Love and Acceptance

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February 23, 2020 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:38-48

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Today’s gospel contains what may be the most unpopular saying in the entire Bible. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to water down these words to make them more palatable and acceptable. They are bold. They cut deeply. They make many of us a little uneasy.

In the US right now we are in the early stages of the next presidential election. Already potential candidates are in attack mode. At times they are caustic and condemning of their opponents.

Commentators say these days that we live in a divided country. We are friends of those we agree with and enemies of those we don’t. The descriptors, “right and left” or “conservative and liberal” or “pro-life and pro-choice” describes not only political positions, but also deeply divisive personal stances. They can divide one neighbor from another or family members from each other. Debated issues can even bring division within a church. Fully inclusive love and acceptance seems rare in our day of political and social conflict.

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God Sees the Heart

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February 16, 2020 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:17-37

Today’s gospel offers us important parts of what came to be called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Two ideas are woven through these sayings. One, to be a true disciple of Jesus requires not just certain actions, but more important deep attitudes. It includes not just what we do, but what’s in our hearts. Second, many of these qualify as what some call “the hard sayings” of Jesus. Jesus was not an “anything goes” sort of person. He challenged his listeners to do difficult things, back then and now.

Past US president, Jimmy Carter, has been respected by most of us over the years as a virtuous man, a good Christian. Well into his 90’s, he still takes his hammer to sites where Habitat for Humanity is building homes for needy families. Years back he confessed in public that he had difficulty with some of the teachings of Jesus. Particularly the one where Jesus condemned those who gazed at others with lust in their hearts. He would not be the only one, I suspect. We hear about that challenge in today’s gospel.

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Be Salt and Light

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February 9, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:13-16

Turn on the light and please pass the salt. These requests, while typical in today’s homes, packed extra meaning in the time of Jesus. First, something about light. Jesus lived a long time before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. After the sun set in First Century Israel, people would light a fire or a candle to see. In the dark it could be dangerous. Customary daily activities had to stop. Think of the panic we experience when the power goes off in our homes.

So, when Jesus was called “the light of the world,” people immediately knew the meaning of such a reference. So too when Jesus said that they were to be a light to the world. In a sense, the world immediately around us was be illuminated by their presence.


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Thrill of a Lifetime

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home 

February 2, 2020 – The Presentation of the Lord - Luke 2:22-40

Imagine them. Two senior citizens. Waiting one year, two, three. And many more. They represented those who were hoping for better times. That God would in some way step in and help. Not having their desires fulfilled, they could only wait with patience and prayer. They did not quit. They did not walk away from what they felt was a longing, a holy longing that was placed in them by God.

Locals and strangers alike probably pitied them. And perhaps told them to use common sense. Don’t waste your lives just waiting. What if nothing changes? But these two continued their vigil of waiting. Year after year. They believed that God would not desert them.

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Jesus' News Team

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January 26, 2020 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 4:12-23

Reporting the news of the day creates interest in our world. Otherwise, we would not have so many television channels reporting newsworthy events - some, twenty-four hours a day. Granted not many people would be tuned into those broadcasts 24/7, but still, we are, in general, a news-hungry and news-conscious group.

In the time of Jesus there was no TV, radio or even newspapers. Thus, if a citizen wanted to know what was going on locally or more widespread, that person depended on people who brought the “news” to each local area. Most likely, “reporters” would simply enter a village or town, walk to a common area and in a voice that could be heard, tell the locals what was going on, perhaps in a neighboring village or with a local ruler or if there were invading armies. In other words, information that allowed locals to make practical decisions, sometimes dealing with matters of life and death.

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Together for Good

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January 19, 2020 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 1:29-34

This Sunday the Church has slipped in a second account of the baptism of Jesus. This time we hear from John’s gospel. Biblical scholars tell us that this was the last of the gospels to be written down. There is general agreement that it comes from near the end of the first century. It shows how the church came to an ever clearer understanding of who Jesus was.

From Matthew’s gospel (written maybe 30 years earlier) we hear Jesus being identified as “the beloved son.” This week John states that Jesus is “God’s Son.” What this suggests is that the first Christians gradually (not all at once) came to realize and believe in the full identity of Jesus as both human and divine. How these two aspects of Jesus are connected remains a great mystery of Faith. That God, creator of all that is (and from recent science we know that this is a lot - as in billions and billions of galaxies and stars) came to our small planet to be one of us, live with us, speak to us and eventually die for us … well, that is no small matter. In fact, if we list all possible events that we might call “incredible,” the incarnation of God in Jesus has to be at the top of that list.


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God is Calling You

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January 12, 2020 – The Baptism of the Lord - Matthew 3:13-17

The main actor in God’s wonderful Plan for our salvation is Jesus. But others had parts as well. First, Mary, the Mother of God, had to agree to be the one where the Word would become flesh. St. Joseph played a major role in his willingness to care for and protect Mary especially during those early dangerous years. Finally, there is St. John the Baptist, whom we hear about in today’s gospel. The Plan of God is at its heart, a family story.

John the Baptist appears at the beginning of the public life of Jesus. He had already established himself as a religious prophet, calling people to repentance and baptizing them on the banks of the River Jordan. John, it appears, was quite aware that he was not the “hoped for Messiah” although he seemed to know that the coming of the Messiah (meaning “the one sent from God”) was about to happen.

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Seeking Signs of God

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January 5, 2020 – The Epiphany of the Lord - Matthew 2:1-12

No one would ever call Jesus a “show off.” But today’s feast, the Epiphany, is exactly about Jesus showing off. The point is that in God’s wisdom it was important that we humans have a way to know God. God wants us to know that God exists, that God created the universe and remains part of that creation. Finally, God wants us to know that God loves us much more than we can imagine. For us to know this, God seeded Creation with clues about God. The biggest clue, of course, was the Incarnation, God taking human form in the person of Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus was, in God’s Plan, for seeing God.

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Holy Family at Risk

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December 29, 2019 – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Matthew’s account of the flight into Egypt by the Holy Family may sound like it’s taken from today’s news. It describes a family on the run, seeking asylum because their lives were in danger. They had to travel to a place of safety.

The urgency of their departure was highlighted by the fact that they had to leave at night. They would be traveling on their own across territory that would be unfamiliar to them. They were from the north. They were told to head south. It is about 500 miles from Jerusalem to Cairo. They walked all the way. It might have taken them weeks, if not months to make this perilous journey. Hardly any details are given about how difficult this was for the Holy Family. But we can easily imagine the challenges they faced each day. Not only were their lives in danger from bandits and wild animals, but they had to find safe places to sleep and food and drink. Most of their journey was across desert land. But they had no choice. Life and death were in the balance.

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St. Joseph's Choice

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December 22, 2019 – Fourth Sunday of Advent - Matthew 1:18-24

Let’s briefly turn our attention to St. Joseph. While we might not think of him as a major player in God’s Plan for our salvation, we would do well to reconsider his role. The gospel for today, right before Christmas, describes what happened as God’s preparation for that monumental day. And interestingly, Joseph is featured.

Joseph had been betrothed to Mary. Betrothal was much more important back then than engagement is today. According to the Jewish law and custom of the time, when he learned that Mary was pregnant and knowing that he was not the father, it was his religious duty to divorce her. The gospel implies that he decided to do exactly that and that out of love and respect for Mary, he would do so “quietly.” Think about this. If he did this, something his religion required, we are left to wonder what would happen from then on.

But we know that he stayed with her and eventually (probably quite quickly) married her. Let’s think about what caused him to make this unconventional response to the situation. Did he simply change his mind? Was he pressured by his family or close friends whom he might have confided in?

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