The Church of St. Timothy

Gathering in Faith, Giving Thanks, Serving the Least among Us

Weekend Homilies – 2019

IMG_0505

May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day)
Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Easter

John 10:27-30

Bishop Peter

1. What a fine example of faithful perseverance St. Paul gives us even though he is persecuted by his own Jewish people and by those converts from Judaism who insist that gentile converts must become Jews first.

a. This is all the more inspiring since Paul had nothing to gain financially. His sole motivating force was his deep faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for him.

b. Thus he was “compelled” as he said to preach the Good News, the Gospel, that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who rose from the dead to give us hope and new life. He forgives us our sin so that we no longer have to bear guilt for the past and sends us his HS who empowers us to live like Jesus himself. Thus we can say with Saint Paul: “I live, now not so much I, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

2. The sacred writer of the Book of Revelation gives us a similar example in the martyrs of the early church, particularly those who were killed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (95-96).

a. Like the martyrs throughout the years, including the thousands since the beginning of the 21st century, they are in heaven because “they have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb,” meaning Jesus Christ. This concept is rich in our tradition, for example, in the first letter of John we read: “… the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)

3. On Mother’s Day it is appropriate to present examples of mothers who have who have persevered in faithfulness despite many difficulties:

a. In the fourth century, this woman married a pagan Roman who was unfaithful, drank heavily and had a violent temper. What is more, she knew that her son was brilliant and prayed 27 years for his conversion to Christianity.

• One year before his death, her husband, Patrick, converted after changing his ways, thanks to his wife’s prayers.
• Then her son not only converted but became a priest and bishop, one of the most famous in Christian history. Her name, Saint Monica and his, Saint Augustine who wrote, “Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient, O beauty ever new. Late have I loved you.”
• Perhaps there are many Monicas among you today, praying for the conversion and return to the Church of your young adult children.

b. Because we are in Good Shepherd Sunday (always the 4th after Easter), here is the example of a mother who has suffered unspeakable tragedy and yet perseveres in her faith in profound love for Jesus Christ:

• She wrote: “Seven years after this horrendous event, I continue to draw on, trust and follow the Good Shepherd, even when paths are frightening and dark, even when I don’t understand. In these moments I embrace his closeness and know it is in his protection that I am enabled to walk. Thus I believe that when the storm has passed, when the danger is averted, I will emerge onto green pastures, still waters, and find rest in the loving tenderness of the Good Shepherd.” The author – Jennifer Hubbard whose daughter Catherine Violet, was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. (From the May edition of Magnificat, p. 153…)

c. How many of you mothers persevere despite tragedy in your lives? How many remain faithful to the Church despite the failure of some of its leaders? How many of you went through trying times raising your children even under difficult circumstances such as husbands going off to military service or having to leave your homes when you yourselves were deployed? How many of you were faithful and still are as you care for children with special needs or sick husbands or aging parents?

4. In all these circumstances you are accompanied by the Good Shepherd as he walked with Jennifer Hubbard. He is the greatest example of perseverance and faithfulness because he constantly reaches out to bring the lost sheep back into the fold where they can find forgiveness, rest and the cool waters of peace.

Now we come to the Eucharistic part of our celebration: As we gaze on the Most Holy Eucharist and receive it we recall that it is Jesus the Good Shepherd who promises to be with us constantly, in ways we perhaps will never know. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Psalm 23)

May 5, 2019
Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Easter

John 21:1-19

Fr. Tom Coughlin

Do you have a favorite word in your personal dictionary? Is there a particular word that you are fond of? We all have our own internal personal dictionary that we collect and store in our minds when we grow and learn. Maybe you use this particular word as a source of inspiration or guidance in your life. Very often, all these words we hear and read become an invaluable part of who we are and how we will become. Words do form and shape us as individual beings. The words that we read, hear and hold in our hearts often sculpt us into what God has made us to be. Without words, we cannot grow and thrive as human beings. Since we hold and treasure words in our hearts, we ask ourselves if there is a peculiar word in our hearts that we are fond of and may reveal who or what we really are? Give yourself a moment to pause and reflect on what may be your favorite word; a word that may best describe who you really are.

I for my part often wonder if God has a favorite word in His own personal dictionary, too. Does He have a favorite word? Let’s consult the Scriptures and see what we can glean from the treasure trove of His eternal words in the Scriptures and find out for ourselves. Let’s start with the very first words that God used to speak to us in the Scriptures especially when we heard them during the Easter Vigil service this year:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was GOOD…”

In the next several passages of the vigil readings which narrated on how God created our world, we come to read and hear that every time when God created something, He saw that whatever He did was good. Whatever God did, it was always good. In essence, the actions and grace of God are always good. Apart from Him, nothing is good. From the Scripture stories of the creation of God, we can clearly see how God shared with us His feelings about His work. He described His works as something good. It looks like that God’s favorite word may be this particular word, “Good.” Although God does not restrict Himself to a particular word as He is the creator of all the words that we have on earth, I could not help but to wonder if the word, “GOOD” is His favorite word because He had repeatedly used this word every time He created something in the story of creation. It was a no mere accident that God used this word, “GOOD” in the Scriptures often because it clearly alludes to the goodness of God and His nature. He used this word, “Good” to reveal to us who He really is. By His actions in creating all of us, God manifested to us of his profound goodness. Like a proverbial a slip of tongue, God tells us in the Scripture who and what He is really all about. In the manifold of his infinite mystery, God has revealed something to us about Himself and that the word “GOOD” was deliberately used to manifest His personality. He did not use any other words to describe who He is. Jesus once described himself as a “GOOD” Shepherd. Therefore, God is essentially good, nothing else. Apart from Him, there is nothing that is good.

I am led to believe that the word, “GOOD is God’s favorite word because He had repeatedly used it in the Scriptures, notably in the creation story. Therefore it now behooves us to strive for this grace of goodness in our life. We ask ourselves how can we become as good as God is. First most, we need to view ourselves as good. We all are good because God created us in the likeness of God Himself. We need to think, breathe and live as good people. We need to make our faith in God good, not bad. We still need to have good faith in people that we live with. We need to strive after goodness and to make all things that we do to be good. We are created by God to be good and therefore we need to live our lives as something good and in turn God will undoubtedly bless us. We are reminded by some lines from a song in the “Sound of Music”: “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” We need to do something good for God and for His people and in turn God will bless us. Such is our calling, to be as good as God is.

God has done many good things for us and therefore let us worship and love God in total goodness. Let us view the whole world as something good. Let us love everyone as someone good. Let us use our good words to make God’s world holy and good. When we make every effort to make God’s world holy and good, we will become Children of God and we all will be as good as God is.

Apr 28, 2019
Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Easter

John 20:19-31

Deacon Dennis Ferguson

Like St. Thomas, I have had doubts about my faith. Doubts when I stood and gave the homily at a young man’s funeral whom I had known since he was in kindergarten at Morley School. Joey was only thirty years old when he was shot and killed by the State Police. I don’t hold anything against the State Police. I believe it was suicide by cop. Joey had said to me six months before his death that he couldn’t come back to the people and places that had gotten him into trouble before. But come back he did. My faith says we have free will, the ability to make choices between good and evil. But I was angry that it happened, and angry at God for letting it happen. I cried at that funeral and wanted to shout, “Lord, couldn’t you have given Joey a little help, the strength to avoid the people and places he feared, and I thought to myself: Why, Lord? Is it all true? Is resurrection a reality? Is it all simply ancient myth designed to get us through the night? Is my belief that God even exists a reality or a fiction?

You and I will never see Jesus in this life. It can never be proven to us that he was raised from the dead. Jesus understands it’s harder for us to believe than for Thomas, and he says we are blessed because of our belief. So much of what is good in life, also requires this leap of faith.

How do you prove love? How do you prove friendship? How do we prove devotion to our spouse; to our children? We can’t: we trust; we hope; we believe; and because we do, we again – are blessed.

You and I are here this Saturday night/Sunday morning to feel the presence of God, to somehow leave a better person than when we walked in 45 minutes earlier.

And yet, I know there are times in our lives when we face grief, or disappointment, or pain, or depression, or anger at God. There are times when our hold on God, falters. When these moments of true, deep doubt come, let me urge something upon you. I told you this truth in this past Good Friday’s homily; I’ve said it in other homilies; but for me, I need to remind myself of it over and over again. NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

I hope that simple truth brings comfort to those who struggle. I know it brings solace to our retiring Pastoral Associate, Pat Piano. Pat is an amazing liturgist and the consummate organizer. Anyone who has worked with Pat around illnesses or funerals, knows she possesses a unique blend of compassion, the ability to comfort, and insight into the human heart. She is a personal friend and she epitomizes what will redeem and strengthen our Catholic Church in the Archdiocese by the mere fact that she is a woman. Dear God, continue to bless us with competent, capable women like her to guide this Church.

Because she and we have also experienced that light. It is in those moments of spiritual light when God shows us true reality. We have all experienced that light when, throughout our lifetime, we actually have felt the presence of God.

Christ comes to us through living people – through you and me. Imagine, if you will, standing in front of a fire with another person. Imagine that fire is Jesus. Both you and that other person can feel the warmth of the fire — of Jesus.

You can see the reflection of the fire in the face of the other person, but you can’t see it in yourself; you can feel it, but you can’t see it. Only the other person can see it in you. We bring the Easter light of Christ into the world, and to each other.

These moments are so very important, because they allow us — to get through many dark nights of doubt and despair.

In moments of light, God has told you that he will never desert you. Don’t ever doubt that.
In moments of light, God has told you that resurrection is reality. Don’t ever let the darkness cause you to doubt that.

In moments of light, Christ told us tonight/today “Do not be afraid.” Never doubt that.
NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

Apr 21, 2019
Cycle C – Easter Day

John 20:1-9

Fr. Alvin LeBlanc

We gather this Easter Sunday to celebrate the central event of our faith which gave birth to Christianity.

We do so in the pageantry of the Church’s ancient Easter liturgy – with Word, symbols & song – to celebrate the ‘Good News of Salvation’ — that Jesus Christ, who suffered & died for us, and rose from the dead — the joy of which burst forth from this sacred day some 2,000 years ago giving us hope & promise that we will share in the victory won for us through Jesus Christ on Easter and be with Him and our departed loved ones in eternal life one day.

For it is EASTER which began our Christian faith:

Christianity did not begin at Christmas when Jesus was born. It did not begin when He became an itinerant preacher (and the crowds began to gather around Him because of His teachings, miracles and healings. It did not begin when Jesus raised His friend Lazurus from the Dead (days after Lazurus had died).  It did not even happen during most of Holy Week (even on Good Friday as Jesus underwent His agonizing death on the Cross for us – unjustly condemned, the most innocent of all men who would ever live). For HAD Jesus’ life ended with His last breath on the Cross on (what became) Good Friday, you and I would not be here today.  There would be no Christianity, no Christmas, and likely no remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth (except perhaps a minor footnote in Jewish (and Roman) history) had Good Friday been the end.

NO – without Jesus Christ’s RESURRECTION from the Dead, there would not have been an EASTER from which Christian Faith began.  For it was only from the prism and light of EASTER Sunday that the many facets of WHO Jesus truly was began to be gleaned.  It was only in light of the events of Easter, that believers began then looking backwards to Jesus earthly life & ministry, and then further back to his birth in Bethlehem, and finally further back to his existence always with God before time – God’s eternal SON – John’s Gospel saying: ‘In the beginning was the WORD – (namely JESUS), and ‘the WORD was with GOD, and the WORD was GOD’. Only through this multi-faceted prism did the early Christians then come to see that the Scriptures were indeed fulfilled in JESUS.

Christianity (and its GOOD NEWS) began because of what occurred on this day some 2,000 years ago – the news which went forth from the empty tomb that 1st Easter Sunday morning (as we hear from John’s Gospel today through the witness of Mary Magdalen, Simon Peter and John (who found Jesus’ tomb empty) – with only John, (the beloved disciple of Jesus), apparently understanding the scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead (as Jesus Himself had prophesied) but the disciples were slow to understand.

In last night’s Easter Vigil Gospel from LUKE, the truth of Easter’s proclamation is more clearly confirmed. There, Luke says:

At daybreak, (on the 1st day of the week), the women who had followed Jesus came to the tomb, and finding the Stone rolled away from the tomb), they entered, but did not find the body of Jesus.
(Then) two men in dazzling garments appeared to them & they were terrified.
The men said to them: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He is not here! He has been Raised!!!

—————————————————————————————————

It was with that joyful news that Christianity BEGAN: with an empty tomb and (in Luke’s account) – with 2 (angelic) men ‘announcing’ the ‘GOOD NEWS’ of EASTER – (to the women who had followed Jesus).

In the days that ensued, stories began to circulate (by those chosen by God beforehand – who were privileged to encounter the Risen Lord Jesus after His Resurrection) that Jesus (who had been crucified and put to death) truly had been raised.

This is the Good News of Easter from which Christianity was born this day – from a handful of witnesses chosen by God, who witnessed the Risen Jesus for 40 days before His Ascension, growing to over three billion Christians in the world today, 1.2 billion sharing our Catholic Christian faith today.

In a few moments, with the Easter water (blessed last evening), we will be blessed with EASTER water – reminding us of our baptisms where, as St. Paul says, ‘we were buried with Christ into His death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead (by the glory of the Father),we too might live in newness of life, and one day be united with Him in the Resurrection’.

Now having completed our Lenten journey, may we be renewed in our own faith in Jesus, (the Resurrection and the Life) – in whom our Christian faith began and will continue one day into Eternal Life – won for us through the victory of the Risen Lord Jesus on Easter.

HAPPY EASTER!

Apr 20, 2019
Cycle C – Easter Vigil

Luke 24:1-12

Fr. Alvin LeBlanc

We have gathered this Easter Vigil Night to celebrate the ‘central’ mystery of our faith which gave ‘birth’ to Christianity.

We do so in the pageantry of the Church’s ancient Easter liturgy – in Word, (symbols) & song – to celebrate the ‘Good News of Salvation’ that Jesus Christ, (who suffered & died for us) – is ‘Risen’ from the Dead – the ‘belief’ of which gives ‘guidance & meaning’ (not only to ‘this’ life), but ‘hope & promise ‘of this night of sharing one day in the victory of Jesus Christ over ‘death’ – leading us to eternal life with Him and our departed loved ones one day.

We likely never stop to think about it – but Christianity really ‘began’ at ‘EASTER’.

It did ‘not’ begin at Christmas when Jesus was born; It did ‘not’ begin when He became an itinerant preacher (and the crowds began to gather around Him b/c of His teachings & miracles). It did ‘not’ begin when Jesus raised His fried Lazarus from the Dead (days after Lazarus had died); It did ‘not’ even happen during most of Holy Week, even on Good Friday when (alone & abandoned by most who had ‘hoped’ in Him), it all came to a seeming crushing end and despair, as Jesus underwent His agonizing death on the Cross. ‘HAD’ it ended with Jesus’ last breath on the ‘Cross’, you & I would not be here tonight. There would be ‘no’ Christianity – (no Christmas) –– (no ‘remembrance of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’) – except perhaps as a minor footnote in Jewish and Roman history.

‘NO’ – ‘Without’ JESUS CHRIST’S ‘RESSURECTION’ from the Dead– there would be ‘NO’ Christianity because there would ‘not’ have been an ‘EASTER’ ‘from which’ our faith ‘began’ – only thereafter believers looking ‘backwards’ to His life and ministry, (then to His Birth), and finally even to ‘before’ His birth – to see that, in Jesus, the scriptures had been fulfilled.

LUKE – (the Gospel for this present ‘liturgical year’), proclaims the Easter roots of Christianity in tonight’s Gospel, saying:

‘At daybreak, (on the 1st day of the week), the women who had followed Jesus came to the tomb) and finding the Stone rolled away from the tomb, they entered, but did ‘not’ find the body of Jesus. Two men in dazzling garments appeared to them & they were terrified. The men said to them: ‘Why do you seek the ‘living’ among the dead? He is ‘not’ here! He has been ‘Raised’!!!’

It was with that ‘joyful news’ that Christianity ‘’began’ – with an ‘empty’ tomb and, in Luke’s account), two angelic men ‘announcing’ the ‘GOOD NEWS’ of EASTER to the women who had come to the tomb.

It was from ‘EASTER’, that stories began to circulate (by those chosen by God beforehand) who were privileged to encounter the ‘Risen Lord Jesus’ in the days and weeks which followed and from EASTER that Christianity was ‘born’.

And as ‘Christianity’ began on this night long ago, so the Church (from the earliest centuries), chose the ‘Easter’ Vigil (above all), to annually receive ‘new’ members into the Christian faith through what has come to be known as the RCIA – (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).

Tonight – (throughout the world), tens of thousands of catechumens will be baptized – will (in the words of St. Paul in tonight’s Epistle) ‘be buried with Christ (through the ‘waters’ of Baptism) into His Death, so that just as Christ was ‘raised’ from the Dead by the glory of the Father, they too might live in newness of life, and one day (through death), be united with Him in the Resurrection’.

With great joy this evening, we will shortly be ‘welcoming’ our catechumen, Yvonne Uherek, into her ‘new’ life in Jesus (through the waters of Baptism), followed by Confirmation and the Eucharist, becoming a full member of our Catholic family of faith, through the graces she will receive this night through the Risen Lord and throughout her life.

May Yvonne, through her ‘Christian Initiation’ tonight, receive God’s abundant blessings in her life of faith in the years ahead, and each of us – having completed our own ‘Lenten journey, be ‘renewed’ in our own faith in Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life – in whom our Christian faith ‘began’ and will ‘continue’ one day into Eternal Life through the ‘promise of Easter’ – gained for us on this night.

**HAPPY EASTER**

Apr 13-14, 2019
Cycle C – Palm Sunday

Luke 22:14-23:56

Homilist:  Deacon Eric

Apr 6-7, 2019
Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Lent

John 8:1-11

Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses):  Fr. Tom Coughlin

We all have our favorite quotes or adages that guide us in our life. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Saints have a past; sinners have a future.” How true it is! Sinners like us do have a future and all of our saints have a past. There is hope for us, sinners, of our bright future, no matter how heinous the sins of our past may be. Our God is hopelessly merciful. He will not remember our past because our God is not God of the past but God of the future. Let me repeat this wonderful adage: “Saints have a past; sinners have a future.”

Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that what matters the most is not what happens in the past but what will happen now and in the future. Jesus did not condemn this adulterous lady to the past. Jesus gave this woman a future. However, he made it clear to her that she was not to sin anymore. We hear the same statement during our confessions. The priests who absolve us of our sins tell us this, “Go into peace and sin no more.” We must do likewise.

The Old Testament reading at today’s Mass inform us that there will be a new pavement for a better future. “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” Our prophet, Isaiah gives us encouraging words that our future needs not to be bleak and hopeless. Our future looks more promising mostly because Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection from the dead gives us a bright future and that is precisely what St. Paul was trying to illustrate in his Letter to the Philippines. St. Paul also wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we will remain dead in our sins and will have no redemption from our sins. The power of Jesus’ resurrection has freed us from the power of sin and death. We have a wonderful future ahead of us, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday.

Let’s look at the today’s Gospel story of a woman caught in adultery. This Gospel story consists of three main characters: the adulteress, the accusers (Pharisees) and Christ himself. We can see the interplay among these main characters: the accusers trying to dominate the scene by dragging the prostitute to the play for the purpose of humiliating her and at the same time challenging Jesus with his knowledge of the Jewish law and how he would interpret the Jewish Law on the sin of adultery. What we actually are seeing in this story is not just a drama but warfare between violence and injustice beget by the evil one and act of compassion and mercy beget by God. It is a war between the good and the evil, the endless struggle between the light and the darkness. Not being outdone by the accusers, Jesus performed an incredible miracle: Jesus was able to recognize and expose the specific sins of the accusers’ past lives by writing out their concealed sins in the dirt, much to their shame and glaring exposition of their blind hypocrisy. It then became clear that the sins of the prostitute were not in any way different from the concealed sins of the accusers. The sins of the prostitute and the Pharisees were one and the same. The prostitute was accused simply because she was a woman. Jesus laid bare the travesty of injustice and challenged this age-old injustice perpetuated against the female gender by mankind. Sadly, this injustice is still perpetuated in Islamic countries and many women are still stoned to death. One has to see the movie, “The Stoning of Soryana M.” to fathom this incredible horror and mockery of justice for women in Islamic cultures.

Furthermore, Jesus rose above this fray and slam shut the ongoing travesty of justice by saying these powerful words: “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” The logic behind these words is that no one is without sin. We all are sinners. Jesus wants to portray God the Father as a God of mercy, not God of retribution. If the Father of Jesus Christ is a God of retribution, then anyone can cast stone at whoever deserves this. Jesus changed everything. He wanted to wage a war against senseless violence of injustice as it had no room in the Kingdom of God. Jesus wanted to herald in a Kingdom of justice, kindness and mercy. For the Pharisees, they want no part of it as they were deeply entrenched in their evil ways. No wonder our Lord detested them and he had to expose their hypocrisy in order to redeem the prostitute from this delicate situation. It worked this time for this prostitute and she got away with it, thanks to the mercy of God. However, sadly to say, it only served to incur the wrath and final determination of the Pharisees to do away with Jesus. Consequently, Jesus did not die on the cross for mere infractions of the Jewish laws. Instead, it was a sum of all the confrontations and the warfare Jesus had with the Pharisees that led him directly to his final and ignominious death on the cross on Good Friday. It was a sweet revenge exacted by the shame-faced Pharisees on Jesus for His battle against their acts of self-righteousness and injustice. It was the price Jesus had to pay in order to bring in the Kingdom of God on earth. We now owe Jesus a life time of allegiance, both here and hereafter.

More importantly, how do we see ourselves in this story? Which one of these characters in this story we may identify ourselves with? The prostitute, or Jesus, or the Pharisees? Which one? Only we know in the recess of our hearts which one we may identify ourselves closely with. If we are not sure, then perhaps we may identify with all three of them rolled into one? There may be times when we like to judge and accuse others of sins when we do the same thing ourselves. Or perhaps we may want to identify ourselves like Jesus in forgiving the sinners? Or perhaps we may feel spiritually weak and victimized like this prostitute, not knowing what to do or where to go? Sometime we may do all three together at the same time, for after all we do not understand the paradoxical nature of humanity.

In closing, this powerful story of Jesus redeeming this hapless prostitute is a beacon of hope for all of us who continue to sin. We come to realize that with grace of God, we can rise above our sinfulness and to follow Jesus’ command: “Go and sin no more.” This is our future. The past will no longer have control over us, for our God

Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter

THEME: “The Father sent his son into the world, not to condemn it but that the world might be saved by him.”

1. To be a disciple of Jesus implies a process, a journey.

a. My friend’s sign: “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
b. This is what St. Paul is telling us. He had a big ego that God transformed so that he would rely more on God than on himself.
♦  Shipwreck, being beaten and whipped + some kind of disease such as malaria.
c. He did come to realize this as he wrote in I Corinthians 15: 10 – “Thanks be to God I am what I am and his grace toward me has not been in vain…”
d. Likewise our journey is never smooth – we go through ups and downs, temptation and sin, repentance and an effort, with God’s grace, to follow Jesus the best we can.
e. Repeat: “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”

2. The Gospel – The point: He uses his authority to bring the woman to conversion and into goodness. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” Be patient with me. God isn’t… yet.

3. The scribes and Pharisees put Jesus in the horns of a dilemma.

a. The only act of adultery where the woman was caught without the man!
b. If he says, stone her, he loses credibility with the people who see him as loving and merciful.
c. If he says no, he will be accused of disobeying the Law of Moses – of being soft on crime.
d. Jesus knows the gravity of adultery – unjust to the other party in the marriage – that person, if the adultery is found out, continues to question and even doubt the credibility of the offender…
e. Several men I know still feel guilty about past infidelity.

4. Jesus lowers his eyes and traces something on the ground. Because he can’t stand to see the hate in their eyes and the dread in hers? Doodling? Waiting for the accusers to be quiet? Tracing some of their sins? We don’t know.

5. Jesus’ answer: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then they all leave, beginning with the eldest.

6. What conclusions can we draw from this lovely story?

a. Those particular scribes and Pharisees didn’t care about the woman at all – they only used her to get at Jesus.
b. Jesus, on the contrary, looks on her as a human being who has sinned out of weakness and whom he will forgive so that she might live a new life.
c. Jesus does the same for us – when we sin, he wants to raise us up to renew our lives, to be free of sin and guilt. Why? Because he is rich in mercy, slow to anger, kind and merciful.
d. As Jesus is to us, so may we be to those who have offended us.
e. Lastly, let’s use our imagination. Jesus is carrying his cross on his way to Calvary. His face is covered with blood and sweat and spittle, making it difficult for him to see. A woman breaks through the crowd, approaches Jesus and wipes his face with her veil. As Jesus’ eyes meet hers, he recognizes in her the very woman he saved from being stoned to death. As a reward, her veil bears the imprint of his face. Christian tradition has named her Veronica. (Vera or True Icon)
f. Any act of kindness begets many more. Is that your experience?

Mar 31, 2019
Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Lent

Luke 15:1-3; 11-32

Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis

As you just heard, today’s gospel begins with the Pharisees and scribes angrily complaining that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” How could someone who claims to be from God, acting in God’s name, dare to do such a scandalous thing! Today’s passage is the third of three parables that Jesus uses to respond to these complainers. You will recall the Good Shepard and the lost sheep, the widow who searched for the lost coin, and today, the lost son.

In the three parables, God is the shepherd, the widow and the father of the prodigal son. A God who is fully intent on recovering what was lost. God’s response is not anger over offenses, but feasting and joy. The shepherd, the woman, and the father each threw a feast amid great rejoicing when something that was lost had been found.

Today’s parable, about a journey to forgiveness and acceptance, has even more to say about God’s attitude. The father runs out to meet and embrace the spendthrift younger son. He does not wait to hear the son’s well-rehearsed plea to be taken back as a menial servant. Instead, his father gives him everything a true son has — the finest robe, sandals, ring, and feasting on the fatted calf. And when the older son refuses to come in for the feast, his father goes out to plead with him. Despite the older son’s angry refusal to share in his father’s joy over the return of the one he had lost, the father does not cancel the feast.

The story stops there. The feast will go on, but we never learn whether the breach in the family circle is ever healed, whether both sons ever became real sons to their father or brothers to each other. When the younger one went away, his father was just a source of money, and he was still only that, when the boy decided to return, motivated by his need for food and a place to stay. To the older son, his father was only someone whom he dutifully obeyed as his slave-master. But all that mattered to their father was this: the one who had been dead has come to life again, had come back home. That tells us that God is amazingly eager to accept even a first step back, no matter how long the inner journey home will finally take.

If you get a chance in the week ahead, search on the web for Rembrandt’s painting, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

In the painting, the son has returned home in a wretched state from travels in which he has wasted his inheritance and fallen into poverty and despair. He kneels before his father in repentance, wishing for forgiveness and a renewed place in the family. His father receives him with a tender gesture. In the painting, the father’s hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. God is mother as well as father, motherhood and fatherhood both fully present. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in seething judgment.

My friends, as you think about that painting, do some soul-searching of your life because I think each of us here today can see ourselves at times as first as the younger son, at other times as the older one, and finally, hopefully, sometimes as the father. I certainly can.

What lessons — of forgiveness even before the journey of repentance is complete; what lessons of overcoming festering resentments and hurts; and especially what lessons of forgiving love and acceptance of those who have wounded us — can we learn for our Lenten journey with God? No matter where we are on the journey, the Lord always invites us, week after week, to feast at his table of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter

THEME: “God is rich in mercy,” and wants to hug us as the father of the Prodigal Son hugged him.

1. From II Corinthians 5: 17-21 – The Father wants to reconcile us to himself and destroy every barrier that separates us from him.

a. Thus St. Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

b. What does this mean since Jesus was without sin? Jesus so identifies with us that he took on himself our sins in order to destroy them and reconcile us with his Father.

  • We receive the effects of this through our faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism when Jesus united us to himself so as to offer us to his Father by the power of the HS.
  •  We see this also in I Peter 2:24 “Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross so that, dead to sin, we might live a just life. By his wounds we have been healed.”
  • We should keep this in mind especially when we feel guilt for past sins, even those we have confessed. Simply give them over to him so that he can absorb and destroy them.

2. The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Loving Father

a. This is one of the most beloved parables of Jesus.

  • Many have seen the painting by Rembrandt – one notices the father’s hands on his son’s shoulders – they are different! One is th hand of a man, the other of a woman to show the masculine and feminine sides of God’s love.

b. The Pharisees (the word means “separated”) were men, many of whom thought they could attain spiritual perfection by obeying the Law of Moses as well as the interpretations of the doctors of the law, called Scribes. Thus they looked down on “sinners” such as tax collectors and the majority of the people who could not possibly keep the law as they interpreted it – e.g. ritual washings and the Sabbath rest.

c. Thus they criticized Jesus who not only associated with them. He even ate with them!

d. That the son is self-absorbed is evident when he asks his father for his share of the inheritance. In other words, he all but wished his father were dead.

e. Off he goes, squandering his money on parties and loose living. When his funds run out, his so-called friends desert him and he is reduced to caring for pigs – animals considered impure by the Jews.

f. At this low point in his life, he realizes how foolish he has been. Even my father’s day laborers have enough to eat and here I am dying of hunger. So I shall return to my father and tell him that I have sinned against God and you. Thus I am not worthy to be called your son. Just treat me as one of your hired hands.

g. The father sees him. Something in his blood makes him recognize that this young man dressed in rags is his son.

h. The father runs, something a man of his stature would never do but he couldn’t help himself. He won’t even let him finish his act of contrition but kisses him continuously, a sign that he forgives his son.

i. The robe and sandals signify that he is restored as son. He would have been content to be a servant – now he is a son again. With the ring, he could now sign documents, impressing wax with its design.

j. And the feast begins!

k. The older son represents the Pharisees. The father goes out, again something unexpected of a man of his social standing, and tries to reason with him. “We have to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is now found!”

  • Evidently the older son has little or no love in his heart. How sad.

l. Does the older son join the guests at the festival? We don’t know.

3. Conclusions:

a. God is rich in mercy. God is constantly reaching out to us hoping to draw us back to Himself with pleas of love.

  • Also, the Father rejoices when the sinner returns.
  • c.f. also the image from the Book of Revelation (3:20) – “If anyone hears me knocking at his door and opens it, I will come in and dine with them and they with me.”

b. To avail ourselves of the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent.

c. There is no sin too great that can keep us from the love of God – theft, years in prison, one or several abortions, the hatred one has born in his or her heart for many years and so forth. The only condition: to be truly sorry.

4. Eucharist: It is Jesus who took on himself our sins and guilt and nailed them to his cross and it is Jesus who helps us believe that he is kind and rich in mercy.

Mar 24, 2019
Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Luke 13:1-9

Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Fr. Tom Coughlin

Today’s Old Testament story about the burning bush is one of the most fascinating stories because it spoke about the nature of God. Also the reading is very much a scientific story because it dealt with the Law of Physics. Does anyone here like Physics or even understand it? I always have problems understanding Physics because I am never good with mathematics. Nevertheless, the story about the burning bush is a lesson in Physics. Why is this so? It is because we are dealing with the question of the second law of physics or thermodynamics known as entropy which is a measure of the energy dispersal in the system. A campfire is an example of entropy. The solid wood burns and becomes ash, smoke and gases, all of which spread energy outwards more easily than the solid fuel.

Let me repeat the passage from Exodus: “There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.” We ask ourselves this question: exactly what did Moses see? Actually he saw a tree or a bush that was awash in flames and yet the leaves and wood were not burned or become charred. It was a sight that no one has ever seen before. Moses was puzzled by this unusual phenomenon; a tree engulfed in fire would not decompose. It did not make any sense to Moses because it was contrary to the Laws of Physics. The Laws of Physics tell us that any material that is consumed by flames will result in total decomposition, destruction and ashes. We ask ourselves what is the meaning of this burning bush story for us today?

Firstly, it tells us that the burning bush in the desert is a clue to the nature of the Godhead. What Moses witnessed in the desert was a no mere imagination or illusion on his part. Moses saw exactly what he saw: a burning bush that remained unscathed by flames. One may tempt to dismiss it as a mirage in the desert that Moses might have seen. However, it is interesting to note that Lee Strobel in his book, “The Case for Christ” explained that the Jewish people in ancient time did not have talents or interest in creating fantasy stories like we do in our society today with Science Fiction. What Moses saw was not a science fiction. He actually saw it plain and clear. Little did Moses realize that he was actually looking at the mystery of God in the burning bush. You can imagine his total astonishment when he heard the voice of God speaking from the bush. After hearing the voice of God, Moses then understood why the tree did not burn down and decompose into ashes.

Secondly, the burning bush reveals to us of the hidden nature of the Godhead. For the first time, as recorded in the Scriptures, God revealed Himself as immortal and everlasting. Nothing in the universe, even the Laws of Physics can impinge on the infinite dynamism of the Godhead. In God is the source of everything and nothing came to be without Him. In the Creed, we recite: “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” We do not say that God comes from somewhere other than God himself. We say that God comes from God and nothing else. God is uncreated. There is nothing more to add or subtract to His existence. Everything about God is true and so is the truth of the story of the burning bush. The burning bush symbolizes the mystery of God and that God is above the law of Physics that rules our lives.

Thirdly, this story of burning bush reveals to us of the incredible power of His existence and His reign. God is forever infinite in his goodness and mercy. Nothing will exhaust His divine goodness because He is an eternal source of salvation and happiness, especially for those who opt to believe and love God in faith. The burning bush defied the boundaries of physical laws and therefore the boundaries of His mercy and love will defy our feeble logic. We will never be able to fathom the depth of God’s mercy and love for us because we often try to apply our own logic to God’s greatness. Sometimes we prefer our own set of logic to that of God’s and that’s where we get into trouble. Furthermore, the scriptures remind us: “As high as the heaven is from the earth, so are my ways and thoughts are from yours.” We will always be puzzled by the infinite mercy of God because we may have not made efforts to go beyond our boundaries of love and kindness. The burning bush symbolizes the inconsumable power of love and forgiveness and we are challenged by God to be as holy and forgiving as God is.

Lastly, the burning bush is the truth of all truths. This is where God speaks to us through Moses and revealed Himself to us as one who is technically and physically unnamable. No name or any word in the heaven or earth can be properly made or designed for God. Otherwise it will be blasphemy. This is why the Jewish people rightly do not spell the name of God in its entirety and leaving out the vowel, making it as “G-d.” The name of God is most sacred of all words ever uttered both in the heaven and earth and therefore we need to deeply revere the name of God. The burning bush continues to mystify us and challenge us to live up to the standards of God, not ours.

Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter

1. In the first reading, the Israelites are being sorely oppressed as slaves by the Egyptians. Because Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses, he fled and came to Mount Horeb. This is where he meets God in the burning bush (the presence of God).

a. Where we meet God is holy ground:

  • Your home, your stove, where you change diapers, your workbench, desk, computer, cell phone (surgeon and operating table = altar)

b. God tells Moses that he will liberate his people from slavery because he has heard their cry.

  • Actually, God wants all people to be free of external oppression and internal conflict. Benedictus: “Blessed by the Lord, the God of Israel. He has come…free.” Free to worship him without fear… life.”
  • Human trafficking in Lybia…

c. God’s name: Yahveh – “I am who am.” Very difficult to grasp.

  • Many Jewish scholars say it means: “I will be what tomorrow demands.” In other words, you will discover who I am in the events of daily living and in the plan I have for you and each one of us. We have had that experience of discovering how God acts in our lives but always in retrospect, never in the unseen future.
  • Choice of a spouse, college, career, when Jesus helped you through a difficult time in your life thanks to the people he sent to assist you…
  • God’s motive – love, freely given, full of compassion and affection for his people and for you.

d. Moses progressively discovers who God is and we do as well…

  • For example, God makes demands on his people – as I have been compassionate to you, so must you be to one another, even to the foreigners among you.
  • This from the Book of Deuteronomy: I execute justice for the poor among you, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner, giving them food and clothing. You shall love the foreigner because, remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt where you were oppressed. (Deuteronomy 10: 18-19)
  • The Jews discover that God loves all humans with Israel being the beloved chosen people. Example: God weeps when Egyptians drown in the Red Sea because they are his children too.
  • As did Archbishop Saint Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot to death while celebrating Mass on this day in 1980. He learned little by little to stand with the poor of his country. It cost him his life.

2. Gospel: God shows his love for humanity in the most impressive way possible by sending us his only Son who lived our life like us in everything but sin.

a. In today’s Gospel Jesus uses two examples: Those killed by Pilate’s orders and those who were crushed when a tower toppled on them.

  • People of those times – and unfortunately some people today – think that those who are killed by natural disasters or, say, by serial killers, deserve this because they must have been sinners.
  • Jesus says no to this and so must we because he is rich in mercy.

b. The fig tree – Jesus calls us to repentance and at the same time is patient with us. God and patience – 13.7 billion years and 4.3 billion years… God has lots of time. Unfortunately, we don’t!

  • Example: The young Saint Augustine – finally repents and discovers what he was missing – the joy and peace that come from a clear conscience, of experiencing God’s presence in his life and the strength to advance against adversity. Also the ability to love or treat others as he wants them to love or treat him.

3. Question: Is Jesus calling me to repentance? What must I submit to him in order to become a more authentic disciple?

a. Please remember confessions in most churches of the archdiocese every Monday during Lent.

4. Now we come to the Eucharist. It is Jesus’ most beautiful sign of his dynamic presence among us, Jesus who wants to forgive us and offer us peace of mind, Jesus who sustains us in our struggles and Jesus who lets us discover him as we move forward with him into uncharted waters. Amen.

Mar 17, 2019

Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Lent

Luke 9:28b-36

Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis Ferguson

“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” We never know when we will encounter the face of Christ in the everyday people we meet. A recent New York Times Editorial read: Quote

“New Yorkers, if not city dwellers everywhere, might acknowledge a debt to Pope Francis this week. He has offered a concrete, permanently useful prescription for dealing with panhandlers.

It is this: Give them the money, and don’t worry about it.”

The pope’s advice, from an interview with a Milan magazine published just before the beginning of Lent, is startlingly simple. It’s scripturally sound, yet possibly confounding, even subversive.

Living in West Hartford or Bloomfield, or simply driving through Hartford, or even Avon and Simsbury, you realize that homelessness is a fact; an unsolved, unending crisis. That means that at some point in your day, or week, a person seeming (or claiming) to be homeless, or suffering with a disability, will ask you for help.

You probably already have a panhandler policy.

You keep walking, or not. You give, or not. Loose coins, a dollar, or just a shake of the head. Your rule may be blanket, or case-by-case.

If it’s case by case, that means you have your own on-the-spot, individualized benefits program, with a bit of means-testing, mental health and character assessment, and criminal-background check — to the extent that any of this is possible from a second or two of looking someone up and down.

Francis’ solution eliminates that effort. But it is by no means effortless. The pope said that giving something to someone in need is quote “always right.” . . . .

But what if someone uses the money for, say, alcohol? . . . . His answer: Quoting the Pope again, “If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?” Another way to look at it, he said, is to recognize how you are the “luckier” one, with a home, a spouse and children, and then ask why your responsibility to help, should be pushed onto someone else.

Then he posed a greater challenge. He said the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands.

The reason is to preserve dignity, to see another person not as a pathology or a social condition, but as a human, with a life whose value is equal to your own. This message runs through Francis’ preaching and writings, which always seem to turn on the practical and personal, often citing the people he met and served as a parish priest in Argentina.

The Editorial concluded:

“His recent statements on refugees and immigrants are the global version of his panhandler remarks — a rebuke aimed directly at the rich nations of Europe and at the United States.”

“America is in the middle of a raging argument over poor outcasts. The president speaks of building walls and repelling foreigners. That mind-set can be debated in Washington, but it can also be confronted on the sidewalk. You don’t know what that guy will do with your dollar. Maybe you’d disapprove of what he does. Maybe compassion, however, is always the right call.” End of quote.

We never know when we will encounter the face of Christ in the everyday people we meet, because . . . .

This is my chosen Son.

Homilist (4 p.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
We must keep in mind Jesus’ Transfiguration when we move through Lent and especially during Holy Week. (Balance between the glorious Christ and the Christ of the Passion)

  • In the reading from Genesis, Abraham has a profound religious experience.
  • Cutting animals in half – May I be like them if I don’t keep the Covenant. This comes from the culture of Abraham’s times.
  • Today’s reading from the letter to the Philippians: “God will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. This refers to the Tranfiguration of Jesus as we heard in today’s Gospel according to Luke. One day this will happen to us as well.
  • Saint Damian of Molokai (Hawaii) said that the mystery of the resurrection from the dead gave the lepers he was serving great hope.

1. Jesus takes Peter, James and John – the same 3 he will invite to come close to him during his agony in Gethsemani.

a. This experience should have helped them during that ordeal but it apparently didn’t. They would understand it only after Jesus rose from the dead
b. Just as in the garden of Gethsemani, they are overcome by sleep.

2. Moses and Elijah– two greatest figures of the OT, therefore of his Jewish tradition, are with him, encouraging him as he goes to Jerusalem where he will be tortured, die and rise again.

3. The three Apostles see Jesus transfigured – meaning that he permitted some of the glory he had with the Father before the world began to come forth. Not all – they couldn’t have taken it. Nor could we. We would die of sheer joy.

a. Three tents – the Jewish feast of Sukkot or of the harvest, a time of rejoicing that was used by the Jews as a symbol of heaven and the end of time. Often Jewish families in West Hartford will set up temporary dwellings in their back yards at this time, between the end of September into October (based on the Jewish calendar).
b. Peter wants this to endure – This is the end of time! No more fish store or pain or problems, just pure bliss.

4. The cloud – traditionally the presence of God.

a. The voice: “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.”
b. After the voice had spoken, Jesus was alone, as in the Garden of Gethsemani… and during his passion, abandoned by his followers.

5. Conclusions for ourselves:

a. Examples I have had of seeing Jesus’ glory in other people: Sister Jerylyn, Wayne … Looking into the eyes of a pregnant woman…
b. Listen to Jesus: Even when he asks us to do difficult things given the fact that he did them too:

• Just before this story in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that if they wish to be his disciples, they must take up their cross each day and follow him.
• This means to move forward even with the burdens of daily living. It is never easy to follow Jesus but it’s worth it.
• “If you follow Jesus, your life will have meaning and he will take you to heaven. If you find a better deal, take it.”
• “If you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.”
• Respect each and every human being because they are made in God’s image and likeness – this in the context of the massacres of Muslims in New Zealand…
• Carrying our cross each day does not include putting up with intolerable situations such as in a marriage or suffering from illness. We have the right to seek the means to free ourselves from suffering inasmuch as this is possible.

6. The EUCHARIST we shall celebrate together sums up all of this – Jesus facing his passion at the Last Supper, Jesus alone in the garden, Jesus present to us in this visible sign of his tremendous love for us, Jesus who will change us little by little so that when we see him after we die, the image of his presence in us will shine with great intensity and we shall will finally realize who we truly are. Amen.

Mar 10, 2019
Cycle C – 1st Sunday of Lent

Luke 4:1-13

Homilist (10:30 a.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
The Three Temptations of Christ

1. 40 days – a long period of time, not necessarily 40 days as we count them today.
2. Just prior to this text, Luke gives us Jesus’ genealogy that ends with Adam. Adam failed. Jesus does not. Since Jesus defeated Satan and his temptations, so can we WITH HIM – and not by ourselves.

a. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Freddy Núñez’s story
b. Jesus is hungry – obviously – Luke emphasizes that Jesus is a human being too – some thought that he was only divine and people saw only the appearance of a man.

THE THREE TEMPTATIONS

1. “If you are the Son of God, you have the power to change this stone into a loaf of bread. Just do it. You are hungry. Why not?

a. Satan in these three temptations tries to get Jesus to focus on himself. He never does. His person of reference is his Father.
b. Jesus never uses his powers for himself. He is not the Messiah of extraordinary and fantastic signs.
c. “One does not live on bread alone.” Jesus means that being faithful to his Father is “food” for him, for his soul. He always does his Father’s will and submits himself totally to his Father.
d. For ourselves: (1) Faithfulness to God under all circumstances (2) The abuse of power in the sense of dominating for one’s ego: parent over children, man or woman over the other, principal over teachers, teachers over students, coaches over players, etc.

• Those who follow Jesus use power for the good of others. We ask: What can I do help those for whom I am responsible to become better human beings?

2. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their riches. His objective? Tempt him to become a worldly king. On the contrary, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world AND he will become king ONLY AFTER HE GOES THROUGH HIS HORRIBLE PASSION AND DEATH ON A CROSS.

a. Ourselves: Possessions as an ego enhancer – the more I have, the better I am. I have as much as you do so I am at least equal to you. I am better than you because I have more than you – I am better than you because I have a bigger house, a more expensive car…
b. Billy Graham: “I never saw a hearse pulling a U-Hall.”
c. Possessions – (1) simple lifestyle (2) using them for the good of family, sharing with the poor, including our intellectual powers that today have become the greatest source of wealth.

3. See all the people down there? Throw yourself down from the Temple. If you are God’s Son, He will have to send his angels to save you. Then all the people will applaud you and recognize you as their Messiah.

a. Jesus rejects the temptation – he is not that kind of Messiah. He will save humanity not by extraordinary feats but by submitting humbly to the Father’s will, including his appalling passion.
b. In these three temptations Satan tries to appeal to Jesus’ ego. All centered on him.

• On the contrary, Jesus remains focused on the Father. As Pope Francis said to young people, “Do not ask who I am but rather for whom am I?” “Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.”

c. The temptation to be prestigious – to stand out – to be the center of attention – join prestigious clubs, send kids to prestigious schools – live in a prestigious neighborhood – send a prestigious Christmas letter!

• It all depends on why a person does these things. If it is for the good of one’s family, that is fine. If it is to build up the false self, NO.

d. As opposed to Jesus who, though in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at – but emptied himself and humbled himself out of love for his Father and for us. May we be motivated and empowered by that same love in all its aspects. Amen.

Mar 2-3, 2019
Cycle C – 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:39-45

Homilist:  Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
2
019 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal Kick-Off Video

Feb 23-24, 2019
Cycle C – 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:27-38

Homilist:  Fr. Alvin LeBlanc

2018 Annual Report – Pastor Observations

In a few moments Dennis Rusconi will present the 2018 Financial Report.

As Pastor, I wish to express my gratitude to you our parishioners for your continuing financial generosity, helping us to ensure that we meet our financial responsibilities for our community of faith – without which we would be unable to provide the many ministries and services we offer our faith community and others through the parish of Saint Timothy to which we are blessed to belong.

Saint Timothy continues to be a vibrant community of faith. Last year (in 2018):

20 Baptisms were celebrated at Saint Timothy’s. We also offer ‘young family ministry’ and we continue to register new families.
28 children received their 1st Communion as did 2 Adults for the 1st time.
36 of our young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation and 30+ will do so this coming May.
As regards Marriage, I celebrated 3 last year but ironically, none were at St. Timothy’s. While weddings have diminished in recent years in the U.S., it is hoped that the importance of this Sacrament will find renewal among Catholics in years to come.
As regards Funerals, we had 26 at St.Timothy’s in 2018 – a number of whom were longtime parishioners. We prayerfully commend all of them and other beloved departed to God’s love, care & eternal peace.

Concerning parish life, St.Timothy’s is blessed to have multiple ministries in our faith community. We have many parishioners who give of their time and talent (in addition to treasure) to serve our community. I am grateful to the clergy who served our parish this past year, including

Bishop Peter Rosazza, who we are blessed to have with us as a weekend celebrant.
We also thank Fr. Tom Coughlin who ministers to the Deaf members of our faith community and Julie Colbert who signs the weekend liturgy.
Additionally, we thank the following priests who have celebrated Masses this past year:
Fathers Ed Nadonly, Frank Johnson, Robert Grant, Terry Kristofak, Cliff Hesler, Tony Smith, and the late Fr. Robert Russo.
We thank our 2 Deacons Dennis Ferguson & Eric Thermer for their Diaconal Ministry among us – preaching, baptizing and other ministries.

I also wish to express deep gratitude to Pat Piano, our longtime Pastoral Associate. As you are now aware, Pat will be retiring from her position at the end of April after 16 years of dedicated & faithful pastoral service to our faith community. Without question, she has positively contributed to our communal life, spirit and vibrancy as a faith community. St. Tim’s has been made better by Pat having ministered among us for so long. We will be sorry to see her leave her position but look forward to her & her husband Dan continuing to be parishioners of our faith community. We will appropriately honor Pat in late April.

There are so many others to thank, including other members of our Pastoral Staff:

Jane LaChapelle, our Business Manager for our Parish and Sharon McHale in the same capacity at St. Timothy Middle School. We thank Jill Costa, our parish Secretary, our trustees (Victor Dowling and Val Mara), our Sacristans (Mert Champagne & Barbara Stage), our Parish Council President Barbara Carpenter and other members of our Parish Council, our Finance Council, Chairperson Tom Policelli, Dennis Rusconi and other Finance members.

Additionally, we thank our St. Timothy School Principal Colleen DiSanto, Associate Principal Tom Menner, our teachers, School Board Members and all who assist in supporting our school.

We thank our Parish Faith Formation Directors Stephanie Barnes & Dianne Whittemore & all our Catechists. We thank our gifted Director of Music Rochelle Bard and our Adult and Children’s Choir under Rochelle’s direction, our Cantors, & our Violinist Cyrus Stephens.

We are very grateful to our 8 members of our RCIA team who guide Catechumens/Candidates into the fullness of the Catholic faith and also grateful to our 42 Ministers of Communion, 20 Lectors, 33 Altar Servers, 20 members of our Pastoral Care Team, and 24 Greeters at weekend liturgies and Funerals.

Finally, we thank the members of our Parish Environment Committee, those involved in our 60th Anniversary Picture Directory, the members of our new Adoration Chapel project, and those assisting in our upcoming 60th Anniversary Banquet in late May.

To all of you and likely many more who I may have forgotten, I wish to thank EACH and every one of YOU for the blessing you are in helping Saint Timothy’s continue to be the vibrant faith community that we are. As Pastor, I am grateful to each of you and blessed to share our faith journey together.

God bless you all.

I now invite Dennis Rusconi to present our Financial Report for 2018.

Feb 16-17, 2019           Cycle C – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 6:17, 20-26

Homilist:  Deacon Dennis Ferguson

For many of us, the Beatitudes I just read, don’t quite seem correct. That is because we are more familiar with Matthew’s Beatitudes. I just read the gospel according to Luke. Luke writes “Blessed are you who are poor”, whereas Matthew writes, “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit”. Luke says, “Blessed are you who hunger”, while Matthew offers, “. . . those who hunger for what is right.”

The reason for this is that Luke directed his Gospel to the very poor of his time, especially the early Gentile-Christians, whereas Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jewish people of his time, including the very rich.

Matthew is said to have “spiritualized” Luke’s version.

Looking at another way, Luke’s “poor” use their poverty as their vehicle to get closer to God, just as Matthew’s “poor in spirit” are those people who use their wealth to draw them closer to God.  Luke’s Beatitudes should sharpen our insight into the human side of Jesus.

Jesus looked at those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder and compared them with those who were better off financially. And He saw a quality of life in the former (the poor) that was not apparent in the latter (the rich). He saw how excessive concentration on getting more money, more power, more status, more goods can harden the human spirit. He saw how excessive preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth can divide and separate people, resulting in the situation we have in today’s world — where the many have too little and the few have too much. Jesus never condemned money and riches as such. It was what people did with those riches that counted.

In the third Beatitude, Jesus speaks to poor and rich alike: “Happy are you who weep now: you shall laugh”. Natural law and justice demand that the poor shall not weep alone. Equity and justice demand a personal identification with God’s poor by us. Natural law and justice demand sincere lamenting by the few with much – us – over the plight of the many with little. “Happy are you, blessed are you who weep now,” Jesus says. Happy are you who willingly share in the plight, the pain, the misery of others.

These are the times which cry out for us to be the kind of people Jesus describes as “blessed,” “happy.” These are the times which cry out for us to see the world through the eyes of the disadvantaged. These are the times which cry out for us to weep over injustice, hatred, violence and oppression in all their ugly forms. “Blessed are those who weep and act now.”

Blessed are those who weep for the homeless men and women who will sleep under the Route 84 bridge because the homeless shelters are full.

Blessed are those who weep and speak out against discrimination towards our gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

Blessed are those who weep and act to end prejudice against a person because of the color of their skin.

Blessed are those who weep and act to end bigotry against our Muslim and Jewish neighbors.

Blessed are those who weep and act to end the rape of the environment.

Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.

Rejoice and behold for your reward will be great in heaven.

Feb 9-10, 2019           Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 5:1-11

Homilist:  Fr. Alvin LeBlanc

1. This weekend, our scripture readings present us with individuals who had real experiences of being ‘IN’ the very presence of God and how their lives were changed dramatically as a result of that ‘personal encounter’.

a. Isaiah encounters God in a ‘vision’ where he ‘sees the Lord seated on a lofty throne, the train of his garment filling the temple, and angels above proclaiming words we still use in every Mass, saying : ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His glory’.

b. Paul then refers to his own encounter with the Lord through his personal ‘conversion’ on the Road to Damascus. In today’s passage, he reminds his listeners that he ‘passed on to them the word which he himself received from the Lord’. He says: ‘After the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the apostles, then to others, and finally to me – (adding): ‘I am the least of the Apostles because I persecuted the Church of God’ which Paul did before his conversion experience).

c. Finally, Peter encounters God Himself in the person of Jesus standing before Him, as Peter witnesses Jesus performing the ‘Miracle of the great Catch of Fish’ on the Lake of Genesaret.

2. What should be encouraging for us in our faith journey is that each of these men felt unworthy of their encounter with God because of their own sinfulness.

a. Isaiah says: ‘Woe to me, I am doomed, for I am a man of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’.

b. Paul acknowledges his unworthiness as the least of the Apostles because he had persecuted the early Christians before his ‘conversion encounter’ with Jesus.

c. (and finally) Peter says to Jesus – (the very Son of God standing before him) – ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man’.

3. Yet despite their unworthiness, God chose them – (seeing into their hearts) – turning Isaiah into a great prophet and Peter & Paul into great Apostles at the very beginning of Christianity. *(Each of them encountered God personally and as a result, their lives were changed forever.)

4. God, of course, has never appeared to us in the manner experienced by Isaiah, Peter & Paul. But that does ‘not’ mean that we can’t experience God’s presence in a personal way – even powerfully so at times.

a. As Jesus said: ‘The Kingdom of God is within us’. We have the Spirit of Jesus within us received at our Baptisms. God ‘IS’ present to us always. But how often are we present to Him? How often do we listen to His voice, to His Spirit trying to guide us into His ways of thinking & acting? Do we really experience His love & care for us at every moment of our lives?

5. While we will not likely ever experience an extraordinary personal encounter with God (as did Isaiah, Peter and Paul), God does want to speak to us as well, (to reveal Himself to us), to encounter ‘us’ if we will but take time for quiet, personal, conversational times with Him in His presence, which will grace, bless and anchor our lives and give us greater peace.

a. God can speak to us as we reflect on His word in scripture (where He can guide us).

b. We can encounter Him in the Sacraments (given to us by Jesus) – deepening our understanding of those Sacraments and their spiritual graces for our faith journey.

c. But we can also encounter Jesus personally (and deeply) in a special way as Catholics, by simply sitting in His ‘real presence’ where He can speak to us and ‘we’ to Him, in a ‘mutual encounter’ which can deepen our spiritual lives and assist us with challenges which life brings.

6. As you are aware, we now have a beautiful new ‘Adoration Chapel’ here at St. Timothy’s where we can place ourselves in the ‘very presence of Jesus’ in the
Blessed Sacrament – (the Eucharist), waiting for us to encounter Him and receive His graces to assist us on our life’s journey.

a. The ‘Adoration Chapel’ itself is now open & available for our use on a daily basis. One can enter through the hallway doors of the Church at any time during the day and have an intimate place to pray, meditate or do spiritual reading in the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

b. Additionally, ‘Adoration with the ‘Exposition of the Eucharist’ will continue to take place every Wednesday (as before), but now in the Chapel instead of the Church itself.

c. The Chapel will also have ‘Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday mornings until noontime.

d. Additional hours for ‘Exposition’ will be added as we get individuals to ‘sign up’ for time before the Blessed Sacrament on other weekdays as such becomes possible. **We encourage you to use your new ‘Adoration Chapel’ and invite family and friends from other parishes to utilize this new prayer space as well for Adoration, prayer and reflection before the Lord.

7. For whether it is to pray, to present whatever cares we may have for ourselves (or others), there is nothing to compare to doing so before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament’, resulting in ‘special graces’ which come from being in the very ‘presence of GOD – the Lord ‘who waits to encounter us and speak to us’.

8. Will we come then to encounter and speak to HIM?

Feb 9-10, 2019           Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 4:21-30

Homilist (10:30 a.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza

1. From I Corinthians 15: The essential teaching of our faith: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the 12… Last of all he appeared to me as one untimely born.”

a. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus… He saw the risen Lord who chose him because he knew how important Paul would be to the spread of the Gospel.

• He knew Hebrew and Greek.

• He was a rabbi, formed in what we now call the OT and the traditions of Judaism, and could therefore bring the Good News to both Jews and gentiles.

b. Paul’s humility: “By the grace of God I am what I am and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”

• Paul keeps in balance the power of God’s grace AND how he responds to it.

c. Summary: Paul sees Jesus and is humbled. In the past, he took the initiative. After seeing the risen Christ he asks, “What do you want me to do?”

• That should be our question too.

• This implies that we keep Jesus at the center of our lives, thus living as he wants.

• Adam and Eve syndrome: Never mind what God wants. I want to be like God so I am going to eat the so-called forbidden fruit!

2. Peter’s Conversion:

a. He sees something mysterious in Jesus. Calls him “Master.”

b. After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter’s faith in Jesus becomes deeper so that he recognizes his sinfulness, his unworthiness. At this point Jesus tells him: “Don’t be afraid.” (309 times in NT) From now on you will be catching people.

c. Peter, along with James and John, follow Jesus, as his disciples and as his companions in Jesus’ mission.

d. Summary: Peter sees something beautifully mysterious in Jesus. This makes him realize how incapable he is of following him. Jesus then at this low point tells him that he will have a special place in his mission.

• When Peter “empties himself,” Jesus fills the void.

3. Isaiah’s calling: We pray these words before the Consecration… Holy, Holy, Holy…

a. Realizes that he is a sinner. At that point, God prepares him for his prophetic mission – to call the people of Israel back to the basics of their faith – love of God and love of neighbor.

4. More examples:

a. Good revolutionary: Like Peter, he sees something mysteriously beautiful in Jesus who is approachable (what an insight) and begs for forgiveness.

b. English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton(1725–1807). Slave trade – saw how evil it was – gave it up – composed the words to “Amazing Grace…” Believed that, if we humbly ask God to forgive us, being rich in mercy, God always does so. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

c. Charlie Mascola – 19 years old – WWII – surrounded by Germans – turns to his faith and makes the promise to attend Mass faithfully every Sunday. He was rescued and kept his promise until he could no longer go to church because of failing health.

5. Yourselves: Most of you, if not everyone, has had an experience of God. No? How did you react? How did it influence you? Do you ever think about it? It usually coincides with your best talents – thus God calls you to develop and use them for your family and co-workers for example. Kindness, perseverance, seeing the best in people, being patient with people so they may see the truth and turn to God…

6. Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas: Jesus appears to him as he is praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus says, “Thomas, you have written and taught well of me. What can I give you? Thomas gives the perfect answer. “Yourself, O Lord.” Amen.

Homilist (4:00 p.m./10:30 a.m. Masses): Deacon Eric Thermer

Jan 26-27, 2019           Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis Ferguson

In Israel, during Jesus’ lifetime, there were two places of worship: the Temple and the synagogue.

There was only one Temple; and it was located in Jerusalem. But there were hundreds of synagogues; almost every village had one.

The Temple was a place of sacrifice, where the people offered such things as lambs and doves to God. The synagogue, on the other hand, was a place of instruction. It was there that Jews listened to God’s Word in Sacred Scripture and tried to apply it to their lives.

As you’d expect, the temple and synagogue services have their counterparts in our Mass.

The second half of the Mass is like the temple service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and deals with offering sacrifice — as Jesus did at the Last Supper, and Fr. LeBlanc will do again in a few minutes.

The other half, the first part of the Mass, is like the synagogue service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Word and deals with reading Scripture and applying it to our lives — as Jesus did for the people of Nazareth in today’s gospel.

When Jesus was handed the Sacred Scroll he read from the Prophet Isaiah. The Sacred Scroll is the handwritten collection of all of the books of what we call the Old Testament, or more properly, the Hebrew Scripture.

The passage that Jesus read and taught from that day are words filled with hope for the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed. We have heard those same words of hope and commitment from political and religious leaders for centuries.

But as we know, all to well, they are words that cannot be carried out by any political or religious leader working alone. They must be carried out by everyone. For as Paul says in today’s second reading, we all form one body. We all share the responsibility of making these hopes come true. The promise that Jesus sets forth is a dream that can be only be realized if we make it – our dream – as well. If we give generously of our own loaves and fishes, Jesus will find a way to multiply them and feed the multitudes.

If the victims of blindness, bigotry and discrimination are to recover vision and hope, we must minister to them.

If the victims of political oppression throughout the world are to be set free, we must raise our voices in their support.

If the victims of poverty are to hear the good news of Jesus, we must tell them about it by what we do.

If the victims of discrimination, oppression and poverty are to break free of their bonds, if the hungry are to be fed it involves a three-step process. First, we begin with charity, love in action, which provides the energy to free and feed the multitudes. But that is not enough. Thus, the second step. There must be advocacy, to set up the systems to help all those in need, not just the ones we come in contact with. And last, thirdly, there must be systemic change, changes so that those who hunger are able to feed themselves. Teach a man to fish.

In the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus shows us the food is there to share, and He calls us to action. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread together, Jesus shows us that someday — hopefully — we will all eat at the same table together.

This is the good news that the victims of social injustice are waiting to hear. We can, as the late, former President George H. W. Bush said, create “a thousand points of light” that will dispel the darkness of our world. But, we, you and I, must make it happen.

Homilist (4:00 p.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza

THEME: “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME,” SAYS JESUS. AND THE SAME SPIRIT IS UPON YOU SO YOU CAN RE-PRESENT JESUS IN TODAY’S WORLD.

1. Today’s Gospel from Luke

a. Prologue – the only Gospel that has one addressed to an individual. Theophilus? We don’t know who he is, most likely a prominent convert to Christianity.

b. Luke also wrote a second book, a sequel to this one, called the Acts of the Apostles. It is also referred to as the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit” because it features the Spirit’s activity in Saints Peter and Paul and others as the church begins to spread.

2. Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth

a. He has come from being baptized in the Jordan by John and is now empowered by the Holy Spirit.

b. He is in charge – finds the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the scroll – and reads in Hebrew (his language was Aramaic but he must have been able to read Hebrew too) and gives us his mission statement:

• “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”

c. He does not meet the expectations people had of the Messiah – a warrior who would drive out the Romans and restore home rule.

• This mission statement proclaims that the Kingdom of God is present. From here on he does this through his preaching and acts of kindness.

• This is similar to the response he gives to the disciples of Saint John the Baptist who is in prison and wonders if Jesus is the Messiah, the “One who is to come.” So he replies “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:21)

d. This thrust of Jesus’ life continues in the church today and is constant in our tradition of two thousand years – Saint Lawrence the Deacon, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint John of God, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint John Bosco, Mother Teresa and countless religious women who for many years have served the sick and the poor in the name of Jesus Christ… for example the Sisters of Saint Joseph who founded St. Francis Hospital in Hartford dedicated to St. Francis de Sales. And the Sisters of Mercy who created Saint Mary Home in W. Hartford and Saint Francis Home for Children in New Haven about 150 years ago – 500 orphans in 1900.

3. What does it mean to bring the good news to the poor? Who are the poor?

a. They are the ones Jesus refers to in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, in other words, “Blessed are those who know they need God.”

b. Applying this today:

• It is important to emphasize the essence of the Good News = Gospel that God loves us unconditionally and that loving God will help us and those around us to become more and more “fully alive” in the words of Saint Irenaeus, who died in the year 200, Bishop of Lyon, France.

c. Example of the Special Olympics:

• Persons with disabilities who, in Tim Shriver’s words (Book entitled Fully Alive, were considered “non-entities, bullied, belittled, berated, defective, in-valid.”

• Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the S.O and now her son, Tim, runs them. Through sports, these sisters and brothers of ours know they can achieve and appreciate themselves and others.

• And they can teach us something too: Story of athlete who was running the 300 meters, on his way to a world record, his friend falls, he stops, turns back, helps his friend up and the two lock arms and run to the finish line together. THIS MAN DEMONSTRATES WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE.

d. The Vulnerable – includes Immigrants – the example of my friend María (not her real name) rejected by the girls of her class when she tried to join them for lunch – they took their trays and walked away, leaving her alone…

e. In all of this we free “captives” and “let the oppressed go free.”

f. Eucharist: It is the same Jesus who spoke in the Synagogue and who empowers us today to bring good news to the poor, to learn from them and to help others become ever more fully alive. Amen.

Jan 19-20, 2019           Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 2:1-11 (The Wedding Feast at Cana)
Homilist:  Bishop Peter Rosazza

Theme: The Lord Jesus let his glory shine from him in this miracle and the other signs. We too have his glory, thanks to the Holy Spirit and can manifest it by our union with Jesus and our actions.

1. Mary: Intercedes on behalf of the young couple – 150 gallons of wine! The prophets, e.g. Amos, spoke of an abundance of wine as a sign that the Messianic period had arrived.

a. Some Evangelicals criticize Catholics (and the Orthodox for that matter) for praying to Mary to intercede for us…

b. Now people come to her praying, we have no baby, apartment, job, I have been diagnosed with cancer or a loved one is in this predicament…

• This is so evident at the great pilgrimage sites such as Guadalupe in Mexico, Lourdes and Fátima.

c. Even if our petition for some reason is not granted, we know that we have been heard and we feel an inner strength to go forward and the belief that Jesus is with us in our pain and darkness.

d. And most importantly, she always brings us to Jesus.

• “Do whatever he tells you.”

2. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his GLORY; and his disciples believed in him.”

a. Jesus let his glory shine through his person (that’s why the Apostles were attracted to him) – his authenticity, simplicity and sincerity

• and through his signs (we would call them miracles but John calls them signs.) the official’s son, the cure of the paralyzed man, Jesus feeds the 5,000, Jesus walks on water, Jesus cures the man who is blind from birth and Jesus raises his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.

3. Ourselves:

a. We see this sign and with the eyes of our faith we go beyond it to believe in Jesus as did his disciples and adore Jesus, saying with Saint Thomas the Apostle, “My Lord…

b. We too have been given the source of Jesus’ glory, the HS! Thus we are capable of manifesting that glory by who we are and what we do.

c. You see this glory in children, in the elderly, in people who have been in recovery for a time, in people who are humble despite their position in the world. The glory of God in them comes through them because of their simplicity and their authenticity. One sees it in their eyes.

• Dr. King, Sal Cola (St. Bernadette, New Haven), prisoners I confirmed and how they knelt on the concrete floor after Communion…

d. Les Misérables – the bishop, Jean Valjean – in who they were and what they did.

e. You bring Jesus to others as Mary did to Elizabeth.

• Through your good works, at home, on the job, in school, by the way you treat others with respect, by your generosity to those in need, and especially by your willingness to forgive people who have offended you, you show forth this glory.

4. EUCHARIST: In the consecrated bread and wine, we can see Jesus with the eyes of our faith. May the Lord who nourishes us with his word and Eucharist help us be more aware of who we are and what we can accomplish by living more and more united to him.

Jan 12-13, 2019           Cycle C – Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Homilist:  Fr. Alvin LeBlanc

At first glance, today’s Feast may seem ‘out of place’. After all, when we ‘think’ of Christmas, we associate it with Jesus as an ‘infant’ born in a stable on a bed of hay, surrounded by Mary & Joseph, with shepherds adoring – (born poor among the poor), & visited by Magi from the East (following a star), bearing gifts for a new born child foretold to be a king.

This is how we annually celebrate Christmas, and yet the Church ‘ends’ the Christmas season each year – (‘not’ with these images of a poor new-born infant), but Christmas ends rather with the ‘Baptism of the Lord’ – not baptized as an infant like most of us were, but rather as an Adult – (30 years later), baptized by his cousin John calling people to ‘conversion and ‘repentance’ for their sins.

Why then do we associate the ‘Baptism of the Lord’ with ‘Christmas’ – (when it might seem more appropriate during Lent) – with ‘its’ call to conversion, repenting and believing in the Good News’?

Back in the late 1970’s, when I was in the Seminary in Baltimore, I was taught by the Sulpician Fathers, among whom was Fr. Raymond Brown – (a noted American scripture scholar, teacher and writer). Among several works that Fr. Brown published was a small book at the time, entitled: ‘An Adult Christ at Christmas.

He noted that while Christmas brings us to a warm and nostalgic place each year (as we celebrate the birth of the ‘Christ child ‘ long ago), the Christmas ‘story’ was recorded by Matthew & Luke — (not for children or the ‘child in us’ bringing back warm memories each year of Christmas’ past), but was written for an ‘Adult Jewish & Gentile audience – (revealing to all ‘WHO’ this child Jesus truly was and is).

The Christmas story contains ‘revelations’ (or ‘epiphanies’) regarding this Jesus.

a. The first ‘revelation was to His own people – (the Jewish people- ‘God’s chosen people) on Christmas– proclaiming that this infant was the ‘Promised Messiah & Christ’ foretold by the prophets & now revealed as a poor child in a stable in Bethlehem in the fullness of time.
b. Secondly, He was further ‘revealed’ on Epiphany (which means revelation’), as not only the ‘Jewish Messiah’, but revealed through God’s guidance and a star to the Magi as also the ‘light to all nations’- (the Savior to all peoples), sent by God as ‘Savior for all the world’

**These are the revelations of Emmanuel – (God with us) which we traditionally associate with the ‘Christmas season each year – images of the ‘infant Jesus’ born in Bethlehem 2,000 yrs ago.

But the Church, in her wisdom, appropriately today adds a final ‘revelation’(or ‘epiphany’) to the Christmas season, of ‘WHO’ Jesus was and is, on this Feast of the ‘Baptism of the Lord – revealing a kind of ‘Trinitarian epiphany’ (today at the end of the Christmas season) – of one God as a ‘Trinity of 3 persons’ – (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – including Jesus who:
a. became ‘incarnate’- (human) – with us
b. to identify with us, to be with us always,
c. (and) now calls us to be His disciples,
i.continuing to build God’s kingdom of justice, love & peace in our world
ii. until its fullness is achieved one day in God’s loving plan of salvation.

Luke proclaims today: ‘After all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (like a dove), and a Voice came from heaven saying: ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’ —- **(a ‘Trinitarian Epiphany of GOD – (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) – revealed to us at the end of the Christmas season (at Jesus’s Baptism) – this Jesus who then began ‘His’ years of ministry, proclaiming the ‘Good News of salvation’ to all.

As such, we are reminded that Christmas ends – (not with an ‘infant’), but with an ‘Adult Christ at Christmas’
A. (not only for his own mission from His Heavenly Father,
B. but with an ‘Adult’ call from Jesus – reminding us that He came into the world to also ‘CALL US’ into His life and mission
i. To faith ‘lived in ‘active discipleship’ (in service to brothers & sisters near & far),
ii. Building God’s kingdom in our own given time & place
iii. (and) reflecting the ‘Trinitarian love of our God (for all peoples), for which JESUS , God’s SON– (Emmanuel God ‘with us’), came into our world at Christmas.

And so, it is now incumbent on us as active ‘Disciples’, to ‘continue’ the mission of Jesus (as Jesus ‘would have us do’).

So as we end the Christmas season this weekend, let us do so mindful of the words of Howard Thurman, (an African-American theologian/civil rights activist), who years ago wrote words you have likely read (or heard) before from his poem, entitled ‘The Work of Christmas’, saying :

When the song of the angels is stilled; when the star in the sky is gone, When the kings & princes are home (and the shepherds are back with their flocks), the WORK of Christmas ‘BEGINS’
*To find the lost; (to heal the broken),
**To feed the hungry; (to visit the sick & imprisoned),
***To rebuild the nations (and to bring peace among brothers and sisters).

This is ‘our call’ now as ‘disciples’ of JESUS (at the end of the Christmas season), and with the help of God’s Spirit (whom we have received through our own Baptisms), may we do so – striving (through our ‘lived’ discipleship), to continue the ‘Work of Christmas’ all 365 days of the year.