In the verses from the Book of Genesis just before those of today's reading, Abram has come near to the end of his rope. He is so disappointed and frustrated that he and Sarai have not been able to have children. Surprisingly, God responds to Abram's search for an answer from out of the night sky. In the starlight of the night, God makes a covenant with Abram. This is very different from the usual covenant of the weak being obliged to the powerful, rather in this covenant the powerful, namely God is obliged to the weak, namely Abram. In it, God makes it very clear that Abram does not have to do anything to earn God's generosity of descendants and land. In fact, all Abram has to do is have faith and trust that God will act on his behalf. In a sense it is quite simple: God promises, Abram trusts, and the covenant is fulfilled.READ MORE
In a very formal way, the Season of Lent begins this weekend; Ash Wednesday and the few days that follow it are “add-on” days to Lent. The scripture this weekend is the first formal launch into the Season of Lent. The scriptural message is quite clear for us in that we learn from the readings that trust in God will see us through in life. God will always act in life for us and for our ultimate good. We must simply have faith in God. Our Old Testament Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds the Israelites that their (and our God) could not and would not ever forget or abandon them. The Israelites knew that when all the times they fell away from God, all they had to do was call out to God and ask him for his help and rescue.
Paul writes in his letter to the Romans about the necessity and power of faith. He tells us that those who have faith in Christ will not be put to shame. In fact, he writes that their shared faith will make them sisters and brothers in the Lord and also beneficiaries of God’s rich mercy.READ MORE
It is striking that the overall message of the scripture this weekend is that we are asked to look beyond appearances to actions. Our first reading makes this very clear. Ben Sirach, a teacher, tells his students who are listening that the criteria for judging a person are the words he or she speaks and their actions. Someone may appear to be very sophisticated or together, but we need to hold back before we decide that person should be emulated. We simply need to pause and wait for them to speak because what they are truly worth will be shown in their expressed thoughts by their very own words.READ MORE
This weekend our first reading, which is from the Book of Samuel, is about David and his treatment of King Saul. David was not a friend or an admirer of King Saul. King Saul was a venal man who was angry, jealous, and also quite vengeful. He deeply resented David and wanted to destroy him. Powerful people are often paranoid about their successors. This passage tells us that David is given the rare opportunity to kill Saul and end his reign, but David does not. David's deeply held belief was that Saul as king was "the anointed of God". He did not believe he could take Saul's life which belonged in a very special way to God. The people of Israel admired David for his decision to honor God's will that Saul continues to be the king, although they knew David was risking his life. It was obvious he had a very fine sense of who God was and how he was present in people's lives.READ MORE
In this week's gospel passage, Jesus walks down from the mountain heights to a wide, open place. There is a large and mixed crowd waiting there for Him and they are most eager to see and hear Him. They, also, are in great need of healing. They perceive that they are needy, although they do not understand what it means. Their lives are "thin lives", never enough, always struggling for subsistence in a world where others have more and they have less. They are not part of the society that eats, drinks, and lives well; they struggle each day to survive.
They are sitting on that grassy area and waiting for Jesus to speak or act. When He starts to speak, He begins with a special benediction. He simply says: "Blessed are you . .." He does not say this one time, but four times. They are stunned to hear that they are in fact blessed while they feel so beaten down and hurt.
Upon reflection, we learn that there is for some in life a different and special poverty and variety of painful feelings. These feelings lie so much deeper than the deprivations these listeners experience. Those who were there on that hillside that day learn from Jesus that there is a deeper fulfillment in life for them. Their need and emptiness actually puts God's special blessing on them.
Jesus also sets forth four woes or curses. He tells them quite clearly that those who are to be most pitied and least to be admired or followed are those who are already totally pleased with themselves and their endless shallow, grasping, plundering desires. They are the ones who are losing so much in life. They are engaged in endless and futile pursuits.READ MORE
In our first reading, which is from the Old Testament, Isaiah had a vision of God who appeared in the very brightness of the angels. This vision left the prophet dramatically drained, yet also strengthened in a certain way. Isaiah believed he was unworthy to come closer to God who beckoned him, but he knew he was called by God's angels and so he responded "Here I am, send me!" This is quite the dramatic calling. Isaiah was transformed by the event, although his words were inadequate to express his feelings and the meaning of the vision.READ MORE
I have said many times, to many people that I discovered in life that "the obvious is not always the obvious." This applies especially when I am searching for my car keys or my smart phone. I can look and look and never see either one of these two things. They can be right in front of me. The Gospel passage this weekend is about what we see or expect to see and what we really see. We also are expected to discern what this all means for us as people of faith. Our culture sees and expects the famous or the super-rich to be wonderful and thus glorifies them. Sadly, sometimes someone is famous simply by being famous; they have not accomplished anything significant or been outstanding in charity or courage. Often the super-rich are extolled for their generosity, but when you learn how they made their money by paying people less than a true fair wage or not ensuring their workers had good working conditions, their wealth is tainted and their charity is really from the back of the poor and underpaid. I guess I agree with the quote that "You should never really meet your heroes." They can be disappointing in real life. This disappointment is not obvious until it is obvious.READ MORE
We learn in the history of the Jews that after the time of the Babylonian Exile, Nehemiah and Ezra were the two major forces or "re-constructionists" in the land of Israel. Nehemiah was the governor and the political leader of the people and Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, was the priest who was responsible for the restoration of the people's religious life. In our first reading it makes sense that we read the passage where we see and hear Ezra gathering the nation to hear the holy Law and to renew the Sinai covenant.READ MORE
Are you aware that the Gospel writer John is the only one who recounts the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana? In his Gospel, John makes the miracle that occurs at this wedding reception the first "sign" or miracle of Jesus. We may not realize this, as we are just at the near beginning of the Gospel of Saint John, but John is arranging to tell us that "signs" are a key element in understanding his Gospel and its meaning. Throughout his Gospel, as we read or hear it, we must always be looking for "signs" and then discovering and pondering their meaning. As a side note, not meant to be a distraction, we also discover that this great "sign" or miracle which took place was at the special request of his mother Mary. In reviewing the whole Cana story, do you realize upon reflection that the great amount of water in the urns which were to be used for ritual purification is to stand as a symbol for the whole of Jewish cult and Law? When Jesus ordered the urns filled up with water, He was giving the water a different purpose and mission. He also, in addition, at his special word transformed the water into wine. This is to symbolize the Eucharist for us. In a special way upon reflection, we can come to see that this wedding feast at Cana is about the revelation of the Messiah who has come to save us through baptism and the Eucharist.READ MORE
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is the story of the Baptism of the Lord which is to inform us that the ministry of Jesus has begun. Each Gospel writer has a slightly different version in emphasis and detail because each Gospel writer wants to emphasize different religious ideas about Jesus as He begins His public ministry. In many ways, baptism is also the beginning of our own ministry. Although our baptism usually takes place at the font in church, baptism, in fact, does not end there in church but begins there. When we are washed with "the waters of life", we now stand in a special way in God's grace and favor. We now have the special presence of the Holy Spirit which for Christians is a powerful life force.READ MORE
Often times there are books written about "roads taken, or not taken" in life. People often reflect upon their lives and write autobiographies as if they are journeys in life. Oftentimes people will describe their growing up as a journey in life from one point to the next to the next etc. Often this literature describes how one needs to keep going at all times no matter what. Our Feast of Epiphany is about a journey for some exotic foreigners from the East who have to put one foot in front of the other for a very long time in order to find and see an unknown foretold new-born king.READ MORE