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Homilies Lent

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak today about the great power of words. Isaiah speaks specifically of the power of God’s word, a word that will not return empty but will go out and accomplish the purpose for which God sent it.  We see the word that the prophet speaks of here, of course as the Word – “Word” with a capital “W.”  That Word is Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who comes to accomplish the salvation of the world, the purpose of God ever since the world’s creation.  Indeed, that Word would never return to the Father empty or void, but instead filled with the richness of God’s beloved children – you and me, the ones he came to save.

The prayer that Jesus gives us today, the classic prayer that echoes in our hearts in good times and in bad, is a prayer with a specific purpose in mind.  That prayer, if we pray it rightly, recognizes that God’s holiness will bring about a Kingdom where his divine will will be done in all of creation.  It begs God’s forgiveness and begs also that we too would become a forgiving and merciful people, just as God is merciful to us.  Finally, it asks for help with temptation and evil, something with which we struggle every day.  It is the prayer above all other prayers, the prayer that unites us to the Father’s will for us, the prayer that contains every prayerful attitude or thought.

Today’s readings are a plea that God’s will would finally be done.  That his Word would go forth and accomplish God’s purpose.  That his will would be done on earth as in heaven.  As we pray those familiar words, they can often go past us without catching our attention.  But today, maybe we can slow down just a little, and pray them more reflectively, that God’s will would be accomplished in every place, starting in our very own lives.

Because to God belongs the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Categories
Homilies Lent

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings
#LentND

The prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak today about the great power of words. Isaiah speaks specifically of the power of God’s word, a word that will not return empty but will go out and accomplish the purpose for which God sent it.  We see the word that the prophet speaks of here, of course as the Word – with a capital “W.”  That Word is Jesus Christ who comes to accomplish the salvation of the world, the purpose of God ever since the world’s creation.

The prayer that Jesus gives us today, the classic prayer that echoes in our hearts in good times and in bad, is a prayer with a specific purpose in mind.  That prayer, if we pray it rightly, recognizes that God’s holiness will bring about a Kingdom where his will will be done in all of creation.  It begs God’s forgiveness and begs also that we too would become a forgiving and merciful people, just as God is merciful to us.  Finally, it asks for help with temptation and evil, something with which we struggle every day.

Today’s readings are a plea that God’s will would finally be done.  That his Word would go forth and accomplish God’s purpose.  That his will would be done on earth as in heaven.  As we pray those familiar words, they can often go past us without catching our attention.  But today, maybe we can slow down just a little, and pray them more reflectively, that God’s will would be accomplished in every place, starting in our very own lives.

Because to God belongs the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Categories
Christmas Homilies

The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ: Mass During the Day

Today’s readings

There’s a great commercial out that has three senior ladies talking. One of them, the hostess, has taped all kinds of photographs to her living room wall and says that it’s a really quick way to share these memories with her friends. Just like her car insurance; it only took 15 minutes to get a quote. One of her friends said she was able to do that in half the time, so the hostess says, “I unfriend you.” Her former friend says, “That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works!”

I thought of that commercial because I think that, often, many people don’t get how God works. They either think that he’s a capricious policeman who’s always looking for some kind of way to catch them in a trivial sin so that he can send them to the place downstairs, or they think he’s a friend who overlooks all their faults and doesn’t mind if they never give him a second thought. Both positions are not how God works!

And if you asked a lot of people why Christmas is so important, if they have any religious answer at all, they might tell you that probably God finally found the right answer after so many years of failure. That all along, from the time of Adam and Eve, people had been doing whatever they wanted, and so God was at his wit’s end and finally just sent his only begotten Son down here to straighten things out. But that’s not how God works!

The truth is, as we see in today’s Gospel, that God had always intended to save the world by sending his own Son who was with him in the beginning. The Word – God’s Son – was with him in the beginning and everything that has ever been made has been made through him. Not only that, but in the fullness of time, the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. The Greek here says literally that he “pitched his tent” among us. That was the plan – from the beginning – for God’s own Son to become flesh so that we could become like God. It’s a marvelous exchange!

And when he became flesh, he lived as one of the people in that time. He walked among them and had all the same concerns they did. He was like us in all things but sin. When the appointed hour came, he took on our sins and was crucified for our salvation. He died like we do, but so that sin and death would no longer be able to hold us bound to the earth, he rose from the dead and attained eternal life. Now we can do that, too, one day, if we believe in God’s Word and live the way he taught us.

Jesus became one of us, pitching his tent among us, so that he could gather us all up and bring us back to heaven with him, to the kingdom of God for which we were created, in the beginning. That was always the plan. But sin and death keeping us from friendship with God is obliterated by the saving act of Jesus. Sin and death no longer have the final word, because that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!

Categories
Homilies Lent

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak today about the great power of words. Isaiah speaks specifically of the power of God’s word, a word that will not return empty but will go out and accomplish the purpose for which God sent it.  We see the word that the prophet speaks of here, of course as the Word – with a capital “W.”  That Word is Jesus Christ who comes to accomplish the salvation of the world, the purpose of God ever since the world’s creation.

The prayer that Jesus gives us today, the classic prayer that echoes in our hearts in good times and in bad, is a prayer with a specific purpose in mind.  That prayer, if we pray it rightly, recognizes that God’s holiness will bring about a Kingdom where his will will be done in all of creation.  It begs God’s forgiveness and begs also that we too would become a forgiving and merciful people, just as God is merciful to us.  Finally, it asks for help with temptation and evil, something with which we struggle every day.

Today’s readings are a plea that God’s will would finally be done.  That his Word would go forth and accomplish God’s purpose.  That his will would be done on earth as in heaven.  As we pray those familiar words, they can often go past us without catching our attention.  But today, maybe we can slow down just a little, and pray them more reflectively, that God’s will would be accomplished in every place, starting in our very own lives.

Because to God belongs the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I want to begin my homily by reminding you of the words we heard in our first reading from Nehemiah:

He read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.

So if you think my homily is long, just think about that!  We could be going from daybreak to midday!

Today we’re talking about teaching and the Scriptures, which is very appropriate today as we begin Catholic Schools Week.  This week reminds us that we have the gift of a wonderful school that teaches not just the usual subjects you find in every school, but also helps to teach the faith and gives witness to the joy of the Scriptures being fulfilled.

But as far as that goes, we are all, always and forever, in the “school” of the faith.  We don’t ever graduate from that school, until, of course, that great day, when we stand before our Lord to be judged, relying on his mercy and on our relationship with him, which is always a gift.  Those who unite themselves to our Lord in faith throughout their lives, those who continue to study the Scriptures and see them fulfilled in our hearing, they have the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Saint Jerome underlined this for us.  He said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ, because for all of us who did not live in the same time as Jesus, we rely on the Scriptures not just to tell us who Christ was, but also to have a relationship with him, remembering that Jesus is always present in the proclamation of the Word of God.

There are three Scriptural moments in today’s Liturgy of the Word.  First, the Word is proclaimed.  Second, that Word has an effect on its hearers.  Finally, the Word is fulfilled.  So first, the Word is proclaimed, and we see that twice.  First, in the first reading, Ezra the priest reads from the scroll from daybreak to midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand.  It was quite the proclamation, and also included a kind of homily, apparently, since the reading tells us that Ezra provided an interpretation.  The second time we see this is in the Gospel reading.  Jesus takes the scroll of the law, and finds a particular passage from the prophet Isaiah and proclaims it.  He too provides an interpretation, in the form of his very life.

The second Scriptural moment is the Word’s effect on its hearers.  For Ezra, the Word produced a very emotional response.  The people bowed down in the presence of the Word, and began to weep.  The weeping is presumably because, hearing the Word, they realized how far they were from keeping its commandments.  I think we might have that same reaction sometimes.  Nehemiah then instructs them not to weep, but instead to rejoice and celebrate, because the proclamation of the Word on this holy day was an occasion for great joy.  We don’t get any idea of how the rest of the congregation at the synagogue reacted to Jesus’ proclamation of Isaiah, but one would think that it would have been a pretty tame reaction until he announced that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy.  Then we can imagine they had a lot to say and a perhaps indignant reaction.

Finally, the Word is fulfilled.  Jesus’ instruction in the Gospel that the words of Isaiah have been fulfilled in the synagogue-goers hearing tells us that Word is never intended to be a static thing.  We do not just passively sit through the proclamation of the Word, nod our heads, and move on to the Eucharist.  The Word is a living thing and it is intended to have an effect on its hearers.  Indeed, the Word is always proclaimed with the intent that it be fulfilled, and that fulfillment began with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In his person, all of the promises of the Old Testament are brought into being, and the real hope of the world begins.

We continue to celebrate the Word in those three moments.  We come now come to this holy place to hear the Word proclaimed, and have it interpreted in the homily.  Our Liturgy of the Word, then, goes back to ancient times, and looks much the way Ezra proclaimed the Scriptures.  Except, of course, it’s a lot shorter now!  We continue to be affected by the Word’s proclamation.  Of the stories we hear, we have our favorites, and there are stories that move us within, emotionally and spiritually.  We too may be moved to tears as we hear of God’s goodness, and think of the way we have fallen short.  We too need to hear Nehemiah proclaim that the preaching of the Word is a time for great joy.  Finally, the Word continues to be fulfilled among us.  Having sent his Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to be the fulfillment of Scripture, every time someone hears the Word and acts on it.

I want to try a bit of an object lesson.  Jesus, quoting from Isaiah, said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.  That is true too for all of us who have been Baptized and Confirmed, because we receive the Holy Spirit in both Sacraments. So I would ask all of you to close your eyes for a minute and listen to these words from Isaiah spoken not just to Jesus, but also to all of us:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you,
because he has anointed you
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent you 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.

You may find yourself ill-equipped to break people out of prison.  But I know that you know at least one person who is in some kind of prison.  Maybe they are imprisoned by illness or old age.  Maybe they are imprisoned by fear of acting to better their lives.  These people need you to journey with them and be present to them, thereby setting those captives free.  You may not be too sure about how you can proclaim recovery of sight to the blind.  Maybe you don’t even know anyone who is physically blind.  But you probably know somebody who is blind to the fact that they are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.  Or maybe you know somebody who is blind to the fact that they are suffering from an addiction of some sort.  Maybe you know somebody who is blind to the fact that someone they are close to needs them in a special way.  You can be present to these who are blind and to gently but firmly lead them to recovery of sight.  You probably have no idea how to let the oppressed go free.  But you may have an hour or two to serve a hot meal to those oppressed by homelessness at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.  You may be able to spend some time occasionally with those who are oppressed by not knowing how to read.  By giving of yourself, you can let these oppressed go free.

We have been anointed with the Holy Spirit in order to bring glad tidings to the poor.  By acting selflessly, we can turn things around in our own little corner of the world.  By hearing and acting on the Word, we can proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.  May the Words of this Holy Book be fulfilled today – and every day – in your hearing.

Categories
Easter Homilies

Easter Wednesday

Today’s readings

“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Today’s scriptures continue to speak to us of the joy of the Resurrection.  The disciples once again have experiences of the Risen Lord.  Today’s experience is one that is really a foreshadowing of the Mass.  Here the disciples walking along the road find that they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and remember how their hearts burned with joy as he explained the Scriptures to them.  That’s the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Liturgy of the Word, respectively.

What’s important about what they experienced is that we get to experience it too, every time we come to this holy place to celebrate Mass together.  We too are on a journey in our life, a journey from confusion to understanding, a journey from fearfulness to faith.  And along the journey, we are nourished just as those disciples were, by the words of Scripture and the breaking of bread.  The Sacred Liturgy forms us in faith as a holy people.

These disciples had been walking away sad, perhaps returning to their former life, disillusioned that their Messiah had been arrested and crucified.  Nourished by word and sacrament, they return to their new life, energized to proclaim the Good News.  That is our task too as we go forth from this Mass to the life God has given us.  We too are called to proclaim the Good News that Christ is risen to all those who need to hear it, everyone God puts in our path.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!