Reflections

SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Feb. 17, 2019
[Jeremiah 17:5-8; I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20; Luke 6: 17, 20-26]

"If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all."

Our readings today are trying to help us focus on ‘life beyond the here and now.’ That is why St. Paul uses such irresistible logic in the Second Reading: If we are focused only on the 'here and now' we are to be pitied; because we are missing the whole purpose of our faith, and of life on this earth.

We are followers of Jesus, the Risen Christ! Jesus' life, death, and Resurrection on this earth is the promise and the model of what we are called to be. Jesus was ‘raised from the dead.’ Jesus came to give us hope and promise. More than that, Jesus came to give us the power to also be changed and transformed, to be, in a limited way, like Him.

That is what our Mass, our Eucharist is: The Mass is the continual reminder of who we are in Jesus Christ. Some of our ceremonies are so beautiful and meaningful. We bring up the Bread and Wine. We call them ‘the Gifts’, our gifts to the Lord to be used in this Mass. They are carried up usually by our prayer family, right through the middle of our congregation. This family also stands for us - they represent the gift of ourselves to the Lord.

During the Mass, Jesus takes our gifts, and He changes them - He Transforms
them into the gift of Himself to us. We receive the gift of the Lord Himself in 
Holy Communion. It is through this 'Gift of the Lord to us' that we gradually
become 'other worldly people - People of the Promise - Eternal Life.

The Mass is the way we bring the words of the readings to Life. The Beatitudes make little sense unless we understand that Jesus came to truly raise us up with Him. To be raised up, we must be freed from all things that tie us down to the ‘here and now.’

 

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Feb. 10, 2019
[Isaiah 6: 1-2, 3-8; I Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5: 1-11]

“Put out in the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

The quotation above applies, first, to Jesus’ command to the apostles in the fishing boat.  They worked all night, they said, and caught nothing.  Jesus told them now to try again, but this time under His direction and with His help.

We can apply the words of Jesus now to our own lives.  We are not on a lake, but, rather, we are all in the ‘sea of life’.  Often, like the Apostles we feel like we are not very successful in life, that we are ‘in over our heads’ as we say.  We cannot accomplish what we feel we need to do, or our efforts turn out badly and are misunderstood.  Therefore, like the Apostles, we need to step back, and in a prayerful way ask for the Lord’s help and direction.

St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading that had the very same experience. Paul confesses to all his readers that he was, indeed, on the wrong path. Paul was trying to ‘wipe out’ the Church of the Lord.  With the intervention of the Lord Jesus, he was able to see his mistakes; more importantly he was forgiven by the Lord.  He was able, with God’s help, to open his life to the saving power of God in his life.  That is why he could say: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been ineffective.”

We, therefore, have a beautiful follow-up today to the lessons we have been receiving the last few Sundays.  The grace of God is, indeed, being fulfilled in each of us.   We also are able then to reach out to others as we live the life of Grace.  In this way we also ‘put out into the deep’, in the daily encounters with God’s people.

 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, February 3, 2019
[Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19; I Corinthians 13: 4-13; Luke 4: 21-30]

“The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives.”

The verse quoted above sounds familiar to us: this verse opens the Gospel today, the same verse that ended the Gospel last week.  Again, it is Jesus’ “Mission Statement”, and it is also our ‘Mission Statement.’  What Jesus is called to do—He passes on to us.  We, too, as we heard last week, are ‘anointed to bring the Good News of the Gospel’. That is what our Baptism and Confirmation are all about.

Today, the Gospel makes it clear that ‘Bringing the Good News’ is not always so easy: Jesus ran into opposition from His own people, His relatives and people of Nazareth, where he grew up.  Many people got ‘distracted’:  they knew Him from His home town.  He should have been behaving like they expected. Therefore, they heard only what they expected to hear, not the ‘Good News’ that Jesus was making available.

Sometimes we must also expect some resistance: first, the resistance can come from within ourselves: we sometimes are not ready to hear, or be led, by what Jesus presents to us.  We, too, like the people of Nazareth know how we think things should be. But Jesus came to ‘make things new’.    The old ways are not always the ‘ways of God’. We must be ready for that.

In the First Reading God is preparing Jeremiah for the resistance he will face because he is a Prophet of the Lord: “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”  Not everyone is ready to hear and be led; but hopefully we are. We had the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas last Monday:  He reminded us that it is only through our prayer life that we will be strengthened and prepared by the Lord to do what we are called to do for the good of God’s people. St. Paul says today, that we must be prepared to do everything out of Love.  That really takes a lot of prayer and work at times.

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Jan. 27, 2019
[Nehemiah 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; I Corinthians 12: 12-14, 27; Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21]

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…”

We have, above, the words Jesus spoke in quoting the prophet, and applying these words to Himself.  Jesus spoke these words in Luke’s Gospel as He began his public ministry.  Jesus, as always in His teachings, applies His words and His commission not only to Himself.  These words apply to each one of us because we also have been anointed by God at our Baptism, and at our Confirmation.  The message and the mission go on through us. 

St. Paul in our Second Reading has one of his very famous and powerful messages, repeating the message of Jesus for us: “As a body is one, though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body are one body, so also Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and we were all given to drink of the One Spirit.”  As we continue in this Ordinary Time of the Church year, we are reminded once again: who we are, and what we are called to be and to do.  The Spirit of God works through us. It is only by us, the anointed of Jesus, that the message of God will continue to be present and to grow. This is the only message, the Word of God, that will overcome evil and bring good into our world.

I was wondering if the Spirit of God and St. Paul have spoken to us, the fact that we are: One Country, One People.  Has the Spirit reminded us that nothing will really be accomplished if we don’t do it together, as one People, One Nation?  As God respects all people, so must we.

It is really our responsibility, who have been anointed by the Spirit, to continue the work of the Church.  And, the work of the Church is the work of our nation and of all people together.  We have the great advantage because we know the Spirit of God is at work in us, ‘The Anointed of Christ.’ As we prayed in our Responsorial Psalm: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life.”  The Words of Jesus have the power to accomplish in us what they say!

 

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Jan. 20, 2019
[Isaiah 62: 1-5; I Corinthians 12: 4-11; John 2: 1-11]

“To each individual the manifestation o f the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

As we see, we are now in the period of the church year called: ‘Ordinary Time.’ As we know this name comes from the Latin word for ‘number’.  We now number the Sundays of this time in the Church Year.  So, it does not mean we are in a time for doing nothing.  We have a lot to digest, remember, and pray over after celebrating the Christmas Season.

We have the quotation above from the Second Reading.  It is now our turn to use the gifts and talents that Jesus, by His coming, has provided for each one of us.  Ordinary Time is the time to do our part: Mary, Joseph, Jesus did faithfully what was theirs to do.  They responded to the call of the Father.  Mary and Joseph probably had no idea that they were capable of such generosity and love.  Mary and Joseph were all set to live a very ‘ordinary life’ in their village. However, God had other plans for them.  They responded and uncovered gifts they never knew they had.

Mary was very ready to also help Jesus to use His Gifts for the good of the wedding couple who had no wine.  Even Jesus had to be reminded that the ‘time was now’.  He was needed, now, to do what only He could do.  

What a great lesson for us.  Mary’s job did not end with the birth and nurturing of Jesus. She is ready now to bring us to birth in new life.  Sometimes she needs to remind us of what we can do, even when we are not ready.   We, too, like the wedding couple can run out of things:  patience, love, time, Faith, Hope, Trust…. The Blessed Virgin Mary can remind us to also call on the Spirit of Jesus within us.  With Mary’s help, the Spirit can refresh and renew the supply of what we need.  She needs to remind the rest of us of what we can do for the Lord and for each other, with a little help from our friends: Jesus, Mary, and our community.