Time to Do Our Part

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January 27, 2019 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

Over these first weeks in January, on successive Sundays we have been hearing about various “firsts” in the life of Jesus. His first miracle was described last week at the wedding feast at Cana. The week before we were informed of his first awareness of being loved by God. And this week we hear described his first liturgical act, which happened is home town of Nazareth.

I present here part of the words from Isaiah that Jesus read at the synagogue in Nazareth, a reference to the hoped-for Messiah. According to Isaiah this person would be filled with God’s Spirit and would (1) bring glad tidings to the poor, (2) liberty to captives, (3) sight to the blind and (4) freedom for those who are oppressed. Certainly, all those who heard these words, then and now, would be in favor of all this happening. And they would also be alert to judge whether they were happening.

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Life of the Party

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January 20, 2019 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time -
John 2: 1-11

There might be a bit of humor hidden in today’s gospel. Immediately after mentioning that the disciples of Jesus came to the wedding feast at Cana, the account states that “the wine ran short.” Could that have happened because the disciples of Jesus caused the wine shortage by drinking a little too much? Perhaps.

But let’s move on to matters more significant. For instance, John’s gospel is filled with “signs” indicating the presence of God’s involvement in the life of the world - the establishment of God’s Kingdom. For centuries, the Jews hoped for the beginning of this entrance of God into their history.

From the perspective of John’s Gospel, it began with the coming of the Christ. But how would the reality of God’s Kingdom begin in earnest? With a victorious battle over the Romans? With spectacular heavenly events? With an earthquake or another natural event?

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Message Received

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January 13, 2019 – The Baptism of the Lord - Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

It’s not often that we have a record of God speaking. So, when we do, it’s a very good idea to take seriously what God says. So, put yourself back to the time when Jesus submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist. Luke’s Gospel notes that there were others being baptized at the same time. After Jesus came out of the water, he sought some quiet time for prayer. Much like we would do after an important personal activity. Quiet time helps the power of that event to enter us more deeply. When we have gone though a major event, we often say to ourselves, “Let me think about that a while” or “Give me some quiet time.” Especially if we want that moment to touch us more deeply.

Once alone, Luke describes the scene: The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus. In other words, a powerful connection was being made between God and the human Jesus. And what was said to Jesus? It was brief, but extremely important. “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Are there any more important words ever “said” by God? I don’t think so. They confirmed for Jesus in his humanity that, as a human like us, Jesus was loved by God.

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Follow the Star

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January 6, 2019 – The Epiphany - Matt. 2:1-12

When I read the gospel for today’s feast, I learned something new. There is no mention of how many magi (wise men) travelled to see the new-born, Jesus. I assumed (like 99% of us) that there were three. Isn’t that the standard number in most manger scenes? Yet their number is not to be found in the biblical account. But you can be sure of one thing. That whatever their number, Jesus, Mary and Joseph would have noticed each one.

That’s because in the ways of our God, each person counts. Each one of us is important to God. As is our personal meeting God in whatever the circumstance of our lives.

Each year the church reminds us of the key moments in the life of Jesus. This Sunday, the Epiphany (which means “manifestation” or “appearance”) is a good example of this practice. We are invited with our “gifts” to come and encounter the child who is God in human form. Think of just that: the greatest in the smallest. My guess is that the wise ones who came were surprised because he was just a little baby. His parents were ordinary. Much like us. Is this how God is “manifested” to us? In surprising ways? In ways we might not expect? I think so.

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From the Heart of God

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December 30, 2018 – First Sunday after Christmas
(Holy Family Sunday) 
John 1:1-18

“In the beginning … “What a way to start a narrative! And when St. John the Evangelist uses the word beginning, he’s not talking about a beginning in the ordinary sense of the word. He’s talking about the very beginning of EVERYTHING. Before there was “the first day” or the Big Bang. Before there was anything at all. Before there was any history to anything! Try to get your head around that one. I know I can’t. Still, in the judgment of St. John, that was how to best begin his gospel. With the wonderful mystery of creation.

And what exactly was there before “the beginning?” I guess we can say, “The Word.” The Word of God. The one we would eventually call “the Son of God,” the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Later, we will learn about the Holy Spirit. But here, just focus on the Word. The First Word of God. The word that we will eventually learn is the word, “Love.” The Word that fully expresses the loving, tender, compassionate, merciful nature of God.

Through that word “all things came into being.” Again, a very challenging idea, a truth that should stretch our minds. For instance, this suggests that God’s immense creation was not constructed out of pre-existing anything. It came out of NOTHING. Or to use a somewhat poetic phrase: It came from God’s heart.

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Magnify the Lord

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December 23, 2018 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:39-45

Here is a trivia question. How many prayers are there in the gospels? Many would answer that there is one original prayer in the gospels. It was composed by Jesus himself. It’s called, “The Our Father.” Wrong! There are actually two prayers in the gospels. The second one was said by Mary, the mother of Jesus. And when did she say that prayer? During her pregnancy while she was visiting her cousin, Elizabeth.

We hear it proclaimed in this Sunday’s gospel. Here are the first words of Mary’s powerful prayer” “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.” I invite us to first reflect on the meaning of the very first line of the prayer: my soul magnifies the Lord. Our attention will focus on the word, “magnify.”

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Make Space for God

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December 16, 2018 – Third Sunday of Advent
Luke 3:7-18

After reading today’s gospel, I suddenly feel guilty about what John the Baptist says about preparing to meet the Messiah. After letting people know that he is not the one they are hoping for (apparently, some thought he was), he suggests something along these lines. “Well, if you want to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and you have two coats, give one to someone who has none. And if you have power over someone, let go of that power and be kind and considerate to that person.” Since I don’t have much power over anyone (our children are on their own – mostly) that suggestion doesn’t challenge me that much. But the coat thing does.

I have more than one coat. But I say to myself, I need more than one coat. I live in a part of the world that can be very cold during winter. The temperature goes up and down. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes it rains. I need a coat for every possibility. But it is not just coats. What about my other items of clothing. How many shirts do I need? Pants? You get the picture. I ‘m sure that I have more than I need.

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Here and Now

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December 9, 2018 – Second Sunday of Advent
Luke 3:1-6

Some might wonder why the Gospel of Luke goes into so much detail about the time when Jesus was born. Today’s gospel begins, “In the reign of Emperor Tiberius … “ and so forth. Why does it matter that we know who was the Roman Emperor when Jesus was born or who were those other political figures that were in office on the first Christmas? None of them became Christians. None of them even knew Jesus.

So, why are they so important? Why does the gospel writer, St. Luke, goes to the trouble of mentioning them, not only by name, but also where they ruled? Why doesn’t the gospel begin more like most ancient narratives with the usual, “Once upon a time?”

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Expecting again

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First Sunday of Advent - Luke 21:25-36

The first Sunday of Advent gives us a fig tree to think about. I don’t know much about fig trees, but I do know apple trees. We have one in our back yard and each spring, when the leaves first spout (something in common with fig trees), I look for apple blossoms. Why? Because that will give me hope for the eventual harvest. This year I had one blossom. And true to form, in the fall, I harvested one apple. My hope for a larger crop would have been fruitless.

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King of the Universe

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Depositphotos_51136573_m-2015.jpgNovember 25, 2018 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - John 18:33-37

Each church year concludes with an important feast day in honor of Jesus Christ who is presented to us in our revised liturgy as: King of the Universe. This description is a bit of a mixed metaphor because “kings” are part of life here on earth. And the earth is but a small part of the universe, as we know it today. But we can overlook this as we reflect on the deeper meaning that the church intends with this new descriptive language about Jesus.

The gospel text recounts Jesus’ meeting with Pontius Pilate after Pilate had been informed that some people are calling Jesus a king. This concerned Pilate because he was placed in charge of this part of the Roman Empire and the Romans “dethroned” all local kings. Only the Romans ruled.

Pilate was, no doubt, relieved to learn from Jesus that his kingdom was not “of this world.” That meant the realm of Christ was not rooted in sources present only in this world. That’s because the rule of Jesus came directly from God and God was the One who rules over everything and everyone and everywhere. This truth would likely fly over the head of Pilate. He only knew of “this world.”

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