Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Samuel 15:13-14.30.16:5-13; Mark 5:1-20)

Police departments are informing people on what to do if an “active shooter” enters their premises.  Such incidents have become so common that public education is now deemed necessary.  Confronting the villain is considered a last resort.  First people are advised to flee.  In today’s gospel Jesus does not choose the preferred option when confronted by the mad man.

The man must be terribly frightening.  The passage describes him as incapable of being held back even by chains.  Yet Jesus does not even flinch when the man comes into his midst. Rather he cool-headedly seizes the initiative.  He tells the demons possessing the man to depart.  Then he manipulates them to surrender authority by revealing their names.  After he has them completely in his power, Jesus sends the demons into a swineherd.

Sometimes Jesus is pictured as a weak sort.  But in this story, he shows himself quite forceful.  There is no testimony in the gospels indicating that Jesus looked like a body builder, but this episode attests to his bravery.  The point is that we can count on him.  He will help us in every situation when we call on him.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest

(II Samuel 11:1-4a.5-10a.13-17; Mark 4:26-34)

In an often cited passage the prophet Jeremiah laments human depravity.  He says, “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy…” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Perhaps the prophet had today’s story of David in mind as he made the gloomy evaluation.

If David had only seduced the beautiful Bathsheba, his sin would have been grave but understandable.   What is so disconcerting, however, is the compound sin he commits to cover up his crime.  David not only has Bathsheba’s husband killed but does so in the wake of the man’s laudable loyalty.  Uriah sacrifices the opportunity to sleep in his own bed in order to support the king’s army.  It is also significant that he does so as a foreigner, that is without natural ties to the Israelite nation.

The story might chasten us.  We should take care not to sin at all.  But if we do fall, we need to straight away admit our guilt and ask forgiveness.  Above all, we should never cover up our faults by committing atrocities.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Samuel 7:18-19; 24-29; Mark 4:21-25)

It is said that history is written by the victors.  For this reasons some Bible scholars question the virtue of David.  According to the official story, he was much of a saint.  Although he committed adultery and covered up his sin with murder, these offenses are duly repented.  Most likely David was not as virtuous as the Bible describes him to be.  He certainly had a harem and likely drew more blood than necessary.

Still David’s story offers valuable lessons.  In today’s first reading David is pictured at prayer.  His words serve as a model for all people before God.  Everyone, like David here, should be humble before their Creator and Judge.  Also, all should thank God for the blessings they receive.  Likewise, all should request from God whatever is needed for the good of one’s community.

We might wonder if scholars think the same of Jesus as they do of David.  Is his story so great because in time his followers came to be kings?  The answer is clearly “no.” Jesus died what appeared to the world as an ignominious death.  His resurrection from the dead was not a public affair in the sense that society at large witnessed it.  Yet because of it, his followers were not disillusioned by his crucifixion.  Rather, strengthened by the Spirit, they began to live as Jesus preached.  Sure, in time Christians became rulers.  But they have been aware that to remain his followers they must lead with his love and truth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Samuel 7:4-17; Mark 4:1-20)

We should note the casualness of the sower in Jesus’ parable today.  He scatters the seed indiscriminately -- in the soil, on the roadside, amid rocks, and among thorns.  “Why is he being so wasteful?” one might ask thinking, “A careful farmer would take better aim.”  But Jesus wants to demonstrate God’s generosity with his story.  The sower represents God who deals out blessings on both the bad and good.  Not only those who love God enjoy life, have liberty, feel sunrays, and taste honey.  Every human person to some degree experiences these benefits and many others.  What distinguishes the good from the bad is often the response given to God’s bounty.

After telling the parable, Jesus receives a group of people inquiring about its meaning.  They include disciples, whom may be understood as members of the Church, and others.  Effectively they are asking, “Why is God so good?”  Those who do not come forward take life for granted.  Jesus likens them to the seed eaten up by the birds before it has a chance to sprout.  

But not all who make inquiry about the gift will realize its fullness.  There must be a deeper response than inquiry; there must be willingness to sacrifice oneself.  For some, giving of themselves is too much trouble.  They are the seed that falls on rocky ground and never become rooted.  Others lose sight of God by mistaking creation for the Creator.  Giving all their attention to created things, they are like the plants that are strangled by thorns.  Finally, some seed produces abundant fruit.  They respond generously to the gift of creation by thanking God and caring for it. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

(II Samuel6:12b-15.17-19; Mark 3:31-35)

St. Thomas Aquinas is recognized as one of the three or four greatest minds in history.  It is said that he knew about everything that there was to know at the time when he lived.  But it was not so much the breadth of his knowledge that makes Thomas so prodigious as its depth.  He saw relationships among things that gave him a complete grasp of the whole.

Because Thomas had such a tremendous mind, some may think that he was canonized for his intelligence.  It may seem understandable, if somewhat misleading, that the Church would declare him a saint because he was able to fold all the strands of Scripture and theology into a coherent doctrine.  But his holiness was as serene as his intellect.  He never taught or preached without first praying at length.  Three characteristics stand out in Thomas’ prayer.  First, as just indicated, Thomas linked prayer with study.  Second, he was so devoted to the Eucharist that he attended mass twice a day.  And finally, he either prayed before a crucifix or before the altar, the liturgical symbol for Christ.

Thomas offers all of us, not just theologians, a model to be imitated.  We may not be able to write three coherent sentences or even to write at all.  But we can and should pray to God that what we say about Him to others makes sense.  We may not be able to even pronounce the word “transubstantiation,” which Thomas clarified.  But we can and should receive Holy Communion knowing that it is the body and blood of Christ.  We may not be able to explain how Christ’s death has justified humans in their sinfulness as Thomas did.  But we can and should look at the crucifix with a word of thanksgiving on our lips.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Samuel 5:1-7.10; Mark 3:22-30)

In the movie “Doubt” a priest gives a homily about gossip.  He says that gossip is like cutting a pillow with a scissors in the open air and letting all the feathers fly out.  As it would be impossible to gather up every feather, so it is impossible to make up for the harm done by gossip.  The scribes in today’s gospel are guilty of gossip, and Jesus has his own way of describing the harm done.

In order to discredit Jesus, the scribes say that his healings are the work of the devil.  Being respectable, these men will be believed by the people.  Jesus says that this vicious gossip is tantamount to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.  First, the gossipers can never make amends for the breach of confidence in Jesus which they cause.  Their sin is infinitely culpable because it undermines the work of God which Jesus is doing.

Our conversations often encounter vacuous spaces.  We are tired of talking about the weather or the upcoming sports event.  We want to turn to people as a topic.  We are entering a minefield.  We must be sure that what we say is not only true but fair.  That is, we must seek to avoid misinterpretations that would harm another’s well-being.  We may not be committing an unpardonable sin, but it still may be a serious one.

Friday, January 24, 220

Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Samuel 24:3-21; Mark 3:13-19)

Tomorrow, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  For the last six days the Church has asked Catholics to pray that all Christians will be united again.  Some Protestant denominations have their members doing likewise.  Jesus initiated the prayer at the Last Supper in John’s gospel.  He prayed that “they (his disciples) may be one.”

Today we honor one of the great saints of the Reformation, Francis de Sales.  He became the bishop of Geneva, the center of the Protestant Reformed movement.  Francis brought to the ongoing debate between Catholics and Calvinists a firm grasp of theology.  Today’s dialogue between Catholic and Protestant leaders requires such understanding.  If agreements between the churches are to have meaning, they must be based on truthful premises.

But they also require humility in approaching one another.  We can look to today’s first reading for an example.  David humbly refuses to take advantage of Saul, the king of Israel.  He would join the king in the war against Israel’s enemies.  Catholics and Protestants should likewise join forces against enemies like homelessness and anti-religious bigotry.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 18:6-9.19:1-7; Mark 3:7-12)

Jesus keeping his divine origin hidden has been called the “Messianic secret.”  Demons know of it because they have supernatural knowledge.  Humans, in Mark’s gospel, have to figure it out by attention to development.  Peter will reach the conclusion first by Jesus’ works and teachings.  The Roman centurion will come to the same insight after seeing Jesus valiantly suffer and die.

The first reading gives a partial motive for Jesus’ keeping secret his identity.  The people exaggerate David’s accomplishments to make him sound superior to King Saul.  Just so, the people of Jesus’s day would see him as a political leader with potential to overthrow Roman rule.  More than this, however, Jesus has important work to do.  If people see him as a political Messiah, his message work would be attenuated.  Jesus has come to call attention to God’s love self-evident in creation and in loving relationships.  To experience fully this love, he preaches the need for people to let go of pride and covetousness.

It is a hard lesson to drive home.  Especially when people have been severely abused, appreciating God’s love is difficult.  Striving to build up the self with acquisitions becomes paramount to such people.  We must help them to find God’s love by acts of compassion. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

(I Samuel 17:32-33.37.40-51; Mark 3:1-6)

Many issues divide the people of the United States today.  Some see undocumented immigrants not only as legitimately needy people but also a boon to the American economy.  Others find them both draining resources and defiant of the law.  Likewise, people have polar differences regarding government control of health care.  But no issue is as divisive as abortion. “Pro-life” and “pro-choice” are ardent about their causes and ready to create civil unrest to defend them.

Seeing the shape and movement of their fetuses has caused many women contemplating abortion to change their minds.  Yet pregnant women who have already had children sometimes feel incapable of going through the agony of childbirth again.  It is also true that many people support legal abortion as a way to cover up promiscuous sexual relationships.

The Church in the United States has set aside today to reconsider the issue.  We know that women must be supported in the process of giving birth.  We also recognize that sexual intimacy is meant for marriage where a couple can draw closer together in procreating and raising children.  Most of all, we see the inherent dignity of every human life which must never be destroyed because it is unwanted.  So we pray today for the unborn, for women about to undergo the ordeal of childbirth, and for those caught up in promiscuous relationships.  We say a special prayer for legislators that they may provide legal protection for the unborn.  We ask God to give all concerned strength and courage to preserve human life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

(I Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 2:23-28)

Tomorrow you may find in the newspaper a picture of Pope Francis with a pair of lambs.  Traditionally Italian farmers present the pope two lambs on today’s feast of St. Agnes.  The name Agnes sounds like agnus, the Latin word for lamb.  Also, St. Agnes died a virgin martyr whose purity is symbolized by the lamb.

Much like David in the first reading today, Agnes was predestined by God to be a martyr.  This will not seem like blessing to those of little faith.  However, Agnes has enjoined eternal life with her Creator and Redeemer.  She is also memorialized throughout the world and has served as a model for adolescents for centuries.

It may be said that youthful idealism enabled Agnes to give her life as a witness to Christ.  Older people, having grown cautious, often are not willing to make such a sacrifice.  On the other hand, by old age we should have cultivated wisdom to do what is right.  What really matters, however, is not our age but God’s predestinating grace.  If He has ordained that we become saints, then it will happen.  Such grace, however, is not fickle. We can pray for it with hope of receiving it.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 15:16-23; Mark 2:18-22)

In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. published Why We Can’t Wait.  The book answers a question of the time, “Why are Blacks causing so much civil unrest?”  Echoing Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King replied that no man or woman can exist half-slave and half-free.  Such a condition thwarts the mind and kills the soul.  The question answered by King resembles the one posed to Jesus in today’s gospel.

The people wonder why Jesus’ followers never fast from food and drink.  They point to the Pharisees’ disciples who enthusiastically do so.  Jesus’ answer indicates the breath of his mission.  He tells the people that the Kingdom of God is being initiated with his ministry.  This in-breaking needs to be celebrated.  He knows that his life will soon end; then the fasting may begin. His short life may even be considered an extended Sabbath.  People should no more fast during its duration than they should be silent at a social.  In this way the people can recognize his Father’s mercy like his disciples are doing.

Today the United States remembers the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a national holiday.  It may seem pretentious given that he is the only person to be so celebrated annually besides Jesus on Christmas.  However, the injustice which King fought was outrageous, to say nothing of the slavery which precipitated it.  Taking time to consider that and to celebrate the victory over bigotry is both fitting and helpful.  We might also contemplate that more than anyone else, Jesus was King’s inspiration and hope.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Memorial of Saint Anthony of the Desert, abbot

(I Samuel 8:4-7.10-22a; Mark 2:1-12)

Monks are often thought of as men in retreat.  But they do not see themselves in that way.  Rather they recognize their solitary life as a battle with the evil spirits of pride and concupiscence.  If they win, they will have peace with God, nature, self, and others.  Today the Church celebrates the man credited with founding Christian monasticism – Anthony of the Desert. 

As a youth Anthony heard the gospel of the rich man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answered that one has to sell all that he owned, give the money to the poor, and follow him.  The man did not find the wherewithal to fulfill Jesus’ prescription, but Anthony did.  He sold his inherited property, provided for his sister, and gave the rest of the money away.  Then he proceeded to the desert where he exhibited holiness, charity and wisdom.  Anthony’s difficult life did not curtail longevity.  He died at one hundred and four years old.

It is not necessary to enter a monastery to battle pride and concupiscence.  We must engage these nemeses every day of our lives.  However, the struggle cannot be won without asceticism or self-denial.  We have to let go of what others think about us and what are desires tell us we need.  In their places we should make sacrifices for God and others, particularly the poor.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 4:1-11; Mark 1:40-45)

Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross listed “bargaining” as one of the five steps in accepting death.  She wrote that after denial and anger most people will offer a favor to God in exchange for a miracle.  Of course, the maneuver fails.  People cannot manipulate God to give them what they want.  The people of Israel in today’s first reading have to learn this lesson the hard way.

When the Israelites are defeated in battle by the Philistines, they look for a good luck charm.  They settle on bringing the Ark of the Covenant from the shrine at Shiloh.  The ploy fails, however.  God wants His people to live righteous lives.  He will not be manipulated by self-serving shows of honor.  If Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, represent the morality of Israel, the nation has lost God’s favor.  These men notoriously flouted norms of justice in dealing with the people who came to offer sacrifice.   

We should never assume that God will give us what we desire.  A Christian stance would be to ask God to meet a need and to wait in hope for fulfillment.  We are likely to receive what we ask.  But even if we do not, God has not abandoned us.  He will be there in the hour of our greatest need.  In the meantime we continue to serve Him because He is the source of all that we are and have.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 3:1-10.19-20; Mark 1:29-39)

The first reading today takes place in the period of the judges of Israel.  It is a time of frustration because the Israeli nation cannot get control of the land.  Local peoples always threaten to take it back.  The reading tells of Samuel, the judge and prophet, who will eventually anoint David king of all Israel.  David will consolidate the land in the name of Israel and its God.

David’s reign over Israel will serve as a model for Jesus’ proclaiming the kingdom of God throughout the world.   Jesus shows both the power and the will of God by curing diseases and casting out demons.  In today’s gospel, still early in the story, Jesus expresses his intention to preach throughout Galilee.  In time he will bring the message of the kingdom to Judea.  After his death, his apostles will proclaim it throughout the earth.  It is a kingdom of justice and peace or, better, eternal happiness.

The kingdom of God is not political.  It does not vie with men and women to govern the commercial affairs of the people.  Its rule runs deeper than that.  The kingdom of God engages human freedom reorienting it from selfish concerns to love of God and neighbor.  We freely submit to it because it will lead us from frustration to eternal happiness.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 1:9-20; Mark 1:21-28)

God makes a great concession to Moses when He tells him his name.  Now Moses may call on God whenever he desires a favor.  It is like being in a crowd and grabbing the attention of a personality because you call him by a private name.  The unclean spirit in today’s gospel attempts to use the name card on Jesus but without success.

After Jesus teaches “with authority,” he demonstrates the extent of his power.  When he notices a man possessed by the devil, he orders it to leave.  The devil, aware of whom Jesus is, calls him by name.  Of course, everyone knows Jesus’ name.  The unclean spirit, however, knows Jesus by a private name, “the Holy One of God.”  The ploy fails, however, because the kingdom of God has broken in.  The power of evil has been vanquished.  Jesus has effectively shut the evil spirit up.

Jesus has come to reestablish a personal relationship between God and humans.  We will now be heard when we call upon the Father by name.  Or we might call upon Jesus by name to the same effect.  The kingdom that has taken over creates an atmosphere of trust.  God will assist us when we call upon Him with sincerity of heart.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 1:1-8; Mark 1:14-20)

We may wonder how Elkanah, obviously a pious Israelite, could have two wives.  The Mosaic covenant allowed divorce, but it insisted on one wife at a time.  One commentator reasons that at this early stage of Israel’s history, marriage regulation was downplayed.  It was like our Catholic precept of attending mass on holydays of obligation.  Many pastors don’t even announce upcoming days of obligation and provide only one mass.  The commentator further suggests that Elkanah took a second wife in order to assure descendants.

Today’s gospel indicates a contrary dynamic to the concern about descendants.  James and John on hearing Jesus’ call leave their father behind to follow Jesus.  They renounce family for the sake of the kingdom.  Mark’s gospel, as the others, relate the in-breaking of the kingdom with Jesus, the Son of God.  Some may call this development a “big thing.”  That term, however, makes the coming of the kingdom just one important event among others.  The gospel writers are saying, on the other end, that this is the event to end events.  The coming of the kingdom of God represents the end of history.  It merits the abandoning of family concerns.

So we are left to wonder again.  How can history continue if it ended with Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead?  As incredible as it may sound, we live in an “in-between” time waiting for Jesus to return for the ultimate ending.  This is a time for preaching his Lordship so that all human beings may experience his salvation.  It is time for us to prepare for his coming with works of mercy.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday after the Epiphany

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

Why believe in Jesus as the Son of God who gives eternal life?  The first reading from the First Letter of John purports to answer this question.  It calls upon three witnesses.  The first witness is “water.”  Jesus was born of a woman who carried him in her body sack of water.  In other words, he became human.  As human, he possessed God’s favor which allowed him to heal people as seen in today’s gospel.

The second witness is Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.  Jesus showed himself to be God’s Son by dying as a spotless sacrifice for sinners.  St. Paul expresses this truth most clearly when he writes to the Romans: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  His sacrifice made up for human sins.  It allowed those who side with him to become members of God’s family worthy of eternal life.

Finally, the Holy Spirit gives testimony to Jesus.  He spoke through the prophets who foretold Jesus’ coming.  The Spirit also acts in our hearts to resist egoistic tendencies and to practice Jesus’ love for God and neighbor.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Christmas Weekday


(I John 4:19-5:4; Luke 4:14-22)


Fifty-seven years ago John Kennedy inspired the world in his inaugural address.  “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” the young president said, “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage....”   Similar cadence and purpose may be noted in Jesus’ “inaugural address” in the gospel today.


Jesus has returned to his hometown to give his first discourse.  He enters the synagogue, takes the scroll with a passage from Isaiah, and reads. “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,'" he says, "'because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind…”   Then he declares, “’…this prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing.’”  The world can sigh in relief.  Like President Kennedy, Jesus has youth and capability to carry out his project.  More than the thirty-fifth President, his undivided heart will assure its accomplishment.


Kennedy was not a great man because he was Catholic.  However, his faith contributed to his concern for the oppressed, his need to confront evil, and to his loyalty to tradition.  History has shown that he was not perfect.  Nevertheless, to the extent that he pursued gospel renewal, we should aspire to be like him.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Christmas Weekday

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

The Renaissance political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli famously compared fear and love.  He said that for a leader it is good to be both loved and feared.  But, he added, if a leader had to choose one, it is better to be feared than loved.   Fear touches most people more deeply than any other emotion.  It more likely makes a person submit to authority.  Yet both readings today at least hint that God wants to be loved, not feared.

The first reading from I John says that perfect love casts out fear.  It means that when one really loves God, she has nothing to fear.  God will meet all her needs.  In the gospel reading the disciples are terrified when they see what appears to them as a ghost.  Despite knowing Jesus, their love for God is still shallow.  They lack the Holy Spirit.  They cannot yet appreciate that God will meet their every need when they trust Him.

We have received the Holy Spirit through the sacraments.  Yet our love is often meager and our fear substantial.  As a surgeon has to perform an operation dozens of times before he perfects his skill, we need to practice loving God continually.  By prayer, fasting, and study we will come to know God and to love Him.  Then we will fear minimally if at all. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tuesday after the Epiphany

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

Eating until all “were satisfied” describes many households after the Christmas holidays.  But perhaps eating until all were more than satisfied tells a more accurate story.  Many feel relieved that holiday goodies are finally diminished.  Now they can more easily control their diet.  It may seem that today’s gospel’s feeding story is primarily about food.  But the fare that Jesus provides is really greater.

Jesus sees that the people are in need of instruction.  They are lost like “sheep without a shepherd.”  He spends the day teaching them “many things.”  Much more than giving catechism answers, he teaches them how to live righteously.  That is, he instructs them how to love wisely both God and neighbor.  The story of the feeding comes at the end as a symbolic expression of his lessons.  As Jesus feeds the people with bread, he has nourished their souls with wisdom.

We are sensitive to the hungry.  Fortunately, the numbers of hungry people in the world continue to decrease.  It is said that there are more people obese in the world today than hungry.  Yet people still starve to death.  They do so because of war and other forms of pride and hatred.  We Christians should follow our Lord by teaching care for one another.  The lessons begin at home with our families.  They extend wherever we go and beyond to the people we pray for.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monday after Epiphany

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

A biblical commentary points out that Jesus does not really “withdraw to Galilee.”  Rather he, more or less, charges there to take up the torch John the Baptist left upon being arrested.  He preaches the same message as John, “’The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,...’”.  Because Herod Antipas, who arrested John, is still king, Jesus risks a similar fate.

Galilee may be part of old Israel, but it is hardly all-Jewish.  It has been termed a “shadowland.” Gentiles inhabit the land in probably about equal numbers.  Jesus does not preach to them, however, but concentrates on shoring up the faith of the Jews.  He proclaims the kingdom not just with words but with cures and exorcisms as well.  The Jews of Galilee, cut off from the source of their spiritual life in Jerusalem, experience in Jesus a light of hope.

Western culture has become a kind of Galilee, a “shadowland.” Remnants of Christianity exist but the culture is more secular than Christian.  Public schools, for example, do not promote Christian belief nor does entertainment exhibit Christian practice.  In this environment the Church must strive to shore up Christian faith.  It does so by a coherent and compelling explanation of gospel values and by an open practice of its customs.  The Church will then serve, as Jesus, called it, a “the light of the world.”

Friday, January 3, 2020

Friday, Christmas Weekday

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

Even when humans admit to sin, they often present excuses.  They can say that their sins are small compared to others’.  Or they may blame others for causing them to sin.  Sometimes they claim that they could not have avoided the sin.  These excuses or the outright denial of sinning are tragic in a way.  They add up to a denial of the need for a savior from sin.  In other words they separate the persons from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Both readings today emphasize that Jesus came to save humans from their sins.  The first reading says outright, “… (Jesus) was revealed to take away sins…”  In the gospel seeing Jesus, John the Baptist says, “’Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”  That “sin of the world” is nothing less than the collective betrayal of God by every person.

In many places Christmas has degenerated into an end-of-the-year family reunion.  It should be more than that with us Christians.  We celebrate the one who came to take away our sins.  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are being formed into God’s daughters and sons.  The process presumes that we recognize our sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Thursday, January 2, 2019

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

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

Some paintings of the crucifixion include John the Baptist.  “What is he doing there?” we might ask, “Wasn’t he killed before Jesus?”  Of course, he was.  But he is pictured at the cross where his prophecy, made at the beginning of John’s gospel, is realized.  Jesus is the Lamb of God whose sacrifice redeems the world.  By all right he should increase all others must decrease in comparison to him.

Today’s gospel forms the first part of that prophecy.  Little is said here of John baptizing.  John, the evangelist, is not interested in Baptism here, but in the Baptist’s testimony.  In the first century some considered John the long-awaited Messiah.  The evangelist makes it clear that he is not and that Jesus is greater than he. 

People like to exaggerate their own importance.  They talk about their accomplishments or use their money to attract notice.  John the Baptist’s testimony helps us to know better.  As great as he was, he recognizes Jesus as greater.  Jesus, not ourselves, is the one who deserves everyone’s attention and honor.