Monthly Archives: December, 2016

Through the Eyes of Joseph

Fr. Bob’s homily 4th Sunday of Advent A

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4th Sunday of Advent A

It sometimes surprises us, but in Matthew’s Gospel, the focal point of the birth of Jesus is not on Mary, but Joseph.  In fact, Mary does not speak a word in the birth narrative while all the action appears on Joseph’s side.  To him belongs the dream and to him belongs the decisions we await for salvation history to unspool.

So let us follow Joseph through this story in the Ignatian style.  St. Ignatius of Loyola trained his Jesuits to choose a character from a Gospel story and follow them along imagining what their emotions and reactions would be.  Perhaps it is why Pope Francis has such keen insights into the Gospel.

We meet Joseph in the middle of the story. We are told simply that Mary became pregnant in the time after she was betrothed to Joseph but before they lived together.  Imagine…

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Is it Jesus or Should We Look for Another?

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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3rd Sunday of Advent A

The Gospel on this joyous Sunday begins in a dark place both literally and figuratively.  John the Baptist has been imprisoned by King Herod after his astoundingly successful ministry in the desert.   John had preached about the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins through his baptism.  And before his arrest, he had pinned his hopes on Jesus, the one he believed to be the long promised Messiah to rescue Israel.  His influence had grown so large that he was considered a threat to the king whom he had directly criticized.

Now in prison, under the constant threat of death, John seems to be having his doubts about Jesus.  Perhaps Jesus was not meeting his expectation of a Messiah; perhaps the Jesus movement had not developed the momentum he expected.  He is worried about his legacy – had he prepared the path for…

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3rd Sunday in Advent, cycle A

This Sunday is Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday.  What is happening in your life right now that causes you to rejoice?  How is Christ present in this?

Isaiah 35:  1 – 6a, 10

How patient are you?  Patient enough to wait for the desert to burst into flowers?  For shaking hands to be stilled, for weak knees to be strong again?  Patient enough to wait for the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to run, the mute to sing?  That kind of patience is a divine quality.  For most of us, these things are too wonderful to imagine, much less to expect.

The prophecy to the people of God in exile is that they will return home to their land, a thing as impossible to dream of as a blooming desert.  Still the message delivered to the door of God’s people is always the same:  God will save you.  From Egypt, from Babylon, from your sins and yourselves, God will save you.  To those who believe, the desert is a garden waiting to awaken.  No situation in life is barren, no defeat final.  No matter the depth to which we have fallen, God is prepared to raise us up.  When our hearts are most frightened, we can lean on this word  (Exploring the Sunday Readings, 12/98).

A doctor in Aleppo recently said, “We are under attack.  We have the feeling that the whole world has abandoned us, left us here in Aleppo to be killed brutally with no help at all. We can’t defend ourselves. We can’t do anything. We can’t protect our hospitals. We can’t protect our lives. We can’t protect our patients’ lives. We can’t protect our families’ lives. It’s desperate here.”  Perhaps these words from Isaiah would comfort him.

What do you make of that word vindication?  Vindication is not up to us.  We must trust God and wait for God to execute justice for God surely will.  It will be in God’s time, not ours  (www.patheos.com).

James 5:  7-10

Henri Nouwen says, “What strikes me is that waiting is a period of learning.  The longer we wait the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.  As the Advent weeks progress, we hear more and more about the beauty and splendor of the One who is to come.  Advent leads to a growing inner stillness and joy allowing us to realize that he doe whom we are waiting has already arrived and speaks to me in the silence of our hearts.  Just as a mother feels the child grow in her and is not surprised on the day of the birth but joyfully receives the one she learned to know during her waiting, so Jesus can be born in our lives slowly and steadily and be received as the one we learned to know while waiting.”

Consider how you would finish this sentence:  Jesus, I await your coming more fully into my life so that now…

Is this how we make our hearts firm?

Matthew 11:  2 – 11

Why did John question Jesus?  Perhaps conditions were so harsh in prison that he began to doubt.  Maybe he was growing impatient for something good to happen.  Maybe he wondered if it was all worth it.  We all have moments of weakness, when we let our thoughts take over and cloud what we know down deep to be true.  Jesus assures John by naming the actions done in faith.  Like the saying says, actions speak louder than words.  John and Jesus had their own followers, but they all had the same goal:  salvation!

John had the destiny which sometimes falls to men; he had the task of pointing men to a greatness into which he himself did not enter.  It is given to some men to be the signposts of God.  They point to a new ideal and a new greatness which others will enter into, but into which they will not come.  It is very seldom that any great reformed is the first man to toil for the reform with which his name is connected.  Many who went before him glimpsed the glory, often labored for it, and sometimes died for it, (Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 7)

Jesus questions why the people went out to see John.  This Advent season, look at what fills your day.  Why do you do what you do?  Does it bring meaning to your life?  Does it bring you closer to God?  Are you preparing a way towards Jesus?

Come and See

Father Bob’s homily 11/27/16

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1st Sunday of Advent A 2016

I had a random theological thought.  Not a profound one but a random one.  If the followers of Jesus had known that the seven days they believe the world was created in really represented millions of years, would they have thought the second coming would be so immediate?  If they had known that God had been so patient in creation, would they have surmised that God would be just as patient in salvation?

You cannot deny the urgency we find in the scriptures today as we always do in anticipating the second coming on the first Sunday of Advent.  St. Paul reminds us, “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.”  And Jesus warns…

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December 4th, 2016: 2nd Sunday of Advent

1st Reading – Isaiah 2: 1-5

This section is from ‘First Isaiah’ – that part of Isaiah that was written by an 8th century prophet when Assyria was attacking Israel.  This was a world in crisis.  There are three characteristics emerging from this reading:

  1. This messianic age will be presided over by a just and God-fearing descendent of David. The shoot coming from the “stump” and “roots” represents the state of the dynasty after the branches (unfaithful kings) have been removed.  The ideal king, then is rooted in his earliest forebears.
  2. This era will be marked by the king’s execution of justice on behalf of his people. Equity and harmony will  be re-established.
  3. There will be a return to the harmony and peace of Eden. Mutually hostile animal species will be able to co-habitate, as it was before sin came to be on the earth  (Foley, Footprints on the Mountain, pp. 15-16).

Does it sound a little beyond reach?  This Advent, consider living with this unfinished feeling.  We know how we wish things would be, and yet we are not there yet.  Richard Rohr says, “We need to be reminded that utopia is nonexistent.  Utopia, that perfect world in our imagination, is not what we’re waiting for at Christmas.  Our task in this world is to live with open hands –with emptiness – so that there’s room for a coming, so that there’s room for something more,” (Catholic Update, Dec 1989).

2nd Reading —  Romans (15:4-9):

Christian fellowship should be marked in hope.  The Christian is always a realist, but never a pessimist.  The Christian hope is not a cheap hope.  It is not the immature hope which is optimistic because it does not see the difficulties and has not encountered the experiences of life.  The Christian hope has seen everything and endured everything, and still has not despaired, because it believes in God.  (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series on Romans, p. 196)

Paul is really furthering the vision of Isaiah here by encouraging us to see how the ‘peaceable kingdom’ has begun in Jesus, the One who welcomed – even sought out – sinners, the afflicted, the lost.  We must continue Jesus’ example. No one is excluded from God’s mercy.  (Celebration, Dec. 2004)

The Gospel — Matthew (3: 1-12):

John cries out: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Jesus began His ministry with the very same words in Mt.3: 17.) How do the first two readings prepare us for these words?  How is this an Advent message?

What images of desert and mountains and valleys – of Spirit and fire – of axe and root – of good fruit and wheat and chaff – speak most to you?

John’s entire presence preaches repentance.  His ‘dress’ of camel’s hair and leather belt is similar to Elijah, another prophet heralding the end times.  He resists the mainstream, living in the desert and eating locust and honey.  He is not shy…how often have you been in a group and called a brood of vipers?!  What John is challenging is that just because paternity makes the Pharisees and Saducees sons of Abraham, that doesn’t mean the  kingdom is theirs.  It is by their fruit (what they DO) that matters  (Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, pp. 4-5).

It is also important to remember when we read about repenting and judgment that we remember that Scripture is meant, first of all, to call ourselves to conversion. We may be tempted, though, to think it is all right to point the finger at others and even practice retribution ourselves. But it is fundamental to recall that God is the one who does the judging and God alones does the cutting. Final judgment is God’s job; ours is repentance. ( Exploring the Sunday Readings, Dec. 9, 2007)

How can we let this gospel move our hearts this Advent?