Sunday, January 17, 2021

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Our readings continue with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which concludes the Christmas season. Today’s reading from the Gospel according to John immediately follows John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Having been baptized by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. The first followers sought out Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

The first reading is taken from the first Book of Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 and gives an account of Samuel's vocation to take over the leadership of the Chosen People.  Samuel’s story is a familiar one where the young Samuel is sleeping and hears God calling him in the night.  Eli, the chief priest, told Samuel if he heard the voice again, he should respond, “Here I am, I come to do your will.”  The young Samuel did as he was instructed and followed the Lord’s instructions.

One of my favorite songs is this reading.  I remember when one of our sister’s introduced it to us and it has been a favorite of mine ever since.  The words are:

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Make of me what pleases you.

Here I am, here I am, Lord.

You spoke my name and beckoned me to come.  Before you now I stand to listen to your word.

You have the words of everlasting life.  If I should turn to you, to whom would I go?

What joy it is to stand amid your glory.  Let me always stay in your presence, O God.

Show me the path that you would have me walk, And give me grace to do what is good in your sight.

May we always follow Samuel's example and be open to the call of the Lord.

Here is a link to listen to the song:  Here I Am, Lord

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

 

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to further his relationship with his heavenly Father.  The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Opening Prayer of our Liturgy, we hear: “Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

Let us pray this day for the grace to embrace the invitation of God’s will for us.  May we go forth in joy.  May we be led in peace.  May we know that God is with us, now and forever in all we do.



Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord

 

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of 2021 and the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Messiah or the Savior of the world to all the nations and the peoples of the world. The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of 

Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . .” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.

Today as we sing the traditional hymn -- We Three Kings let us recall that these three represent all of us searching for Christ in faith.  May we do so in faith, hope and love.





Sunday, December 20, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

Today, on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we enjoy hearing the familiar story of the Annunciation, when God sends the angel Gabriel to ask Mary to be the Mother of God.  As I prayed this morning, I was struck by the thought how could it possibly be the fourth Sunday of Advent already?  Where did the time go?  Advent felt like it flew by this year for me.

Today’s Gospel is a favorite of mine and I am always touched by Mary’s “Yes.”  A young woman, betrothed to Joseph, has an incredible experience when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and asked her to be the mother of the Messiah.  When I watched the Mass on television this morning the singer sang the familiar song “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman.”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blest is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death.  Amen.

Gentle woman, quiet light, morning star, so strong and bright, gentle Mother, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom; teach us love.

You were chosen by the Father; you were chosen for the Son.  You were chosen from all women and for woman, shining one.

Blessed are you among women, blest in turn all women, too.  Blessed they with peaceful spirits. Blessed they with gentle hearts.

I remember learning this song many years ago and always enjoyed singing it during the Advent season.  When it was sung this morning, I found myself singing along with it.  These words summarize for me in a special way who Mary is for me.  She was chosen and responded.


As we prepare for Christmas in five short days let us remember that we too are called and chosen and need to continually respond as Mary did.  May we have the courage and perseverance of Mary in all we do
.





Sunday, December 13, 2020

Gaudete Sunday

 




Our week begins with “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin.  It comes from the first word of the Entrance antiphon on Sunday.  The spirit of joy that begins this week comes from the words of Paul, “The Lord is near.”  This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath, which is rose colored, and the rose-colored vestments often used at the Eucharist.

We prepare this week by feeling hope and joy.  We move through this week feeling a part of the waiting world that rejoices because our longing has prepared us to believe the reign of God is close at hand.  And so, we consciously ask:  Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow.

Each morning this week, in that moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle.  Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy.  They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective.  In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy.  Perhaps we can pause, breathe deeply, and say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Each day this week, we will continue to go through our everyday life, but we will experience the difference our faith can bring to it.  We are confident that the grace we ask for will be given us.  We will encounter sin - in our own hearts and in our experience of the sin of the world.  We can pause in those moments, and feel the joy of the words, “You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

We may experience the Light shining into the dark places of our lives and inviting us to experience God's mercy and healing.  Each night this week we want to pause in gratitude.  Whatever the day has brought, no matter how busy it has been, we can stop, before we fall asleep, to give thanks for a little more light, a little more freedom to walk by that light, in joy.

Our celebration of the coming of our Savior in history, is opening us up to experience his coming to us this year and preparing us to await his coming in Glory.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Come and visit your people. We await your coming.  Come, O Lord.




 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

 

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”   Mark 13:  33 - 37

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent.  The old liturgical year has ended and we begin a new liturgical year, the Gospel reminds us that our time on earth is not permanent.  We are told three times that we must “Stay awake”! As members of the household of God, left in charge of the Church, each with our own task, we are called to take up our task and be ready.

It is so easy to miss the whole point of the Advent Season.  We watch and wait for the coming of the Messiah while at the same time we are bombarded by all the commercial messages we receive about shopping, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  During these short four weeks we are invited to journey to the manger.  We are invited to get in touch with our deepest yearnings.  Like Mary, we wait patiently, preparing for the birth of Christ.

We need to stay awake to what is truly important to us and prepare our hearts to be open to the coming of Christ.  This truly is my most favorite time of the year and I wish it were longer.  As we journey this Advent let us do so with great hope and trust.  Let us  create these spaces by clarifying what we are watching for during the Advent Season with the simple prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus, help me to grow in a greater awareness that you are my Savior. You have saved me from endlessly searching for the meaning of life. You have saved me from turning against myself by your forgiveness. You have saved me from endlessly searching for signs of your presence because you touch me through your Sacraments. You have saved me from thinking that the possessions or positions I have will save me and make me loved. Thank you for continuing to save me."




Sunday, November 22, 2020

Feast of Christ the King

 

Today we celebrate the end of the Liturgical Year with the Feast of Christ the King.  As a young child I remember singing the hymn, To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King.

To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign King, Who is the world’s salvation, all praise and homage do we bring, and thanks and adoration.

Christ Jesus Victor, Christ Jesus Ruler! Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer!

Thy reign extend, O King benign, to every land and nation, for in Thy kingdom, Lord divine, alone we find salvation.

To Thee and to Thy Church, great King, We pledge our hearts’ oblation, until before Thy throne we sing, in endless jubilation.

This hymn somehow did not capture my image of a King at the time.  Now this day has a greater meaning for me.  In our reading today we hear the description of the final judgement when all will be separated as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  The judgement of the Son of Man will be based on our acts of mercy shown to the least among us.  Jesus teaches that when the Son of Man comes in glory, he will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.

Last week’s parable of the talents taught us that the gifts that we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us. Our judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones. Indeed, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ himself.

As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and prepare for Thanksgiving.  Let us take the opportunity to make conscious efforts to share with the least among us.  May we share generously and remember that when we serve others we are serving Jesus too.