One of the things that I really love about Roman Catholic traditions is the way that we have divided the entire year into phases or chapters that center around Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the year prepares for his coming. That is Advent. Part of the year marks the time when Christ was present among us. That is from Christmas Day until fifty days after the Resurrection. The third chapter and the longest begins with Pentecost and continues until Advent begins again. It is really a wonderful system where throughout the year we are constantly reminded of the need to have our lives centered on Jesus of Nazareth, to know him better, to love him profoundly and to motivate ourselves to walk in his footsteps.
I love Pentecost because on this day the spotlight swings away from the life of Jesus of Nazareth and shines squarely on us. Jesus came to be our savior, to be our redeemer and he accomplished that, but He wanted to have the human family involved in its own salvation. He wanted us to be partners with him in preaching the good word of God’s love for the human family.
Regretfully, sometimes we don’t get as much out of the Scripture readings as we should when we are at Sunday Mass. I would suggest that you take three or four minutes and open up your bible to Acts of Apostles 2:1-11. The story related there is short but awesomely dramatic. It provides a jump start for this little band of battered, confused men who now have the responsibility of carrying forward the work of Jesus and, believe me, they do well. Next week we will see that Peter gave one of the most successful homilies in the history of the Church. Following the reception of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches to the crowds and the text says that, “There were added that day three thousand souls.” That would certainly have been the shortest RCIA in Church history.
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Most of the time, I just comment on Sacred Scriptures for Sundays but occasionally I see something in the weekday readings that makes me want to share it with others via this blog. Last Thursday, March 15th, was such a day, so I’d like to take a small step back and revisit a portion of the message. The first reading was from the book of Jeremiah and, as is so often the case in Jeremiah, it is a warning! Yahweh is condemning the people for their sinfulness, their lack of faith, their inconstancy and their foolish disregard of his law. He reminds them that time after time he has sent prophets among them to call them to faithfulness, to direct them on the right path and to remind them of the suffering that would be ahead if they continued on that unfaithful road.
Here we are late in Lent and you don’t have to go back to the Sinai desert to be conscious of the fact that warnings come into our lives as well. A close friend dies very suddenly and a very important thought catches our imagination and we are reminded of the need to recommit ourselves to utilizing this holy season. We experience disappointment when a friend lets us down and we have to concentrate on the fact that Jesus Christ is our faith long friend, and that we are journeying with him and we need to stay close to him and on the road. We don’t want to have applied to us what Yahweh said to the people in the 6th century B.C.
This is the nation which does not listen to the voice of the Lord its God or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared.
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January 29th, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most viewers of this blog are probably familiar with the fact that I only post them six times a week. On Saturday, I make some comments on the Scriptures of the following day and then take Sunday off. I hope that you also have an easy Sunday!
This is always the easiest day of the week for me to post a blog because I have my choice of three different readings. The first and second readings are usually drawn from the Old Testament and from one of the Epistles while the third reading is always from one of the four Gospels.
Today, I am passing all of those over and going to the Responsorial Psalm which I think is beautiful, optimistic and a guide for anyone’s life. The first refrain tells us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Oh, my friends, what a wonderful challenge. Each of us has experienced temptations to do something that our conscience warns us against and, on the other hand, we sometimes see an opportunity to do good and yet feel that it wasn’t our job or our responsibility. When we have those thoughts and we don’t give the right response, what we are doing is exactly what the psalmist calls us not to do. We are hearing his voice but we have hardened our hearts.
This particular psalm comes from the 95th psalm and it is so beautiful. The psalm tells us:
Let us sing joyfully to the Lord
Let us greet him with thanksgiving
Let us bow down and worship
He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides
These few words are both a challenge and a source of joy and confidence. We are part of the flock. He does shepherd us and we should endeavor to be open constantly to the various invitations to be better, to walk in his footsteps.
Once again, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
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26th Sunday (September 25th)
The Church year is beginning to wind down. For many weeks, the Scripture texts presented for our consideration each Sunday morning have provided us with material for thought, self evaluation and, hopefully, self improvement. Occasionally, some of them jump out at us with really startling concepts. Today, is such a day.
The theme of today’s Mass is obedience and the Gospel narrative gives an excellent example of that, but the most important for me personally, is the second reading from the second chapter of St. Paul in which he talks about the obedience and humility of Jesus Christ. St. Paul is writing from prison to his friends and converts in the city of Philippi. The apostle urges them to be united in faith, not to quarrel or fight and pointing out that they can avoid conflict by being humble and generous to each other. Then he referred to Christ’s attitude in those areas.
Christ, “though he was by nature God, did not deem the equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself, took the form of a slave and born in the likeness of men.”
In his preaching, Paul frequently urges us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ – “For me to live as Christ.” He never asserted that it was going to be easy and in today’s world, such a path is truly challenging.
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20th Sunday of the Year: August 14th
This Sunday is all about the mystery of the Jews in the Christian story. There is no way that I can deal with it effectively in the few paragraphs to which I am limited by my editor. All three scripture texts touch on the mystery of Judaism and the new dispensation brought about by the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the first reading, Isaiah says with great optimism and hopefulness that God’s love and justice reaches out to non-Jews if they love the name of the Lord and become his servants. In the second reading, St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, identifies himself for the first time as the apostle to the Gentiles and explains why he is still vitally concerned about bringing Jewish friends into the community that is united by its faith in Jesus. Those first two readings are essentially gentle and encouraging, but today’s excerpt from the Gospel seems harsh because it shows that Jesus is still coming in a very special way to call God’s chosen people to listen to his word and he wants to specialize in that. He will get around to the Gentiles later on but then, of course, the text does take a happy turn. Because of the great faith of this Canaanite woman, her wish is granted and her child is cured. This text tells us many things; first of all, the importance of the Jews in salvation history and secondly, the power of prayer.
Remember that sad line in the prologue of St. John’s Gospel? “He came into his own and his own received him not.” That text is offset by John, a few lines later, when he says, “But to those who did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God who are born not of natural generation nor human choice nor a man’s decision, but are born of God.”
And so we are!
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