Lectionary Cycle A
LIVING THE CATHOLIC FAITH IN THE 3RD MILLENIUM
A LAYMAN'S LOOK AT THE JOURNEY OF FAITH

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Power of Compassion

Religious leaders do not come off too well in today's first and Gospel readings.  Over the last few weeks we have seen Jesus as He parries with the chief priests and elders of the people; now he takes on the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. The reading from Malachi is an indictment against religious leaders who have been guilty of violating their responsibility as teachers - they have not observed God's ways and have taught falsely.  They failed in their roles as leaders and teachers. 

It doesn't take much to  hear these passages without applying them to the continuing scandal of clergy abuse within our Church.  All religious teachers, and anyone holding positions of authority, have to take these reading to heart.

The readings hit very close to home.  As I write this reflection, breaking headlines reveal that a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse - the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised. Both he and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were charged with one misdemeanor count each involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year.

But the scriptures speak not only to certain religious leaders, but to all believers.  We all must search our consciences, not because we have committed similar crimes, but because we all fall short of the ideals we profess and teach.  We certainly are aware of our responsibilities to teach by word and example.  Yet as we reflect at the end of a day on how well we lived up to what we profess and teach, we know we fall short. 

Jesus is not accusing the scribes and Pharisees of not knowing their religion.  They knew it very well.  They were even good at teaching it to others; it is just that they didn’t practice what they taught and preached.  These strict teachers made religious observance very difficult for the ordinary person, and Jesus accuses them of taking a position they themselves do not follow.  Nor, He says, do they do anything to relieve the heavy burdens they have imposed on others. 

But there is more to today's Gospel than simply listening to Jesus scold the Pharisees and scribes.  Beneath His words, Jesus is addressing the concept of religious power and what can happen when that power is misused.  In the eyes of most of his contemporaries, Jesus was a minor celebrity, a passing fad, a faint blip on the screen... uninteresting and unimportant.  He spent most of his adult life on the margin of society and religion.  Jesus was an ordinary Jewish layman who abandoned his livelihood and hometown - who voluntarily became jobless and homeless. He became the uninivited houseguest who always relied on the kindness of strangers, and who undertook a prophetic ministry within a world where a privileged aristocracy contolled the Temple, its liturgy, its priesthood, its jobs, its markets, its income and its idealogies.

The problem with an elite system of power - the problem with being in charge - is that one can get very used to it.  Before long, one can actually start to believe, with all one's heart, that he/she is in charge of everything, of everyone.  And that is a dangerous place for a person to be.  Being a layperson was Jesus' ticket to certain failure in a world where those who "have" get more, and those who "have not" get had.  What is even more unbelievable is that Jesus willingly embraced this state of being - all the way to the cross.  He became what he healed and He became the death that He died.  And in that, He became the triumph of Easter and the power of the Empty Tomb.

This is the "power" that Jesus meant all of us to share - the power to join together, to claim our beliefs as our own - not borrowed from or brokered by the powerful - and the power to act on our beliefs.  It is the power that enables us to meet Risen Jesus by seeking Him in the presence of the poor, in the thick of life, in the least and the littlest, in a community gathered together around a table, in bread and in wine.

Benedict XVI has just declared that 2012 will be the "Year of the Faith" as part of an evangelization initiative in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening the Second Vatican Council. As we prepare to remember the impact that the Council has had on our Church - or should have had - we should first and foremost remember that we are called to become a church that doesn't fear to dream; a church unafraid to become what it heals; a church that doesn't fear the body or its failures; a church that isn't afraid to fail, to forgive or to seek forgiveness; a church that isn't afraid to speak to power.  We are called to become a church that knows death is the path to life.

We must dare to become that kind of community -  as John XXIII once described, a "community of peace, willing to walk along the road with anyone as far as possible."  Jesus shows us that the goal of being a disciple is not canonization, but compassion.  It is the capacity to live fiercely, to love radically, and to walk humbly with the God whose gift of self arrives always and only in the company of strangers.

4th Sunday of Advent/Christmas Eve - Christmas Angels
God's greatest miracles often go unnoticed unless there are messengers and angels to announce them. God's gifts of peace, and justice and reconciliation are hidden in the ordinariness and ugliness of human history; there must be angels to point them out.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - As For You...
Over the past few weeks we have seens Jesus in contention with the “chief priests and elders of the people,” now he takes on the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes.  And in our readings today, these religious leaders do not come off very well. 
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time - My Yoke is Easy...
Life and the scriptures frequently stand in stark contrast to one another.  Which shall we believe, and where does wisdom for living lie? 
Today’s Gospel passage includes three elements:  a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has revealed, a statement proclaiming Jesus’ identity and finally an invitation to turn to Jesus. 
4th Sunday of Easter - A Different Perspective
  Turbulent times call us to a deeper, more mature faith. The Crucified Christ teaches us that we carry within us - individually and as a community - the wounds of our world and of our Church... and the Risen Christ teaches us that these are also the wounds of Christ which have the potential to heal from the hurt that we have endured. The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, and to the possibility of total failure. The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours. It is through that power that we defy the world and its standards.
3rd Sunday of Easter - Lost and Found
The resurrection appearances of Jesus are filled with surprises and mystifying details. His friends do not recognize Him; He appears through locked doors; He has broken out of a tomb, but carries the wounds of His dying. He speaks of peace and forgiveness. He promises the gift of His Spirit. He sends His disciples to change the world.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Disjointed Faith
It can sometimes be difficult to connect the faith that we profess to believe and the way we live out that faith on a daily basis.
At the heart of the Gospel message is the insistence of Jesus that our love be "inclusive" - all-inclusive, with no exception. And that is probably the most difficult thing about being a Christian. Almost naturally, instinctively, our love and our concern tend to be exclusive. We are comfortable with people who are like us, in color, religion, and economic status. We find it easy to be good to those who like us, those who are attentive to us, those who understand us.
Feast of the Epiphany - The Light Has Come
Epiphany seems to have more sound to it than Christmas. At Christmas, we gather around the crib looking with silent wonder at the newborn infant.  Shepherds arrive having heard about the child from the angels. The scene is depicted in art and our home and church mangers as quiet and peaceful. The choir sings "Silent Night." Hushed tones, a sleeping infant and silent admirers.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - If Today You Hear His Voice
Jesus was a person of promise. So much of what He said and did seemed to speak of freedom and new creation. Freedom is at the heart of our response to God. It is a free response to a lover who comes into our lives and says, "I want to love you, and I want you to love me back."
1st Sunday of Advent - Keeping Awake
As we enter the Advent season, we move liturgically from the darkness that will precede the end of the world to the darkness that hovered over the world at its beginning. This darkness holds within it the promise of dawn. We anxiously await the rising sun.  This is a season of expectation and of hope. It is a time for us to listen again to God's promise of deliverance and reconciliation. It is a time for us to be reassured of His relentless love for each and all of us, and for our planet.
Easter Sunday - Experience and Faith
The days immediately preceding and following the resurrection must be have days of turmoil for the first followers of Jesus. I'm sure they went through the whole gamut of emotion - fear and uncertainty, devastation and utter despair, loneliness and separation… only to be brought back to hope and joy with news of "resurrection sightings."
The Epiphany of the Lord - The Lessons of Christmas
2018 was another year of turmoil:  for the world community and for the Church at large.
In the world community, we still face the good, the bad and the ugly. We point to the terrible evils that exist in our world:  the destructive powers of suffering and death that are experienced from the forces of war and of nature...and even more significantly, the inexplicable injustices and inhumanity that exist within mankind itself:  the continued rise of a new and horrific force of terrorism and the seeming ineffective efforst to end it; the continuing exploitation of the poor and the marginalized in society, and the frightful inequalities in our society based on race or color or sex.  How does one find the saving presence of God in the midst of such a world?  What can we do as individuals and communities to stop the madness?
The Work of Christmas
The ancient story that is forever new breaks once again upon our restless world, and because the Word has been made flesh we are remade, lifted up, revived. Our distant, faceless, timeless God has taken a mortal body as His own. He has entered our time and come to our place. He has grown up among us, learned our language, played our games, sang our songs, shared our pain and sorrow, and embraced to the full our human fellowship. Yet, there is much left to do.
The Nativity of the Lord - Angels We Have Heard on High
"And suddenly, there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the Highest; and Peace on earth to men of good will!"
Solemnity of Christ the King - Come Blest of My Father
The feast of Christ the King marks the end of the Church year; next week we begin the Holy Season of Advent, when our minds and hearts are turned towards preparation for the coming of the Lord.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Power of Compassion
Religious leaders do not come off too well in today's first and Gospel readings.  Over the last few weeks we have seen Jesus as He parries with the chief priests and elders of the people; now he takes on the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. The reading from Malachi is an indictment against religious leaders who have been guilty of violating their responsibility as teachers - they have not observed God's ways and have taught falsely.  They failed in their roles as leaders and teachers. 
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Understanding the Bigger Picture
As today's Gospel unfolds, there is a sudden turnaround in the relationship between Jesus and Peter. In the verses immediately preceding today's (last Sunday's gospel) Jesus sings Peter's praises ("Blessed are you Simon son of John....") and is ready to give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Peter will have authority over Jesus' mission.  However today Jesus turns on Peter, calls him Satan and chases him away.  I'm sure Peter was feeling pretty good about himself after being called "Blessed," and he must have been taken quite aback with Jesus' sudden change of mood.  He had simply taken Jesus aside and told him not think about his suffering and death. Yet Jesus rebuked him publically, in front of all of his friends.
5th Sunday of Easter - Show Us The Way
Three years ago the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life has stated that one out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic.
4th Sunday of Easter - Perspectives
Turbulent times call us to a deeper, more mature faith. The Crucified Christ teaches us that we carry within us - individually and as a community - the wounds of our world and of our Church... and the Risen Christ teaches us that these are also the wounds of Christ which have the potential to heal from the hurt that we have endured. The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, and to the possibility of total failure. The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours. It is through that power that we defy the world and its standards.
Some Thoughts about Holy Week
Each year the Church invites us to bring the heart-aches of our lives, our own personal broken dreams and moments of sorrow and pain to the Risen Christ. We relive the final days of the Savior in order to reinforce our conviction that resurrection always follows death, that victory always crowns our failures.
5th Sunday in Lent - The Turning Point
We are winding down our observance of the Holy Season of Lent - our time of preparation for the great feast of Easter. Lent can, and should be a solemn and moving experience for us. It should be a time to recall our Baptism, to renew our commitment to our faith and beliefs, to recognize once again our faults and weaknesses, to seek the Lord's forgiveness - and the forgiveness of others - and to become instruments of reconciliation and forgiveness for others. 
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Seek First the Kingdom
As Jesus approached the final chapter of his life on earth, the shadow of the cross hung over him. He must have found it hard to look ahead, sensing imminent failure, betrayal, suffering and death. And he certainly must have struggled fiercely to hold on his trust in the Father, and his faith in ultimate victory. This was His time of trial and testing. And yet, from the very beginning of His ministry until His final days, everything He did and said pointed towards hope, healing, reconciliation and ultimate victory.
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Teaching by Example
The quality or value of a sermon is not only measured by the effect it has on the lives of those who hear it, but also in the example of the life of the one delivering it.  The Gospel passages chosen for these Sundays before Lent are all from the 5th, 6th and 7th Chapters of Matthew - one hundred and eleven verses, comprising the substance of what is universally called "the sermon on the mount."  This is the heart of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus.  This is Jesus the Teacher.  This is the New Sinai, the NEW Commandment   This is the summary of all that it means to be Christian and Catholic.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Other Mountain
I suppose we would find it hard to imagine being in the presence of Jesus and not recognizing him. It's hard to imagine that He would be just another face in the crowd, and that there would be nothing remarkable or exceptional that would make him stand out from all the rest.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Salt of the Earth - Light to the World
Discipleship requires work, lots of sacrifice, discipline and love. It takes heroic love to make the teaching of Jesus concrete and real in our relationships. Today our scriptures again begin with the prophet Isaiah - and we listen as he reminds us of an important aspect of our call to conversion of heart: the presence of God in this world will be evidently seen when we "...share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when we them and do not turn our back on our own."  The prophet goes on to say that to those who do these things, "light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday."
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - The Good and Faithful Servant
"If you sit fenced off in your apathy, if you look at the stars and yawn; if you see suffering and don't cry out; if you don't praise and you don't revile, then I have created you in vain, says God."  - Aaron Keitlin The Gospel stories always have one inherent and important question: what kind of people will we be?
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - What more can I do?
The image of the vineyard has strong roots in Jewish religious symbolism. The Israelites listening to Isaiah would not be able to hear a story about a vineyard without knowing that the vineyard was a metaphor for the house of Israel. The people knew that God had chosen, planted and tended them and promised to watch over them. This would equally be true for those who listened to Jesus' parable.  In both parables, God is depicted as a loving and nurturing gardener who does all that he can to protect and care for his seeds and crops.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Speaking Louder Than Words...
Today’s passage is the first of three parables that Jesus directs to the religious leaders of his day.  They have confronted him, but he turns the confrontation around by proposing a short parable about two exchanges between a father and his two sons.  "Which of the two did his father’s will?"  There are allegorical elements in this parable: the older son is like the leaders of the established religious tradition; the younger represents the outsiders and latecomers  Jesus was fond of "latecomers" - as he noted in last week's parable of the workers in the vineyard - those who have lived apart, but now accept God's  invitation through Jesus.  Their initial "no" had now become a unqualified "yes". 
Exaltation of the Holy Cross - God So Loved the World...
The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross had its roots in Emperor Constantine's vision of a cross before he set out into battle.  This experience led to his conversion and the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman empire.  A persecuted religion became the state religion and history shows what a mixed blessing that was!  
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Two or Three...
At the time that Matthew wrote his Gospel, the early church was on its own, no longer a part of the Jewish community and therefore no longer observing the daily norms and customs of that religious tradition. The community needed guidelines for its life together and in chapter 18 Matthew portrays Jesus as a community builder, instructing his disciples on matters that emphasize and focus on the community of believers.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Given the Keys
The message of Jesus brought excitement to all those who listened. The reign of God was "at hand." He told them how to recognize this kingdom: by living in God and living in love - clothing the poor, caring for the needy, being ready to forgive, feeding those who hunger, overcoming cultural prejudices. This is how the world was to recognize the name and presence of God's Spirit in their midst. 
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - All in the Same Boat
Our journey of faith is a never-ending one - one of constantly coming to know The Father through Jesus.  It parallels the journey of the first disciple: their coming to faith, their coming to understand who the Father was - and how they came to know him. 
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Speak in the Light
Our journey of faith is a never-ending one… one of constantly coming to know the Father through Jesus.  It parallels the journey of the first disciples - their coming to faith… their coming to understand who the Father was - and how they came to know him through Jesus. God is always the one who speaks first, who acts first, who loves first; and discipleship always involves a call - an invitation requiring a response. 
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Without Cost, We Have Received
  God's kingdom is often compared to a "harvest" in the Scriptures.  It is an image that perhaps meant more to other cultures, in other ages than our own.  However, there is still an important message for all of us in today's Gospel passage.  We can substitute the word "church" for "harvest" and we can hear the Lord reminding us that it is by God's favor that we belong to this chosen community. 
9th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Prophetic Times and Prophetic Living
God is always new, always challenging.  Each new circumstance of our life leads us to a new understanding of His goodness and love.  As we grow older, God should become younger for us.  When we become ill, He becomes our healing and strength.  When we grow discouraged, or depressed, He lifts our spirits with hope.
Trinity Sunday - God So Loves the World...
There is a sense of closure about this feast of the Holy Trinity, at least in terms of major celebrations.  We have journeyed through salvation history, from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, his ascension to the Father, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Today we summarize all of these events in terms of how they help us understand the mysterious nature of our God, and his presence in our world and in our lives.
The Feast of Pentecost - The Spirit, Here and Now
The Feast of Pentecost for Cycle A presents two different perspectives on the Spirit event.  They aren’t meant to be reconciled, but rather offer different theological insights about how the early Christian community experienced this life-changing gift of the Spirit to the early church. 
The Ascension of the Lord - Waiting for the Spirit
We are not good at waiting.  Most of the time we want quick results and are frustrated when they are long-coming.  Waiting on lines at the supermarket, waiting for traffic lights, for our children to return home at night, and even waiting for our computers to "boot up" in the morning can make or break our day. We are particularly frustrated and tired of waiting for peace to break out in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and innumerable places of conflict in our world.  
6th Sunday of Easter - Pleading the Case
Some folks have a rather harsh image of God.  They envision a distant God, ruling over everything and everyone from an on-high vantage point.  This God is a ruler and a tester,  a judge or an inquisitor, expecting us to live up to a set of rules and regulations or requiring us to pass the litmus test,  which weighs our accomplishments against our transgressions.    In this perception, Jesus’ role  was crucial:  to go before God and soften His anger over our failures.  Jesus is our Advocate before a fearsome God.   He is our defense attorney and we need  him to get us on the straight and narrow path - and He has to die to appease an angry God.   The Father and the Son play out a sort of eternal scenario of “Law and Order,” persuading us to change our lives and reform our ways.   And if we don’t, we are prosecuted to the full extent of the Law.
5th Sunday of Easter - The Way, The Truth and The Life
All three of the Liturgical Readings for this week focus specifically on the notion of service and ministry. We see the Apostles asking the community to select some of its own members for the ministry of service, so that they could concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4) This fits a pattern for the early church: the priests would serve the community by being persons dedicated to prayer, teaching and presiding at Eucharist. Members of the laity, both men and women would take ownership of the other aspects of their community life.
2nd Sunday of Easter - The Power of Shalom
Today's Scripture reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus brings the gift of peace, and the mission of forgiveness. It also captures the early skepticism of Thomas, and certainly that of many others with him.
2nd Sunday in Lent - The Rehabilitation of the Disciples
The second Sunday of Lent in all three liturgical cycles features Abraham and Sarah’s story.  Today’s reading is a focal one in Genesis and in the faith history of the Jewish people.  It begins with God’s command, "Go forth."  But underneath the story of Abraham and Sarah is the very common story we all participate in.  All stories have the same characteristic, they contain some kind of change and conflict along the way to new life.  This is the hope this story of Abraham stirs up.  The promise isn't that things will be easy; what makes the end hopeful is that God promises to “Go Forth” with Abraham and Sarah as well.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks
The prophet Isaiah is dominant in our liturgical readings as we begin our new year. The reference in last week's passage is most significant..."Here is my servant...my chosen one upon whom I have put my Spirit...he shall bring forth justice...not crying out, not shouting...a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench." This week we hear God's promise: "I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." And next week we discover the promise fulfilled: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone."
3rd Sunday of Advent - Be strong, fear not! Here is your God
The spirit of the Advent season is filled with the images of some of the most powerful figures in all of Scripture. This third week of Advent highlights the personality of one of these: the prophet Isaiah - whose words are full of expectation, hope and joy.
2nd Sunday of Advent - New Possibilities
The Scriptures these Advent Sundays, particularly the first readings, all from Isaiah, offer us powerful images to touch our imagination with hope and give us a vision of what will come to pass when our God comes.  Isaiah's prophetic poetry fills the hearts of a modern people with hope, just as it did for those Israelites in slavery and exile from their homeland.  Isaiah says to them and us, that where there has been war, God comes to bring peace... One is coming who will restore the lineage of David, give the people a faithful shepherd to lead them.  On that day, "a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom."
1st Sunday of Advent - The Son of Man Will Come...
As we enter the Advent season, we move liturgically from the darkness that will precede the end of the world to the darkness that hovered over the world at its beginning. This darkness holds within it the promise of dawn. We anxiously await the rising sun.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Who Do You Say I Am?
If Christianity is to have a worthwhile message to the contemporary world, it must be based on the vision of God that we have received from Jesus himself. It must be based on what He himself saw his mission to be.
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord - Transformed and Transfigured
  Summer movies are out, blockbusters with lots of special effects to draw the young and old alike - and to cash in on huge profits. In the light of such movies, our first reading today from the book of Daniel fits right in. It has a blazing throne, “wheels of burning fire,” “surging stream of fire” and a cast of “thousands and thousands,” with “myriads upon myriads” in attendance. There are visions to rivet one’s attention: one “like a Son of man” coming on clouds of heaven; the Ancient One whose “clothing was snow bright” and whose hair is “white as wool.” Don’t these images rival the current crop of summer blockbusters? 
Feast of the Epiphany - Where Is The One We Seek?
We do not know much about the Magi.  For example, the text does not tell us there were three, as they are often depicted in paintings and creches.  We do not know if they came from different nations or races.  We are not sure if they were priests, royalty or astrologers.  Their anonymity makes it possible for Christian tradition to place much symbolic meaning on them: they have come to symbolize diversity of race, ethnic background and nationalities.  As today's reading from Ephesians suggests, God's grace has revealed the mystery to us that all peoples, not just a chosen few, will come to discover their place as, "co-heirs," partners in the promise in Christ through the gospel.  Matthew has depicted in the Magi the gospel truth that seekers from all nations will come to recognize Christ and be welcome in his presence.  And, that the promise of Israel's being a light for the nations, as the prophets anticipated, is now fulfilled in Christ.  
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - God As Lover
When we think about law, we don't usually think about love.  The two seem to be very separate and sometimes opposing forces.  The first motive for our obedience to law is usually fear.   Early on we learn that if break the law we get in trouble, and deserve some kind of reprimand from God, from our parents, or from civil authority.   And unfortunately, one of the first things we learn about the law is how not to get caught breaking it.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Setting Priorities
Upset and embarrassed by Jesus' parables, his opponents now regroup for a final assault of deceit and trickery.  Three times they attempt to entrap Jesus with contrived questions.  Each time the question is turned back on them until they dare say nothing more.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Without a Wedding Garment
Framed above the desk in my office at home, are the two center pages of the October 11, 1962 special edition of L'Osservatore Romano, marking the opening session of the Second Vatican Council.  The photo which spans these two pages depicts the Council Fathers, bishops from five continents, seated in St. Peter's Basilica as they listened to the opening address by Pope John XXIII:  "...the Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness..."  A bold caption at the top reads "Cristo è Qui" (Christ is here).
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Going it Alone
Our journey of faith is a never-ending one… one of constantly coming to know The Father through Jesus.  It kind of parallels the journey of the first disciples… their coming to faith… their coming to understand who the Father was - and how they came to know him.
14th Sunday of Ordinary Time - A Promise of Rest and Peace
Acceptance or rejection of Jesus and his message is crucial because of who he is.  And if we want to know who Jesus really is, all we need do is reflect on the opening verses of today's Gospel, because they assert Jesus' identity in unmistakable terms.
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Costly Business of Being a Disciple
Jesus promised His disciples three things: that they would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and that they would get into trouble. - W. Russell Maltby The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is generally called the "Mission Discourse" or the "Apostolic Discourse" because within it we get to see how Jesus extends the mission that He received from His Father to His disciples. He outlines to his disciples what they can expect if they choose to follow Him; He tells them that they will encounter the same hostility He has encountered, and that they need to be aware of the high cost - as well as the rewards - of discipleship.  Preaching the Good News will be hard work and it will based on the simple value of service, of hospitality.
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ready for Harvest
God's kingdom is often compared to a "harvest" in the Scriptures.  It is an image that perhaps meant more to other cultures, in other ages than our own.  However, there is still an important message for all of us in today's Gospel passage.  We can substitute the word "church" for "harvest" and we can hear the Lord reminding us that it is by God's favor that we belong to this chosen community. 
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Follow Me
Adjacent to the main altar in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, is the Contarelli Chapel in which hang three paintings by the famed artist Caravaggio (Michelangel Merisi), depicting scenes from the life of the apostle Matthew: his calling, his inspiration and his martyrdom.  The French cardinal Mathieu Cointrel, who died in 1585, had left money in his will for the decoration of this chapel, and even left detailed descriptions of how the paintings were to be created. 
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ - Holy Things for Holy People
In the Byzantine Liturgy the distribution of Holy Communion begins with the priest saying: "Holy Things for holy people."  It is a shame that this phrase is omitted from the Latin rite because it touches the heart of what coming together to celebrate the Eucharist really means.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Salt for the Earth
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its flavor be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel;  they on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Solemnity of Christ the King - Inheriting the Kingdom
The feast of Christ the King marks the end of the Church year; next week we begin the Holy Season of Advent, when our minds and hearts are turned towards preparation for the coming of the Lord. Advent is a time of anticipation, of expectation. If you're like me, Advent marks the beginning of the holiday season. We dust off our Advent wreaths, start preparing the home for the upcoming Christmas holyday - we start checking out the Christmas lights, think about new ornaments for the holiday tree and start planning for Christmas dinner.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Gifts and Challenges
"If you sit fenced off in your apathy, if you look at the stars and yawn; if you see suffering and don't cry out; if you don't praise and you don't revile, then I have created you in vain, says God."  - Aaron Keitlin We're coming close to the end of the Church year - next week we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, followed immediately with the beginning of the Season of Advent.  During these last weeks of the liturgical year, the theme woven throughout the Gospel readings is that of preparedness.  Traditionally, we tend to view this state of readiness in terms of the "final times", the end of the world or Judgment Day - the time when The Lord shall come when we least expect.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Keeping Vigil
Jesus knew that being his follower was not going to be easy. Being a disciple implies that one has to make hard choices: we will not always get what we want; we may find ourselves at odds with others who do not share our values. It's not easy. It's not easy to do what needs to be done, to say what needs to be said, to work things out when it bothers us to compromise. And then it's not easy to wait. It's not easy to be out of control, without power. It's not easy to allow another, even God, to have the final word. And Jesus tells us: "Be prepared, stay awake, and be attentive - you don't know the day or the hour."
Feast of All Souls - Celebrating Hope
We are people of hope. We celebrate the feast of All Soul's because we are people of hope. Most of us have experienced pain, and loss and loneliness because of the death of one of our loved ones. For some, death came early, with no warning, suddenly, unexpectedly, filling us for a time with anger and resentment and unanswered questions. For others, it came after long illness, or to persons who were elderly, still leaving our lives sad and empty.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Unrelenting Lover
The word "lover" seems to have taken on a rather shady meaning these days, probably because of all of the cheap and superficial ways that it is used. But it would be a shame for us to lose the real significance of the word, especially when we try to understand God as being our Divine Lover.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Mission
"It is easy in the rush of daily life or in its tedium to lose the sense of wonder that is appropriate to this gift. It is even easier at the level of our societal relations to count some lives as less valuable than others, especially when caring for them costs us – financially, emotionally, or in terms of time, effort, and struggle." - Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The month of October is usually one to witness the activity of the Spirit within The Church. Traditionally, one Sunday of October is always designated as World Mission Sunday.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Invited to a Banquet
One of my favorite quotes is from a scene in the movie, "The Usual Suspects." The main character, Verbal Kint, while being questioned by the police says: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was to convince the world that he doesn't exist." Another favorite is one from my pastor who once said, "The greatest utterance God ever made was to define Himself as Love; from that moment on, He was forced to give of Himself fully and completely to all mankind.”
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ownership and Stewardship
The phrase "taking ownership" is one with which all of us are familiar - especially those of us who work and travel in "ecclesial" circles. We hear talk of taking ownership of the Church: this is our church, our community, our parish - we are the Church. In a very real sense, all of this is true, although sometimes we can tend to get carried away with the idea. Broadening the scope a little, we can also carry the idea of God being "Our God" a little too far. We human beings are a strange species and we need to be constantly reminded that God does not belong to any one group of us, that we all belong to Him (we are His) and that He has given us His gifts, not to possess, but to use wisely.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - More Than Words
Jesus never offered an invitation without an accompanying challenge. He spent his entire adult life teaching others about compassion, love and service to others and about commitment to God and to His kingdom. The parable of the two sons, seen in today's Gospel, is only 5 verses long and yet it has much more significance than just looking at the difference between "saying" and "doing."
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Gift and Response
The Gospels for the last few weeks have brought back to mind the stories of the first disciples: how they were called from among ordinary people; what they were called to do; and what Jesus told them they could expect by preaching the "Good News of Salvation." As in all passages of the Scriptures, this ongoing re-telling of the episodes of Christ's life is part of our Tradition, part of our history as Christians and part of our history as a community of believers.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Challenge of Forgiveness
Jesus spent his public life proclaiming God's truth as it applies to human activity and relationships - proclaiming this truth publicly and courageously, and in the face of constant threat and opposition.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Thinking As God Does
Everything we do - prayer, worship, sacramental life, learning, teaching, serving, healing, comforting, forgiving - all must be done in the name and power of Jesus.   We must keep affirming by word and work that He is Lord, and that salvation, peace and justice can come only through the power of His name.
21st Sunday in Ordinary - So, What Do You Think?
As Christians, we acknowledge Jesus as Christ, the Messiah, and it comes as something of a surprise to us when we discover in the Scriptures that Jesus, at times, did not want His followers to refer to Him in this way. If you have studied the Gospels, you are familiar with this problem -- called the "Messianic Secret" by Scripture scholars.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - It's All About Relationship
When you stop and think about it, the message of Jesus was a simple one: to make us aware that the Good News of our salvation is a reality and that we are loved unconditionally by God. It was one of invitation - and one of challenge. The message and mission of Jesus did not end with His death and resurrection; it continues on in each us. The Spirit of God permeates and enlivens us just as it did Jesus 2000 years ago, and we are to be the people who continue what he did. This is what church is all about. It is about a people who believe they are Spirit-filled, called to continue and spread the good news that has as its source, Jesus the Christ.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Three Invitations
All three readings today have a similar theme.   They all recount individuals being called to the service of God.  In the first reading, when the Lord said to Isaiah - who lived some 700 years prior to Christ’s birth - “Whom shall I send?”, he replied, “Here I am, send me.”   
Feast of the Assumption
August the 15th is the feast of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and it is the one of the oldest feasts of the Church celebrated in honor of Mary. It was traditionally believed back in the 5th Century that Mary's body was taken to heaven - that she did not face corruption of the body since she was preserved from Original Sin, and the feast has been celebrated liturgicallly since 600 A.D. This belief by Catholics for centuries was solemnly defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950, namely, that after Mary's death, God raised her body and she lives with God. Pius XII proclaimed that the Assumption is a truth revealed by God in the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus (November 1, 1950).
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Go and Feed Them Yourselves
Life is full of anxieties and worries - and the voice of the Gospel is so easily drowned out by the clamor of commercials that tease us into buying much more than we really need - by the promises of security proclaimed by everyone from insurance agents to software vendors - by the persistent whispers and warnings that come from our deep-rooted instinct for self-preservation, reinforced by the time-honored - but not necessarily true - adage: "God helps those who help themselves."
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Buried in a Field...
"...a treasure buried in a field" We all look for good deals. We search for products with the best track records; we'll spend countless hours visiting different merchants, comparing prices all so that we may get the most for our money. We want our investments to yield good interest, our stocks to produce the highest return. But every now and then, there comes a situation that is beyond any "bargain," worth every dollar, and worth any risk.
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Like Nothing We Would Expect
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like" How often we have heard this introduction; how often we have heard the words of Jesus, teaching us in parables - bringing home, through common yet vivid images, the unfolding Truth about the mystery of God and our relationship with Him.  Jesus uses many images in his parables: images of the ordinary, of size, of mystery... of contrast. And He tells us clearly that we should expect growth and change - that we are to be open to welcome all, without condition or exception. He never said that it would be an easy task. In fact, He showed us by example just how difficult and "uncomfortable" it could sometimes be.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Seeds and Good Ground
Jesus was certainly the master storyteller! He knew exactly how to reach an audience, how to speak of profound matters in simple, earthy terms. His mission on earth was to announce the Good News. He spent the brief period of His public life speaking about the kingdom of God - but always in images that the simplest of people could understand. We hear Him speak of seeds and harvest, of good and bad fruit, of faithful and worthless servants, of prodigal sons and good Samaritans, of fish in the sea and birds in the air. He used all of these images to plant the truth of God's love into the minds and hearts of people - not just those who lived during His lifetime, but for those who would read or hear His words in future ages - and especially for us, today.
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Don't Look Back
"Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." These words of the Gospel are pretty tough words for us to ponder; a hard challenge for just about anyone, at any age, to come to grips with. Something deep within our own nature rebels against the idea of giving ourselves - totally, without reservation; of giving up self and, maybe even giving up life.
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ - Living Bread
We gather this weekend to remember and celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. We listen to Christ's words: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" - and we recall that when Jesus commands his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites each of us to take his life into the very center of our being. That life which he offers is the very life of God himself.
Trinity Sunday - So Much More...
There is a sense of closure about this feast of the Holy Trinity, at least in terms of major celebrations.  We have journeyed through salvation history, from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, his ascension to the Father, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.  Today we summarize all of these events in terms of how they help us understand the mysterious nature of our God, and his presence in our world and in our lives.
Pentecost Sunday - The Soul of Christianity
Pentecost Sunday
For Fifty Days we have lived and breathed the miracle of Easter/Pentecost. Hopefully we have understood better than ever before that this is not just a spectacular episode of Salvation History that happened a long time ago but that it still touches us all with its reverberations. Throughout the Easter Season, we have listened to John's account of Jesus' final discourse to his apostles at the Last Supper - reminding them: "I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." For John the connection between the Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit was so intimately connected that his account of Pentecost occurs on Easter Sunday night...
7th Sunday of Easter - Models of Love
The Gospels speak of Jesus giving his disciples a new commandment:  that they love one another as He has loved.  To love as Jesus loved is no easy task.  We are all influenced by our own likes or dislikes - our own preferences or prejudices.  Easy or not, this is how others will know that we are His followers.  The God who is Love has commanded us to love in the same manner.
5th Sunday of Easter - Lord, Show us the Way
In the wake of a crisis in our Church that continues to unfold every day, I find it interesting that all three of the Liturgical Readings for this week focus specifically on the notion of priestly service and ministry. We see the Apostles asking the community to select some of its own members for the ministry of service, so that they could concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4) This fits a pattern for the early church: the priests would serve the community by being persons dedicated to prayer, teaching and presiding at Eucharist. Members of the laity, both men and women would take ownership of the other aspects of their community life.
4th Sunday of Easter - Some Thoughts from the Pew
A time of crisis calls us to a deeper, more mature faith. The Crucified Christ teaches us that we carry within us - individually and as a community - the wounds of our world and of our Church... and the Risen Christ teaches us that these are also the wounds of Christ that have the potential to heal from the hurts that we have endured. The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, and to the possibility of total failure. The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours. It is through that power that we defy the world and its standards.
2nd Sunday of Easter - Doubts and Fears
Once again, these have been very difficult days for all of us who care deeply about the Church and the priesthood. Once again, there have been countless reports in newspapers, periodicals, radio and television programs as well as personal conversations concerning the recent reports of sexual misconduct by priests. It is now obviously clear that the scandal is much more widespread than many would have had us believe... even touching the doorstep of the Vatican itself.  
Easter Sunday - The Stone Removed
The days immediately preceding and following the resurrection must be have days of turmoil for the first followers of Jesus. I'm sure they went through the whole gamut of emotion - fear and uncertainty, devastation and utter despair, loneliness and separation… only to be brought back to hope and joy with news of "resurrection sightings."
Passion (Palm) Sunday - Living, Not Dead
We gather this week, like generations of Christians before us, to celebrate the Holiest of Weeks, to share in the sacred, ancient rituals that enshrine the essential mystery of our faith - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We make our pilgrimage, like generations before us, from sinfulness to holiness, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from death to life. It should be a solemn and moving experience, an opportunity to be touched again by the power of the Risen Christ.
Holy Week: Dying and Rising with Christ
We approach Holy Week - that special and solemn moment which defines and dramatizes what it means to be Christian. It marks the great festival celebration of the central mysteries of our faith. We tend to look upon this week as a re-enactment of the final events in the human life and journey of Jesus Christ. We move from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through the Last Supper, the betrayal the agony in the garden, the trial, the way of the cross, the crucifixion, to His burial and resurrection.
5th Sunday in Lent - The Resurrection Experience
We are winding down our celebration of the Holy Season of Lent - our time of preparation for the great feast of Easter. Lent can, and should be a solemn and moving experience for us. It should be a time to recall our Baptism, to renew our commitment to our faith and beliefs, to recognize once again our faults and weaknesses, to seek the Lord's forgiveness - and the forgiveness of others - and to become instruments of reconciliation and forgiveness for others.
4th Sunday in Lent - A Light in the Darkness
Lent is a time of peace. We know it as a "penitential season" - a time of self-denial, self-sacrifice, a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. Yet all throughout this season, the Church constantly reminds of us of the Peace of God. We are reminded of the all-encompassing peace felt by the disciples as they witnessed Christ's Transfigured glory; we shared in the peace felt by the Samaritan woman at the well as she realized that she was in the presence of God. And this week - a man born blind is made to see and to feel the comfort and peace of the Light of the World.
3rd Sunday in Lent - Never to Thirst Again
We continue to travel through the season of Lent on our way to celebrate the Easter Vigil - the sacred, ancient ritual that enshrines the essential mystery of our faith - passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In a very brief time, we will have walked the road of salvation history, listening to the words and stories, watching signs and symbols, seeing unfold before us God's plan and promise for human life.
2nd Sunday in Lent - Seeds of Transformation
Part of the theology that most of us inherited taught that our journey of faith was one of living our lives "according to God's plan", of accepting our state in life - whatever it may be - as part of His will for us, and submitting to the sometimes unreasonable demands that we seem to think He makes upon us. The soul is spirit, noble, most God-like; the flesh is lowly, corruptible, and definitely mortal. We were trained to struggle against the desires of the body, to subdue, to repress. And Lent was a special time for self-denial and sacrifice, for beating the body and our human longings into submission.
1st Sunday in Lent - Entering into the Paschal Mystery
We stand poised at the beginning of the Season of Lent, the traditional time within our Church when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, dying and rising to new life of Jesus Christ. Traditionally, a time of penitence and penance, it is also a time of hope and joy.
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Authentic Christianity
The Gospel passages chosen for the next few Sundays comprise the substance of what we traditionally know as "the Sermon on the Mount." These words of Jesus as recounted by Matthew make up the heart of the Gospel, the substance of the "Good News;" and the evangelist spent of lot of time - one hundred and eleven verses - making sure that this message would be remembered down through the ages. The Sermon on the Mount represents the New Sinai, the new Covenant, the NEW Commandment. This is the summary of all that it means to be Christian and Catholic.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Darkness Dispelled
The proclaiming, listening and exploring of Scripture has been, since the time of Jesus, the ministry and work of disciples throughout the world. This is the "good news" that has echoed down the centuries, catching the imagination, generating inspiration and courage and inviting commitment. The Gospels over the last few weeks have asked us to think about those very things: the very personal invitation that we have received from the Lord at our baptism - and the commitment we that we make to that invitation.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Here I Am Lord
The prophet Isaiah is dominant in our liturgical readings as we begin our new year. The reference in last week's passage is most significant..."Here is my servant...my chosen one upon whom I have put my Spirit...he shall bring forth justice...not crying out, not shouting...a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench." This week we hear God's promise: "I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." And next week we discover the promise fulfilled: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone."
The Baptism of the Lord - Living the Life of the Gospel
I imagine that, at times, the people around Jesus just didn't quite know what to make of this itinerant preacher. Jesus never did anything "by the book." He didn't "play by the rules" of the day. He certainly did things that were totally unexpected and said things that must have been counter to the popular opinions of His day. Jesus made people feel uncomfortable - He asked them to do things they would rather not do. John the Baptist pleaded with him that it was he who should be baptized. A few years later, Peter would argue that Jesus would never wash his feet. The Pharisees liked to point out that anyone who frequented with tax collectors and sinners could not possibly be the long-awaited Messiah, the Holy One promised to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.
The Epiphany of the Lord - The Search for God
World literature is filled with stories of "the search" - the voyages of explorers, the hunt for hidden treasure, the quest for the Holy Grail or the fountain of youth, and the never-ending search in the hearts of all for quality of life, for freedom and justice, and for peace. The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord epitomizes all of the longings in the human heart for intimacy with God. The Hebrew Scriptures were filled with promises about the coming of the Messiah. For the people, this meant liberation from oppression, from enemies, from poverty and slavery. But word of this promise filtered through to foreign nations, and touched a universal need for redemption and reconciliation.
The Feast of the Holy Family - Identity and Continuity
The calendar year comes to an end and we gather to celebrate two special feasts in our Church: The Holy Family and that of Mary, the Mother of God. We celebrate the end of another year of pilgrimage in faith, and the beginning of a new year of our lives. The feast of the Holy Family is a celebration of all families: not perfect families, not constantly serene families… but families just like ours. If we picture the family of Joseph of Nazareth as we have seen them depicted in works of art or statuary, it becomes very difficult to model our family lives around theirs.
The Nativity of the Lord - A Multitude of Angels
"And suddenly, there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the Highest; and Peace on earth to men of good will!" God's greatest miracles often go unnoticed unless there are messengers and angels to announce them. God's gifts of peace, and justice and reconciliation are hidden in the ordinariness and ugliness of human history; there must be angels to point them out. Perhaps that's one of the important lessons of Christmas, for all ages. This year, the Christmas moon and stars look down on a scene that looks very ordinary and, in many places, very ugly. There are colorful lights, the exchanging of gifts, holiday meals, the singing of carols - but there are also cries of hunger, the darkness of war, the emptiness of loss, the exchange of gunfire. There there seems to be very few signs of peace, good will and God's glory.
4th Sunday of Advent - Hope Reinforced
We approach Christmas with vivid, violent reminders of the evils caused in our society by selfishness, ruthless ambition, twisted hatred and the craze for power at every level.  This ugly drama is played out all over our world: in our homes and families, in the business community, in our politics, in the bitterness and irreconcilable differences among the peoples of the Middle East, in the mistrust found among nations and even in the lack of trust in church leadership.
3rd Sunday of Advent - Voices of Advent
The spirit of the Advent season is filled with the images of some of the most powerful figures in all of Scripture. The first, of course, is the Virgin Mary, constantly with us throughout this holy season, patiently awaiting the birth of her son - God-made-man, God-with-us - Emmanuel. This third week of Advent highlights the personalities of two others: John the Baptist, the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for His coming - and the prophet Isaiah - whose words are full of expectation, hope and joy.
2nd Sunday of Advent - Be Open to His Coming
  The message that runs all through the Readings for this Sunday in Advent is one of being prepared… of staying awake… of keeping our eyes and hearts open to the coming of the Lord.   Modern man is not one to enjoy the process of waiting. In terms of our relationship with God, the waiting of the faithful is so often fraught with disappointment. The fulfillment of God's promise of peace and justice so often seems delayed and improbable. In every age, but especially in our own times, believers seem to be besieged by evil, swamped by misfortune and almost overcome by catastrophe. We lose heart; we become impatient.
1st Sunday of Advent - Stay Awake
As we enter the Advent season, we move liturgically from the darkness that will precede the end of the world to the darkness that hovered over the world at its beginning. This darkness holds within it the promise of dawn. We anxiously await the rising sun. This is a season of expectation and of hope. It is a time for us to listen again to God's promise of deliverance and reconciliation. It is a time for us to be reassured of His relentless love for each and all of us, and for our planet.