From our Pastoral Associate, Sr. Ann Kane C.S.J.
March 15, 2020 Cycle A – 4th Sunday in Lent
“Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him. But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart… Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in his hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed on David.”
Midway through the holy season, preparing to celebrate the Paschal mystery and live Holy Week, today is a fine time to pause, look into our hearts, and ask what else needs to be done. Our journey through prayer, devotion and good works has been quite good. Maybe we can make it better. But let’s reflect on the words of the Book of Samuel.
We judge by appearance, but ‘God looks into the heart’. What He sees is probably quite good, but we know there might be some shadow to be removed, or mess to be cleaned up. The Sacrament of Reconciliation perhaps has been put on a back burner, but today becomes the source for our improvement and growth. Decide today to use this gift of Jesus to His church and make a good confession. ‘Be reconciled to God.’
March 15, 2020 Cycle A – 3rd Sunday in Lent
For the next three weeks, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, we will be hearing readings containing images that remind us of our Christian life begun at Baptism. As we move through this season with our sights on Easter, when we will renew our Baptismal promises, these readings enrich our understanding of what we will be re-committing to.
In the gospel for this Sunday, we meet Jesus and a Samaritan woman who engage in a wide-ranging discussion – water, marriage, worship, belief. In the course of this discussion the woman progressively comes to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is: “a Jew” (4:9), possibly “greater than our father Jacob” (4:12), “a prophet” (4:19), possibly “the Christ (=Messiah”, 4:25, 29), “truly the savior of the world” (4:42). This journey of faith begins with the innocuous request for a drink of water.
Like the Samaritan Woman, our journey of faith also begins with water, the waters of our Baptism. But the water is not water of the earth, which Jesus tells us will always leave us thirsty. Using what has come to be known as his replacement theology, St. John’s gospel, portrays Jesus as the water of life, replacing the Torah, which for centuries quenched the thirst of Judaism.( In both the rabbinical writings and those at Qumran, the Torah (law) is described as water which purifies, slakes thirst and sustains life.)
Later in John’s gospel Jesus explains what he means by living water: “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.”
“He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive” (John 7:38-39). Thus, living water” is God’s Spirit which remains in his followers after his resurrection.
Today, we are reminded that, Jesus offers the thirsty believer the water of eternal life which we bathe in and drink for the first time at Baptism. This water is like a living spring, a fountain within you giving life…even eternal life. During this third week of Lent we might reflect upon what is blocking the flow of this life giving water in our lives?
March 8, 2020 Cycle A – 2nd Sunday in Lent
We’ve all met folks who are a “stick in the mud.” Earthquakes, tornadoes, twenty-foot waves couldn’t move them. Content and satisfied, they stay put doing the same things, eating the same food, watching the same T.V. shows. Peter is our stick in the mud in today’s gospel. His first response to Jesus’ transfigured glory is to stay put: “If you wish, Lord, I will make three tents here…” Peter wants to remain on the mountaintop.
Eager to stay, yes, until the voice in the cloud announces who Jesus is and commands Peter and the other two disciples, James and John, to “listen to him.” Notice that now their mood shifts: they become afraid. Why? Because listening to Jesus means not staying put. Listening to Jesus may mean moving on into the unknown. The destiny is glory but the journey may be a costly one. Part of the “hardship” we bear for “listening to Him”, is that like Abram in today’s reading from Genesis, God may be asking us to leave behind what we know and love and journey into an unknown future. Part of the “blessing” of “listening to Him” is that like the disciples in the gospel we are given glimpses along the way of the glory which is to come. Called to be faithful to the journey and strengthened along the way by flashes of glory, we live in the in-between time of hope.
Our hope, like that of the apostles’, lies in the awareness that the One calling us forward will be faithfully with us. Through the trudging and temptations we come to know this Sacred Presence, a kind of glory shining through even now. It is this promise of constant Presence and future glory that keeps us on track: listening to God’s will for us and responding with big hearts to what we hear. We move ahead, even out of the mud, daring to respond to God’s will for us, even in those places that we never even dared.
March 1, 2020 Cycle A – 1st Sunday in Lent
Historically, Lent is the season of final, intense preparation for those preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation; Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation and for those preparing to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. During Lent we join their conversion process as we take time to renew our own identity as Baptized members of the Body of Christ, as sons and daughters of God.
The first reading today reminds us of the fragile nature of the human condition. From our earliest days we have been prone to sin. By our baptism we make a new covenant with God, a covenant that initiates us into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is this covenant relationship that we scrutinize and renew each year during Lent. Getting closer to the real meaning of our relationship with God is why we pray more, fast and do works of charity. It is through these time- honored practices that we believe we make more room for God in our lives and hearts.
To help us remain faithful to the 40 days Lenten journey, let us be reminded daily that Lent is a time for us to assess our baptismal, covenant relationship with God. It is a journey of 40 days inviting us to change our hearts; to move from death dealing attachments to a life of freedom and Christian maturity. We do this by self-examination and self-sacrifice so that at Easter we can truly share in Jesus’ passage from death to new life.
February 22-23, 2020 Cycle A – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus’ instruction on the reinterpretation of the Law, begun last Sunday, continues today as Jesus addresses the way disciples are to interact with people with whom they share strained relationships.
The policy “an eye for an eye…,” known as lex talionis, was instituted as early as the eighteenth century B.C.E. in the code of the Babylonian ruler Hammurabi. It was really a moral advance over what was the common custom of blood vengeance whereby the person who had sustained some injury at the hand of another would avenge himself with such fury that the guilty party often died as a result. Jesus says that even this more humane form of justice (an eye for an eye) should not be practiced by his followers. In fact, he tells us to offer no resistance at all!
Lest anyone misunderstand, Jesus offers concrete examples. First, physical violence was not to be parried in kind. The sec-ond illustration concerning one’s shirt (tunic) and coat (cloak) moved on to the kind of conduct Jesus advocated in the case of a legal suit. Not only should one not contest the legal action but one should yield what is contested and yield even more. The garments in question were the only garments owned and worn by the poor. Mosaic law permitted the cloak of a borrower to be held by a creditor as a pledge, but since this garment served as a blanket, bed, raincoat, it was to be returned at sundown, lest the borrower suffer the cold of the night.
The second part of today’s gospel treats the matter of love for one’s neighbor. Although Leviticus exhorts the Israelites to “love your neighbor” (19:18), nowhere are they told to hate their enemy. But, like most people even today, Israel seems to have cared little for the well-being of its adversaries. Jesus reinterprets this law of love in a most radical manner. He insists that a disciples’ love must be patterned after God’s love, which is given to the just and the unjust alike. Those who would be known as the children of God must carry the family resemblance. They are expected to love as God does. If they only love those who love them, but harm those who harm them, they are merely fulfilling the admonition “an eye for an eye…”
February 15-16, 2020 Cycle A – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Choices, choices, choices! In menus, catalogs, programs and important areas of our lives, choices are before us every day. They come at us from everywhere. In today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach, it is clear how important choice can be. This week’s gospel presents us with choices in the form of Jesus’ to-do list, or more accurately, a to-do-better list. We are challenged to be people of integrity, true to our lineage as children of a God who is full of wisdom. In that divine wisdom, lauded in both Sirach and I Corinthians, God our Creator sent Jesus to teach us how to make loving decisions.
Jesus honors the law, but he goes further. He encourages obedience to the law of love graced with an openness to reconciliation with others. He urges us to order our priorities by considering the broader context of our choices, and to be honest and transparent in what we do and say. Sometimes we’ll have to choose what is difficult, unpopular or uncomfortable in the name of love.
In “The Road Not Taken,” the poet Robert Frost reminds us that certain decisions we make can have long-range, long-lasting effects.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
The poet says he wanted to travel both roads, but he couldn’t and be one person. Both roads, on the surface, may have appeared almost the same, but he had to make a choice. He also knew in his heart he probably wouldn’t go back to try the other road another time. His choice had a finality to it.
When we follow the Way of Love, Jesus, we choose a path that will enrich our lives here and hereafter.
This week we hear the psalmist pray for help to remain firm in his commitment to follow the law. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit who “…scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God” to help us make wise choices in our everyday lives giving glory to God!
(reprinted in part from Quest, Spring edition 2011, a reflection booklet for Small Christian Communities)
February 8-9, 2020 Cycle A – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Once again, in today’s gospel, we listen to Jesus as he expands our understanding of the ways of God and what it means to be His follower. Using the symbols of light and salt Jesus reminds us that God accomplishes extraordinary things through ordinary people. Jesus grew up as a carpenter; some of the apostles were fishermen. Paul was a tentmaker; we are teacher, salesperson, bus driver, doc-tor, lawyer, student. Like Paul, we hear the many cries for assistance in our church, and in our world. Many times we respond: “why me Lord? I am too busy, too anxious. I don’t have enough education. I don’t speak well in public. I am shy. I don’t have any energy left after doing what I am already doing”. And the list goes on. Today’s readings remind us that it is God’s Spirit, alive in us that works wonders, making us like a light in the darkness, the salt in a tasteless meal.
Again and again throughout the Sundays of Ordinary Time we see how God chooses the weak of this world to confound the strong; the insignificant people to outstrip those who are celebrities. Unfortunately, we do not always appreciate the significance of this in our own lives. Either we want to do spectacular things for God or we ignore the possibilities for good that common events can provide. If we could only realize that our ordinary lives are waiting to break forth with the extraordinary deeds of God working through us, we may be less fearful of offering our time and talents for the needs of our faith community, and the world at large.
I am reminded of the St. Timothy Pastoral Care Ministry. With the growing number of elderly and homebound members in our parish, as well as the many who find themselves in long illnesses, we are always in need of generous people who are willing to visit folks reminding them they are not forgotten here at St. Tim’s. A friendly visit means bringing Holy Communion and spending some quality time, being totally present to the one we visit. Sharing life stories, listening to one another we add “light and flavor” to the day in a way that is very satisfying to the one being visited as well as to those who do the visiting. Visits are scheduled usually just once each week at the convenience of both the pastoral care team member as well as the one being visited. We visit hospitals and those confined to their homes. If you would like to speak with someone who is already doing this ministry or for more information about the process of becoming a member of the Pastoral Care Team, please contact Sister Ann Kane at the rectory, 860 233-5131 x3 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
February 1-2, 2020 Cycle A – Presentation of the Lord
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is rooted in everyday life. In faithful observance of the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple to consecrate him to the Lord. There they met the righteous prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna, for whom Temple worship was part of everyday life. God rewarded their fidelity by allowing them to see the one who was Savior and to hold him in their arms. When the ceremony of presentation was completed, Mary and Joseph and Jesus returned to their hometown. There, they created a home and a family life. There, Jesus grew up, becoming strong and wise, and the grace of God was upon him.
The Feast of the Presentation, on February 2, is also called Candlemas Day. According to Luke’s account of the Gospel, Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah in the Temple and declared him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2: 32).
Rituals are momentous reminders of the transformations completed and paths still to come. In today’s Gospel, the ritual of presentation, in which Jesus is fully given his name, happens and his identity is fully recognized by the wise prophet, Simeon and prophetess, An-na. Both had waited their whole lives to have God’s promises fulfilled. They seemed to hold a sacred space and gave due blessing in the ritual of presenting Jesus to his Jewish faith.
Who knows your identity so fully that they present your life and richness back to you; or remind you of your true self when you have forgotten? Gift each of them with some form of thanks this week. Similarly, which young child in your life can you unceasingly pray for to grow into their identity in God? Start a quiet journey with/for them. Finally, Anna fasted day and night and gave constant glory to God while she awaited the birth of Jesus. What are your faith practices that keep you rooted in your knowledge and intimacy with God?
January 25-26, 2020 Cycle A – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
HIS WORD TODAY by Rev. William J. Reilly
“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.”
There must have been something special in the meeting of the two sets of brothers with Jesus. Had He met them before? Why did He call these four, and not someone else? Did they understand what He was calling them to, and what did being ‘fishers of people’ meant? How were they able to leave their father and business?
Jesus continues to walk with us, not by the sea of Galilee, but He does. He calls all without exception for His work. We find Him, not only at church but on the streets where we live, at the mall, during the PTA meeting, at the ball field, and in our parish life. Do you recognize Him? We never know why, how or when, the same Jesus summons us but the task is the same as that which was given to the brothers. What if they had refused? Where would we be today? What is He asking of me?
January 18-19, 2020 Cycle A – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Near the end of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, he convened the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy. The event was the brainchild of the pontiff who in the last days of his life said, “So long as I have breath within me, I will never cease to cry out for peace.”
After a day rich in symbol and action, Pope John Paul said, “While political and world leaders carry the first and greatest responsibility for world peace, they cannot do it alone. Every sincere effort of theirs needs to be encouraged and supported by a wide public.” For too long men and women of faith, like all men and women of goodwill, have felt frustrated in finding ways to express their desire for, and commitment to, peace. Ideologues and special interest groups resort to protests and marches that too often end in violence, polarization and increased anger. By gathering in Assisi “to be together to pray” for peace, Pope John Paul, and those who gathered with him, provided an alternative to marches and protests: Prayer. At the conclusion of that day, John Paul said: “What we have done today at Assisi, praying and witnessing to our commitment to peace, we must do every day of our life. For what we have done today is vital if the world is to continue and men and women are to survive in it. We cannot do without prayer.” May we continue to show that prayer is the most powerful tool we share to advance that peace which ultimately is a gift from God.
More recently, Pope Francis traveled to Assisi and continued to instruct the world to pray for peace. He implored those present to join him in prayers for peace. We remember all those who work for peace in our church and in our government. And finally we pray for all those who suffer from continual warfare all over the globe. Let us pray hard that the process of bringing peace to those war-torn areas will meet with a measure of success and relief to all those who suffer in those places of conflict.
January 11-12, 2020 Cycle A – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the hinge Sunday marking the change from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. This solemnity stands as a turning point moving us from the infancy narratives proclaimed during the Christmas season and looking ahead to readings that bring out the complexity and richness of Jesus mission and identity. Jesus is God’s beloved Son, anointed with the Holy Spir-it and power, and humble servant sent to “bring forth justice to the nations.” Son, anointed, servant: this describes who Jesus is and also who his disciples are to be.
Baptism incorporates the believer into the mystery of Christ, it joins one to the Church, and provides for us a share in the mission of Jesus. A key phrase, developed by the Council of Florence (15th Century) tells us that baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit. Thus, baptism marks a new beginning, whereby the person is regenerated and made whole by this sacrament, made ready by the gift of God for a new life which will be lived in the Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213)
The term itself, “baptism” comes from the Greek word for “plunge” or “immerse,” which refers to the use of water, the main symbolic element which conveys the sacrament, along with the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That triple plunging or immersing into the depths, where the body of the baptized is overwhelmed by water corresponds symbolically to being born as a new person in Christ (CCC 1239-40)
St Gregory Nazianzus (d.390 A.D.) reflected on the sacrament of baptism, writing, “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship” (Oratio 40, 3-4, PG 36, 361C).
Thus, as re-born members of the church, those who are baptized are responsible for witnessing to the faith and participating in the mission of the Church. The Second Vatican Council described this as the “priesthood of the faithful.” Saying, “The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated …to bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope of an eternal life that is theirs. The priesthood of the faithful is not the same as the ordained priesthood, although as the Church teaches, “each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The whole Church – ordained priest and the priest-hood of the faithful- is called in baptism to live, through sacraments, prayer, holiness of life, and active charity the mission of Christ. Bearing witness to Christ in our world is our task. Strength for that task is to be found in the Eucharist. Today, we remember our own baptism and this weekend at the 10:30 Mass all those baptized in the last year will celebrate that sacred occasion with a special blessing.
January 4-5, 2020 Cycle A – Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
The word epiphany derives from a Greek term that means “showing forth, manifestation, making public.” According to the account of the Epiphany in Matthew 2, magi or wise men, from the East (perhaps Persia or Babylonia) came to Israel to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews. Thus the feast of the Epiphany marks the manifestation of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel to non-Jews. This narrative appears only in Matthew’s Gospel, which ends with the risen Jesus’ command to his apostles to make disciples of all nations.
The feast of the Epiphany provides an opportunity to reflect on the character of our Christian faith as both particular and universal. While acknowledging our roots in Israel and the Old Testament, we Christians are convinced that the good news of Jesus Christ has significance for all peoples of the world.
The dynamic of the particular and the universal is prominent in the Magi story. These mysterious representatives of all nations come to Jerusalem in the land of Israel. There they learn from the Jewish scribes and the Hebrew Scriptures that the Messiah of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah. So they go to Bethlehem and pay homage to the child Jesus. They seek out a particular person in a particular time and place, not an idea or myth.
The dynamic of the particular and the universal is also prominent in today’s Old Testament readings. The passage from Isaiah 60 looks forward to the light that will shine forth from Jerusalem. It foresees that all the nations of the world will walk by that light, will acknowledge and enjoy that light, and so will proclaim the praises of the God of Israel. The verses from Psalm 72 use similar language and look forward to the day when “every nation on earth will adore you.” Rooted in the historical particularity of ancient Israel’s language, theology and institutions, the hope expressed in these texts is that one day all nations will be part of the people of God.
How that hope becomes a reality is the subject of reading from Ephesians 3. It shows that through the particular Jewish historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, membership in the people of God has been extended beyond the limits of ethnic Israel to all the peoples of the world. Today’s readings remind us of our identity as the “catholic” church. The word catholic means “universal, worldwide, all over.” We are rooted in ancient Israel and yet open to all peoples. We come from a particular history, yet are open to all the nations of the world. As God’s people in and through Christ, we have become members of the same body of Christ and are sharers in God’s promises to Abraham. Neither an ethnic group nor a sect, we are a universal, that is, catholic church