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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 22, 2018 Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 22, 2018
You probably know that the Jews in the first century did not particularly like the Gentiles. Paul addresses this problem by reminding them that Jesus died for all people, Jew and Gentile. And just as Jesus rose from the dead to a new life, the converts to Christianity were given a new life also. So why was that unity so hard to accept?
One reason is that as much as we complain about laws and regulations, many people like to live by them. Our decisions are simple if we have a law to cover each one. Hebrew Christians thought that they still had to keep the laws and regulations of the old covenant. There is nothing wrong with keeping the Ten Commandments: They are simply examples of Jesus' command to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. So why not just do that?
The problem with only keeping commandments is that we can avoid doing evil things, but still not love God or my neighbor. For example, we can avoid using God's name in vain and kick back and relax on the Sabbath, but still not really love God. Fortunately for us, God loves us first; we need only respond to that love. And if we base all our other actions on that love, we will not break any commandments, or even worry about breaking them. We will have the peace that Paul mentions in our reading, the peace that makes us all one in Christ.  Read more...
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 15, 2018 Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 15, 2018
The second reading from Ephesians is rather long and with only six sentences, it is not easy to follow. To put it simply, he is giving a description of the many blessings God has given us. First is Redemption, meaning that Christ saved us from punishment for our sins by forgiving them instead. Second is the plan of God for saving everyone, by making Christ ruler of the universe. We have to accept these gifts by letting go of the temptations around us and holding on to the love we have received from God. We then share that love with others, so that they know God loves them, too. As our experience of God's love grows, we begin to understand the mystery of how God lives in all people.
Paul also reminds us that we are chosen and destined to help God bring his plan, his Kingdom, to completion. When we teach children how to love and share, when we are honest with customers or suppliers, when we are not ashamed to show our faith in Jesus, when we are respectful of the poor, elderly, or disabled, we are slowly building the Kingdom of God.
Paul mentions three times in this reading about "the praise of God's glory." (Eph 1:14) When we are able to help or forgive, or just be a good example to others, we want them to know that God is in all the good we do. Instead of taking credit for the results, we give God the glory. No, you don't have to take off your glasses and put on a red cape before helping others. Just mention that God does the real work, we just try not to get in his way.  Read more...
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 8, 2018 Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 8, 2018
Is Paul serious? Can you imagine being content with "weaknesses, insults, hardships, and persecutions?" (2Cor 12:10) Paul could have been proud of all that God revealed to him, and of all that he accomplished in spreading the gospel. But instead he boasts about his weaknesses. He knows that all the good work he has done have been accomplished by Christ. So he accepted suffering, rejection, setbacks and persecution because they helped him see how much Christ was doing through him.
We can learn a lot from St. Paul. Remember how Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Paul loved himself in the good sense of accepting his faults and weaknesses. He was always aware that he once persecuted Christians. But that fault enabled him to experience God's forgiveness.
St. Paul says that when he is weak, then he is strong. He knows that God will still work through him, showing God's power to heal the sick and draw converts to Christ, in spite of Paul's weaknesses. Paul did what he could to encourage others to follow Jesus, but he knew the results of his preaching and healing were up to God. When you think that you would fail at spreading the faith, remember Paul and give your weaknesses to God. Then see what he can do!  Read more...
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 1, 2018 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 1, 2018
Does the Christian duty to help the poor seem to be overwhelming? We hear more and more about the homeless and jobless. Even in St. Paul's time there was more than enough poverty to go around. He was trying to build interest (in our second reading) in a project to help the Christians in Jerusalem. We see two of his reasons here.
First he tells what fine Christians they are, and hopes that they will be just as good in giving to his collection. Paul is challenging them to continue to show their love for God in their support for fellow Christians. The second reason was to show a good example: By helping the church in Jerusalem, they would show that Christians were united in faith and love for each other.
The main example he uses is Jesus, who made himself poor (i.e., human) so that we could be rich in grace and forgiveness. Paul challenges them, and us, to follow that example in giving from our wealth so that others can survive. Note that he doesn't expect them to live in poverty, just to share what they have out of love for Christ.
Today, we can ask ourselves, "Do I give to the poor because I feel guilty about all that I have? Or do I want to show my love for Jesus when I see him in the poor?" By looking at why we give to charities, we may find ourselves being even more generous than we expected.  Read more...
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist- June 24, 2018 The Nativity of St. John the Baptist- June 24, 2018
The birth of John is much like the birth of Jesus. Neither mother expected to be pregnant. Both were announced by an angel; it should be no surprise that the two mothers got together to discuss these things. Most likely, talking about their experiences helped them to believe what the angel had said. You might say Elizabeth prepared Mary to be the mother of the Savior. And years later John would help people prepare to accept Jesus as their Savior.
So how do we imitate John? Probably not by living in the desert and eating locusts and wild honey. (I'll take the honey, but hold the locusts.) Let's look at a few of the things John is known for and how we can learn from them.
John lived in the desert to prepare for his ministry. How do we prepare to serve the Lord? Have you ever gone on a retreat? The point of a retreat is not just to get away, but to learn how to pray or to deepen your prayer life.
As we learn to pray better, we get to know the Lord better. That brings us to the second way to imitate John: Lead others to Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit we received in the sacrament of Confirmation, we can give good examples of Christian love, share our faith, stand up for justice, and encourage others to grow in faith. Like John, we may also meet resistance, but we can be confident that the Lord will be with us always.  Read more...
The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 17, 2018 The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 17, 2018
We hear about the Kingdom of God in many of Jesus' parables. In today's passage, he uses parables to describe how the kingdom will spread. What is interesting is that they are not so much about our actions as they are about how God builds his kingdom.
Let's start with the second parable: Jesus exaggerates a little, with the mustard seed being the smallest seed and the bush being the largest plant. Like the birds on the branches, Jesus implies that the growing kingdom will attract outsiders to be members. His point is that the kingdom may look small at first, but it will keep growing. We need not be discouraged when it seems the kingdom is not growing: We might be limiting it to people who think and act just like ourselves. We might see attendance at church in our parish declining. So Jesus is reminding us to think of the bigger picture.
In the first parable about the man who scattered seeds, Jesus says that those seeds produce a harvest, even though the farmer doesn't know how or why those seeds can grow. We too can be doing things that help the Kingdom to grow, without knowing how we are helping. But God is making the kingdom grow in his own way and in his own time. Like the farmer, we can help it grow by loving each other, teaching our children about Jesus, caring for the poor and the sick.
But we can also hinder the kingdom by being stingy with our love, or hurting people with our anger. So let us ask God to trust him as we do our part to help the kingdom to grow.  Read more...
The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 10, 2018 The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 10, 2018
If you want to be chic these days, don't talk about evil or sin. Sin is not an acceptable topic of conversation in most circles. It's okay to converse about pathologies, inimical environmental effects, or negative physiological and/or psychological influences when dealing with what used to be called evil and sin. But most people seem to agree that evil and sin themselves are passŽ, antediluvian idioms, nasty, obscene terms. I wonder. Are sin and evil only apocryphal allegories, mythic part of the dim past? Jesus, whom we believe to be true, real, and part of the present, not the past, doesn't seem to think so. Jesus seems to think that both exist. Jesus sees sin and evil as an oil slick, quick to defile pure and innocent shores; as asphyxiating weeds, bound to choke the freshly sown seed. Jesus took sin and evil very seriously. He took great care to point them out and to cast them out wherever he went. He took great pains to exorcise evil and to combat sin far and wide, as far as the cross. VANQUISHING EVIL AND SIN We who claim to be doers of God's will and thus "brother, sister, and mother" to Jesus, can take up his crusade against evil and sin. And we can do it without fear; first of all, because Jesus triumphed on the cross; and second, because we have the powerful word of God on it, a word that announced our triumph from the very beginning. After all, God's word is creative. It does what it says: it vanquishes sin, it leads to redemption. All we must do is be receptive to it. Then, no matter our vocation, no matter our failings, no matter how puny our faith, God's mighty word in us will triumph over evil, will cast out all sin.  Read more...