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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading — Jeremiah 17: 5-8

Jeremiah has prophesied doom for those who trust in human ways rather than in divine will.  Some scholars suggest that this message was delivered during the 1st Babylonian invasion of Judah about 597 BC.  Jeremiah might have been confronting King Zedekiah.  This weak, puppet leader had ignored the prophet’s advice and made an alliance with Egypt against the Babylonians.  Jeremiah tried to convince Zedekiah to forego all other alliances except their alliance with God.  When his advice was ignored, Jeremiah used the image of the barren bush in the desert to portray the folly and futility of trusting in human allies.  In the end, Jerusalem was destroyed and the king was put to death.  Jeremiah lived among the ruins until forced into exile.  It was only after his death that Jeremiah’s work bore fruit.  His messages were scattered about like the captives in exile.  Shortly after their return to rebuild Jerusalem, these messages began to be put together.  (Celebration, Feb. 1998)

What do you think of Jeremiah’s caution that “cursed is anyone who trusts in human beings”? Is this just an outrageous statement that we can ignore or decide is outdated? Or – could it be that our sane, human ways of thinking may not always be God’s way?  We often try to enlist God in the respectable ranks of human nature, the best, highest, and brightest of us. But God is not us. God is utterly beyond our words and concepts. Jeremiah certainly knew this in his own life and sufferings. As we’ll see in the gospel, even Jesus, who is God with us, has a view of human affairs thoroughly at odds with our own. Perhaps there is a higher wisdom that confounds all our categories. Paul in the next reading tries to give us hope and strength beyond our own flesh and wisdom. For Paul the new life of resurrection is the one indication of the unsearchable and incomprehensible ways of God. Here is the mystery of God’s creative love that saves us and can bring life out of death. God-in-Christ transforms all nature and earth. His message is that there is more than our humanity – otherwise the gospel we hear makes no sense. As we conform our lives to Christ, the mighty work of God becomes present in and with us.  (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu/6OrdC021410/theword_engaged.html )

2nd Reading — I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20 

Paul vehemently claims that Jesus is more than just a ‘wisdom teacher’.  Jesus rescues us from death, “the last enemy to be overcome”.  The resurrection is not a fable; Paul insisted that it is a real historical event. It is not an illusion; it assures us that we are not living lives headed into nothingness or despair. That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – not hardships, persecutions or even death itself.  (Celebration, Feb. 11, 2007)

Reginald Fuller says this: Our hope in resurrection is not a philosophical opinion but an inference from present Christian experience. We are forgiven sinners. We have been brought into a new relationship with God through Christ, a relationship that, if it is real, must issue in an ultimate consummation beyond this present existence. Because God has shown us – revealed – given us his forgiving love in Christ nothing, not even death itself, can deprive us of that new life.  (http://liturgy.slu.edu./6OrdC021410/theword_indepth.html )

The Gospel – Luke 6: 17, 20-26

“The Sermon on the Plain” — Compare with Matthew 5, “The Sermon on the Mount”

Just before this in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man with a paralyzed hand on the Sabbath and chooses the Twelve.  Jesus LIVES what he teaches.

Mary in the beginning of Luke’s gospel (1:51-53) sing of God’s wisdom and goodness by claiming that “the hungry he has filled with good things, while the rich he has sent away empty.” Here in this gospel section, Jesus is furthering this major theme of Luke’s gospel: God’s ways are filled with surprise and reversals. God’s wisdom reverses, even subverts, human wisdom and expectations.  Hardship, mourning, even persecution are no longer signs of God’s absence, but a way for God to break into our very lives. (Celebration, 2/98)

Remember when we read ‘rich’ in Luke, it really means ‘greedy’. In antiquity, a person became rich because that individual had power to take wealth from those who were weaker and unable to defend themselves. In this ancient world power was the means for acquiring wealth. To be poor was to be powerless. Culturally, a more appropriate translation of “rich” and “poor” in the Bible, therefore, would be “greedy” and “socially unfortunate.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus promises a reward from God for those who suffer these shameful experiences. The vast majority of people in the ancient world were poor — a condition brought about by greedy folk not by economic problems or laziness or bad luck. Jesus reminds us that God is the ultimate arbiter of what is true honor. God-given honor is the only honor that counts . . .       (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

From John Foley, S.J.:  We need to be open and empty in order to let God and others come in. If we want to love and be loved we need to have a space at the center of who we are. Jesus’ principle seems to run like this: you are blessed if you don’t cram yourself full . . . blessed are you if you stay empty, if you become a spacious home for God, for other human beings, for the long-suffering earth. We are built to be quiet receivers, people who know they are empty and yet patient. There is only one Being who can satisfy our deep capacity for love – only One who can feed us with the bread of life . . . blessed are you if you let go into his arms . . . (http://liturgy.slu.edu./6OrdC021410/reflections_foley.html )

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Financial Report BY Dan O’Connell

Good afternoon – as Fr Bob said, my name is Dan O’Connell and I have been a member of St Kateri parish since my wife Jenny and I and our 3 kids moved to the area about 15 years ago.  I have had the privilege to be a part of a number of ministries thru St Kateri in my time as a parishioner, the most notable I suppose is the role I had as head of the OLF pastoral council during the time of the merger between St Helen’s and OLF – it was a time of great change for both parishes but the experience allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for just how special both parishes – and now our merged parish is – both as a community of faith and as a community of service.

This past summer, Fr Bob asked me to take on a new role, that of heading our Admin and Finance Council.  The Council has the responsibility to advise Fr Bob on all matters related to the sustainable functioning and long term financial health of the parish.  If you have ever sat around your kitchen table w family and talked about how to pay bills or how to set your household budget, you have a pretty good sense of what the role of the Council is, but on a grander scale and with more complexity.  Fortunately for me, the parish is blessed to have very talented, devoted and experienced people serving w me on the Council, who have the task of balancing the cold, hard realities of finance with sensitivity and purpose to fulfilling the parish’s mission as we deliberate on matters central to serving you and the surrounding community in all the parish’s works of faith.  Likewise, St Kateri is so fortunate to have bright, talented and dedicated staff who have elected to shun a better payday to make their faith and their commitment to others their daily vocation. With all these people to lean on it was easy for me to accept Fr Bob’s request to serve on the council, and it is my role on the Council which brings me before you today.

The merger of our 2 parishes is now more than 6 years in the making.  And though there was some anxiety and uncertainty about what the merger would bring I think you would agree with me that the merger has been a success by many measures.  From my perspective, I see a vibrant faith community that has benefited from the combining of our resources as well as the melding of our talents, interests and perspectives.  The parish truly accomplishes so much in serving so many. For many of us, St Kateri is what you experience every Sunday at weekly mass. I know I leave mass enriched by Fr Bob’s message, by the greetings of friends and acquaintances I see, by the smiling faces of parishioners I see engaged in welcoming conversation with others.  In my new role I have come to better appreciate the parish as being so much more, to so many, and today, as Fr Bob did last week in enlightening us about fulfilling our faith commitment thru our wonderful school, I want to spend a few minutes sharing with you just how much the parish means to others beyond Sunday mass – and how we are able to sustain all of these works of faith.

As the finance guy, you might expect me to share a bunch of numbers with you, and I’m well armed to do just that.  But before you head to the exits, let me assure you that it is not my intention to to read thru a budget statement or a balance sheet.  The numbers I’d like to share with you focus more on what and how much we do as a parish – which is the reason why we do indeed create budgets and maintain income statements.

  • The first number is 2,400 – that is the number of registered families in the parish, representing around 7,000 individuals – that’s larger than the town I grew up in
  • Out of this population about 1,000 people attend mass weekly
  • The number 9 represents the number of paid staff who run most of the programs we rely upon as members of the parish, not including the 40 staff and faculty who devote their careers to serving the students and parents of our school
  • The school is not our only ministry – today we support approx 82 distinct ministries, which serve the needs of literally thousands of parishioners and the surrounding community, among these ministries are SICM, Bethesda House, Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, Bereavement Grp, Music, Eucharistic ministers, etc
  • Serving the youth of our parish is a significant part of our ministerial work – beyond the 225 students enrolled in our school, we have nearly 500 young people from K-10th grade enrolled in either our FF or YM programs (over 700)
  • The number 8 is significant as that represents the number of distinct building structures between both worship sites we use and maintain year round.  It is privilege to have these space resources, especially when performing all of the parishes varied ministries

You see, numbers are just as important in telling the story of our mission as they are our financial health.  So how are we doing financially as a parish? It may astound you to learn that St Kateri has a bigger annual budget than most small businesses in the area.  Between the running of the school and the parish, it takes an annual budget of nearly $2.6M to maintain all of the daily activities and needs of the parish. It is even more astounding to think that we are able to meet this annual budget with nearly 100% support from you all sitting in front of me.

Although most observers would conclude that St Kateri is in good financial shape, over the past few years we have been witnessing a few concerning trends in our financial picture which we would like to address before they become more serious.  

Regarding registered parishioners – yes, we are growing modestly, but with that comes a larger need for services, more wear and tear on facilities – more wear and tear on Fr Bob. And despite the modest increase in registered parishioners, our mass attendance is trending flat to slightly decreasing.  This is important to us for several reasons, but from a finance perspective, it means that fewer people will be here to add to our offertory.  Nearly 90% of our weekly giving comes from collected offertory during mass

Our ECEC has a waiting list of kids to enroll, and our enrollment at the school has stabilized after a few years of decline, but needs based tuition for our K-5 students is also increasing. Our financial support for the school in the form of tuition assistance makes it possible for the parish to provide many of these kids with a unique learning experience rooted in the catholic faith that would otherwise be unreachable for them or their parents.  Student tuition assistance is largely subsidized by the parish, not the diocese as some may think. This places an obvious strain on our finances.

Cost increases are not unique to the school – over time, as we have grown as a parish, we’ve also needed to increase our spending to maintain all of the operational and capital needs of the 2 worship sites so that our parish can continue its mission-critical services to our congregation.  I mentioned earlier that we have a bounty of physical resources in the form of building space spread across both worship sites. Not to overstate the obvious, but in order to keep these buildings safe and operating efficiently, they need to be heated, cooled, cleaned and require more significant capital expenditures when pipes or roofs leak, boilers fail, carpets wear out, sound systems falter, etc.  Over time, our space needs may change, but for now we seem to need the space we have to meet usage demand.

As I have already alluded, one important way we sustain ourselves financially is through offertory, and while many parishes would be envious of the generosity of our congregants, we have seen a slight drop off in collections over the past year, despite an increase in registered parishioners.  In fact our offertory collections – which represent the overwhelming source of revenue for the parish, is down 7% from last year. This has required us to spend down a significant portion of our savings to meet planned and unplanned expenses, some of which I noted earlier.

So after hearing all of this you may be wondering – what is my overall message to you?

  • We are a vibrant community doing great things to fulfill the mission of our faith to our growing congregation and beyond
  • While we are meeting our current financial obligations to support the parish and its many programs, we need to address the decline in offertory and replenish the savings we have expended to meet budget gaps over the past year or two
  • We are working to better discern how we continue to thrive as a faith community with ever-increasing expenses as a fully member-supported parish  
  • We will be putting a good deal of energy and effort into coming up with ways to ensure the parish is financially sustainable and look to you as members of this community to continue your support of the vital mission we serve in our broader community
  • And I ask those of you who are looking to help in special ways to support the great works of the parish to seek out Fr Bob, Larry Grimmer our Parish Manager, Tosha Grimmer or school principal, other staff and leaders of programs and talk to them about how you can lend support

When I was a kid growing up in St Peters parish in Utica, NY, we relied on Fr O’Brien, Sr Honora and a convent full of nuns to run the parish and the school I attended.  Today, as we all know, we are living in a new era, and as the saying goes, it really does take a village to serve the disparate needs of so many, and I am personally grateful to Fr Bob and the parish for all it has done to fulfill the spiritual and other needs of my family over the past 15 years.  I’m sure you are as well.

Finally, you will be hearing more about the state of the parish over the course of the year.  In 2019 it is my goal to help Fr Bob and the staff make good financial decisions on behalf of the parish and its mission and I invite others to join me in this important cause.

Thank you for your time and may God’s blessings be upon you.   

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

The first reading captures a common expectation that God appears to religious people (priest and prophet) in holy places (a temple). But the call of God also comes to sinful people (Peter) and in unexpected places (boats and crowds). Even to those who are actively and blindly persecuting the good (Paul). The call depends not on the individual or the place, but on the graciousness of God. This is very good news!  (“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Henry Nouwen reminds us that in this fragmented world, our admitted woundedness and our willingness to make that woundedness available to others as a source of their healing, can be a powerful way for God to work in our lives and the lives of others.  Isaiah, Peter, and Paul – all in many ways were wounded healers. Ask God to help you see your ‘woundedness’ and weaknesses as a source for his healing and love.  (Celebrations, 2/04)

1st Reading — Isaiah 6: 1-2, 3-8

King Uzziah, also knows as Azariah, ruled Judah from 783 – 732BC).  The account of his reign can be found in 2 Kings 15:1-7 (Ancient Israel, p. 166).  It seems he died of leprosy, but ruled in a way that pleased the Lord.

This is a call story.  Isaiah is being called to be a prophet for God.  Whenever there is the presence of smoke, one knows that there is an observable manifestation of God.  His “woe is me” reflected his fear and trembling at having seen the Lord.  Isaiah saw the Lord, repented, and was commissioned by the heavenly court to go and proclaim Yahweh’s word.  He went in peace and assurance  (W&W, Birmingham, p. 359).

The three R’s happen here:  Realization, Repentance and Readiness.  There is an awareness that God is all holy, all good, all loving and all giving.  Then there is an awareness of self as a person undeserving and yet totally in need of all that God is.  With this full realization and repentance, the believer can now stand in readiness to be and to do all that his/her vocation will require (Celebrations, Feb 1998).  How does this speak to you and your call?

2nd Reading -1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

How is Paul like Isaiah?  Do you see the three R’s again?

This is probably the earliest written account of the resurrection.

From Living Liturgy, p. 54:   A theophany or appearance of God always reveals our own sinfulness, but God’s focus is elsewhere – on call and mission.  God sees humans as people, created good, who can respond to God’s invitation.  Once Isaiah is cleansed, he responds eagerly. Once Peter overcomes his fear, he and many others leave everything and follow Jesus.  Paul also overcomes his prejudices and ‘blindness’ once he comes to know the Risen Christ. God can transform us! The astonishing thing about the good news of Jesus Christ is that we are all made worthy simply because God calls. All we need to do is respond with our lives. Even the ordinary can hold the power and presence of God’s love.  “God doesn’t call the qualified.  He qualifies the called.”

From Introducing the New Testament, p. 301:  We don’t know what Paul may have been referring to in saying “one born abnormally”.  There are other times when he says he has a weak bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:10) and having a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).  Some say he may have been short (the name Paul comes from Paulus, meaning small).  A 2nd century writing says Paul was congenitally bowlegged.  Tertullian (2nd-3rd century) said he had frequent headaches.  Maybe it was his guilt over persecuting the church, or a speech impediment (2 Corinthians 10:10) or poor eyesight (Galatians 4:15; 6:11) or epilepsy (Acts 9: 3-4).  It may just been simply out of humility, which is certainly the direction he continues to go in the rest of the pericope.  Look this Lent for more on Paul!

The Gospel — Luke 5: 1-11

Notice the 3 R’s again.  Peter was aware of Jesus’ presence, but he didn’t believe Him at first that they would catch fish in the deeper water.  Once he repented for his doubt, Peter was ready to follow and respond to God’s will for him.  How often do we not follow God’s will in our lives because we don’t think it is possible?  How do we figure this out?  The GOOD NEWS is that God believes in us anyway, despite our failings!

Peter was a fisherman who worked hard to provide food for others.  Think about when you have fed or shared food with another person. How was God working in this ordinary situation?

Joseph Fitzmyer, a N. T. scholar, notes how strange this metaphor of ‘catching people like fish’ seems to be. The mission of the disciples was to bring them to salvation (fullness of health). Yet, what fishermen do to fish is far from salutary!  He points out, though, that the Greek term that Jesus used to say that they would be ‘catchers or netters’ of humanity could literally be translated as “you will be taking them alive.”  The strange metaphor then comes to mean that those ‘caught’ or ‘netted’ by Peter and the others would be saved from death and gathered into God’s Kingdom.        (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)

There is also meaning in Jesus’ words “put out into the deep water” to lower their nets for a catch (v.4). Those who wish to bring people to God must be willing to venture into the deep, to unfamiliar and unchartered territories.  It is important to go where the people are and draw them to God . . . Celebrations, Feb., 2004

All of our readings this week help us to think about our own inadequacies. Isaiah, Paul and Peter are not really reacting with shame as much as realism. In the midst of God’s presence and call they are profoundly aware of their own humanness and their real place in reality. This is what humility is – seeing ourselves clearly –  we humans cannot save ourselves –no matter what. Their experience of God let them understand that they are far, far, far less than God. This is not bad for them or us; it is good. For now we can be called out of ourselves – and beyond our limitations! God can make us holy when we are open to God’s gracious love (grace). Our humanness is full of holes –like a sponge. We just need to soak up God-juice: grace – and cry out: “Here I am” Lord: catch me, fill me, send me! (J. Foley, SJ http://liturgy.alu.edu/5OrdC020710/reflections_foley.html + J. Kavanaugh, SJ, http://liturgy.alu.edu/5OrdC020710/theword_engaged.html)

Prophecy Fulfilled

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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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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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, 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).

What the Lord says to us

Fr. Bob’s homily from the Baptism of the Lord…

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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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2nd Sunday in 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.”  

The Way of the Magi

Fr. Bob’s Epiphany homily…

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Epiphany 2018
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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Questioning Faith

Fr. Bob’s homily for the Feast of the Holy Family…

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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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The Baptism of the Lord, 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.  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?