Thursday, January 19, 2017

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year - A - 2017

When John the Baptist was arrested his movement or ministry faded away.
That’s no surprise
After Jesus’ Baptism
John had done everything in his power to direct people to Him
“I must decrease he must increase”

Jesus moves from the Jordan River to the Sea of Galilee which was located on major trade routes and had lots of commerce.

By doing so it would be much easier for Him to spread His message.
People traveling along these trade routes would routinely stop along the journey and spend the night many were happy to listen to the Rabbis as they spent their evenings in the towns by the sea.

If they were moved by what they heard they would gladly recount it to the people of their own towns or regions.

The scholars tell us that Jesus was probably preaching regularly along the Sea of Galilee and that it might have been possible that James, John, Simon and Andrew might have heard him previously or heard of him.

When you read the account it seems like some stranger walked up to them and said come follow me and they did… Maybe maybe not.

What is important is that they followed him.
What do we know about this event and the men Jesus called ?

Obviously it shows us that Jesus made the first move.
This was rather odd because the Rabbis of his time usually waited for disciples to come and find them.
Our God does not just sit by and wait for us to find Him
He actively seeks us out,
hunts us down as you will.
Always respecting our free will God continually knocks

We know that Jesus didn’t pick the holiest people
He did not choose from the priestly class or the religious leaders of his time

Jesus did not pick the smartest people
They were not scholars of the law.

He picked normal people for an extraordinary task
They were fishermen
However when you think about it Fishermen had unique skills for the tasks of discipleship One of the commentaries I read compared the work of Fishermen to the work of Disciples.

A fisherman is patient – he is used to waiting, he knows that if he moves too quickly and pulls on the line he may lose the fish, so he waits

A fisherman preservers he doesn’t give up,
he keeps trying if not here then there.  If he gave up he would never eat or enjoy the fruit of his labor.

A fisherman is Courageous… the boat is always small and the sea is so large.
You have to be courageous to fish
The Sea of Galilee was very shallow and below sea level so it was prone to quick storms as we saw in the Gospe.

A fisherman has the Eye for right moment he knows when to pull up the net for the maximum catch.  Jesus had an eye for the right moment because he discerned the exact moment to call Peter Andrew James and John.

A fisherman has to know the right bait, in other words the type of fish that he is fishing for and what they are looking for, what they like to eat. If you put the wrong bait on the line you will go home with no bait and no fish

A fisherman has to keep himself out of sight he can’t be the attraction the focus of attention. If the fish see him they will swim away.

I think it is also important to note that Jesus didn’t call perfect people

Peter would deny him three times and inadvertently tempt him against the cross.
Jesus was so desperate during that temptation that he said to Peter “Get behind me Satan”

James and John had dreams of grandeur and wanted to sit one thrones next to Jesus in Heaven. Even though Jesus had repeatedly taught that this type of scheming and pridefulness would lead to nothing good.

We hear next to nothing about Andrew  one author said maybe that is because he always took the safer course and was afraid to risk

Even with all of their faults Jesus did not revoke their call,
He refused to give up on them.

What does this all say to us..

God is active in our lives.
If we don’t feel it or see it
Then we are not looking or listening
Just like Jesus fished out his disciples God is desperately trying to fish us out
He uses anything he can our successes our failures our dreams our hopes our feelings our challenges.

Some of my most beautiful moments with God were when I was discouraged or sick or fed up
When I was happy and excited and moved.
God uses everything to bring us to him and inspire us to love one another.

Are we aware that God needs us?
Are we aware that He is active in our lives?
Are people better people because they know us
Are people better people because we were brave enough to call them to more

And our faults and failures  our weaknesses are no excuse from the call of discipleship the Apostles were also a mess and Jesus didn’t give up on them.

Like Jesus said to the first apostles
Come follow me and I will make you fishers of Men.
He tells us the same very thing

Let’s trust Him and
Let’s follow Him

There are so many fish in the sea.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - 2017

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts.

When the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear God’s Son
the first thing she did was run to her dear friend and cousin Elizabeth.

When Mary arrived Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist promptly proclaimed
“The baby in my womb jumped for joy.”

If you think about it then maybe John the Baptist was really the first person to recognize Jesus

Tradition has it that John and Jesus were somehow related.
They had probably known each other for years.

So in today’s Gospel it almost seems strange when John the Baptist says did didn’t know Jesus.

What we have to conclude is that he wasn’t sure  about the role that Jesus was to play in God’s plan.

When he saw the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus in the Jordan
John understood that Jesus was indeed the Son of God
and he began a process of discipleship which every follower of Christ
and every human being is called to follow.

Once he understood who Jesus was
John  began surrender himself,
his will,
his plan,
even his friends and his disciples
to Jesus and God’s will.

John’s generous gift of his life to God and to Jesus
was summed up in a simple phrase  I must decrease he must increase.

The first step in John’s discipleship was to announce to the world
who Jesus was
and how he would bring salvation to the whole world..

To do this he used a simple but profound phrase

“Behold the Lamb of God”

The phrase Lamb of God was very rich for the people of his time and for the early Church

When John’s disciples or the people along the Jordan heard that phrase they would have thought many things.

First of all they would have remembered the Passover, when the Hebrews sprinkled the blood of a lamb on the door of their houses in Egypt to escape the Angel of Death.

And they would have understood that only by following Jesus can we be delivered from from eternal death and enjoy eternal life. Just like the blood of the lamb spared the Israelites from destruction only Jesus the Lamb of God can guide us into heaven.

The second thing that would have popped into the heads of the people hearing that phrase was the sacrificial lambs which were offered as sin offerings every day in the temple.

Some days there were thousands of Lambs offered in atonement for sins..

By calling Jesus the Lamb of God
John was teaching his followers that the ministry of Jesus would include suffering.

That just as the lambs are slain in the temple to atone for sin
Jesus the Lamb of God would lay down his life to atone for our sins.
Many hearing John’s words still believed that the messiah would be a great earthly king
It would take a while for the true nature of Jesus’ ministry to sink in.

The phrase Lamb of God had such an impact on the church that God inspired the writer of the Book of Revelation to use it.

When the Book of Revelation was written during the great persecution of the early church the author of the book referred to Jesus as the victorious lamb.

In the vision which was shared with the author of the Book of Revelation the wounded lamb stands before the throne of God victorious, having conquered death and sin.

The Lamb once slain will live forever
The message to the early infant Church and the message to us is that just as the Lamb  of God  was victorious in the end, we can be assured that good will win, good will triumph even when it doesn’t seem possible.

Now over almost 2000 years later the title Lamb of God should invoke in us the same kind of excitement and wonder.

Because of the Lamb of God our sins are forgiven and we are all challenged to live our lives for others.

The life of John the Baptist also calls us to ministry
The life of John the Baptist calls us to ask ourselves are we really disciples of Christ?

When John had discovered the truth about Jesus his whole life was changed
It no longer centered on his mission or his ministry
or his wants and desires
but rather on following the Lamb of God in loving service of our Brothers and Sisters.

We all need to ask ourselves how much of my life is about what I want and what I need.
Have we said or can we say like John the Baptist

I must decrease He must increase.

Are we willing to put God’s will and the needs of our brothers and sisters first?

That means participating in the life of the Church  above and beyond simply coming to Mass out of habit.

Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world

Have mercy on us.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Epiphany - 2017 - Year A

Once when I was in New York City I took a Path Train to Hoboken.
The crowd on the train was large and was in a kind of in a take no prisoner mode.

It was easy to see how a little boy got momentarily separated from his Mom as the train emptied out everyone was pushing and shoving.

As soon as he realized that all of the legs he saw didn’t belong to anyone he knew he screamed out Mom Mom where are you.

He was lost alone and afraid

It probably seemed like a long time to him, but almost immediately a woman appeared knelt down and hugged him saying “I’m Here I’m here it’s Ok I’m here I love you. “

Even the hard nosed, crowd gently parted around them and let them have that moment of comfort together on the platform in Hoboken.

The Magi were looking for something.

They were weren't completely satisfied or comfortable.
There might have been an empty longing in their lives or hearts.

Whatever it was, it compelled them to leave everything familiar to them, home family, whatever,  and follow the star.

And as they followed the light of the star or the light of faith, they  came upon a manger and the child.

The gifts they brought teach us what they had come to believe about the Baby in the Manger.

Gold was a gift for a king.
Frankincense was used in the Temple to worship God
Myrrh was used to anoint a body after death.

You see through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
And the light of the star or the light of faith they came to understand that the baby was

  • the King of God’s Kingdom hence the gold.
  • The Son of God hence the frankincense,
  • Who would one day pay the ultimate price on the cross.

On the other hand the manger and the baby tell us
what God wanted the Magi and us to understand about Him.

By revealing Himself to us in the manger as a Child,
God was saying. I don’t want to be feared,
Rather I want to be loved  like all humanity loves a child

The experience of meeting the Child Jesus changed the Magi so much that it opened their eyes to real evil intentions of Herod, and those like him in the world and they did not journey back to him.

Yes the Epiphany teaches us about Humanity’s search for God and God’s search for humanity.

It  also teaches us that God’s message and God’s love was not just meant for the Jews or God’s chosen people.

The light of the star did not only shine on Israel.
The Magi came from the East.

It shined on the whole world
And because of this it took away any division anything which separates us one from another. …

The call of the star to all humankind prefigures Jesus’ final words to the apostles just before he ascended into heaven  at the end of Matthew's Gospel.

When he said go and make disciples of all nations,
that’s ALL Nations baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit

Last year one of our senior citizens who lives alone asked me if  the terrorists were going to come here?

She told me that every week she was buying a couple extra can goods on sale and keeping them on her shelf in the cellar in case there was trouble.

I told her not to worry if anything ever happened we would all help each other.  

There is a lot of fear in our world and a lot of anger and a lot of bitterness so many people seem to feel left out or left behind.

There is also a search for God it’s almost like humanity feels lost and alone and afraid. Like that little boy on the platform humanity calls out God where are you.

On The Feast of the Epiphany we take comfort in the way that God chose to show Himself to humanity, as a beautiful  little helpless child

A Child who would also be Jesus our King, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus our Savior,

The child Jesus in the manger is meant to comfort, console and inspire our broken lost humanity it is meant to give us hope

Like that mom comforted her son on the platform in the Hoboken station.

It’s God’s way of saying I’m here I love you  don’t be afraid I’m here. Amen