in salt water which was a feature of the Passover meal. Jesus hands it over to the one who will hand him over to those who wish to be rid of him. This is an act of friendship which makes the coming betrayal doubly treacherous. The bitterness of the morsel is also significant.


In that very moment Judas knows he has made his fateful decision as Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  None of the other disciples realized the significance of the words.


As soon as he has left, it is no wonder that the evangelist comments: “Night had fallen.” Yes indeed. It was a moment of utter darkness. This is a gospel which constantly contrasts light and darkness. Yet at that very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of his being glorified and of God also being glorified.


To do this, Jesus is going to leave his disciples. He will leave them in death but he will also leave them to return to the glory of his Father.


Peter, well-meaning but weak, swears that he will go all the way with Jesus, even to death. It is the second betrayal. Worse in some ways. At least Judas made no wild promises. What will save Peter will be the depth of his repentance and later conversion.


We too have betrayed Jesus and those around us so many times. We have broken bread with Jesus in the Eucharist and then turned our back on him by the way we treat those around us. We have promised at confession with his help never to sin again and then gone and done what we have just confessed.


Let us pray that we, like Peter, may weep bitterly for all the wrongs we have done and all the good left undone.

April 6, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 42:1-7

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.


Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it: 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: 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R.    The Lord is my light and my salvation.


The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?


R.    The Lord is my light and my salvation.


When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall.


R.    The Lord is my light and my salvation.


Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.


R.    The Lord is my light and my salvation.


I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.


R.    The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King; you alone are compassionate with our faults.

Gospel according to John: 12:1-11

Running a holiday sale or weekly special? Definitely promote it here to get customers excited about getting a sweet deal.Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.


They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.


Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”


He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.


So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”


The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.


And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Homily

Today's homily comes to us from Patrick Kennedy,  a Major Gift Officer for the Midwest Jesuits, He holds a Masters degree from the  McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.


In ‘normal’ circumstances, many of us would have been glued to our television sets prepared to watch tonight’s March Madness showdown. I have been privileged to travel to two Final Fours in the past four years, cheering on my alma mater. 


Have I engaged in extravagance just as Mary is accused of when anointing Jesus in today’s Gospel? Yes, I have. But I am thankful for the opportunity to experience these games and reconnect with friends from college. God calls me to do more than simply give thanks, so I commit myself to balancing that lavish fandom by engaging in comparably passionate commitment to service, charity and prayer. 


Today’s Gospel also reminds us of the importance of enjoying our treasures with those who are present in our lives. Sometimes our commitment to our obligations impedes on our family time. It is important to heed Christ’s advice, “You will always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” 


These last few weeks have provided us with ample amounts of family time, but when things settle, how will we proceed? This time of uncertainty has allowed us to reassess our priorities and ensure we are balancing our lives. 


Balance means we can enjoy some of our treasures, time and opportunities (such as a Final Four game), while not relishing in them in unhealthy ways. St. Ignatius talks about this as being free from “disordered attachments,” meaning placing anything above our relationship with God. 


As we inch our way towards what we used to deem ‘normalcy,’ may we commit to living a life of greater balance, answer our call to serve those on the margins, and enjoy the treasures found in being present to family, friends and our Creator. 

Palm Sunday 2020 Readings and Homily

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At the procession with palms: Mt 21:1-11

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her.


Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.”


This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Say to daughter Zion, “Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”


The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.


The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.


The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”


And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Reading 1: Is 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.


Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.


I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.


The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24.

R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?


All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads: "He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him."


R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?


Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me; they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.


R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?


They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. But you, O LORD, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.


R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?


I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: "You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel!"


R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2: Phil 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse Before the Gospel: Phil 2:8-9

Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.

Gospel according to Matthew: 6:14—27:66 or 27:11-54

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”


They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.


On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”


He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’”


The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,

and prepared the Passover.


When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”


Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”


He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”


Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”


He answered, “You have said so.”


While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.”


Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.


I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”


Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written:


I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”


Peter said to him in reply, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.”


Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”


Peter said to him, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.”


And all the disciples spoke likewise.


Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”


He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.


Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”


He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”


When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep.


He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”


Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”


Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.


He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.


Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”


While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people.


His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. 


Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.”


Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.


And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.


Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”


At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.”


Then all the disciples left him and fled.


Those who had arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.


Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.


The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.


Finally two came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’”


The high priest rose and addressed him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”


But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.”


Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’”


Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?”


They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” Then they spat in his  ace and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, Christ: who is it that struck you?”


Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”


But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!”


As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!”


A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.”


At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.”


And immediately a cock crowed.


Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.


When it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.


Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”


They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.”


Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. The chief priests gathered up the money, but said, “It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury, for it is the price of blood.”


After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites, and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.


Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”


Jesus said, “You say so.”


And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.


Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”


But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.


Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.


So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over.


While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”


The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.


The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”


They answered, "Barabbas!”


Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”


They all said, “Let him be crucified!”


But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?”


They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!”


When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.”


And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”


Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.


Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.


They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.


And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.


And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.


As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.


And when they came to a place called Golgotha —which means Place of the Skull — they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.


But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.


After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.


And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.


Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.


Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!”


Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”


The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.


From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”


Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.


But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”


But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.


And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.


And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.


The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”


There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.


When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.


Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.


The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.”


Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go, secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.

Homily

One of the more remarkable aspects of the Gospel we just read is the WAY in which we experience it.


This week is the only time that the Gospel is proclaimed by someone besides a priest or deacon – every individual in this church takes part.


It’s a great privilege. And it – literally — gives us a role in Christ’s passion.


But what do we say? What lines are we given?


“Not this one! Barabbas!”


“Hail, King of the Jews!”


“Crucify him!”


“Take him away, crucify him!”


We cry out for vengeance, and we accuse his disciples, and we gamble to see which of us will get his cloak. We mock him.


We are the mob. And we cruelly assist in condemning Christ to death.


And the great irony, of course, is that we do it while clutching these palms.


They are a reminder – and an indictment. While we were standing here, crying out “Crucify him!,” we were clutching the branches that we used to sing out “Hosanna.” The palms reveal our very human duplicity. How easily we turn. How quickly we pivot from faithful, to faithless … from belief to doubt … from being disciples, to being betrayers.


We start out acting like angels, singing “Hosanna.” And we end up just being the mob.


It can sometimes be that way throughout the church. The headlines this week have told the story. Men called to holiness can be guilty of appalling sins. Sins of abuse. Sins of neglect. Sins of dishonesty. Sins of betrayal.


And yet, to be a part of the body of Christ is to be with him on the cross. The Catholic writer Ronald Rolheiser has put it powerfully. “To be a member of the church,” he wrote, “is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul….because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves.”


And all we can do sometimes is echo the words of the one thief, words we heard just a few moments ago: “Jesus, remember me.” That moment is the only one in any of the gospels where someone calls Jesus by his given name. Maybe it is because it is at this moment – the hour of his death — that he is most like us. He hangs there, stripped, beaten, betrayed. He hangs among thieves. This is what we have done to our God. And this is what we continue to do, even today.


And in our own brokenness, and sinfulness, we ask that he remember us. We pray that we may be better than we are, and receive better than we deserve. We pray that we, who often deserve to be forgotten, may be remembered.


And so, this day, we remember. We remember Christ’s journey to the cross, which began with his journey into Jerusalem. We remember our role in his passion – our own sinfulness.


As our participation in this gospel emphasizes: we helped send him to Calvary.


He died for us. He died because of us.


And yet… as we mark the days leading up to Easter, we remember, too, that we are called to something else. As a people. And as a church.


As we journey forward this Holy Week, let us look at these palms and remind ourselves of this beautiful, hopeful truth:


We may be the voice of the mob – we may too often act like thieves.


But we have it within ourselves to be more.


We can sing Hosannas.


We can, we must, act like angels.

April 4, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Ez 37:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:


I will take the children of Israel from among the nations

to which they have come, and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land.


I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.


No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions.


I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God.


My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.


They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where their fathers lived; they shall live on it forever, they, and their children, and their children’s children, with my servant David their prince forever.


I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever.


My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

Responsorial Psalm: Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13

R.    The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.


Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock.


R.    The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.


The LORD shall ransom Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings: the grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen.


R.    The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.


Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.


R.    The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

Verse Before the Gospel: Ez 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel according to John: 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.


But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.”


But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”


He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.


So from that day on they planned to kill him.


So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.


Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up  rom the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves.


They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

Homily

Today’s Gospel opens with the response to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. Some eyewitnesses of the miracle believed in him, but others did not; in fact, they went to “pour fuel on the fire” with the adversaries of Christ who were seeking a reason to condemn him. Here we see the mystery of human freedom at work. The overt action of God in our lives obliges us, in a certain sense, to move to either side of the truth. To what side of the truth am I moved when I sense the manifest action of God at work in my life, in the voice of my conscience, or the lives of others? Does it help me to believe ever more deeply in Christ? 


Is it All About Power? Why did the Pharisees so oppose the message and action of Jesus? One way of looking at the problem is to see it as the natural consequence of the human tendency toward control – even the control of things spiritual. The religious authorities of Christ’s time no doubt saw themselves as the custodians of the faith handed down to them by their forefathers. But it seems that slowly this custody became control. The authorities become less interested in the legitimacy of Jesus’ identity, message and mission and more interested in maintaining the established religious and political order. Yet even their resistance is incorporated into God’s plan. Their rejection leads Jesus to die for the nation, “and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” How much do I try to control God’s action in my life?


We can only imagine the inner thoughts and feelings of Christ as the events leading to his suffering and death begin to unfold, just as he knows they will. Instead of resisting the Father’s plan, we see Christ serene and composed as the tension builds. We see his sense of determination and decision increase. He is fully committed to the Father’s will. Jesus teaches us the wisdom of letting go of circumstances that are fully within the Father’s purview. He teaches us to embrace the divine will with total trust and serenity, no matter how difficult it may be for us.

April 3, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jer 20:10-13

I hear the whisperings of many:


“Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!”


All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.


“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.”


But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.


O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause.


Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!

Responsorial Psalm: 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

R.    In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.


I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.


R.    In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.


My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! Praised be the LORD, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies.


R.    In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.


The breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me; the cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me.


R.    In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.


In my distress I called upon the LORD and cried out to my God; from his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.


R.    In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

Verse Before the Gospel: Jn 6:63c, 68c

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel according to John: 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.


Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”


The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.”


Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?


If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”


Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.


He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.


Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.”


And many there began to believe in him.

Homily

Today's homily comes to us from Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ, director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, near Oshkosh, WI.


Facing an angry crowd ready to stone him, Jesus asks, “For which of these are you going to stone me?” Hard to imagine being angry over healings, the raising from the dead, and the feeding of thousands. Or is it?


When someone I have come to dislike does something good, receives praise for their actions, and gains others’ goodwill and attention, am I not ready to throw into the conversation some not-so-good things they have done: a stone of my own? It’s not fair that someone I don’t like is doing something good and forcing me to reconsider my opinion of them.


Jesus’ confidence that God’s good work is for all and can be carried out by all upsets us if in our pride we want to be more special, purer, and more righteous than another. Let us accept that God’s goodness is given and received in infinite ways.

March 10, 2020 Readings and HJomily

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Reading 1: Is 1:10, 16-20

Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!


Wash yourselves clean!


Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.


Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD:


Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.


If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

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.

Verse Before the Gospel: Ez 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel according to Matthew: 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.


Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.


For they preach but they do not practice.


They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.


All their works are performed to be seen.


They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.


They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’


As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’


You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.


Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.


Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.


The greatest among you must be your servant.


Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

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.


We have one teacher, one Father, one instructor, who teaches us that our actions speak louder than our words.


As if becoming human wasn’t humbling enough, Jesus then showed us what it means to lead: inviting the poor and marginalized to be his companions, valuing the witness and wisdom of women and outsiders, and humbly serving and washing the feet of his students and followers.

Those of us who find ourselves in positions of leadership and power—as teachers, parents, directors, managers—do well to remember who the real leader is and to imitate him.


Christ shows us the way of humility and enriches our efforts towards the greater glory of God and the benefit of humankind.


How can we follow Christ’s example today in the tasks and encounters before us?

March 9, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Dn 9:4b-10

“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments!


We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.


We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.


Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you.


O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you.


But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!


Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Responsorial Psalm: 79:8, 9, 11 and 13

R.    Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.


Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;

may your compassion quickly come to us,

for we are brought very low.


R.    Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.


Help us, O God our savior,

because of the glory of your name;

Deliver us and pardon our sins

for your name’s sake.


R.    Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.


Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;

with your great power free those doomed to death.

Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,

will give thanks to you forever;

through all generations we will declare your praise.


R.    Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Verse Before the Gospel: Jn 6:63c, 68c

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel according to Luke: 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:


“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


“Stop judging and you will not be judged.


Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.


Forgive and you will be forgiven.


Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.


For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Homily

to labor and to seek no reward is compassionate.” This is the last sentence in Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching on the need to love our enemies. We saw the Matthaean version last Saturday. There the passage ends with “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” It is clear that it is in showing compassion for all, even those who wish us evil, that we are to aim at imitating our heavenly Father.


God’s compassion is all-embracing. His love reaches out to all without any discrimination between saint and sinner. Like the rain and sun which fall equally on all, so God’s compassion and mercy are extended to all. We, too, are being called to follow the example of our God and of Jesus his Son. We remember the words of Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Here is the compassion of God being expressed in an extreme situation. The words will be repeated by Stephen when he is being stoned to death.


In today’s Gospel, we are told to follow that compassion by not sitting in judgement on others. That in no way means that we are to be blind to the genuine faults of others. But we are not in a position to take the higher moral ground so that we can sit in judgement on the supposed wrongdoer.


If we are honest we know we judge others a lot, often with very little evidence and even less compassion. Our media, too, are full of judgment. Our conversations, our gossip is full of judgment. We lack compassion for the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.


At the same time, we do very little to help them correct their ways; in fact, they seldom hear the criticisms we make. It is most often done behind their backs. If they unexpectedly appear, we quickly change the subject. We just take pleasure in the backbiting. We might even be disappointed if they reformed!


“Do not condemn and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned.” Later on in this Eucharist we will pray, “Forgive us our sins in so far as we forgive the sins of others”. A dangerous prayer to make, yet it trips so easily off our tongues, the same tongues that can be so critical and judgmental.


The gospel calls for great generosity in our relationship with others. Not just material generosity but generosity in love, in understanding, in tolerance and acceptance, in compassion and forgiveness. The more generous we are with others the more we will receive in return.


Lord,

teach me to be generous,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labour and to seek no reward

save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

March 5, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD.


She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.


Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.


As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.


Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,

O LORD, my God.


“And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.


Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Responsorial Psalm: 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8

R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.


I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,

for you have heard the words of my mouth;

in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;

I will worship at your holy temple

and give thanks to your name.


R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.


Because of your kindness and your truth;

for you have made great above all things

your name and your promise.

When I called, you answered me;

you built up strength within me.


R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.


Your right hand saves me.

The LORD will complete what he has done for me;

your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;

forsake not the work of your hands.


R.    Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Verse Before the Gospel: Ps 51:12a, 14a

A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the  joy of your salvation.

Gospel according to Matthew: 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:


“Ask and it will be given to you;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.


Which one of you would hand his son a stone

when he asked for a loaf of bread,

or a snake when he asked for a fish?


If you then, who are wicked,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your heavenly Father give good things

to those who ask him.


“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

Homily

The Jewish rabbis used say: ‘Human beings can hardly hear two people talking at once, but God, if all the world talks to him at the one time, hears their cry’. 


In these short instructions for prayer Jesus invites us to come before God with expectant hearts asking for what we need. God is always listening to our prayers.


“All things can be done for the one who believes.”(Mark 9:23).

    

God welcomes us with a loving embrace, and desires to give us “good things” when we ask Him with a sincere and open heart.

    

But are we truly open with God in our prayer? Do we share with Him all that we are living, our struggles and our joys, and the concrete situations for which we need His help? 

March 4, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jon 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:

“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,

and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”

So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,

according to the LORD’s bidding.

Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;

it took three days to go through it.

Jonah began his journey through the city,

and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,

“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”

when the people of Nineveh believed God;

they proclaimed a fast

and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.


When the news reached the king of Nineveh,

he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,

covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.

Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,

by decree of the king and his nobles:

“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,

shall taste anything;

they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.

Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;

every man shall turn from his evil way

and from the violence he has in hand.

Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,

so that we shall not perish.”

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,

he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;

he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm: 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


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.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.


R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse Before the Gospel: Jl 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel according to Luke: 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.


Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.


At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.


At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Homily

When Jesus had performed a miracle, some of his audience accused him of having invoked the power of the prince of devils: such was their closedness of mind. 


From this attitude too came their demand for a ‘proof’ before they would believe in him – some earth-shattering ‘spectacular’ (a ‘sign’). By contrast, it was from their own hearts that such people needed to draw forth openness to Jesus and genuine belief.


The people of Nineveh in the past provided the example needed: they succeeded in reaching just such genuine belief when Jonah was sent to incite obedience to the work of God in them. And the Queen Of Sheba – a mere stranger – responded with similar sentiments when she came into the presence of Israel’s King Solomon.


The person of Jesus, however, is a more powerful ‘sign’ than any of these – because Jesus is nothing less than the full revelation of the Father in heaven. 

March 2, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Lv 19:1-2, 11-18

The LORD said to Moses,

“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:

Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.


“You shall not steal.

You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.

You shall not swear falsely by my name,

thus profaning the name of your God.

I am the LORD.


“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.

You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.


You shall not curse the deaf,

or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,

but you shall fear your God.

I am the LORD.


“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.

Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,

but judge your fellow men justly.

You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;

nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.


I am the LORD.


“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.

Though you may have to reprove him,

do not incur sin because of him.


Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.


You shall love your neighbor as yourself.


I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm: 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R.    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul.

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,

giving wisdom to the simple.


R.    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


The precepts of the LORD are right,

rejoicing the heart.

The command of the LORD is clear,

enlightening the eye.


R.    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


The fear of the LORD is pure,

enduring forever;

The ordinances of the LORD are true,

all of them just.


R.    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart

find favor before you,

O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.


R.    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Verse Before the Gospel: 2 Cor 6:2b

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;

behold, now is the day of salvation.

Gospel according to Matthew: 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,

and all the angels with him,

he will sit upon his glorious throne,

and all the nations will be assembled before him.

And he will separate them one from another,

as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.


He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right,

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.


Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.


For I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me drink,

a stranger and you welcomed me,

naked and you clothed me,

ill and you cared for me,

in prison and you visited me.’


Then the righteous will answer him and say,

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,

or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,

or naked and clothe you?

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’


And the king will say to them in reply,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did

for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left,

‘Depart from me, you accursed,

into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

a stranger and you gave me no welcome,

naked and you gave me no clothing,

ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’


Then they will answer and say,

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty

or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,

and not minister to your needs?’


He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,

what you did not do for one of these least ones,

you did not do for me.’


And these will go off to eternal punishment,

but the righteous to eternal life.”

Homily

Today's Gospel is a fundamental reminder for us in light of the world in which we currently live.


Jesus is talking with his disciples about the time when the Son of Man will come in glory.  He is telling them that everyone on earth will be gathered together and He will separate the peoples, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  The sheep will have a privileged place on his right hand and the goats will be on his left.


To the sheep, Jesus says: “You will be at my right hand.  You fed me when I was hungry and you cared about me and you were attentive to me.”  However, the people listening to Jesus were confused.  They knew that they had not clothed Jesus, nor had they quenched his thirst.  The people asked Jesus: “When did we do these things?”  Jesus told them that when you fed the hungry, clothed the naked and helped others in a multitude of physical or spiritual ways, you helped me.  Clearly, Jesus is instructing them that whatever goodness and kindness they do for the people around them, they also do for Him. 


The goats then begin to complain or make excuses to Jesus.  They tell him that they had not had the opportunity to serve Him in this way.   Jesus bluntly tells them that they were not concerned with the people who were in need.   They did not clothe them or feed them or minister to them.  They simply ignored them. 


Jesus makes it clear that what we do or do not do for others is a determining factor for our future.   In a real sense, we are the ones who make the choice about our future.  We have the power to choose to help others or to ignore them and their needs.  If we choose to help others, hopefully it is not simply because we want to be with Jesus in heaven.  Hopefully our desire to help others flows from our concern for them and perhaps our gratitude for the times when someone else helped us.  Perhaps we wish to help others as we have been helped. 


As we go through our day today, may we be attentive to the times when someone could use a helping hand or a listening ear.  There are people in need all around us!  The question is: will we see them and reach out to them?  


February 29, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 58:9b-14

Thus says the LORD:


If you remove from your midst oppression,

false accusation and malicious speech;

If you bestow your bread on the hungry

and satisfy the afflicted;

Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,

and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

Then the LORD will guide you always

and give you plenty even on the parched land.

He will renew your strength,

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring whose water never fails.

The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,

and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;

“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,

“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”


If you hold back your foot on the sabbath

from following your own pursuits on my holy day;

If you call the sabbath a delight,

and the LORD’s holy day honorable;

If you honor it by not following your ways,

seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice--

Then you shall delight in the LORD,

and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Responsorial Psalm: 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R.    Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.


Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,

for I am afflicted and poor.

Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God.


R.    Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.


Have mercy on me, O Lord,

for to you I call all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.


R.    Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.


For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.

Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer

and attend to the sound of my pleading.


R.    Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Verse Before the Gospel: Ez 33:11

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.

Gospel according to Luke: 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.


He said to him, “Follow me.”


And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.


The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”


Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Homily

Before Jesus ever arrived on earth, there were different opinions regarding what the Savior or Messiah might be like: one particular thought was that he was coming to settle accounts with wrong-doers, to bring judgment and correction. But then Jesus did arrive, and – while not omitting warnings and reprimands – he assured us that he was here to bring healing to broken humanity: This explains today’s statement, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”.


This also explains the outreach of Jesus towards individuals like Matthew/Levi the publican – who had ‘gone over’ to the occupying power of Rome, as collector of the public taxes; or towards individuals whose religious observances fell short; or towards those whose lives were marked by moral lapses. To them all, Jesus was throwing open the gates of welcome – throwing a party, if you like. Maybe this party is the wider background to the banquet being held in Levi’s house.


Of course, Jesus often talked not only about banquets or receptions or parties – he also about invited quests who wouldn’t bother to come. But Levi is a kind of ‘model invitee’: when Jesus extended the invitation to be of his company, Levi’s response was instantaneous. 

February 28, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Is 58:1-9a

Thus says the Lord GOD:


Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,

lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;

Tell my people their wickedness,

and the house of Jacob their sins.

They seek me day after day,

and desire to know my ways,

Like a nation that has done what is just

and not abandoned the law of their God;

They ask me to declare what is due them,

pleased to gain access to God.

“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?

afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”


Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,

and drive all your laborers.

Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,

striking with wicked claw.

Would that today you might fast

so as to make your voice heard on high!

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,

of keeping a day of penance:

That a man bow his head like a reed

and lie in sackcloth and ashes?


Do you call this a fast,

a day acceptable to the LORD?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:

releasing those bound unjustly,

untying the thongs of the yoke;

Setting free the oppressed,

breaking every yoke;

Sharing your bread with the hungry,

sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;

Clothing the naked when you see them,

and not turning your back on your own.


Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your wound shall quickly be healed;

Your vindication shall go before you,

and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,

you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm: 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19

R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


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.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


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.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.


R.    A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse Before the Gospel: Am 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord will be with you.

Gospel according to Matthew: 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?”


Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?


The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Homily

In the message of Jesus we find always the contrasts between the joy of his presence and friendship with us, the pain that he suffers in bringing his mission forward and our frustration that this mission of God is not completed in the world. In our prayer we are sometimes filled with thanks and joy for the fullness of God’s life; at other times with emptiness and hollowness at our poor response to God and to the evil of the world. Both fill our times of prayer; both are part of the relationship we have with God.    


No matter what mystery of Jesus' life we go to in prayer, we can rejoice,. Even in his suffering and death, he is with us, and we do not mourn. Without his presence in our lives, we would truly mourn the loss of something and Someone really relevant and essential to our lives. Prayer focuses on the place of Jesus in our lives.


Matthew understands fasting to be a sign of mourning. Jesus compares his disciples to wedding guests who rejoice while he, the bridegroom, is still with them. But after he leaves them they will experience many tribulations and therefore they will have good reasons for fasting. The fasts in question were most likely private fasts undertaken for devotional purposes.


The disciples of John compared their religious observation to that of Jesus and his followers. Do I sometimes contrast my practice with that of others? Am I drawn either to pride or to despair? Lent calls me to walk humbly with God in company with and in prayer for others.


If I put some things aside or give some things up for Lent, it is so that I can be more clearly in the presence of the bridegroom who rejoices in my company. 

February 27, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Dt 30:15-20

Moses said to the people:


“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.


If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.


I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.


Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.


For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Responsorial Psalm: 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R.    Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.


Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law day and night.


R.    Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.


He is like a tree planted near running water, what yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.


R.    Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.


Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.


R.    Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse Before the Gospel: Mt 4:17

Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.


Gospel according to Luke: 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:


“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”


Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.


For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.


What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Homily

Deny yourself and take up your cross daily. 


It would be easy for us to think this meant looking for mortifications. The Lord has taught us that our crosses are ourselves, our egos, the pains in our bodies, our awkwardness, our mistakes. 


To follow the Lord is to move beyond ego-trips. It means coping with the business of life without trampling on others or making them suffer. There is a world here to be explored this Lent.


Jesus is often presented in the Gospels as giving His life over to His Father. His convictions and preaching would lead to His death. His future resurrection was in the power of His Father. 


Much of what we want to hold onto in life can be swiftly taken away – our good health, our security of wealth, even our good name. What we share in love and in God cannot be taken away. Ask in prayer to value love, and to offer your life now and always in love and for love.


Taking up one's cross is not a matter of simply putting up with the headaches and ordinary troubles of life, but of not being ashamed of Jesus, and being prepared to be true followers with all the dangers, even possible martyrdom, that that implies. 


Trying to save one's own skin by denying Jesus will only result in the loss of eternal life, of intimate union with God. 

Ash Wednesday 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jl 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.


For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.


Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.


Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber.


Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, and say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them!


Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”


Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

Responsorial Psalm: 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17

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.


A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.


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


Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.


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

Reading 2: 2 Cor 5:20—6:2

Brothers and sisters:


We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.


Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.


For he says:


In an acceptable time I heard you,

and on the day of salvation I helped you.


Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Verse Before the Gospel: Ps 95:8

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Gospel according to Matthew: 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:


“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that  people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.


When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.


Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.


But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.


“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 


But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.


“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.


But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.


And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”


Homily

Today's Homily is brought to us by Toby Lees O.P.:


It wasn’t until I joined the Dominicans that I learned that Ash Wednesday is not, in fact, a Holy Day of Obligation. Don’t worry I do still go! But I had always just presumed given the huge numbers of people at Mass (far greater, in fact, that most actual Holy Days of Obligation) that it must be one. I always remember when I worked in the City and would go to St Mary Moorfields where there would be three Masses at lunchtime with people waiting outside on the street to get in as soon as the previous one finished. Given that the small Church frontage was flanked by a jeweller and a shirt shop, I always used to think that non-Catholics must have thought there was an amazing sale on at those shops that day; yet they would emerge with no bags and dirty foreheads.


All of which begs the question why do people flock to Church on this day - many of whom wouldn’t worry about missing a Sunday - in order to be told, ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return’ . . . and it is this they want to hear; I have had so many conversations with people who felt somehow short-changed when the priest said the alternate line, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’ Now it’s not that the latter line is bad advice – it’s not; it’s essential advice. But, on this day, I think people want their finitude, and the fact that they will one day die, acknowledged in a solemn way.


It’s the terrible truth we all live with, and yet we live in a society that ‘Doesn’t do death’. Yes, we have lots of violence in our TV and computer games, but very rarely in our culture do we deal with the death that most of us most likely will die: old, frail, and struggling to look after ourselves. It’s not especially appealing and it doesn’t make great TV; so we don’t see it portrayed. But deep-down we know it’s there in the possible future... unspoken... but there.

David Foster Wallace, one of my favourite writers, thought that one of the most important jobs of fiction was to make us confront the reality of death. A confrontation he saw as the necessary beginning of redemption:


I strongly suspect a big part of real art-fiction’s job is to aggravate this sense of entrapment and loneliness and death in people, to move people to countenance it, since any possible human redemption requires us first to face what’s dreadful, what we want to deny.

Ash Wednesday confronts us with what we so often deny. I think Ash Wednesday is a little bit like that moment in a conversation between people in a serious relationship where they’re talking about trivial things, but feel the tension of something really awkward that needs to be said, but is really uncomfortable to bring up. And then someone is brave enough to mention it, and it’s just a huge relief that they’re now both talking about it. The conversation immediately becomes deeper but the tension has lifted because it’s now in the realm of reality, and there is only so much unreality that we can withstand.


Ash Wednesday takes very seriously that fundamental reality of life: our death. And we know when we walk into the Church that this is what we will get. Ash Wednesday poses the question, ‘Who will you be when you die?’ and ‘What will you become?


We do not know the hour of our death so the time to prepare for it is now. And the wonderful paradox is that to prepare for death is to start to truly live. Loved by God, we have been given the gift of time, and ‘every second is given to us in order to grow into the love we have already received. Time is the environment, the divine environment that is appropriate for all who have not yet reached perfection but are in the process of becoming perfect.’ (Fr Wilfrid Stinissen, Eternity in the Midst of Time).


We need, then, to take time seriously, but, so often, I think we live in a rebellion against time. Perhaps because our everyday lives are blinded to death, we don’t see time as the gift that it is? We live in denial of our finitude, yet resenting the feeling that we’re always running out of time. We might feel like we’re rushing; and we could have done this earlier if we’d been more organised; and we feel annoyed with ourselves; and so we seek some little pleasure, which so often is itself a waste of time and this only compounds the guilt. And we do such unthinking things with our time, as if it were not really limited. I suspect if we were to look at how we spend our time versus what truly matters to us, we would be horrified. We long to love and to be loved, but loving is not easy. Christian loving is more demanding than time spent online or watching TV. There’s a certain psychic pain of boredom that may arise in prayer that we don’t get as we scroll down our phones. We resist the cross that Christian love involves. We seek to fill our longing, our aching for that which truly satisfies, with things other than Jesus, and it does us no good. And so God speaks through his prophet and says: ‘Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.’ (Joel 2:12-13)


But like St Augustine on chastity, we tend to say, ‘Yes, Lord, but not yet!’ We live in a certain sort of denial, we want to live as if we were eternal, and yet we’re panicked by the unknown future. And this saturation of our time with the trivial - with what is not God and of God - only serves to make us more scared about the future, and we retreat ever further into an unreal present: a present that does not engage with the really real. But it’s the real present that counts, and only in the real present will we encounter the Real Presence.


Ash Wednesday is an invitation to use Lent to begin to live more fully as a child of God. As Paul says, ‘Now is the favourable time.’ (2 Cor 6:2) And when we live as a child of God, open to the graces that surely flow from prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; living with the Lord because we are living like the Lord; then Christ reaches into our lives all the more, and the present becomes saturated with eternity.


In the Christian life, and most particularly at Mass, eternity pierces time and fills it, but on no day do I think we are made as profoundly aware of this as on Ash Wednesday. For today, the first time we approach the altar we are marked with ashes and reminded of our death, but the next time we approach we are given a taste of eternity. We receive the one, who bore the Cross, and who has conquered death, opening up the way to eternal beatitude. The question of Ash Wednesday is ‘Between death and eternity, which will you choose?’ And the time to choose is today, not only because we do not know how many tomorrows we have left, but because choosing Christ now is choosing life in abundance, irrespective of how much time we have left in this mortal coil.



Fr Toby Lees is currently assigned to the Priory of San Clemente in Rome for reasons of study. He is completing his STB at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas ("Angelicum") in Rome. 

February 25, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jas 4:1-10

If customers can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. Clearly list and describe the services you offer. Also, be sure to showcase a premium service.Beloved:


Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?


You covet but do not possess.


You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.


You do not possess because you do not ask.


You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


Adulterers!


Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?


Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.


Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says, The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy? But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.


So submit yourselves to God.


Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.


Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.


Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.


Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.


Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.


Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

Responsorial Psalm: 55:7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.R.    Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.


And I say, “Had I but wings like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest. Far away I would flee; I would lodge in the wilderness.”


R.    Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.


“I would wait for him who saves me from the violent storm and the tempest.” Engulf them, O Lord; divide their counsels.


R.    Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.


In the city I see violence and strife, day and night they prowl about upon its walls.


R.    Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.


Cast your care upon the LORD, and he will support you; never will he permit the just man to be disturbed.


R.    Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.

Alleluia: Gal 6:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 9:30-3

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.


He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”


But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.


They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”


But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.


Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”


Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,    and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Homily

Jesus was trying to prepare His friends for bad news (the Passion) and good news (the Resurrection), but they did not want to hear him. 


Instead, they were caught up, as we so often are, in private competitions and jealousies. It takes a lifetime to realize the silliness of our ego-trips. 


Maybe the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus because they didn't want to know anything more about the future which would involve death and resurrection. This little bit of knowledge of Jesus' future was almost too much for them.


The trusting nature of a child may have been an invitation to them to trust in Jesus even though the future was unknown. In prayer we can ask for the gift of this sort of trust for our own future.


Ambition is part of our make-up and no different for some of the apostles. For Jesus, ambition is to be more like him, to serve and suffer for others as he served and suffered. 


Somebody once told Saint Ignatius that Francis Xavier was a very ambitious young man. Ignatius replied, ‘He is not ambitious enough’. His later ambitions were gospel ambitions. Prayer renews and refreshes our desire to be like and for Jesus in the world. 

February 24, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jas 3:13-18

Beloved:


Who among you is wise and understanding?


Let him show his works by a good life    in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.


Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.


But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.


And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

Responsorial Psalm: 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R.    The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.


The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.


R.    The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.


The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.


R.    The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.


The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.


R.    The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.


Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.


R.    The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

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: 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.


Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him.


He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”


Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.


I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”


He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?  Bring him to me.”


They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.


As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around    and foam at the mouth.


Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”


He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”


Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”


Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”


Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!”


Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”


But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?”


He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

Homily

Today’s is a consoling Gospel scene rooted in daily life: a suffering child, a concerned parent, an awe-struck crowd, a little group of faithful disciples, a number of their opponents. 


The father’s request to Jesus took the form of a tentative prayer. “If you are able to do anything have pity on us and help us”.


Jesus elicited an act of faith and deep prayer from the father. ”I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus then cured the boy. He later taught his disciples privately that there is no other way to deal with some situations than prayer.


Simone Weil, a French-born Jewish philosopher, died aged 34 in 1943. During her final illness, someone said to her, “I can only pray for you”. Simone answered, “Why do you say, ‘only’. That’s the best thing you can do for me”. 

F

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Reading 1: Lv 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.


“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.


Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. The Lord is kind and merciful.


Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.


R. The Lord is kind and merciful.


He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.


R. The Lord is kind and merciful.


Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.


R. The Lord is kind and merciful.


As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.


R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2: 1 Cor 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:


Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.


Let no one deceive himself.


If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.


So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Alleluia: 1 Jn 2:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Matthew: 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:


“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.


If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.


“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.


For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?


Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Homily

Do not say that it is naïve to think we can love everyone, even our enemies. It is not naïve; it is Christian.


Do not say that it is politically naïve to be forgiving of those who hurt you. It is not naïve; it is Christian.


Do not say that it is naïve to ensure everyone’s basic needs are met, even for the least of these. It is not naïve; it is Christian.


I grow weary of Christians who on Sunday worship the Prince of Peace and the rest of the week align themselves with political perspectives that support war.


I grow weary of Christians who pray on Sunday, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and spend the rest of the week holding grudges and seeking revenge.


I grow weary of Christians who on Sunday profess their love for the one who said, “when you do it to the least of these you do it to me,” but spend the rest of the week supporting politicians and political platforms that step on the least of these.


I grow weary of the cognitive dissonance in which some Christians blissfully exist, not realizing that while on Sunday they claim the moniker of Christ, the things they profess the rest of the week belie the teachings of the name they claim.


If you don’t want your politics to match your religious beliefs, that’s fine with me.


If you don’t need authenticity in the balance between what you confess on Sunday and what you profess the rest of the week, that’s fine with me.


But do not pretend that you are practicing what you preach.


Do not pretend that you are talking the talk and walking the walk.


Do not pretend it is alright with God.


God expects a life lived with authenticity, not a life lived practicing this kind of false duplicity.


God expects us to strive to be the people we claim to be, not merely claim to be the people we are supposed to strive to be.


Don’t tell me that the things Jesus taught are naïve when placed within the realm of contemporary governance.


Don’t tell me that the things Jesus said are “good” things to say, but that they are not practical in “real life.”


Jesus never said that following in his way would be practical – he said that it would be difficult.


Tell me that your faith is big enough to take the first step into matching your Sundays and your weekdays.


Tell me that you are so committed to the teachings of Jesus that you will risk loving your enemy.


Tell me that the image of Christ is carved out in every face you see and that you could never sit idly by as politicians and big business conspire to step on the least of these.


Tell me that God’s love lives in you.


Tell me that in you, God’s love knows no bounds.


Tell me that in you, God’s love is bigger than any party loyalty.


Tell me that in you, God’s love is more valuable than anything wealth could ever bring you.


Tell me with your words.


Tell me with your actions.


Tell me with your political positions.


Tell me with your life.

February 22, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: 1 Pt 5:1-4

Beloved:


I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.


Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.


Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.


And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm: 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.


R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.


R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.


R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.


R.    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia: Mt 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Matthew: 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”


They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”


He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”


Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.


For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.


And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.


I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Homily

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.


Joseph Ratzinger, commenting on this passage, observes that our canonical Greek text must derive from an Aramaic original. There is a direct citation of Aramaic in the name “Simon Bar-Jonah”. There are also typical Aramaic phrases: “gates of the underworld”, “keys of the Kingdom”, “bind and loose”, “on earth and in heaven”. The word play on Simon’s new name “Rock” also works better in Aramaic than in Greek. Ratzinger concludes, against many contemporary liberal scholars, that we have here no anachronistic invention of the early Church, but on the contrary a direct echo of the very words of Jesus, memorably spoken on this most solemn of occasions.


What did Jesus mean by giving the name “Rock” to the first of his disciples? We must presume he had in mind here two Old Testament texts in particular. First of all, from Isaiah Chapter 28. Thus says the Lord: Now I shall lay in Sion a granite stone, a precious corner stone, a firm foundation stone. No one who relies on it shall stumble (v.16). Any Christian will naturally apply this text to Jesus the Messiah, who is himself both the builder and the foundation of the new Jerusalem, the new holy people, the new Kingdom of God. But Jesus does not apply this text to himself; he applies it to Simon Peter, or “Kepha” - Cephas. A second noteworthy text is the verse from Psalm 117: The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner (v.22). In a later Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus does apply this text directly to himself, while in controversy with the chief Priests and Scribes (21:42). According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter himself cites this verse from the Psalm in his speech before the Sanhedrin, applying it to Christ’s Resurrection. “Only in him”, Peter concludes, “is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Yet at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus gives the name Rock not to himself, but to Peter.


In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had contrasted the foolish man who built his house on sand, only to see it collapse before the wind and rain, with the wise man who built on rock, whose house nothing could destroy (7:24ff.). Did Jesus then act as a wise builder when he chose Simon Peter? Was he wise to invest Peter with such awesome and divine authority? Because there is so much in Peter that seems to have been the opposite of rock-like. A little earlier in this Gospel, when Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water, Peter had acted as spokesman for the rest, manifesting strong faith, and then with noble courage he stepped into the sea. Then immediately he wavered, and received the rebuke, O man of little faith! (14:31). Following the Caesarea Philippi declaration, Peter will receive another title. Get behind me Satan! For you are an obstacle in my path. You are thinking not as God does but as men do (16:23). Then during the Passion, Peter would waver again, three times denying his Lord (Mt 26:69ff.).


As for Peter’s power of binding and loosing: it was urgently called upon in the early Church, when controversy arose concerning the incorporation of the Gentiles. What would be their relationship with the Jewish Christians, and to what extent would they be bound by the ceremonial laws of Moses? We read in Acts how Peter wisely and well took a strong decision on all that (cf. Acts 11:17; 15:10 etc.). But then he wavered. Hence the confrontation with St. Paul, recounted in Galatians. When Cephas - the Rock - came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong (2:11). Peter was not in the wrong concerning his declared decisions, but only concerning his inconsistent behavior. He was not in the wrong regarding his rock-like faith, but only regarding his weak capitulation in face of human pressure.


So today we have the feast of the Chair of Peter. Peter, the first witness of the Resurrection, but today we must also remember Paul the last (1 Cor 15:5,7). The two complement each other, need each other, support each other. Each had a special revelation about Jesus from God the Father (Mt. 16:17; Gal 1:12 etc.). Each also had a mission of unique and lasting importance for the whole Church. So the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman canon, in listing the Apostles, puts Peter and Paul together at their head. The list has twelve members; so to make up for the extra one, St. Matthias is relegated to the second list of martyrs after the consecration and anamnesis.


Is this correct? Is it wise? It would surely seem not to be wise according to the wisdom of the world. Yet we know that in fact it is wise according to the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor 1:26). For the Church as Christ’s Body is an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation. Grace is mediated though human means, the divine through the earthly, and so Jesus entrusted his Church not to angels but to men. We want all of these to be great Saints. Historically of course very many Pastors have risen to the heights of heroism and sanctity. Yet none of them started as a flawless superman; all were frail human creatures, sinners by definition, and sometimes their judgement could lead them badly astray! Let us then not be unduly unsettled, upset, scandalized, disheartened, when we see Church leaders who are unfaithful, or inconsistent, or worldly, or just weak. We do not for that reason abandon the Church, which even in bad times remains the one ark of salvation, ever the efficacious communion of love, apart from which, as the ancient Fathers said, there is no salvation. St. John of the Cross wrote that where there is no love, put love, and you will find love. So also: where there is no faith, put faith; where there is no hope, put hope. That is virtue. And if all around you seem weak, then is the time above all to be strong.


After 21 centuries the Catholic Church continues to stand. She stands on the witness of SS. Peter and Paul, which does not change, because God does not change, and neither, come to that, does human nature. We celebrate SS. Peter and Paul, because to do so gives honor and glory to Jesus Christ the Lord, who chose them, and conferred his own authority on them; Jesus, whom they confessed, proclaimed, and bore witness to, even to the shedding of their blood.

Fenruary 21, 2020 Readings and Homily

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Reading 1: Jas 2:14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?    Can that faith save him?


If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?


So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


Indeed someone might say,    “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.


You believe that God is one. You do well.


Even the demons believe that and tremble.


Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.


Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.


See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Responsorial Psalm: 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.


Blessed the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commands. His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth; the upright generation shall be blessed.


R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.


Wealth and riches shall be in his house; his generosity shall endure forever. Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just.


R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.


Well for the man who is gracious and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice; he shall never be moved; the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.


R.    Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.

Alleluia: Jn 15:15b

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.


I call you my friends, says the Lord, for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.


R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel according to Mark: 8:34–9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.


For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.


What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?


What could one give in exchange for his life?


Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”


He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

Homily

The cross has been the great symbol of Christianity since it first carried the body of Jesus on Calvary. 


However we should remember that the Cross, in the form of two pieces of wood, only came into the last three hours of the life of Christ. The mystics tells us that it was there from the first moment of his Incarnation.


Two crosses await each of us in this life: the cross of the world and the cross of Christ. And between them we have to choose. 


The cross of the world has an insidious appeal. It appears as a short-cut to happiness and at the start, easily carried. But it becomes heavy and more disappointing as time passes. 


“the multitude”, all of us, are called to be faithful to the values of the cross of Christ —  self-denial, justice, compassionate goodness to others — rather than to the values of the cross of the world: greed, self-indulgence, celebrity. 


The cross of Christ appears difficult and challenging at the start. 


But it gets easier, if carried faithfully, over the years. Eventually, it will bring us to a happiness without end.