About Me

Bilingual Roman Catholic priest of the Southern Dominican Province. The "homilettes" on this website are completely the work of Fr. Mele. He may be contacted at cmeleop@yahoo.com. Telephone: (415) 279-9234.

Friday, February 1, 2019


Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time


(Hebrews 10:32-39; Mark 4:26-34)

There is a touching scene in Frederico Fellini’s movie Amarcord.  The people of a small town by the sea go out to greet an ocean liner.  The local blind man follows the crowd.  As the ship comes into view, shouts go up from the crowd.  With all the excitement the blind man exclaims, “I can see it. I can see it.”  Perhaps the people hearing Jesus in today’s gospel have a similar sensation.

Jesus is describing the indescribable.  The “Kingdom of God,” after all, is not a locality that we can find on a map.  Nor is it form of government – democratic capitalism, authoritarian communism, or enlightened socialism.  Rather, as St. Paul says in Romans, “…the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It is a community where people care for one another in response to God’s goodness. Jesus then makes two parables that characterize the kingdom.  First, it comes about gradually like a corn plant produces stalk and ear before the fruit appears.  Second, the kingdom gives comfort to many like a mustard tree shelters many birds.

The passage ends with Jesus tutoring his disciples. There is plenty of evidence in this Gospel of Mark that they are slow learners.  Maybe they like many generations afterwards need an explanation regarding why the kingdom is often aborted.  Why do so many communities lack righteousness, peace and joy?  Jesus will tell them that it is not God’s fault but ours.  God gives us the grace to experience His kingdom.  We have to say “yes” to His initiative.  We have to trust that when we sacrifice ourselves in love as Jesus did, God’s kingdom is ours.

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest

(Hebrews 10:19-25; Mark 4:21-25)

The word scandal comes from the Latin scandalum which means stumbling block or trap.  Those who give scandal cause other people to fall into error.  They entice others to behave badly.  Beyond the hurt it has caused, scandal makes the sexual abuse perpetrated by priests especially opprobrious.  Priests not only victimized defenseless children.  As preachers of Jesus Christ, they have caused many people to disregard the graces he bestowed.

Today’s gospel gives a hint of Jesus’ importance.  He is the lamp that is to make everything visible.  By the light of Jesus human beings are to judge the good or evil of everything.  Those who use this light appropriately will gain wisdom beyond their mental capacities.  Those who reject it will lose the benefit of their natural wisdom.

Today’s celebrated saint, John Bosco, appropriated well the light of Jesus.  He urged his religious congregation to follow Christ in treating the boys in their charge.  He said that they are to show the same patience to the boys as Jesus showed to his disciples.  As Jesus put up with his disciples’ ignorance and roughness, so should Salesians bear with the orphans.  There is wisdom for all of us here.  Like Jesus, we should correct others gently when it is necessary.  We want to give the example of Jesus’ gentleness and kindness to poor sinners.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 10:11-18; Mark 4:1-20)

Anyone familiar with the New Yorker magazine remembers a favorite cartoon that was used on its cover.  The drawing shows a man dressed in a fashionable coat with a tall top hat.  He is examining a butterfly with his monocle as if he were seeing one for the first time.  The man seems totally unfamiliar with nature.  He would probably not understand Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel.  It would sound to him like a discussion in a foreign language. 

In the passage Jesus explains that the parables are not intended for everyone.  He implies rather that they are meant for the poor in spirit who can appreciate the chore of growing food.  These people would naturally pick up on his comparison of the word of God with seeds being planted.  They would realize that some hearers of the word are never touched by it because of sinful inclinations in their makeup.  This is like the seed that is sown in places where it cannot grow to produce fruit.  They would also be aware that a harvest of a hundredfold is tremendous.  It is like the person who has become a saint. 

We should not be bothered if we have difficulty understanding Jesus’ parable.  Even his disciples needed an explanation.  But we should try to profit from his explanation.  We need to be careful not to be led astray by new ideas that distort the gospel message.  Similarly, we should not allow ourselves to be caught up in pleasures and vain pursuits of life.  Also, we want to allow the word of God to take root and grow by prayer and study.  In these ways we too will hopefully become saints.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 10:1-10; Mark 3:31-35)

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tries to convince his readers to stay with the Church.  Some were likely reverting to Judaism.  In today’s reading the author argues that Christ’s sacrifice was much more effective than those offered in the Temple.  After all, it says, Christ did what the Scriptures claim that God wants.  He fulfilled the will of God.

Today many Catholics are likewise leaving the Church.  Arguments using Scripture will probably not hold them close.  Perhaps the beauty of Church art or music keeps some from going.  Others might stay because of saints like Mother Teresa.  But most of all, people remain Catholic because of the fellowship they enjoy in the parish.  They appreciate their relationships with other members as well as with priests and other ministers.  In a world adrift, they find themselves solidly anchored near an island of caring.

Those reading these homilettes have a critical role in keeping these people moored.  They have freely to share not Bible stories but their lived experiences.  They should listen to others’ needs and describe how theirs have been met through faith.  In doing so, they will exhibit love and inspire hope.  Humans find it difficult to walk away from these intangibles which they most deeply desire.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

(Hebrews 9:15.24-28; Mark 3:22-30)

In Thomas Aquinas’ “Prayer before Study” the saint asks the Lord for light.  He sees himself engulfed by a twofold darkness – ignorance and sin.  The first obscurity regards all the reality which his mind has not grasped.  Aquinas is said to have known everything that was known at the time.  But perhaps, like Socrates, he knew that there were oceans of knowledge still to be learned.  The second darkness is even thicker.  Sin often infects the mind so that one thinks he has answers to all questions or, at least, all the questions that are important.  We may liken these two obscurities to the strongman which Jesus speaks of in today’s gospel.

Jesus’ parable astounds the person who considers it.  He compares himself to a thief!  Moreover, he says, the world is like a household and the devil like a strong man controlling it. Jesus binds the strong man by expelling demons.  His aim is to set the people of the household free.  He condemns anyone who would criticize his work but not because he takes personal offense.  No, Jesus is concerned that his critics are preventing people from being liberated.

The struggle for liberation carries on today.  Sometimes we act like we do not want to be set free.  This is true of petty sins like being “know it alls” as well as more scandalous ones.  Jesus has come to liberate us from all vices.  Let’s not prevent him from doing so.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

(Acts 22:3-16; Mark 16:15-18)

Today ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  “What’s that?” many people ask, even people who come to church regularly.  The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was established over a hundred years ago.  It addresses the contradiction of Jesus’ church being divided up as if it were an indigenous territory that was parceled in a land rush.  In the Gospel of John Jesus prays: “’…that all of them may be one as You, Father, are in me, and I am in you’” (John 17:21).  As it now stands, Christians are no more one than the colors of the rainbow.

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul closes the week of prayer.  It is worthwhile to ponder why.  Of course, Paul is universally admired.  Protestants see his insight of “salvation by faith in Christ” as particularly critical to Christian self-understanding, which it is.  Catholic priests and sisters have made Paul their model in the profession of celibacy.  But a deeper reason explains the choice of Paul as the patron of unity.  As the name of the feast indicates, Paul underwent conversion.  He changed his mind and heart.  He was the persecutor of Christ who became his greater promoter.  Something like Paul’s conversion must take place in Christians if there is ever to be unity.

The conversion called for here is akin to the change of heart preached every Lent.  We must humble ourselves before God and one another.  We must not think of ourselves as better than others because we are traditional Catholics or “everyone’s welcome” Protestants.  Rather we must listen to Christ speaking through one another.  And we must bend to accept one another as a brother or sister.  We cannot compromise fundamental principles for a superficial unity.  But we can establish partnerships that transcend differences.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Hebrews 7:25-8:6; Mark 3:7-12)

St. Francis de Sales lived at a particularly difficult time in Church history.  Protestantism had rent Western Christianity in pieces.  At his death the Thirty Years War was eviscerating the faith of evangelical love.  In the particularly contentious Swiss nation Francis preached reconciliation.  His early understanding of a universal call to holiness would serve this end.  In the Introduction to the Devout Life he wrote that all Christians are called to sanctity.  All Christians without exception have to pray as well as avoid wrongdoing and love their enemies.

A parallel message is given in today’s first reading.  The Letter to the Hebrews describes Jesus as “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,…”  In fact, all Christians are called to holiness because Jesus is holy.  Likewise, all Christians are priests because they share in Jesus’ high priesthood.  Their prayers for others have weight when they are spiritually conformed to Christ.

In striving for perfection like Christ’s, we should be concerned with interior disposition.  We should seek and promote the good in every person.  We should as well take note and strive to eliminate selfishness.  Pursuing these virtues with a prayerful spirit, we will attain holiness.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 7:25-8:6; Mark 3:7-12)

Once a seminary professor was complaining to his class about the way they were praying.  “Why do you always say ‘just’?” he asked.  “Why do you say, ‘We just want to thank you, Lord,” and “We just want to ask you, Lord.”  A student drummed up the courage to take on the professor.  Just is a word we used to express awe,” he told him.  “We don’t feel that we are on equal terms with God.  I suppose that when you are a seminary professor with a Ph.D., you can walk up to God and treat him like a pal.”

Perhaps some of us often lack a sense of awe in praying to God as well. God is so much greater than we that we might as well be fruit flies communicating with a whale.  What is remarkable – no, more than that, stupendous – is how much God wants to hear us.  He sent His Son to open communication lines with us.  It is as if for something of the utmost international importance, a president would not the Secretary of State but his own father, whom he trusts implicitly.

This is what the Letter to the Hebrews tells us today and over and over again.  Jesus Christ is not the ordinary high priest but a unique one.  He is akin to Melchizedek who makes a fleeting appearance in the Book of Genesis.  Jesus is the only one worth praying to because he has complete access to God.  He came from Him and has returned to Him.  Furthermore, Jesus knows our condition intimately.  He has walked in our shoes.  He has traveled our ways.  We must never stop entrusting our lives to him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

(Hebrews 6:10-10; Mark 2:23-28)

The “law of the jungle” merely acknowledges  that people with power get their way.  As a society develops, it makes laws to protect weaker members.  There is a law against robbery which protects people from being held up by ruffians.  Likewise, a law protects a debtor from being forced into prison or, worse, slavery.  For the same reason a mature society has laws to protect the unborn.  These innocent human beings require protection just to survive.  In striking down virtually all laws prohibiting abortion the Supreme Court betrayed this nation’s heritage of protecting the weak from brute force.

Today’s gospel speaks of the Sabbath law, which we know as the Third Commandment.  God established it to protect people from overwork.  In fact, all just laws are for the good of the people.  For this reason the Supreme Court decision’s forty-six years ago has been so distressing.  It ignores the good of the people.  In fact, it disregards the need of society’s weakest members for survival.

From its beginnings the Church has condemned abortion.  It will not stop doing so today.  It asks its members to pray for legal protection of the unborn.  It also encourages them to do more than pray.  We might join a march protesting the Supreme Court decision.  We might donate to organizations that are working to establish laws protecting different categories of the unborn.  We should tell our children about the evil of abortion.


Monday, January 21, 2019


Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 2:18-22)

Fasting, a form of self-denial, has many purposes.  During Lent people fast to show remorse for sins.  Holy women and men fast to show their love for God.  Fasting prepares athletes for training and competition.  Doctors demand that patients fast before medical procedures. 

In Scripture Jesus fasts before he goes out to proclaim the Reign of God.  This fast is likely intended as a discipline preparing him for the rigors of mission.  In the exercise he comes to realize that more than on anything else he depends on God.  In today’s gospel, however, he tells the Pharisees that his disciples do not have to fast for the moment.  He explains that now is their time for spirited fellowship.  Fasting, he indicates, is more appropriate for mourning.

Unfortunately many people have abandoned the custom of fasting.  Even the simple penance of meatless Fridays during Lent seems too much a burden for some.  We should fast regularly by not eating for an extended period or by abstaining from food we particularly enjoy.  In so doing we show not only our willingness to submit to God but also our love for Him.


Friday, January 18, 2019


Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 4:1-5.11; Mark 2:1-12)

The man was having a hard time.  He moved out of his parents’ house to marry a divorced woman.  When the marriage didn’t work out, he came back to his parents but slept on a bed in the basement.  He seemed to feel unworthy of the dignity of having his own room.  Some would say that he could not forgive himself for marrying outside the Church.  But is it not more the case that he refused to accept God’s forgiveness?  Today’s gospel offers some insight into the dynamic.

When Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, nothing is mentioned of the man’s emotional state.  Perhaps, he believes that Jesus’ word is as safe as a ride on a mule.  He then gives a sigh of relief that his past no longer threatens his eternal life.  At least he can raise his head in public again because he acknowledged accepted forgiveness.  However, the scribes – Jesus’ law-obsessed adversaries –take umbrage.  They object that Jesus presumes divine power by claiming to forgive sins.  Jesus then shows that he indeed has supernatural power.  He commands the paralytic to walk.  The healing dramatizes the meaning of forgiveness.  It enables sinners to walk freely in public.

A therapeutic society speaks of the need to “forgive oneself.”  People believe that they are accountable mostly to themselves for their faults.  We Christians, however, should realize that God made us for Himself.  That is, we live to give Him praise and glory.  Our sins compromise this mission.  For this reason we seek first and foremost God’s forgiveness.  Often we need to ask forgiveness of others as well.  Our sins may have hurt people directly.  Perhaps they also injured the family or community’s name.  We need to ask forgiveness all around to walk truly free.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbot

(Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45)

The gospel today shows Jesus changing places with the leper.  He is an insider – of good Jewish lineage and righteous according to the Law.  He can go anywhere in Israel that he pleases.  Yet he freely becomes an outsider.  When he heals the leper, his fame becomes so great that he cannot go anywhere without being mobbed.  Meanwhile the leper, who cannot mingle with people because of his disease, becomes an insider.  After Jesus touches him, he is free to enter city and village.

We can see a similar dynamic in the story of St. Anthony, the monk.  He was born an insider with plenty of resources to do whatever he wished.  Yet he chose to recluse himself in a desert hovel thereby making himself an outsider.  He was giving witness to Christ so that those excluded by inordinate self-love from the promises of Christ might take note and reform.  They would then become insiders of God’s family.

We are called to give similar witness.  We do not have to go into the desert, but we must make some sacrifice of self for the benefit of others.  The sacrifice certainly includes paying less attention to our own needs and more to those of others.  We might listen to others more than speak to them.  Or we might make a habit of complimenting those who lack self-confidence.  In these simple ways we enable others to become insiders of God’s family.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 2:14-18; Mark 1:29-39)

People were talking about the burdens of old age.  One participant of the conversation asked, “Ninety-four years – who would want to live that long?”  An elderly sister answered, “Maybe someone who is ninety-three.”  Few people with reasonable health want to die.  Most hope to keep enjoying family and friends, food and entertainment.  The readings today assure that Jesus understands human desires.  He aims to assist us with our natural needs.

In the gospel Jesus is pictured curing illnesses from Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever to “various diseases.“ Certainly he staves off death with these healings.  The first reading suggests a more comprehensive campaign against death. The Letter to the Hebrews testifies to how Jesus’ paschal mystery has overcome both death and the dread of it.  It reminds believers that clinging to him they too will rise from the dead. This means that they may live without anxiety, choose without intimidation, and dream without fear. 

We want to visit Jesus.  The gospel describes how “the whole town was gathered at the door.”  We can place ourselves there through prayer.  When we talk him as with our doctor, his will for us will be clarified.  He knows how we feel because he experienced our human life.  He will tell us to be bold with our love and humble with our expectations.  Such is the way of victory over death.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 2:5-12; Mark 1:21-28)

Last month a leading American magazine featured a story on exorcism.  It interviewed a person who believes herself to be possessed, exorcists, and scientists.  After relating difficult to explain phenomena, the article left open the possibility of demonic possession.  Still possession seems more a part of a first century mentality than a twenty-first.  Today’s gospel relates the first of many incidents in which Jesus casts out a demon.

The passage testifies to Jesus’ authority.  The people are amazed that when he speaks, the spirit obeys. He does not hesitate to address the demon much less does he show it deference.  Like a four star general with a division of soldiers behind him, his word calls the devil to attention.

Jesus will help us as he helps the demoniac.  We are not likely possessed by anything more than bad habits or errant thinking.  Nevertheless, opening ourselves to his words will free us from these faults.  We will not only live more happily but also look forward to eternal life as our destiny.



Monday, January 14, 2019


Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 1:1-6; Mark 1:14-20)

A watershed is a mound of dirt that has been built up to stop water from running off the land.  It conserves water for the dry season.  To speak of a “watershed moment” is to see a past event as decisive in shaping history.  Like water conservation such an event has repercussions for a long time afterwards.  Today’s gospel describes a watershed moment in salvation history.

Jesus emphatically proclaims the beginning of God’s rule. “’The Kingdom of God is at hand,’” he says. John, the precursor, has completed his mission.  Now Jesus will carry out the project of humanity’s return to the goodness of the Garden of Eden.  He will need helpers and calls on robust and resourceful fishermen.  Although it means starting a new career, they cannot resist Jesus’ magnetic personality.  They leave not just boats and nets but their families to join him in this world-changing endeavor.

We should see ourselves making the same kind of critical choice.  We may not be at a point to change careers, but always there is need to improve our behavior.  We may have to show kindness to people we tend to ignore at work.  Or perhaps we have to leave behind unhealthy habits like smoking and squandering time on the Internet.  We certainly want to join Peter, Andrew, James and John in assisting Jesus establish the Kingdom of God.

Friday, January 11, 2019


Friday after the Epiphany

(I John 5:5-13; Luke 5:12-16)

The Christmas season will end this Sunday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Perhaps all of us have participated in its colossal gift exchange.  We may ask ourselves what was the greatest gift that we received.  But there is no need to weigh the running shoes from Aunt Anne against the concert tickets from Uncle John.  The greatest gift of any kind, in any season, from anyone is God’s gift of His Son.  Jesus has not only shown us the way to eternal happiness but paved it with his own flesh.

Both readings today testify to the gift of Jesus.  The Letter of John names the three witnesses to his accomplishment.  Water refers to his human life.  He told the world of God’s love and performed marvelous deeds to demonstrate it.  Blood represents his sacrifice on the cross.  By dying there he overcame the grip of Satan on the world.  With the descent of the Spirit on his disciples, Jesus has been preached throughout the world.

The gospel testifies to Jesus’ fame being spread by his healings.  It sounds too good to be true.  It also demands a continual response of gratitude on our part.  We may want to put it out of our minds and concentrate on how to thank Aunt Anne and Uncle John.  But the testimonies are undeniable.  We must show due appreciation to God for the gift of His Son.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Thursday after Epiphany

(I John 4:19-5:4; Luke 5:12-16)

In a movie adaptation of Les Miserables, Jean Valjean writes his wife a letter from prison.  A largely unlettered man, he only manages to say, “I love you,” over and over again.  The first letter of John may sound equally simplistic.  However, its meaning is as profound as its lesson is worth repeating.

The author of the letter knows how the world can corrupt a person.  For this reason he underlines the need to keep God’s commandments.  He argues that this is not a difficult task.  Since the essence of the commandments is love, keeping them brings one delight.  “Not necessarily true,” one might object after trying to please a difficult person.  But John locates the object of love not in other people but in God.  Remembering the Father’s gift and the Son’s crucifixion makes our sacrifices for others seem trivial. 

As defrocked Christmas trees dot empty lots, Christmas becomes a flickering memory.  Our resolve to live each day with the love we felt on Christmas can grow similarly vague.  These readings from the First Letter of John, then, serve as critical reminders.  They tell us how God has given us Christ so that we might care for one another.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Wednesday after Epiphany

(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)

For the nine days before Christmas many Mexican households conduct posadas.  This tradition is situated in the gospel verse where Mary lays Jesus in a manger because there was no room for her and Joseph in the inn.  Posada means inn.  In the dramatization of the verse, Mary and Joseph are petitioning the innkeeper to give them lodging.  At first, the innkeeper rudely tells them to get out because there is no vacancy.  But when they ask again, he recognizes Mary as the Virgin Mother and warmly welcomes the family into his inn.  We should be able to recognize a similar drama taking place in the readings today and yesterday. 

In the gospel passages for these two days, Jesus shows himself to be the Son of God.  Only a divine person could feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish.  Likewise, only a godlike person could walk on water.  Despite Jesus’ transparency on these occasions, his disciples remain clueless about his identity.  As is said today, “they were completely astounded…” and “their hearts were hardened...”  If they could have figured out who Jesus is, their worries would be ended.  They would feel no fear.  Rather they would realize that they have been embraced by love.  As the first reading states, “…love drives out fear.”

First, then we should recognize that we are loved by God -- completely and unconditionally.  Since we can choose to deny this love so that we do not feel it in our hearts, we must open ourselves to it.  Surely for the vast majority of us, this is not a demanding task.  We are blessed by the people and the opportunities that abound in our lives.  God’s love, for the majority at least, is hardly more difficult to see than the rising sun.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Tuesday after Epiphany

(I John 4:7-10; Mark 6:34-44)

Someone recently posed the word family as an acrostic.  The word is said to mean: Forget about me; I love you. Families are made to teach selfless love – how to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others.  The first reading today shows how love is especially a characteristic of God’s family.

“God is love,” it says.  In another place John’s First Letter emphasizes that love is not just a word or a feeling.   “Let us not love in word or speech,” its author writes, “but in deed and truth.”  He gives God Himself as the model of love: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

“Everyone knows this,” we might say.  But we don’t always live it.  We tend to think of ourselves first and then others.  Jesus, as today’s gospel shows, opposes this outlook.  “’Give them some food yourselves,’” he tells his disciples when they want to dismiss the crowds.  He calls us as well to make sacrifices for others’ good.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Monday after Epiphany

(I John 3:22-4:6; Matthew 4:12-17.23-25)

One of the great corporations in our city sponsors a festival of lights during the Christmas holidays.  It invites the public to its production center adorned with colored LED lights.  The lights do not dispel the darkness as much as they take advantage of it.  Because of the darkness the brilliance of the many lights is revealed.  In a similar way the darkness of the human conditioned allows the light of Jesus to be manifested.

The Gospel of Matthew sees Isaiah’s prophecy of a great light in Galilee fulfilled in Jesus.  His ministry enkindles hope in people beset with the glum of misery.  Today’s passage shows him healing the pained, the possessed, the disturbed, and the paralyzed.  Jesus’ preaching further urges those ensconced in the darkness of sin to repent.  Coming out into the gentle glow of God’s mercy gives them freedom and joy.

We have begun a new year.  It is time for us to start over in the quest for virtue.  We must rid ourselves of thoughts that belittle others.  We need to let go of our fears so that we might affirm those around us.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

(I John 3:7-10; John 1:35-42)

Today’s first reading speaks of God’s seed remaining in the Christian.  This seed enables her not to sin. What is it referring to with this obscure image?  May it be the same seed that impregnated the Virgin Mary?  It turns out that it is.  It is the Holy Spirit that comes down upon Christians to protect them from sinning.

Economists theorize how nation have comparative advantages in one way or another.  This conceptual reality will enable them outperform other nations in a particular industry.  Columbia’s many mountainous regions with moderate temperatures give it a comparative advantage over, say, the United States in producing coffee.  In a similar way the Holy Spirit gives Christians a comparative advantage over others in living righteous lives.

Unfortunately, Christians sometimes fail to use their comparative advantage.  We act contrary to the Holy Spirit when we choose to abuse others in order to love ourselves.  We may claim for ourselves more than justice permits.  Whenever this happens, we should note the whisper of the same Holy Spirit.  As invisibly as he was given to us, he calls us back to goodness.  Our comparative advantage does not fail us when we fail it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Wednesday after Epiphany

(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)

For the nine days before Christmas many Mexican households conduct posadas.  This tradition is situated in the gospel verse where Mary lays Jesus in a manger because there was no room for her and Joseph in the inn.  Posada means inn.  In the dramatization of the verse, Mary and Joseph are petitioning the innkeeper to give them lodging.  At first, the innkeeper rudely tells them to get out because there is no vacancy.  But when they ask again, he recognizes Mary as the Virgin Mother and warmly welcomes the family into his inn.  We should be able to recognize a similar drama taking place in the readings today and yesterday. 

In the gospel passages for these two days, Jesus shows himself to be the Son of God.  Only a divine person could feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish.  Likewise, only a godlike person could walk on water.  Despite Jesus’ transparency on these occasions, his disciples remain clueless about his identity.  As is said today, “they were completely astounded…” and “their hearts were hardened...”  If they could have figured out who Jesus is, their worries would be ended.  They would feel no fear.  Rather they would realize that they have been embraced by love.  As the first reading states, “…love drives out fear.”

First, then we should recognize that we are loved by God -- completely and unconditionally.  Since we can choose to deny this love so that we do not feel it in our hearts, we must open ourselves to it.  Surely for the vast majority of us, this is not a demanding task.  We are blessed by the people and the opportunities that abound in our lives.  God’s love, for the majority at least, is hardly more difficult to see than the rising sun.

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Wednesday, Christmas Weekday

(I John 2:29-3:6; John 1:29-34)

Paintings and statuettes of Jesus in the manger often have him with arms outstretched.  He seems to be welcoming the world to him.  But upon reconsideration there seems to be a better reason for picturing him so.  His arms are extended outward in anticipation of the crucifixion he will endure.  A similar motif runs through today’s gospel.

Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist exclaims, “’Behold the Lamb of God…’” He is not referring to Jesus’ meekness as if he acted like a lamb.  Rather the expression foresees Jesus being slain so that his disciples may be freed from sin.  This happens, of course, at the crucifixion on Good Friday.  Indeed, his death takes place in this Gospel of John at exactly the same hour when the paschal lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple.  As the Israelites in Egypt slayed a lamb to be saved from the destroying angel, Jesus’ death on the cross saves those who believe in him.

We have every reason to rejoice during this Christmas season.  Our savior has come to redeem us from sin.  But our rejoicing must be tempered.  For one thing, over-indulging would give counter testimony to our redemption from sin.  For another, we know that Christ has come to die on our behalf.  It would be shortsighted to separate completely the two events. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


Memorial of Saint Basil and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church

(I John 2:22-28; John 1:19-28)

The First Letter of John hinges on the belief that Christ came in the flesh.  This explains its use during the Christmas season.  In the first century doubters argued that Christ was an angel-like being who saved through revealing the divine will.  Of course, if he were only spiritual, he would not have been like us. Nor could he have sacrificed himself to redeem us from our sins. And we would not have gained an eternal destiny. 

Today’s passage references the anointing the faithful receive after Baptism and at Confirmation.  This sign assures that the Holy Spirit has penetrated our being.  The Spirit inculcates in us the sense of being joined to Christ so that we share in his crucifixion and resurrection.  Now as members of the Christian community, the Body of Christ, we receive all the support necessary to live a life of justice.

The lesson on the Holy Spirit fits the feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen.  These two Fathers of the Eastern Church commented extensively on the work of the Holy Spirit.  Also, their self-effacing friendship epitomizes the communal assistance necessary for the Christian quest of eternal life.