Saturday, January 25, 2014

01-26-2014 -- 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

January 26, 2014 - 3rd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We are always noticing others:
what they say, how they act,
the way they look, how they dress,
the way they smile, their laugh,
how they interact with others.

Toward many, we’re indifferent, 
They neither attract us, nor do they repel us.

Toward some, we’re repelled.
We do not like the way they act.  We do not like the way they treat others.  There are things about them that offend us.

Toward others, we’re envious. 
We want their good looks, their personality, we want to be as successful or as athletic or as popular as they are.

We might even secretly try to be like them.

Then, there are those to whom we gravitate. 
They are our mentors.  And, in a sense, we are their disciples. 
We learn from them.

Sometimes these people are unaware that we’re secretly taking cues from them about how we should act, how we should behave.

Finally, there are those who fascinate and attract us:

Those we see thinking and feeling and acting in ways which we, at this present moment, are not capable of thinking and feeling and acting.  And we want to be like them.

In the Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as a fascinating person.
We want to know more about him.
We want to know where his power to attract comes from.

I mean, after all, Jesus walked right into the lives of Peter and Andrew, James and John and said, “Come follow me.”

What’s remarkable is that that they did, without question, without hesitation.  They became his disciples.

And while they might not have realized it at first, somewhere along the way they realized that Jesus was the Lord, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

Once they recognize that Jesus is Lord. Then they realize that leaving everything behind to follow him was the right choice.

Jesus has the power to attract and fascinate us.  So, we face the same decision, don’t we?  To follow or not.

That’s why we’re here: to learn from Jesus, to take our cues from him.

We listen to what he says.  We look at the way he acts and how he treats others, and we want to be more like him.

As we learn from him, he changes us.  So that when he says, “Come, follow me” we can eventually do it, without hesitation.

Maybe we can’t today. 
Maybe we haven’t been changed enough yet.

But eventually, Jesus will walk onto the seashore of our lives and say, “Come, follow me.”

And we will leave everything behind and follow after him.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

01-19-2014 -- 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

January 19, 2014 - 2nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

"I did not know him." I did not know him. Really?

It's hard to believe that John the Baptist did not recognize Jesus. After all, they were cousins born six months apart. They had to know each other.

So what is John trying to say? Maybe he is trying to say that he didn't see who his cousin really was: Jesus, the Lamb of God.

If John the Baptist, the holy prophet of God, did not recognize Jesus at first, then who else, in our modern world might have difficulty recognizing Jesus?

The teenager who looks for Jesus in material things will fail to recognize him.

Jesus is not found in the things we buy and in the stuff we have. He does not live among the things we accumulate. Jesus does not text because he doesn't have an iPhone.

When we get beyond our computer screens and operating systems and begin to see real people around us, then we begin to care more about others and less about stuff.

Once we begin to move from selfishness to self-giving, then we can begin to recognize Jesus as our friend.

The widow who looks for Jesus at the bottom of the bottle will not recognize him.

The loneliness we feel when we lose someone close cannot be soothed by alcohol or drugs.

These substances deaden our nerves and dull our senses so that we don't feel the pain. But the pain is still there. Lonesomeness is something that only Jesus can take away.

When we face those lonesome feelings with honesty and courage, then we begin to understand that Jesus longs to comfort us, to console us, gently wiping away the tears from our eyes.

The man who is filled with anger and rage, with jealousy and resentment, cannot possibly recognize Jesus.

When clinched fists and shouting matches, hurtful words and painful blows are the way we deal with things that don't go our way, then we are consumed by anger.

When we begin to see how ugly and destructive, in fact, how evil our angry and resentful responses are, then we can begin to control our tempers.

Only then will we be able to recognize Jesus as the gentle Lamb of God who admonishes us to turn the other cheek.

The man or woman who is victim of sexual abuse has difficulty seeing the face of Jesus. Sometimes the only face they see is the face of the abuser.

Victims of sexual assault often ask themselves, "Why is this happening to me?"

When others take advantage of us and use us, we feel worthless and guilty, as if it were our fault.

When we begin to hear Jesus saying, "it's not your fault," then we can begin to see the healing face of Jesus saying, "You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Gossips who never see good in anyone cannot possibly recognize the Good Shepherd. Their world is one of lies and half-truths, a world of shadows and darkness.

When one lives in darkness, one cannot see the light. When one begins to live in the truth, one begins to see the light, the light of Christ.

The proud and self righteous who believe only in themselves have trouble recognizing Jesus as the source from whom their blessings, gifts and talents flow.

Those who believe that humanity can build a new world, ushering in an age without God, fail to recognize that God is the source of all life.

All that we are and all that we have comes from God. Without God we are nothing.

When we replace pride with humility we suddenly recognize God's will for us.

Some simply don't see value in coming to church, and when they do they are a bit uncomfortable so they stand in the back or leave right after communion.

We shouldn't come to church to be entertained. We come to church to pray.

And when we come seeking Jesus, we discover that Jesus is seeking us too. He longs to be close to us, to enter into relationship with us.

John did not recognize Jesus at first but he kept searching. We might not recognize Jesus today, but we must keep searching.

Jesus comes to us here in this holy place, in the sharing of Sacred Scripture and in the breaking of the Bread.

In just a few moments I, like John, will proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

I tell you, I did not know him, but now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

01-12-2014 -- The Baptism of the Lord

January 12, 2014 - The Baptism of the Lord
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Shortly after being elected to the papacy, Pope John XXIII visited Regina Caeli, a large prison on the outskirts of Rome.

He told them, “I have come as Joseph your brother. I want my heart to be close to yours. I want to see the world through your eyes.”

Maybe his visit to the prison and his words to the prisoners is the closest we can come to understanding Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan.

John’s baptism was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus is the sinless one. He does not need this forgiveness.

Even though he is sinless, he plunges into the crowd of sinful humanity, being totally immersed in our human story.

Undergoing John’s baptism puts him in solidarity with those who do need forgiveness, that’s all of us.

God’s own Son came into our world as one of us. He associated himself with sinners. And was baptized by one of his own creatures.

John senses that this shouldn’t happen. “It is I who should be baptized by you.”

“Leave it like this for now.”

It is remarkable that Jesus should join this crowd of sinners. By his baptism in the Jordan he makes himself one with sinful humanity.

Up to this point we can understand.
But try to follow me here.

When Jesus comes up from the water a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son.”

Now if Jesus, by accepting the Baptism of John becomes one with us, who are sinners, then God’s words are spoken not just to Jesus, but to all of us, who are one with him.

“You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”

This is the voice of God, the voice that has the power to create all things from nothing.

Do we hear the voice of God speaking to us?

The voice of God is not silent, but close to our ears, close to our hearts. Are we listening?

In Baptism we were identified as the children of God.
In Baptism we were anointed with the Sacred Chrism.

This anointing marks our souls forever, identifying us always as the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus.

It is a mark that cannot be removed by our sinfulness.

This identity calls us to change our ways.

This identity calls us to be more like Jesus, who St Paul says, went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed.

This identity calls us beyond ourselves to have greater care and concern for our brothers and sisters.

This identity changes us at the very core of our beings.
The prisoners rejoiced to see Pope John XXIII in their midst.

They were particularly moved by his reaction when one of their number, a murderer, fell on his knees before the Pope.

He cried out, “Holy Father, can there be forgiveness for the likes of me?”

Pope John raised the man to his feet and put his arms around him, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, embracing his wayward boy.

Like the action of Pope John XXIII, Jesus’ baptism carries a powerful message.

His plunging into the waters of the Jordan, shoulder to shoulder with sinners, makes him one with us.

He is our brother, our Savior, our friend.

The heavens open up and the Spirit descends in the form of a dove.

“You are my beloved Son.”

When Pope John embraced the murderer the message was the same.

When Saint Paul says that God anointed Jesus with power and the Holy Spirit, he is speaking about us too.

We are God’s beloved children. On us, God’s favor rests.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

01-05-2014 -- Solemnity of the Epiphany

January 5, 2014 - Solemnity of the Epiphany
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

There are a network of caves in Afghanistan used by the Taliban and Afghan fighters as hideaways for weapons and supplies.

These caves support a culture of death, war, oppression and violence against the dignity of the human person.

They are covered in blood. They are dark places.
They symbolize everything that is wrong with our world.

We live in a dark world, a world filled with war, terrorism, greed, addiction, fear, depression.

In our own country, our freedoms have been thwarted.
Our government increasingly usurps power and spies on it own people, all done to give us the illusion of security.

Multinationals and Internet giants track our every move.
We are media saturated and technology crazed.

We take resources from the earth at alarming rates. And we fail to give back.

Darkness and sin are all around us.

But during this Christmas time, can we travel from the dark, bloody caves of Afghanistan to another cave:

a cave in Bethlehem, a cave that is not dark, a cave that is illuminated by the Light.

This Feast of the Epiphany is a revelation to the nations.

We are called to see the light of Christ shining in the darkness, a light that makes a difference in our dark world.

The mysterious Eastern travelers, the Magi, were searching for meaning in a dark world. They were searching for enlightenment.

Maybe we have come here today because we are trying to do the same.

Maybe we are searching for meaning and purpose in our lives.

Maybe we are seeking something more fulfilling in our careers and professions.

Maybe we are struggling to make a better life for ourselves and our families.

Maybe we are seeking the dignity that rightfully belongs to every human being.

Maybe we are trying not to be overwhelmed by the darkness of sin that is around us.

Maybe we are trying not to be consumed by jealousy, anger and resentment.

Maybe we are trying to have the courage to look reality in the face and transform our lives.

Maybe we are trying to be less critical.

Maybe we are trying to embrace the future with faith and hope and love.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, can we travel from the dark caves of our own sins and failings?

Can we follow the star to the cave in Bethlehem? A cave bathed in light.

Can we behold the Christ child?

Can we fall on our knees in reverent homage?

Can we bring the precious gifts that are our lives and place them at the feet of Jesus? Can we open our treasures and offer him our gifts?

Can we allow the Eucharist that we receive here to strengthen us and fill us with goodness and grace?

Can we allow the glory of the Lord to shine upon us illuminating the dark places, filling our lives with peace and joy and hope and love?

We live in a dark world, but when we have the courage to be Catholic, our dark world is bathed in the light, the illuminating light of our Lord Jesus Christ.