Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homily – January 31, 2010 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ Last week we heard Jesus' very first homily in the same setting that our gospel passage for today is situated. After reading from the Prophet Isaiah, in his home synagogue, Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down and said: "TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE PASSAGE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING!" That was it! That was his first homily. I remarked last week that one of Jesus' intentions in this nine word homily was to give direction to all preachers to get to the point, quickly, and then sit down! I promised to take this hint more seriously this week. Let's see how I do!

After this short homily of Jesus, all looked intently at him and then began to talk highly of him. They were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. But then they immediately missed the whole point of the homily! They missed it completely! They condescendingly and patronizingly said "Oh, isn't this the son of Joseph?" Thereby meaning "Isn't this Mary and Joe's boy, who grew up down the street? He turned out to be such a nice man, he speaks quite well!"

They missed the point that HE WAS THE LONG-AWAITED MESSIAH! HE WAS THE ANOINTED ONE OF GOD! HE WAS GOD'S SON AND SAVIOR OF THE WORLD – their Savior! THEY DID NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO BEGIN TO BELIEVE IN HIM!

Jesus though, read their thoughts and said, "So, you would like me to do signs and wonders here among you, like I did in Capernaum on my way hereperform a few miracles!" NO PROPHET IS ACCEPTED IN HIS OWN NATIVE PLACE! Even if I did a hundred miracles here you would not believe in me. YOU HAVE NO FAITH! and FAITH IS A REQUIREMENT NOT ONLY FOR MIRACLES BUT FOR THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF SALVATION!

They rose up then and drove him out of the town to a cliff on the top of a hill. They intended to throw him over headlong. But he passed though the midst of them and went away, no doubt shaking his head and saying aloud to himself: "Father, this is not going to be easy, saving your people; especially the ones who want to disqualify themselves from being saved! What can we do for them?

And so, the second point for me to learn as a homilist here today is: after I keep the homily short, make sure it challenges (at least a few) and hope they don't want to throw me off a cliff after Mass.

Just as Jeremiah was called in the first reading to be an unpopular spokesman for God but being promised the powerful aid of God himself to defend him against any assailants, so Jesus was clearly an unpopular spokesman for God his Father and he also had the powerful aid of this Father and the Holy Spirit to help him when he needed it. I believe that I can count on the same protection and guidance.

What it was that Jesus was speaking was none other than TRUTH, not the truth, or a truth, but just plain Truth: Jesus spoke TRUTH about everything, because he was around when everything was made (as Word of God) and so he knows thoroughly and absolutely how everything works and is supposed to work together – especially matters of dealing with God and other people. Those unwilling to hear Truth will be unwilling to hear Jesus, or anyone speaking what Jesus would have them speak –and a variety of reactions and responses could be forthcoming, some even involving cliffs, both real and symbolic.

Jesus spoke TRUTH, but he was also Truth in the Flesh; he was also LOVE, and thus Love in the Flesh: so when one is open to Love, one is open to Truth, one is open to Jesus. Our second reading today tells us that the powers of faith and hope are very important, but the power of love is most important: the kind of love that is risk-taking, self-sacrificing and totally other-oriented.

May we be open in the next weeks as the first stage of Ordinary Time winds down and Lent begins, to hear what the Spirit of God has to say to us individually and as a group when we come here on Sundays. Hopefully you will hear something that you do not know, something that you may have forgotten, something that you might initially "disagree" with. None of us are the same as we were last year at this time – and so God's Word and explanations will affect us differently this year. But if we are open to change and growth, then maybe with the grace of God we will change and grow and become more the image that God has in mind for us to become: an amazing image of a holy, caring and joyful, saintly person!

God bless you!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Homily – January 29, 2010 – Third Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

+ In the first reading we have the screenplay for a tv series called: "Ancient Housewives" – with King David, Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba playing the main roles. The only difference is this is for real and the intrigue and deception involved had major consequences. The simple plot is that David wanted Bathsheba for his wife, who was already married, so he arranged to have her husband killed, oh, and he also found out she was carrying his child. And so it happened. But, what sets this apart from contemporary television is that David – an inherently religious man – knew not only that he had done something that could be considered "illegal" but the same act was also something SINFUL. I can think of no modern television dramas that even remotely refer to SIN. David knew that he had sinned in a triple manner here. He lusted after Bathsheba from afar, he had relations with her in secret and he killed her husband.

But David's conscience soon kicked in and he realized what he had done – he saw it most importantly as SIN – and he proclaimed it as such – and he cried out to God: Be merciful, O Lord, for I have sinned! Thus he composes the beautiful 50th psalm which is heart-felt and shows true desire for repentance: Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense and my sin is before me always. And God did wash away his guilt, forgave him and restored him to his place among his people!

May we be willing to acknowledge our offenses – call sin, sin – and be willing to accept whatever consequences our sinfulness may have generated. God will be merciful to us, in his own way – and will restore us as he wills – if we are truly contrite of heart!

In the gospel passage we see Jesus using parables to preach the Good News, the Gospel, the Reality of the Kingdom of God. As he desires to get the message across that the Lord is truly kind and merciful, compassionate and forgiving to all who ask for it – he uses analogies and comparisons couched in stories that the people can understand. Today he says that the Kingdom grows and becomes what it is supposed to become like a seed that is planted in the ground and slowly becomes what it is intended to become without anyone really knowing exactly all the minute details. These details are not as important as the fact that it happens under the guidance of a Master Gardner!

The Kingdom is also like a tiny seed that when planted and grown becomes a very large plant so that a great number of birds can come and dwell in its shade. We are the birds; the Church, is the plant, the Kingdom. It is up to us to fly to the tree, and call other birds to come join us! It is a very wonderful plant and it will be protected always by the watchful eye of the Master Gardner!

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homily – January 28, 2010 – St. Thomas Aquinas

+ St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. Living in the thirteenth century, Thomas was placed in the Benedictine Monastery of Monte Casino at the age of five, for his education. He was a excellent student from the start, as well as a virtuous young man. At the age of seventeen he decided to become a Dominican at Naples, but his family tried to dissuade him. True to his calling Thomas remained constant to his life of poverty, chastity and obedience and his vocation.

Thomas then went to Cologne, Germany and studied with the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two he was appointed to teach in the same city. He was ordained a priest shortly after that and after four years he was sent to Paris. At the age of thirty-one he received his doctorate.

At Paris, Thomas was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Pope Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. He was offered the position of archbishop of Naples which he flatly refused. St. Thomas not only wrote enormous volumes explaining the relationship of God with his world but he did so with amazing brilliance of thought and lucidity of language (a sure sign that he was deeply inspired by the Holy Spirit), but he was also a great preacher. His greatest work: the "Summa Theologica" is unfinished as he died before completing it, in 1274. He was canonized in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567. He is the patron saint of universities and students.

The first reading today tells us quite certainly how Thomas Aquinas received the depth of insight into the nature of God that he had: he prayed for wisdom and he got it! It was as simple as that! Who is to say that we cannot do the same thing and get the same results? The catch may be that Thomas took the time to wait for wisdom to come and to display her array of wares; maybe if we give her time, she can do the same for us! And then we, like Thomas, will know more deeply who God is, how he operates, who we are, and how we are meant to interact with God and with one another!

In the gospel passage Jesus directs us, however, to be always humble, especially when graced by God with obvious gifts and talents. We must always remember that the Great One who is involved here is God, the Father, in heaven. He is the One Teacher, the One Rabbi, the One Master – but we have in Christ a direct link to him in these roles. Not even Jesus gloried in titles and labels, and so, like his, like Thomas Aquinas', our greatness rests solely in our lowly acceptance of our position of receivers of God's manifold gifts; receivers and users for upbuilding the Kingdom of God!

In the ways of your decrees I rejoice, O Lord; and I am in possession of all riches!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Homily – January 27, 2010 – St. Angela Merici

+ When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was aware that Clement VII was offering her a great honor and a great opportunity to serve when he asked her to take charge of a religious order of nursing sisters. But Angela knew that nursing was not what God had called her to do with her life. She had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land. On the way there she had fallen ill and become blind. Nevertheless, she insisted on continuing her pilgrimage and toured the holy sites with the devotion of her heart rather than her eyes. On the way back she had recovered her sight. But this must have been a reminder to her not to shut her eyes to the needs she saw around her, not to shut her heart to God's call.

All around her hometown she saw poor girls with no education and no hope. In the sixteenth century when she lived, education for women was for the rich or for nuns. Angela herself had learned everything on her own. Now nuns in her day were among the most educated, but they were not allowed to leave the cloister. There was no teaching order of sisters like we have today. And so, Angela brought together some fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the street to gather up the girls they saw and teach them. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedication to education and commitment to Christ. Angela's work impressed many, including the Pope. Although it was never a religious order in her lifetime, Angela's Company of Saint Ursula, or the Ursulines, was the first group of women religious to work outside the cloister and the first teaching order of women. Angela reminds us of her approach to change: "Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force, for God has given every single person free will and desires to constrain none; he merely shows them the way, invites them and counsels them." Saint Angela Merici reassured her Sisters who were afraid to lose her in death: "I shall continue to be alive that I was in this life, and I shall see you better and shall love more the good deed which I shall see you doing continually, and I shall be able to help you more." She died in 1540, at about seventy years of age. Our own St. John's School has been fortunate to have the Ursuline Sisters as teachers there for a great number of years! We remember them on their feast day today!

The gospel passage today tells us about how much Jesus loved children and even equated receiving them and caring for them to receiving and caring for he, himself. May we regard children as such today! Many children are products of happy families and are easy to love and receive. But some are not so easy, due to the circumstances of life. These need to be loved and cared for in even a more special way – if only by prayer and remote support. If they can only sense that others care for them because God had something to do with it, then a lifelong impression may be made on them – and a soul may have been redirected and saved because of our kindness and gentle concern: the same that Saint Angela Merici had for children.

Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Homily – January 26, 2010 – Sts. Timothy and Titus

+ We celebrated yesterday a feast of St. Paul – when we recalled how he was converted to the faith of Christ and then sent on his way to work tirelessly for Jesus and the Christian Way of Life. Today we celebrate the feast of two of Paul's right hand men: Timothy and Titus. Both of these holy men were chosen by Paul to accompany him on his missionary journeys and to be special instruments of God, along with Paul, in establishing the early Christian communities. It was not an easy thing, setting up these communities. And both Timothy and Titus were equal to the task, by the grace of God, to handle delicate matters of faith formation in the churches of Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth and Ephesus. Eventually, both Timothy and Titus became bishops: Timothy of Ephesus, and Titus of Crete.

The first reading today tells of Paul encouraging Timothy to stir into flame the gift of God he had received for the sake of the churches – the gifts of his ordination as bishop. In the hierarchy we find the sure presence of the Spirit of God for the sake of upbuilding the kingdom, the same Spirit that is found in all the members of the Body of Christ which is the Church. May we each today accept the role God has given us in his Body so that the Kingdom of God may be built even more today than yesterday, and so that we ourselves may be holier today than we were yesterday!

God has indeed come to save us from all we need saving from! Let us go forth from this Mass to proclaim this marvelous deed of God to all the nations – beginning with the people we see right here in our own midst!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Homily – January 25, 2010 – The Conversion of St. Paul

+ Today we celebrate the familiar event of the conversion of St. Paul. It was one of the most dramatic conversion experiences in Church history. It was considered such not only because of the manner in which it happened, but also the range of effect that it had on other people: all other people. Saul was a well-educated young Jewish man who wanted nothing other than to uphold and defend his Jewish roots in the face of this "new Way" that arose surrounding the life and death of a fellow Jew: Jesus Christ. Saul, at that point was not graced to see "what was what" – and so he went so far as to persecute the very first Christians; having them dragged from their homes and ill-treated. But then one day God decided to convince Saul in a very unforgettable way that he was displeased with what he was doing, and that he had other plans for Saul's enthusiasm. And so, he saw to it that Saul was blinded by the Great Light of Grace: the grace of the Holy Spirit, stopped quite literally in his tracks, made dependent on others for his well-being, temporarily, and then given the opportunity to respond to grace-calling and knocking on the door of his soul. And Saul responded rightly. He opened his mind and heart to the presence of God and his Spirit; he entered into a new relationship with the person of the Risen Lord Jesus which was real and unmistakable. And from then on, he fulfilled his true vocation of being an Apostle to the Gentiles. His name was changed to Paul and he became a Teacher to the Gentiles that all are to be united in Christ (as many members form one body), and that the new law of love and service to one another and to all was the hallmark of God-like, God-pleasing living; and that the Holy Spirit was to be the guiding force and strength behind all Christian planning, design, and action.

Paul founded various communities of "believers in Jesus" and his activity of doing so and correspondences with them became an actual part of New Testament Scripture. As Paul was sent, so we are sent at the end of each Mass we attend to bear fruit that will last by our acts of charity and service! May we, with all Christians, proclaim the Gospel to every creature and encourage belief in God, who can reward their belief by salvation and an assured place in a heavenly homeland.

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homily – January 24, 2010 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ In today's gospel passage we have Jesus' very first homily – and it only contained nine words! After reading a specifically chosen passage in the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord – rolling up the scroll, and handing it back to the attendant, he sat down and said: "TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE PASSAGE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING!" That was it! That was Jesus' first homily! And it was probably the most powerful homily ever delivered by anyone at any time.

This homily was announcing not only to those gathered, but also to the whole world: I AM THE ANOINTED SERVANT OF THE LORD! I AM THE LONG-AWAITED MESSIAH! I AM YOUR SAVIOR! It is I who will bring amazing glad tidings of happiness to the poor. It is I who will proclaim loudly liberty to those held captive by sin. It is I who will provide recovery of sight to the spiritually blind. It is I who will let the intellectually, emotionally and psychologically oppressed go free. It is I who will announce the jubilee year of amnesty and grace. I AM GOD'S SON! – I CAN DO THIS! I AM HERE FOR YOU – DO YOU BELIEVE IT?

Everyone there stared at him intently – and looked around at one another – and they were astonished at what they heard. This does not mean that they believed any of it, but there were dumbfounded at the way in which he spoke!

Another lesson that can be drawn here is that a good homily is often the short homily! My New Year's Homiletic Resolution is to get more quickly to the point and then sit down. I will begin this NEXT WEEK!

And so the first point of my homily today is: JESUS IS THE ONE! He is not only the one for his own people, but he is the one for all people.

The second point refers to the period before Jesus came when all the people of God had to know they belonged to God was the law that was given at Mt Sinai to Moses and all of the prescriptions that were derived from it. The heart of the matter here is that the people were willing to be in a relationship with God based on an external set of rules: this, though not ideal, was at least something for them to hold on to. And we can see from the first reading today that they took the reading of the law very seriously. But it was Nehemiah and Ezra who told the men, women children old enough to understand that when they heard the law of God read they should not be sad and weep (mostly thinking about how they disobeyed it continually), but rather on that day they were to rejoice – for the day was holy – and they were to go and have rich feast – because from then on "rejoicing in the Lord must be their strength!" This scene has everything to do with Jesus as well. He is not only the law of God in the flesh – but he is also the new and simplified law of God: which is simply LOVE. When we love God and love others as we love ourselves – as we have been loved by God in the dramatic way in which we have been – then we experience what being redeemed and saved is all about.

The third point of today's homily is this: Jesus set up a way for us to live out the new law, his command of love, in a very personal way. He had the wonderful idea of actually making us spiritually a very real part of his very real spiritual self. This happens initially at our baptism. We become among other things an integral and necessary part of the very Mystical Body of Christ: a holy and spiritual but very experiential and tangible sort of Body – that manifests itself as the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ,
because we are the Body of Christ. And unless we celebrate that fact and live that fact that we are truly the Body of Christ, then the Communion, the Body of Christ made present in bread, does not really mean anything at all.

Each member of the Body of Christ is necessary to it; the Church depends on our active commitment to our Baptismal and Confirmation duties and responsibilities. Our second reading today tells us that just as the body has many members, they are all of equal value because they form the one body, and the body would be incomplete and less than it could be without it. Each of us has a gift or two to share with everyone else – out of love for God and one another. May we help Jesus in his mission as Messiah, Liberator, Healer and Constant Friend to All by being his Body, by being willing to be used by him in any way he wants when we leave here today.

Yes, this day is holy to the Lord! The reading of the scriptures ought not make us weep and be sad because we do not live up to what it says. It ought to instead inspire us to take the hand of Jesus and walk through our days doing great things for him and his Father with the help of their Spirit.

The Lord sent YOU to bring glad tidings to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to captives! And the end of this Mass GO in peace to love and serve God as you love as serve any brother or sister in need!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Homily – January 22, 2010 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

+ Today we have Saul and his thousands of soldiers hot on the heels of David and his men. Though David was once almost like a favored son to Saul, he was such no longer. Now as it happened Saul walked right into the same cave that David was occupying. David even got close enough to cut off the end of his Saul's mantle. Outside the cave David called to Saul and told him what he had done; that he was close enough, when he cut off the mantle, to kill him if he wanted to, but he chose to do no harm to Saul because he was anointed king of the people. Saul then realized the purity of intention in David's heart and praised him for his compassion and generosity – and told him that he would surely be King and sovereign over Israel one day. It is from the line of David, this compassionate and generous King, that Jesus would come, the most compassionate and generous and loving King of all – who would have mercy on us all – us, who deserved anything but compassion, generosity and love because of the sinful state in which we originated.

But, Jesus, Son of David, came to reconcile the world to himself, and then entrust the message and ministry of reconciliation to others: to his chosen ones: beginning with Simon, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, another James, Thaddeus, another Simon and Judas. Iscariot. These are their successors, the bishops and priests of today have delivered and preserved the wonderful message and experience of reconciliation represented daily in the very Mass that we celebrate – but we charge you here present to take that same message and experience of being forgiven, restored and renewed, into your world when you leave here – so that no one you come into contact with will have any reason to lose hope, feel unwelcome or count themselves out of the human family!

Yes, God reconciles the world to himself in Christ, and he entrusts to us the message and experience of reconciliation!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homily – January 21, 2010 – St. Agnes

+ St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her faith in the early 4th century. Agnes had made a promise to God never to stain her purity. Many men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only spouse." When she refused the Governor's son, however, she was condemned to death. Even the executioners begged her to save herself, but Agnes told them: "I would offend my Spouse if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!"

Agnes truly found the "treasure buried in a field" and "the pearl of great price" of the gospel passage. She could not be deterred from possessing them completely – come what may!

The first reading today speaks of God calling the weak and the foolish of the world to shame the strong and to bring them to nothing. Agnes always strong to defend her faith and boasted in the Lord for the strength to do it– and she was rewarded. She gained the crown of martyrdom and a place with her groom at the eternal wedding banquet.

Just as God called Agnes to a life and death of purity and holiness, so he also calls us. May we – remaining in his love – attain our place, with Agnes, with all the saints, and with Jesus our Bridegroom when the time comes for us to go to meet him – because of our holiness of life and purity of intention!

The Lord is our shepherd; there is not one thing that we could want other than him!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homily – January 20, 2010 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ Our gospel passage today finds Jesus in the early days of his public ministry already being plotted against by the Pharisees. They could sense immediately that his words and deeds were qualitatively different from any other man's. They were threatened by his ease of authority and jurisdiction over the forces of nature and soul. They erroneously saw Jesus as a threat to the established order of Judaism rather than its fulfillment. Jesus was the figure of David his ancestor come to right the world with a single blow to the forehead of Satan – but they would have him be an ordinary man with ordinary abilities and talents such as they themselves had.

One by one Jesus begins to change the lives of those whom he had come to save: today, the man with the withered hand. Hopefully the man lived a reformed life with his restored hand, hopefully he was an example for others to believe that the long-awaited Messiah had truly come, salvation, redemption and healing were now available – and would be so for the asking!

May we today believe in Jesus, ask his help, receive it when he gives it and help him continue to slay the phantom giant evil one who has already been mortally wounded by Jesus Christ, Son of God, of the House of David.

Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Homily – January 19, 2010 – Second Week in Ordinary Time

+ We have two very different but beautiful readings today. The first reading is about the finalization of the rejection of Saul as King of Israel (because he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed a direct command of God), and the choosing of a new king to succeed him. Out of all the sons of Jesse, the one who was to be selected was not even present at the initial meeting between Samuel, the prophet of God, and Jesse. It was the youngest, who was out in the fields tending the flocks of sheep that was God's choice. This was David – who would be one of the greatest kings – and a sure forerunner of his own descendant, Jesus who would be King, Messiah, Shepherd and Friend of all Mankind. It was a great day when David was anointed king. It was a greater day when Jesus was born. It is the greatest day when any of us accepts Jesus for who he is our King, our Messiah, our Shepherd, our Friend sent by God his Father and ours. May that day be this day for us!

The gospel passage shows the stature and jurisdiction that Jesus had as Son of God and Son of Man. He was Lord of everything and everyone – not excluding grain in the fields, and the show bread that was kept in the house of God which was to be eaten only by the priests. When hunger was present to Jesus and his disciples he allowed them to pick and eat the heads of grain in the fields as they walked through them on a Sabbath. Jesus defended his lordship over the Sabbath and all activities in it by a simple statement: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He also defended common sense over rigid religious legalism at the same time. Love and care for others (feeding the hungry) always comes first on any day of the week!

God found David his servant, when and where he was meant to be found doing his work in the fields; may God find us this day at work doing what he calls us to do as well and may he use us like he used David to do great things for others – even if in small ways!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homily – January 18, 2010 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ In the unfolding of the history of salvation, today we see Samuel, a messenger of the Lord, confronting Saul with his sinfulness, with his disobedience to what God had asked him and intended him to do as leader of his people. Samuel agreed that Saul fought the battle he was directed to fight, but when it was over he overstepped his bounds by taking from the spoil sheep and oxen and the best of what had been banned to sacrifice to the Lord in Gilgal. Samuel then said: Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. For sin is rebellion, and presumption is idolatry. Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he, too, has rejected you as ruler. Since God sees the whole picture, he wants us to obey what he tells us to do in fulfilling the plans he has for us, which are each integral parts to the whole picture – otherwise, the picture will be imperfect – and will take that much longer to correct and mend.

In the gospel passage there is the mentality of the new apparently replacing the old: what is of John and the Old Testament, replaced by Jesus and the New Testament. So long as the new finds its roots in the old and is but a development and evidenced growth of it – it must be welcomed like shrunken cloth mending an old cloak, and new wine poured into new wineskins.

May we this day – rooted in all of the best of our faith – allow the Lord to touch our hearts to further develop, build and apply what he has already given us – for our good, for the good of the whole church, and the good of the whole world.

The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Homily – January 17, 2010 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ We have heard often of the scene in today's gospel passage: Jesus attending the wedding feast at Cana. But if we really stop to think about it, some of the implications in this account are quite astounding: first of all this is Jesus' first big dinner party since his Baptism and the inauguration of his public ministry (which we celebrated last week). And here at this feast, at least three important things happen:

  1. First of all, by his very presence and interest in what was going on here,
    Jesus takes marriage, the sacred bond between husband and wife that was instituted by his Father in the very beginning, and raises it to the dignity of a sacrament: assuring his very presence to those contracting Christian marriages when later he would found his Church
  2. Secondly, Jesus obeys his mother who asks him to perform a miracle of providing wine, as the supply had run out, and the bride and groom stood to be embarrassed by this oversight. But what this implied is that his "hour" of "concentrating fully" on our salvation would now be moved back three years to this very moment. Jesus asks his mother if she was sure she wanted him to do this. Mary did not answer Jesus directly, but she did tell the stewards to: do whatever he tells you. These are Mary's last recorded words in scripture. These words then were meant not only for the wine stewards but also for whoever hears them – we must always do whatever he tells us, when he tells us.
    1. And, from that moment everything became different between Mary and Jesus, and between everyone else and Jesus. Jesus is now not only the Anointed One (sent to bring glad tidings to the poor), but also now The Suffering Servant (sent to die for us and for our salvation). Jesus went from being Son of Mary, to Son of Man!
    2. And - just as he now miraculously, and with great ease, changes water into wine - at the Last Supper he would change wine into blood – the same blood that he would shed the next day: for us and our salvation – out of obedience to his Father and out of love for us!
  3. Thirdly, the sign of the good wine saved until the end is an obvious reference to his coming at all: the best and most eloquent of all of the priests, prophets and kings of ancient days was Jesus, to whom they pointed, whose coming they foretold – who was the very Victim and Sacrifice they offered, the very words they prophesied, the very concept of a kingdom that they proclaimed.

And so, Jesus accepted the direct opening of the narrow highway that would lead him to the cross, on that day in Cana of Galilee. He had serious work to do, beginning right then and there; but he was so very happy to do it. To him he was truly like a bridegroom who rejoiced as he prepared to meet his bride for a great wedding feast. The bride is the Church. The bride is us. And one day we shall enter into that great Nuptial Wedding Feast in the Kingdom - which is being prepared for us right now! Jesus has done his part already! We do our part by using the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the second reading today – gifts which have as their goal upbuilding the family of God in all charity: us, the Bride of Christ and the cherished object of the Father's eye!

God has called us through the Gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ – may we respond affirmatively to the invitation and show our gratitude for what Jesus has done for us - beginning on that day in Cana of Galilee, by allowing the Spirit to move us to great works for God and for all, especially for those who are in most need of our help!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Homily – January 15, 2010 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

+ In our first reading today we see the people of God demonstrating their propensity to be self-seeking, self-gratifying and very controlling. They had listened to and heeded Samuel's words because they knew him to be a true prophet of the Lord – but now that Samuel was getting old they wanted a replacement of their own specifications, qualifications and choosing. This would get them into unforeseen difficult situations for a very long time. They who would insist on having a king to rule us and lead us in warfare and fight our battles – so that we can be like our neighbors – like the other nations – would find themselves very much under a yoke of submission and slavery to such a king. Such a king would order sons and daughters about; appoint commanders of the armies, control the plowing and harvesting, be in charge of making weapons of war, make their daughters ointment makers, cooks and bakers, assign the best of their fields, vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials, tithe the crops and give the revenue to slaves. And when they would complain, God would not answer them!

Samuel warned the people that these things would happen but they did not care – all they were interested in was becoming an earthly nation among earthly nations – thus disenfranchising themselves from their spiritual heritage, calling and destiny! It is a SPIRITUAL KINGDOM that is most important. But this people were blind to this reality – and so they got their kings and they got the troubles that went along with the kings. If only they had seen the handwriting on the wall, the Old Testament could have been much shorter.

It is easy to look back and see this people's foolishness – but we must not count ourselves as different from them so easily. In the gospel passage Jesus tells us more about the SPIRITUAL KINGDOM that he has come to inaugurate. Today he cures a paralyzed man and forgives his sins at the same time. An earthly king could actually do neither of these things. But Jesus did them easily because he was the King of Kings – he was the Gentle Shepherd of Souls. Some did begin to believe in Jesus by means of this display of kindness and power – but many still wanted to have things their own way like the Old Testament people who insisted on having a king of their own crafting – a king who enslaves – a king who provides no guarantee of a secure and protected future.

May we choose Jesus as our King today and knowingly submit to having things his way because his kingdom is one of freedom and love, justice and peace! And he shall lead us on to everlasting green pastures of refreshment and joy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homily – January 14, 2010 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

+ Our first reading today tells of the woes of the people of Israel in the face of their opponents, the Philistines. Even when they brought the Ark of the Lord into the thick of the battle with them, it did not prove to be enough to defeat the enemy. And even the Ark itself was captured by the enemy. Something was still missing. What could it be? Perhaps, it was a strong leader, chosen specially by God, to lead the people of Israel to victory! We will see in subsequent readings in the coming days what happens.

It is true that God is interested in the general welfare of his people and the very fact that they exist in a condition of freedom and ability to worship him as they would. But he is also interested very much in his original plan to free them from sin and its effects. This is shown in the gospel passage today, when Jesus, the ultimate one chosen by God to lead his people to victory, easily heals a leper. He could have forgiven his sins also with great ease as he did with others – sometimes even at the same time as he healed their bodies.

For Jesus, the wholeness and total health of a person is what is important; even if in this life it is but a temporary kind of wholeness and health. What it points to is of greater value: everlasting wholeness, fullness and completion that can only be gotten to by obedience to the conditions of the Father's plan of salvation!

May we this day cooperate and do our part in eliciting the aid of God, Jesus, and their Spirit as we attempt to live morally and spiritually victorious lives in the face of the wiles of the enemy that still roams about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Protect us, Lord and redeem us, because of your mercy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homily – January 13, 2010 – First Week of Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ Jesus did not come to be a worker of wonders. He did come though to convince the world that God his Father and theirs loved them and would be faithful to his promise of mercy and redemption. Accompanying his words, and deeds of mercy, however, at times, were actions of healing. Just as Jesus had mastery and authority over words, he also had mastery and authority over nature and could affect healings very easily. We see him doing so in the gospel passage today. One thing led to another when he visited Simon and Andrew's house –and soon the whole town was outside his door wanting healing from something. Would that we can count ourselves among them: each of us has something to be healed, something to be recalibrated, something to be fine tuned.

After this encounter, and healing session with the people, Jesus withdraws to a deserted place to pray. He spends quiet, quality time with his Father and the Holy Spirit. He is refreshed and renewed and refocused: he, with Samuel of the first reading today, says to God: Here I am Lord, I come to do your will: speak Lord, your servant is listening. And God does speak and then Jesus goes off to the other towns and villages to preach, teach, and drive out demons there as well. One village is not enough; they all need him, we all need him – and he is willing to do what he can for us if we approach him with simple faith, hope and trust!

We are like sheep who recognize the voice of our shepherd: Christ the Lord. Let us follow him into everlasting life!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Homily – January 12, 2010 – First Week of Ordinary Time - Tuesday

+ This is the second day now in the new "green season" of Ordinary Time: ordinary, meaning, counting: we are simply counting the days until the end of this new year of grace. During the year we will watch the ministry of Jesus unfold, all leading to his life-giving, sin-forgiving death on a cross. But then will come his resurrection from the dead and the direct application of all that he ever said and did: which will include our own baptisms into his life. If we want it, and if we believe, and if we ask – he can make all the difference in our lives – both here and hereafter.

The intervention of God in the lives of his people is not an unusual thing. We can see that through tears and prayers, Hannah had her request from God granted – she bore a son, she who was thought to be barren. God hears the cry of his children, and he does what he can to help them out. God made all the difference in Hannah's world, and he can make all the difference in ours: if we turn to him trustingly, faithfully and prayerfully!

In the gospel passage today, everyone was amazed at Jesus who spoke and taught with authority – and had power even over unclean spirits. May we listen to him today – and may he heal us of what we need healing for and cleanse our spirits of what is not of God, so we can offer him and his Father due and fitting praise and thanks!

Our hearts exult in the Lord, our Savior.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Homily – January 11, 2010 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ This is the first day of "ordinary time" in the new "year of grace" that God is giving us to live. "Ordinary" in this case means: "counting:" we are counting the days simply until year's end and we summarize all of the graces and blessing we have received because we were attentive to the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, in hopefully a deeper way this year than last.

After John the Baptist is imprisoned, thus marking the end of his public work, Jesus comes to Galilee (our gospel passage tells us) proclaiming the Gospel of God (his Father): "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." Then Jesus begins selecting his inner band of close followers whom he would train specifically to understand and then to proclaim the same message to others when his earthly life is finished.

And so Simon, Andrew, James and John, among others, followed Jesus when he called them – abandoned what they were doing and planning to do – and freely gave Jesus permission to train them for great works in "the business of saving souls."

One of the reasons that we come to church weekly or daily is to hear the proclamation of the same Gospel of God (and have it explained to us): THIS IS THE TIME OF FULFILLMENT. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL! The message is exactly the same – but this time the proclaimers are meant to be both those duly ordained to do so, but also everyone who repents, believes and is baptized – so that by the encouragement of example, others, many others in the world, will want to benefit from the amazing experience of life in the Kingdom of God, life in Jesus, life in the family of God!

The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Homily – January 10, 2010 – The Baptism of the Lord

+ It is not a secret in the world of business that "silent partners" exist. In fact most businesses, large and small have such partners. These are usually the ones who actually carry a lot of weight in the company, but do so behind the scenes – in an almost invisible and oft-times forgotten sort of way. The "front people" – the ones that you see physically are obvious and their words and deeds are out there for the world to see – but they would really have little power to do anything without the silent partners.

Did you ever stop to think that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are actually "in the business of saving our souls," saving our necks from eternal loss and separation from them. God the Father is the "Idea-Man," God the Son, Jesus, is the "Front-Man – The Man in the Trenches" and God the Holy Spirit is the "Silent Partner." All three of them are required to be fully functional, of their own free will, for the "business to be successful," in order for us to be saved!

It was always God the Father's plan, idea, to save his wayward children after the Original Sin. Jesus volunteered to be the "front-man, the man in the trenches," the man sent by God to accomplish our redemption by a brutal death on a cross. The Holy Spirit promised to be with Jesus every step of the way, helping him in everything he ever thought, said and did as Messiah, Redeemer and Friend of Mankind. When things got rough for Jesus, especially towards the end, it was the Holy Spirit who consoled him and reminded him of how much his Father loved him and how pleased he was with what he was doing for his errant brothers and sisters!

Our readings today tell us quite plainly of such a "spiritual business arrangement!" Having just celebrated the Season of the Father's Gift: Jesus, born in Bethlehem – one day to die in Jerusalem on a mount called Calvary -we now see Jesus coming forth at age thirty ready to "get to work," ready to "do his Father's business" as he announced he would be doing when he was found in the Temple when he was 12 years old. And so he came to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John, who was his herald: the one chosen by the Father to literally point to him and tell everyone that he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah: the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world! And after Jesus was baptized the "Silent Partner" showed up in a majestic show of brightness and form (the figure of a dove) – also sent by the Father – to tell all of us that Jesus' Reign and Kingdom would be a spiritual one – and that He would be helping Jesus in everything, in every way! Then the Father himself, the "very loving Idea Man" spoke, in fact thundered regarding Jesus: YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON; WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED!

The Family of God Business was now open and operating: and Jesus set out to be what he was prophesied to be: a light for all the nations; one who would open the eyes of the spiritually blind, release those imprisoned by their own selfishness and sinfulness, and bring out from the dungeon of their own making, those who live in the darkness of intellectual stubbornness and blindness.

As we begin a new year of watching the life and ministry of Jesus unfold, may we remember the three partners in this family business who will make it all happen: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: The Idea Man, The Front Man (The Man in the Trenches), and the Silent Partner! And we must not forget that because of our baptisms we actually are a part of the family business as well – and we get all of the benefits that Jesus and the Spirit have to offer – if we cooperate and do our assigned jobs as salesmen and promoters of this magnificent family business!

Let us be grateful! Let us rejoice! Let us live like we are members of God's family during this new year of grace, especially using the amazing power of that same Silent Partner who was with Jesus every step of the way, The Holy Spirit, who has been gifted to us so we can truly live Christ-like lives!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Homily – January 8, 2010 – Friday after Epiphany

+ Sometimes when we hear this gospel passage we feel sorry for the man with the leprosy, who humbles himself to ask Jesus to cure him. We somehow think of him as different from ourselves. We think of him as inferior to us in some way. But we must realize that his leprosy represents each one of us and our sins. And we all sin and have sins. Therefore we must all look on each other with kindness and compassion, just as Jesus looked upon the man, and just as Jesus looks upon us! The man in the passage teaches us how to approach Jesus: with humility, prostrating ourselves before him, making a heartfelt plea for healing and forgiveness. And Jesus cannot refuse such a request – for this is why he came into the world: to free those held captive by sin, to heal those variously afflicted of every disease. Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the man, and said: "I do will for you to be cured. Be made clean." And he was made clean.

Once healed and forgiven, like the man in the gospel passage, we must get back to the Christian spiritual business of professing our faith as we live in the world and helping to transform the world by simply loving and friending those God puts in our path! Our lives are not meant to be our own; we are meant to be there for one another!

Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people: we can help him by giving our lives completely to him for his use!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Homily – January 7, 2009 – Thursday after the Epiphany

+ The Christmas Season is now over and we are gearing up for the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus on Sunday, and then the annual retelling of his life, death and resurrection events. We recall today that Jesus indeed is the long-awaited Messiah, he is the light to the nations, and the glory of Israel – though for some reason known only to God his own people still have not received him. But he is the one sent to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives in a way that no one else could do it: in a way that would give real and lasting spiritual sight to the spiritually blind, and to release everyone captured by sin – if they wanted to be released.

The first reading from John tells us what life as a spiritual sighted person is all about: it means seeing that love is where it truly is at: it was God's love that produced Jesus, it is in the dynamic of love that we experience both God and Jesus, it is in loving that we give both God and our neighbor what is their due!

If we say we love God and hate anyone, then we are liars! Maybe in this new year of grace we can more easily line up our love for God with our love for our neighbors, near and far; maybe we can more deeply have this amazing experience of "love, deep in the heart of God, which is an expansive and giving kind of thing." It takes effort on our part – it takes putting our faith into action: but isn't that what being a Christian is all about?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Homily – January 6, 2009 – Blessed Andre Bessette

+ Our saint for today, Blessed Andre Bessette is one of the most beloved in Church history – once you get to know him! He was born in a little town in Canada near Montreal in 1845 – and before his death in 1937 he lived an extraordinarily ordinary life! He simply wanted to join the Congregation of Holy Cross and be a teaching brother. However, his health would not allow him to do what he intended to do; but God had other plans for Alfred Bessette. He would take vows as a Holy Cross Brother – but armed only with his love for God and extraordinary devotion to St. Joseph he would be assigned the job of porter (doorman) at Notre Dame College for boys in Montreal. He would live in a tiny cell near the door. He would greet visitors and guests – and would also take care of other small chores at the college – such as giving haircuts to the boys! But he would also do o so much more!

Having such great devotion to St. Joseph, Brother Andre wanted to make the saint more known and loved, and so he asked the Archbishop of Montreal if a small chapel could be built on the hill across the street from the college to honor St. Joseph. The Archbishop agreed "so long as I would not have to pay for it, and it never went into debt." Collecting nickels and dimes Andre financed the building of the first wooden chapel.

When devotion to St. Joseph did increase, and people came by the hundred to the small shrine – and miracles began to be reported – Andre approached the Archbishop again to ask if the chapel could be enlarged. And again the Archbishop agreed so long as it was fully funded by private contributions. Soon plans were made and the edifice of what we now know of as St. Joseph Oratory began to arise on that hillside.

All the while Brother Andre, while being the chief fund-raiser for the shrine – also continued his job as porter, barber – and now counselor, friend, and healer for those who would come knocking on his door at the college. But he made it very clear that any healing that was done – was done entirely through the intercession of his beloved friend, St. Joseph.

Finally after living 91 years – most of them with severe, chronic stomach pain – Brother Andre died just a few years before the completion of his beloved shrine to St. Joseph. He did live, though, to see the large statue of St. Joseph mounted on top of the copper dome. Over a million mourners paid their respects at the time of his passing. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and it has just been announced by Pope Benedict XVI last week that Blessed Brother Andre will be canonized in this very new year of 2010. How exciting this is for all who have devotion both to him and to St. Joseph!

The life of Brother Andre is a prime example of the communion of saints to which we all belong. The saints in heaven and on earth unite to do God's will – and even in the face of insurmountable odds accomplish great things: because it is God who is accomplishing them through human weakness.

May we this day, as friends of the saints in heaven, and one another on earth pledge ourselves to doing God's will as he would have it done, with the strength he provides, shining through our weakness – until our last breath!

In the gospel passage today we heard how at Jesus' baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from the heavens said: "You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased." No doubt Blessed, and soon the be Saint, Andre Bessette heard the same thing when he crossed over into eternal life. May we do God's will with all our might and hear the very same said to us on the day of our transition.

Blessed Brother Andre Bessette, Miracle Man of Montreal, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Homily – January 5, 2010 – St. John Neumann

+ Today's saint, John Neumann was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained a priest in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. Bohemia was overstocked with priests, as was much of Europe, so it seemed that all doors to follow his vocation seemed closed in his face. But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishop in America. Finally, the bishop of New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God's call to the priesthood, John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.

In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John's parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor, but that didn't matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned. John was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. He increased the number of Catholic school in his diocese from two to 100.

The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

John died unexpectedly on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48. To the surprise on many, half the city's population came the funeral. The mayor, police and fire brigades, a brass band, and a battalion of military, civic and Catholic societies were on hand to pay a final tribute. He was buried, as he requested, in the Redemptorist church of St. Peter under the altar of the lower church. He was canonized on June 17, 1977.

The gospel passage today speaks of Jesus calling Nathanael to be one of his apostles along with Peter, Andrew, James and John. Nathanael was the curious intellectual type, as was St. John Neumann. Both set their course following their Lord, Messiah, Master and Teacher. Both were not disappointed in their choice. As apostles they all were sent to teach how God's love entered the world in a very special way on Christmas night and that only those who love in kind are the ones who can understand anything at all about it. May we be among them today! May our loving thoughts, words and deeds prove that we "get" the whole purpose of Christmas – may we spread love, good-will and peace to all we meet as did St. John Neumann of Philadelphia!

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Homily – January 4, 2010 – St. Elizabeth Seton

+ Today's saint, the first we celebrate in the New Year, is Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

She was born in New York City in 1774. She grew up in the "cream" of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels. In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she became older the Bible became her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life. In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. With him she had five children. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. But earthly happiness was soon interrupted by many deaths and partings, including her father-in-law, and not too long after, her beloved husband Will. He succumbed to tuberculosis while in Italy where the Seton's traveled as a way to help Will's condition. It was at this time that she more closely than ever accepted The Will of God – she embraced this Will and it would be a keynote in her spiritual life. Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church. Elizabeth's desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the Catholic Church. Having prayed to the Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith, Elizabeth Seton finally joined the Catholic Church in 1805.

At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school system in America. On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was called Mother Seton.

Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. The Motherhouse for these new Daughters of Charity was Emmitsburg, Maryland. Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975.

Our first reading today from the first Letter of John, in a way, summarizes Mother Seton's teaching mission: to encourage men and women to become children of God, rather than children of the Devil; and to demonstrate by her own example that true children of God act virtuously and in a way that pleases God, contrary to the children of the Devil who please themselves and disappoint God in a big way!

The gospel passage today talks about the irresistible persuasive power of Jesus' presence and words – the gentle authority of his spirit and his speech made people want to spend more time with him – to learn more about him – such as might be the mission of Catholic education: "Come and spend time with me, come and listen to what I have to say, come and watch how I practice what I preach!" This is what Jesus had in store for the very first Christian school: a seminary for his Apostles: this is what he has in store for any who choose to take the time and enroll in his program!

St. Elizabeth Seton, pray for us today that we may see Christ as The Teacher, and the Will of His Father as the primary subject to be learned from him!

In these last days, God has spoken to us through the Son.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Homily – January 1, 2010 – The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God

+ A week ago today we celebrated a "feast of Jesus": his birthday; today we celebrate the "feast of the one who gave birth to him": his Holy and Immaculate, Virgin Mother: Mary: wife of Joseph of Nazareth of the House of David. It is really an amazing feast honoring the Mother of Jesus, who was also the Mother of God!

Mary is the greatest of the Church's saints, and "Mother of God" (Theotokos) is the highest of her titles. It is the basis for every other title and dignity accorded to her. Although she was the Mother of God from the moment she conceived Jesus in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, her motherhood of God was not formally recognized by the Church until the first half of the fifth century, in response to a theological controversy that focused not upon her, but upon her Son.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, argued that there are two whole and distinct natures in Christ, one human and one divine, each having its own "personal" manifestation. For him, and others like him, to say that "God has suffered" and "God was nursed at his mother's breast" were offensive because they seemed to deny the full meaning of the Incarnation. Nestorius wanted to emphasize that the Son of God really took on our humanity, but he went overboard. This meant that it was Jesus (the human person), not the Second Person of the Trinity, who nursed at his mother's breast and who later suffered on the cross. According to Nestorius, Mary was the mother of the human person Jesus, and not of the Son of God, since a true mother should be of the same essence as what is born of her.

A crisis erupted when in his preaching, Nestorius publicly denied to Mary the title: "Mother of God" calling her instead the mother of Christ (Christotokos).

To make a long story short, Nestorius was condemned at the church Council of Ephesus in 431. This council condemned his views and deposed him as patriarch of Constantinople.

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (which we recite at Sunday Mass and on Solemnities) was established at this council at it was made clear that Jesus had two natures: one human (of Jesus Emmanuel) and one divine (of the Word of God that was with God in the beginning), but only one Person. Therefore, Mary could rightly be considered Mother of God.

At the Cross, Jesus extended the Motherhood of God, to the Motherhood of the Church when he gave his own mother, Mary, to the Apostle John (who represented all of us). If he is Son of God and Son of Man, and he is also the Church in its mystical form: then Mary is Mother of the Church and our Mother: for we are members of that Mystical Body of Christ. Perhaps that is why another beautiful title of Mary is "Mystical Rose."

Just as Mary treasured
everything that ever happened concerning Jesus in her heart, so should we; and so should we enjoy the benefits of being true spiritual children of Mary – by thinking about her every day, praying to her, and asking her to intercede to her Son for us. Jesus cannot rightly refuse any requests that his "Queen Mother" asks him! Hail Mary, Pray for us, always!

May 22 - 5th Week of Easter - Wednesday

+ Our readings today are about unity and community, or a more contemporary way of saying it would be: participation . Jesus makes it ...