Nativity of St. John the Baptist – June 24th

Nativity of John the BaptistIsaiah 49: 1-6

Acts 13: 22-26

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

 

 

 

 

 

“In those days, Paul said:

‘John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not he.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

‘My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.'” (Acts 13)

On this day, Catholics, and Eastern Rite Christians celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  We remember the birth of St. John, we remember what his role in salvation history was.  There are theologians who describe him as the bridge between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times.  He is considered the last prophet of the Prophetic Age of Israel.

We do not much of his history; we can suspect that he spent time in the desert, fasting and in prayer.  Some scholars theorize that John may have had contact with the Essenes a Jewish ascetic community.  At some point, the Holy Spirit called him from the desert to the Jordan River, where he began to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and the Kingdom of God.  He called the people to a life of repentance, symbolized by them receiving baptism in the waters of the river.  It was on the Jordan River, that he encountered the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  And though he felt unworthy, he baptized Jesus, so that all things would be fulfilled.  After this meeting, John continued preaching and baptizing.  He would call out Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, about his lifestyle, and especially his marriage to his brother’s former wife, which violated Jewish law.  St. John would pay with his life for being so outspoken.

When we were baptized, we became members of the Body of Christ; as such, we share in his life as priest, prophet, and king.  Focusing on our prophetic role; we are called to proclaim the Good News, either by our words or actions.  As prophets, we are to speak up for the poor, the persecuted, and the refugee; and speak truth to power.  As St. John the Baptist was moved by the Holy Spirit, so we also be open to the promptings of the Spirit, and be true prophets to our world.

“I am the Good Shepherd” – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-05Acts 4: 8-12

1 John 3: 1-2

John 10: 11-18

 

 

 

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.   (John 10: 11-16)

In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails.  He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures.  In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them.  And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.

Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death.  His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them.  He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be.  His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find  a place of repose, in this life and into the next.

We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger.  We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.

 

“The Time of Fulfillment” – First Sunday of Lent, 2018

Kingdom of God is at hand!Genesis 9: 8-15

1st Peter 3: 18-22

Mark 1: 12-15

 

 

“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” ( Mark 1: 15)

 

When Jesus Christ made this proclamation, what would have been the reaction of the people of Galilee.  I suspect that many would have gone on with their daily work; some with a tired look on their faces.  They have heard this before; many so-called prophets and messiahs must have gone through the villages, promising a new world, only to wind up dead at the hands of the Romans or Herodians.  But there was something different about this Nazarene, something about his manner, his style.  And he performed miracles of healing and more, acts not seen since the times of the great prophets!  He made them believe that the longed for kingdom of God was just over the horizon.  Then came a dark Friday on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where they saw their expectations, their hopes dashed, as they witnessed their messiah die on a Roman cross.  Many must have went home to hide; crushed and angry.  Others felt compelled to remain in Jerusalem, to mourn in hiding.  Then came Easter morning, and the disciples who stayed, realized that the time of fulfillment had begun!

 

Fast forward to our present time; and when we hear this Gospel passage proclaimed, our reaction might be: “Yeah, right!”  This reaction might be understandable; considering the fact that we all have just witnessed the most tragic mass shooting in a school in our history.  The horror of it all, is that this is just the most recent of many mass shootings in our country, and none of our political leaders seem willing to do anything about it.  We are also seeing a rise of bigotry, some of it born of fear, in the nation.  We are becoming a divided people.  Terrorism, war, threat of nuclear war, ethnic cleansing, hatred; seems to be the new reality in our world.  So we may find ourselves calling up to the Father; “How can this be the time of fulfillment?  How can the kingdom of God be at hand?”

 

And Jesus Christ responds, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  “Repent;” we all need to reflect on our own individual lives and ask;  In what ways, large or small, have we added to the pain our world is in?  In what ways, large or small, has our inaction allowed evil and suffering to grow?  And when we have an answer; when we are able to see the realities of our lives, we seek the forgiveness, and that healing that can only come from God.  And in that moment, we experience the reality of the Good News, and we believe in the gospel.  And the Good News that Jesus is revealing to us, is that through God, through living the Gospel, we are transformed.  And with every transformation, the time of fulfillment draws closer.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

jesus Cleanses the Leper

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
1st Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Mark 1:40-45

In the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see again passages that emphasizes the role of Jesus as healer. We saw in last Sunday’s readings, that his reputation as a healer spread so fast, that the whole town of Capernaum crowded around St. Peter’s home, many seeking a cure, others wishing to witness a miracle. Realizing that he could be trapped in Capernaum by the crowd, he leaves the town early the next morning; before anyone else is awake to stop him. He goes to a deserted place for prayer, but his disciples are still able to find him. He tells them that his purpose is to bring the Good News to all the Galilee. But even in that deserted place, Jesus encounters someone in need of healing, a leper. Now leprosy was among the most dreaded diseases of ancient times, seen as highly contagious. In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we see the ritual one had to go through if he or she was suspected of leprosy. The leper was driven from the community, living in solitary suffering. That person would eventually either die alone, or in company of fellow lepers. Jesus wishes to heal the leper before him, so he does what would be considered madness by his companions, he touches him. The miracle happens, the person is made clean, made whole. Jesus instructs him to just go and show himself to the temple priest and be brought back into the community. Of course, this does not happen, the cured man proclaims to all what has happened to him, and who did it, and Jesus must change his approach to the people.

 

However, I would like to offer another interpretation of this Scripture. It has to do with the fact that because of this disfiguring disease, this person was separated from the people of Israel. He was lost, destined to be alone in deserted places. Now, consider that “leprosy” can come in many forms; like poverty, like addiction, homelessness, mental disabilities. One can be considered a societal “leper;” if one is an immigrant or refugee, with different languages, different customs, different beliefs. They feel separated from the wider community, ostracized, discriminated against. And here is Jesus Christ, who is telling us, by his example, to reach out and touch them; reach out and embrace them; reach out and bring them back into the wider community of our cities and towns, our states and nation. This is the mission, the calling of the Christian community. This is the work of our Church, to heal and bring back those who are wounded, lost and alone.

A Wedding Homily – 2017

Welcome, we are all here to witness something awesome!  We have come to witness two unique individuals come forward, and with God’s grace,  become one.  We are about to witness the power of their love for each other, and the power of God’s love, made present here before us; and that should fill us all with awe!
For that is one of the objectives that a celebration of a sacrament is suppose to accomplish.  It is an opportunity to encounter the Divine; through the ordinary objects that our God has created: water, olive oil, bread and wine,..a ring.  A sacrament is also a means by which God transforms the individual or individuals who are receiving the sacrament.  Through the waters of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin, and become born again as a child of God.  Through the anointing with holy oil, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  When we receive consecrated bread and wine, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become one with Christ.  And in the exchange of rings, which symbolizes the pledge, in love, of a man and a woman to each other, to their union.  And it also symbolizes God’s pledge to you both; that He will be with you always.

For God is the source of all life, and of all love.  And through His Spirit, that love can fill your hearts, your souls, all the way down into the very depths of your being.  The power of God’s Presence within you, the power of His love; will help you experience the joyful times more intensely; will help you through the trying times with more hope.  Remember always the description of love we have just heard from the writings of St. Paul:

“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”                  (1 Corinthians)

Love will never fail, if we continually open our hearts, and be present to God, the Father.  A Dutch priest and author, had a personal revelation; reflecting on when God addressed Jesus, as He was coming up out of the waters of the Jordan River, as His “Beloved.”  And He also calls you, me,  all of us here, “Beloved.”  Whether we have been good or bad; whether we have ignored Him or not; whether we believe in Him or not; He still calls each one of us”Beloved.”

It is by the power of that love; by the gift of His Spirit, that you both have been drawn to this place, to this sacred moment of time.  And we have all been drawn here to witness something awesome.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – A Brief Reflection

There was an inscription over his head:

‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS’

.(Luke 23:38)

2 Sm 5: 1-3

Col 1: 12-20

Luke 23: 35-45

San Damiano crossToday, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King.  However, the Scripture readings for the day could lead to confusion for some of us.  The first reading describes how the people of Israel came together and made David their king.  It was to David, did the Lord make the promise: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me ; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sm 7: 16).  Even when their lands were occupied by foreign invaders; the people of Israel still hoped for the promised coming of the Messiah, a descendant of King David.

We believe that Jesus of Nazareth, of the line of King David; is the promised Messiah, the Christ of God, the Son of God.  However, in the Gospel reading from Luke, we see Jesus not seated on a throne, but nailed to a cross, like a common criminal.  Yet in this suffering, he was performing the greatest act a king can do; dying for his people.  For by his death and resurrection; Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, freed us all from the power of sin and death.  To Him, would come a glory that would surpass anything pomp and ceremony could bestow on a earthly king or queen.

Today, the Catholic Church is also ending the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  It is fitting then, that today’s Gospel reading describes the last act of mercy Jesus would perform before his death.  Despite enduring horrific suffering, he hears the plea of a repentant criminal, and promises him eternal peace.  Thus, we are being challenged by Jesus; that no matter how much pain or suffering someone may have caused us, we must be ready to be merciful, to forgive and to heal.  And no matter how hard life might be, at any given moment, we must be open to any opportunity, to give mercy to someone who needs it.

Quick Reflection on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

I am with my wife on Cape Cod visiting her parents.  Attended Sunday Mass.  The Gospel tells the story of Wedding Feast at Cana.  The changing of water into wine was only witnessed by the servants, Jesus’ mother, and his disciples.  It was his first miracle, and it was the beginning of his public ministry; his proclamation, by word and deed of the Good News!

By virtue of our Baptism, we share in Christ’s mission to proclaim the Good News.  We each have a role, as the Holy Spirit gives us the grace; we need but to discern the way we are to go.  Then have the courage to go forward.