Laetare Sunday or The Fourth Sunday in Lent

It is also known as Rose Sunday as there is a good chance that your priests will be wearing rose or pink. The Sunday marks the midway point in Lent. This is also the weekend of the second scrutiny where the readings from last year are used.

On to the actual readings, we begin in the second book of Chronicles. Chronicles is the history book of the Bible it was written after the exile and recast the Jewish kings in light of the exile. The reading today we hear the story of the fall of Judah, exile to Babylon and the release by Cyrus, King of Persia. It begins with the infidelity of all types of people and the ignoring of the warning from the prophets. This really pissed off the Lord and as the Bible says “there was no remedy” for this rage. This seems like it could be happening in the world today, there are so many people who ignore the words of the Popes and pick and choose what to actually believe it (like the use of contraception or divorce). The Psalm today it a prayer that we all should pray, we are all displaced people and we all hope for Zion.

Turning to the epistle this week we hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesus. Boiled down Paul is saying that our salvation is a gift from the Lord not because we did anything but because of the great love the Lord has for us. Our good works do not justify salvation but are a end result of our purification. We all are sinner and it is through Jesus that we are saved because of the love as we hear in the gospel “For God so loved the world” this is the opposite of what happened in the Old Testament where the Lord got angry and flooded the world or sent the people of Israel into exile. Perhaps we haven’t been as bad as the Israelites, but that seems doubtful. Let us open our ears and hear the messenger of the Lord proclaiming the good news.

As we reach the Gospel we hear from on of the most quoted section of John’s gospel. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that who so ever believes in him might not die but might have eternal life.” The reading begins with Jesus foreshadowing his inevitable death, saying that just like the serpent in the desert, which Moses lifted up and healed people so to will the Son of Man be lifted up to give everyone who believes in him eternal life. We must look toward Christ as an example of how to live in truth. This is how we are to be saved and live in the light. While you are at mass this weekend, look up at the crucifix and stare at it for a bit, as Mother Teresa said “We all know, when we look at the cross, how Jesus loved us, and when we look at the Eucharist we know how much He loves us now.” Let us show Jesus how much we love him in all that we say and do during this upcoming week.

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Book of Job: Part three (second cycle of speeches)

If you remember last week we started this section of Job which is a dialogue between job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Last week in chapters 3-14 they all were telling Job that it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord.

So we turn to the second cycle of speeches in chapters 15-21.

We begin with Eliphaz once again who it seems picks up where he left off.  Eliphaz starts by saying “Your own mouth condemns you not I you own lips testify against you” (15:6) then he ask Job if he thinks that he is smarter than the Lord because Job demands an answer. Eliphaz says that this is undermining the Lord. Job replies  once again stating his innocence and goes on to say that his friends are scorning him.

Next we hear from Bildad who once again tells Job that the Lord is going to punish the evil doer and Bildad adds that the first-born of death is going to be tagging along as well. Job asks “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?” (19:2) Job then adds that if it is true and he did err that the error remains with him and his friends shouldn’t be continually attacking him about it. Job simply want to be able to plead his case before God.

Zophar is the next to offer his two cents, and guess what he says. Zophar gives a whole list of ways that the wicked man is punished by God. saying that this is the wicked man’s portion from God.  Job replies stating his innocence and saying that the wicked go unpunished all the time but we all end up in the same place, in the ground.

This book is frustrating as none of Job’s friends are actually listening to him and they continually harp on the fact that God will punish the wicked, that is all that they are saying. Next week we will pick up with the final cycle of speeches from this group, and I expect it to be exactly the same thing.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we begin our readings with a look into the book of Deuteronomy, or “second law”. The book itself is like a summation of the previous four books and most scholars believe it written after the Babylonian exile as a how are we supposed to live our faith in a post exile world. Today we hear from the writer that Moses said that the Lord said to him that “I, the Lord, would raise up a prophet like you, Moses and will they will be my mouthpiece to the people.” Many have thought that this is about how the Lord will send some prophet at the end times, Early Christians and Jesus thought this was about Jesus. However, I see this as a statement that the Lord will bring forth prophets for us throughout time to act as his mouthpiece on earth and it is a reminder for all of us that we are called to be a prophet to the nations. We are all like Moses he didn’t even want to be a leader and continually made excuses but when the time came he stepped up and took the lead.

As we turn to the second reading we pick up where we left off last week in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week Paul was saying that the Kingdom of God is coming soon and we should be ready. So this week we hear about how marriage make men and women anxious at pleasing the other where as those that are unmarried only are anxious about pleasing the Lord. I am not sure where Paul got this reasoning but it feels a bit off in the world today. I understand to fully understand what Paul mean you’ve got to read the entire chapter as he wrote earlier about married individuals and the concerns that the people in Corinth were having, so Paul isn’t trashing to idea of marriage but caution the unmarried or something.

Finally we make it to Mark’s Gospel and we continue from last week as well. Andrew, Simon, James, John and Jesus made their way to Capernaum and on the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and taught. Mark notes that the people were amazed by his teaching as Jesus taught with authority. Jesus teaching is accompanied with a possession and exorcism as well, a man in the synagogue had an unclean spirit and Jesus commands it to leave, again the people were amazed and the story of the exorcism and his preaching spread throughout the land. We can only imagine what it was like to hear Jesus preach and then exorcise a demon; we are left with priests who try to inspire us with a homily which most of the time aren’t memorable. We are reminded this week to keep our ears open for prophets and those preaching with authority

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we begin the second week of Ordinary Time people may be wondering why it is the second Sunday if last week we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the simple answer is that last Sunday was the first Sunday in Ordinary Time but the Feast Day is the more important and takes precedent of the regular Sunday observations.

We begin our readings this week with the Book of Samuel. Samuel is one of the former prophets and this book offers some of the early history about the Kingdom of Israel. We hear from the beginning of the book with a young Samuel in the temple, where he is serving under the high priest of Shiloh, Eli. In the first couple of chapter we learn why Samuel is with Eli. (Go read it) So Samuel is sleeping and he hears a voice calling out so he gets up and runs to Eli and asks him what he wants ”Here I am.” Eli tells him it wasn’t him calling. So Samuel goes back to sleep but hears the voice again so he gets up again and runs to Eli again, but is again told it wasn’t Eli calling. So it happens yet again and for a third time Samuel runs to Eli saying “Here I am” then Eli understood and told Samuel that it was the Lord calling him and to answer “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” How many times are we like Samuel we hear the Lord’s call and assume it is someone else who is calling us. Let us be more like Samuel able to call out “Here I am and speak for your servant is listening” when the Lord calls us. This refrain “Here I am” is continued in the Psalm.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he writes that we are all members of the body of Christ and that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit so we should not sin. As we turn to the Gospel we hear from John of how Jesus began to bring together his disciples. It starts with John the Baptist saying “Behold the Lamb of God”, then two of John’s disciples go and find out more about Jesus. One of these disciples was Andrew who went to his brother Simon and told him that he had found the Messiah and brought Simon to Jesus and Jesus calls Simon, Peter. The encounters with the Lord in our first reading and the Gospel are directed meetings as it is only with Eli’s help that Samuel learns that it is the Lord calling to him and it is John calling to Jesus and then Andrew bringing Simon along that brings about the formation of the disciples. We need help from other to encounter the Lord. We can cry out “Here, I am Lord” all that we want but we need to take some time to listen for a reply. Andrew goes with Jesus and sits talking and listening before realizing that Jesus is the Messiah. Help us this week to listen for the Lord’s call in our lives and be able to respond like Samuel “Speak for your servant is listening.”

The Presentation in the Temple

As we heard on Sunday Jesus was brought by Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to do the Jewish thin, circumcision and anointing .When they got to the temple they encountered a pair of figures that make a big impression Simeon and Anna the prophets in the temple. The Lord had promised both that they would see the savior before they would die. If only we could be as joyous as Simeon and Anna when they receive Jesus at the temple when we go to church and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

This is also the first time that pain is introduced into the Rosary as Simeon tells Mary that Jesus is symbolized as a sword piercing Mary’s heart. So we need to remember the joy as well as the pain that Jesus and Mary suffer at the time of the crucifixion. I am sure for many of us when we go to church we are going through the motions and not really connecting with what is happening. As we enter into a new year perhaps we can take some time and take out time at mass, paying attention to all that is said and done. At each celebration of the Mass we witness the whole of the life of Christ for birth to Assumption so we should feel the joy and pain that are there in the readings.  Let us take some time before we go to church to read the upcoming reading for the week and then listen to the words as they are read.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week the buzz word in the readings was Generosity and how Lord is willing to give us what is promised to us. This week we build on the idea but look at it from the human side. We ask How can we accept the generosity? And come up with one answer responsibility. Our readings begin with the Prophet Ezekiel, now Ezekiel was among the first to be exiled in Babylon. In the reading Ezekiel relays a message from The Lord “You all say that The Lord is not fair” then he asks “Is it my ways that are unfair or are your ways unfair?” This is a question we must take seriously even today. Then the reading continues if someone turns from virtue and dies they die because of the iniquity that they committed, however if one turns from wickedness they will not die because they have turned away from sin. Ezekiel gives us this rough game plan for how to accept the generosity of The Lord, turn from wickedness and you will not die.

Turning to the second reading we hear from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we pick up basically were we left off last week where Paul told us to conduct ourselves in a way worth of The Lord, in our reading today we are given example of how to conduct ourselves. The important part is the second half of the verse “regard others as more important than yourselves” this is something difficult to do for all of us living in the world as all to often we are looking out for ourselves. Paul tells us to be like Christ and give us a Christological Hymn “Although he was in the form of God, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave and came down to earth and humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. Because of this his name is greatly exalted and at the name of Jesus every knee must bend.”

As we reach the Gospel of Matthew we once again hear a parable. Jesus was at the temple and is talking to the chief priest and elders. He tells them a story “A man has two sons, He asks them both to go work in the vineyard for the day. One son refuses, but afterward he changes his mind and goes, the other son says sure, but doesn’t go. Jesus turns to the priests and elders and asked them who did the father’s will, they replied the first. Jesus then explains that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering into the kingdom before them as they, the tax collectors and prostitutes, heard the message of John the Baptist and listened. This should also be applied to us as well as we need to do more than just listen to the words that we hear each week we have a responsibility to bring it out into the world. At the end of Mass the Deacon or Priest may say “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” these are our directions at each and every mass. Let us over this upcoming week keep the instructions we hear today in mind, Turn away from sin, treat others are more important as ourselves, and listen to the word of those sent by our Heavenly Father (Saints, Priests and Bishops).

The Transfiguration

Jesus brings Peter, James and John up a mountain, it is not named in the Bible but many have speculated that it is Mount Tabor. While they are up on the mountain Moses and Elijah appear and start conversing with Jesus. Peter suggests they build tents to make the event last forever. Then from the heavens come a voice saying “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” I was listen to my music on shuffle the other day and a song from The Song of Mark came on and it got me to thinking that most of the musicals about Jesus tend to skip over the Transfiguration.

The only one that doesn’t is The Song of Mark which is sort of a musical by Marty Haugen. Although it might not be a musical but rather a choral concert piece or something like that I am not really sure. The Song of Mark follows the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end with songs. One of the songs, “So Good to be Here” is about the Transfiguration from the point of view of John, Peter and James. I like that the song sounds like a drinking song as that seems like something that the Apostles might have been doing while Jesus was talking with Elijah and Moses. Sufjan Stevens even has a song about the Transfiguration on his Seven Swans album but that is the extant of the music about the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration is a joyous event where the heavenly Christ was revealed to a select few the first leader of the church, the first Pope and the beloved apostle. It is these individuals who hear the voice of God from above telling them to listen to Jesus. It would be wonderful if we can put ourselves into the event in the life of Christ and be the individuals who hear the voice of God. “Listen to him!” This is one of the only commands in the New Testament and is a very important one.

Wedding Feast at Cana

As we reflect upon the second Luminious Mystery Mary pops back up into the mystery although she could have been at Jesus’s Baptism in the Jordan. In this mystery Mary plays a key role, as she tells Jesus that the wedding has run out of wine, we know the story. Jesus says “Woman it is not yet my time” or something to that effect. So Mary turns to the stewards at the feast and tells them to listen to whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus changes his mind and has the stewards fill the barrels with water and when the water is taken out and given to the chief steward it turns out the be the best wine of the evening.

The one thing that we should remember from this story is the words of Mary to the stewards, as they are also meant for us. “Listen to him, and do whatever he tells you.” Listening is something that many in this hyper connected world have forgotten, as we are so connected to our phones/music/television/internet that our time in silence prayer has seemingly disappeared. Even if we have a chance to retreat into silence quieting our brains is a difficulty.  Will we be able to hear the Lord in the silence or will we be sitting there not hearing a thing? It is impossible to say, but Mary’s words are a motto that we should follow.

“Listen to him, and do whatever he tell you” this is something we all can do as we have the words of Jesus in the Gospel  and all we have to do it open it up and read a little. I am one of those individuals who likes to read the reading before i attend Mass on Sunday as it helps me to actually listen to the word being proclaimed. For many people they follow along with the reading only half paying attention to what is being said. Even if we do listen to what is being said it is the second part that we most of the time forget about the action part. “Do whatever he tell you” we need to be able to bring the message of the Gospel out into the world. As that quote goes “Preach the Gospel at all time use words sparingly” and I think that a nice blanket statement that summarizes the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels is something very simple. Love.  With all the conflict in the world from the Middle East and Ukraine to a town in Missouri the one thing that is needed most of all is love.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we hear from one of the lesser read book of the Bible, Wisdom. The Wisdom Books are the one chunk of Scripture we rarely look at. The Wisdom books include Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Sirach and Wisdom. Sirach and Wisdom are considered Deutrocanonical books in the Catholic and Orthodox faith, as they are not included in the Hebrew Bible and therefore considered Apocryphal in most other denominations.

Today’s reading (12:13, 16-19) come from the third section of the book which reviews the History of Israel and God’s role in it. We hear that there is no god like God as s/he care for us and that gives us all ground for hope. We move on to Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:26-27), basically picking up where we left off last week. It is short and sweet. Paul reminds us that we have the Spirit who will help us to pray.

Turning to the Gospel we pick up the ending of Matthew 13 once again we have an option of the length. This week we hear of the Parable of the Weeds. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of heaven is like a man who planted good wheat seed in a field and then at night his enemy came and planted weeds in the same location if the wheat. When the plants grew up a bit the man’s servants notices the weeds and asks if the man wants them pulled up. The man doesn’t want to do that as it might pull up the wheat as well. At harvest time the harvesters will be told to harvest the weeds first sending them to get burned and then the wheat to be stored in the shed.

If you’re lucky enough you might hear another couple of parables today the Mustard Seed and the Yeast. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that gets planted. It is the smallest of the seeds but grows into one of the largest plants. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman puts into flour that leavens the mixture. Jesus then explains the parables the Son of Man is the one who sow the good seed, the children of the kingdom, and the weeds are the children of the evil one. At “harvest time” the end of the age the angels will come and collect up the weeds and send them to the furnace and the righteous will shine like the sun. “Whoever has ear ought to hear.”

I am a fan of the parables as they sort of simplify the message of Jesus. Putting the main parables together from the past weeks, we get a big picture. The Son of Man goes out and scatters seed, it land just about everywhere some on the path, others amongst the rock, in with some thorny plants and some on good ground. In the night the devil comes and sows weeds in the world causing problems to arise, but the Son of Man says that he will not do anything to the weeds until it is time to harvest. This show the kindness of the Lord we heard in Wisdom that God cares for us and hopes that we can change into the wheat. The later two Parables are both to show how large the kingdom of heaven can become even if it is the smallest of seeds or a little bit of yeast it will grow into something much larger than it first began.

I think the most important part of the whole Gospel is that last sentence “Whoever has ear ought to hear” although this could just be a play on the wheat ears, I think it points to everyone having a role in the kingdom of God and how we all need to listen. One of the big problems in the world today is that people rarely take the time to sit and listen, both to God and others.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week’s readings are a fun bunch and are connected with the idea of planting or sowing and reaping. We begin in Isaiah (55:10-11) where we hear a poem from the Lord. Just as the rain falls from the heavens upon the Earth to make it fruitful before it go back to the heavens so to is it with the Word of God. Now this later become Jesus as seem in the Gospel reading but even with the Jewish Nation the message of God must be spread. It is not meant for a single people as we hear in the Psalm “The seed that fell on good ground bears a fruitful harvest.” We are these seeds and we are nourished by the Word of God we are “watered” when we go to Mass and celebrate the Eucharist and Confession is like weeding.

Now Paul’s letter this week seems out of place as there are not planting metaphors or watering advice. Paul says to the Romans the suffering that we are experiencing at the current time is nothing like the glory and pleasure we will experience in heaven/new earth/Kingdom of God. Many people like to point out that Paul could be writing to Christians today with all the violence around the world, especially in the Middle East where Christianity is a minority and is being persecuted, or in Europe which although built upon the church has simply ignored it, even her in the United States where it seems like the Government is always beating up on the Church. The same it true with the citizens of the world who always seem to in any comment section about the Catholic Church go right to Clergy Abuse and that is the extant of the religion.

Turning to the Gospel we hear from Matthew and these is an option of how long the reading is, it’s Chapter 13. Jesus tells us another Parable, “A sower went to sow some seeds.” The seeds fell on lots of different surfaces the path where it’s eaten by birds, rocky ground where it sprung and promptly died, among thorns where it was choked and on rich soil where it grew. Jesus then explains it in the second half of the reading saying that the seeds are the one that hears the word of God, and goes through how each individual hears the word and there are many things that compete with it either wickedness, tribulation, and worldly concerns but the on who hear the word and understands it is the one that bears much fruit. Now there is a section of this reading that I really like the disciples ask Jesus “Why do you speak in parables?” and Jesus responds that Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, not them. He continues with my favorite part “They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” I hope that during this week we can ask for our eyes and ears to be opened so we can see, hear and understand what is going on.