Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
It’s hard to imagine how dramatic the scene in Nazareth was that day when Jesus returned to his hometown. But let’s try.
Imagine you are in the synagogue that day when Jesus came back. You sense the excitement in the air. You have known Jesus perhaps for as long as he has lived. He has sat with Joseph in the same place because no one ever changes their seat. But this time is unique. For from every neighboring town there are reports of his powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. It is hard to believe, but already you can tell he looks different. It is not just the change of boy to man. He is different than even a year ago. It is how he carries himself, his presence. He stands before everyone and is given the great scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. He unfurls…
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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, p. 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).
Fr. Bob’s homily from the Baptism of the Lord…
Baptism of the Lord C
All of us some of the time and many of us most of the time use negative motivation in our lives. We put tremendous pressure on ourselves. We value our worth based on our success. In other words, we are utilizing the fear of failure to move us. We say things like. “I will be ruined if this does not work out.” Or “If I let everyone down, no one will like or respect me.” Success then is the border not between doing something well or poorly; it is the border between whether I am good or bad. We weaponize our insecurity.
This works well enough to deceive us. We use our fear of failure and we get the good grade, we finish the project, we have our fastest time. Then we give credit to our fear. However, now we have invited fear to always…
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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?
- How you live (how you spend your days, what are your commitments)
- What you do (in what ways do you serve God and your community)
- 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.”
Fr. Bob’s Epiphany homily…
God used to be in our way all the time. You could not avoid God in your daily life. It was certainly true in Jesus’ time. Every moment was shaped by the law of God: what utensils you used, what food you ate and with whom you ate it, even how and when you bathed were signs of your relationship with God. And so it was throughout the centuries. I can imagine my grandmother’s hometown in Italy where the church bells were a summons and the church stood in the middle of town for it was the middle of life. When these churches and our school was built in the fifties, it was more than just a place to worship; it was where dances were held, where you met your friends – a second home. Even in my childhood, there was no competition on Sunday mornings. Everything was…
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Fr. Bob’s homily for the Feast of the Holy Family…
Holy Family C
Jesus is twelve in this story. The finding of Jesus in the Temple is the only tale we have of Jesus between the infancy narratives and the beginning of his public career. And he is such a twelve year old, isn’t he? When his distraught parents finally find him among the rabbis in the Temple precincts, he tells them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I think someday an ancient text will be found that actually discovers he said, “Mom and Dad you are embarrassing me. Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This is not sin as frustrating as it must have been. He is trying to grow into his faith, into that particular relationship he had with his Father.
But he not only sounds like one, Jesus is…
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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. How does this challenge you?
This reading can be a difficult one, because many of us still have mountains and valleys despite our prayers to level them. Perhaps Gerald May can help us in his writing on coping, “I have come to hate that word, because to cope with something you have to separate yourself from it. You make it your antagonist, your enemy. Like management, coping is a taming word, sometimes even a warfare word. Wild, untamed emotions are full of life-sprit, vibrant with the energy of being. They don’t have to be acted out, but neither do they need to be tamed. They are part of our inner wilderness; they can be just what they are. God save me from coping. God, help me join, not separate. Help me be with and in, not apart from. Show me the way to savoring, not controlling. Dear God, hear my prayer: make me forever copeless,” (The Wisdom of Wilderness, p. xiii – xiv). This is a new insight! Maybe the mountains and valleys are still there but feel leveled because God accompanies us. What do you think?
2nd Reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Titus is considered one of the pastoral letters of Paul (along with 1 & 2 Timothy) because it is addressed to an individual who is overseeing a congregation. Many interpreters think this letter is pseudepigraphical, or written in the likeness of Paul rather than by Paul himself. Or perhaps some of the letter was written by Paul but then expanded upon by an admirer. They think this for several reasons: 1) language and style are not typical of Paul 2) certain ideas and teaching are different from what Paul expresses elsewhere 3) church government seems too developed for Paul’s lifetime 4) how Paul deals with false teaching is not characteristic of him 5) some of the events mentioned in this letter do not line up with other key information we know about Paul’s life and ministry elsewhere. Titus is mentioned in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, and he was one of the first Gentiles to be attracted to the Christian faith (Gal 2:1-3; 2 Cor 7:6-8, 13-15). (Introducing the New Testament, p. 400-404). Regardless, there are important truths inspired by God that we are to learn.
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).
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?
Fr. Bob’s Christmas homily…
Eleven months ago I was in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity. The main entrance to the church is famously the “Door of Humility.” Originally built to keep camels and other large animals from wandering into the sacred space, it has been rebranded to remind us that in this place the very word of God took flesh and became small and vulnerable. The door is about four feet high and about two feet wide and I am both taller and wider. I was fearful the door of humility might be for me the door of humiliation. However, I contorted my way and entered the church that honors the birth of Jesus.
There were many small doors throughout the church I had to duck under. It is as if those seventh century Byzantines were not building a church for a large 21st century American. Eventually, we wended our…
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1st Reading: Isaiah 60: 1 – 6
From Breaking Open the Word of God, Cycle C, p. 39-40:
Recall experiences in your life in which you came from darkness to light. This could be physical darkness and light, but it would be better to use experiences of coming from darkness to insight. What was the new insight or revelation that came upon you? Was it a delightful or painful experience? Who or what caused this insight or revelation to happen? How was your life changed because of it? Did you grow in any virtues because of it, like understanding, patience, gentleness, peace, love, etc? With whom did you first share this revelation? What was his or her reaction? Would you want to go back to your former way?
From R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 85-86:
This proclamation of Israel’s universal mission is bathed in light, radiance, and splendor, with a poetry strikingly similar to that of Second Isaiah. As the clouds of darkness are dispelled, they are supplanted by God’s glory shining upon Jerusalem. Early indication is given that Israel is to have an influence on other nations. The initial glimpse that Israel receives is that of her own people returning. Yet this is only the prelude to a more impressive spectacle. The image is one of opulence and abundance, with the riches of distant lands being brought to Jerusalem. The gifts offered all look to the reconstruction of Jerusalem; they arrive by land and sea. How does this speak to you? Does it make you think of how your own gifts impact others? How does this passage speak of the Kingdom of God?
2nd Reading: Ephesians 3: 2 – 3a, 5 – 6
Continuing with R. Faley, p. 86-87:
Paul is presented as speaking to the part he played in the plan of God’s grace. “Mystery” is an important word in Paul; the reference is to the ultimate salvific plan of God, concealed from ages past and revealed only in the fullness of time. This previously hidden plan is now made known to the holy apostles and prophets. As foundational to the church, their importance as recipients of revelation is of paramount importance. The revealed secret is the total equality of Gentiles with the Jews in the saving plan of God. The Greek text emphasizes this equality with the prefix syn (with) attached to heirs, body members, and partners. Once made members of the body in the Holy Spirit, the elect becomes heirs of the reign. The use of the three compound nouns underscores the note of non-distinction and the elimination of all separating barriers.
Paul’s revelation (or epiphany) is that we are ALL coheirs, copartners in the body of Christ. This has multiple levels of meaning for us today. Explore within yourself what this means for you, with your family, your parish, your community, your country, all people…
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2: 1 – 12
Epiphany comes from the Greek, epiphaneia, meaning manifestation, striking appearance or come suddenly into view. It is when we celebrate the Three Kings, who are gentiles, coming to worship the Christ child as Lord. But how does Christ manifest himself in your life?
After contemplating the staggering fact that God has become a human child, we turn to look at this mystery from the opposite angle and realize that this seemingly helpless Child is, in fact, the omnipotent God, the King and Ruler of the universe. The feast of Christ’s divinity completes the feast of His humanity. It fulfills all our Advent longing for the King “who is come with great power and majesty.” We see that whereas Christmas is the family feast of Christianity, Epiphany is the great “world feast of the Catholic Church.” At Christmas the Light shone forth, but dimly, seen only by a few around the crib: Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. But at Epiphany the Light bursts forth to all nations and the prophecy is fulfilled. Epiphany demands that like these kings we should return to our own countries a different way, carrying to all those we meet the light of Christ, (Chaney, https://www.catholicculture.org).
From Ronald Rolheiser: To bless another person is to give away some of one’s own life so that the other might be more resourced for his or her journey. Good parents do that for their children. Good teachers do that for their students, good mentors do that for their protégés, good pastors do that for their parishioners, good politicians do that for their countries, and good elders do that for the young. They give away some of their own lives to resource the other. The wise men did that for Jesus.
How do we react when a young star’s rising begins to eclipse our own light?
More questions to ponder from Breaking Open the Word of God, Cycle C, p. 40:
What is the connection between your story and the biblical story? Do you believe that, for some people, God’s revelation can be very threatening and painful while others are filled with delight? How will you be open to God’s revelation as it happens to you in your daily life and in the Church?
There is something special about each of our church buildings. One of the special somethings about our Union Street church is the stained glass. These windows of primarily saints surround us in our worship and remind us we are never alone. Did you know that Joan of Arc had visions from saints that were in the windows of her childhood church?
I haven’t had any visions, but I did have a moving experience yesterday. I was sitting in the Union Street chapel, staring at Our Lady of Sorrows. I didn’t take a picture, but here is a depiction of her:
She is located in the front of the church along with St. Helena and St. Agnes. She is Mary holding seven swords because she had seven sorrows. Simeon had prophesied that, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” (Luke 2: 34-35).
I’ve been captured by this window all year, because she holds the swords so tightly to herself. I tend to hold my sorrows tightly too. I know I need to hold them out to the Lord so we can bear them together, but I forget and think I can somehow handle them on my own (never works). Because Mary often pondered things in her heart, I wonder if she struggled with holding out her sorrows too. I mean, she’s Mary so probably not – but in my imagination, I like to think she knows what I’m talking about at least.
So I’m staring at this window and feeling solidarity with Our Lady of Sorrows, when the lights on the Christmas tree up there turned on! I think they are set on a timer so they will be on for daily Mass. The timing was impeccable. It completely turned my thinking. Here was Mary holding tightly to her sorrows, and light came in to shine on her. This soft, gentle light was like a reminder that she (me, all of us) doesn’t have to stay in the dark with her worries. God shines God’s light in all the dark places where fear tends to creep in. The love of this light dispels fear. The sorrows may remain, but the light accompanies. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1: 5).
So I share this with you, the church, because I would LOVE to hear if these windows, our saints of Union Street, have ever caused reflection for you. We would love to be enriched by your stories!