He will Give You Everything You Need

02-26-2017Weekly Reflections

Pope Francis called us to join in a revolution of tenderness during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. One word for mercy in Hebrew is rahamin, which means a nurturing, life-giving womb. God's merciful, tender, loving care flows from this womb in the imagination of the prophet. Like a loving mother, God watches over us. Then Jesus tells us not to worry about what we are to eat, drink or wear. "Your heavenly Father knows what you need" (Matthew 6:32). This vision challenges us , especially when refugees are drowning trying to reach a place to live in peace, and immigrants live in fear of deportation. God is depending on us to do all we can. Seeking first the kingdom of God means working to bring it about by caring for the weak and powerless. We will not hear the end of the Sermon on the Mount this year, but take a look at Matthew 7:21-27, where Jesus calls his disciples to build their lives on His word so they will have a house that will not collapse.

What efforts are you making to build your life on His word?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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The Spirit of God Dwells in YOU

02-19-2017Weekly Reflections

Paul’s question today provides the foundation on which the other readings can stand: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Paul is writing to the community at Corinth, one characterized by factions, bickering, jealousies, even arguing about whose “spiritual parentage” is greatest. And Paul asks, “Don’t you know who you are? Don’t you know to whom you belong?” by their baptism into the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul argues, the Spirit has been given and dwells in them. God has taken residence in them, individually and communally. We too have to accept and live out of this truth, so we can take in the rest of today’s scriptures, starting with “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy” and “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart” (Leviticus 19:2, 17). We then move on to the seemingly impossible teaching of Jesus not even to resist one who is evil, but to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. How is this possible? Go back to Paul’s question: “Do you not know?”

Do you know this? Do you believe it?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Keep the Commandments and they will SAVE YOU

02-12-2017Weekly Reflections

Jesus' program for becoming children of the kingdom of heaven is presented in a series of contrasts between what the law of Moses commands and how Jesus' teaching brings that law to fulfillment. We hear four such contrasts today. Jesus makes it clear that he has come not to abolish but to fulfill the Mosaic law and the prophets. He challenges us to have our righteousness, that is, our right relationship with God and others, exceed that of the teacher of his day. Today's Gospel contrasts what the law says about murder, adultery, divorce, and taking oaths with Jesus' teaching on these matters. In a world of preemptive strikes, Jesus forbids even anger. For Jesus, reconciliation has priority even over worship; adultery includes yielding to lust for another; and speaking with simplicity and integrity renders oath-taking unnecessary. Sirach encourages us: If we choose, we can keep the commandments and they will save us; if we trust in God, we shall live. Paul refers to God's wisdom as not identified with that of this age.

How is the Spirit calling you to trust that God's wisdom and strength will become yours?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Let Your Light Shine Before Men

02-05-2017Weekly Reflections

Matthew’s Gospel has been called the gospel of the church. His five great discourses are especially aimed at community formation. Matthew’s Jesus sets out how the Christian community is to live with each other and in the world. Today’s two images, following immediately after the Beatitudes, appeal to our imagination, challenging us to be salt and light. Salt both preserves and gives flavor to what it touches. If salt loses its savor, it is useless. Also, the community is light for the world when it does the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and oppressed, clothing the naked. Isaiah promises, “You shall cry for help, and [the Lord] will say: Here I am!” (58:9). Being communities of salt and light is the social mission of the Church. Pope Francis reminds us that as the baptized, we must be missionary disciples. We are called to live the gospel in the world. Just as salt gives flavor and preserves, our holiness flavors society and preserves it from corruption. We must bring the light of Christ; we cannot hide our light under a bushel basket.

Do you want to live like a light that is on or off?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

01-29-2017Weekly Reflections

For the next five Sundays, we will hear from the Sermon on the Mount, the first of five great speeches we hear from Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Since Matthew's community was largely composed of Jewish Christians, the evangelist presents Jesus as the New Moses. Just as Moses was believed to have written the first five books of the Bible, called the Torah, Matthew gives Jesus five great speeches that fulfill the Law of Moses. Notice that Jesus sits down, the posture of a rabbi or teacher, then begins to instruct his followers, called disciples, that is, learners.

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A people who were sitting in darkness have seen a Great Light

01-22-2017Weekly Reflections

With the Christmas season over, we return to Matthew's Gospel during the Sundays between now and Lent, starting with the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. Matthew sets the stage by quoting the prophet Isaiah, today's first reading, applying it to Jesus as he begins to preach his gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (4:17). Jesus along with his message is the great light coming to "people who sit in darkness...dwelling in a land overshadowed by death" (4:16). Immediately, Jesus calls others to join him: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and two other brothers, James and John. He calls them, they respond immediately. The work of Jesus remains the work of the church: teaching and preaching and curing disease and illness. By our Baptism and through the power of the Spirit given to us then, this work unites us and demands our commitment. Jesus, his message, and his work are one and, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, we must not allow any kind of division or rivalry among ourselves to undermine the Lord's work—bringing light and salvation, fullness of life and healing—into our world. Jesus continues to call us.

Do you respond immediately? If not, why not?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Behold, the Lamb of God

01-15-2017Weekly Reflections

The command "Behold" brings us back into Ordinary Time. "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," John the Baptist testifies on sighting Jesus (John 1:29). John is usually presented as the herald of Good News, but here he is the witness. A herald simply announces the news he is given: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But a witness is personally engaged. Here John testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God who will be led to slaughter, sacrificed for the sin of the world. John also testifies that Jesus "ranks ahead of me", Jesus is "the reason why I came baptizing," and the one on whom the Spirit came down (John 1:30, 31).

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Have you witnessed God’s Epiphanies?

01-08-2017Weekly Reflections

The feast of the Epiphany has been called the crowning feast of the Christmas season. Epiphany means a showing or manifestation, referring to God's revealing who God is in Jesus. The story of the magi is Matthew's proclamation to his own mixed community of Jews and Gentiles that in Jesus God came as a savior for all people, and continues to draw all people to search for and find God. In the story this is done through nature (the star) and the scriptures. Today's good news is succinctly captured in the brief reading from Ephesians: God's will is that all people, Gentiles as well as Jews, be "coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus" (3:6). As our own country becomes more diverse with all the promise and challenge this implies, our faith calls us to recognize God as the father of all, who has entrusted creation into our hands to be cherished and tended for the good of all. God continues to draw all to dwell in God's holy city, as Isaiah prophesied.

We may be tempted to think only exotic figures like the magi have seen the epiphanies God offers. But haven't you?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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God sent His Son, Born of a Woman

01-01-2017Weekly Reflections

As a new year begins, we hear first an ancient blessing that continues into our day, offering protection, grace, and peace. Furthermore, we hear that the God of blessing has adopted us as children by sending the Spirit into our hearts, allowing us to call God, Abba, Father. Celebrating Christmas is like throwing a rock into a pond and watching the ripples that flow out from it. Christmas Day focuses on the gift of Jesus, true God, true man. The feast of the Holy Family reminds us how the Christ event impacts the family, enabling it to be holy. Today we celebrate Mary, the mother of God and of the Church. The Church continues to learn from Mary how to bring Christ into the world. Today’s Gospel again presents Mary as one who reflects, who ponders what others tell her. The shepherds brought her the angel’s message about the child: He is the savior born for all people. It is the work of the Church and all its members to reflect on this mystery and witness to it in the world.

What can Mary teach you about her Son?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Glory to God in the Highest

12-25-2016Weekly Reflections

When Judy Garland first saw the lyrics to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for the film Meet me in St. Louis, she said they were too gloomy, even though they reflected a family's real sadness at leaving their home. The original lyrics expressed true despair, so she persuaded composer Hugh Martin to change them to a more hopeful tone, the words we all know today. The human spirit wants to hope and that's what the Christmas story gives us, proclaiming God's love in becoming one with us in Jesus. The best Christmas song remains the original: "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests" (Luke 2:14).

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Are you being obedient to your faith?

12-18-2016Weekly Reflections

Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass as pope on the feast of Saint Joseph. In his homily, he held up Joseph as one who models mercy for us by being the protector of Mary and Jesus. By taking Mary into his home as his wife and giving the child the name Jesus, Joseph cooperates with the Spirit of God, who is bringing about a new creation. Unlike King Ahaz who backed away from working with the prophet who came in God's name, Joseph does angel's biding. Pope Francis preached that we can see immense tenderness in Joseph's heart. Because of that tenderness, a child is born who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, and a pattern is set: God chooses to work through human beings to bring salvation and new life to the world. On our part, we are invited to participate in what Saint Paul calls "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5), made possible by the grace God so lavishly bestows on us so we might know and do God's will.

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He will come again!

12-11-2016Weekly Reflections

Pope Francis says the gospel constantly calls us to rejoice. That is certainly true today. Isaiah's vision promises a healing of two bodies: the earth's body and the human body. What was a parched and dry desert will blossom and bloom. Glory and splendor will replace gloom and sorrow. Feeble hands and weak knees, the blind and the deaf, the lame and the mute—all will meet with joy and gladness. When will all this come about? When God comes, says Isaiah. Then Luke proclaims: This has happened in Jesus of Nazareth, in the person of a carpenter-preacher-healer-exorcist-Savior, once crucified, then raised, and who promises to come again. Can you hold on to this? The Letter of James counsels patience, a word rooted in the Latin word for suffering. One must suffer waiting for a new world's arrival. But joy is found even now because the Lord visits his waiting people in word and sacrament, and in others. This Sunday allows for wearing rose vestments as a sign of the coming joy Advent promises: "He will come again."

Where do you find this joy in your life?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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Repent: Change your Heart

12-04-2016Weekly Reflections

"Repent. Change your heart." On two Sundays every Advent, John the Baptist comes before us with his message calling for a change of heart, for doing what will transform us from a people caught up in our own pursuits to a community open to the dawning of a new age focused on Jesus Christ. John castigates the religious leaders who came out to the wilderness to hear him but whose hearts were far from being open to change. Calling them a brood of vipers would not have won them over, but he accurately declared that the hiding behind a claim to be descendants of Abraham would not gain them the kingdom of heaven either. What was needed was a full-fledged conversion of heart, a pilgrimage to the interior desert where God could woo and win them. The farseeing vision of the prophet Isaiah of one who would come in the power of the Spirit has been fulfilled in Christ. May the Scriptures encourage us to endure in hope, as Paul writes, so we may glorify the God and the Father of Jesus Christ.

How is the Holy Spirit guiding you to renew your heart and your hope during Advent?

—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1

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