Mon, 26 December 2016
As we approach the altar on this feast, let us renew our commitment to our God-given duties as spouses, children and parents. Mindful of the promises of today's First Reading, let us offer our quiet performance of these duties for the atonement of our sins.
Mon, 19 December 2016
The Church’s liturgy rings in Christmas with a joyful noise. We hear today of uplifted voices, trumpets and horns, and melodies of praise.
In the First Reading, Isaiah fortells Israel’s liberation from captivity and exile in Babylon. He envisions a triumphant homecoming to Zion marked by joyful singing.
The new song in today’s Psalm is a victory hymn to the marvelous deeds done by our God and King.
Both the prophet and psalmist sing of God’s power and salvation. God has shown the might of His holy arm, they say. This language recalls the Exodus, where the people first sang of God’s powerful arm that shattered Israel’s enemy Egypt (see Exod. 15:1, 6, 16).
The coming of the Christ child into the world fulfills all that the Exodus and the return from exile prefigured.
In Jesus, all nations to the ends of the earth will see the victory of God over the forces of sin and death.
Jesus is the new King. He is the royal firstborn son and Son of God promised to David, as we hear in today’s Epistle (see Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14).
And as our Gospel reveals, He is the Word of God, the one through whom the universe was created, the one through whom the universe is sustained.
In speaking to us through His Son, God has unveiled a new age, the last days.
The new age is a new creation. In the beginning, God spoke His Word and light shone in the darkness. Now, in this new age, He sends us the true light to scatter the darkness of a world that has exiled itself from God.
He is the one Isaiah foretold – who brings good tidings of peace and salvation, who announces to the world that God has come to dwell and to reign (see Rev. 21:3–4).
So we sing a new song on Christmas. It is the song of those who have believed in the Christ child and been born again – by grace given the power to become children of God.
Mon, 12 December 2016
Mon, 5 December 2016
Mon, 28 November 2016
Mon, 21 November 2016
Mon, 14 November 2016
Mon, 7 November 2016
Mon, 31 October 2016
2 Macabeos 7,1-2. 9-14
2 Tesalonicenses 2,16-3,5
Con una adivinanza sobre siete hermanos y una viuda sin hijos, los Saduceos del Evangelio de hoy se burlan de la fe por la que siete hermanos y su madre mueren en la primera lectura.
Los mártires macabeos, antes que traicionar la Ley de Dios, escogieron la muerte: fueron torturados y después quemados vivos. Su historia se nos da en estas últimas semanas del año litúrgico para fortalecernos y hacernos más resistentes; para que nuestros pies no vacilen sino se mantengan firmes en el seguimiento de Cristo.
Los macabeos murieron confiados en que el “Rey del Universo” los levantaría de nuevo y para siempre a la vida (cf. 2 Mc 14,46).
Los Saduceos no creen en la resurrección porque no encuentran literalmente esa enseñanza en las Escrituras. Para ridiculizar esta creencia, manipulan una ley que indicaba que una mujer debía casarse con el hermano de su esposo, si éste fallecía y no dejaba herederos (cf. Gn 38,8; Dt 25,5).
Pero esa ley de Dios no había sido dada para asegurar la descendencia a padres terrenos, sino–como Jesús explica- para hacernos dignos de ser “hijos e hijas de Dios”, engendrados por su Resurrección.
“Dios nuestro Padre”, nos dice la epístola de hoy, nos ha dado “consolación eterna” en la Resurrección de Cristo. Por su gracia podemos ahora dirigir nuestros corazones al amor de Dios.
Como los Macabeos sufrieron por la Antigua Ley, nosotros tendremos que sufrir por nuestra fe en la Nueva Alianza. Sin embargo, Dios nos cobijará bajo la sombra de sus alas, nos mantendrá en la niña de sus ojos, como cantamos en el salmo de hoy.
Los perseguidores de los macabeos se maravillaron ante su valentía. También nosotros podemos glorificar al Señor en nuestros sufrimientos y pequeños sacrificios de cada día.
Y nuestra razón para confiar es todavía mayor que la de ellos. Uno que ha sido levantado de la muerte nos ha dado su palabra: que Él es Dios de vivos; que cuando despertemos del sueño de la muerte contemplaremos su rostro, seremos felices en su presencia (cf. Sal 76,6; Dn 12,2).
Category:general -- posted at: 12:19pm EDT
Mon, 31 October 2016
Mon, 24 October 2016
Mon, 17 October 2016
Jesus draws a blunt picture in today's Gospel.
The Pharisee's prayer is almost a parody of the thanksgiving psalms (see for example Psalms 30,118). Instead of praising God for His mighty works, the Pharisee congratulates himself for his own deeds, which he presents to God in some detail.
The tax collector stands at a distance, too ashamed even to raise his eyes to God (see Ezra 9:6). He prays with a humble and contrite heart (see Psalm 51:19). He knows that before God no one is righteous, no one has cause to boast (see Roman 3:10; 4:2).
We see in the Liturgy today one of Scripture's abiding themes - that God "knows no favorites," as today's First Reading tells us (see 2 Chronicles 19:7; Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11).
God cannot be bribed (see Deuteronomy 10:17). We cannot curry favor with Him or impress Him - even with our good deeds or our faithful observance of religious duties such as tithing and fasting.
If we try to exalt ourselves before the Lord, as the Pharisee does, we will be brought low (see Luke 1:52).
This should be a warning to us - not to take pride in our piety, not to slip into the self-righteousness of thinking that we're better than others, that we're "not like the rest of sinful humanity."
If we clothe ourselves with humility (see 1 Peter 5:5-6) - recognize that all of us are sinners in need of His mercy - we will be exalted (see Proverbs 29:33).
The prayer of the lowly, the humble, pierces the clouds. Paul testifies to this in today's Epistle, as He thanks the Lord for giving him strength during his imprisonment.
Paul tells us what the Psalmist sings today - that the Lord redeems the lives of His humble servants.
We too must serve Him willingly. And He will hear us in our distress, deliver us from evil, and bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 10 October 2016
Mon, 3 October 2016
2 Reyes 5, 14-17
2 Timoteo 2,8-13
Un leproso extranjero es curado y, en acción de gracias, regresa ofreciendo homenaje al Dios de Israel. Esa es la historia que escuchamos, tanto en la primera lectura como en el Evangelio de hoy.
Había muchos leprosos en Israel en tiempos de Elías, pero sólo Naamán el sirio creyó en la palabra de Dios y fue sanado (cfr. Lc 5,12-14). Del mismo modo, el Evangelio de hoy da a entender que la mayoría de los diez leprosos curados por Jesús era israelita, pero solamente un extranjero, el samaritano, regresó a agradecerle.
Hoy se nos muestra, de modo dramático, cómo la fe ha sido constituida camino de salvación, ruta por la cual todas las naciones se unirán al Señor, convirtiéndose en sus siervos, congregados con los Israelitas en un solo pueblo escogido de Dios: la Iglesia (cfr. Is 56,3-8).
El salmo de hoy también ve más allá, al día cuando todos los pueblos verán lo que Naamán veía: que no hay otro Dios en la tierra más que el Dios de Israel.
En el Evangelio de hoy vemos ese día llegar. El leproso samaritano es la única persona en el Nuevo Testamente que le agradece personalmente a Jesús. La palabra griega usada para describir su “dar gracias” es la misma que traducimos como “Eucaristía”.
Y estos leprosos de hoy nos revelan las dimensiones interiores de la Eucaristía y la vida sacramental. También nosotros hemos sido sanados mediante la fe en Jesús. Así como la carne de Naamán se hace de nuevo semejante a la de un niño pequeño, nuestras almas han quedando limpias de pecado en las aguas del Bautismo. Experimentamos esta purificación continuamente en el sacramento de la Penitencia, cuando nos arrepentimos de nuestros pecados, imploramos y recibimos la misericordia de nuestro Maestro Jesús.
En cada misa regresamos a glorificar a Dios para ofrecernos en sacrificio; nos arrodillamos ante nuestro Señor, dando gracias por nuestra salvación.
En esta Eucaristía recordamos a “Jesucristo, resucitado de entre los muertos, nacido del linaje de David”, el rey de la alianza de Israel. Y rezamos, como San Pablo en la epístola de hoy, para perseverar en esta fe, para que también nosotros vivamos y reinemos con Él en gloria eterna.
Category:general -- posted at: 11:37am EDT
Mon, 3 October 2016
Fri, 23 September 2016
Mon, 19 September 2016
Fri, 9 September 2016
Fri, 2 September 2016
The episode in today's First Reading has been called "Israel's original sin." Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from His ways, fell to worshipping a golden calf.
Moses implores God's mercy, as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race, as He still pleads for sinners at God's right hand and through the ministry of the Church.
Israel's sin is the sin of the world. It is your sin and mine. Ransomed from death and made His children in Baptism, we fall prey to the idols of this world. We remain a "stiff-necked people," resisting His will for us like an ox refuses the plowman's yoke (see Jeremiah 7:26).
Like Israel, in our sin we push God away, reject our divine sonship. Once He called us "my people" (see Exodus 3:10; 6:7). But our sin makes us "no people," people He should, in justice, disown (see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Peter 2:10).
Yet in His mercy, He is faithful to the covenant He swore by His own self in Jesus. In Jesus, God comes to Israel and to each of us - as a shepherd to seek the lost (see Ezekiel 34:11-16), to carry us back to the heavenly feast, the perpetual heritage promised long ago to Abraham's children.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," Paul cries in today's Epistle. These are the happiest words the world has ever known. Because of Jesus, as Paul himself can testify, even the blasphemer and persecutor can seek His mercy.
As the sinners do in today's Gospel, we draw near to listen to Him. In this Eucharist, we bring Him the acceptable sacrifice we sing of in today's Psalm - our hearts, humbled and contrite.
In the company of His angels and saints, we rejoice that He has wiped out our offense, celebrate with Him - that we have turned from the evil way that we might live (see Ezekiel 18:23).
Fri, 26 August 2016
Like a king making ready for battle or a contractor about to build a tower, we have to count the cost as we set out to follow Jesus.
Our Lord today is telling us upfront the sacrifice it will take. His words aren't addressed to His chosen few, the Twelve, but rather to the "great crowds" - to "anyone," to "whoever" wishes to be His disciple.
That only makes His call all the more stark and uncompromising. We are to "hate" our old lives, renounce all the earthly things we rely upon, to choose Him above every person and possession. Again He tells us that the things we have - even our family ties and obligations - can become an excuse, an obstacle that keeps us from giving ourselves completely to Him (see Luke 9:23-26, 57-62).
Jesus brings us the saving Wisdom we are promised in today's First Reading. He is that saving Wisdom.
Weighed down by many earthly concerns, the burdens of our body and its needs, we could never see beyond the things of this world, could never detect God's heavenly design and intention. So in His mercy He sent us His Spirit, His Wisdom from on High, to make straight our path to Him.
Jesus himself paid the price for to free us from the sentence imposed on Adam, which we recall in today's Psalm (see Genesis 2:7; 2:19). No more will the work of our hands be an affliction, no more are we destined to turn back to dust.
Like Onesimus in today's Epistle, we have been redeemed, given a new family and a new inheritance, made children of the father, brothers and sisters in the Lord.
We are free now to come after Him, to serve Him - no longer slaves to the ties of our past lives. In Christ, all our yesterdays have passed. We live in what the Psalm today beautifully describes as the daybreak of His kindness. For He has given us wisdom of heart, taught us to number our days aright.
Mon, 22 August 2016
Fri, 12 August 2016
Psalm 117:1, 2
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Jesus doesn't answer the question put to Him in this Sunday’s Gospel. It profits us nothing to speculate on how many will be saved. What we need to know is what He tells us today - how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door.
Jesus is "the narrow gate," the only way of salvation, the path by which all must travel to enter the kingdom of the Father (see John 14:6).
In Jesus, God has come - as He promises in this week’s First Reading - to gather nations of every language, to reveal to them His glory.
Eating and drinking with them, teaching in their streets, Jesus in the Gospel is slowly making His way to Jerusalem. There, Isaiah's vision will be fulfilled: On the holy mountain He will be lifted up (see John 3:14), will draw to Himself bretheren from among all the nations - to worship in the heavenly Jerusalem, to glorify Him for His kindness, as we sing in Sunday’s Psalm.
In God's plan, the kingdom was proclaimed first to the Israelites and last to the Gentiles (see Romans 1:16; Acts 3:25-26), who in the Church have come from the earth's four corners to make up the new people of God (see Isaiah 43:5-6; Psalm 107:2-3).
Many however will lose their place at the heavenly table, Jesus warns. Refusing to accept His narrow way they will weaken, render themselves unknown to the Father (see Isaiah 63:15-16).
We don't want to be numbered among those of drooping hands and weak knees (see Isaiah 35:3). So we must strive for that narrow gate, a way of hardship and suffering - the way of the beloved Son.
As this week’s Epistle reminds us, by our trials we know we are truly God's sons and daughters. We are being disciplined by our afflictions, strengthened to walk that straight and narrow path - that we may enter the gate, take our place at the banquet of the righteous.
Mon, 8 August 2016
Jeremiah 38:4–6, 8–10
Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24).
And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.
The fire he has come to cast on the earth is the fire that he wants to blaze in each of our hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7), and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in baptism (see Luke 3:16).
We were baptized into his death (see Romans 6:3). This is the baptism our Lord speaks of in the Gospel this week. The baptism with which He must be baptized is His passion and death, by which He accomplished our redemption and sent forth the fire of the Spirit on the earth (see Acts 2:3).
The fire has been set, but it is not yet blazing. We are called to enter deeper into the consuming love of God. We must examine our consciences and our actions, submitting ourselves to the revealing fire of God’s Word (see 1 Corinthians 3:13).
In our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our own blood, Paul tells us in this week’s Epistle. We have not undergone the suffering that Jeremiah suffers in the First Reading this week.
But this is what true discipleship requires. To be a disciple is to be inflamed with the love of the God. It is to have an unquenchable desire for holiness and zeal for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.
Being His disciple does not bring peace in the false way that the world proclaims peace (see Jeremiah 8:11). It means division and hardship. It may bring us to conflict with our own flesh and blood.
But Christ is our peace (see Ephesians 2:14). By his cross, he has lifted us up from the mire of sin and death—as he will rescue the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:10).
And as we sing in the Psalm this week, we trust in our deliverer.
Mon, 1 August 2016
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture (see Hebrews 12:1). We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm.
The Liturgy this week sings the praises of our fathers, recalling the defining moments in our "family history." In the Epistle, we remember the calling of Abraham; in the First Reading we relive the night of the Exodus and the summons of the holy children of Israel.
Our fathers, we are told, trusted in the Word of God, put their faith in His oaths, convinced that what He promised, He would do.
None of them lived to see His promises made good. For it was not until Christ and His Church that Abraham's descendants were made as countless as the stars and sands (see Galatians 3:16-17,29). It was not until His Last Supper and the Eucharist that "the sacrifice...the divine institution" of that first Passover was truly fulfilled.
And we now too await the final fulfillment of what God has promised us in Christ. As Jesus tells us in this week’s Gospel, we should live with our loins girded - as the Israelites tightened their belts, cinched up their long robes and ate their Passover standing, vigilant and ready to do His will (see Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29).
The Lord will come at an hour we do not expect - will knock on our door (see Revelation 3:20), inviting us to the wedding feast in the better homeland, the heavenly one that our fathers saw from afar, and which we begin to taste in each Eucharist.
As they did, we can wait with "sure knowledge," His Word like a lamp lighting our path (see Psalm 119:105). Our God is faithful and if we wait in faith, hope in His kindness, and love as we have been loved, we will receive His promised blessing, be delivered from death.
Fri, 22 July 2016
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Trust in God - as the Rock of our salvation, as the Lord who made us His chosen people, as our shepherd and guide. This should be the mark of our following of Jesus.
Like the Israelites we recall in this week's Psalm, we have made an exodus, passing through the waters of Baptism, freeing us from our bondage to sin. We too are on a pilgrimage to a promised homeland, the Lord in our midst, feeding us heavenly bread, giving us living waters to drink (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
We must take care to guard against the folly that befell the Israelites, that led them to quarrel and test God's goodness at Meribah and Massah.
We can harden our hearts in ways more subtle but no less ruinous. We can put our trust in possessions, squabble over earthly inheritances, kid ourselves that what we have we deserve, store up treasures and think they'll afford us security, rest.
All this is "vanity of vanities," a false and deadly way of living, as this week's First Reading tells us.
This is the greed that Jesus warns against in this week's Gospel. The rich man's anxiety and toil expose his lack of faith in God's care and provision. That's why Paul calls greed "idolatry" in the Epistle this week. Mistaking having for being, possession for existence, we forget that God is the giver of all that we have, we exalt the things we can make or buy over our Maker (see Romans 1:25).
Jesus calls the rich man a "fool" - a word used in the Old Testament for someone who rebels against God or has forgotten Him (see Psalm 14:1).
We should treasure most the new life we have been given in Christ and seek what is above, the promised inheritance of heaven. We have to see all things in the light of eternity, mindful that He who gives us the breath of life could at any moment - this night even - demand it back from us.
Fri, 15 July 2016
Though we be "but dust and ashes," we can presume to draw near and speak boldly to our Lord, as Abraham dares in this week’s First Reading.
But even Abraham - the friend of God (see Isaiah 41:8), our father in the faith (see Romans 4:12) - did not know the intimacy that we know as children of Abraham, heirs of the blessings promised to his descendants (see Galatians 3:7,29).
The mystery of prayer, as Jesus reveals to His disciples in this week’s Gospel, is the living relationship of beloved sons and daughters with their heavenly Father. Our prayer is pure gift, made possible by the "good gift" of the Father - the Holy Spirit of His Son. It is the fruit of the New Covenant by which we are made children of God in Christ Jesus (see Galatians 4:6-7; Romans 8:15-16).
Through the Spirit given to us in Baptism, we can cry to Him as our Father - knowing that when we call He will answer.
Jesus teaches His disciples to persist in their prayer, as Abraham persisted in begging God's mercy for the innocent of Sodom and Gomorrah.
On the Cross, Jesus bore the guilt of us all, canceled the debt we owed to God, the death we deserved to die for our transgressions. We pray as ones who have been spared, visited in our affliction, saved from our enemies.
We pray always a prayer of thanksgiving, which is the literal meaning of Eucharist. We have realized the promise of this week’s Psalm: We worship in His holy temple, in the presence of angels, hallowing His name.
In confidence we ask, knowing that we will receive, that He will bring to completion what He has done for us - raising us from the dead, bringing us to everlasting life along with Him.
Thu, 7 July 2016
Our Lord comes to us, not to be served but to serve (see Matthew 20:28). He gave His life that we might know the one thing we need, the "better part" which is life in the fellowship of God.
Jesus is the true Son promised today by Abraham's visitors (see Matthew 1:1). In Him, God has made an everlasting covenant for all time, made us blessed descendants of Abraham (see Genesis 17:19,21; Romans 4:16-17, 19-21).
The Church now offers us this covenant, bringing to completion the word of God, the promise of His plan of salvation, what Paul calls "the mystery hidden for ages."
As once He came to Abraham, Mary and Martha, Christ now comes to each of us in Word and Sacrament. As we sing in this week’s Psalm: He will make His dwelling with those who keep His Word and practice justice (see also John 14:23).
If we do these things we will not be anxious or disturbed, will not have our Lord taken from us. We will wait on the Lord, who told Abraham and tells each of us: "I will surely return to you."
Thu, 30 June 2016
Debemos amar a Dios y a nuestro prójimo con toda la fuerza de nuestro ser, como el erudito de la Ley responde a Jesús en el Evangelio de esta semana.
Este mandamiento no es lejano o misterioso, sino que está escrito en nuestros corazones y en el libro de la Sagrada Escritura. Moisés dice sobre el en la primera lectura de esta semana: “Cúmplelo”.
Jesús le dice lo mismo a su interrogador: “Haz esto y vivirás”.
El letrado, sin embargo, quiere conocer hasta que punto le exige la ley. Eso es lo que le mueve a hacer la pregunta: “¿Quién es mi prójimo?”.
Con su compasión, el samaritano de la parábola de Jesús revela la misericordia infinita de Dios, que vino a nosotros cuando estábamos caídos en el pecado, cerca de la muerte, incapaces de levantarnos por nosotros mismos.
Jesús es la “imagen del Dios invisible”, nos dice la epístola de esta semana. En Él, el amor de Dios se nos ha hecho muy cercano. “Por la sangre de su Cruz” -esto es, al cargar con los sufrimientos de su prójimo en su propio cuerpo; y al ser desnudado, golpeado y dado por muerto- nos libró de las ataduras del pecado, nos reconcilió con Dios y entre nosotros.
Como el samaritano, Él paga por nosotros, nos sana de las heridas del pecado, derrama sobre nosotros el aceite y vino de los sacramentos, y nos confía al cuidado de su Iglesia hasta cuando regrese por nosotros.
Ya que su amor no conoce límites, el nuestro tampoco puede conocerlos. Hemos de amar como hemos sido amados; hemos de hacer por los demás lo que Él ha hecho por nosotros, reuniendo todas las cosas en su Cuerpo, la Iglesia.
Hemos de amar como el salmista de esta semana, como aquellos cuyas oraciones han sido escuchadas; como aquellos cuyas vidas han sido salvadas, han conocido el día de su favor y han visto la gran misericordia de Dios volverse hacia ellos.
Este es el amor que nos guía hacia la vida eterna, el mismo que Jesús exige al Escriba y a cada uno de nosotros: “Vete y haz tú lo mismo”.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:17pm EDT
Thu, 30 June 2016
Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37
We are to love God and our neighbor with all the strength of our being, as the scholar of the Law answers Jesus in this week’s Gospel.
This command is nothing remote or mysterious - it's already written in our hearts, in the book of sacred Scripture. "You have only to carry it out," Moses says in this week’s First Reading.
Jesus tells His interrogator the same thing: "Do this and you will live."
The scholar, however, wants to know where he can draw the line. That's the motive behind his question: "Who is my neighbor?"
In his compassion, the Samaritan in Jesus' parable reveals the boundless mercy of God - who came down to us when we were fallen in sin, close to dead, unable to pick ourselves up.
Jesus is "the image of the invisible God," this week’s Epistle tells us. In Him, the love of God has come very near to us. By the "blood of His Cross" - by bearing His neighbors' sufferings in His own body, being himself stripped and beaten and left for dead - He saved us from bonds of sin, reconciled us to God and to one another.
Like the Samaritan, He pays the price for us, heals the wounds of sin, pours out on us the oil and wine of the sacraments, entrusts us to the care of His Church, until He comes back for us.
Because His love has known no limits, ours cannot either. We are to love as we have been loved, to do for others what He has done for us - joining all things together in His Body, the Church.
We are to love like the singer of this week’s Psalm - like those whose prayers have been answered, like those whose lives has been saved, who have known the time of His favor, have seen God in His great mercy turn toward us.
This is the love that leads to eternal life, the love Jesus commands today of the scholar, and of each of us - "Go and do likewise."
Mon, 27 June 2016
Jesus has a vision in this week’s Gospel - Satan falling like lightning from the sky, the enemy vanquished by the missionary preaching of His Church.
Sent out by Jesus to begin gathering the nations into the harvest of divine judgment (see Isaiah 27:12-13; Joel 4:13), the 70 are a sign of the continuing mission of the Church.
Carrying out the work of the 70, the Church proclaims the coming of God's kingdom, offers His blessings of peace and mercy to every household on earth - "every town and place He intended to visit."
Our Lord's tone is solemn today. For in the preaching of the Church "the kingdom of God is at hand," the time of decision has come for every person. Those who do not receive His messengers will be doomed like Sodom.
But those who believe will find peace and mercy, protection and nourishment in the bosom of the Church, the Mother Zion we celebrate in this week’s beautiful First Reading, the "Israel of God" Paul blesses in this week’s Epistle.
The Church is a new family of faith (see Galatians 6:10) in which we receive a new name that will endure forever (see Isaiah 66:22), a name written in heaven.
In this week’s Psalm we sing of God's "tremendous deeds among men" throughout salvation history. But of all the works of God, none has been greater than what He has wrought by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Changing the sea into dry land was but an anticipation and preparation for our passing over, for what Paul calls the "new creation."
And as the exodus generation was protected in a wilderness of serpents and scorpions (see Deuteronomy 8:15), He has given His Church power now over "the full force of the Enemy." Nothing will harm us as we make our way through the wilderness of this world, awaiting the Master of the harvest, awaiting the day when all on earth will shout joyfully to the Lord, sing praise to the glory of His name.
Mon, 20 June 2016
1 Kings 19:16-21
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
In this week’s First Reading, Elijah's disciple is allowed to kiss his parents goodbye before setting out to follow the prophet's call.
But we are called to follow a greater than Elijah, this week’s Liturgy wants us to know.
In Baptism, we have put on the cloak of Christ, been called to the house of a new Father, been given a new family in the kingdom of God. We have been called to leave behind our past lives and never look back - to follow wherever He leads.
Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and his disciple was given a double portion of his spirit (see 2 Kings 2:9-15).
As this week’s Epistle tells us, the call of Jesus shatters the yoke of every servitude, sets us free from the rituals of the old Law, shows us the Law's fulfillment in the following of Jesus, in serving one another through love.
His call sets our hands to a new plow, a new task - to be His messengers, sent ahead to prepare all peoples to meet Him and enter into His Kingdom.
Elijah called down fire to consume those who wouldn't accept God (see 2 Kings 1:1-16). But we have a different Spirit with us.
To live by His Spirit is to face opposition and rejection, as the Apostles do in this week’s Gospel. It is to feel like an exile, with no lasting city (see Hebrews 13:14), no place in this world to lay our head or call home.
But we hear the voice of the One we follow in this week’s Psalm (see Acts 2:25-32; 13:35-37). He calls us to make His faith our own - to abide in confidence that He will not abandon us, that He will show us "the path to life," leading us to the fullness of joy in His presence forever.
Mon, 13 June 2016
Zech 12:10-11; 13:1
Ps 62:2-6. 8-9 r. 2
In this Sunday's readings we hear the voice of the Prophet Zechariah as he delivers difficult oracles from God. The people have returned from exile. Now back in Jerusalem, they face the arduous work of rebuilding the Temple. Zechariah acknowledges their hardships and foresees more obstacles.
But their grief has a purpose. It is a remedy, a penance to heal them -- "a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness."
Thus purified, the people will be ready to receive the Messiah and usher in a new creation. God promises to "pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition." So that no one should mistake the identity of the Messiah when He comes, God says through Zechariah: "they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son … a first-born." That prophecy could be fulfilled in no other than Jesus, the Word made Flesh, the Only-Begotten Son of God, the Crucified.
The day of the Messiah indeed came, with an outpouring of the Spirit. Yet it was a saving event not only for Jerusalem, but for all people. Both Jews and Gentiles could become "children of God," in St. Paul's stunning phrase. Now, “There is neither Jew nor Greek … slave nor free … male and female … if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise.”
In light of these readings, Sunday's Gospel is poignant. Jesus asks his closest friends, " who do you say that I am?" Peter replies, "The Messiah of God." Jesus then reveals to them, as Zechariah had foretold, that the Messiah must be "thrust through" and killed and mourned before the Spirit would come forth on Pentecost.
The day has indeed come. Yet still we long for its fullness, and so we pray to God in the Psalm: "for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, Like a land parched, lifeless, and without water."
Sun, 5 June 2016
2 Samuel 12: 7–10, 13
Psalm 32: 1–2, 5,7,11
Galatians 2:16, 19–21
In this Sunday’s readings we are like the fallen king, David, and the woman who weeps at Jesus’ feet.
Like David, the Lord has rescued us from sin and death, anointed us with His Spirit in baptism and in confirmation. He has made us heirs of His promise to the children of Israel.
And like David, and like the woman in the Gospel, we fall into sin. Our crimes may not be as grave as David’s (see 2 Samuel 11:1–26) or as “many” as that woman’s (see Luke 7:47).
But we often squander the great gift of salvation we’ve been given. Often we fail to live up to the great calling of being sons and daughters of God.
The good news of today’s readings, the good news of Jesus Christ, is that we can return to God in the sacrament of confession. Each of us can repeat Paul’s wondrous words in this week’s Epistle: “The Son of God has loved me and given himself up for me.”
Our faith will save us, as Jesus tells the woman today. Our faith that no matter how many our sins, or how serious, if we come to him in true sorrow and repentance we will hear his words of forgiveness. Like David. Like the woman in the Gospel this Sunday.
We hear David’s heartfelt confession in the First Reading. The Psalmist, too, confesses his sins to God. And we hear our Lord’s tender words of mercy and pardon in the Gospel.
By His word of healing and his promise of peace, He makes it possible for us to join Him at the banquet table of the Eucharist.
We can’t be like the Pharisee in the Gospel. We should never disdain the sinner or doubt the Lord’s power to convert even the worst of sinners.
Instead, we should pledge today to better imitate that sinful woman. In gratitude for the debt we’ve been forgiven, let us promise to live by faith and for God alone. Like her, let us devote our lives to serving Him with great love.
Fri, 27 May 2016
1 Kings 17-17-24
Psalms 30: 2,4-6,11-13
Jesus in today’s Gospel meets a funeral procession coming out of the gates of the town of Nain. Unlike when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) or Lazarus (John 11), no one requests his assistance. Moved by compassion for the widow who had lost her only son, Jesus steps forward and, laying his hand on the bier, commands him to arise.
The onlookers were reminded of the story of Elijah in the first reading who raised the dead child of the widow of Zarephath and “gave him [back] to his mother.” They proclaimed that “a great prophet has arisen in our midst.”
Jesus of course is more than a prophet; he is the ruler over life and death. In the Mosaic law, contact with a dead body renders an Israelite unclean for a week (Numbers 19:11-19). Jesus’ touch and word reverses that; instead of being defiled by contact with death, he gave life.
Like the physical healings that he performed, Jesus’ raising people from the dead is a sign of the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 7:22). But it is more than that; these healings are visible signs of the awakening and liberating of men from the spiritual death caused by sin (see Mark 2:1-12).
The Church Fathers return to this theme again and again. St. Ambrose writes, “the widow signifies Mother Church, weeping for those who are dead in sin and carried beyond the safety of her gates. The multitudes looking on will praise the Lord when sinners rise again from death and are restored to their mother.”
When we are dead in sin, it is the outstretched hand and the words of Christ spoken by his priest, that raise us from spiritual death and restore us to the arms of our mother, the Church. With the Psalmist, then, we can sing “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. You brought me up from the nether world; you preserved me from those going down into the pit.
Fri, 20 May 2016
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
At the dawn of salvation history, God revealed our future in figures. That's what's going on in today's First Reading: A king and high priest comes from Jerusalem (see Psalm 76:3), offering bread and wine to celebrate the victory of God's beloved servant, Abram, over his foes.
By his offering, Melchizedek bestows God's blessings on Abram. He is showing us, too, how one day we will receive God's blessings and in turn "bless God" - how we will give thanks to Him for delivering us from our enemies, sin and death.
As Paul recalls in today's Epistle, Jesus transformed the sign of bread and wine, making it a sign of His body and blood, through which God bestows upon us the blessings of His "new covenant."
Jesus is "the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek," that God, in today's Psalm, swears will rule from Zion, the new Jerusalem (see Hebrews 6:20-7:3).
By the miracle of loaves and fishes, Jesus in today's Gospel, again prefigures the blessings of the Eucharist.
Notice that He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the Twelve. You find the precise order and words in the Last Supper (see Luke 22:19) and in His celebration of the Eucharist on the first Easter night (see Luke 24:30).
The Eucharist fulfills the offering of Melchizedek. It is the daily miracle of the heavenly high priesthood of Jesus
It is a priesthood He conferred upon the Apostles in ordering them to feed the crowd, in filling exactly twelve baskets with leftover bread - in commanding them on the night He was handed over: "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Through His priests He still feeds us in "the deserted place" of our earthly exile.
And by this sign He pledges to us a glory yet to come. For as often as we share in His body and blood. we proclaim His victory over death, until He comes again to make His victory our own.
Fri, 13 May 2016
In today's Liturgy we're swept through time in glorious procession - from before earth and sky were set in place to the coming of the Spirit upon the new creation, the Church.
We begin in the heart of the Trinity, as we listen to the testimony of Wisdom in today's First Reading. Eternally begotten, the first-born of God, He is poured forth from of old in the loving delight of the Father.
Through Him, the heavens were established, the foundations of the earth fixed. From before the beginning, He was with the Father as His "Craftsman," the artisan by which all things were made. And He took special delight, He tells us, in the crowning glory of God's handiwork - the human race, the "sons of men.
In today's Psalm, He comes down from heaven, is made a little lower than the angels, comes among us as "the Son of Man" (see Hebrews 2:6-10).
All things are put under His feet so that He can restore to humanity the glory for which we were made from the beginning, the glory lost by sin. He tasted death that we might be raised to life in the Trinity, that His name might be made glorious over all the earth.
Through the Son, we have gained grace and access in the Spirit to the Father, as Paul boasts in today's Epistle (see Ephesians 2:18).
The Spirit, the Love of God, has been poured out into our hearts - a Spirit of adoption, making us children of the Father once more (see Romans 8:14-16).
This is the Spirit that Jesus promises in today's Gospel.
His Spirit comes as divine gift and anointing (see 1 John 2:27), to guide us to all truth, to show us "the things that are coming," the things that were meant to be from before all ages - that we will find peace and union in God, will share the life of the Trinity, dwell in God as He dwells in us (see John 14:23; 17:21).
Fri, 6 May 2016
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God's chosen people, in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-11).
In today's First Reading the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts 1:14).
The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see 2 Corinthians 3:2-8; Romans 8:2).
The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today's Psalm. In the beginning, the Spirit came as a "mighty wind" sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as "a strong, driving wind" to renew the face of the earth.
As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today's Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45,47).
Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today's Epistle (see also John 7:37-39).
We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a "new creation" in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity - fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.
Fri, 29 April 2016
Psalms 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
Jesus is praying for us in today's Gospel. We are those who have come to believe in Him through the Word of the Apostles, handed on in His Church.
Jesus showed the Apostles His glory, made known the Father's name, and the love He has had for us from "before the foundation of the world."
He revealed that He and the Father are one (see John 14:9).
Jesus is the "first and the last" (see Isaiah 44:6), the root of David (see Isaiah 11:10; 2 Samuel 7:12), as today's Second Reading declares.
Wrapped in clouds and darkness as God was at Sinai (see Exodus 19:16), He is "the king...the Most High over all the earth," as we sing in today's Psalm.
Exalted at God's right hand, as Stephen sees in the First Reading, the Lord calls to us through the Church, His Bride.
He calls us to "the tree of life," to communion with God. This is the goal of His love, His saving purpose from all eternity - that each of us enter into the life of Blessed Trinity, be "brought to perfection as one" with the Father and Son in the Spirit.
The story of Stephen, the first martyr, shows us how we are to answer His call.
Listen for the echoes of the crucifixion: Stephen, like Jesus, sees the Son of Man in glory and dies with words of forgiveness and self-offering on his lips (compare Acts 7:56-60; Matthew 26:64-65; Luke 23:24,46).
We, too, are to commend our spirits to the Father, to pray and offer our lives in love for our brethren, awaiting His coming in judgment. We renew our vows in every Mass, coming forward to receive the gift of His life.
We answer His call by crying out a call of our own: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"
And in our communion we answer our Lord's prayer: "That they may all be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in You."
Mon, 25 April 2016
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem we hear about in today's First Reading, decided the shape of the Church as we know it.
Some Jewish Christians had wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey all the complex ritual and purity laws of the Jews.
The council called this a heresy, again showing us that the Church in the divine plan is meant to be a worldwide family of God, no longer a covenant with just one nation.
Today's Liturgy gives us a profound meditation on the nature and meaning of the Church.
The Church is One, as we see in the First Reading: "the Apostles [bishops] and presbyters [priests], in agreement with the whole Church [laity]."
The Church is Holy, taught and guided by the Spirit that Jesus promises the Apostles in the Gospel.
The Church is Catholic, or universal, making known God's ways of salvation to all peoples, ruling all in equity, as we sing in today's Psalm.
And the Church, as John sees in the Second Reading, is Apostolic - founded on the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
All these marks of the Church are underscored in the story of the council.
Notice that everybody, including Paul, looks to "Jerusalem [and] ...the Apostles" to decide the Church's true teaching. The Apostles, too, presume that Christian teachers need a "mandate from us."
And we see the Spirit guiding the Apostles in all truth. Notice how they describe their ruling: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us."
Knowing these truths about the Church, our hearts should never be troubled. The Liturgy's message today is that the Church is the Lord's, watched over and guarded by the Advocate, the Holy Spirit sent by the Father in the name of the Son.
This should fill us with confidence, free us to worship with exultation, inspire us to rededicate our lives to His Name - to love Jesus in our keeping of His Word, to rejoice that He and the Father in the Spirit have made their dwelling with us.
Fri, 15 April 2016
By God's goodness and compassion, the doors of His kingdom have been opened to all who have faith, Jew or Gentile.
That's the good news Paul and Barnabas proclaim in today's First Reading. With the coming of the Church - the new Jerusalem John sees in today's Second Reading - God is "making all things new."
In His Church, the "old order" of death is passing away and God for all time is making His dwelling with the human race, so that all peoples "will be His people and God Himself will always be with them." In this the promises made through His prophets are accomplished (see Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 25:8; 35:10).
The Church is "the kingdom for all ages" that we sing of in today's Psalm. That's why we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, ordaining "presbyters" or priests (see 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5).
Anointed priests and bishops will be the Apostles' successors, ensuring that the Church's "dominion endures through all generations" (see Philippians 1:1, note that the New American Bible translates episcopois, the Greek word for bishops, as "overseers").
Until the end of time, the Church will declare to the world God's mighty deeds, blessing His holy name and giving Him thanks, singing of the glories of His kingdom.
In His Church, we know ourselves as His "faithful ones," as those Jesus calls "My little children" in today's Gospel. We live by the new law, the "new commandment" that He gave in His final hours.
The love He commands of us is no human love but a supernatural love. We love each other as Jesus loved us in suffering and dying for us. We love in imitation of His love.
This kind of love is only made possible by the Spirit poured into our hearts at Baptism (see Romans 5:5), renewed in the sacrifice His priests offer in every Mass.
By our love we glorify the Father. And by our love all peoples will know that we are His people, that He is our God.
Tue, 12 April 2016
Fri, 8 April 2016
Acts 13:14, 43-52
By the "Word of God" that Paul and Barnabas preach in today's First Reading, a new covenant people is being born, a people who glorify the God of Israel as the Father of them all.
The Church for all generations remains faithful to the grace of God given to the Apostles, continues their saving work.
Through the Church, the peoples of every land hear the Shepherd's voice, and follow Him (see Luke 10:16).
The Good Shepherd of today's Gospel is the enthroned Lamb of today's Second Reading. In laying down His life for His flock, the Lamb brought to pass a new Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7), by His blood freeing "every nation, race, people and tongue" from bondage to sin and death.
The Church is the "great multitude" John sees in his vision today. God swore to Abraham his descendants would be too numerous to count. And in the Church, as John sees, this promise is fulfilled (compare Revelation 7:9; Genesis 15:5).
The Lamb rules from the throne of God, sheltering His flock, feeding their hunger with His own Body and Blood, leading them to "springs of life-giving waters" that well up to eternal life (see John 4:14).
The Lamb is the eternal Shepherd-King, the son of David foretold by the prophets. His Church is the Kingdom of all Israel that the prophets said would be restored in an everlasting covenant (see Ezekiel 34:23-31; 37:23-28).
It is not a kingdom any tribe or nation can jealously claim as theirs alone. The Shepherd's Word to Israel is addressed now to all lands, calling all to worship and bless His name in the heavenly Temple.
This is the delight of the Gentiles - that we can sing the song that once only Israel could sing, today's joyful Psalm: "He made us, His we are - His people, the flock He tends."
Fri, 1 April 2016
There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a "charcoal fire" is mentioned.
One is in today's Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.
The other is in the scene in the High Priest's courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside (see John 18:18).
At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted (see John 13:38; 18:15-18, 25-27).
Today's charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter's repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus' thrice repeated command "feed My sheep" shows that Peter is being appointed as the shepherd of the Lord's entire flock, the head of His Church (see also Luke 22:32).
Jesus' question: "Do you love me more than these?" is a pointed reminder of Peter's pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken (see John 13:37; Matthew 26:33; Luke 22:33).
Jesus then explains just what Peter's love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter's death by crucifixion ("you will stretch out your hands").
Before His own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as He was hated, that they would suffer as He suffered (see Matthew 10:16-19,22; John 15:18-20; 16:2).
We see the beginnings of that persecution in today's First Reading. Flogged as Jesus was, the Apostles nonetheless leave "rejoicing that they have been found worthy to suffer."
Their joy is based on their faith that God will change their "mourning into dancing," as we sing in today's Psalm. By their sufferings, the know, they will be counted worthy to stand in heaven before "the Lamb that was slain," a scene glimpsed in today's Second Reading (see also Revelation 6:9-11).