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.

Third Sunday of Advent – A Reflection

 

Third Sunday of Advent 2015Zephaniah 3: 14-18a

Philippians 4: 4-7

Luke 3: 10-18

 

 

“Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”  (Zephaniah 3)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4; 4-7)

 

We are in the third week of the penitential season of the Advent; the time of preparation for day of Christmas, to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into this world.  It is a time of expectation; anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at the end of time.  The third candle on the Advent wreath is pink; most priests celebrated Mass this day, wearing pink rose colored vestments.  It is the Church telling us that the time of preparation, of more intensive prayer, of reflecting on Scripture, of ascetic practices are almost at end.

Truth be told, it is hard to live a penitential lifestyle during the days leading up to Christmas.  The somber liturgical purple colors are overwhelmed by the bright colors of red, white, and green.  The bright Christmas lights decorating our city streets, the stores, and our office spaces; yes, even our homes; tell us Christmas is here!  During a time when we are asked to curb our desires, we are encouraged to consume more and more.  Whether it is buying lots of Christmas gifts, or the eating of Christmas candy and pastries, we are told the celebrations start now.

Yet, sometimes I think we are being feed a false message by the merchants, the politicians, and city fathers.  We see in the news of tragic events, the murder of innocents, both at home and abroad; and we experience fear.  We see, and hear, the messages of hate, whether spoken by terrorists, or our politicians, filling the airwaves and the internet.  Many of us are feeling the burden of an uncertain economy, feeling the anxieties of making ends meet, of keeping shelter over our heads.  And we have our own inner anxieties, which keep us up at night.  The “Christmas Season,” only adds to the anxieties.

It is at this moment, we need to hear the booming voice of St. Paul, saying to us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!” We are not an abandoned people; Emmanuel!  “God is with us!”  The Son of God came into this world to free us from fear; from sin and death!  Jesus Christ has come to give us his Spirit, to cleanse us with fire, to energize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  He invites us to enter into an intimate relationship with God, through Scripture, through prayer, and receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  If we are able to do that, strive to do that, St. Paul promises that our anxieties and our fears will have no power over us: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

So we have one more week before Christmas Day, a week to enter again into a time of true preparation to celebrate that wondrous day!  To prepare our minds, our hearts, our souls to hear, really hear, the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.

Brief Reflection – Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2015

Mark 7: 33b-34 – “He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha! (that is, ‘Be opened!’)”  We need Jesus to help open our mind and heart to the power of his Spirit.  We need to be open to the experience of God’s love for each one of us.  But more than that, we need to open ourselves to others, to the Good News we have heard, and to share our experiences of God’s love at work in our lives.

Jesus and deaf mute man

Good Friday in Beverly – 2015

TGood Friday Crosshis is the first chance I have had to write some reflections on part of what I have been doing during this Holy Week, 2015.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I assisted at the service that was held at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Beverly, MA.  The small church was built in the late 1800’s, and has a very unique design.  The interior has a dark wood ceiling, which sort of adds to the solemnity of the liturgy we were about to celebrate.

The Good Friday service commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, it is the most solemn liturgy held during Holy Week.  Wearing red colored vestments, the Pastor and I silently processed into the church.  Entering the sanctuary, Father, I and the cantor kneeled in the sanctuary, and the service began with readings from Scripture.  I, the cantor, and our music director chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of John.  After the prayers of the faithful, I went to the rear of the church, picked up a plain wooden cross, and began to process down the main aisle, back to the sanctuary.  I stopped three times; each time intoning: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world!” to which the congregation responded: “Come let us worship.”  After Father and I had each venerated the Cross, members from the congregation came forwarded to also venerate it.  Some kissed the wood, others knelt and touched it, and others just bowed before it.  When everyone had come forward, Father and I set the Cross on a side altar, with two candles on either side.  A communion service followed, then Father and I processed out and we did in, in silence.

After greeting members of the Catholic community as they left the church, I went back in; back to the side altar with the Cross.  As I stood, looking at that bare wooden Cross, it came to me, how an instrument of public execution, has become a symbol of triumph, Christ’s triumph of death.  I think though we forget what suffering Jesus went through, for us, for our salvation.  We need to recall what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”  (Isaiah 52)

Tonight, we commemorate, we celebrate Jesus Christ victory over sin and death; we celebrate the peace and joy that is still being experienced by so many of us.

Palm Sunday, Beginning of Holy Week – 2015

Palm Sunday

Yesterday, March 29, 2015, Passion (Palm) Sunday, I began my third Holy Week as an ordained Deacon.  I assisted at Mass at two of the three parishes that make up the Beverly Catholic Collaborative.  At the beginning of each Mass, there was the blessing of the palms, followed by my proclaiming the Gospel reading according to Mark; of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem.  Crowds gathered around Him, shaking palm branches, and yelling out “Hosanna,” and proclaiming that the Kingdom of David was at hand.  Yet, during that same liturgy, we would hear the Passion of Jesus Christ according to Matthew; during which the crowds are now yelling out, “Crucify Him!”

The five weeks of Lent were meant to be a time to prepare for this Holy Week, for in many ways, this week will be the most challenging of the Church’s liturgical year.  We are to recall the events that lead to the Crucifixion of Jesus, and to His Resurrection.  We are being challenged to reflect more deeply and personally on what those events mean to our world, our Church and for ourselves personally.  We are being summoned to; if just for this week, live a life of intensive prayer and meditation.  We are being challenged to open our minds, our hearts and our souls to the presence of our Resurrected Savior, and be willing to be transformed by Him; transformed into bearers of the Good News.  Evangelizers, by word and deed; to let others know of the love and mercy of our God!

Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Lent – 2015

Noah and the rainbow

Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (10)
1 Peter 3: 18-22
Mark 1: 12-15
The story of Noah and the Ark has in many ways become a child’s fairy tale. Most depictions of the story are like a cartoon, showing friendly animals, lining up two by two, to enter the Ark. We see Noah and his family, smiling as they welcome the creatures coming towards them. Yet, like most of our modern fairy tales, the origin of the story of the Ark; the deeper meaning of the story, can be grim and frightening.

We see God, looking out at the humanity that inhabits His world and seeing only evil and corruption. Like a potter, unhappy with the pottery he has made, God intends to destroy His creation, wipe the slate clean. Yet, God is a creator, not a destroyer. While He intends to wipe out the evil, He sees the good that still exists, exists in Noah and his family. So God saves a remnant of humanity, and insures their survival. And in Noah and his family, humanity is reborn, life begins again. And the Creator promises never to destroy all humanity again, and the rainbow is the sign of that promise. He will seek another way to save His people from the power of sin.

And that way is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, through His death and resurrection, freed all humanity, past, present, and those yet to come from the power, and the consequences of sin. And with that freedom, with the fulfillment of the promise the Father made to His creation, the “kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is the Good News that Jesus is calling us to accept and believe. To believe that God does love this world, loves us; loves us so much He gave us His Son to save us, to heal us. That kind of love calls for a response from us, and that response is to change our lives, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, to live the Gospel!

The season of Lent is meant to be a time of preparation, a time of reflection, a time of conversion. A reflection on what our lives have been, and to see, in light of the Gospel, what needs to be changed. And we prepare our hearts to be open to experience the joy, and wonder of Easter morning, to celebrate the love of God

Reflection on Ash Wednesday – 2015

Ash Wednesday 2012

Joel 2: 12-18
2 Corinthians: 20-6:2
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

“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.” (Joel 2: 2-13)

In the frozen, snowbound Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the celebration of Ash Wednesday goes on. I have been assisting at two Masses, and one service, distributing the ashes; marking each person’s forehead with the sign of the cross (or at least, I am trying to!). Each time, I tell the person: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” I want them to listen to the Good News, and to change their lives. Ashes on the forehead are an ancient symbol of repentance, from the time of ancient Israel, and further back in time. But it is only a symbol, it has no power, it has no meaning, if the recipient does not commit himself or herself to living the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Now this requires change; a change in the way we live our lives. It is a call to enter into a closer, more loving, and deeper relationship with our God. It is a call to let go of our selfishness, our self-centeredness, and reach out the Father; and to reach out to each other, friend and stranger alike. It is a call to let go of the negative self-image we can have of ourselves; and realize that God love us for who and what we are, no matter what. And we are called to reach out to the other wounded persons we meet, and share this Good News, whether by word, or by action.

Lent then, is the season wherein we can enter into a more disciplined way of life, with the aim of growing closer to God. We are encouraged to make even more time for prayer, where we can open our hearts wider, to let God in, so that we can experience that Love that surpasses all other types of love. And as our experience of that Love grows and grows, we are impelled to make more and more room in ourselves for God’s Presence. We need to discover what is our internal clutter, that personal junk, which is getting in our way of loving God. This is where the discipline of fasting comes in, where we can discover what we really need to live, and what we can do without. Where we can discover how it feels to be empty, and ready for Christ to come, and knock at the door of our hearts. And finally, after receiving such a great gift from the Father, we feel the need to share that gift of love with others, others who may be alone, feeling unloved, who believe that they are alone in a cruel, uncaring world. By practicing almsgiving, we learn to reach beyond ourselves, and touch those around us, whether they are family, friends or strangers. And we learn that we are not just called to share from our “surplus,” but to share ourselves totally with others.

The season of Lent has been, is, and always will be an opportunity to deepen our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. An opportunity and a challenge for all of us. The challenge to grow in our faith; and no matter often we might fail, we will pick ourselves up and begin again. We will not be alone on this Lenten journey, Jesus will be us, inspiring us by His Word, and He strengthens us with His Body and Blood. And on Easter morn, He will be there to welcome us, into a much more wonderful life.

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, Joseph – 2014

The Holy Family      Genesis 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3

       Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

       Luke 2: 22-40

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, which comes on the Sunday after Christmas. This year, this Feast and Christmas are only a few days apart. How many of us are still recovering from the Christmas celebrations; the preparations, the clean up; the stresses and the joys of that day. And how many of us are just hoping for a quiet weekend. Can we suppose that Mary and Joseph may have felt the same way, after what had happened on the evening of the birth of their son? First there was the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, then finding shelter in a manger, a barn! Then that appearance of a group of scruffy shepherds, who have this story of angels flying in the night sky, proclaiming that this child, their child, is the long for Messiah. I am sure that what Mary and Joseph longed for was some normalcy, to just perform the rituals required by Law of Moses and then get back to Nazareth and their lives as quickly as possible.

So they go up to Jerusalem, to the Temple to make the required sacrifices. Now keep in mind that they were not the only ones going to the Temple that day. There would have been hundreds, if not thousands of worshipers going to the there. If you have ever seen a picture of the crowds assembled in front of St. Peter’s in Rome, you would have some idea of the crowds going in and out of the Temple courtyards. And yet, and yet; out of that massive crowd of humanity, Simeon, is able to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How? He was guided by the Holy Spirit, for God was fulfilling His promise, that Simeon would not see death, before seeing the Messiah. Simeon had such faith in that promise, that for so many years he kept going to the Temple. And despite so many disappointing encounters, he still had faith. Then comes the day his path crosses with Mary, Joseph and their infant son. He praises God that his faith has been rewarded, he has seen the Messiah. Then he tells Mary and Joseph what the destiny of their child would be, and what it would cost them. Now, after hearing this, who could blame Mary and Joseph, if they were to flee south to Egypt; or north to Syria, or east to Babylon? This was not what they signed up for. But they do not flee, they returned to Nazareth, Despite their fears of what the future may hold, they raised the child Jesus up into a strong young man, who was “filled with wisdom” and with the favor of God. They were able to do so because they had faith, faith that whatever trials and tribulations may come their way, God would not abandon them, that God would be there for them. It is that same faith that their ancestor Abraham had when he first listened to God, to a Presence he did not know, yet he believed, and left the safety of the Ur, for an unknown land. He had faith that, despite his old age, he believed that God would keep His promise of making from him a mighty nation.

And it is faith in God’s promise that through His Son, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God is with us.,” we believe that we will never be alone, that indeed, God will be with us always, He will be with us in times of trial, and times of challenge:. He will be with us in the joyful times, and the sad times. It is faith in Him, that draws us here today, as a community of believers, that through Word and Sacrament, that faith will be continually renewed and strengthened. It is by faith in God’s love, which causes us to reach out to others, to share that love. And it is by faith that we look forward to the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus Christ will come again, and a new heaven and a new earth will be born.