Cycle A – 7th Sunday of Easter
Many years ago during my seminary studies in Baltimore, I had a Professor who spoke about the ‘Kingdom of God’ as an ‘already but not yet’ reality. The Kingdom of God has already been initiated through the life & mission of Jesus but is not yet fully realized and will only be so in the fullness of God’s Kingdom in heaven. Our world is already graced by the presence of God but has not yet been sufficiently transformed by this reality. Our world has already been redeemed through the death & resurrection of Jesus but is not yet fully sanctified. And so, as ‘Christians’, we live in a time ‘in-between’, living in the hope & promise of the GOOD NEWS but not yet fully experiencing all its joyous implications during the course of our lives here on earth.
And so, liturgically this weekend, on this 7th Sunday of Easter, we find ourselves in our ‘faith reflections’ in a ‘rare moment’ in the Church year when our liturgy focuses on a ‘time in-between’. Jesus is ‘Risen’ and has ‘Ascended’ to the Father but liturgically has ‘not yet’ sent His ‘Spirit’ which will be the focus of ‘next’ weekend’s liturgy at the end of the ‘Easter Season’ on the ‘Feast of Pentecost’.
Of course the reality is that these events have already occurred in ‘Salvation History’, so it is the ‘memory’ of them that we ‘remember & celebrate’ each Church year in this ‘time in-between’ the earthly life & ministry of the Lord Jesus and His 2nd Coming again at the end of time – (this period we call the ‘Church’) – which will endure until ‘Christ comes again’.
And so liturgically this week, between the Lord’s Ascension into heaven and the sending of his Spirit at Pentecost in next’ weekend’s liturgy, we have an opportunity to reflect on what it means to ‘live’ (in this ‘already but ‘not yet’ reality’ of the ‘fullness’ of God’s Kingdom) – through our ‘lived discipleship’ in the here & now, striving to build a ‘better world’ in the ways of God, a world ever-more reflective of God’s Kingdom of justice, peace & love in imitation of the Spirit of Jesus who is present with us always, even to the end of the world,
‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love’.
Notes from Bishop Peter
THE LORD JESUS’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN.
1. During the 9 days following the Lord’s Ascension into heaven, the church asks us to reflect on this mystery in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, celebrated this year on May 31st. Also, during these nine days, we should do penance and spend more time in prayer such as we would do during lent in preparation for the most important moment in the life of the church, her birthday on Pentecost Sunday.
2. About 15 years ago I was spending time with friends in the Savoy region of western France, about 200 miles from the border with Italy. One night I was walking across a field and happened to look up and saw the Milky Way in all its splendor. I had never had such an experience as I felt drawn upward into the glories of the universe. At this point I realized that, thanks to the mystery of Jesus’s Ascension, I was in Christ, the new Temple in whom we live and move and exist. (St. Paul’s words in Acts, 17)
3. How can we better grasp something of the mystery of the Lord’s Ascension? Let’s go back to the cosmology (the structure of the universe) of his times. Though the Greek geniuses in mathematics and astronomy had calculated that the earth was spherical near the time of Aristotle’s death (323 BCE), many in St. Luke’s time (he wrote the Acts of the Apostles too), saw the earth as flat with spheres above. Jesus first descended into hell, meaning into the very bowels of the earth, and then ascended into heaven, taking possession of every part of the universe, much the same as a general of a conquering army would take possession of a territory by parading through its major city.
a. As the Apostles and other disciples looked on, we can imagine Jesus’s body expanding as he rose above them to fill the universe and all its parts, in the words of the Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4.
b. Getting back to my experience in Savoy, Jesus engulfs the whole and immense universe with all its stars and galaxies, forming the Temple in which all of us on our tiny planet earth exist. Thus we are always inside the Temple and there is nothing profane anymore. Profane comes from Latin and Greek and means “outside the temple.”
c. This has glorious consequences. Everything we do is in the Temple, from changing diapers to Mozart composing a symphony to an architect designing a building to a nurse or doctor caring for sick Coronavirus patients simply because we are always in Christ and can never escape his awesome presence. As a surgeon once told me, “My operating table is my altar,” meaning that he brought the light of his faith in Jesus Christ to his profession. All of us can and should do this too. How beautiful is our faith.
4. Lastly, as St. Augustine and others have written, where Jesus, the head of the Mystical Body has gone, so are we in a sense as parts of that Body. One day, hopefully, our urge to be with Jesus will be fulfilled when he takes us to our true home at the moment of our death.
5. It is in the Eucharist we celebrate or view virtually, that Jesus draws us to himself as I felt drawn upwards to the Milky Way. His power transforms us progressively so that we may become aware of him and of who we are as we recall that in him “we live and move and exist.”
Cycle A – 6th Sunday of Easter
Notes from Bishop Peter
THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDES THE CHURCH TO SEE JESUS’ WILL IN THE COMPLEXITIES OF LIFE.
1. Jesus opens his heart to his disciples during the Last Supper. He says he will leave them because he will have to suffer and die. However, his Father will raise him from the dead. Then he will stay with them for a while before being taken up to heaven. (Cf. John 14: 15-21)
2. He will not leave them orphans. His Father will send the Holy Spirit whose power and presence will form the church and all Christian communities such as our parishes and plunge into the hearts of all believers, making them like Jesus, capable of seeing life through his eyes and living like him.
3. One of the ways the Spirit directs the church is to help us see and learn from what are called the signs of the times. This means that the church should listen to and learn from the world around to be able to preach the Gospel more effectively. Jesus himself used this phrase as we see in both Matthew 16:3 and Luke 12:56 where he criticizes the Pharisees and Sadducees for their failure to do so.
4. One of the most evident sign of our times is the coronavirus and its impact on the world. It should make us realize that the exorbitant spending on nuclear arms and other armaments is not in keeping with the times. Conventional weapons or submarines or fighter jets didn’t bring the world to a standstill. How then can we protect our people while using resources wisely, so as to prepare ourselves for whatever may come next? One area that needs serious examination is the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, weapons that are not only costly but dangerous, for instance should they fall into the hands of terrorists.
a. Pope Francis is very capable of reading the signs of our times because he is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Thus on November 23rd of 2019, while visiting Nagasaki in Japan he reflected on the atomic bombing that took place on August 6, 1945. He said, “Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction, or the threat of total annihilation. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons are an affront crying out to heaven. Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders to realize that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security.” Case in point: The Coronavirus.
b. Throughout the latter part of the 20th century into the 21st, there have been serious efforts to achieve this goal. For instance, START, (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) initiated by President Ronald Reagan and signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and his Russian counterpart, President Mikhail Gorbachev. A new START initiative was signed by Presidents Barak Obama and Dmitri Medvedev in 2010.
c. Previously, four senior statesmen with years of government and political experience, George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn (nicknamed the ‘Four Horsemen’) wrote a series of articles on this question in the Wall St. Journal beginning in 2007. “They highlighted the need to move seriously towards the elimination of nuclear weapons and advocated for a ‘Joint Enterprise’ that would identify the conditions required to achieve this goal and suggest efforts to create these conditions.” (From the article, “The Trump Administration and Nuclear Weapons,” published by IISS)
d. Unfortunately President Obama said he would commit a trillion dollars for the production and upgrading of these weapons.
e. Basically, Pope Francis gets to the heart of this question: “Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction, or the threat of total annihilation.”
5. In summary, the pandemic has shown that all our money spent on arms can’t stop something like this. Hopefully people everywhere will become increasingly aware of how much time and talent and money are poured into developing and maintaining nuclear weapons. With this information, and guided by God’s Holy Spirit, perhaps more people will advocate for their elimination so that resources may be creatively used to alleviate poverty and hunger and to control viruses that can and most likely will afflict the human race going forward.
Cycle A – 5th Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)
Notes from Bishop Peter
THEME: Jesus is the icon of his Father and the Holy Spirit empowers us to be living icons of Jesus.
1. We are familiar with icons. I am particularly moved by those authentic Russian icons depicting the Lord Jesus. The artist usually spends time in prayer prior to creating the image with hopes that those who gaze on it will be brought more deeply into contact with Jesus. It is interesting to note that an icon is different from a painting because of the effect it should produce in the soul of the one who prays before it.
2. Imagine the Apostle Phillip in today’s Gospel. (John 14:1-12) He asks Jesus to show his Father to him and the other Apostles. Jesus gives an “iconic” response: “Phillip, those who see me see the Father.”
a. In fact the relationship between Jesus and his Father is so intimate that it is the Father who accomplishes all Jesus’ signs or miracles through Jesus.
3. Now let us adore Jesus who is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God”, as we pray in the Creed.
a. Several years ago I was visiting one of our correctional institutions. In our group was a young Muslim who told me that it was impossible for God to become man.
b. This showed me the beauty of faith in the Most Holy Trinity because we firmly believe that God’s Son, the Icon of the Father, came into our world to live our life in every way but sin.
4. This answers the question: If God were to become man, how would he live and act? By reading the New Testament and through our prayerful contact with Jesus, we know the answer.
a. One of his most striking characteristic is humility. As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians, chapter II: “Jesus didn’t consider being equal to God as something to be grasped (unlike Adam and Eve who grasped at the fruit, thinking it would make them like God) but emptied himself and humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”
b. He grew up in Nazareth, a very poor town, and worked as a carpenter. He never sought privileges. (He would never cut into a line of people waiting to be served, for example.) When James and John asked if they could have the first places in his Kingdom, he made it crystal clear that he would never seek honors nor should they because he came, not to be served but to serve and to give his life for humanity. That is to be their ideal and that of his followers. The mandate was emphasized when Jesus washed the smelly feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper and told them to do the same or they would have no connection with him.
c. In today’s first reading from chapter VI of the Acts of the Apostles, the early Apostles instituted the order of Deacon. The word means, “to serve.” When I have had the privilege of ordaining priests, I counselled them to integrate their deaconate into their priesthood. When a man becomes a priest, he doesn’t jettison his diaconate like the first stage of a space rocket. Rather his desire to serve must intensify.
• This is a time to thank all our deacons and in particular Dennis Ferguson and Eric Thurmer who serve St. Timothy Church with distinction. Also, we remember Paul Travers of that parish who will be ordained a permanent deacon sometime in late spring or early summer. (I help in that parish under normal circumstances.)
d. What a tremendous example of service we see in our mothers – getting up at night to be with a sick or scared child, working in and outside the home, preparing meals and so forth. Thank you.
e. And how our caregivers, doctors, nurses and others have modeled Jesus’ selfless service by putting themselves in harm’s way in order to serve some of the sickest among us.
5. Basically, Jesus emphasized humility and service because that is how we become better and happier human beings. Selfishness leads to isolation whereas service and love beget positive relationships, interior satisfaction and support when we are in need.
6. In the Eucharist we celebrate, may Jesus bless our mothers living and deceased and help us as his followers to become what he was, men and women for others.
Cycle A – 4th Sunday of Easter
Notes from Bishop Peter
THEME: JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO PROMISES TO BE WITH US ESPECIALLY AS WE SUFFER FROM THE PANDEMIC.
A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize the Good Shepherd Psalm, #23. Unfortunately, little Rickie just couldn’t remember it.
On the day the kids were scheduled to recite the psalm, Ricky was very nervous so when it was his turn, he said proudly, “The Lord is my Shepherd, and that’s all I need to know.” And he is right! But what does it mean to say that Jesus is the Good Shepherd as we heard in today’s Gospel? (John X:1-10)
1. The people of Jesus’ times were very familiar with the shepherd’s role.
a. He is the tireless companion of his sheep. He knows them and they listen when they hear his voice. A shepherd had to be constantly vigilant to bring back strays and ward off wild beasts that often attacked his flock. He did this with his staff, a club that he would use as a weapon, usually with nails in the upper part. Because the shepherd loved his sheep, he cared for them as though they were close relatives or friends.
b. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because, like the shepherds of his day, he is constantly with us. As he says at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” He is aware of our needs and of our failures even before we were conceived in our mothers’ wombs because he loves us and knows our life from his own experience.
• Interestingly, one of the earliest images of Jesus is that of the Good Shepherd who is carrying a lost sheep on his shoulders.
• It is important to note here that Jesus did not die of a heart attack. Had this been the case, our religion would have been totally different. As we know, he was tortured, unjustly tried and condemned to die by crucifixion, a death so horrible that the early Christians refused to portray it.
• Thus Jesus knows what human suffering and temptation are as the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us: “Jesus had to be tempted in order to become our high priest to take away our sins. Because he was tempted and suffered, he is able to help those who suffer and are tempted.”
2. A problem: Since Jesus is the Good Shepherd, why doesn’t he stop the Coronavirus pandemic? I don’t know. I do know that Jesus is with us in our suffering, giving us the power to persevere and remain faithful to him and to one another.
a. It has been so from the very beginning of Christianity when Christians suffered horrendous persecution. Also, more Christians have been martyred since the beginning of the 21st century than in the first three centuries combined. Jesus didn’t stop these persecutions, rather he strengthened his followers to remain faithful despite it. Consequently the blood of martyrs became the seedbed of the church, meaning that the church spread quickly even though people took big risks by becoming Christians.
3. Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we are asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and for seminarians, meaning those preparing for the priesthood at various levels.
a. As examples of the Good Shepherd I ask that we consider Archbishop Leonard Blair and our parish priests.
b. Archbishop Blair takes to heart our pain and suffering and insecurity in these most challenging and difficult times. Moreover he continues to encourage our priests and asks that they do what he does, that is to celebrate the Eucharist every day though they have no actual congregation and make it available to people in their parishes through electronic means of communication.
c. Moreover, it saddens him and our priests not to be able to celebrate Mass publicly, nor to offer the sacraments of the anointing of the sick and penance.
d. Also, some priests with whom I spoke over the phone have told me that they now dedicate more time to prayer to intercede for their people and grow in the likeness of Jesus to whom they have given their lives. Most if not all priests are good shepherds and foot-washers in the image of Jesus himself.
4. May Jesus continue to strengthen your faith as he has done for his people in threatening times throughout the centuries. May Mary, his mother, who experienced the death of her husband, Joseph and her son, pray for us so that we may assist one another as we face the restrictions and uncertainty of these challenging times.
Cycle A – 3rd Sunday of Easter
Where may we find Jesus during this time of Covid-19?
On this 3rd Sunday of Easter, we are presented with another Gospel account of an appearance of Jesus to disciples ‘after’ He had ‘Risen’ from the dead. We find this in the familiar story of ‘2 disciples’ going to Emmaus – (a village about 7 miles from Jerusalem).
As the 2 Disciples were discussing all that had happened in Jerusalem in the previous 3 days, leading to what would become Easter. Jesus Himself drew near and began to walk with them, but they did ‘not’ recognize that it was Jesus.
Only after Jesus explained the scriptures to them were their eyes ‘opened’ to Jesus present with them, as they ate together with Him. Thereafter, (when Jesus disappeared from their midst), the ‘2 Disciples’ returned to Jerusalem and announced to the Apostles what had happened on the ‘Road to Emmaus’ and how Jesus had become recognizable to them ‘in the breaking of the bread’.
Recently, I was deeply moved by the account of a doctor on the front lines of treating Covid-19 in an ‘Intensive Care Unit’, trying to communicate with a patient – (the doctor unable to understand because of the patient’s tubes which made it difficult to speak). When the doctor momentarily adjusted the gear so that the man could be understood, the patient said to the doctor: ‘I don’t want to die alone’. The doctor later stated ‘I will never forget the anxiousness & loneliness of that man’s words’.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that ‘whenever she held a dying person in her arms, she would see in that person the ‘face of Jesus’ – (as if she was ministering to Jesus Himself as that person was dying before her). I would like to think that the doctor I mentioned expressed that kind of compassion, that kind of empathy, towards the patient who implored him ‘not to let him die alone’ – giving comfort and consolation to him in his distress.
Personally, earlier this week, I had a ‘COVID-19 Burial’ of an elderly person who ‘passed away’ in a convalescent home ‘not’ in our region. As you know, Covid-19 has especially afflicted the elderly (although no generation has been exempt from this pandemic). As I made preparations with the family and then administered the ‘Committal/Burial Rite’ for their loved one, the family expressed their appreciation for the ‘Rites of the Church’ – comforted that their loved one would be embraced by Jesus and gain ‘eternal life’ through Him, won for us by Jesus on ‘EASTER’.
EASTER is the ‘greatest news’ of salvation, promised through the ‘death & Resurrection’ of JESUS. He ‘IS’ ALIVE. HE is ‘with us’ always. He wants us to recognize His ‘Presence’ among us during this time of COVID-19 – through the healing hands of medical personnel & 1st Responders, through the helping hands of all who continue to provide for our basic needs in our grocery stores and multiple other ways, and in the varied ways in which people are coming forward to assist food banks (and in other charitable ‘communal’ or ‘individual’ ways), families & children, reaching out to care for our neighbors – (our human family) -as Jesus would have us do during this time of COVID-19.
St. Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish mystic of the 16th century said it best when she wrote: ‘Christ has no body now but yours.// No hands, no feet on earth but yours.// Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. // yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. // Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes. // YOU are his body; Christ has no body now on earth, but ‘YOURS’.
Jesus is all ‘around us’ in the ‘good, the compassion), the love & empathy which is given by so many – (inviting us all to’ be’ His disciples), reflecting the presence of Jesus ‘In’ our world – (truly becoming the ‘body of Christ’ for others), through our witness & discipleship in the time given to us.
In this way, will We and Others come to ‘recognize’ JESUS – (‘alive’ and ‘present with us’ always) – as His disciples came to recognize HIM on the ‘Road to Emmaus’ and ‘in the breaking of the bread’.
Notes from Bishop Peter
The Gospel for this Sunday is the story about Jesus’ journey with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. St. Luke, its author, tells us that one is named Cleopas. Perhaps the other was his wife.
Incidentally I suggest that you read the full text (Cf. Luke 24:13-35) either from your missalette, from your New Testament, or here.
These disciples are deeply discouraged about what happened to Jesus. Suddenly He joins them but they don’t know who He is. When He asks them what they were discussing, Cleopas is surprised that the stranger didn’t know what had happened to Jesus in Jerusalem. Thus Cleopas speaks of the hopes they had, that as the Messiah, would set Israel free from Roman rule. He goes on to say that “some women of our group found his tomb empty and angels had said that He was alive. Him, however, they did not see.”
Then Jesus chides them for not understanding the Scriptures about the Messiah who had to suffer and die before entering into his glory. Jesus then goes through the words of Moses and the Prophets and interprets to them what they taught about Himself.
When they reach their destination, Jesus starts to go on but they request that He stay with them.
During a meal together, Jesus takes bread, blesses and breaks it and gives it to them. Immediately their eyes are opened and they recognize Him. At this point Jesus vanishes from their midst.
They then become aware of how their “hearts were burning” when He interpreted the scriptures to them.” In haste they return to Jerusalem where they find the Apostles who tell them that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and had appeared to Simon Peter. Then the two disciples recounted their experience on the road and how Jesus had made himself known to them in the breaking of bread.
Let’s go over some of the details of this compelling story. First, Jesus opens the Scriptures to them. Saint Luke doesn’t tell us any specifics but he must have spoken about the 53rd chapter of the Prophet Isaiah. He writes: “We like sheep have gone astray, each of us to our own way. And God placed on him the iniquity of us all.” The Prophet goes on to say that because of his obedience and what he suffered, he would enter into God’s glory.
The disciples ask Jesus to stay with them. Though they didn’t recognize him, they must have felt in their hearts that he was a special man. This is a good lesson for us. We should ask Jesus to remain with us, above all when we suffer. Actually, he promised to be with us always. The words from the Book of Revelation are important in this context: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Then they recognized Him in the “breaking of bread.” This was the first and oldest term used for what we call today the Most Holy Eucharist, an expression that came later. From that moment on, the disciples and the Apostles would recognize Jesus present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This story encourages us to do the same.
Jesus didn’t come to liberate his people from Roman imperialism but rather to liberate us from our sins and guilt and give us the power to love others, to forgive them and to build communities in which each person is respected and cherished, no matter who they are. These communities would cause ripple effects, leading many oppressors to question their ways and motives. Change would happen without violence. One thinks here of William Wilberforce in England whose conviction that the slave trade was immoral led others to accept the truth and abolish it. Also of how the Filipino people in 1986 rallied non-violently to oust Ferdinand Marcos.
Finally, just as the two disciples bore witness to Jesus in their lives, so must we by letting Jesus continue to live His life in us with greater and greater freedom. This may cause others to remark, “Were not our hearts burning as we interacted with them?”
Cycle A – 2nd Sunday of Easter
Notes from Bishop Peter
DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY:
In the year 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II designated the Second Sunday of the Easter Season as Divine Mercy Sunday. He had been influenced as a priest and bishop in Poland by the revelations made to the young nun, Faustina Kowalska. As an aside, a nun is a religious woman who lives in a convent or cloister whereas a religious sister is active in the world. The apparitions began in 1931 and she died six years later. She was a simple and sincere woman, characteristics of those God chooses to make such messages known. She was canonized (declared a saint) by Pope Saint John Paul II in the year 2000.
God revealed to Saint Faustina His infinite mercy at a time when religion had become an intellectual matter and many people tended to see God as one who punishes. This began to change because of the life and writings of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux who profoundly believed that God loved her and that we must love one another as Jesus loves us.
God’s greatest attribute, according to Pope Francis, is the mercy he shows to each and every one of us. Thus it is not surprising that Luke says, “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.”
Adam and Eve thought that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be like God. How ridiculous! Jesus, however, tells us how we can be like God, that is by believing in God’s love and mercy and then manifesting that mercy to others.
Here are some thoughts from Saint Faustina herself as she prays to let the mercy of God shine through her own life.
“O Lord, I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
“Help me, O Lord, so that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.”
“Help me, Lord, so that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pain.
“Help me, Lord, that my tongue may be merciful so I will never speak negatively of my neighbors while taking upon myself the most difficult and toilsome tasks.
“Help me, Lord, that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbors…
“God of unfathomable mercy, embrace the whole world and pour yourself out upon us through the merciful Heart of Jesus.” (Cited in the missalette, “Magnificat,” April, 2018, p.ps. 125-6)
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, may the Lord Jesus help us to open our hearts to his mercy and forgiveness. Then we shall be able to express that mercy and forgiveness to others and really become like God.
Cycle A – Easter Sunday
Fr. Leblanc (view video <here>)
Easter is very different this year. Who could have imagined on Ash Wednesday that we would be celebrating Easter 2020 as we do today – ‘Socially Distant’, ‘Staying in Place’ and Easter Mass being ‘streamed’ with only a few persons here in Church this morning on Easter Sunday – (the greatest celebration of the Church Year).
Yet here we are – few in number physically, while most of you are watching at home this Easter 2020. Who could have imagined this on Ash Wednesday only a few weeks ago – not only in town, but throughout the U.S. and all around the world.
(1) Who could have imagined places of worship closed for an undetermined time?
(2) Who could have imagined Pope Francis standing alone in the rain in an ‘empty’ Saint Peter’s Square over a week ago praying the Rosary to end the pandemic, and
(3) and asking people’s of all faiths around the world to pray for the same (‘in unison’) on a night earlier this week, so that God could hear a common cry from all humanity? Who could have imagined?
But the same could have been said in a much simpler time some 2,000 years ago. Who at that time could have imagined the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with crowds cheering and throwing Palm branches before Him, ‘ready to hail Jesus as their King’, and then only 5 days later, see Jesus brutalized, scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked and humiliated? Who could have imagined Him then suffering an agonizing death by Crucifixion for 3 hours on Good Friday, then laid in a tomb – (crushing the hopes and dreams of his followers), who only a week before had been ready to hail Him as their king. Who could have imagined this?
What a change in mood from joy to despair, hope & promise, – to anxiety, fear and then grief in only a few days – a swing in ‘human emotions’ rarely seen in life and happening so quickly. Who could have imagined this?
And yet all of us present through ‘streaming’ today can imagine it.
a. The eldest among us may remember a time when they were young when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941, bringing America into World War II nearly 80 years ago.
b. Many more of us can remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when our country and our lives were changed by the terrorist attacks on America, beginning a war which endures to this day. Many remember the swing of emotions from that bright sunny morning to the clouds of anxiety and fear which followed in the days and months thereafter.
Now once again, and as ‘unexpectedly’, our lives have changed in recent weeks because of Covid -19 now encircling the globe, affecting life in new ways beyond our experience than anything we could have imagined even a month ago. We now know how life can change in an instant, from the routines we have always known, to the complexity of dealing with a pandemic affecting life and the economy in ways none of us have ever experienced.
But as we now deal with this new reality in our given time, we should take heart from how our forbears endured unexpected challenges, and how fellow believers in the past, not only endured but were strengthened by their faith through their own afflictions. Even those who endured the swing of emotions during their ‘lived experience’ of that 1st Holy Week and did not know where the story would end, continued to trust in God, believing that God would be faithful to His promises.
We see a great example of this in John the Beloved Disciple in this morning’s Easter Gospel, when after being informed by Mary Magdalene that she had found the tomb of Jesus ‘empty’that morning, John ran to the tomb, saw the burial cloths, and the Gospel proclaims: ‘John saw and believed’. And his faith, (and that of others would then be confirmed in the days which followed), when stories, (such as Matthew’s Gospel last evening proclaimed) : ‘An angel appeared to the women at the tomb & said: ‘Do not be afraid. I know you are seeking Jesus the Crucified. He is ‘not’ here, for He has been raised just as He said’.
This is our ‘Good News’ this Easter 2020 during this time of a pandemic. Jesus ‘is’ Risen. (He is alive.) He is with us in this time of concern and always. He is strengthening us so that we, in turn, as His disciples can strengthen others. We must trust in God, trust in God’s grace, guiding us, and ensuring us that we will come to better days again (after the ‘Cross’ of this time of COVID-19), when the ‘light of Christ’ which conquered the darkness of sin and even death (on that ‘1st’ Easter Sunday), (a) will bring us life anew as we follow Him and trust in Him, and one day bring us to ‘eternal life with Him won for us on Easter!
Notes from Bishop Peter
EASTER: JESUS IS RISEN, ALLELUIA!
1. On Good Friday evil won: The cowardice of Peter, the betrayal by Judas, the deceitful tactics of Caiaphas, the mockery and humiliation by Herod and the injustice of Pilate.
a. But they lost on Easter Sunday. The Father raised Jesus up, Jesus who was obedient unto death, even death on a cross and made him the source of eternal life for all those who believe in him.
b. Good will overcome evil, truth will overcome falsehood and light will overcome darkness.
2. Who is the man who emerges in all of this?
a. Jesus Christ is the Son of God but he is also the son of Mary, like us in all things but sin.
b. He is a man of compassion and at the same time a man of immense courage, extraordinary independence and unparalleled authenticity.
c. Courage: he could have fled and hidden in caves near Jerusalem but he chose to remain in public that, as a prophet, his adversaries would have to deal with him.
Courage: On the Cross so that the centurion could say, “Truly, this man was God’s Son.”
d. Independence: He always did what was right even though it hurt him when rejected by the leaders of his people. For example, he healed the centurion’s servant and thus incurred the wrath of those who despised the Romans and wanted them to leave their land.
e. Also, He broke Sabbath laws in order to help people, such as curing on the Sabbath to teach us that the sacred time and the sacred place are at the side of our sisters and brothers in need.
f. Authenticity: he was truthful. During his passion he is the only one who is faithful to his principles. The rest cave in under pressure.
g. There was no division between what he said and what he did. For instance, He preached forgiveness and even when he was suffering, he forgave those who were torturing him and forgave the good revolutionary.
3. He was his own man. For example, immediately before the words of Consecration we hear: “On the night he was betrayed. This awful truth didn’t stop him from giving himself totally for us, first under the forms of bread and wine, then on the cross. FOR US!
4. THUS HE IS ABLE TO GO BEYOND HIS FEELINGS AND TEACHES US TO DO THE SAME.
5. He perseveres – he never gives up.
6. The Good News; this same Jesus lives in the Church and in the depth our hearts and souls. We can say with Saint Paul, “I live, now not so much I, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
a. I can be a person of compassion, courage, independence, integrity, faithful and persevering in the good. I can go beyond my feelings.
b. Examples: Nelson Mandela who worked to unify his people and forgave those who sent him to prison for 27 years!
7. Jesus had a vision that he tried to implement. ”Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven!” Here is an example of a man filled with this vision though he may not have known it.
• Willie Velázquez: Mexican American hired by the community organization in San Antonio called COPS (Communities Organized for Public Service). Money that went into San Antonio were shunted over to the wealthier neighborhoods whereas people in poorer neighborhoods still had unpaved streets and the lack of a sufficient drainage system caused the death of several children after flash flooding. People in churches were organized. Members brought up their complaints. This led to voter registration drives so that more and more people of Mexican and Latino origin were elected to office on many levels. Thus among other things, more money was allocated to needy neighborhoods.
• Willie became a cancer victim and as he was dying, he said, “Ah, que bonito es el nuevo mundo.” (“How beautiful is the new world.) What did he mean? He had a vision from his faith in Jesus Christ who came to make all things new and he tried his best to do that so that human beings could become more fully alive.
• The good news? We can and must do the same. How? With the power of our Risen Lord in us who empowers us to say with Saint Paul: “I can do all things with Christ who makes me strong.” (Philippians 4:31)
Cycle A – Palm Sunday
Matthew 26:14—27 or 27:11-54
Notes from Bishop Peter
From the first reading from Isaiah: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard. My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
1. We enter a time of contrasts:
Who is Jesus Christ? “God from God, light from light, true God from true God…”
a. From the Letter to the Colossians, chapter 1: “All things were created by him and for him. He is before all else and in him all things hold together.”
b. From Ephesians: Jesus Christ is the one who fills the universe and all its parts with his presence, and the creator of it all in the first place.
c. There are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on all the shores of our earth.
d. There are galaxies separating themselves from us at a speed of 5.5 million miles an hour and this is his creation.
e. What a contrast because Jesus is the one being beaten and spat upon.
f. As we go through Holy Week, it is good to keep in mind those two aspects of who Jesus Christ is.
2. Contrast: Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Why?
a. Palm Sunday: The crowds praise Jesus mainly because they believe that he is the long awaited Messiah who, in their thinking, would help save the peasants from hunger, heavy taxation and an early death. Others believed he would rise up and expel the Romans and return home rule to Israel and end the world, rewarding the just and punishing evildoers.
b. That’s why Peter and the others are confused. Their idea of a Messiah does not coincide with Jesus’ plan.
3. Contrast: Jesus will save us, not by his action, but by his passion.
a. During the first part of his ministry Jesus heals the sick, the blind and lepers, he feeds the hungry, forgives sins and brings back from the dead at least three people.
b. He preaches a Gospel of mercy, esp. Luke XV, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal Son.
c. Then there is the most memorized text in the New Testament from John III: 16ff: “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life. For the Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, rather that the world might be saved by him.”
a. “We like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Handel’s Messiah when the music hits its lowest notes(Isaias 53:6)
b. He will save us by his love for his Father and for us, by forgiving us, by emptying himself, humbling himself and taking on the sins of humanity.
c. His passion can be understood in another way – his passion of love embraces us in our sinfulness and will never let us go.
d. “And I, when I have been lifted up (crucified) will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32
5. He rose from the dead and is now present in our community and in each one of us.
6. Several Points as we face the Covid 19 pandemic:
a. By becoming man, Jesus made a commitment to remain with us always. He said that to his Apostles: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
b. He knows our life because he lived it, with its joys and sorrows, its temptations and suffering.
c. Today he is in the midst of humanity, suffering with those who are afflicted as well as with the nurses, doctors and other caregivers who are indeed putting themselves in harm’s way. “Greater love than this no one has than to give his life for his friends.”
d. He inspires people to stay connected through social media. He is the force behind all scientific efforts to deal creatively with the virus, efforts to discover medicines and vaccines that will treat people effectively.
e. He inspires all those who are giving of themselves for others in so many ways.
6. Finally I cite the French poet, playwright and mystic, Paul Claudel. He was ambassador from France to the USA in the 1920’s and made a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament whenever he could. He wrote: “Jesus did not come to explain our suffering or to take it away but rather to fill it with his presence.” Amen.
Cycle A – 5th Sunday of Lent
Notes from Bishop Peter
THEME: JESUS SAYS, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE…”
1. Before turning to the Gospel, let us reflect on that beautiful second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is a summary on Paul’s reflections on the Holy Spirit. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then the one who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit dwelling in you.”
a. The Holy Spirit does in fact live in you from the moment you were baptized. Thus you became another Christ. After the celebrant pours water and says the sacred words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” He anoints the baptized person with CHRISM, a word from which we get “Christ,” = the anointed one. That is why you can authentically say with St. Paul, “I live, now not so much I, but Christ lives in me.”
b. The Holy Spirit gives you life right now so you can live each day as Jesus would.
c. The Good News: Jesus is on your side. He wants you with him at every moment of your life on earth so he can lead you into everlasting life someday in heaven.
d. I often refer to St. Thomas Aquinas’ hymn: “O Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food. The memory of his passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and to us is given the promise of future glory in heaven.” Consequently every time we assist at Holy Mass and receive the Most Holy Eucharist, Jesus renews his promise to be with us always and to take us one day with him to heaven.
e. Though our bodies are dying if you will, they will be beautiful again when Jesus raises us up. We say in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
f. Saint Damien of Molokai found that his lepers were inspired by this belief for they would receive a renewed and beautiful body, free of leprosy and all other ills.
g. Dying and rising with Jesus is similar to the seed that dies when it falls into the ground and produces a lovely flower.
2. Jesus gives his life back to Lazarus.
a. Lazarus would die some years later from natural causes. When Jesus rose, however, he would never die again. When we die, Jesus will someday raise up our mortal bodies to be like his own in glory. (Philippians 3:21)
b. For this reason we say that someone PASSED, meaning from this life to the next.
3. In the meantime we have to die to ourselves and rise many times in our lives. Here are some examples.
a. My friend Michael when he wrote a letter while in rehab saying goodbye to his addictions to drugs: “Our friendship and my loyalty to you are finally OVER!!! You have, for the last time, left me debating whether or not to give up my last earthly possession – my very life.” Now he can live freely as he breaks the bonds of addiction.
b. My friend who finally said goodbye to his addiction to alcohol, thus saving his life and marriage
c. Those who say “goodbye” to pornography so they can live a better and more committed single or married life
d. Saint Damien when he went from his native Belgium to the leper colony on Molokai, knowing he would never leave that leper colony. He “died” to himself and said yes to Jesus.
e. Parents who get up at night to care for a sick child, knowing they must face a demanding day at work…
f. All of us as we struggle with the restrictions placed on us because of the corona virus, especially caregivers as well as our sisters and brothers who are afflicted with this plague and face a very uncertain future
4. Eucharist: May Jesus in the Eucharist strengthen our faith in him as we face much insecurity in our lives knowing that, with his help, we can rise and go forward. “Why do you doubt? Why don’t you trust me?
Cycle A – The Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord
Notes from Bishop Peter
FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION
1. Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S. J., who died in 1955 and was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and a world-class anthropologist said that the Annunciation was the high point in the process of evolution. After the universe had been created by God some 13.7 billion years ago, we see Mary, a young girl, in a poor town of Nazareth, saying YES to the Archangel Gabriel’s message from God though she had no idea what her YES would imply. She counted on God’s love for her in the midst of obscurity, knowing that God would be with her so she could carry out her role as Mother of God.
2. Mary’s YES mirrored that of Jesus Christ who said YES to the Father’s will that he become a man like us in all things but sin. He pronounced His most difficult YES during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemani as he faced his horrendous passion.
3. Several years ago I guided a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and we were blessed to celebrate Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. In the Creed, the word “here” is added: For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and here became man.” What a powerful experience.
4. In St. Mark’s Convent in Florence, Italy, the Dominican artist, Blessed Fra (Brother) Angelico painted one of the most powerful and beautiful depictions of the Annunciation. One sees the Archangel taken aback by Mary’s holiness and humility while she retains her peace in the midst of this unsettling apparition.
5. Moreover, Mary’s inner strength is evident when she asks how she will become the mother of God because “I know not man?” She doesn’t doubt. She only wants to know how this will happen. Thus Gabriel tells her that it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit that she will become the Mother of God.
6. Mary’s importance in the mystery of who Jesus Christ is.
a. He truly is God and man, Son of God and son of Mary.
b. When we look to her, the errors propagated about Jesus are unmasked. For example, what people saw when they looked at Jesus was only a projection from Heaven. He wasn’t really divine.
• Then there is Adoptionism, meaning Jesus was born a man, then God took over in him at his baptism and left him during his passion. No! Mary was with him all the way.
7. The word in Latin for “let it be done to me,” is FIAT. Many of you have expressed this idea when facing difficulties and even the death of a loved one, thus remaining faithful to God. T
a. The example of former Archbishop John Whealon comes to mind. After his sudden death in 1991, I found in his room a notebook with the following words. “I pray that the Lord will give me the strength to continue in my position as archbishop after my colon operation. In any case, FIAT. If I am incapacitated, I shall resign. Even if I must use a wheel chair, I shall resign for the good of the archdiocese.” He wrote FIAT after each sentence.
b. At the entrance to the chancery building on Farmington Avenue next to the cathedral rectory, there is a statue of Our Lady created in his honor. At the base of it is the word, “Fiat,” because he was always disposed to do God’s will, no matter what the cost.
8. To conclude, as Jesus’s life was one continual FIAT, so may he help us to do the same, with trust like Mary’s in God and God’s love for us.
Cycle A – 4th Sunday of Lent
Notes from Bishop Peter
Theme: Jesus is the light of the world. Through baptism He helps us see and live as he does.
1. These readings for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent are to help those preparing for baptism so that they can see as Jesus sees. These texts invite all of us to do the same.
a. The blind man was able to “see” because he believed in Jesus’ word. The Pharisees, however, were locked into their blindness because of their pre-conceived ideas about the Messiah.
2. Let us consider what Jesus did.
a. This man was born blind and therefore had to humble himself by begging.
b. The Apostles: “Is it because he sinned or his parents sinned?” This was a problem for the people of their times. Jesus says no to this and subsequently will cure the man and take away his shame and disgrace.
c. Jesus makes clay out of spittle deemed in those times to have curative powers. Also, to make clay was forbidden on the Sabbath as was curing anyone. It reminds the Jews of having to make clay to build Pharaoh’s monuments during their days as slaves in Egypt.
d. Jesus “sends” him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, meaning “sent”.
• Jesus is the one “sent” by the Father. Just as the blind man washes in the pool whose meaning is “sent,” so when people are baptized, Jesus sends them to make him known by the way they live.
e. These particular Pharisees can’t see! (Others were favorable toward Jesus.) That’s why they say that the blind man must have been faking blindness. According to their ideology, no one can possibly be from God and cure on the Sabbath.
3. Now let us consider the man born blind.
a. He grows in his knowledge of Jesus as he sees him first as a man, then a prophet, next, as a man capable of leading the people to God.
b. Finally, the man believes that Jesus is the Son of Man, a figure from the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. “You have seen him.” “I do believe, Lord,” and then he worships him.
• The Sacred Author, Saint John, wants us to do the same – to believe “see” in Jesus Christ as Lord and Son of God, worship him and live according to his teachings.
4. Some examples of people who saw Jesus through the eyes of their faith:
a. Norma McCorvey – The plaintiff in Doe in Roe v Wade – became a Catholic in later life. She saw the immorality of abortion and regrets her own. Jesus of course forgives her.
b. To see the intense fear of immigrant families with undocumented parents whose children are born here making them American citizens. They will certainly suffer if their parents are deported.
c. To see that a government health care plan must be accessible and affordable to all living in our country who need it.
d. To see Muslims living in the USA as persons who want what everyone else desires for their families: to be treated with respect and live in safe neighborhoods with good schools for their children.
e. To see that what was done to African American people as profoundly evil and that racism is a sin.
f. To see how hatred and the refusal to forgive can eat away at our hearts and to beg Jesus for the grace to go beyond our feelings and forgive – thus to FAST from our resentments.
6. Eucharist: May Jesus transform us progressively so that we may better see and love him as God’s Son who wants to help us see people and life as he does. Amen.
Cycle A – 3rd Sunday of Lent
Deacon Dennis (all Masses)
This is the week that the coronavirus changed everything. In a few short days, the pandemic has altered nearly every aspect of our lives.
How? We’re about to find out, as the coronavirus pandemic separates us, leaving us alone with our trepidation and, if we’re lucky, our loved ones.
It will be weeks, possibly months, before the full dimensions of this outbreak become clear. Some of us are still in potentially fatal denial.
We are woefully unprepared for the pandemic’s consequences, economic and otherwise.
But we have finally lurched into action, and now the erasures are piling up, an accelerating blur of postponements and cancellations, each of them as necessary as it is disconcerting.
This is that moment, the one we will look back on, when everything changed. One after another, the touchpoints of our lives have been falling away. The subtractions came slowly at first: flights from a handful of countries, conventions, political rallies, Little League tryouts. They’ve picked up speed as the week wore on — has it really been only a week?. We are seen as a danger to each other, our public spaces suddenly menacing. Who are we without all of the things that bring us together?
Basketball was suspended. So was everything else. No hockey, no soccer. No Masters Tournament. No college sports, no hallowed March Madness. No middle or high school sports, much to the disappointment of the winning St. Timothy’s team and Bobby Gerity, a member of Conard’s championship basketball season. The St. Patrick’s Day parades were canceled, and the Boston marathon postponed.
Theaters and museums and concert venues shut down. Federal and State courts postponed trials. The Archbishop has ordered that holy water be drained from fonts, and that we Catholics be excused from our Sunday obligations.
Offices have been emptying. Colleges are sending home students — including those who have little waiting for them there, or can ill afford the journey. In the absence of any statewide guidance, some school districts have closed, while others remain open as officials grapple with gut-wrenching choices, between the imperative to slow the spread of the virus and the very real survival needs of students and families who rely on schools for care and meals. But soon they, too, will have to close their doors.
The most fortunate among us — those with jobs we can do remotely, or for which we get paid when we can’t do them at all — will be spending a lot more time with our kids now, whether we like it or not. We’ll be working our way through the supplies we swept from supermarket shelves in this week’s panic. It will be maddening; it will be troubling.
The news, to which many of us will be glued, is likely to be very bad. Even the rosiest predictions anticipate that, at its peak, several million Americans will contract Covid-19, and that many thousands will succumb to the virus.
We will try to console anxious children, who now confront an existential threat even more immediate than climate change. The Federal Reserve and Congress will try to shore up the stock market. We will try to conceal our worry about the dire economic consequences of this pandemic — consequences that have already begun unfolding around us. From Mom-and-Pop breakfast shops to 4-star dinner establishments, to theaters, malls, Costco, BJ’s and supermarkets – and every business in between – will be half empty.
Some of us won’t have these luxuries, though. Those who lack sick pay and other benefits will have no choice but to ride public transportation to their low-wage jobs each day, no matter how they feel, or how their kids are cared for. Those who have unstable housing, or none at all, won’t be able to separate themselves from others. Those whose work puts them on the front lines of this outbreak, our first-responders, and medical staff, will place themselves in harm’s way – day after day and hope for the best, for all our sakes.
When it’s over, doors will open again. Restaurants will buzz to life. Kids will whine on Monday mornings about school once more, and supermarkets will have full shelves.
But we have to ask, who are we? Who are we without all of the things that bring us together, since we had become a danger to each other.
For certain, we’ll be changed by our losses. Perhaps, or hopefully – at least for a short period of time as we did after 9/11- we’ll be more grateful for all we took for granted.** Pray and stay safe.
**Excerpted and adapted from Boston Globe, Yvonne Abraham Globe Columnist, dated 13 March 2020.
Notes from Bishop Peter who, because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, is unable to leave be with us at St. Tim’s
THEME: JESUS PROMISES US LIVING WATER, THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. Many of you have witnessed a baptism. When I preside at a ceremony, I ask everyone to be quiet as I pour the water over the candidate’s head so they can hear the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and the water flow into the font.
2. What happens at this moment? The Holy Spirit plunges into the hearts of the newly baptized, bringing the Father and the Son. Thus we can adore God present in them.
3. What an awesome moment! The Holy Spirit fills the whole universe and yet comes to dwell in us. That is what we heard in that beautiful reading from the Letter to the Romans: “The love of God has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
a. What does this mean? (1) The Holy Spirit stays with us. (2) The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Spirit moving us to live like him so we can become persons capable of true love because God is love.
• The Holy Spirit is the living water to which Jesus refers in the Gospel story. Living water that flows as opposed to stagnant water.
• This living water is the source (again, a reference to water) of all our good actions because the Spirit helps us drag ourselves out of the swamp of our selfishness to become men and women for others like Jesus and Mary.
4. What happens when we are left on our own or when we ignore the Spirit’s power to help us grow in our humanity?
a. Hitler – ego-centered persons who put others down (White Supremacists, racists), who don’t see how their actions are harming others. Coaches who berate their players, parents who don’t care about their children’s wishes and who push them to excel, hoping for prestige for themselves…
5. What about people who are truly moved by the Holy Spirit? They are parents like yourselves deprive yourselves of certain pleasures for your children’s benefit; parents who really listen to them, helping them to develop their own talents so they can become independent.
a. Conversion stories like that of John Newton, an Anglican clergyman, poet involved in the slave trade. Has a profound conversion experience, denounces that nefarious practice and composes the words to that unforgettable hymn, “Amazing Grace…”
b. Mother Teresa who left a secure teaching post to go out onto the streets of Calcutta and serve the poorest of the poor.
c. Father and Saint Damien De Veuster who dedicated his life to the lepers on Moloka’i in Hawai’i.
d. Those who took climate change seriously decades ago as they faced scorn and ridicule. Now they are heroes as more and more people become aware of the effects of this most serious problem
e. Those who advocated for reductions and elimination of nuclear weapons years ago, including Ronald Reagan. They continue to inspire us as we become aware of the threat posed by these weapons…
6. All these examples draw us back beyond ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the source of true love and courage. May Jesus through his Eucharist continue to send his Holy Spirit into us and into our world so that people, moved by true love, can produce a world befitting the great dignity of every woman and every man. Amen.
Cycle A – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Bishop Peter (8:30 am Mass)
THEME: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95, Hebrews 3)
1. How hard it is to really listen! This afflicts married couples, parents and bosses who for some reason cannot hear what spouses, children or employees who are hurting are trying to tell them. Perhaps we all can learn from Abram (later God changed his name to Abraham = the ancestor of a multitude of nations), Jesus and others too.
2. Abraham: God asks him to leave his comfort zone, all his familiar surroundings, and go to a land of which he knows nothing. His only point of stability is his profound trust in God. He obeys and consequently becomes the father of many nations.
a. For example, Jews and Christians and Muslims are called the “Abrahamic Religions.” For us, Saint Pope John Paul II made that clear, that we are sons and daughters of Abraham, through Jesus.
3. Jesus: At his baptism, his Father spoke words similar to those he heard at his Transfiguration: “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM!”
a. Jesus LISTENED to his Father even though what he heard was painful because he realized that he will be the Suffering Servant who will save his people through his passion: “We like sheep had gone astray, each of us to his own way, and God laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
b. His Apostles thought he would be the glorious Messiah who would drive out the Romans and restore home rule to Israel. Thus they had such a hard time LISTENING to what Jesus repeatedly was telling them. For instance, just before the Transfiguration, he told them “that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be put to death and on the third day be raised from the dead.”
c. Because of their preconceived notions, however, THEY CAN’T HEAR WHAT HE IS TRYING TO TELL THEM. “If today you hear his voice…”
4. Other examples:
(a) My friend, Freddy – young, thick-headed, macho – every Friday would go out drinking with his buddies and come home early Saturday morning. He kept this up despite the pleas of his dear wife. One Saturday morning he came home and heard his five-year old son say, “Mom, here comes daddy and he’s drunk again.” It hit him so hard that he walked to his car and sat there for three hours before going to St. Peter Church in Hartford. There he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and asked for the help to stop drinking. He did and begged forgiveness from his wife. He heard God speaking through his son. “If today you hear his voice…
(b) Saint Katherine Drexell (1858-1955): Her father was one of the wealthiest men in America (from investments in railroads). Each year she received about $170,000.00 from a trust established by her father, an immense sum given that a worker would earn maybe $8 a week. During an audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to send American priests and nuns to work with Native Americans and people of color. He said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” She heard God’s voice through the pope’s and founded her own religious community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, using her fortune, never for herself but to build schools on Indian reservations and in communities with black people. She also funded the establishment of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first university for black people in the USA. SHE HEARD THE VOICE OF THE LORD.
* Story about KKK threatening to tar and feather the pastor of a Catholic church in Texas. The sisters prayed and two days later a tornado destroyed the Klan’s meeting center and killed two of them. They never bothered the sisters again!
5. EUCHARIST: It is Jesus who heard his Father speaking to him and consistently did what his Father asked of him. May he help us to be open to his voice, no matter how it comes to us, and act on it.
Deacon Eric (4:00 pm and 10:30 am Masses)
Cycle A – 1st Sunday of Lent
Archbishop’s Sermon and Annual Appeal Video.
Cycle A – 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (8:30 am Mass)
THEME: HOW CAN WE DO WHAT JESUS IS ASKING? THE ANSWER, THE HOLY SPIRIT!
1. “Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:17)
a. Paul’s readers think of the temple of their goddess-protector Aphrodite, (Roman name Venus) the goddess of love, beauty and fertility and protector of sailors since Corinth was a port city.
b. How stunning to realize that each one of them is not only a temple but a temple of God, the Holy Spirit!
c. The Spirit, however, is not simply there. The Spirit is and continues to be active in the lives of believers. Thus we can count on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to carry out Jesus’ commands, even difficult ones such as those in today’s Gospel reading.
2. What is Jesus talking about? First, the saying, “An eye for an eye…” This is the Lex (or law) Talionis – we get retaliation from that. Goes back to the Law of Hammurabi (died in 1750 B.C.) of Babylon. Its purpose was to limit reaction to attacks and only a judge could give the offended party permission to carry it out. In Jewish world it was reduced to financial compensation.
3. Jesus then gives us three points:
a. “When someone strikes you on the right cheek…” How does a right-handed person strike another on the right cheek? Backhanded, thus insults. The disciple of Jesus doesn’t hold grudges, doesn’t brood over injuries. Doing so can move us to do harm to others – Herodias and Saint John the Baptist.
• This approach inspired Gandhi and Dr. MLK Jr. Passive resistance – no violence. No retaliation. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
b. Tunic and cloak: The Jew had the right to get his cloak back by nighttime because he slept in it. The point: Insisting on one’s RIGHTS to the detriment of the common good. Example: The right (according to Roe. v Wade and Doe v Bolton) to an abortion at any time during pregnancy. Thus opposition to anything that would infringe on that right, such as the law in Louisiana mandating that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges to a hospital in case the abortion causes serious injury to the mother. Example: The gun lobby that opposes any legislation that would limit the absolute right to bear arms, including background checks and a ban against attack weapons…
c. Press into service to go one mile… The Roman soldiers often did this to the Jews and others under their domination. Jesus’ point: Humble service as did Jesus when he washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper – People who are busy but serve on boards, especially non-profits like hospitals – parish pastoral councils – Debby and her mission trips!
4. Love your enemies: In Greek, four words to express love – for family, between husband and wife, brotherly love and agape = rejects bitterness and wishes the offender “unconquerable benevolence” as one writer puts it. Example: My priest friend speaking with a communist – no matter what you do to me, I have to try and love you, that is, to reject resentment, wishing only good for you and not harm.
a. Pray for those who persecute you. Bishop Komarica (Francis) of Bosnia who asked his men and women in separate concentration camps to pray one Hail Mary a day for their Serbian captors. This changed the tenor of the camps in just one week. You can’t pray for someone and hate him at the same time.
5. In so doing we become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Better still, St. Luke in his gospel says, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” Thus to be perfect is to be merciful. May Jesus help us to reach these lofty goals that are essential to our well-being and that of society.
Deacon Eric (4pm and 10:30 am Masses)
Cycle A – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
State of the Parish (all Masses)
Bishop Peter (4pm Mass)
THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US UNDERSTAND THE MIND OF GOD AND TO ACT ACCORDINGLY.
1. St. Paul continually emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit who alone knows the mind of God. The HS scrutinizes or searches the depths of God and communicates that to each of us as according to our capability to receive it. This is most evident through the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures.
a. The Scriptures are like a road map and the Holy Spirit is the power in us to get to our destination. In other words, the Holy Spirit in us helps us see what the Scriptures tell us and apply that to our lives, even though doing so can hurt. “Is that what I am doing? I’d better shape up!”
2. Jesus, moved by the Holy Spirit, gives us one of the most important passages of the New Testament/ from the Sermon on the Mount. He takes the Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and gives us teachings that will help us get in line with this commandment. So let’s examine each of these sections and try to put in a modern context what Jesus is saying.
3. To be angry with one’s brother = everyone. It is not the anger a person feels when the Patriots lost or when a teenager comes home beyond curfew.
a. It’s the anger that one broods over that moves him or her to do harm to another. Example: Herodias who had John the Baptist beheaded… Henry VIII and St. Thomas More.
• Includes vengeance: “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12)
b. Raca – To treat a person or persons with CONTEMPT. To bully someone – to put another down (parents, teachers and coaches beware) – Anti-Semitism (looking down on Jews to the point of persecuting them or belittling Muslims, blacks, Hispanics…
• Christian attitude: “We are all made in the image and likeness of God.”
c. You fool – in a moral sense – to attempt to ruin a person’s reputation by branding him or her as an immoral person – calumny – certain individuals who have falsely accused priests of sexually abusing them – Cardinal Joseph Bernardin by Steven Cook – Bernardin forgave him…
4. Bringing one’s gift to the altar (Even Yom Kippur – the act of atonement = at-one-ment/ was not valid unless persons reconciled with their neighbors.) Jesus shows just how important reconciliation is – without it, our assistance at Mass will not produce its full effect in our lives.
• This shows the great importance of reconciling with those we have hurt and even taking the first step towards those who have hurt us. For example, Pope St. John Paul II and Ali Acga who attempted to assassinate him.
5. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her.” Works both ways, for men and women.
a. Sin begins in the mind. Pornography leads persons to commit adultery in their imaginations – those on their screens are real persons…
6. Divorce his wife: The wife in the Greek speaking world was the mother of the man’s children. She stayed home while he felt free to have sex with anyone he wanted, male or female.
a. To divorce one’s wife was too easy – this left her with her children to fend for herself with no support from him. Thus she often became poor and defenseless. Jesus takes the side of the poor and vulnerable.
b. As Christianity penetrated the Greek speaking world, monogamous marriages became a stumbling block but the church never backed down.
c. The exception – “unless the marriage is unlawful” = with close relatives, sister, first cousin aunt, etc. (Leviticus 18)
7. Oaths: Like the one taken by all senators in the impeachment trial of the president. Jesus says that, in an ideal world, one’s moral character should be so strong that everyone knows he or she will tell the truth. * Unfortunately, in the real world there are many who lie and therefore must be made to swear an oath that what they are saying is “the truth and the whole truth, so help us God.”
8. Eucharist: It is Jesus who calls us to be his true disciples and sends us his Holy Spirit who empowers us to become exactly that.
Cycle A – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Eric (all Masses)
Cycle A – Presentation of the Lord
Fr. Le Blanc (all Masses)
We celebrate this weekend the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem as a ‘baby’, a feast steeped in Jewish tradition at that time and
transformed into one of the earliest acts of ‘revelation’ of who Jesus truly was.
For it was exactly 40 days ago today that we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. That is why the ‘Feast of the Presentation of the Lord’ is celebrated each year on Feb 2nd – whether it falls on a weekday (as it usually does), or on the weekend as it does this year.
According to Jewish tradition at the time, on the 40th day after the 1st son was born in the family, his parents were required (by Jewish ritual law) to go to the temple in Jerusalem as part of the rite of purification after childbirth, to offer a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving. This was done in remembrance of the Passover in Exodus (when the angel of God had spared every 1st born Jewish son) while taking the 1st born son of every Egyptian family.
Thus we hear in today’s Gospel: ‘When the days were completed for their purification, Mary & Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to ‘present’ Him to the Lord, just as it was written in the law: “every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord”.
What took place with Jesus is what took place with every other 1st born Jewish boy 40 days after his birth. In the case of Jesus, however, this event was not to go unnoticed. For the first entry of Jesus into the temple after his birth, was to be seen as a ‘further’ occasion by God to ‘reveal’ (once again) ‘Who’ this child truly was, as God had revealed Him 40 days earlier to shepherds abiding in the fields at Christmas and then to the Magi from the East on Epiphany.
As before, God used as the instruments of ‘revelation’, not the ‘rich and powerful’, but the ‘poor and the lowly’ to reveal the significance of this child Jesus – revealing Him through Simeon, (an old, pious Jewish man who ‘awaited the consolation of Israel’), to whom it had been revealed that he would not see death until he had seen the ‘Anointed of the Lord’. He took the baby in his arms and prayed the beautiful hymn of praise, prayed in the ‘ Night Prayer’ of the Church, saying: ‘Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word. // For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for ‘revelation’ to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel’.
And then in the 2nd part of today’s Gospel, Jesus is further ‘revealed’ by Anna, (an elderly 84 year old woman), constantly in the temple day and night for years – worshipping, praying and fasting. She sees the baby Jesus, she understands ‘Who’ He is, and she gives thanks to God and then talks about the child to all who look forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
Through the ‘poor & lowly’ in the temple, God again ‘revealed’ Jesus as a ‘light’ to the Gentiles’ and the ‘glory of God’s people Israel’- (as done in the very 1st days of ‘Jesus’ life in revealing Him to the Shepherds and Magi).
Like Simeon & Anna, we too know Jesus to be that ‘light’. We are called to be ‘evangelizers’ witnessing to the light by making Christ known more & more through our lives as disciples. We do this by the way we live our lives. We do this through the Christian values we hold and share with others. We do this by the care & concern we show to the less fortunate, as Jesus would have us do.
In the time I have been at St.Timothy’s, I have seen this in the ‘goodness’ of this parish community through the many ‘works of charity’ that are done here, including our ‘Soup-er’ Bowl ‘can drive on this ‘Super Bowl Weekend’. We do so in the continuous generosity which this parish shows through our ‘monthly’ drives – helping the ‘less-fortunate’ in the greater-Hartford area, including our recent very generous response to our ‘Winter boot and clothe drive’ and other regular collections throughout the year. We do so communally or individually as well when we share our personal ‘time and talents’ with others out of Christian concern & love as disciples of Jesus, manifesting acts of kindness, lending a helping hand to others in need.
For in the end, this is what being a ‘Christian disciple’ is all about. Evangelization is done, Jesus is ‘witnessed to’, and God’s love continues to be made manifest to a waiting world, so much in need of hearing & experiencing this ‘Good News.
In French, we have a saying: ‘Qu’il est Bon le Bon Dieu’ – (meaning ‘How good is our ‘Good God’). I often tell families at Baptisms that after life itself, Faith is the greatest gift God gives us – especially our faith in JESUS, the Son of God, who loves us and continually calls us to be His disciples: witnessing to Him as the ‘true light of the world’, revealed again this weekend on this Feast of His Presentation – so that others may come to know Him, experience His love, grace and presence along life’s journey, giving us true life even now through our belief and witness to Him as disciples building God’s Kingdom in our given time and place.
Cycle A – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (10:30 am Mass)
1. Recently Pope Francis declared that, from now on, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time shall be designated as “Sunday of the Word of God.” He said: “A day dedicated to the Bible will help the Church experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.”
2. Most people hear the Word of God proclaimed during the first part of the Mass.
a. Question: A French preacher once asked a congregation: If Jesus appeared to you holding in one hand the New Testament and in the other, the Most Holy Eucharist and asked you to choose either one, how would you respond?
• Actually we need both. The New Testament tells us of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and the Eucharist gives us the power to integrate into our lives what we have heard or read.
• As an aside, when incense is used, the Eucharist and the Gospels receive the same attention.
3. How important for us are the bible readings? “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” (General Introduction to the Roman Missal, no. 29).
a. From our Bishops’ Conference: “… the Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy possesses a special sacramental power to bring about in us what it proclaims. The Word of God proclaimed at Mass is ‘efficacious,’ that is, it not only tells us of God and God’s will for us, it also helps us to put that will of God into practice in our lives.”
b. Also, a priest friend of mine says that reading the scriptures on our own or as a family is similar to receiving Holy Communion. The word of God can change our hearts if we are open to receiving it.
4. What about today’s readings? Here are some ideas we might apply to ourselves. In reality it is the homilist’s task to “break open” (as though we were breaking a loaf of bread) the scriptures so the people may see how they may be affected by them.
a. From the second reading (I Corinthians, 1: 10-13, 17) – “Let there be no divisions among you.” Paul says this constantly to his communities. As you know, divisions are painful.
• Thus: what about our parish? If you notice divisions, what can you do to heal them?
• The same for your families: How can you reconcile members who are estranged from one another?
• How do we deal with divisions in our own country? In our church, our nation and the world?
b. From the Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23) – Jesus is the light predicted by the Prophet Isaias.
c. First, he calls all his hearers to repentance. People might say, “Well, I have nothing to be sorry for.” It might be helpful, however, to make a good and honest examination of conscience while asking Jesus’ light to penetrate our souls. You may be surprised at what you discover.
d. He calls his first disciples who would later become his Apostles. (Why does Jesus choose fishermen and shepherds?…) The qualities of these fishermen should be ours too as we strive to follow Jesus in our daily lives: (Some of you go fishing so you will relate to these.)
• Openness to hear Jesus calling us. “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” (The young Samuel)
• Patience: It is rare that we will see quick results in our life of prayer or what we ask God for. God will give you an answer though it may not be what you want.
• Perseverance: St. Monica prayed for 27 years for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine.
• Courage: To face ourselves and in humility to ask God for the strength (grace) necessary to overcome our faults and/or addictions.
5. Now we come to our Eucharist. May Jesus ever present help us to discover him in his WORD so that we may attain the ideal of becoming his true disciples.
Cycle A – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
In the Second Book of Samuel, the prophet Nathan tells King David this story. Two men were citizens of the same town. One man was rich and powerful. The other was poor and helpless. The rich man had great flocks of sheep. He had so many sheep that he lost count of hem.
The poor man, on the other hand, had only one tiny lamb. But the poor man’s children loved the lamb. They played with it all day long. They even brought it to table to share the little food they had. One day an important visitor came to the rich man’s house. But the rich man didn’t want to kill any of his own lambs to feed his guest. So, he had his servants go over to the poor man’s house, take the poor man’s lamb, and slaughter it to feed his guest.
This story of a rich man’s cruelty and callousness was one of the images John the Baptist had in mind when he pointed a finger at Jesus and said to his disciples, “There is the Lamb of God.”
Nathan’s story of the poor man’s pet lamb certainly fit Jesus. Jesus, too, was deeply loved. He, too, was to be cruelly slain by evil men.
But there was another image in John’s mind when he said, “There is the Lamb of God.”
It was the image of the lambs that were sacrificed daily in the Temple. The daily sacrifices in the Temple were made year after year, even in times of great famine when food was scarce and people were starving.
In effect, John was saying to his disciples, We offer lambs daily in the Temple for our sins, but the Lamb of God is the only one who can save us from those sins.
But there is one final image that “Lamb of God” conjures up. We find it in the Book of Revelation. The author of this book applies the title “Lamb of God” to Jesus no less than 28 times. He keeps the notions of love and affection, and of suffering and sacrifice, but adds the further notions of glory and triumph.
It comes as no surprise that of the many titles of Jesus—“Light of the World,” “Good Shepherd,” and “Bread of Life”— the title “Lamb of God” is the one we use each time we celebrate Mass. Just before Communion, we sing the Lamb of God. That very special moment at Mass is a preview of the moment at the end of time when people of every tribe, language, nation, and race will join the angels of heaven to sing to Jesus, the eternal Lamb of God.
Let me close with a story that I ask you to think about this week.
A man dove into a raging river and saved a drowning young person. A few days later, after recovering from the shock, the young person visited the man and said, “How can I ever thank you for what you did for me?”
The man looked at the youth and said, “The best thanks — you can give me is to live the rest of your life in a way that will have made it worth saving.”
I pray that when you and I come face-to-face with the Lamb of God, we can look back on our lives and say, they were worth saving.
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
THEME: JESUS TAKES OUR SINS ON HIMSELF AND UNMASKS SCAPEGOATING.
1. Again, the lectionary presents the scene of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River, this time from the Gospel of John.
a. Jesus is humble – he empties himself, standing in solidarity with sinners, the sinless one in the sinner’s stead.
b. When he rises from the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him and after his Father raises him from the dead, he sends his HS to form the church and to enter into each baptized person. Thus we can think and act like Jesus himself though we must constantly be aware of our flawed human nature (Original Sin).
2. During his horrible passion, Jesus becomes the scapegoat because God places on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53) What does this mean?
a. (I got this from the internet.) “In the Bible, a scapegoat is an animal that is ritually burdened with the sins of others, and then driven away. The concept first appears in the Book of Leviticus, in which a goat is designated to be led into the desert to carry away the sins of the community.” The goat eventually dies.
b. Moreover, Jesus becomes the scapegoat of the people’s frustrations because they expected a glorious Messiah who would drive out the Romans, restore home rule, and end the world, rewarding the just and condemning sinners. Because Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, they clamored for his death. As usually happens in these cases, the oppressors will feel good for a while only.
3. Scapegoating is a tendency deep in the human psyche to the point that people often are unaware of it. Here are some examples:
a. Nero and the Christians of Rome
b. The most notorious is how Hitler blamed the Jews for the economic problems Germany faced following the First World War. Once the Jews were scapegoated, the people on the other side could do whatever they wanted to them. This led to the horrible Holocaust during which 6 million Jews were slaughtered.
c. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia made the Muslims of Bosnia the scapegoats for the anger of his people against them after they lost to the Muslims in 1389. They then invaded Bosnia and slaughtered thousands of helpless Muslims.
d. Here in our own country blacks became scapegoats for poor economic conditions in the 1920’s and 30’s. This lead to outbreaks of violence against them and the creation of the KKK. Thus those in the “offended” and powerful group could justify any action against black people including thousands of lynchings.
e. What about today? Certain political figures and others have made immigrants, in particular undocumented ones, scapegoats of economic problems and threats to society. Once again, this results in negative actions against them.
f. On a lesser scale, that’s what happens when people gossip and stab others in the back. “Where two or three are gathered, there are victims.” (From Bishop Barron’s book, Seeds of the Word, p. 45)
4. Who has an answer to this syndrome? Jesus unmasks it because he chose to identify with those who are being scapegoated, having suffered the same fate. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers, you do to me.” To Jews, to blacks, to Muslims, to Christians, to immigrants, to fellow workers and family members – you do to me… RESPECT ONE ANOTHER!
a. (As an aside, Bishop Barron states that human sacrifice perpetrated by the Romans and the Aztecs stopped when they were confronted by the crucified Jesus who sacrificed himself for all human beings past, present and future.)
5. Now we come to the Eucharistic part of our liturgy. It is Jesus who takes on himself the sin of the whole human race and who continues to confront those who make scapegoats of others because of social or economic ills.
Cycle A – The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
Theme: The Holy Spirit comes to Jesus and to us as well.
1. John is baptizing – explain – people from all over are walking about 20 miles for this because they want to repent of their sins and get ready for the coming of the Messiah and the end time (explain).
2. They recognize that they are sinners – tax collectors, prostitutes, perhaps shepherds and Jesus is in the midst of them, with them, identifying with them – the sinless with sinners.
a. Jesus in solidarity with people, all people. He is one of us, like us in everything except sin. ***See Hebrews II:17-18***
b. John is surprised and confused to the point that he doesn’t know what to do.
c. Jesus tells him to go ahead. Jesus submits humbly and obediently to His Father. (unlike Adam and Eve) He identifies with sinners now and will do so even more dramatically on the cross… The sinless in sinners’ stead. (behalf)
d. Because he is obedient, the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus – like the dove that flew over the waters at the moment of creation – and the new creation after the flood when Noah and his family were saved. THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING.
3. See the connection between what the Father says when Jesus is baptized (“This is my Son, my Beloved with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew, 3: 17) and what the prophet Isaiah writes (our first reading): “This is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my spirit… I formed you and set you as a … light for the nations/ to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
a. Shortly after being baptized by John, Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, is tempted in the desert. Next, he goes to the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town, and reads from the scroll the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to heal the blind and to let the oppressed go free.”
4. What does this say to us today?
a. Jesus is one of us, like us in all things but sin. (Hebrews II:17) HE IS ON OUR SIDE BECAUSE HE LOVES US AND KNOWS HOW DIFFICULT OUR LIVES CAN BE. EVEN IN HEAVEN HE RECALLS THIS.
b. We too have received the Holy Spirit. We are Christ – anointed ones. Thus we must let the HS lead us so that we can continue Jesus’ work.
c. It is clear in the account of Jesus’ baptism that he stands in solidarity with all people and is especially present to those who know they are sinners. His name = God saves. So must our church, so must we. These include former prisoners or members of our family who have done wrong and embarrassed us, for example.
d. Jesus reached out to the economically poor, the oppressed, the sick, even to the point of identifying with them in the Parable of the Last Judgment – and he was all of these (stranger = documented and non-documented). So must we!
• Father Bob Beloin’s story of St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale and where to locate their weekly food service to the needy. Should it continue to be in the basement of the chapel or in their new center? He said, “In our new center because nothing is too good for the poor.”
e. Jesus forms relationships with people. He never dominates them. Thus we must avoiding the temptation of putting ourselves above anyone else… Is this one of the root causes of Anti-Semitism? Of White supremacy? Some people have to feel superior to others to feel good about themselves. Why?
f. Jesus gave us his gift of peace as he faced his cruel passion. In that vein, our Catholic Bishops’ Conference wrote recently concerning the tense situation in the Middle East: “May the Lord help all parties in this time of growing belligerence to peer through one another’s transgressions and appreciate the legitimate fears that lie behind them. All must discover islands of trust in a sea of distrust, do the hard work of reasoning together, acknowledge the futility of further violence and military action, and humbly pursue the common good together. Let us reflect on Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message for 2020 and pray ‘to overcome evil with good and respond to hatred with love.’”
5. Eucharist – May the Father send us his HS with greater force so that we may truly believe that Jesus loves us and trusts us to do what we can to alleviate human suffering. Amen.
Cycle A – The Epiphany of the Lord
Bishop Peter (8:30 am Mass)
Theme: When we seek the Lord, he always draws us close to himself. “Listen. I am standing at the door knocking. If you hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and eat with you and you with me.” (Rev. III:20)
1.The Magi gave gifts to Jesus that represented the gift of themselves to Jesus.
a. Gold, frankincense (from the sap of a tree in Arabia) and myrrh (also from the sap of a tree that is turned into a sort of oil)
• Gold, Jesus as King, frankincense, divinity, myrrh, his burial.
• They adore the newborn king, reminding us of the first Great Commandment of the Jews and now ours too: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…”
2. The fact that the Magi came from such a long distance to find Jesus shows what Saint Augustine said in the 4th Century: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
a. That’s one of the reasons we come to him. That’s why people become tired of material pleasures from sources like pornography, the hook-up culture and the recreational use of drugs. They desire something more substantial, more profound. All these material things can never satisfy the cravings of the human heart – that explains in part why so many people turn to various kinds of spirituality. Hopefully many of these will turn to Jesus.
3. King Herod is threatened! He fears that the new-born king will take away his power and position.
a. Like those today in positions of authority who feel threatened when a younger man or woman with talent is promoted to work under them. Rather, they should count on their work and advice and delegate authority to them for the good of the enterprise, instead of thinking of themselves!
4. Saint Augustine knew he needed more in life. “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, O Beauty ever new. Late have I loved you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, you banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance on me. I breathed it in and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
5. Where should we seek the Lord? First, where he says he is: “I was hungry and you gave me food, etc. Matthew 25
a. In the aging parents you care for, in a child with disabilities, in people who come to a local soup kitchen such as the House of Bread in Hartford.
b. In vulnerable immigrants: Today the Catholic Church in the USA begins a week dedicated to the support and welcome of migrants or immigrants:
* What does our church teach about how immigrants should be treated? We go to the Bible and find the following: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22:21); “Love the foreigner for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19). + “I was a stranger (foreigner) and you took me in.” (Matthew 25)
6. We also should bring Christ to others by the way we live and treat them. This means to live the Mystery of the Visitation. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits Elizabeth, her cousin and when they greet, “the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy.”
a. Similarly, we are Christ-bearers (Christophers) because He lives in us. Each of us should ask how we can be Christ to the people we live and work with. How can we support them and lessen their burdens and pain? How can we make them happy? (Bob Hope and the millions of people who were inspired by his humor)
7. We thank Jesus for letting us find him and for his invitation to be Christ to one another, especially the most vulnerable. May Jesus in the Eucharist we celebrate and receive help us to represent him with ever greater authenticity.