Monthly Archives: January 2019
Greetings in Christ,
After Jesus’ Baptism in the river Jordan, he returned to regions of Galilee, proclaiming the reign of God and performing miracles. These are pagan territories. Jesus taught in their synagogues very successfully and was praised by all. Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
From Galilee, Jesus moved to Nazareth, the place where he grew up, extending the story of his mission’s fruitfulness. Entering their synagogue, he stood to read, choosing Isaiah 61, which describes a prophet anointed by the Spirit to bring good news to the poor, embracing corporal works of mercy. Having finished reading the passage from Isaiah, he hands the scroll back to the attendant and sits down. Jesus is “this” prophet mentioned. He utters only one sentence: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus is proclaiming that he is the prophet so designated in Isaiah chapter 61. He is the one who is to come, and in fact he already has come, and his ministry will demonstrate this claim.
This week we continue praying for the awareness of Christ’s presence as the Universal Teacher of the truth, because He is Truth himself. May his presence be recognized and honored in schools as we begin today to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
OT III [C] Neh 8: 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; I Cor. 12:12-30; Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
Introduction: Today’s gospel, presenting Jesus’ inaugural speech in the synagogue of Nazareth and outlining his theology of total liberation, marks a great moment of Jewish history. The scripture readings for today focus our attention on the importance and liberating power of the Word of God as “sacramental,” making God present in our midst. The readings challenge us to listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, then put it into practice as we live out our lives, liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading, taken from Nehemiah, and Luke’s gospel both describe a public reading of Sacred Scripture which challenged the hearers to make a “fresh beginning” with a new outlook. In the first reading, after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra was leading the people in a ‘Covenant renewal’ ceremony by reading and interpreting the Law. The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that “Together we are Christ’s body, but each of us is a different part of it.” This suggests that, as different parts of Christ’s body, we each have a share, as his instruments, in bringing the freeing and saving mission of Christ to our world in our times. Today’s gospel describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah and his mission. Jesus claims that he is the One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. To the great amazement and disbelief of his own townsmen, Jesus declared that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled at that very moment “in your hearing,” because the prophet was foretelling and describing Jesus’ mission and ministry. Jesus’ mission would be to give liberation to everyone who would listen to his “good news,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that the initial reaction of the people was surprise at the power and eloquence of this son of their soil.
Life messages: 1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others: As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we must share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces.
2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and to be ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.
Greetings in Christ,
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus performs His first miracle. Let us remember the role of the Blessed Mother here; she is the one who is very sensitive to the needs of the host family. They feel honored by the presence of their many guests, but come to the point of shame when they run out of wine. Mary shares her concern with Jesus, who asks how this concerns Him. The Blessed Mother is very confident that her Son can do something good for the bridegroom during this time of need. Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. They obey Jesus, filling six stone jars with water. The water turns into wine without anyone’s knowledge of how it happens.
This miracle happens to all of us, in troubled times and in good times, when we hear Mary’s voice saying the same words, “Do whatever he tells you”. God speaks to us through our conscience, telling us to do good and to avoid evil. As we follow these words of Jesus in our conscience, Jesus leads us to walk in the ways of God, away from sin – doing good works for God. More than this, God is changing something in each of our hearts and lives, even without our knowledge. Then we find ourselves happily doing favors pleasing to God and to our neighbors. This is like the miracle at Cana happening in our life!
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Homily – Jan 19/20 [C]): Is 62: 1-5; I Cor 12: 4-11, John 2: 1-11
Introduction: This week we are at a wedding in Cana where Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle, transforming water into wine. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 2:23-24), and ends with another, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people. God is the faithful Groom and humanity is His beloved bride. Let us pray for God’s daily miracles in our families.
Scripture lessons summarized: We see this theme beautifully presented in today’s first reading, where Isaiah uses the metaphor of spousal love to describe God’s love for Israel. God’s fidelity to his people is compared to a husband’s fidelity to his wife. Isaiah predicts God’s salvation of Jerusalem after the return of the Babylonian exiles and visualizes it as a wedding between God and Jerusalem. Jesus’ provision of abundant wine for the wedding feast in Cana signifies that the day foreseen by Isaiah has arrived. In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that the new wine that Jesus pours out for us is the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to his bride. In today’s Gospel, John describes the first of the seven “signs’ by which Jesus showed forth his Divinity. When the wine “ran short,” Jesus’ mother told him about it. At first Jesus seemed to refuse to do anything about it. But later he told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water and take some of the miraculously-made wine to the headwaiter. When they did so, the headwaiter expressed his surprise that such a great wine had been reserved for late use.
Transformation at the hand of Christ: It is said that the writer Leo Tolstoy experienced that kind of transformation. He told about it in a book titled, My Conversion. Tolstoy wrote, “[When] Faith came to me; I believed in Jesus Christ, and all my life suddenly changed. I ceased to desire that which previously I had desired, and on the other hand, I took to desiring what I had never desired before. That which formerly used to appear good in my eyes appeared evil and that which used to appear evil appeared good.” Before his conversion, Tolstoy had acquired fame and fortune through his great writings. But he was unsatisfied. “I fought duels,” he wrote. “I gambled, I wasted my substance wrung from the sweat of peasants and deceived men. Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness was my life.” His conversion, one of the most dramatic of modern times, gave his life a new purpose, a new meaning and, he affirmed, an abiding satisfaction. [William E. Thorn, Catch the Little Foxes That Spoil the Vine (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1980).] All of us remember the story of the old alcoholic who ended his addiction. When asked about Jesus’ miracle of turning the water into wine replied, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that in my house Jesus changed whiskey into furniture.” Many millions of people over the centuries have experienced that kind of transformation at the hand of Christ. The miracle of Cana gives us that lesson
Life messages: 1) Let us, “invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes” when we feel shortages in our family lives. The spouses need Jesus and Mary when their dreams are gone, mutual love is dried up, the relationship becomes boring and raising the children becomes a burden draining all their energy. The awareness of the presence of Jesus and Mary in the family will encourage parents to create an atmosphere of prayer, Bible-reading, mutual love and respect with a spirit of forgiveness and sacrificial service at home. It will refresh and renovate family life, removing its boredom.
2) Let us follow Mary’s instruction, “Do whatever He tells you.” This is the only command given by Mary which is recorded in the New Testament, and it is a prerequisite for miracles in our families. The Bible tells us how to do the will of God and effect salvific changes in our daily lives. 3) Just as Jesus filled the empty water jars with wine, let us fill the empty hearts around us with love. By the miracle of Cana, Jesus challenges us also to enrich the empty lives of those around us with the new wine of love, mercy, concern and care. 4) Let us learn to appreciate the miracles of God’s providence in our lives. God, often as an uninvited guest in our families, works daily miracles in our lives by protecting us from physical and moral dangers, providing for our needs, inspiring us and strengthening us with His Holy Spirit. Let us also appreciate the miracle of the Real Presence of the Lord on the altar where God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.
BAPTISM OF THE LORD [C] (Jan 13): (Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Ti 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22) L/19
Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
The turning point: His baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify himself with his people who realized for the first time that they were sinners. (As given in the anecdotes, St. Damien, Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they served). Second, it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation to Israel, and eventually to us, and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” God the Father’s words, “This is my beloved Son,” taken from Psalm 2:17, revealed Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, and the words “with whom I am well pleased,” from Isaiah 42:1 (referring to the “suffering servant“), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment. The Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing. Fourth, it was a moment of decision to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His Beloved Son.
# Anecdote: Thomas Merton: A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?” The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend.” Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton. Today’s Gospel on Jesus’ baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr. Phil Bloom)
Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit.
(2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action; c) to lead holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; and e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.
Greetings in Christ,
The Baptism of our Lord is the inauguration of his missionary activity, having been sent by the Father. John was baptizing people with water; Jesus too submitted himself for baptism although he did not need it as the people did. Two things happen during Jesus’ baptism. The heavens open as the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus; and a voice from heaven affirms Jesus as God’s beloved Son. The way has now been prepared for Jesus’ missionary works for our salvation.
Baptism is important as a sacrament of initiation as Jesus started His work with it. We are also reminded of our baptismal promises and vows to live daily. Our baptism made us spiritually united to Jesus as Christians. It made an indelible mark upon our soul, making us children of the Father in heaven, through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Before a candidate is baptized, it is important that the parents, together with the godparents, are prepared for their responsibilities. Chosen godparents need to be practicing the faith above all, and not only because they are close friends or business associates. This is expected of godparents to reinforce the serious responsibility that the child grow and mature in the same Christian faith. All of us are expected to live our faith in Jesus daily as witnesses of Christ’s love.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Feast of Epiphany (Jan 6): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2- 3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the feast is the commemoration of the baptism of Christ where the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’ identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed himself as the promised Messiah, and at Cana he revealed his Divinity by transforming water into wine. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.
Scripture lessons: Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring him their hearts. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world will travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light and will bring gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial psalm includes a verse about kings coming from foreign lands to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God permitted the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group headed by King Herod tried to eliminate him, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored him and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore him.
Anecdote # 1: A woman among the Magi? Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano. A renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, has a new biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one (or more) among the Wise Men. His original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible” that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages, he said. “On the other hand, the masculine plural magi does not close the question of gender. “The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king,” Viviano suggested. His second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman, he said (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Book of Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages he refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. What difference it would have made if there was a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine says: They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother and the woman would have served as a midwife!
# 2: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the “Story of the Other Wise Man,” a fourth wise man called Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find him. But all the while the Fourth wise man fed the hungry, helped the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer a pearl as ransom. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in heaven!” Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness.
#3: “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” Little Amy was looking through the family album and found a picture of a man sitting behind a cow. All that was visible was the man’s legs and feet. When her photographer uncle who owned a photo, studio came to visit her mother Amy told him, “This is the only picture of my grandfather that we have. So please remove the cow so that I may see what he looked like.” It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” The same element of suspense marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of Amy and the school students so that we may discover the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.
Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group. a) By worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration. b) By giving a new direction to our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior. c) By becoming stars leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by radiating Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany. (a) Our gift of friendship with God in the form of wholehearted love and devotion. (b) Our gift of friendship with others by leading them to Jesus by our exemplary lives of Christian charity in action (c) Our gift of reconciliation with God by daily asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and giving unconditional forgiveness to our offenders. (d) Our gift of peace by seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, the Sacramental life and daily meditation on the Word of God.