This week we again are witnessing to signs found in John’s Gospel about who Jesus really is. We know that signs often point to something more, or bigger, just like symbols do. In fact some people interchange the words sign and symbol. As we read about Jesus this year in our cycle of Lenten Gospel passages, we learn that he is clearly seen as the source of living water and the light of the world. Indeed this weekend he is also declared the resurrection and the life. All the meaningful signs given in John’s Gospel ultimately point to this last great sign. We know that there are very many other stories of people he raised from the dead, such as the soldier’s daughter and the only son of the widow of Naim. Note that John does not narrate these miracle stories; instead he gives a very long version of the raising of Lazarus. In listening to the story we may end up fascinated by Lazarus, but John strives to keep our attention on Jesus.READ MORE
Are you aware that John's Gospel is all about signs? Do you also recognize that for a sign to have meaning, it must be seen, heard, or read? The Gospel of John is all about signs, and clearly his Gospel has to be read, and then ultimately thought about and understood to some degree.
Our first story this Sunday is from the Old Testament from the Book of Samuel. This story relates the journey of Samuel to Bethlehem to the house and family of Jesse. In listening we learn that God tells Samuel he should anoint the future king of Israel. Accordingly Samuel goes and meets the older, strapping, capable boys and thinks they're fine indeed, yet we learn that none of obvious candidates was the choice of God. Samuel is told again that God not only sees into our heart but also God sees differently than we do. And thus Samuel calls for the remaining son who is the youngest named David. This one, the non-obvious, is God's choice, and thereupon the Spirit rushes upon the young man.READ MORE
You may notice how beautifully our main church is prepared and decorated for this penitential Season of Lent. I appreciate the many positive comments and "thank yous" for making our magnificent stained glass window in our sanctuary the main focal point during this season in preparation for the Sacred Triduum and the Feast of the Resurrection. Certainly the magnificent jewel tones of the stain glass contribute to the poignancy and depth of feeling in the Crucifixion scene that is displayed before us. Coming into Church during this season with the great work of art before us can inspire us to deeper reflection upon the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Throughout most of the year, this window recedes into the background because of other appropriate decorations, but in this season this scene of the crucifixion of Christ on the cross can seize hold of us in graced and powerful ways. Note also that there is a second crucifix brought forth in the sanctuary at this season of the year. It is the "Processional Cross" donated to our Parish by the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus Council. This cross displays Mary beside her beloved Son. This stands at the ambo (pulpit) and reinforces the sacred words of scripture which during this season are preparing us for the celebration of her Son's death and Resurrection. The addition of various colors of purple and violet reminds us of the seriousness of this season.READ MORE
When we hear or read the great stories of the Book of Genesis, we need to remember that there are always religious truths contained in these grace-filled stories. They are not about history and reality, but are about religious truths. In the story about the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were unable to resist the seduction of the serpent. Alas, they were tested and they failed miserably. We find in our Gospel passage of today a strong contrast in that, despite the three appealing circumstances (food for the hungry, sensationalism, and power), Jesus resisted Satan's tempting challenges. Also note that the selection from Paul's Letter to the Romans contrasts for us the differences in these two situations. The contrast is: one human's disobedience brought about sin and death and another human's obedience freed us from sin and death. Surely when thinking these truths over, we come to realize that we are blessed, even in our human condition, with the gift of salvation.READ MORE
Many years ago when I was assigned as a parochial vicar (an assistant priest) at the Immaculate Conception Parish, East Weymouth, in the second year of our Confirmation Program one of the classes showed a film called "God in the Dock." It was a contemporary interpretation of a Christian on trial and how to prove the accused had any faith. It was the question: was there "enough evidence" to convict the man in the story for being a Christian. Certainly the idea of "is there sufficient proof in one's life of being a follower of Jesus Christ?" is a healthy and valid question. Have you ever asked yourself this question of "proof"? Often we think there is obvious proof of who we are, but the reality is that no one else thinks so because they cannot perceive it. We tend to think too much or too little of ourselves.READ MORE
One of the two biggest topics that is often discussed is the amount of traffic we now have and how few parking places there are. Indeed rush hour and congestion now seems to run all day, from very early morning until very late evening. Parking spaces in the City of Boston can cost between forty and sixty dollars, with monthly rates not too much less. We know here in Franklin how difficult it is to park at many of the houses of worship, including our own. The rules for parking that apply to hydrants, corners, driveways, and access ramps are not always strictly followed. Our Town graciously relaxes the parking rules somewhat for all of our churches on Sundays, but the safety laws still apply. Some folks do not want to know how to use the common sense values of safety and courtesy. It is so normal today for people to think that they are special and that rules and laws do not apply to them, only to other people. Our scripture this weekend invites us to ponder about the spirit and letter of the law and also our freedom to choose.READ MORE
We may not realize that the gospel passage of this weekend is a continuation of the great Sermon on the Mount. We are moving beyond the Beatitudes to many of the additional words and messages of Jesus. The images and symbols of salt and light are the two major images we are invited to identity with this weekend in the scripture readings. We are asked to ponder their meanings in our lives and how we further the work of Jesus as we live out being salt and light. Common to every culture is the use of salt and obviously we all need light, whether from the sun or artificial illumination, to live each day.
Salt and light are indeed very basic to human existence. In human history there even have been "salt wars." Light has always been needed and treasured. We need light in darkness and in our world we need light to be able to see and read. When we do not have salt or light, we can feel how much we need them. Without light, human life is impossible. Without salt, the food that we eat is without taste and quite flat.READ MORE
This weekend we celebrate another and a different style Feast of the Epiphany, the appearance of the Lord in the heart warming Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. Again this revealing of the Lord is a sign of hope and light for all of us. In our Gospel, Mary shows what joy is after her struggle to keep hope and faith in God for so very long. For, previous to this event, she had various periods of fear and doubt and also anxiety and worry as we learn from the stories of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt which have been told to all of us. She proves to us by her life that if our lives are grounded in hope that God will act on our behalf, then there is nothing to fear and everything to celebrate. Life has meaning when we trust in the Lord despite the difficulties that surround us. Ultimately his grace will give us peace and joy.READ MORE
At Mass this weekend, we are offering the special prayers which come from the Mass for Various Occasions: "For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life" as directed by Cardinal Seán. On our parish website there will be the text of his special homily for this Mass for you to read if you did not hear or see it on all the various social platforms and media outlets. Although this effort is being expended at the time of the March for Life in Washington, we need to remember that the theme of the opening prayer of this Mass reminds us "that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful in this trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life."READ MORE
We may not realize it, but there is often a lot of formal ritual in our lives. We celebrate the dedication of a new building with a formal event. When someone new moves to our neighborhood, we often bring over a dinner to say welcome. When we visit a newborn at home, we bring a special gift to note the new beginning of life. We all know that a new beginning means a lot; it is for most of us a wonderful sign of hope. Indeed we have heard the saying that “hope springs eternal” and we believe this to be true. Oftentimes the past is clouded and difficult, but we still believe that the future is full of hope and light. In our scripture today, that beautiful newborn baby of Bethlehem is now shown to us as God’s most Chosen: God’s Son.
Our reading from the book of Isaiah was actually written by a second writer who was then named Isaiah. He spoke when the Jews had returned from Babylon and the people were in disarray. They had a lot to do; they had to feed themselves, provide shelter, and also start to rebuild a temple for worship. Their future was unsecured and they were afraid and depressed. They were at an end and also at a new beginning. They were seeking to rebuild Israel, but Isaiah told them the Lord God had a greater plan for them. Indeed Israel as a country and people was to be much more than a rebuilt nation: it was to be a light for the entire world. Isaiah tells the people that through this new Israel, God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth. This message became the vision of the people, and it was certainly a bigger vision than they had made for themselves.READ MORE
In this week’s gospel passage it is quite important to grasp the drama of this scene of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus. We have listened to and enjoyed the wonderful stories of the travel of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the actual Birth of Jesus in the stable, the arrival of shepherds, and then finally the arrival of mysterious kings, the Magi, from the East. Our hearts have been warmed by the beauty of this magnificent story of the Lord’s Birth. And now we hear the story of the adult Jesus and the beginnings of his public ministry of preaching and healing and calling all to the Kingdom of God. The “quiet” of the Christmas story and the young life of Jesus have now ended; the second “epiphany” of Jesus now takes place as he walks with dignity and strength to the banks of the Jordan River. The same as Christmas night, the heavens open and a servant and beloved Son is again given to us.
When Isaiah prophesized, this beloved servant was without a name. Bear in mind, though, that the chosen and beloved one had a mission to act on our behalf, freeing us from blindness and all the various prisons we build for ourselves. This beloved servant will destroy the darkness we create. His compassion will be beyond limitless. That is what the great prophet Isaiah tells us. His graced prophecy directs us to the banks of the Jordan River where we identify the beloved servant at the beginning of his mission.READ MORE
On this great feast day and Sunday we gather to celebrate the true love and mercy of our God. We have just celebrated a season and time of gift giving to family and friends. Today in contrast we are given a great gift from our God. This Feast of Little Christmas, often called the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings, is a time when we are gifted. Much like the three kings we must be open to going and getting the gift, even if it causes inconvenience or effort and work.
Indeed does not Isaiah tell us how great is the gift in the symbolism of Jerusalem and the return of the Jews from Exile in Babylon. Jerusalem is luminescent with great and splendid light. Jerusalem is irresistibly drawing the people home even if they are very far off in a distant land. Everyone wants to come, from mothers to king; it does not matter your station or health.
The distant places which Isaiah names in our first passage are the various places to which Ismael’s and Esau’s progeny had migrated long ago. These fancy names create a mysterious and exotic environment for us today as these very rich and royal people came with gifts of gold and frankincense.READ MORE