Monthly Archives: February, 2015

Ministering Angels

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…


1st Sunday of Lent B

There is not a lot to work with in this Gospel and I preached about the second paragraph just a few weeks ago.  All we have is that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert among the wild beasts where he fasted forty days and nights, was tempted by Satan and ministered to by angels.

Jesus has just been baptized in the Jordan by John and heard the awesome affirmation of his Father, “This is my beloved Son.”  But before he begins his ministry, he must have his desert experience.  The desert was not a favored place in Israel which cherished civilization.  It loved in cities and towns, but the desert was a place of foreboding.   The scapegoat which carries all the sins of Israel is released into the desert on Yom Kippur?  It is the home of demons, sin and temptation.  It is…

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Walking in Peace with St. James: Overview and Chapter 1

St. James

Opening Prayer…

St. James!
We come to you in eager pilgrimage.

We come as part of a great throng of pilgrims
who through the centuries have come to this place,
where you are pilgrim and host, apostle and patron.
We come to you today
because we are on a common journey.
Place yourself, patron of pilgrims,
at the head of our pilgrimage.
Teach us, apostle and friend of the Lord,
the WAY which leads to him.
Open us, preacher of the Gospel,
to the TRUTH you learned from your Master’s lips.
Give us, witness of the faith,
the strength always to love the LIFE Christ gives.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

History of the Apostle St. James

James was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee.  His life changed when Jesus came along and asked him to follow him; he dropped his nets and left with his brother.  He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.  He saw Jesus preach in the synagogue, heal Simon’s mother-in-law, raise Jairus’ daughter, be transfigured and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.  James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.  Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.

St. James & Spain

There are legends that explain how the relics of St. James ended up in Compostela, Spain.  These legends were the basis for the pilgrimage route that began to be established in the 9th century, and the shrine dedicated to James at Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia in Spain, became the most famous pilgrimage site in the Christian world. The Way of St. James is a tree of routes that cross Western Europe and arrive at Santiago through Northern Spain. Eventually James became the patron saint of Spain, but also of hat makers, rheumatoid sufferers and laborers.  (

Letter of St. James

Though it is unmistakably Christian, this book has a very Jewish feel to it.  Jesus is mentioned by name only twice (1:1, 2:1), and there are no references to the saving effects of his death and resurrection or to the gift and work of God’s Holy Spirit.  Instead, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts, like a guidebook down the path of life.

There is still debate among theologians who wrote this epistle.  It is most widely attributed to Jesus’ “brother” James, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (James the Just, not the apostle).  The letter starts as being addressed to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, which could mean descendants of Abraham (12 tribes) or Jews who live outside of Palestine (dispersed).  Metaphorically, it could be Christians who are the new Israel (as a select group) or all Christians dispersed on the earth.  The ambiguity speaks to what the writer was probably feeling at the time, and his audience.  Christianity was so new (Powell, Intro. the New Testament, p. 445-450)..  We don’t even know when it was written, whether 60s or perhaps later in the 80s & 90s.  Despite the reflection of Jewish Christian traditions, the writing itself suggests a Greek-speaking Jewish community because of its elegance (Perkins, Reading the New Testament, p. 297).

So there is mystery with James the Apostle, James the Just and this letter.  We will sit with this mystery and see how it helps us in our Lenten journey.

Chapter 1

Most letters start in thanksgiving…not James!  He tells us to consider our trials and difficulties with JOY!  Difficulties show our true worth.  They make us stronger and help us see perspective.  How does this show in your life?  He encourages us to seek God with a full heart with our troubles.  Doubt makes us unstable, a “man of two minds”.  Have you ever been torn in your faith?  What happens when we are of two minds?

James also tells us that we are not only to talk the talk but walk the walk.  He draws a picture that when we don’t do as we say, it is like looking at ourselves in the mirror, having forgotten what we looked like.  What does this mean to you?

We Are the Dawn

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

You know Job would have been a horrible basketball coach.  Can you imagine this pre-game speech?  “If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”  Now go out there and get them.

No, it is not much of a pep talk, but it is something that many of us have felt in the deepest breast of our being.  Jesus is having a difficult time in the Gospel as well.  He cured Simon’s mother-in-law and the word of his power quickly gets out.  By that night, everyone who was sick or injured, lost or who had encountered evil was at his door. …

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st   Reading – Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46

Biblical leprosy was any fearful condition that was of unknown origin and could possibly contaminate others.  It ran the gamut from acne, psoriasis, boils, ulcers, rashes, even dandruff to serious malignancies. Leprosy was another name for the community’s fear.  Lepers were not only sick, but also condemned as sinners.  They were called ‘the living dead.’  A healing was considered as difficult as raising the dead to life.        (Exploring the Sunday Readings, and Celebration — Feb. 2000)

Have you ever been able to identify with this leper?  Perhaps you didn’t have anything visibly embarrassing on your person, but maybe you were self-conscious about something?  Or felt the world knew something wrong about you?  We sometimes have a little voice inside of us that counts us unworthy, unclean, unlovable.  But Jesus saves!  We must turn to Jesus’ voice, and He will make us feel worthy, clean and lovable again.

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 10: 31- 11: 1

This reading is dealing with the problem of whether it was all right to purchase meat that had been previously sacrificed to idols. Was it okay for Christians to eat this meat? Some thought it was since the idols were not real anyway. Paul is trying to help this community see that while the meat might be fine to eat, one should not cause undue scandal to those who were more scrupulous. Paul is trying to encourage them to follow Jesus’ example by being concerned for the well-being of others. God is glorified when we freely live lives of love and service. We become better and so do others!   (Celebration, Feb. 2000, and Mary Birmingham, W & W Year B, 485)

Paul more fully comes to explain himself a little further on in chapter 13 when he discusses love: “Love is kind. Love is patient.  . . . etc.”

A good reading to contemplate as we head towards Valentine’s Day.

The Gospel – Mark 1:40-45

Last week, we learned from Simon Peter’s mother-in-law that when we are touched by Jesus, we must ‘rise up and serve.’  Now we see a leper who proclaims freely the good news of salvation (full health and life) in the love of God we find in Jesus.

 “Moved with pity” – sometimes translated “Moved with anger” –

literally this phrase means to have one’s intestines turn over . . .

Yet, this leper had dared to ignore the law’s strict rule of quarantine.

So did Jesus. The passion and sympathy that moved Jesus from deep within showed how he empathized with this man’s blight. Jesus’ passion for the suffering of others challenges us, his followers, to also be stirred and motivated by similarly powerful mission. Jesus’ was willing to touch so as to comfort and heal, touching even those who were condemned as outcasts. This is an example we, too, must follow.     (Celebrations, Feb. 2000, 2003; and Quest, Spring, 2006)

Jesus also spoke sternly toward the man commanding him to tell no one anything, but to see the priest.  The literal translation of this is that Jesus ‘snorted’ or ‘puffed’ – a way that was often used to confront evil in his culture. Mark’s messianic secret seems to be an important motif here. Fantastic miracles do not seem to be why Jesus came. He came to break down barriers between the clean and uncleanbetween the insiders and the outsiders. Eduard Schweizer says that Jesus is horrified at the misery of this man’s condition and isolation for it is contrary to God’s plan for creation.  Also, of course, there is irony in the way Mark tells this story for the healed man is so full of good news that he cannot be silent! God’s kingdom is breaking through! It is just too good – too real – to be concealed.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if we kept such goodness to ourselves? (R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,”;  E. Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark, 58-59)

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Job 7: 1-4, 6-7

In this reading, Job is answering his friends who say he is suffering because of his sin.  What do you make of his words?  What dialogue do you have with God concerning suffering?

The Book of Job explores but does not resolve the fact of suffering. With Job, we see the dark and seamy side of suffering – and Job rails against the injustice of innocent suffering. His ‘friends’ are telling him that his sufferings must be a direct punishment for sin. Job vehemently disagrees. This passage is one of his lengthy, descriptive laments. In the end, after a series of intense, poetic exchanges with God, Job accepts that his suffering cannot be explained away or completely understood. His ‘friends’ are wrong; God harshly corrects them.  As the book ends and Job is restored, suffering is still seen as an intrinsic part of the gift of human life. Job learns to accept what he cannot understand and to trust in the inscrutable wisdom of God. (Preaching Resources, Feb. 9, 2003)

The mystery of pain…Why does God allow it to happen?  There is no satisfactory answer to that question.  But as Christians, we believe that violence, suffering and death are never the last word.  We have hope.  We do not have a God who is removed from our sufferings; ours is a God who has lived a human life and knows suffering.  There may not be answers that will satisfy, but for the believer there is God, who is sorrowful with us, who offers us eternal life, and who moves us, through our hearts, to build a more loving and compassionate society.  (Fr. James Martin in the New York Daily News after the Newtown school shootings)

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22-23

This is the cost of discipleship.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate,

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

From Bonhoeffer who wrote The Cost of Discipleship:

“…what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what would Jesus Christ himself wants of us.”  (p. 37)

“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.”  (p. 60)

“He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible.”  (p. 67)

The Gospel – Mark 1: 29-39

Before this passage, Mark tells of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and casting out demons (last Sunday’s gospel), and then the day goes on with this reading –Mark is presenting dramatically a ‘typical’ day in the life of Jesus who is intent upon proclaiming and ‘preaching’ God’s Kingdom.  What do we see of God’s kingdom here?

John Pilch points out that in Jesus’ culture Peter’s mother-in-law should have been living in her husband’s family home – or — if he was dead, then, she would be with one of her sons. The fact that she is in Peter’s house suggests that she may have no other living family members to take care of her. This woman may have known a lot more sorrow than just this fever. When Jesus touches her, she rises up with energy and purpose in her life. Jesus seemed to have helped her regain her meaning in life. This was beautifully expressed by her eager service.  What do you see in her story?

From Celebrations, Feb., 2003:

Comfortable Christianity is an oxymoron.  We like to imagine those in a deep relationship to God to be peace-filled . . . But to be honest, the most ‘responsive,’ committed Christians . . . are often ‘driven,’ compelled –with at least some measure of agitation and turmoil . . .the calling [from God] deep within – if heeded – is almost guaranteed to increase sensitivity to the demands that abundantly present themselves!  There are always more hungry mouths to feed, more injustices to deal with, more violence to be overcome, more broken hearts to be healed . . .Yet “while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”  It was from that quiet place that he moved on . . .