Friday, January 1, 2020

 Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

(Number 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

January is named after the two-headed Roman god Janus.  As with two heads, this month looks back on the old year and forward to the new.  Many are doing this today.  They see the year gone by as strange, full of uncertainties, and difficult to bear.  As if they fought a war, they feel worn-down if not devastated by the Corona-19 virus.  They can, however, look forward with hope.  People are already being vaccinated.  Perhaps in six months enough will be immune to the virus that most restrictive measures will be lifted.

In today’s gospel Mary seems also to look back and forward. She experienced the appearance of an angel telling her that she will be the mother of God’s Son.  When her child was born, shepherds came to give homage. Yet she sits in a stable like the poorest people on earth.  She probably asks, “What does all this mean?”  And trying to imagine the future, she wonders, “What will become of my son?”

As Mary likely did, we should seek the Lord’s blessing on this first day of the new year.  The one given in the first reading will certainly do.  It offers the benevolent countenance of God to those who kept the law of the Lord.  His face is like the brightening sun in January. Every day it provides more light and warmth to nurture new life.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

 Seventh Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord

(I John 2:18-21; John 1:1-18)

Was the year so bad after all?  Yes, it was hard.  We have all felt disappointment, uncertainty, and the loss of loved ones.  The Corona-19 Virus has taken opportunities to see people and do things that we were counting on.  It suspended judgment on most everything.  Should we go to Mass or not?  Will there be a graduation or a football season?  People whom we have known all our lives passed on without a funeral.  Yes, we are glad that the year is officially ending and look forward to better times.

Yet before we close 2020, we should thank the Lord for some of its elements.  Nuclear families reunited to eat, play, and pray together.  We expressed gratitude to workers – attendants, deliverers, caregivers – whom we had overlooked before.  We were given time to reflect on our lives.  The world may not care to do this.  But today’s gospel tells us that the world rejected Jesus as well.  We know him to be the source of family, of work, and of the truth about ourselves.

Before we forge into the new year we should make a resolution.  We want a return to normalcy but let it be a new normal.  Let us learn from the blessings of 2020 as difficult as they were to realize.  Let us promise to give more time to our families.  Let us bless everyone who is contributing to a better world (and pray for those who do not care).  And let us follow Jesus, the light that has shown in darkness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


The Sixth Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord

(I John 2:12-17; Luke 2:36-40)

A writer consults her wise, old uncle about what to do as a hurricane approaches. He tells her to seek safety and then write about her experience.  Another woman remembers her mother telling how to cope with uncertainty.  The elder said to “always proceed as if there will be enough.”  In today’s gospel a wise, old woman shares her insight about what she sees before her.

Anna, who almost lives in the Temple, represents ancient Israel.  She stands in contrast to Jews of a generation later who will call for Jesus’ death on a cross.  Anna recognizes that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel.  He is the one who will win Israel’s freedom.  At the same time he will lead all people to Israel to learn how to live in peace. 

As Anna had prophetic foresight, we should not lose our correct hindsight.  Jesus comes from God to save us from our folly.  He teaches us to avoid the pitfalls that imprison people in their own desires.  He gives himself in the Eucharist to enable us to act with justice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

 (I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)

One of America’s favorite movies is all about Christmas.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” ends on Christmas night, but that is almost incidental.  More importantly, the movie relates the message of this season.  It reflects what today’s gospel and first reading teach more clearly.  The Word of God has come as light in darkness, as good amid evil.  The darkness has tried to quench the light, but it is banished.

 “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of George Bailey who from childhood cares about others.  Things go well for George through early adulthood.  Then the forces of darkness close in.  They leave George so completely depressed that he attempts to kill himself.  Only interference from above saves him.  George is like us at our best and our worst.  We begin with good intentions and worthy actions.  Then darkness – usually selfishness – blinds us to what is right.  We seek what seems good for us.  In the extreme we reject both God and neighbor.  Thanks be to God we are saved from excessive concern with self. 

 Today’s first reading reveals the light that saves us.  The gospel passage names him as Jesus.  If he is to dissipate the darkness of our selfishness, we must follow his two simple commands.  We are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Feast of the Holy Innocents

(I John 1:5-2:2; Matthew 2:13-18)

Faced with moral evil, we ask, “How could God permit this?”  When we saw that policeman kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, we asked “How could God permit this?”  When we hear stories of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, we ask, “How could God permit this?”  When Mohammad Atta and other terrorists caused the horror of 9-11, we asked, “How could God permit this?”  Today’s gospel suggests an answer.

The slaughter of innocent children sounds outrageous.  There is no historical record of it except this account in Matthew.  But it is like other atrocities committed by King Herod.  The tyrant murdered several members of his family, including his wife and sons.  In any case, it has been noted why God might have permitted the slaughter of the Innocents.  First though, we must recognize that God never causes people to sin.  Sin is a human project although evil spirits may be involved.  Yet God can embrace sin to bring about His intended good.  In the story of the Innocents, their death allowed Jesus to escape the wicked king’s pursuit.  He will die thirty years later so that they might know eternal life.

The story of the martyred Innocents injects into the joy of Christmas a foreboding of the sorrow of Holy Week.  It admonishes us to temper our festivity by remembering the purpose of God becoming human.  Jesus was born to set us free from sin and death.  His dying on the cross and rising from the dead give us new purpose in life and a new destiny.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

 The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, December 27, 2020

(Genesis 15: 1-6.21: 1-3; Hebrews 11: 8.11-12.17-19; Luke 2: 22-40)

There is a lot of talk about privilege these days. Some say that the person is privileged if he has rich parents. Others count as a privilege to have attended a private school. Still others claim that white people are privileged. It is true wealth and good education are considerable benefits. However, they are not as helpful as having just parents. We see these kinds of parents in the Mass readings today.

In the first and second readings Abram and Sarah are shown as a couple committed to the Lord. Abram leaves his father when he receives the call from God. Even though Sarah has not borne him children, Abram remains faithful to her. It is true that on Sarah’s insistence Abram has relations with his slave. But when Sara realizes her mistake, the two send the slave and her son packing. Above all, Abram manifests justice when God tests him to the core of his being. He does not deny God, if it is His will, the sacrifice of his only son.

With even more coherence, Mary and Joseph act as righteous people. They go to Bethlehem where Jesus is born in obedience to imperial law. The gospel today shows them heeding God's law when they present Jesus in the temple. Later in this gospel, Jesus will call his mother and brothers "’those who listen to the Word of God and carry it out.’" This is not a rejection of Mary but the opposite. Because she always keeps God's word, Mary can be considered his mother in two senses.

It can be truly said that there is currently a need for righteous parents. The social environment distorts the values ​​necessary to please God. Listen to the "Christmas songs." They once expressed the wonder of having the Son of God with us. Now they are absorbed with craving for consumer gifts. Another distortion can be seen in the presentation of promiscuity. Out of wedlock sex is portrayed in cinemas and television as good for both teens and adults.

In this environment, parents have to reflect Jesus. He will always be "the light to the nations" as Simeon calls him in the gospel. Mothers reflect Jesus when they instruct their children about God. Children need not only to learn prayers but also to hear of God's love. Fathers reflect “the light to the nations” when they convey the correct understanding of sex to their children. Teenagers, if not younger children, have to learn that intimate relationships are reserved for marriage. They have to appreciate that sex is not for self- gratification but to express total commitment to the other forever.

We are ending a year that has been both promising and miserable. It was miserable because of all the problems the virus caused. It was promising because families spent more time together. We hope that 2021 will be better in terms of health, work, and school. But may this New Year see the continuation of families spending time together. And may their coming together transmit values ​​worthy of Jesus, the light to the nations.

Friday, December 25, 2020


Mass on Christmas

If we are asked about the Christmas of 2010 or 2012, we will scratch our heads trying to remember.  Especially as we get older, most Christmases seem alike.  We send greetings to friends.  We come to Mass on Christmas Eve. We exchange gifts with family.  We eat turkey or ham for dinner.  But this Christmas will be remembered for a long time.  We mostly shopped on-line for gifts.  We put on masks as we enter church.  We cannot come together as a large family.

Actually this whole year has been like no other, at least in our memory.   The world took cover from the Covid-19 pandemic.  Many people lost their jobs, and many students were kept out of school. The virus has claimed well over a million lives and strained medical care severely.  Everyone has felt frustration in being restricted, in one way or another, to their homes. For all this, many name science as our savior.

Science has told people how to avoid infection.  It has also produced a vaccine that will likely decrease the length of the pandemic and save many lives.  More than ever, people feel confident that science will meet every human need beyond the pandemic.  Some even believe that eventually science will overcome death itself.  But such confidence in science is not warranted.

Science has made life more comfortable, but it cannot take away sin, our greatest burden.  Sin creates hatred and selfishness.  It moves people to hurt one another and then makes them regret what they have done.  Sin caused the white police officer in Minnesota to kneel on his African-American suspect’s neck until he died.  Sin makes many today forget their commitments to their families in the pursuit of pleasure.  Sin suggests that science will find a way for people to live forever when science itself shows that to be impossible.

Our salvation is not in science but in the one in whose birth we rejoice today.  Jesus has taught us how to avoid sin.  We must heed his lessons.  More than that, however, Jesus died on the cross, a spectacle for the whole world to see and ponder.  He was perfectly innocent, yet he died a victim of pride and prejudice.  We should see in the forces that brought about his death – the pride of the Jewish leaders and the indifference of the Roman magistrate -- our own sins and repent of them.  We can be assured of God’s forgiveness because He raised Jesus from the dead.  We can also look forward to our resurrection because we have associated with Jesus.

Today we celebrate Jesus’ coming among us.  We will want to keep a safe distance from those we do not live with.  But we should bellow together “Joy to the World.”  We rejoice because the savior whom our ancestors saw and touched has delivered us from sin and death. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

 Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

 (II Samuel 7:1-5.8b-12.14a.16; Luke 1:67-79)

 The Church has helped us reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation on the last seven days.  For a week it has daily presented different titles for Jesus.  The titles stand at the heart of the “O Antiphons” – “O” for the way each begins.  These are sung in the “alleluia” acclamation at Mass and echoed in Evening Prayer.  It has been cleverly noted that the first letters of the Latin titles given backwards make a statement.  Beginning with E for Emmanuel on December 23, they form the acrostic ERO CRAS.  In Latin this term means “I will be tomorrow.”  Indeed, today at midnight we will celebrate the Son of God’s coming to us as a human being.  This ever-gracious gift should take our breath away. 

 The titles of the “O antiphons” in the order of the acrostic run as follows.  E is for Emmanuel: Jesus is literally “God-with-us.”  R is for Rex: he is the king who will care for our needs.  O is for Oriens: Jesus comes as the dawn bringing the light of truth.  C is for Clavis: he holds the key of David to heaven’s door.  R is for Radix: he comes from the root of Jesse, a royal pedigree assuring capability.  A is for Adonai: he is the Lord God of Israel who loves the poor and oppressed.  Finally, S is for Sapientia: Jesus provides wisdom to assist our earthly sojourn. 

 We are encouraged to attend mass tonight.  The reason for a late-night mass – now seldom at midnight -- runs deeper than waiting for the official toll of December 25.  In the gospels Jesus promises to return “like a thief in the night.” He commands his disciples to stay awake watching for him.  This order should move us beyond dining and exchanging presents on Christmas Eve.  More importantly, we should pray and perhaps reflect again on the titles of the “O antiphons.”  It would be a truly fitting way to prepare for meeting Christ at mass in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent – December 23

(Malachi 3:1-4.23-24; Luke 1:57-66)

The images used in today’s reading from Malachi create confusion.  Obviously, “messenger” points to the coming of God’s definitive prophet.  But is this messenger Jesus or John the Baptist?  His being like a “refiner’s fire” gives a nod to John whose preaching scorched.  But “refining them…that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord” sounds like Jesus’ salvific work.  Let’s give the nod to Jesus as the messenger.  If Elijah, the prophet, is to come before the day of the Lord, then he – and not the messenger -- must be associated with John. 

The gospel passage also sees John as making the way for Jesus.  It shows both Elizabeth and Zechariah bestowing the name “John” on their newborn.  John means “The Lord has shown favor.”  John shows the Lord’s favor by introducing Jesus, God’s definitive messenger.  In time, the messenger will be understood as God incarnate, but in Luke he remains, for a good part, only his prophet.

The narratives about the coming of Jesus prepare us for his ministry and eventual death.  John will go before Jesus announcing the coming of the long-expected savior.  As he is arrested, Jesus will begin to preach eclipsing his precursor’s greatness.  He will die after being rejected by his people and crucified by Romans.  Yet he rises and sends his Holy Spirit to sanctify us who believe in him as Lord.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(I Samuel 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56)

If we were with Mary when she exclaimed, “He has cast down the mighty…and lifted up the lowly,” we might have asked, “Where? When?”  These things have not yet happened.  Jesus has not yet done his work.  However, Mary is not recording history; she is preaching gospel.  She takes her experience and projects it onto the world.  Because she, a lowly maiden, has been exalted by God, she knows others will be as well.

Mary here is not unlike John preaching in the desert.  He says he baptizes with water, but the one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John means that the conversion sealed by his baptism will be magnified with the Holy Spirit. Similarly, John Winthrop preached to the Puritans as they were about to sail to America.  In a famous discourse he said they would be blessed tenfold if they kept to the Lord’s ways.

This is a time of blessing.  We should not bemoan too long the Covid virus but anticipate its blessings.  We can make this a truly memorable Christmas.  Then we will cherish it in the future, perhaps more than any other.  We can read at home of Christ’s birth in Luke and then pray for travelers and the poor.  We can take time to listen to family members, to understand their perceptions, and to reconcile grievances. We can bake cookies, take them at the door of the isolated, and wave to them in the window.  In these ways the gospel preached of Christ will be fulfilled. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

 Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45)

The Song of Songs originally had nothing to do with religion.  It was written as a poem exalting the physical attraction in adolescent love.  But Jewish elders saw the poem’s passion as expressive of God’s love for Israel.  Christian teachers likewise thought of it as illustrating  of Christ’s love for the Church.  Although its imagery may be embarrassingly sensuous, few would strike it from Sacred Scripture.  It dramatically testifies of the goodness of sexual love in marriage.

Read before Christmas, the Song of Songs indicates Christ’s passion to come the world.  He loves it so much that he runs to it.  Like a smitten lover, he sees the beauty of the beloved in the midst of many faults.  The beloved as well yearns for her lover.  When he comes close, she is like John leaping in his mother’s womb.

We can rejoice that the celebration of Christmas is at hand.  The general goodwill renews our faith that Christ has redeemed the world of its sin.  The efforts of family members reinforce our perception that family and culture are integral to faith.  The way the world seems to stop to give tribute to Jesus reassures us that our hope is viable.

Sunday, December 20, 2020


(II Samuel 7: 1-5.8-12.16; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38)

A medical intern attests to the loneliness felt in the Covid pandemic. She writes of a woman having problems visiting her newborn son who remains in the hospital. She tells the story of a dying man whose family cannot say “goodbye” due to visitor restrictions. She describes the frustration of a woman not allowed to accompany her elderly mother to the emergency department. These stories help us understand why the gospel today constitutes "good news."

Christmas helps us overcome the sense of loneliness. It is particularly beneficial when there are acute restrictions as this year. The feast celebrates the coming of the Savior who lifts spirits to new hope and consolation. To appreciate how this happens, we have to probe who the Savior is. Fortunately, today’s gospel identifies him for us. More than telling us how the birth of Mary's son took place, it proclaims him “son of David” and “Son of God.”

When the angel Gabriel addresses the virgin Mary, he echoes God's words to David in the first reading. Gabriel says God will give his son "the throne of David, his father." He adds that "his reign will have no end." David was the greatest king in Israel’s history. He was invincible in battle.  But he submitted to God in the fight against sin. Although he sinned grievously, he possessed the humility to ask God’s forgiveness. However, the glory of Jesus surpasses that of David. With the nations of the world supporting him, he overcomes all evil. As deadly as Covid is, he will beat it.

The victory can be detected in the production of vaccines. Technical ingenuity is a sign of the Lord’s activity in the world.  His victory is seen as well in front-line workers who refuse to leave their jobs. Doctors, nurses, and their assistants risk their health every day in the battle against Covid. Many of these were trained in Christian institutions with a tradition of selfless service.  Others who show the Lord at work are the volunteers who help the marginalized. The human response to the threat fills us with hope. Because he is "son of David," Jesus can be identified as the leader of the movement.

As significant as it is that Jesus is “son of David”, it is more advantageous to us that he is “Son of God”.  His birth means that God will accompany his people forever. He consoles us in setbacks as we strive for justice. A psychiatrist endured the Nazi concentration camp. After living the horror, he analyzed how some could survive it while others gave up. He concluded that the difference between the two groups was the presence of meaning. Those who found meaning in their life were more inclined to endure the pain. God's presence provides such meaning. Knowing that He is with us, we trust in his support.

The gospel further indicates our response to God's human initiative. Mary does not deny the call to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior. She accepts it resolutely.  She tells Gabriel, “’I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” If the measure of a disciple is to put into practice what the teacher says, Mary demonstrates perfect discipleship. We too can follow “God-with-us” with such determination. Discipleship these days requires, first, that we give homage to the new-born Jesus like the shepherds of Bethlehem. We want to pray at home and, if possible, attend Mass on the 24th. It also obliges us to support family and friends in the healthy celebration of Christmas. Much more than Santa, Christmas presents an opportunity to forgo grudges and seek reconciliation. Finally, we cannot ignore the poor in this time of joy. We should do something to help a person in real need.

It seems right when it snows on Christmas. Pure and fresh, snow falling to the ground signifies the coming from heaven to earth. It is a fitting symbol of God's coming to us.

Friday, December 18, 2020


Friday of the Third Week of Advent

(Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-25)

Last week Pope Francis surprised many in the Church.  Apparently out of the blue he initiated a Jubilee Year in honor of St. Joseph.  The pope’s devotion to St. Joseph was first signaled when his name was added to the Eucharistic prayers.  But the Jubilee Year status of St. Joseph indicates more than a pope’s piety.  It underlines the role of the common person in the Church.  Today’s gospel presents Joseph as an ordinary man steeped in holiness.

The passage recounts how Joseph received an “annunciation” message.  He was betrothed to Mary when he was informed that she was with child.  He demonstrated sanctity by not exposing her to the law.  It is speculated that by not informing authorities of Mary’s state, Joseph forfeited the dowry given to Mary.  In any case, out of kindness, he wanted to spare Mary the embarrassment of an investigation.  The angel’s intervention called Joseph to an even greater sacrifice.  He accepted Mary into his home with her child, the Son of God.

The Jubilee Year is replete with indulgences for those who complete one of several acts of piety.  Francis wants people who have not been able to leave home to benefit in it.  All of us can grow spiritually by praying to St. Joseph this year.  Like him, most of us are common people called to make sacrifices.  We may have a family to raise, or school children to teach, or elderly parents to take care of.  A powerful intercessor as well, St. Joseph will win for us all the help we need.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

 Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

 (Genesis 49:2.8-10; Matthew 1:1-17)

 Genealogists study genealogies.  They know how to ferret out data from records that most of us overlook.  Genealogists tell us that all of us have famous ancestors.  They claim that we are all descendants of Julius Cesar or another legendary figure of the past.  They say that satisfaction comes not from that fact but from proving it.

 No one is a physical descendant of Jesus because he did not have children.  But we can all claim him as a relative in two ways.  By the wide net of relationships that genealogies make, everyone on earth is a descendant of some ancestor of Jesus.  More importantly, we can claim him as a relative when we act like him.  When we strive to proclaim the Father’s love, our relationship with Jesus can be seen and felt.

 Today’s readings speak of genealogy.  The first foretells David’s and Jesus’ being descendants of Judah.  As Judah was a strong man who defeated his enemies, they too will overcome opposition.  The gospel traces Jesus’ lineage through David and Judah to Abraham.  It shows us that God has carefully planned the coming of His Son.  Likewise, it assures that staying in relationship with Jesus will bring us God’s favor.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

 Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent

(Isaiah 45:6c-8.18.21c-25; Luke 7:18b-23)

One of the great challenges to faith has come from a contemporary American physicist.  Stephen Weinberg, musing on the universe, exclaimed, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." The statement implies that creation does not have a purpose or plan.  Rather, it unfolds haphazardly like the sequence of numbers called in a game of Bingo.

Today’s first reading poses a very different view.  Second Isaiah sees the Lord in charge of everything.  He created earth and sky for justice.  That is, he wants everything to fulfill the good purpose for which He made it.  The gospel shows Jesus enabling the fulfillment of this plan.  He makes humans whole.  He does not neglect the poorest of people but brings about God’s loving plan in all.

Many hesitate today to make a claim of priority for Jesus.  They do not want to say, “Merry Christmas,” even to other Christians or people whose families are Christian.  We want not avoid triumphalism, the belittling of other people of other faith traditions.  Jesus himself blessed the meek.  But in proclaiming “Christmas” we recognize the origin of our celebrating at this time of year. As important, we hint at necessary moderation in our celebrations.  After all, Jesus came to bring justice to our lives. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

 Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

(Zephaniah 3:1-2.9-13; Matthew 21:29-32)

A famous poem tells the story of an ancient emperor.  Remnants of his statue is found in the desert giving his now unknown name, “Ozymandias” (the name of the poem as well).  His epithet ironically reads that he is “King of Kings.”  The poem means to warn people not to think too much of themselves.  Yet they still do.  Most people want their way whenever they can get it.  They want to think of themselves as “King of Kings” at least in their little corner of the world.

The readings today point to a better, more honest way to live.  In the first the Zephaniah prophesizes of the people whom God will allow to live in Israel.  They will be humble and holy.  Because they do no wrong, they can take refuge in God.  In the gospel Jesus tells the leaders of Jerusalem that public sinners more likely will be heirs to this promise than they.  He means to chastise people of power for lording it over the poor. 

We should keep in mind what Christmas means.  God is humbling Himself to live as a human.  Indeed, he lives as the simplest of humans.  He has no armory or treasury.  He helps the poor and lame.  To live the spirit of Christmas we must imitate the humility of Jesus.

December 14, 2020

 Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

(Numbers 24:2-7.15-17a; Matthew 21:23-27)

Religious persecution sometimes proceeds not from tyrants or atheists but from co-religionists.  John the Cross suffered greatly at the hands of Carmelite brethren.  When he began his reform movement, called the “Discalced Carmelites,” the regular Carmelites harassed him.  When his reform proved not radical enough, his discalced brothers had him silenced.  Probably neither group recognized John’s genius much less his holiness.  We see something similar at play in today’s gospel.

Jesus has drawn much attention since coming to Jerusalem.  The chief priests and elders take notice.  They come to question his authority.  Jesus, however, outwits them by his question regarding John the Baptist.  They will not forget their comeuppance.  Indeed, they will see that he is crucified out of spite.

At different points in history social integration seemed to require all members of a community to confess the same faith.  In contemporary times the Church has wisely taken another tact.  Vatican II made the just claim that a person’s conscience must be respected.  Our worship of Jesus as Prince of Peace compels us to appreciate other faith traditions.  We should proclaim Christ as understood in our tradition.  We should also endeavor to understand why others believe as they do.

Sunday, December 13, 2020



(Isaiah 61: 1-2.10-11; I Thessalonians 5: 16-24; John 1: 6-8.19-28)

There is a macabre history of San Lorenzo. He was a third century Roman martyr. His executioners were burning him alive. In the middle of the process, San Lorenzo joked: "I’m done on this side, you can turn me over and eat." How can a martyr go to his death with a joke on his lips? It is because he has the joy of knowing that he is close to eternal life. For the same reason St. Paul in the second reading advises the Thessalonians: "Rejoice always."

The prophet in the first reading also rejoices even though he has been charged with many tasks. He must announce the good news, heal broken hearts, proclaim forgiveness, and declare grace. However, he is overjoyed that God has covered him with justice.  It's how the class valedictorian feels.  Although she faces a great challenge, she has joy in his heart.

Everybody wants happiness. The human person is created with this longing within his soul. Unfortunately, many confuse happiness with pleasure. They say they are happy when they are watching their soccer team with beers and chips. It is not necessarily bad to drink beer, but it is not true happiness either. Because we are entering the time of year with the most pleasures, it is worth examining these two values ​​at their roots.

Pleasure has to do with the bodily senses. It's a nice feeling. It comes from contact with some external good: the taste of chocolate, the touch of the lover, the sound of the violin, and so on. Pleasure does not last but diminishes as soon as contact with the good is lost. Pleasure is opposed to pain. The two cannot exist at the same time. You can't enjoy ice cream if you burnt your tongue.  Also, pleasure is always an individual experience. If you try to share the pleasure, it diminishes. For example, many have taken pleasure in smoking cigars. If the person shares her cigarette with another person, she will get only half the pleasure.

Happiness is taking joy in the truth. To know what happiness is, we must first understand joy. Joy has to do with the spirit, not the senses. It is the satisfaction we have when we do something good. Joy is not the opposite of pain. Rather, it is born of pain accepted with courage and love. It is the awe a woman has after giving birth to a baby. It is the exuberance that the athlete has after completing a marathon. Joy does not diminish when it is shared but it grows. In the Gospel, John doubles his joy when he announces to others the greatness of him who is coming.

We are about to enter the Christmas season. It is time to enjoy food delicacies, liquors, and days of rest. As good as these pleasures are, they don't compare to the joy of having struggled for the good of our families. If we have kept everyone together and safe during the pandemic, we have a happy spirit. Even if someone has contracted the virus, if they feel our love for them, we feel joyful. If we go to Mass on the twenty-fourth to give due reverence to the Savior, we will eat the turkey on the twenty-fifth happily.

A wise man suggests three ways to feel Christmas joy during this pandemic year. First, even if we cannot go to the customary Christmas mass, we can pray with the family. It would be good after reading the account of the birth of Jesus in Luke’s gospel that we pray for the travelers and the poor. Second, we can imitate the Virgin, a leading figure of Advent. Particularly her humility gives due testimony to our God who became human. Finally, even if we cannot come together with all members of the family, we can still practice unity. Asking forgiveness for having offended one another, we can emerge from confinement more whole than ever. In these ways we will realize the true meaning of having the Savior in our presence.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Luke 1:39-47)

People will be unusually happy when 2020 passes into history.  The pandemic has brought on such misery this year that we want it to end as soon as possible.  Of course, the pandemic won’t be resolved with a new calendar.  Nevertheless, the new year will bring a fortified hope of a return to normalcy.  All the inconvenience, the worry, and the death toll of the Covid pandemic can help us appreciate the situation in Mexico when the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared.

People may think that Spanish brutality epitomized the hardship to indigenous Americans.  The conquistadors’ swords and muskets caused much suffering among the native population.  However, the diseases which they brought unwittingly wreaked much more extensive havoc.  It is estimated that when Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico there were twenty-five million indigenous Americans.  Fifty years later smallpox and other infectious diseases left only three million people.  During this catastrophe, the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego.

From the beginning, the Virgin’s message was of maternal affection and protection.  “I am your mother,” she told the indigenous peasant, Juan Diego.  Her mission was to relieve the suffering of the people by imparting the Christian faith that proclaims God’s mercy.  As part of that relief, she called the European colonists from the city to the surrounding area.  There they might address the needs of the people.  In today’s gospel we see Mary on a similar mission of mercy.  Hearing from God that her relative Elizabeth was with child, Mary rushes to assist her.  So close to her son Jesus, who is also the Son of God, Mary will help us through the pandemic.  Praying to her, we can be assured of receiving God’s mercy.

Friday, December 11, 2020

 Friday of the Second Week of Advent

(Isaiah 48:17-19; Matthew 11:16-19)

For those who do not want to exercise, there is always an excuse.  On a weekday, they say they need to get to work.  On a weekend, they say they need their rest.  In today’s gospel Jesus makes known two excuses his generation uses for not repenting of sin.  He says they are like fickle children who always want to have their way.

In Matthew’s gospel both John the Baptist and Jesus preach the exact same message.  They tell the people, “’Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”  It has been said that conversion (another word for repentance) is what the Christian life is all about.  People must repent continually to reach the perfection of children of God.  However, their reluctance to do is made manifest in the excuses they give.  In today’s gospel, the excuse is that the preacher is either a reprobate or an ascetic.  In either case they indicate that he is unreliable to follow.

We make such excuses for not repenting at our own peril.  As today’s first reading indicates, we lose when we follow our whims rather than repent of our faults.  It often hurts to change our ways.  But once it is done, our joy should eclipse any pleasure that we gave up.  Now is as good a time as ever to change our ways.  True, Advent is not as penitential as Lent.  Nevertheless, we can hear during these four weeks both John and Jesus calling us to repent.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)

 The venerable teacher called his students “pinheads.”  The adolescents, however, did not take offense.  Indeed, they perked up at the appellation.  Similarly, the exiled people of Israel respond when Isaiah calls their nation “worm” and “maggot.”  The prophet’s message is full of good news.  Not only does it promise rescue from captivity but also a first-class ticket home.

 Early in Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist hurled similar insults at his visitors.  “Brood of vipers,” he called the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to see him in another desert.  They and the rest of his following had to change their lives or face God’s wrath.  Yet for all the power of John’s message, it missed the heart of the revelation of the Kingdom.  Jesus has shown how God’s rule is more like a Father’s loving correction than a governor’s harsh penal system.  This is why Jesus can make the extraordinary claim in today’s gospel.  He says that the least in the Kingdom – that is, the humblest person who comes to know God’s love -- is greater than the mighty Baptist.

 We have to choose between the two visions of God.  We can live in fear of God as John exhorted or we can rejoice in gratitude of having God as our Father.  If we choose to see God as a vindictive judge, we will miss the joy of being His children.  Most likely we will come to resent His authority as well.  If we live in gratitude to our loving Father in heaven, our lives will radiate His goodness to all. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2020

 (Optional) Memorial of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

(Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30)

The story of St. Juan Diego parallels today’s readings.  The Mexican native convert was on his way to mass outside the City of Mexico. The decline of the number of his people with the arrival of the Spanish no doubt weighed on his heart.  On the journey Juan Diego was stopped by a beautiful woman near the top of Tepeyac hill.  She sent him to the bishop of the city with the request that a chapel be built on the hill.  Doing as directed, Juan Diego eventually witnessed a sign that the vision was no fantasy.  Being told to bring roses to the bishop, the native was surprised to find them growing in the December cold.  When he released them from his mantle before the bishop, the roses left the Virgin of Guadalupe’s image. 

Today’s first reading from Isaiah shows a spirited prophet addressing a people repressed like native Mexicans.  Jerusalem’s exiles have suffered in Babylon for sixty years.  But their time for liberation is at hand.  For some, however, it is an offering too good to be true.  They wonder if they have the energy to return home.  The prophet assures them that the Lord will be their strength.  The gospel confirms God’s assistance.  Humble people can always look to him for comfort and peace.  He will provide for them in need.

We should look to the Lord for consolation and assistance.  Covid has worn many people down.  Perhaps more daunting, however, believers are readily dismissed today as fantasizers.  Many find Christian worship as inconsequential and even counterproductive.  Undefeated, we turn to the Lord for strength and vindication.  There is no need to doubt.  The Lord has come to save us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

 Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Genesis 3:9-15.20; Ephesians 1:3-6.11-12; Luke 1:26-38)

Sin like sewerage contaminates everything it touches.  The primordial sin of Adam and Eve rejects God’s authority.  Its perversion  does not end there, however.  Both proceed to wrongly cast blame on others.  The man accuses the woman of giving him the forbidden fruit.  The woman says the devil tricked her into eating it. 

The pollution of sin is not definitively arrested until Jesus dies on the cross.  Even then, as we know, sin seeps through cracks in human make-up.  Mary, however, shows herself in today’s gospel as the one exception to the universal occasion of sin.  Faced with a divine mandate, she has no concern for herself.  Her question about how she was to conceive and bear a son is a call for orders on what to do.  Despite being given an exotic answer, she answers definitively.  She will do what God wants.

Today we ponder the exception of Mary to the universality of sins in human persons.  We may see it in two ways.  First, we notice that what happens to Mary happens to us at Baptism.  Christ frees us from sin so that our lives might, as the reading from Ephesians claims, give him fitting praise.  Second, in Mary’s singular case, sin has not tainted her makeup.  From the beginning, her will is dominated by her intellect which, in turn, is fixed on the Holy.  She can tell the angel in today’s gospel without reservation, “’May it be done to me according to your word.’”

Monday, December 7, 2020

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)

St. Ambrose came from an aristocratic Roman family.  He went to Milan as the Roman governor of the region.  He was so successful that when the episcopacy became vacant, the people nominated him for the ministry -- as a layman!  He succeeded beyond expectation.  One of his greatest accomplishments was securing a right relationship between church and state.  He recognized the authority of the state in matters of public welfare.  But he insisted that governments carry out their responsibilities morally if they were to have church support.  When the Roman emperor had civilians murdered, Ambrose forbade him enter his cathedral.  Only after doing the requisite penance was the emperor allowed to worship with the bishop.

Ambrose’s determination is reflected in today’s first reading.  Isaiah exhorts Judah to resist evil.  He encourages the people to be strong first by promising God’s assistance.  Then he holds out the hope of a better world.  He does not speak of a more equitable distribution of resources but of concrete blessings. He says the broken will be made whole and the wasteland converted into a highway.

The United States and, in some sense, the world is now preparing for new leadership.  We hope that President-elect Biden will follow a moral design for a strong society.  We pray that his tenure will be marked by human development and mutual respect among people and nations.  May he follow St. Ambrose’s regard for both the moral and spiritual sensibility of civic governance.

Sunday, December 6, 2020


(Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11; II Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)

Imagine for a moment that it is the middle of the first century. We live near Rome and are members of a community of Christians. We have suffered a lot in recent years. First, they persecuted us for having set the city on fire. It was a lie, but the persecution caused the death of many good people. Saints Peter and Paul were martyred during that wave of persecution. Now the authorities threaten to make us renounce our faith.

Then the community scholar – a man named Mark - announces that his book is finished. He calls his work "euangelion" which means “gospel” or “good news.” The word reminds us of what the prophet says in the first reading today. God has directed him to announce to Israel "glad tidings." But in our case the “good news” is Jesus, the Christ, who has been anointed to establish the kingdom of God. He also calls Jesus "the Son of God." But what does this term mean? Isn't every human person a “child of God”? Of course, but Jesus has a closer relationship to God than any other human. He is the one who has suffered death in perfect obedience to God the Father. Also significant, God raised him from the dead. Now we wait for him to save us from the danger in which we find ourselves.

The Gospel read at Mass today comprises the first verses of this Gospel according to Mark. Interestingly, they do not highlight Jesus but John the Baptist. John is so famous that people come from far away to hear him. They wonder if he is the messiah all Israel has waited for. But his message is clear. He is not the expected one but his harbinger. As important as John is, he can't compare to the one who is to come. He is like an alley cat compared to a tiger or a candle compared to the sun.

John says that when he comes, the liberator will baptize people with the Holy Spirit. He will strengthen them with holiness. Fortified with the Spirit, first century Christians can face death without abandoning their faith. The Spirit fortifies us for another purpose. He gives us charity to testify to Jesus with works of love, even on behalf of those who despise us.

As Israel waiting for its deliverer and as the community of Mark waiting for its savior, we today await Jesus. We count on him to alleviate the many afflictions plaguing afflicting our world. Pope Francis has named these problems "the shadows of a closed world." Among others, the pope has listed the return to the prejudices of the past. Many focus more on claiming the superiority of their own race, nation, and religion than seeking the unity of all peoples. The pope also laments the treatment of human persons as disposable. He has in mind indifference to the dire poor, abortion of babies, and abandonment of the elderly.

We don't wait for Jesus just to justify our horror at these things. There is something much bigger at stake. We want him to show the world that the path to peace passes through forgiveness, justice, and the recognition of all as brothers and sisters.  This leads us to our hope in Advent: that all peoples collaborate to create a better world.

For a whole year we will be reading from this Gospel according to Mark. We are going to hear the the powerful words of Jesus comfort us in affliction. We are going to see how his disciples, as sometimes we do, misunderstand and fail him. And we are going to witness his giving up everything, even his sense of closeness to the Father, for our sake on the cross. Like all the gospels, the one Mark wrote has its own purpose and beauty. It is worth coming every Sunday this year to hear.

Friday, December 4, 2020

 Friday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 29:17-24; Matthew 9:27-31)

Today’s gospel, as most during Advent, ostensibly fulfills the prophecy in the first reading.  Jesus makes “the eyes of the blind…see.”  The world has likewise experienced steady progress in the elimination of blindness.  One expert has said that if it were not for diabetes, blindness might be extinct today.

But physical blindness is not the only concern of the prophet.  He is taken up with spiritual blindness as well.  He rails against the arrogant whose faces are puffed up with conceit.  These people fail to see how their lifestyles hinder the development of a just world.  Pope Francis analyzes how this blindness comes about in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti.”  He says that communication technology has allowed people to become more selective in the news they receive. They in turn become more convinced of biased arguments and form factions to secure privileges for themselves. 

Our hope for a just world is everlasting because Jesus, the eternal king, is its basis.  During this season of Advent, we hope to see tables turned, at least a little.  We long to see a more equitable distribution of wealth where everyone has basic needs met.  We want the poor to prosper spiritually as well as economically.  We hope that our lives too may prioritize a concern for others rather than a preoccupation with self.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

(Isaiah 26: 1-26; Matthew 7:21.24-27)

Advent is called the season of hope.  During these four weeks we long to find salvation.  But hope is more than longing. It has a plan or, at least, a good reason to believe that salvation is near.  Today’s reading from Isaiah names “the Lord” as its reason for hope.  Some say the Lord is an ethereal reality because He is spiritual.  But the spiritual can be the most substantial of realities.  The reading calls the Lord “an eternal Rock.” He is a firm and stable basis from which we can achieve our hope of salvation.

Today’s gospel ends Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The Lord has just laid out his road map of salvation.  He has told us to trim our desires and to love the bad and the good alike.  He gives no pretense that we can achieve salvation on our own.  We must wait for God’s grace.  Then, like a house built on rock, we will not fall but will realize our hope.

Today we honor one of the Church’s most remarkable saints.  Francis Xavier, like Jesus, was born in nobility but gave it up to work among lowly humans.  As a missionary, Francis went to the India, the Malay peninsula, parts of Indonesia, and Japan.  He converted hundreds of thousands of people.  Francis’ foundation was the Lord, Jesus Christ.  With this strong base, he even reached heaven. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

 Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37)

For the lonely and the depressed, this time of year is far from merry.  For them it is the most trying of seasons.  Most people want to be near loved ones now.  But those who feel loveless or incapable of loving want to cry out in complaint.  Today’s gospel shows Jesus caring for them.

Before Jesus gives the bread and fish for all to feast upon, he heals the people’s afflictions. He makes “the lame, the blind, the mute and many others” whole.  Only when this work is finished does he provide a meal that they will never forget.  He is not just feeding the people.  He is giving them the everlasting life foreseen in today’s reading from Isaiah.  They enter eternal life whole, free, and thankful. 

Jesus means to heal us also.  All of us suffer.  One out of every one of us is hurting.  We call out to him in prayer to ask for help.  In quite unexpected ways he comes bringing us the fullness of life forever.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

St. Martin de Porres is said to have reconciled a dog, a cat, and a rat to eat together.  It is a charming story that demonstrates the point of today’s Scripture readings.  Natural enemies will live in peace with the coming of the Lord.  Martin himself brought rich and poor; black, white and indigenous; religious and lay people together.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, he may be seen as “another Christ.”

Today’s first reading changes the expectation for the Messiah.  He is not to a warrior but a wise man.  He comes not to destroy foes with his power but to reconcile them with wisdom.  His attraction will not be limited to sons and daughters of Israel but will be felt throughout the earth.  The gospel hints at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision in Jesus.  He wields no sword and overpowers no outlaw.  Nevertheless, he shows himself as the Messiah, the Son of God.  He heals and forgives.  He enlightens the dull-minded and confers salvation on those who trust in him.

We may find the feats of Jesus as hard to believe as Martin’s reconciling his convent’s animals.  They probably were embellished in the formation of the gospels.  But we must not deny them.  They are testimony that Jesus was radically different from other humans.  He was God’s Son.  By following him, we too can move beyond the hostilities of the world.  Following him, we will have the peace of eternal life.   

Monday, November 30, 2020

 Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

 (Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

 In his apostolic exhortation on evangelization, Pope Paul VI wrote: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”  Little is said about the apostle Andrew in the gospels outside of the stories of his being called by Jesus.  But as Paul VI said, the witness that he gives in those calls speaks forcefully through the ages.

Peter and Andrew are probably like most fishermen.  They love the sea not only as the source of food for the table but also for the freedom it brings.  But the call of Jesus is more powerful than the attraction of the sea.  They tarry not a minute but respond to the call at once.  More than any kind of curiosity on their part, such witness indicates Jesus' charisma that he will fulfill their deepest longings.

 We need to give witness as well.  It starts with how we present ourselves.  Do our homes feature a cross identifying Jesus as he who brings peace to our lives?  Do we mention Jesus as the source of our success or do we talk about ourselves as all important?  Exhibiting a cross and invoking Jesus’ name tells other of his importance and provides us standards according to which we should pattern our lives.

Sunday, November 29, 2020



(Isaiah 63: 16-17,19,64: 2-7; I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37)

Can't it be said that the world is now waiting for its savior? Today everyone yearns for salvation in the form of a vaccine for Covid. We are tired of covering our faces, confining ourselves to the house, and suspecting every stranger as a carrier of the virus. However, the vaccine will be a false messiah. Even if it saves us from Covid, it will only return us to the same selfishness and greed that have prevailed in our time.

First, let us recognize how the pandemic has revealed some flaws in our lifestyles. With confinement, families have spent more time together with the result that adolescents feel less anxiety. The many activities of each member of the family had produced a sense of facing the challenges of life alone. Also, by taking classes with Zoom, children have not had to get up early in the morning. More sleep has reduced stress. This is not to say that the pandemic is a good thing and that the vaccine will not be helpful.  But we must recognize that the vaccine will not deliver us from our most serious problems.

The first reading today is from the third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah. It was penned 2,500 years ago, but it sounds like it could have been typed last year. People have turned away from God's commandments. Where God has said, "You shall not kill," abortion is increasingly acceptable. Where He has said, "You will keep he Lord's day holy," mass attendance continues to decline. It is not necessary to comment on the violations against the sixth and ninth commandments in our time. The reading has its finger on the pulse of our time when it asks the Lord: "Why ... do you let our hearts harden to the point of not being afraid of you?" For this reason, it asks God to come down from heaven though it means tearing open the skies and shaking the mountains.

We believe that God heeded the prophet's cry. In the second reading, Saint Paul tells how Jesus Christ died and rose again to give his followers a “spiritual gift.” We have the grace of the Holy Spirit to live for God even more than for ourselves.

Before his death Jesus said that he was going to return to lead his disciples to eternal life. In anticipation of this event, he tells us in the gospel today to “watch” and “be alert.” This does not mean that we leave our jobs to watch like a sailor in a crow's nest. Rather, Jesus wants us to watch for him as students awaiting the visit of the school principal. That is, he wants us to spend our time advancing in truth, love, and goodness.

There is a story that helps us understand the purpose of Jesus here. Once a legislature was in session when a storm arosein the heavens. The clouds were so dark and the wind so strong that some legislators said the end of the world had come. A group moved that they end the session to return to their homes. But the president of the legislature spoke up.  He said, “If it is not the end, we are going to appear ridiculous leaving our work unfinished. And if it is the end, it would be better if the Lord sees us accomplishing our tasks. I say: 'bring in the candles.'" Thus we want to prepare for the coming of the Lord by doing his will.

Advent always has two goals. At the beginning of the season we want to remember the promise of Jesus to come again. He came once in the flesh to save us from sin. At the end of time he will come in glory to lead his disciples to eternal life. The second objective is to prepare for Christmas. The mystery of the Incarnation overwhelms our imagination. God, the Creator and Sovereign, wanted to humble himself to show us the extent of his love! It is worth a month of lockdown to prepare ourselves for this great event.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 20:1-4.11-21.2; Luke 21:29-33)

A few months ago Christopher Nolan’s new film Tenet was released.  It is action sci-fi that challenges the mind as it awes the emotions.  The opening scene takes place in the future.  It may or may not really happen depending upon the hero’s ability to control the plot.  Casual viewers will likely find the movie bizarre.  But Christopher Nolan fans will grope assiduously for its meaning.  The Book of Revelation presents a similar challenge although it should never be casually dismissed. 

Revelation was written to shore up the hope of persecuted Christians.  Its narration of the future cannot be taken literally.  The thousand years which today’s passage references has long passed without the promised culmination of goodness.  This does not mean that the book is mistaken.  Rather the author only speculated when and what kind of events would the triumph of goodness be.  He is right in assuring that it will take place.

We can be sure that God’s love will ultimately conquer evil because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  We have seen other evidence as well like, for example, the Church surviving two thousand years despite many attempts to dismantle it and its own folly.  For now we want to redouble our efforts to live righteous lives.  We want to become partakers of the new reality the reading promises.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

 Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

In one episode of “The Simpsons” brash Bart leads the family in grace before dinner. He speaks up, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing!”  Perhaps some feel a similar unwillingness to thank God today.  It is not that they feel that they earned everything which they have.  No, people have difficulty giving thanks today because it has been a difficult year.  Covid-19 confined most everyone to their homes for a substantial time.  Most, as well, have lost an elderly relative or friend who has succumbed during the pandemic.

There is also a failure to give thanks in today’s gospel. Nine of the ten men cured of leprosy do not return to thank Jesus for their cure.  Their failure stems from the errant thought that it is not worth the effort to find Jesus.  After all, they have lived in isolation for so long that they need to get on with life.  The cured leper, on the other hand, recognizes something more important than enjoying good health.  He sees the moral urgency to thank his benefactor.  Before he goes to rejoice with family and friends, he gives Jesus the thanks that is due.

The year has been hard in many respects, but we – like the healed leper – should be grateful.  There have been blessings.  One man says that the time to himself has enabled him to read thirty books.  A psychologist explains how adolescents have profited by being with their parents more.  We remain indebted to God for our lives here and now and for the promise of eternal life.  We do well to give Him thanks every day but especially this day designated for thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 15:1-4; Luke 21:12-19)

 Preachers used to talk a lot about the wrath of God.  The topic easily captured people’s imaginations.  Also, Scripture references it enough to make it seem very important. Today's first reading refers to it quite directly.  Seven angels hold the last seven plagues of God's fury.

However, we must be very cautious in using human attributes to describe God.  He (forgive this gender reference, but this is Scripture’s predilection) is beyond human emotion since he is pure Spirit.  Indeed, God is beyond our ability to describe Him.  Yet a few qualities stand out because Jesus uses them in speaking of his Father.  God is just, for example.  Indeed, justice is what Revelation is trying to intimate when it speaks of God’s wrath.  For human sin, justice seems to require the imposition of severe punishments.  But God’s justice is not a tit for tat.  Its aim is to make humans just.  Although it sometimes punishes, its primary tool is mercy.  Both the Old and the New Testaments constantly show God acting mercifully.  He wants His people to consider imitating His ways.

We cannot imitate God by becoming angry.  Although anger is not necessarily sinful, neither is it an attribute of God.  We do imitate God when we show mercy, but not mercy as permissiveness.  No, care for others requires a willingness to pardon their transgressions.  However, unless it holds them accountable to improvement, it fails to testify to God’s love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

(Revelation 14-14-19; Luke 21:5-11)

For more than five hundred years until 1963 whenever a new pope was crowned, he would be dramatically reminded of the closeness of death.  As he proceeded from the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica, the master of ceremonies would kneel before him with rapidly burning flax.  The master would then say, “Sic transit gloria mundi” (“there goes the glory of the world”).  The pope was being reminded that, like the flax, his time is short.  Despite having the highest position in the Church, he too will die and face judgment for his sins.

As this month of the dead wanes, we receive strong reminders of death’s inevitability in today’s mass readings.  Revelation reminds us that the world’s inhabitants can die and be judged in an instant.  In the gospel Jesus tells the people not to be overly impressed by the temple’s beauty.  He says that it will fall along with many people.  The lesson of these readings, like the message to new popes, is that we are to trust in God, not in humans.  If death is to be overcome, it will be by the Creator’s power, not by any human one.

The many martyrs of Vietnam testified to their faith in God with their lives. Between 1820 and 1880 between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics in the country either were killed or suffered great hardship.  Today’s feast recalls 117 of these whose cases are documented and who were canonized by Pope St. John XXIII.  They should not be seen as foreign, much less as exotic.  Rather, they are our partners whispering into our ears not to forget that we too will die.

El domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2020


(Isaías 63:16-17.19,64:2-7; I Corintio 1:3-9; Marcos 13:33-37)

¿No se puede decir que el mundo ya está en espera de su salvador?  Hoy en día todos anhelan la salvación en forma de una vacuna para Covid.  Están cansados de cubrir sus caras, de limitarse a la casa, y de sospechar a cada desconocido como portador del virus.  Sin embargo, la vacuna será un mesías falso.  Aunque nos salve del Covid, nos volverá al mismo egoísmo y codicia que han predominado en nuestro tiempo. 

Primero, que reconozcamos cómo la pandemia ha revelado algunas faltas en nuestro estilo de vida.  Con el confinamiento, las familias han pasado más tiempo juntos con el resultado que los adolescentes sienten menos ansiedad.  Las muchas actividades de cada miembro de la familia habían producido el sentido de estar solos enfrentando los retos de la vida. También, por tomar clases con Zoom, los muchachos no han tenido que levantarse temprano en la mañana.  Más sueño ha reducido el estrés.  Esto no es a decir que la pandemia es cosa buena y la vacuna no será provechosa.  Solamente tenemos que reconocer que la vacuna no nos entregará de nuestros problemas más graves.

La primera lectura hoy es de la tercera parte del libro del profeta Isaías.  Fue escrita hace 2500 años, pero suena como pudiera haber escrita el año pasado.  La gente se ha alejado de los mandamientos de Dios.  Donde Dios ha dicho “no matarás”, el aborto es cada vez más aceptable.  Donde ha dicho “mantendrás santo el día del Señor”, la asistencia en la misa sigue disminuyendo.  No es necesario comentar sobre las violaciones contra el sexto y noveno mandamientos en nuestro tiempo.  La lectura tiene su dedo en el pulso de nuestro tiempo cuando pregunta al Señor: “¿Por qué…dejas endurecer nuestro corazón hasta el punto de no temerte?” Por esta razón ello pide a Dios que se presente aunque significa que rasgue los cielos y estremezca a las montañas.

Creemos que Dios hizo caso al grito del profeta.  En la segunda lectura San Pablo cuenta cómo Jesucristo murió y resucitó para dar a sus seguidores los “dones divinos”.  Tenemos la gracia del Espíritu Santo para vivir por Dios y solo entonces por nosotros mismo.

Antes de su muerte Jesús dijo que iba a volver para llevar a sus discípulos a la vida eterna.  En anticipación de este evento, Jesús nos dice en el evangelio hoy que velemos y nos preparemos.  Esto no quiere decir que dejemos a trabajar para velar como un marinero en un nido de cuervo.  Más bien Jesús quiere que velemos para él como alumnos esperando la visita del director de la escuela.  Eso es, quiere que estemos ocupados avanzando en la verdad, el amor, y la bondad.

Hay un cuento que nos ayuda entender el propósito de Jesús aquí.  Una vez los legisladores de un pueblo estaban debatiendo cuando una tormenta se surgió en los cielos.  Las nubes eran tan oscuras y el viento tan fuerte que algunos dijeron que el fin del mundo había llegado.  Un grupo entre ellos movió que terminaran la sesión para volver a sus casas.  Pero el presidente de la legislatura dijo el contrario: “Si no es el fin, vamos a aparecer como ridículos terminando la sesión temprano.  Y si es el fin, sería mejor que el Señor nos vea cumpliendo nuestras tareas.  Yo digo: ‘traigan aquí las velas’".  Así nosotros queremos preparar para la venida del Señor por llevar a cabo sus mandamientos.

Adviento siempre tiene dos objetivos.  En el principio de la temporada queremos recordar la promesa de Jesús para venir de nuevo.  Vino una vez en carne y hueso para salvarnos del pecado.  Al fin del tiempo vendrá en la gloria para llevar a sus discípulos a la vida eterna.  El segundo objetivo es prepararnos para la Navidad.  El misterio de la Encarnación abruma nuestra imaginación.  Dios, el Creador y Soberano, ¡quería humillarse para mostrarnos el extendido de su amor!  Vale un mes de confinamiento para prepararnos a celebrar este gran evento.

Monday, November 23, 2020

 Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 14:1-3.4b-5; Luke 21:1-4)

It has been noted that the poor widow’s offering anticipates Jesus’.  She gives all that she has – “her whole livelihood” – to God in her contribution to the temple treasury.  Jesus will soon offer himself to God on the cross.  Luke records his final words as, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’”

Occasionally we meet people almost as generous as this gospel’s poor widow.  I worked in a parish once where the laundry woman would buy my dinner on Saturday evening after mass.  It was not steak from a fancy restaurant, but it was supererogatory, more than necessary.  I was deeply humbled by the generous act repeated every week.  It was not that she did it for me.  I know that she did it for Christ whom I have the privilege to represent at mass.  I was humbled because I would be reluctant to do it every week for anyone.

In simple ways the gospel widow acts as an apostle.  She shows the generosity God expects of us.  Her story also demonstrates how God notices our every good deed.