The Most Holy Name of Jesus - January 3

The Most Holy Name of Jesus
1 John 2:29—3:6  +  Psalm 98  +  John 1:29-34
January 3, 2013
         
“Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” [1 John 3:2]

While the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is only an optional memorial in the Church’s liturgical calendar, its meaning dovetails beautifully with the Scriptures the Church proclaims today from the writings of St. John.

January 2, 2013

Ss. Basil and Gregory, bishops and Doctors of the Church
1 John 2:22-28  +  Psalm 98  +  John 1:19-28
January 2, 2013

“If what you heard from the beginning remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.” [1 John 2:24]

               St. John the Evangelist often writes in a style that can leave you scratching your head.  Even when he tells a story in his Gospel account with a straight-forward plot, there’s a pervasive sense of double meanings.

Mary, the Mother of God

Mary, the Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27  +  Galatians 4:4-7  +  Luke 2:16-21
January 1, 2013

               Only seven days ago we began the Christmas season here in church by celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus.  As we looked at the image of the tiny infant Jesus we asked along with the old Christmas hymn, “what child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”  It is easy to wonder how this tiny baby could be God.
               In the same way, we wonder, a week after Christmas Day, and we ponder who Mary is.  The Church celebrates the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.  This title that we give to Mary, “the Mother of God,” is a strong one.  It’s easy to say that Mary is the mother of the human baby Jesus, but how can we say that she gave birth to God?  And even if we can say that Mary is the Mother of God, should we use this title?  Is there any point to it?

Holy Family [C]

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph  [C]
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14  +  Colossians 3:12-21  +  Luke 2:41-52
December 30, 2012

               In the year of Our Lord 1809, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton founded an order of religious sisters, inspired by the same love which she gave to her own children.  There are many things about Saint Elizabeth and her religious order which are remarkable.
It was the first religious order established in the United States, and its founder was not only called “Mother Seton” as the superior of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, but Elizabeth Ann Seton was herself the mother of five children, ranging in ages from six to thirteen.  Despite being a mother twice over, St. Elizabeth knew that the source of all her strength came from only one source, the same thing that had led her to convert to the Catholic faith at the age of thirty:  the Blessed Sacrament.

The Nativity of the Lord

The Nativity of Our Lord
December 25, 2012

“The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.”  [John 1:14]

               Silence can be awkward.  But we can’t do without it.  Have you ever been to downtown New York City?  Some people find it exhilarating.  I lived in New York City for one summer, in 1999.  Visiting the downtown area completely overwhelmed me.  For me it wasn’t so much the visual busy-ness of the neon and electric billboards (although I never visited downtown at night).  It was the busy-ness of the sounds that overwhelmed me.  Maybe some people consider it a symphony of sounds that they enjoy, but to me it was all just noise.  Maybe the sounds of downtown New York are an acquired taste, but personally, I prefer the taste of silence.

4th Sunday of Advent [C]

The Fourth Sunday of Advent [C]
Micah 5:1-4  +  Hebrews 10:5-10  +  Luke 1:39-45
December 23, 2012

“ ‘Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ ”  [Luke 1:42]

 In today’s gospel passage we hear about the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary:  the Visitation.  In the person of Mary we see someone bearing her Lord and God within her.  We also see Mary as someone who brings Him into the lives of others.
 This scene, as simple and joyous as it is, preaches two powerful messages for those who want to be faithful disciples of Jesus.  The first is a call to recognize the role that our Blessed Mother played from the very beginning of Christ’s life.  If she was Christ’s protector, she is ours, also.

December 21

Late Advent Weekday — December 21
Song of Songs 2:8-14  +  Psalm 33  +  Luke 1:39-45
December 21, 2012
          
“ ‘Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ ”  [Luke 1:42]

               Today our Scriptures present responses to the coming of the Lord.  Both are worthy of our reflection and imitation, although they are very different from each other.
               Our First Reading today is from the Old Testament book Song of Songs.  This book is highly poetic in nature, and as such, is open to many interpretations.  The Church sees in the words of today’s passage a loving longing for the Messiah.  It’s the loving nature of this book’s expression of waiting that sets it apart from most of the Old Testament’s waiting for the Messiah.  This book’s insight into the nature of the Messiah and His reason for coming raise it above much of the Old Testament’s desire for earthly security.  This book foreshadows the truth of God being love, proclaimed by St. John in his epistles, from which we will hear during the Christmas Season.

December 20

Late Advent Weekday — December 20
Isaiah 7:10-14  +  Psalm 24  +  Luke 1:26-38
December 20, 2012

“ ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.’ ”  [Luke 1:38]

               Of all the contrasts between Zechariah and Mary in St. Luke’s infancy narratives, the starkest is found in their responses to the good news announced to each.  What makes Mary’s response to St. Gabriel even more striking is that objectively, the message entrusted to her was much more difficult to understand from an “earthly perspective”.  After all, what Gabriel announced to Zechariah was news which he and his wife had been longing to hear for many years.  While the facts foretold by Gabriel were unlikely from a human standpoint, they were not impossible even by human standards, and had precedent in biblical history.

December 19

Late Advent Weekday — December 19
Judges 13:2-7,24-25  +  Psalm 71  +  Luke 1:5-25
December 19, 2012

“He was gesturing to them but remained mute.”  [Luke 1:22]

               During the “Advent Octave” (that is, the last eight days of Advent, which are usually called the “Late Advent weekdays”), the Gospel heard at weekday Masses shifts to the infancy narratives.  It might surprise some that not all four Gospel accounts tell us about the infancy of Jesus.  Only Matthew and Luke do.  In his prologue (John 1:1-18), John one-ups those two evangelists by accounting for the life of God the Son from all eternity in brief and brilliant poetry.  Mark begins his Gospel account (the shortest of the four) with Jesus already an adult.

December 18

Late Advent Weekday — December 18
Jeremiah 23:5-8  +  Psalm 72  +  Matthew 1:18-25
December 18, 2012

“He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.”  [Psalm 72:2]
                                                         
               The Responsorial Psalm at Holy Mass both on December 17 and 18 is from Psalm 72.  The first strophe (that is, set of verses) proclaimed each of these days is the same.  The later sets of verses differ between the 17th and 18th.  But consider that first set, Psalm 72:1-2:
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

December 17

Late Advent Weekday — December 17
Genesis 49:2,8-10  +  Psalm 72  +  Matthew 1:1-17
December 17, 2012

“…Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.”  [Matthew 1:2]
                                                         
               Note in the header for this reflection that today is termed a “Late Advent Weekday”.  This term describes the last eight days of Advent, beginning on December 17.  The Sacred Liturgy—from the Divine Office to Holy Mass—shifts slightly in tone as the Church’s preparation for the Messiah intensifies.
               Each year on December 17 (unless it falls on a Sunday), the Church proclaims the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel account at Holy Mass.  Matthew begins his account of the Gospel with a genealogy from Abraham to David to Jesus.

3rd Sunday of Advent [C]

The Third Sunday of Advent [C]
Zephaniah 3:14-18  +  Philippians 4:4-7  +  Luke 3:10-18
December 16, 2012

“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.”  [Luke 3:15]

 “[T]he people were filled with expectation,” but what were they expecting?
Every December as my sisters, brother and I were growing up, a large part of our joy came from the presents that would appear under our Christmas tree throughout the course of the month.  Yes, of course, most of our Christmas presents were delivered by Saint Nicholas on the night of December 24th.  But a fair number of our presents simply appeared throughout December, either while we were at school, or while we slept, or while we played outside in the snow (this was way back in the 1900’s, when it actually snowed during December!).

2nd Week of Advent - Friday

Friday of the Second Week of Advent
The Memorial of Saint John of the Cross
Isaiah 48:17-19  +  Psalm 1  +  Matthew 11:16-19
December 14, 2012
                         
“ ‘But wisdom is vindicated by her works.’ ”  [Matthew 11:19]
                            
               Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross.  He died on this date in 1591.  It’s common for the church to celebrate the feast of a saint on the date of his or her death, inasmuch as the Church considers that the saint’s “birthday into Heaven” (in Latin, the “dies natalis”).  Still, in the middle of (and on a Friday of) the Season of Advent we could hardly have a more fitting modern saint to show us what it means both to wait for the coming of the Lord with patience, and to pray securely in the knowledge that “ ‘wisdom is vindicated by her works.’ ”

2nd Week of Advent - Thursday

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 41:13-20  +  Psalm 145  +  Matthew 11:11-15
December 13, 2012
                         
“…the Holy One of Israel has created it.”  [Isaiah 41:20]

               The prophecies of Isaiah contain many images of “natural conversion”, where the earth, vegetation and animals demonstrate a radical, unexpected transformation.  In today’s First Reading, for example, Isaiah prophecies in the name of the Lord“I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.  I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive….”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2012

“ ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth….’ ”
[Judith 13:18]

               Today’s Responsorial is not taken from one of the psalms, but from the Old Testament Book of Judith.  The verses of the Responsorial, by which the Church praises Mary today, in their original setting praise the Old Testament heroine Judith.  In the thirteenth chapter you can read of Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes, thus freeing her people from foreign control.  The praise that follows, which we hear in today’s Responsorial, is offered by Uzziah, the king of Judah.

2nd Week of Advent - Tuesday

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-11  +  Psalm 96  +  Matthew 18:12-14
December 11, 2012
                         
“So then, the people is the grass.”  [Isaiah 40:7]

Today’s First Reading from Isaiah contains the passage quoted by St. John the Baptist in this past Sunday’s Gospel [in Year C of the Roman Missal].  St. John the Baptist is “the voice” foreseen by Isaiah, the one who “cries out: ‘In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!’ ”  This cry is the Church’s ‘battle plan’ for Advent, and St. John is its standard bearer.

2nd Week of Advent - Monday

Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10  +  Psalm 85  +  Luke 5:17-26
December 10, 2012

“Our God will come to save us!”  [Isaiah 35:4]

               The refrain to today’s Responsorial is from the First Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  It’s rare for the Church, in selecting Scriptural texts for Holy Mass, to weave a verse from the First Reading within the proclamation of the Responsorial Psalm.  “Our God will come to save us!”  
               This sentence could serve as the motto for the Season of Advent.  It proclaims three things.  It proclaims first that God Himself is the Messiah, the one for whom we wait.  It’s not a human Messiah that we’re waiting for.  The sentence also proclaims that He will come:  we focus on Him as the object of our hope.  Third, He will come to save us.  He will come not to punish us or lecture us, but to save us.

2nd Sunday of Advent [C]

The Second Sunday of Advent [C]
Baruch 5:1-9  +  Philippians 1:4-6,8-11  +  Luke 3:1-6
December 9, 2012

“ ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ ”  [Luke 3:4]

               I’ve only had the chance to visit England once.  But I made sure that I would be able to visit the cell of St. Thomas More in the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned for one year and three months. 
               In the year 1535, Saint Thomas More was imprisoned and then beheaded for calling a spade a spade and for refusing to call a king a pope.  When Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage of King Henry VIII, the king proclaimed himself the head of the Church in England.  He forced all nobleman and clergy to sign an oath to this effect, and they all did so, with the exception of a small number of men, the most famous of whom was Thomas More.

Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of the BVM
December 8, 2012

               In the year of Our Lord 1858, a young peasant girl named Bernadette saw a vision in the sky.  The woman in the vision spoke few words:  “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  Next to the place where this vision of the Virgin Mary appeared, a spring suddenly sprang from the ground, and the waters of that spring have, in the 100+ years since then, healed—often miraculously—countless thousands of people.
               When we celebrate each year on this day the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and whenever we stop to reflect on this great mystery of our Catholic faith, what we are basically celebrating is the fact that God does great things for us, if we only let Him.

1st Week of Advent - Thursday

Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 26:1-6  +  Psalm 118  +  Matthew 7:21,24-27
December 6, 2012
                            
“ ‘But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.’ ”  [Matthew 7:25]
                                                                                                                  
Likely you’ve had a conversation with a fellow Christian who insists that the entire Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—must be interpreted literally.  The next time that occurs, offer your fellow Christian this sentence from today’s First Reading—“For the Lord is an eternal Rock.”—and ask if the Lord is literally a rock.  The absurdity of the question shows that a single Scripture verse may have multiple meanings.
Most of us would say pretty readily that describing the Lord as “an eternal Rock” is a metaphor that should not be taken literally.  This metaphor tells us how solid, sturdy and dependable God always is.  That’s a pretty simple and straightforward idea.  Jesus in today’s Gospel uses the same metaphor in a little different way.  In the way that Jesus tweaks this metaphor, He gives us a good Advent reflection.

1st Week of Advent - Wednesday

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 25:6-10  +  Psalm 23  +  Matthew 15:29-37
December 5, 2012

“You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes….”  [Psalm 23:5]

Today’s First Reading from Isaiah 25 begins and ends with the same phrase:  “on this holy mountain.”  The Scriptures two days ago at Holy Mass pointed our attention to how a mountain in Sacred Scripture always implies an ascent.  Throughout much of Scripture, narratives relate literal, physical ascents of mountains.  These literal meanings point toward more spiritual meanings.  For example, the narrative about Moses ascending Mount Sinai to receive the Old Law symbolizes an important truth about the spiritual life:  that our minds and our wills cannot reach God’s truth and goodness without our rising above our fallen human nature, and reaching up for the grace that God pours down from Heaven.

1st Week of Advent - Tuesday

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10  +  Psalm 72  +  Luke 10:21-24
December 4, 2012

“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him….”  [Isaiah 11:2]

Today’s First Reading proclaims one of the best known passages from Isaiah.  The “root of Jesse” whose coming Isaiah foresees is described by his ability to judge, and the fact that his judgments are the gifts of the “Spirit of the Lord.
               The “Spirit of the Lord” would not have been understood in Old Testament times as being God the Holy Spirit.  Nonetheless, Isaiah’s description here of the qualities of this Spirit are seen by the Church as describing the “Gifts of the Spirit” that enliven those filled with God the Holy Spirit (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1831).  In Isaiah 11, the Spirit will empower the “root of Jesse” in his judgments.

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)