"After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers." As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, this Gospel exposes us to a strange tension. While this family is one we can look to for an example, they are not quite the same family unit as everyone else. There is an otherness to Jesus, something profound. And yet, perhaps on second thought, are our families so different? When Mary and Joseph encountered Jesus in the temple, "they were astonished."READ MORE
Here we are, mere days from Christmas, and we hear a Gospel anticipating the birth of another child. Mary has received word that her cousin Elizabeth is with child. Pregnant as she is, Mary "set out and traveled to the hill country in haste." She has recently received the greatest news of her life - that she is to be mother to the Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit - but her concern is for her cousin in need. Through God's grace, Elizabeth turns it into an opportunity to honor the coming Christ. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Yet Mary's example of selflessness should inspire us.READ MORE
In Christianity, we hear often about the "Good News." We might often associate it with Jesus' compassion to the poor, his healings and miracles, and the salvation he won for us. In today's Gospel, we read of John the Baptist. "Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people." Yet as we examine the rest of the reading, we see examples of John's preaching. If you have two cloaks, give one away. Don't cheat others out of their money, extort, or lie. And, of course, the warning that the Messiah is on the move and "his winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Merry Christmas?READ MORE
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar...and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee...and Lysanias was tetrach of..." Did you need to pinch yourself awake during the first few lines of this Sunday's Gospel? John the Baptist received quite a prelude today as Luke described the religious and political leadership of the time period. Scripture is divinely inspired, and we believe that everything that made it into the Bible is there for a reason. These lines remind us of an important truth. The Christmas story isn't a fairy tale or nursery rhyme. It's not a parable we say to give meaning to the holiday. At Christmas, God's presence is made tangible in a precise moment in time. The birth of Christ is a historical event. As precursor to Jesus' preaching, the ministry of John the Baptist is also a historical event.READ MORE
If you brought your child to the restroom during the Liturgy of the Word, you might walk away with one of two interpretations of Jesus as King. The first and second readings are bold and victorious. We see Christ coming on the clouds for the final judgment of heaven and earth. The Gospel sets a very different tone. Jesus is under arrest and facing death before Pontius Pilate. We know how this story will end. So if Christ is King, what does it mean? Is he a glorious conqueror or a suffering servant? "My kingdom does not belong to this world." Here is the heart of Jesus' reign. He is a king -- and his "subjects" are alive and well on earth -- but, ultimately, Jesus' kingdom transcends our earthly concepts of power. Jesus faced down the temptation of a solely earthly kingship. At the close of his 40 days in the desert, the devil offered him the kingdoms of the world. Jesus only had to sacrifice his heavenly values and worship Satan. The same temptations to distort the kingship of Christ are present to us today. Jesus' invitation also endures. "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." It is important for us to belong to the full truth of Christ's kingdom. First, our own hearts must be transformed. Our own rebellions in favor of selfishness and against holiness must be conquered by God's grace. Second, we must work to transform the world as best we can in our own corner of it. Like Jesus shows us by his life and death, this doesn't mean domination. It means service, sacrifice, respect, and love. Our lives must "testify to the truth" of Jesus Christ, who lays down his life for his people. That is the true beauty of Christ the King!READ MORE
As we edge closer to the closing of the liturgical year, the Church selects readings that remind us of the final close: the second coming of Christ. It's easy, perhaps, to forget that this is a dogma of our Catholic faith. We see this dramatic end times language in today's Gospel. "The sun will be darkened ... and the stars will be falling from the sky."
As Christians and as human beings, we know all things will come to an end. " But of that day or hour, no one knows." The "end of the world" and end of time at Jesus' coming is in a future unknown. But God has given us beautiful reminders of this truth. We see the signs and symbols of ending all around us -- nightfall at the end of each day; the life cycle of crops coming alive, bearing fruit, and being harvested; our own death. That, too, will come at an unknown day and hour. But that is the way of things. Even as God created in Genesis, He gave us a sense of time -- the sun rising and setting, a beginning and an end -- to mark our days.READ MORE
Prayer for Faithful Citizenship
Gracious and loving God, let your Spirit be with us today.
Hear our prayers, and increase in us the will to follow your Son Jesus.
Help us to draw on the resources of our faith as we use the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society more respectful of the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.READ MORE
"You are not far from the kingdom of God." What does it mean to be close to God's kingdom? In today's Gospel, Jesus is in a dialogue with teachers of the law. They know well the Law of Moses, with its complex codes, expectations,and punishments. What will Jesus say?"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself."Jesus effortlessly distills all the books of law into two commands. The simplicity of the Gospel message doesn't mean it's easy to follow. Far from it! The simplicity of the Gospel indicates its totality. Anything that requires the passions of our heart, the choice of our soul, the reason in our mind, or the strength of our body - all of this ought to be animated by love. As you can imagine, that means pretty much everything! The love of God and love of neighbor is meant to flow into our entire lives.
The Gospel can appear complicated because life is complicated. Not ever y outcast is easy to love. We lack the knowledge or compassion to heal everyone who suffers. Personal sacrifice is not always noticed or valued. In the face of the unknown, fear can be easier than faith. Life's circumstances can seem like obstacles to God's love, not opportunities. And yet Jesus' command still stands. As you reflect this week, examine those areas where it's easy to love. Thank God for them! But take some time to consider the people and circumstances that challenge you. Ask God to show you what it means to love there. How is He inviting you to enlarge your heart, strengthen your soul, open your mind, and persevere in your strength? How is He inviting you to love?READ MORE
"Son of David, have pity on me!" Has the cry of Bartimaeus ever escaped your lips? Today's Gospel tells the story of a blind man with a difficult lot in life. He made a living by begging coins off passing travelers. When word reaches him that Jesus will be passing by, this is when he begins is shouts for mercy. Jesus hears Bartimaeus' cry and beckons him forward.READ MORE
"What do you wish me to do for you?" Jesus asks a similar question in different Gospel passages, but the request of James and John is not repeated on any other occasion. "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." They ask not for knowledge of God, not for crooked limbs to be straightened nor for the blind to see. They ask for power and authority. Jesus' response should trouble them. "You do not know what you are asking."READ MORE
Christian author C.S. Lewis once wrote that Christianity is not so much about being nice people but in being "new men." We see this contrast in today's Gospel. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus first answers in the predictable way. Follow the commandments! "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."READ MORE
"Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." This verse is part of a beautiful reflection on childlike faith. We're reminded of the innocence of children, how eager they are to experience life and how quick they are to trust. Rarely do we hear it with the story that immediately proceeds it. The Pharisees question Jesus on the lawfulness of divorce! Hardly the sort of thorny moral conversation one typically has in front of children. Yet here we are. Jesus' response goes further back then the Mosaic law.READ MORE