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The Fifth Sunday of Lent- March 18, 2018 The Fifth Sunday of Lent- March 18, 2018
The promise made by the LORD in the first reading is very bold. He says that all people shall know him, without having to be taught by others. The way people will know Him is through forgiveness of their sins. Remember, he is speaking to the Israelites: When they broke a commandment or law, they were isolated from the community. So the promise that God would place his law in their hearts meant they would be free to do God's will because they want to, not because they were feared punishment or rejection.
Jesus says something similar in today's gospel. He tells the disciples that his crucifixion would draw everyone to him. Now, Jesus' death showed that he took on the punishment for sins in place of us, who deserve it. By dying on the cross, Jesus shows how much God loves us. By rising from the dead, he shows that we can rise from sin to a new life of faith and love.
Getting back to the first reading, we experience that promise when we bring our sins to God. When we forgive people who have hurt us, we also help them to experience that love. We also help others to know God when we share or experience of being forgiven. The sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the assurance of God's forgiveness, as well as the experience. Along with the other sacraments, it helps us keep God's love in our hearts.  Read more...
The Fourth Sunday of Lent- March 11, 2018 The Fourth Sunday of Lent- March 11, 2018
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are saved through grace: God's actions of sending his Son to die for us, and raising Jesus from the dead show the love God has for us. It comes entirely from God. When Paul says that no one can boast about being saved, he means that we can't add up our good deeds like reward points for heaven. He also means that we can't brag about our faith because we can recite the creed or answer an altar call. So if being saved is not a matter of saying the right things, or doing good deeds, what is it?
The answer comes from the gospel. Jesus tells us that he will be lifted up, or crucified, so that we can believe in him and have eternal life. When we "believe in" someone, we put our love and trust in that person. We know that we are loved and so respond by giving love. Our response of love inspires us to stop being selfish and start noticing that others need our help. Jesus describes it as living in the light: we are not ashamed to help someone, forgive someone, or comfort someone.
That brings us back to the question about salvation: it is not something we do or say. It is what God does for us. Our response of faith is also his gift. So when we recognize all that God has done for us and believe in his Son Jesus, the Spirit will guide us to live that faith and share it with others.  Read more...
The Third Sunday of Lent- March 4, 2018 The Third Sunday of Lent- March 4, 2018
As we are now well into Lent, we can take a look at what it means to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. A good place to start would be the Ten Commandments. The reading from Exodus presents us with one of the first listings of the Commandments. In this passage, God explains some of the laws to show how serious they are. For the first one, God includes making images to be used for worship.
In the days of Moses, people of other cultures made images of their gods and declared that the image was the god, and so should be worshipped. The LORD wanted his people to remember that God cannot be limited to an image or idea. That is still true today. Our images and statues are meant to help us pray to God, not to that work of art.
On the other hand, some people give a superstitious meaning to religious articles. Burying a statue to help sell your house could be one example. If you want to ask for a favor from God, just ask Him. God is much more likely to listen to a sincere prayer than a superstitious action.
God also emphasizes some commands by duplicating them. He tells us not to steal from others, and also not to plan to steal from our neighbor. The same with adultery: Planning it is just as bad as doing it.
Jesus simplified all these commands when he reminds us to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Let's remember that as we turn away from sin to serving God better during Lent.  Read more...
The Second Sunday of Lent- February 25, 2018 The Second Sunday of Lent- February 25, 2018
I used to wonder how God could lie to Abraham about sacrificing his son Isaac. But the story begins by telling us God put Abraham to the test. Abraham himself seems to know it’s a test. Apparently, I’m the only one fooled by God.
I don’t know if I would have passed the test. I would have at least argued with God about it, begging him to spare my son. Yet in our second reading, St. Paul reminds us that God did not spare his own son. (Rom 8:32) He passed his own test. Jesus was sacrificed so that God could show us how much he loved us. If God loves us so much that he gives his Son to die for us, why would he not forgive us? He doesn’t. But he is still testing us.
What does that tell us about life? You may have noticed that things don’t always go your way. Does that mean those tragedies are our fault? No, God gives everyone free will and some people choose to do wrong. God intervenes sometimes and lives are saved. Other times, God intervenes by saving us after death with our resurrection. As long as people doubt God’s love, there will be tests. That’s why it is so important to proclaim the Kingdom: so that someday all people will know God’s love and not need to be tested.
The First Sunday of Lent- February 18, 2018 The First Sunday of Lent- February 18, 2018
Usually, the first reading has something in common with the gospel. Today's however, has more in common with the second reading from St. Peter. They both talk about Noah and the ark, where the few good people were saved by going through the water. Peter compares that to the waters of Baptism, in which we are saved by God. Just as God washed away the evil of the world in the waters of the flood, so the waters of Baptism made us into a new people who have clear consciences, both because God has forgiven our sins and because we promise to follow only Him.
That leads to the Gospel, where Jesus is tempted by Satan. But unlike the people of Noah's time, Jesus does not fall to the temptations. Instead, he comes out of the desert, telling us to repent and believe in the good news.
That means we have a choice to make: Do we accept this kingdom and repent, or do we ignore our baptism and do what we want? Do we still have a clear conscience when we think of how much time we spend getting to know Jesus? Ever pray or read the bible outside of church? Do we spend near as much on the poor, as we do for our entertainment?
Next time you see a rainbow, think about the covenant that God made with Noah. Just as God's promises get better and better till the coming of Jesus, we are challenged to be more and more like Him. Are you satisfied with just a promise that God won't destroy us all in a flood? Or are you ready to live the New Covenant that Jesus promises to those who will follow him?  Read more...
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time- February 11, 2018 The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time- February 11, 2018
Last week we heard St. Paul saying that he was all things to all people. This week, we hear that he tried to please everyone. To modern ears, that sounds more like a people-pleaser. But that wasn't what Paul meant. The key to Paul's way of life is the last line of the second reading: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Cor 11:1)
When Jesus spoke to Paul in his conversion, he asked why he was persecuting Jesus. Paul later began to understand that all Christians make up the body of Christ. As members of that body, we can show others what Jesus is like, by our example. That seems to be a two part process.
First, to show Christ, we have to know Christ. We can do that by reading the scriptures and praying with them. We can receive the sacraments regularly, especially Reconciliation, where we experience his forgiveness and love, and the Eucharist, where Jesus unites himself with us, so that we can become more like him.
The second part is acting like Jesus. Forgive people who hurt us, care for the sick, the dying, the poor. Don't be afraid to tell people what God has done for you; encourage others to be grateful for what God has done for them.
Paul obviously didn't please everyone, or he wouldn't have ended his life in prison. He was more interested in imitating Christ. If we can imitate Paul in that way, we can't go wrong.  Read more...
The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time- February 4, 2018 The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time- February 4, 2018
Jesus was starting to become very popular, at least with the ordinary people. They had seen how he had cured the sick and cast out demons. Jesus knew the people would not understand this and try to proclaim him as their king. Jesus had no intention of living as a worldly king, in comfort and riches. In fact, he came to free people from needing wealth and power.
Popularity and wealth do not interest St. Paul, either. When he preaches the gospel, the good news of Christ's resurrection, He specifically refuses to be paid for his preaching, to show that he will be rewarded by Christ.
So what do you hope for; what is your goal in life? Do you only feel secure when you have saved enough money and invested it wisely? Do you need other people to make you happy? Or at least a few hundred Facebook friends?
We can follow Paul's example of love for all people no matter who they are. Paul's love was not to make others like him. He genuinely wanted to bring the good news to them: by his love for them, Paul showed that God loves them even more. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with his love, so that we can help each other to hear the good news.  Read more...
The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 28, 2018 The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 28, 2018
One of the most difficult duties of a disciple is to follow the command of Jesus to spread the gospel to all nations. (Lk 24:47, Mk 116:15, Mt 28:19) I think one reason may be that we don't feel we have the authority to tell someone else what to believe. Most of us don't think we know the gospel well enough to preach it. The gospel this Sunday mentions twice that Jesus taught with more authority than any of religious leaders of Israel. So how can we get such authority?
First, Jesus didn't threaten people with thunderbolts and lightning. He certainly didn't impress people by saying what they wanted to hear. He spoke the truth that he heard from his Father. His two main actions in his ministry were curing and forgiving people. Since the Jews thought sickness was a punishment for sins, by curing the sick and forgiving sins, Jesus showed that he got authority from his Father.
How do we get that authority?" We get it from the Holy Spirit, in Baptism and Confirmation. And like an athlete who has to work-out and practice to be any good, we still need to grow in that authority. One way is to read the scriptures and pray with them, so that we get to know God through his Word and begin to listen to him in our prayers. We can consciously decide to see God in other people, not just those we love, but everyone, even the ones who annoy us. And of course, the Eucharist and other sacraments strengthen God's life in us. You'll know you have that authority when you can talk about your faith with confidence instead of hesitation, because you will be speaking from experience, not second hand knowledge.  Read more...
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 21, 2018 The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 21, 2018
When the people of Nineveh repented, they showed it by wearing sackcloth and fasting from food. Sometimes we might think that way: That repenting means punishing ourselves or feeling sorry. Jesus sees things differently.
He preached repentance that was a change of heart, a new way of looking at things, a new way of acting. In the gospel today, we see an example. The first people he calls to be disciples were fisherman. They would have considered their family, their partners, and their boat as the most important things in their lives. You need all of them to be a successful fisherman.
Yet the disciples don't even hesitate when called by Jesus. They leave behind their boats, their nets, even their father, to follow Jesus. They don't worry about what they will do, or look back at what they are leaving behind. Now they are fishers of men. Their "repentance" was more than just giving up sins. They were beginning a new life and a new way of looking at the world.
Saint Paul refers to this as a new world. When he talks about not using the world fully, he means not fully engaged in the world, but looking to a better one, where God is more important than any passing pleasure or pain. Is your marriage an example of God's love for your friends and relatives? When you are rejoicing, do you give thanks to God? When you are shopping, do you buy what you really need, or what you think will make you happy? Jesus calls us all to this new way of living. With Jesus, we can make a new world.  Read more...
The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 14, 2018 The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- January 14, 2018
Just before our first reading it says that "the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions." (1Sam 3:1) I imagine most people today would think that was true. Do you think God has stopped talking? People apparently felt that way in Samuel's time. Let's look at the reading to see what Samuel's experience can teach us.
At first Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him. It is not unusual for people to miss a sign from God. If you have a talent that you are proud of, perhaps it is a sign that God wants you to use that talent to help others. Or if a friend tells you she is concerned about your health, it could be God's way of telling you to get help. Try to see God speaking in whatever happens to you and you may hear a lot more than you think.
Samuel also gets help from Eli. Eli began to recognize that the LORD was speaking to Samuel. Sometimes we need help discerning what the Lord is telling us. A good spiritual director can help. He or she will probably ask how often you pray. In our reading Samuel finally speaks directly to God, instead of going back to Eli. So if you wonder what God plans for your life, try spending more time in prayer with him. I bet we have all had times where we didn't know if we are doing God's will because we didn't take time to pray. But don't do all the talking. Give God some quiet time to hear his response. For God hasn't stopped talking; we just stopped listening.  Read more...
The Epiphany of the Lord- January 7, 2018 The Epiphany of the Lord- January 7, 2018
Did you know that the only reason we say that there were three wise men is that they brought three gifts? And these special gifts--gold, frankincense, and myrrh--tell us much.
When one king visited or sent an ambassador to another, he would give a gift of gold to show that he acknowledged the kingship of the other. The second gift is a type of incense, which was used in Jesus time to worship God. The gift of myrrh is oil used to anoint the dying. So these gifts remind us of Jesus' kingship, divinity, and his dying for us.
So what gifts do we have for Jesus? Maybe we can take a hint from the wise men. If we acknowledge Jesus as king, maybe a better gift than gold would be to pledge our obedience to him. A better way than burning incense to pay homage to Jesus' divinity is to take time to pray throughout the day. As for the gift of myrrh, we can give Jesus the crosses we bear each day.
The song "Little Drummer Boy" reminds us that the best gift is not necessarily the most expensive. Instead, it is the simple gift that only we can give. Let Epiphany remind us to offer our lives to Jesus each day.  Read more...