Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent ©, March 24th, 2019:
The readings today give us a very good description of the God who loves us so much. God is holy. In the first reading from Deuteronomy, God tells Moses “Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground”(Deut 3:5). God’s presence alone makes the ground holy. God is also actively concerned. God tells Moses “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering”(Deut 3:7). Another characteristic is that this God reveals Himself. Moses notices the burning bush. He was simply tending sheep when God called him. God is also compassionate. He watches closely, lovingly. God’s name reveals being. God being means active participation and involvement. Yahweh will act on behalf of His people. He also forgives and protects. God is faithful to those who are faithful to His covenant. He is also just.
The Psalm tells us how we should react to this loving God. We ought to bless the Lord with our very souls. We ought to bless his holy name (Ps 103:1). We ought to pay God respectful conduct.
St. Paul also gives us directions on how to act towards our loving God. He tells the Corinthians to be careful and fervent. Always hold onto our love for Jesus Christ and the state of sanctifying grace in our souls. In other words, guard against complacency. St. Paul writes: “Therefore whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall”(1Cor 10:12). Complacency is defined as “secure satisfaction with oneself and one’s lot.” That is a dangerous place to be. St. Paul warns the Corinthians to avoid idolatry. He says don’t be so smug that you think you can participate in idolatry and keep your blessed relationship with Jesus Christ. St. Paul tells the Corinthians about the Israelites during the Exodus. He says they rebelled and God punished them. St. Paul tells the Corinthians to learn from Israel’s mistakes. God led them through the Red Sea and gave them manna. These acts are blessings which show God’s active involvement in His care for His people. But God punished them because they worshipped idols, turned away from God, and grumbled against Him. St. Paul says their story is in Sacred Scripture as an example of people not to follow, imitate. He tells the Corinthians that they have received superior blessings to the Israelites. They have received the sacraments of this Church. So he tells them to not be complacent, overconfident, and complacent in the face of anything connected with idolatry. Then, St. Paul intensifies his warning to the Corinthians. St. Paul tells them that God delivered all the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. But most of them perished in the desert. God destroyed them in His wrath because they decided to serve false gods instead of Him. The Scriptures show the Israelites as examples to avoid.
Jesus shows that God His Father is slow to anger. But Jesus Christ in today’s gospel encourages repentance from sin. Jesus wants us to repent now. Jesus requires decision and reform from us. He says in the present age, neither disaster nor good fortune indicates a man’s spiritual state. But those who are evil will certainly experience disaster in the coming judgment. Jesus tells those people in today’s gospel the parable of the fig tree. He says “But I tell you, if you do not repent (now), you will all perish as they did”(Lk 13:5). Jesus says now is the time to produce fruit/evidence of a life dedicated to God. The time might even be extended as it was for the fig tree. But ultimately, God’s judgment will come. So Jesus urges immediate repentance. He says to ignore, neglect, or reject His call to repentance is to invite disaster. Holy Mother Church, in her infinite wisdom, has even set aside time for us to do that. It is called Lent. This is a time of grace and prayer for each of us individually and collectively. It is given to us because God is slow to anger and of great kindness. But we must guard against complacency. Complacency hardens our hearts and makes us unresponsive to God’s grace. So, do you really want to know why this Church requires you to fast, pray, and give alms? It is to guard against complacency. It is to prompt us to repent immediately. It is to love Jesus unreservedly. It is to bring us close to Him and to keep us there.
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent ©, March 17th, 2019:
Today’s readings deal with transformation. “Transformation” is defined as “to change in composition or structure” or “to change the outward form or appearance of” or “to change in character or condition.” All three of those definitions fit. To “transfigure” means “to change the form or appearance of” and “to exalt or glorify.” Those definitions fit too.
The reading from Genesis shows God promising Abram descendants and land. Remember last week’s reading from Deuteronomy. Abram is the wandering Aramean, and ancestor of the Jews who receives the land God promises him in today’s reading. Abram is old and childless. God promises him descendants as numerous as the stars. It says that “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness”(Gen 15:6). So we can see from this reading that Abram now has complete trust in the Lord and he is righteous. These are two attributes that we can identify in Abram because of what his reaction to God’s promise is. From there Abram trusts Yahweh completely and moves beyond his anxiety and doubts. Abram’s total reliance on Yahweh puts him in right relationship with Yahweh. Yahweh promises Abram a son who will be his heir. This heir will be the biological son of Abram and Sara. His name is Isaac. The Lord enters into a covenant with Abram to make it happen. Yahweh will do what He promises to do. Psalm 27 describes the type of faith and trust Abram has placed in God and His promise.
St. Paul also encourages the Philippians to transform themselves in the Christian life they live. St. Paul tells them that their citizenship is in heaven. They await their Savior, Jesus Christ, who will come in glory as our Savior from heaven. St. Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him and others in the community who live like he does. He models his own life after Jesus Christ so he appeals to the Philippians to follow his example. Conform your lives after Jesus by conforming your lives after fellow Catholics who also conform themselves to Jesus. We have many models to choose from. They’re called saints. That’s why we have them. That’s why we remember them. That’s why we venerate them. That’s why we must imitate them and their love for Jesus.
St. Paul also tells why he wants the Philippians to imitate him and conform themselves to Christ. They must stand firm to withstand those who are enemies to Christ. He does not want them to give way to their opponents, who attack and deride their Christian faith, and pursue their own worldly pleasures. St. Paul says those enemies hold themselves back from heaven and hasten their own doom. Then St. Paul says that when Jesus comes again on the last day, He will change our bodies and glorify and immortalize them. They/we will have bodies like Christ’s.
Jesus Himself is transformed, transfigured. It happens as He is praying, in front of Peter, James, and John. Jesus Himself trusts God His Father. Jesus will do His Father’s will, which is to suffer, to be rejected by God’s Chosen People, to die on a Cross, and to rise on the third day. Then Jesus will be glorified but only after His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. God the Father calls Jesus “my chosen Son” and then says to us, “listen to Him”(Luke 9:35). God the Father tells us who to listen to and who to imitate so that we are transformed and transfigured too: Jesus Christ, His Words, His teachings in His Church, this one, the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus must be followed just as the Israelites once followed Moses.
We take from this our own promise to obey Jesus and be transformed into images of Him, by Him. Why? For our salvation, of course. But also to remember who we are, and who we pledge our allegiance and love to. We do that to Jesus, by being here and by stating our belief in the creed we will pray and recite next.
Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, ©, March 10, 2019:
This first Sunday of Lent, may we remember who we are. We need to remember who we are because there is still a little bit of the devil within me. Lent is our time to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us. We do that by overcoming sin in our lives. So, how do we do that? Today’s Bible readings help us.
From the first reading from Deuteronomy, the Israelites conducted a ritual to thank God for His blessings of land and freedom. There is a creed in that ritual that the Old Testament Jews recited to remember who they were: “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,…we cried to the Lord,…He brought us out of Egypt…bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey”(Deut 26:5-9). The Israelites sinned when they forgot who they were and what God had done for them. They forgot the greatest miracle in the Old Testament, the Exodus, and sinned. We do the same. We forget the central belief in our creed, that Jesus Christ died and rose for us. Then, we sin. Lent is a time for us to remember Jesus’s passion and death, so that remembering, we repent of sin. Then, when we celebrate the central belief of our creed, the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter vigil, we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus Christ. The core of this reading from Deuteronomy is the Israelite making an annual offering before the Lord. The worshipers remember their origin as a people without land or freedom. They are now free to give a tithe to the Lord only because God freed their ancestors from the Egyptians, then gave them a bountiful harvest and land as their new home. This was part of a tithing ritual in the Temple. After this ritual, the entire group assembled by this successful farmer celebrated God’s bountiful love by sharing a meal. That should ring a bell for us: the liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Make it your top priority this Lent to come to Sunday Mass, to confess your sins, and to receive Jesus bodily in Eucharist. That is a successful formula to help us to overcome sin.
St. Paul writes to the Romans that Jesus Christ is the end of the Law. Faith in Him is the righteousness that counts. Jesus Christ has come to us, has died, and risen from the dead. God’s salvation is available in Jesus Christ. St. Paul emphasizes that no one who places faith in Jesus will be cheated or confounded. Placing faith in Jesus Christ is us remembering who we are, placing our faith in this central creed. It is important to recognize and declare Jesus Christ as Lord, a phrase very likely borrowed from early church worship. We remember who we are and what Jesus Christ has done for us by coming here, to the Sunday Mass.
Finally, in today’s gospel from St. Luke, Jesus is tempted in the desert. Jesus’s forty days in the desert are meant to parallel Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus. It was a time of testing and failure by the Israelites. It was a time of testing and remaining faithful to the Father by Jesus. By allegory, Jesus goes into the wilderness of the desert to rescue man from his exile in sin. Christ wrests man from Satan’s grip.
Jesus saves us. He came to us, died for us, then rose from the dead to return us to God His Father. That is the central part of our creed, our faith. When we remember that, we stay faithful and through Jesus, overcome sin. That’s what this Lent is all about. That is why we fast, pray, and give alms. The devil tries to divert Jesus from His central mission of suffering for us to enjoying earthly power for Himself. The devil fails. Jesus remembers who He is. The worshiping Israelite who gives tithes remembers who he is. May we do the same and place our faith in Jesus Christ, who saves us.
Homily for Ash Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 ©:
The individual and the community are urged to return to God through conversion and repentance. That message becomes very clear in today’s readings.
First, the psalm reading is the famous lament of Psalm 51. It is believed that King David wrote that psalm after committing adultery with a married woman and then arranging for her husband’s murder, when he cannot cover up her pregnancy by him (David). The psalmist prays to God and asks God to deliver him from sin. This offender relies exclusively on God’s fidelity and graciousness. He also admits that his guilt and suffering are deserved and self-inflicted. But the psalmist wants more. He prays for removal of sin but he also asks for a state of nearness to God Himself. It is a joyful state that this author wants God to renew for him. He promises that he will speak from personal experience to other estranged sinners about God’s gracious forgiveness. He will speak this to all people who are banished from God’s presence.
The first reading from the prophet Joel encourages the Israelite community to return to God. “Even now…return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;…”(Joel 2:12). The prophet Joel urges the Israelites to return “even now” because “For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment”(Joel 2:13). The verses in this Old Testament reading suggest an immediate response to the coming day of the Lord. The prophet urges the entire community to lament her sinfulness. “Even now” suggests that God will consider an action other than destruction and gloom. “Even now” offers hope to the sinful Israelite community. God is calling Israelites to return to Him with their entire being. Participation in a communal liturgy of lament for their sins is encouraged to express the community’s collective and universal commitment to God. God might yet relent. Because God might yet relent from punishing the Israelites, The prophet Joel’s call to the Israelites to lament their sins is urgent. This call includes everyone. This is a call to universal, communal repentance. Everyone is required to repent: children, infants, brides, and bridegrooms and others. This is urgent for the Israelite community and it is urgent for the individual sinner, represented in the psalm.
Yet, Jesus tells us to perform religious acts to honor God, not themselves. Jesus criticizes pious self-display. Jesus does not condemn the pious act itself. Jesus wants His disciples so free from self-showiness that they don’t even know what they are giving. Jesus also encourages His disciples to avoid making a public spectacle of themselves in prayer. Jesus promises that God will reward genuine, sincere prayer offered to Him sincerely. Jesus does not criticize public prayer. Jesus also condemns the public display of fasting, not fasting itself. Jesus tells His disciples to prepare to fast as if they’re preparing for a holiday.
So, God is calling us to repent, both publicly and privately and shows us how to do it in the privacy of our own home and in public.
Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, ©, February 24, 2019:
My mother used to say that an apple never falls far from the tree. She’d say that about someone who did the same things that his or her parents did. Jesus touches on the same saying in today’s gospel. A true Christian bears the mark of Christ’s and God’s radical love. It is love of one’s enemies that is the true test of discipleship. It is faith in God that is the foundation for this radical discipleship.
The Scripture commentary I looked at for this gospel reading from St. Luke points out that Jesus says “love,” “do good,” and “give” or “lend” three times each. It is in verse 35 that Jesus says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” In verse 36 Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Jesus expects us to not fall far from the tree. We must be compassionate, forgiving of offenses, withholding of condemnation and judgment, and to be generous without regard to the cost. God has done as much for us. In Hebrew thought, parents reproduce character traits in their children. Jesus applies this to God’s family. Just as God, His Father, is forgiving and loving, so His children must imitate His kindness toward all without any type of discrimination.
What Jesus tells His disciples is revolutionary. Jesus tells them and us to love our enemies. Jesus expands the act of charity in His New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, loving one’s neighbor meant loving everyone within the covenantal family of Israel. That’s it.
Jesus also warns against retaliation. He says Christians must be willing to part with possessions in the face of persecution by their oppressors.
Jesus also establishes mercy as the identifying rule of His kingdom. In the Old Covenant, God commanded His people, the Israelites, to be holy. God ordered the Israelites to be holy by separating themselves from everything that was ungodly, unclean, and impure, and everyone. That included Gentiles and sinners. That’s why the Pharisees question Jesus about eating and drinking with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Jesus gives holiness a new focus. Jesus defines holiness as unqualified, universal mercy. Jesus commands His disciples (and us) to “Be merciful,…”(Lk 6:36). Jesus’s idea of being merciful is to reach out to others and to no longer divide people into separate groups that would justify withholding mercy from some and giving mercy to others, thereby preventing some from entering God’s family.
Quite frankly, we see this type of love and mercy in today’s first reading. David shows mercy to King Saul, an enemy, who regards David as his personal enemy. David and Abishai enter Saul’s camp undetected. They come upon King Saul, sleeping, with his personal spear jammed into the ground by his head. Abishai wants to run it through Saul’s head. And there is nothing to stop him, except David. Remember that Saul had thrown his spear at David earlier, in a fit of rage. David could exact his revenge right here, right now. David says no. His reason is that he must respect and sacredness of a king anointed by God Himself. King Saul is Israel’s first king. God chose Saul and anointed him king. David will respect that and spare the life of King Saul. That is important. It is mercy and restraint from retaliation that David enacts and which Jesus expects us to enact to be holy and God-like. We must not fall far from the tree.
And finally, if we do this, then God will overflow His mercy on our behalf when we ask Him for mercy for ourselves.
It requires a major transformation in us to do this. But if we do, then we won’t fall far from the tree and quite frankly, we will embrace and make visible the character traits in our actions that God Himself enacts toward us AND that HE WANTS TO ENACT toward us.
Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, ©, February 17th, 2019:
The anchor of our faith is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. It is Jesus Christ who is our only Savior. He is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He is human and He is divine. It is Jesus’s Resurrection from the dead that makes Him completely unique. Jesus’s salvation is bound up in His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’s apostles and disciples preached Jesus dead and resurrected from the dead. Only one man has come back from the dead and that is Jesus Christ. Salvation is bound up in Him and Him alone. That’s the saving gospel message. Those who place their faith in Jesus will rise.
St. Paul writes that to the Corinthian Christians. St. Paul argues this because there are some Corinthians who do not believe in resurrection from the dead. St. Paul says if the dead are not resurrected, then neither was Christ resurrected. St. Paul says this is absurd. He argues that our resurrection hinges on Christ’s resurrection. If those who have died have no hope of resurrection, then we are truly hopeless. St. Paul argues that if we have only this life, we are doomed to despair and absurdity. That’s why St. Paul says the Corinthian theory of no resurrection is nothing but a dead end. Our resurrection stands or falls on Christ’s resurrection. St. Paul criticizes the Corinthians who do not believe in the resurrection for falling away from the gospel truth in a way that breaks with Apostolic preaching and tradition. Remember last week when St. Paul said that he handed on to the Corinthians what he also received, the teaching of Church tradition in accordance with the Scriptures. If Corinthians do not believe in resurrection, they are breaking up the faith. St. Paul says their message of resurrection has value only if it is true. There is no other alternative for St. Paul. He sums up his argument by asserting that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. So that’s the message. That is why we’re here to praise and worship Jesus Christ. He has risen from the dead. No one else has, yet. But we will if we have faith in Him and His Resurrection. This is important because St. Paul sets up an either-or argument. Either we are filled with hope because of Jesus’s Resurrection or filled with disillusion and hopelessness if He has not.
It is at this point that we can see some of the either-or in the other readings today. Jeremiah prophesies that the one who turns his heart away from the Lord is cursed, like a barren bush in the desert. But the one who trusts in the Lord is like a fruitful tree whose leaves stay green even during the drought. In persecution/drought, it still yields fruit. Psalm One says the man who delights in the law of the Lord is constant, and fruitful. But the wicked will be driven away by the wind. They will perish. And Jesus Himself uses the same argument. Jesus says the rich will be woeful someday. They have put their trust in human beings instead of the Son of Man. They have been flattered falsely and have been deluded. Rather, Jesus says the people who are poor, hungry, are weeping and are hated because of Him will one day rejoice. The Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs.
It is an either-or choice for you and me. But Jesus warns us that if we choose Him, to live in Him now, we will be persecuted now by false prophets and those who enjoy their false prophecies. But there will be an end. That end will be in happiness for us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. That end will be resurrection. And that is the best reason to stay strong in your faith in Jesus Christ in this church and her traditional teachings which extend all the way back to Jesus Christ Himself.
Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time ©, February 10th, 2019:
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, and Luke 5:1-11.
By Father Scott Karnik
These Sunday readings tell us about vocations. In Isaiah’s reading and in St. Luke’s gospel reading, the dictionary definition of “vocation” fits well. “Vocation” is defined as “a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action; especially a divine call to the religious life.” Another word that applies here is “call.” “Call” is defined as “a request or command to assemble” or “an invitation to become the minister of a church or to accept a professional appointment.” Both Isaiah and St. Peter receive their vocations in today’s readings. So to discuss priestly vocations or vocations to religious life is appropriate today.
Isaiah receives his vocation in a vision. Isaiah’s vision is an ecstatic experience that occurred probably in the Jerusalem Temple. Isaiah’s vision is an inaugural vision. Isaiah’s prophetic career started with this vocation from a vision of God. Isaiah is transformed. Isaiah’s claim to have seen God would lend authority to his message, since people would resist it. A vision directly from God would have pre-eminence over any human institution, including kingship. Isaiah’s vision is also his testimony of how he was called to be a prophet and who called him. Isaiah immediately notices that God is supremely holy, superlatively holy. Isaiah immediately confesses his personal impurity, his sinfulness. In the Old Testament, to be holy means to be separated from whatever is base, impure, or sinful. God is so superlatively holy that He is separate from His creatures, namely Isaiah. God’s remedy is drastic. An angel burns Isaiah’s lips. This cleansing enables Isaiah to prophesy for God. The Scripture commentary I looked studied says Isaiah will announce to Judah that God will soon judge it for its sinfulness. It is inevitable. But the good news is that there will remain a faithful remnant. This remnant of Judah will have a future. The majority of Judah will be destroyed but the destruction will purify the remnant. That is Isaiah’s message and this vision is his vocation to it.
Jesus gives St. Peter his vocation in today’s gospel. He is Simon, the fisherman. Jesus calls Simon to obedience through faith. Jesus tells Simon to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”(Lk 5:4). Simon is very skeptical but his bottom line is “But at your word I will let down the nets”(Lk 5:5). Simon places his trust in Jesus. The result is breath taking. Notice that immediately after this St. Luke calls Simon “Peter” for the first time (Lk 5:8). Simon will be called “Peter” as head of the Church. Peter’s act of faith opens his eyes to who Jesus really is. Simon-Peter’s act of faith makes him the rock on which Jesus Christ’s Church is built. Simon Peter knows the distance between his sinful self and Jesus, the “Lord”(Lk 5:8). He realizes that Jesus is divine. That’s what Jesus’s miraculous catch of fish is designed to do, to show the virtue of His divinity. To the Jewish mind, any power of command over the sea and its creatures suggests divine power. He realizes that Jesus Christ stands in a unique relationship with God. And Jesus calls Simon Peter to share in His Mission. Jesus’s mission is to cast out sin and enable God to reign in the souls of men. Peter and others in this church accomplish Jesus’s mission by preaching the gospel. Notice in St. Luke’s reading, he writes this: While the people pressed upon him (Jesus) to hear the word of God,….(Lk 5:1). The gospel that Peter and his fellow apostles and disciples, and St. Paul, preach has the power to save. The gospel is not a doctrine or a simple teaching. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that even now the gospel is saving them if they obey what he has taught them. And this is a very important point. St. Paul writes “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,…(1 Cor 15:3). St. Paul says he delivered to the Corinthians what he also received by his transmission of oral and liturgical tradition. St. Paul, Peter, and other apostles and disciples teach the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. What St. Paul taught to the Corinthians was taught to him. St. Paul bases the gospel on the firm ground of the Church tradition which goes all the way back to Jesus Christ’s life on earth, to Jesus Christ Himself. The center of Holy Mother Church’s teaching is Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Old Testament scriptures promised a messiah who would save us from our sins. This is what Jesus Christ’s death accomplished and this is what Holy Mother Church has taught since Christ’s earthly life. St. Paul also writes that he has been called to be an apostle because of God’s grace in him, not because of any personal merit. By the grace of God St. Paul preaches and teaches and by the grace of God, the Corinthians believed.
(***At the next Mass, Fr. Al Bitz will preach. He is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Fr. Bitz is a former pastor here. Fr. Bitz answered his vocational call from Jesus. At 12:30, there will be a mass to celebrate the Vietnamese new year. A Vietnamese priest will celebrate it. He answered his call from Jesus. And this evening at the bishop’s residence, there will be an Operation Andrew dinner. The bishop will host men from this region who are considering a call to priesthood for the Fargo diocese.***). God’s grace is at work in this church. Please pray for vocations and support them through a generous gift to God’s Gift Appeal 2019. You’ll hear more about that later in this mass. A vocation, a vision, and a call are all part of God seeking out holy men for priesthood and holy women for religious life. If you think you have one, pray and actively seek it out. “But at your command, I will let down the nets.”
Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: February 3, 2019:
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1Corinthians 12:1-13:13 & Luke4:21-30
Fr. Scott Karnik
God shows us the anatomy of a call to a personal vocation in today’s reading from Jeremiah. And in Luke’s gospel reading today, we see what happens to someone who obediently and sincerely obeys God’s call.
The reading from Jeremiah, Chapter One is powerful. It is God talking directly to one of Israel’s greatest prophets. God calls Jeremiah directly and commissions Jeremiah to be a prophet. Jeremiah will be a prophet to the Jews and to the Gentiles. God’s words to Jeremiah are powerful: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you”(Jeremiah 1:4-5). The eternal God calls Jeremiah. Jeremiah has no merit for God’s call. Every person born is part of God’s providence. God knew Jeremiah. God selected Jeremiah for this specific mission before Jeremiah was even conceived. God “formed” Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. “Formed” describes what a potter does when modelling clay. God gives Jeremiah-and each person He conceives and forms-the gifts and talents to enact the specific plan He ordains that person with. God consecrated and earmarked Jeremiah for His service, to be a prophet to the Jews and the Gentiles. God knew Jeremiah first, then consecrated Jeremiah for this specific plan. Jeremiah will suffer greatly as he prophesies. But God will stay faithful to Jeremiah. God reassures Jeremiah that he will prevail over his enemies. Jeremiah’s mission is to reproach the Jews for their sinfulness and to explain the reasons for the events, to include the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the Jews’ exile to Babylon. Jewish spoken history claims that Jews from Jerusalem took Jeremiah to Egypt. There, they stoned him to death. This is the obvious reason why abortion is so sinful and so wrong. God works through people, through every eternal soul He creates. God knows each eternal soul before he or she is conceived. God consecrates each eternal soul for a specific mission. To destroy that person before birth precludes the specific work God intended for that eternal soul. To persist in this bloody, horrible sin, flies and spits in the face of our loving and merciful God. It is an insult that is felt deeply by the Triune God we worship.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells His fellow Nazoreans that the proclamation prophesied by Isaiah is now being fulfilled by Him. He is the prophet and the messiah who will initiate a new age of divine favor and freedom. Jesus says this day has come. He fulfills it. The Nazoreans are impressed. But then someone asks “Is not this Joseph’s son?”(Luke 4:22). They were skeptical of Jesus’s proclaimed credentials to accomplish all of this. They think Jesus is unqualified to inaugurate Israel’s national liberation. He’s the carpenter’s son. Jesus answers by placing Himself in the company of Old Testament prophets whom Israelites rejected and killed. The Israelites then were very sinful so God blessed the Gentiles instead. Jesus mentions the widow of Sidon and Naaman, the Syrian. That infuriates the Nazoreans. He tells them that the fact that they are Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that God will be favorable to them. It is the same with us. Just because we print “In God we trust” on our money doesn’t mean that God has an unlimited tolerance for our sinfulness, including abortion. In the Old Testament, God punished the Israelites and the people of Judah for their sinfulness. In the New Testament, Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple. That happened in 70 A.D. and it stays leveled to this day. What Jesus says in the synagogue requires our conversion. It requires a rooting out of our sins from our souls. Jesus will help us. In fact, Jesus is eager to help us. Later in this gospel, the Jews will decisively reject Jesus. They will have the Romans execute Him. It appears that Jesus is destroyed. But Jesus will emerge victorious in the stunning reality of His resurrection from the dead. May we too be resurrected through Jesus and through our turning away from the sins which besiege us. Jesus is eager to help. Remember that if you have had an abortion of have encouraged someone to do so, Jesus loves you, Jesus forgives you, and you can have hope. There are many resources available in the Roman Catholic Church to help you heal. Jesus Christ is present in the great sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to bring you back into a wonderful state of grace and good standing with Him. Contact your local Catholic Church for help. Remember, Jesus loves you, Jesus forgives you, you can have hope. Please pray the Most Holy Rosary everyday for the intention of ending the sin of abortion in the United States of America. Praised by Jesus Christ, now and forever.
Homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time ©, January 27th, 2019:
Something should become very clear for us who have listened to the first reading from the Book of Nehemiah. It is the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. What I mean is the responses of the people to Ezra reading the Law.
First, consider their responses to Ezra reading the Law to them in public. They listen attentively and they see the scroll being read. “…and, as he opened it, all the people rose”(Nehemiah 8:5). The people also respond “Amen” when “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered “Amen, amen!”(Nehemiah 8:6). “Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground”(Nehemiah 8:6). The people listened attentively to the words of the Law being read by Ezra (Nehemiah 8:3). They actively engaged themselves. We see here some connection, scripturally, to some of our actions during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. All kinds of bells should go off as we listen to this reading.
But this reading goes deeper. The author emphasizes the community-centeredness of this event, which occurred after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile. The community is described as “…men, women, and children old enough to understand”(Nehemiah 8:2-3). The author writes this in verse 2 and repeats it in verse 3. This reading is a community-centered event that the people actively participated in, from beginning to end. The writer shows that the Jewish community knowingly and willingly accepted the Law of Moses. So the people accepted the Law and wanted to obey it. They wanted to repent from any and all sinful disobedience of the Law. They wept when Ezra read them the Law (Nehemiah 8:9). They lifted up their hands and answered Amen. The raising up of their hands shows approval and solidarity by the community. They knowingly and willingly accept the Law of Moses.
Notice that it is the scribe/priest who reads and interprets the Law of Moses to the people. They do not do this on their own. That speaks volumes. To keep the community centered and unified in their worship, they need someone over them to read and explain the Law to them and to conduct and direct their liturgical worship. That is the priest. Otherwise you would have as many different worship ceremonies as you have Christian denominations today. The Law directed the community’s attention to the life of worship. “Today is holy to the Lord your God”(Nehemiah 8:9). But Ezra encouraged the community to view the liturgical reading of the Law as a source of life and strength, not condemnation (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The one final point comes from verse one, which is not in today’s first reading. The people wanted Ezra the scribe to read them the Law. They sought this. They wanted to hear this; “…and they called upon Ezra the scribe to bring forth the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had commanded for Israel”(Nehemiah 8:1). They wanted this.
There are parallels for us here today who are here celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. First, we have our own physical gestures during various parts of the Mass, to show our acceptance of God’s Word and His Son Jesus Christ in Eucharist. Our praise and worship of Jesus Christ, really and truly present here in Eucharist and His presence in Sacred Scripture, should direct our attention to liturgical worship of Him. Second, this liturgical worship is meant to have a coagulating effect on us just as it did on the Jewish community in Nehemiah’s time. It is meant to unite us in one church and one faith to each other and to Jesus Himself, to His Mystical Body, the Church. Liturgy has a unifying effect for those who actively seek, find, and participate in, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Praise and worship of Jesus Christ at Mass unifies us, enlivens us, and gives us joy.
Third, nothing and no one is hidden from God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. The people wept as Ezra read the Law because they realized how they and their parents and grandparents had disobeyed the Law. God’s Word “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12). In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the part where God’s Word is read, reflected, prayed, read, and celebrated is called the Liturgy of the Word. We are in that portion of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass now. And fourth, may we seek this, just as the Jews did in Nehemiah’s time. Ezra encouraged the Jews of his time to view the liturgical reading of the Law as a source of life and strength, not condemnation. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is praise and worship of our Savior, Jesus Christ who loves us and saves us in His Own Blood. Notice that those who don’t attend Mass isolate themselves. That isolation harms them. Their isolation centers their souls on themselves. They say “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” I get more out of a sunrise, a really big tree, or a really nice fishing lake. But they don’t receive Jesus Christ Himself. You can only receive Jesus in a liturgical event here, in church, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You contact Jesus here, in liturgy, not anywhere else in His wonderful creation. And Jesus’s contact with us is soul-to-soul contact. You can’t get any closer than that.
I’m preaching to the choir but I am asking you to evangelize this part of our beautiful Roman Catholic faith to others. Evangelize this to the many Catholics who don’t attend Mass anymore, for who knows what reason. Evangelize this to our brothers and sisters in other faiths. We have faith in Jesus. That’s why we are here, to listen to His word and to receive Him in Eucharist. We have faith in Jesus’s presence in both. So if we have that faith, may we share that and be fully confident that Jesus Christ will do His saving work for everyone who comes here, who seeks Jesus out in Sacred Scripture and in the Sacrament of Eucharist. May we seek Him out here just as the Jews did in Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time. We will find Him, or rather, He will find us.
Homily for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time ©, January 20th, 2019:
This gospel reading is a happy one. It involves a wedding and Jesus’s presence and His Mother’s at it. It involves a happy ending to a problem. Jesus solves that problem by performing His very first miracle in public. He did it because His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, asked Him to. There are numerous directions one can go to discuss this gospel passage. But the obvious one is to discuss the Eucharistic image of this first public miracle of Jesus Christ. That Eucharistic image appears when Jesus changes water into wine. Jesus makes this change. Jesus rescues a bride and groom from peril. Their peril is the humiliating embarrassment of failing at hospitality. That is the immediate scene.
But St. John shows a bigger picture here. It is the sign of Jesus Christ, God’s Own Son, beginning a messianic age. It is the age of Himself and His salvation. Jesus changes the water used for Old Testament ceremonial washings into wine of the highest quality. This is the good stuff. Notice how big the stone jars are. There is a plentiful amount of this high-class wine, enough to serve everyone. Jesus changes the water into the wine. The old has passed into the new. Jesus’s first public miracle begins the new era of the Messiah, who has come in the identity of Jesus Christ, Savior. That is important for us today.
The second sign St. John shows in this gospel reading is the glory of God’s presence appearing to us. At the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, God’s presence is manifested in His Own Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals God the Father’s presence, His love, His forgiveness, and His mercy for us, in His very self.
The third sign St. John shows is Jesus changing one substance completely into another, water to wine. It is a precursor of the great exchange. It is a scene of Jesus changing unleavened bread into His own Body and wine into His own Blood for us to consume for our eternal life. And the wedding feast is a precursor of the messianic banquet of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Those come together here. They come together in the Eucharistic theology that this Church expresses her faith in. When we enter the beautiful sacrament of confession to seek Jesus’s forgiveness of our sins, we are drawn here, to this messianic banquet of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is here that we receive Jesus Christ in the beautiful sacrament of Jesus’s Body and Jesus’s Blood, which gives us eternal life. He restores eternal life to us. Notice what He does for us. Jesus rescues us from danger and peril. Jesus rescues us from the death of sin. He does this. No one else does. Only Jesus saves. He saves us through His Own Body and Blood, shed on the Cross and now re-presented in reality and truth on the altar. We obey Jesus’s command to do this in remembrance of Him (Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:18). To do this in remembrance of Him means to remember all the way to the reality of Jesus’s once and for all sacrifice, the reality of His sacrifice as it affects us here today. If we don’t remember it to the reality of it, re-presented for us here today, then it becomes just a historical event on a page, nothing more. This makes His saving sacrifice real for us here today. He saves us. He also changes us. In Isaiah’s first reading, the prophet says he will continue to repeat the Lord’s prophecy of a restored Zion, until the Lord fulfills it and the people who will return from the Babylonian exile will believe it on faith. God wants the returned exiles to rebuild Jerusalem, to plant grain, to live again in the Promised Land. Isaiah will repeat this prophecy so that the returned exiles will be reinvigorated to rebuild. More importantly, they are being encouraged to rebuild their covenantal relationship with God who loves them. We do the same in conversion, confession, Holy Mass, Eucharist. We seek to rebuild our love for our Savior Jesus Christ, who rescues us from danger and peril. Isaiah describes the glory of the new Zion. Zion’s glory will be given a new name. Zion will be a beautiful crown in God’s hand. It will not be desolate or forsaken anymore. Isaiah prophesies that Zion will be called “Espoused” and “My delight in her.” These titles describe Zion’s changed state. That is a perfect mystic description of what happens to the Zion of our souls when Jesus comes to us in the beautiful sacraments of Confession and Eucharist and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated by Jesus Christ, in the miraculous change of the elements into Himself. Jesus forecasts this accurately at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016