Monthly Archives: January, 2016

Scripture Commentary 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19

Jeremiah is the Rodney Dangerfield of prophets, the man who invented the tradition that a prophet doesn’t “get any respect” in his own country.  Jeremiah, during his long career as a prophet in Judah, faced a mob that demanded he be put to death; was whipped and put in stocks (20:2); was beaten and thrown into prison for ‘a long time’ (37:15); was thrown into a cistern with mud up to his armpits and left to starve (38:6); and was kept under house arrest (39:15).  After the fall of Jerusalem, he wound up in Egypt where, according to tradition, his own people stoned him to death.

Jeremiah did not walk around with a smile button on his shirt.  “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!”  (15:10)  Yet he carried out his mission with intensity.  He always moved from anger and reproach to hope (US Catholic, Kenneth Guentert).  Compare this with our upcoming Gospel reading.  How might you move from anger to hope with the troubles in your life?

During Jeremiah’s ministry of 45 years, the world changed dramatically.  When he began, Assyria was still the world’s greatest power (Northern and Southern Kingdoms have separated), but by the time he died in exile in Egypt, Babylon stood supreme (Boadt, L.  Reading the Old Testament, 363). When there is division and chaos, it is often hard to be sure of what the right course of action is…Jeremiah had his work cut out for him!

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 12: 31- 13: 13

Re-read this passage replacing the word “love’ for ‘God’.  How does it change for you?

From M. Birmingham, W&W, p. 355:

Paul’s community was experiencing internal strife and division.  Some people (gnostics: matter bad/spirit good, Jesus not really human so no real suffering or physical resurrection), glorifying in their own manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, had set themselves apart as the spiritual elite.  Because of their self-righteous, emotional, and overt display of charisms, Paul wrote to them to remind them that God was the Giver of gifts and no one had reason to boast.  Paul asserted that the gifts were for the uplifting of the community, not for personal edification.  The gifts meant nothing if love was absent.  He asserts that self-giving love toward one another should be the response of every member of the community.  This passage is often read and preached during nuptial celebrations, but it has an ecclesial importance.  The church is a community of love.

The Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

Jesus shocks and surprises the people of his hometown of Nazareth; has God ever surprised – shocked you?  How does this gospel strike you? – challenge you?

Jesus, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, challenged people with an alternative to the reality of their lives.  Jesus was certainly not a politician, as we see here in this passage. The good news that Jesus came to share is always good and always new, but not always comfortable.  It would seem that Jesus would have been wiser to have quit while he was ahead.  Rather, he pushed on to an inclusive message that ‘forced’ choices that were disturbing. That is what prophets do.  This hometown crowd is angered to hear that Jesus will share blessings and wonders with others – even Gentiles.  Apparently, they took this ‘good news’ for others as bad news for themselves.             (Living Liturgy, p. 50 – 51)

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”:
Remember: no one in Jesus’ culture was expected to improve on the lot of the parents. One was expected to safeguard the family’s honor. In today’s reading Jesus is seen by others in his village to be stepping shamefully beyond his family boundaries. Then Jesus seems to rub salt into the wound by his insulting behavior — preaching in his hometown and healing elsewhere. He does not minister to his own – but they have heard of him doing things in Capernaum, a place that was noted for having many Gentiles – people who were not of his own kind. To direct his healing activities to such a place rather than his own hometown and blood relatives was to transgress very seriously against family honor. Honor in the Mediterranean world was a matter of life and death.

3 themes found in Luke’s Gospel

  1. World Affirmation:  God loves creation; God values and works in human culture and activities.
  2. The Great Reversal:  The gospel challenges the status quo, affirming those who have been rejected and abused.
  3. Universal Salvation:  Human values are reversed, not for punishing the wicked, but for saving the lost, poor, sick, downtrodden.

(taken from The Gospel of Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson, p.21-23)

The scriptures call us to see simply this:  the trouble with fences and boxes is that God is never in them!”  (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)

It was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  There must have been many things with which He radically disagreed and which grated on Him – yet He went.  The worship of the Synagogue might be far from perfect; yet Jesus never omitted to join Himself to God’s worshipping people on God’s day  (Barclay, Gospel of Luke, 45).

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The Wine of Life

Fr. Bob Homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

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2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Did you sense the tension at the beginning of the Gospel? Mary tells Jesus, “They have no wine.”  Jesus wants to know what this could possibly have to do with him.   I have seen that look.  Once I entered seminary and there was a problem in our family, Mom would ask me what I intended to do about it and I would say why me?  Why can’t I be like any of my other cousins?  She suggested that I have had some special training and now I could help.

As so often happens with mothers and eldest sons, she presumes that Jesus will do exactly what she said and sure enough he does.  They pour water into six stone water jars and Jesus blesses them and they become wine.  But I get why Jesus did not want this to be his first sign…

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The Beloved of God; God is well pleased in us

Fr. Bob homily from Baptism of the Lord…

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Baptism of the Lord C

Well, last week we had vicar camp. It was titled something else but we all settled around the idea of camp.  We had great discussions around what our role should be and how best we could serve the diocese and the Bishop.  It looks like the job will primarily be to develop relationships and share what is working in parishes.  The ideal is to advance the new evangelization.

And perhaps because I do not trust the Holy Spirit enough, I asked at the end of our time together, “What are the measurables here? How do we know if we are doing our job?”  And without hesitation, the Bishop said you will know you are doing your job if people really know that they are loved by God and their lives are really changed by the love of Jesus Christ.  That actually sounds like a pretty…

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Scripture Commentary 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading: Nehemiah 8: 2-6, 8-10

On God’s Word from Celebration, Jan 2004:

The Word reveals not only God’s goodness and love but also the failures and sinfulness of the one who listens.  The Word of God can teach us who we are–if we dare to look into it as if looking into a mirror, humbly and without deceit.  Is this what Israel experienced as Ezra read the Word?  Perhaps.  Nevertheless, the scribe did not permit the people to wallow in regret.  Rather, he encouraged them to dwell not on their sinful selves but on the redeeming and liberating Word of God . . . to replace their regret with rejoicing, celebrating with great hope.

The Book of Nehemiah is about the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile.  Nehemiah was a competent administrator who was sent by the Persian Emperor as governor of Judah to help rebuild the country. Ezra was a priest and scribe, who worked to rehabilitate the returned Jewish exiles in a religious sense.  Ezra is called the ‘Father of Judaism’ because of his work of gathering together the Jewish Scriptures and applying God’s Word and Law to every aspect of daily living.  The ‘splendor of Solomon and his Temple’ were no more. But when they had managed to finish the walls of the city which gave them a renewed sense of security and hope, a celebration was proclaimed. The Jews were no longer a political power, but they could become a people of God’s Word. “There are no stands made of bronze, no carved cherubim, no golden altar or lamp stands (1Kings 7). In stead, there was a wooden platform made hastily for the occasion (v. 4). Then, a rather poor, but living people stood together with hands raised, listening to God’s Word, and shouting, Amen, Amen! Raising of their hands was a sign of need and dependency along with the bowing as humble adoration.

This reading took place near Jerusalem’s entrance called the Water Gate since it was near the Spring of Gihon. Isaiah had promised that the people “will draw water at the fountain of salvation” (Is. 12:3) Sirach (24:28-31) saw the Word of God as an immense sea from which a “rivulet” will flow that will “water my plants”, and drench my flower garden pouring out instruction like prophecy and bestowing “it on generations to come.”

(Share the Word, January 25, 1998, and John Pilch, The Cultural World of the Prophets, 30-31)  How does all of this touch you?

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30

Many Greek writers were fascinated by the body during Paul’s time, especially Plato.  Plato had pointed out that we do not say, My finger has a pain,” we say, “I have a pain.”  There is an I , a personality, which gives unity to the many and varying parts of the body.  What the I is to the body, Christ is to the Church.  It is in him that all the diverse parts find their unity, “  (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series on Corinthians, p. 113).

Central Message:  We all have purpose, and we need each other to live this out.

“Good work is a way of living…it is unifying and healing…it defines us as we are; not too good to work with our bodies, but too good to work poorly or joylessly or selfishly or alone.”  Wendell Barry

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”  Jalal Al-din Rumi

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  Frederick Buechner

The Gospel: Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

If you were sitting in that synagogue, seeing Jesus take the scroll and read this familiar passage from Isaiah…and then hear Jesus say that he fulfills this reading as messiah…what would you be thinking?  How would you react?

From Origen of Alexandra, an early Church writer:

If scripture is true, it was not only to the Jewish community of his own time that Jesus spoke. He still speaks to us assembled here today – and not only to us, but to other communities also. We too must fix our eyes on Jesus. Whenever we direct our inward gaze toward wisdom and truth and the Good News of God’s Son, then our eyes are fixed on Jesus.  (“Thoughts from the Early Church” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Jesus feels called to help renew and ‘rebuild’ God’s People; he feels God has anointed him to show forth God’s presence and power in the everyday lives of those present. He wants to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. He knows that God’s Word can be life-changing and life-giving. He uses a passage from his Scriptures, the Book of Isaiah.  But he is also by his very preaching and proclamation stepping beyond what his fellow villagers in Nazareth would have expected. He is a carpenter and the son of a carpenter. They think they know him. We will read the ‘rest of the story’ next week at Luke 4:22-30.

(John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Remember last week Jesus was still growing into his ministry.  He is doing a good job!

Scripture Commentary for 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Isaiah 62: 1-5

This passage comes from the latter portion of the book of the prophet Isaiah, often referred to as Trito-Isaiah or Third Isaiah because it is believed to have been written by a different author than chapters 1-39 and chapters 40-55.  No longer are the people exiled in a foreign land.  They have returned home to Jerusalem  (Workbook for Lectors, p. 49).  This is a song!  God rejoices over the restoration of Jerusalem, his people.  When in exile, there was influence of other gods and sinful ways.  Now that many of His people have returned, all things shall be made new again!  How does this speak to you in your life?  What outside influences challenge you in your relationship with God?  Have you ever had a time when, in spite of these challenges, you could not be silenced?  God delights in you!  Sometimes it is hard to wrap our heads around a love this big…

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

From Mary Birmingham, W&W Workbook for Year C, p. 343:

Written about 52-53AD, this letter is one of the earliest pieces of Christian writing.  Paul had preached and ministered in Corinth for about 18 months.  Corinth was a Greek city filled with diversity and harsh divisions:  the very wealthy, the very poor and slaves – a cauldron of religious philosophies, doctrines and intellectual pursuits  (not unlike today!).  This community was under great pressure in such an environment.  Paul’s concern was with those who were emphasizing ‘spiritual gifts’ such as ‘praying in tongues’ with a great deal of self-righteous zeal.  Paul was insisting that true spiritual gifts were given for the benefit of the WHOLE community –not for personal advancement and ‘showing off.’  Can you relate to this?  What are your gifts and how do you share them?

From Introducing the Practice of Ministry by K. Cahalan (p. 24-28)

Richard Fragomeni says we “live in a baptismal mode,” we are always being baptized into the dynamic movement between death and life, sin and reconciliation, evil and justice, the old and the new.  By living in baptismal mode, we hope to discern what our calling is in this life, our vocation.  How do we live this way?

  1. How you live  (how you spend your days, what are your commitments)
  2. What you do (in what ways do you serve God and your community)
  3. Who you are (what is your sense of self in the context of your relationships and life)

The Gospel – John 2: 1-11

From Workbook for Lectors, p. 51:  At the wedding feast at Cana, we see the 1st of 7 signs in the Gospel according to John.  There is no other parallel in the synoptic accounts.  This sign, turning water into ’good wine’, has obvious connections to the sacrificial meal of abundant feeding we know as the Eucharist.  Notice that Jesus does not do anything that causes the water to change into wine; rather, his words coupled with the obedient actions of the servers yield the amazing transformation.

There is an invitation to a feast.  Words are said.  Jesus’ action turns water into wine.  The choice wine is given out. The disciples take the next step on their faith journey.  This is what we practice every Sunday!

From Preaching Resources, Jan 2001 & 2007:  The 6 large water jugs were used for purification rites – these were ritual ablutions required before and after meals.  They held about 120 gallons. By turning this specific water into an almost embarrassing abundance of choice wine, John’s gospel is declaring the messianic era of salvation has indeed come in Jesus.  This old way of purification is to be replaced with a faith relationship with Jesus – baptism and following Jesus’ teachings – becoming disciples –‘doing whatever he tells you’ – is the true way to the fullness of life, the salvation that God offers us in Christ.  Mary, the model disciple, will not be seen again in this gospel until we find her under the cross – the time and place of Jesus’ full revelation and glory.

From Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol 1, p. 105:  When John told this story he was remembering what life with Jesus was like; and he said, “Wherever Jesus went and whenever he came into life it was like water turning into wine.”  This story is John saying to us“If you want the new exhilaration, become a follower of Jesus Christ, and there will come a change in your life which will be like water turning into wine.”  

A Family Like Ours

Father Bob’s Holy Family homily

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Holy Family C

The Gospel of the finding of Jesus in the Temple has a lot of resonance with me because of a similar event that happened to my family. It was our big trip to Washington, DC and on the way in our cabdriver gave us a tour of the city including the White House and then drove up Pennsylvania Avenue and dropped us off at the apartment where we were staying. When we woke the next morning, we could not find my brother John. We searched frantically for him.  Remember, there were no cell phones back then.  It turns out that John, who was around the age of Jesus in the Gospel story, got up before any of us, found Pennsylvania Avenue and decided to walk by himself to the White House.  Soon we saw my brother jauntily walking back after his adventure. Like Mary and Joseph, my…

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The Definition of Mercy

Father Bob’s Christmas homily

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Christmas 2015

What if someone, perhaps your child, asked you what beauty is? You would fumble for words for how do you express something that so deeply held in the soul?  Your mind would turn to the great works of art you admired or to a song that pierced your heart or to poetry or prose that stirred your innermost being.  But you know that would fall somehow flat.  Perhaps the best you could do is to think of the face of your most beloved, maybe look back at your own child, and say that is as close as we can come to saying what beauty is.

And what if your child asked you what is wisdom is? You could recall a compendium of facts and seek out the places of our highest learning.  You could name the greatest minds who ever lived.  But you know wisdom to be more…

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It Was More Than a Table By: Kathleen Duff

It was more than a table.

It was purchased more than fifty years ago and became the gathering space for family grace, the center of the home. It held stories and memories of multigenerational holiday feasts in the dining room. It was draped for special meals with a beautiful lace tablecloth made by my grandmother. It remembered laughter and tears, love and gratitude. It circled people and prayers into blessing. Indeed, it was sacred space when we were all together and God sat among us.

The solid wood table travelled with my parents from Long Island to their home on a mountain in Pennsylvania where they retired. The family table eventually moved with my son, Patrick into his first apartment after the death of my parents. It kept Patrick company during his last years.

Volunteer workers from The Home Furnishings Program in Schenectady, a non-profit that serves people in need, loaded the old sturdy table into the back of their truck today. She’s headed for a new home now, moving in with a new family that needs to be gathered together. May they receive all the blessings held within our table, blessings created from our family’s tree of life. May they know, it was more than a table.

*EDITOR’S NOTE:  Perhaps you have a family treasure that has been passed down and used in love throughout the years.  It is such a Catholic notion to make the ordinary things of our lives extraordinary by being mindful of God’s presence within them.  Take some time to cherish your treasures this week.  Thank you for sharing with us, Kathleen!

Baptism of the Lord Mass Readings, cycle C

1st Reading:  Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

This reading from second Isaiah announces the end of the Babylonian exile and the return of the Israelites to their homeland.  Those out in the desert are being called back (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 21).  God makes it very clear that he wants every obstacle between God and God’s people to be taken away so that nothing keeps us apart.  God wants to be fully in relationship with us.  God wants to be with us in our journey, as hard as it may be.  The path is paved with love.  Richard Rohr says…

Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding moves all religion out of any esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost. There is no secret moral command for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then you will see what you need to see.

2nd Reading:  Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7

In Jesus we get to see God’s power and mercy in action in our history at close range.  And we need God close, because salvation that is far away can be hard to believe in.  We suffer the ache of the particular, being born with this nose, these parents, this ethnicity and address, and no other.  We’ve got to make do with certain talents and limitations.  We’re stuck with the present generation, and can never return to the past nor fast-forward to the age to come.  Hunkered down in time and place can be a terrible poverty when it comes to opportunity.  And Jesus reveals to us that God is willing to share our poverty in order to save us from it.   No other proof would do but to be here.  What are some of the particulars of your life that are especially difficult?  How does the revelation of Jesus speak to those?  (Exploring the Sunday Readings, Jan. 2004)

Gospel:  Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

We might wonder why it was necessary for Jesus to receive baptism.  We know that John certainly considered himself unworthy to perform the act, but Jesus insisted that he be baptized along with the rest of the people on the banks of the Jordan River.  Through this baptism Jesus was able to link his ministry with John’s proclamation.  Jesus is no longer just the carpenter’s son in Nazareth  (The Word into Life, cycle C, p.22)

This is a moment of Trinity.  Jesus being baptized with the Holy Spirit descending and the Father speaking His words of love…all come together to transform this moment of baptism as sacred.

What kind of human experience was this in which Jesus hears a voice from heaven speaking to him?  Scholars note that it is an experience in an altered state of consciousness or an experience of alternate reality.  On average, 90% of the world’s cultures regularly have such experiences and find them useful and meaningful in their cultural context  (Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, cycle C, p. 20).

It is interesting to note that right after this section of Luke is a genealogy of Jesus.  Right after the Father proclaims that Jesus is His Son, this genealogy cites one “son of” after another until it ends as Jesus being identified as son of Adam, son of God  (Pilch, 20).

But all of this speaks to the heart.  “God looking into the dripping face of Jesus and seeing the whole big picture of creation and life and heavenly hosts and the throne of heaven.  God looking at Jesus and seeing it all – glory and honor and power and might.  God watching as Jesus came up from his knees and seeing justice and kindness and compassion breaking forth like the dawn.  God seeing in Jesus the very plan of salvation radiant in its entire splendor.  God wrapping the soaking wet Jesus in the warmth of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the magnificence of God’s own mercy is shining back at that moment, glistening in the water of baptism,”  (Hungry, and You Fed Me, Rev. Dr. David A. Davis, p. 45).  What speaks to you?

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.