by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Second Sunday of Lent (B) Homily: February 25, 2018:
Today’s readings are about the sacrifice of a beloved son and its consequences. God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God proclaims His absolute dominion (rule) over every man, woman, and child, each and all of them, His special creation. That means that we have to obey God, His teachings, His values. God revokes His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God makes it clear that He does not want His absolute dominion over every human being to be acknowledged and executed by the actual carrying out of a human sacrifice. Think about that when you consider that almost 70 million babies have been aborted in this country since 1973. Think about that when you consider Parkland, Florida, Columbine High School, Sandy Hook, and other school shootings.
This story highlights Abraham’s absolute faith. Abraham obeys, in his heart. Abraham binds his beloved son Isaac, places him on the wood on top of the altar, and raises his knife. St. Paul writes that Abraham thought in his heart that somehow God would raise his son Isaac back to life in order to fulfill His Promise that He would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the crystals of sand on a seashore. Certainly, this is a preview of God the Father sacrificing His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Jesus Christ is God’s Son. We know that from today’s gospel, which tells of Jesus’s Transfiguration. God the Father appears in a cloud. He says “this is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” For Peter, James, and John, it means to listen to Jesus, who says He must suffer, die, and rise from the dead. It is difficult for Peter, James, and John to accept that Jesus is going to be a sacrificial lamb, not a geopolitical king. Jesus Christ is a Forgiver and a Savior from sin, not a sword-swinging bad-boy. Jesus offers us salvation from what threatens each of us from inside of us. Peter, James, and John see Jesus in His Glorified Body, post-Resurrection, in the Transfiguration.
There is more. Jesus has died, risen, and ascended into heaven. Those are historical facts. We believe because we have faith. Jesus died and rose to save us. So who will deliver me/you? St. Paul says the liberator is the Holy Spirit. What is that? The Holy Spirit is the force and power of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, present on earth. We contact that force by living in union with Jesus Christ. Union with Jesus means living like He did, thinking like He thought, serving others like He served, praying like He prayed. We are already united with Jesus in baptism. Finally, that indwelling Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us up too on that day. To weld that contact with the Spirit in our souls, we must extinguish sin in our hearts, the deeds of the flesh. We must live by God’s Holy Spirit in us instead. If we do so, we become God’s true children. God will give us everything we need spiritually.
God is the only Father who has not withheld His Only-Begotten, Beloved Son from sacrifice. To ransom a slave, He gave away His Son. God the Father loves us that much. God the Son loves us that much. God the Holy Spirit loves us that much. By extension, God’s Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, loves us that much too. So what should we know? This sacrifice is a fact. We are facing the opportunity of a lifetime. What should we do? Believe the Gospel Good News and radically repent of our sins. Change. Go to confession. Go to Mass. Receive Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Love Him faithfully. Why should we care? Because there is no alternative for us spiritually. This is what God has done for us. This is what His love for us has prompted Him to do.
by: Fr. Scott Karnik
First Sunday in Lent Homily (B) Sunday, February 18, 2018:
This is St. Mark’s version of Jesus’s Temptation in the Desert. St. Mark’s version is concise. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert. Satan tempts and tests Jesus in the desert during His forty day fast. Mark writes simply that Jesus has withstood Satan’s tests and is ready to begin His brief and saving life of ministry and service to God and mankind.
The desert or wilderness is a place of decision. Mark writes that after this, Jesus will announce the good news and He will select His disciples. St. Mark writes that the good news begins with Jesus’s first words: “This is the time of fulfillment.” It is in Jesus Christ that God’s reign of power has begun. It exists today. God reigns, not Satan. Salvation reigns, not sin. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is God’s Good News in person. It is Jesus who connects God’s Good News to an equally important call for a radical response of repentance on our part. St. Mark says that God’s own power is available to each and every one of us who sincerely receive Jesus and His Gospel Way of Love.
The Spirit that led Jesus out into the desert protected Him while He was there. St. Mark tells the readers of his gospel that the same Spirit is available to us, to protect us, and to strengthen us in our weakness. Jesus remained in peace and communion with God in the desert during His Forty Days. Satan’s efforts to tempt Jesus and make Him turn away from God His Father failed. That is an important point. Satan failed. Sin failed. Pride failed. Disobedience failed. Grace won. Holiness won. Virtue won. They won because God’s grace and Jesus’s salvation are always more powerful. They are also always faithfully available to us to reach out to. Israel was tempted in the desert and failed. It didn’t have to. Jesus has broken Satan’s power by remaining united with God His Father, by remaining filled with the Holy Spirit, and by remaining faithful to His mission of salvation.
by Fr. Scott Karnik
Ash Wednesday Homily (B) - February 14, 2018
God commands us to repent by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Jesus Christ gives us that formula to draw closer to Him and to repent of our sinfulness.
In the gospel, Jesus does not condemn exterior acts. Jesus does warn His disciples not to perform pious acts, such as almsgiving, to be admired by the crowd. That robs almsgiving of its spiritual value. Publicity makes the act a mere transaction. Jesus does not condemn public prayer. Jesus does condemn striking a pious attitude in prayer for publicity’s sake. Jesus does not condemn fasting. But Jesus does tell His disciples to take great care to disguise their piety when they fast. Jesus even suggests His disciples appear as if they’re going to a banquet instead. The pious practice of Ash Wednesday and Lent is not criticized, just the pious self-display of it.
But it is the exterior acts that reinforce the interior. The interior acts of repentance are essential. The exterior acts are essential to back up the interior ones. The prophet Joel in today’s first reading summons priests and people to repentance. Their return to Yahweh must be inward first, then outward. Joel warns the people of pending catastrophe in the first eleven verses of Chapter two. Then Joel calls the people to repentance in today’s verses. “Even now” suggests something other than imminent destruction is still possible with God. It gives the people hope. So even now, return to God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Joel encourages the people to turn away from sin and turn completely towards God. Participation in a communal liturgy of lament, to include fasting, mourning, and weeping, is encouraged. This ritual of contrition that Joel is calling for will symbolize the process of the Jewish community’s commitment to God. That’s what this Lenten season is all about, in a nutshell.
So what should we know? That Jesus encourages us to perform exterior acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But remember to do it without calling attention to yourselves for the admiration of others. What should we do? Enter this Lent with sincerity and love. Do repent of your sinfulness from the inside out. Do reinforce your complete, faithful, and honest interior turning away from your sins with exterior practices like attending Mass, giving alms, praying in church, and going to confession. And do fast for 40 days as Jesus did. Why should I care? Because of the first two words in today’s first reading, “even now.” Joel says that “even now,” with catastrophe so close, repent and do penance, priest and people alike, everyone. Repent inside and out. Because we seek what is written in the last verse: “Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.” We care so that the Lord will give us his forgiveness, his love, his mercy, and his salvation, so that we may be with Him in heaven one day. It starts here for us, inside and out.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily (February 4, 2018):
St. Mark’s gospel readings give us pictures of Jesus Christ. These pictures show us who Jesus is and why He is our Lord, Messiah, and Savior. From the first Sunday in January, Epiphany Sunday, Jesus is the Newborn King of the Jews. Three Gentile kings find Jesus and worship Him. Then, Mark’s Gospel in the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time shows Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. Andrew, the brother of Simon, tells Simon that he has found the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus tells people to repent and believe the gospel because “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And last Sunday, St. Mark’s gospel shows Jesus as one who teaches with authority. He is divine and drives an unclean spirit out of a man. So Jesus is a royal king of David’s lineage. He is called Messiah. He is the Lamb of God. And Jesus teaches authoritatively and has power over unclean spirits. This Jesus is the one we ought to worship here in this church as our Lord, Messiah, and Savior.
So now, this week, St. Mark shows that Jesus uses these characteristics to serve and to save others, from the lowest to the highest. The people in Capernaum that Jesus taught, healed, and exorcised demons from were down and out. And Jesus received them lovingly. Jesus is a king who serves everyone. Jesus gave the people in Capernaum hope that God was working among them. But the Jews believed the Messiah would be a great nationalist leader who would destroy the Roman occupation. But Jesus’s Messianic kingdom is much more spiritual and much less political and material. Jesus is at war with sin and Satan, not Roman occupiers. That’s another reason why He would not let the demons speak. They would identify Jesus as Messiah, God’s Son and the Jews would misunderstand that. St. Mark hopes his Christian readers would accept Jesus’s true identity on His terms, as a suffering Messiah who would die powerless on a Cross on Calvary to conquer sin and death, not Roman armies. Another important point is that Jesus’s miracles authenticate His Messiahship as one who suffers and serves, submits and dies, and rises. That’s what St. Mark wants us to know in his gospel about Jesus Christ, Lord, Messiah, and King.
St. Paul adopts that model of Jesus as his own. St. Paul says he worked to earn his own living at Corinth. He did it so that the Jews would not accuse him of profiting from the gospel. St. Paul preaches the gospel because he loves Jesus Christ and he fears being responsible for the loss of souls. St. Paul says he became all to all so as not to scandalize the least ones. St. Paul describes freedom as freedom from something in order to serve everyone with a gospel message that is infinite. For him freedom is never an absolute by itself.
The prototype in the Old Testament is Job. Today’s reading is part of his response to someone who is convinced that Job has sinned and God is punishing him for it. Job denies this and he refuses to curse God. Job says man’s life is a weary bondage. Job’s own life is a constant torment and he must submit to the hardships of life. Job believes that he will not prosper again. He also worries that he will not recover health or happiness again. Job suffers. And Jesus suffers as the Messiah and the Servant who is mankind’s Savior. He will submit and die on a cross.
But finally, today’s psalm praises God. Why? Because God has made our salvation secure in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. So what should we know? That this divine and yet fully human Savior and Messiah will serve, suffer, die on a Cross for us and rise again to save us from our sins. What should we do? We should not lose faith in Him and not be scandalized by Him. Why should we care? Because only Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can do this and save us.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily (January 28, 2018):
This is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. We are in between Christmas and Lent. So it’s a good time to orient ourselves relative to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Christmas is still our orienting point time-wise. Jesus Christ has been born, circumcised, and given His Name. In two weeks, Lent will start and we will concentrate on and prepare for what Jesus will do for us. So in the meantime, we can ask ourselves “who is this Jesus Christ?” “Is this Jesus our Messiah?” “Is this Jesus the One we should worship?” The answers come from the Sacred Scripture that we have heard and studied since Christmas, up to today. From the Feast of the Holy Family, in Luke, Chapter 2, Simeon says this about Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Son of Mary and Joseph: “…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which You (God) have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people, Israel.” From January first, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, St. Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 4: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons….God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” From the Epiphany, in Matthew, Chapter 2, the three Gentile kings find Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Bethlehem. “…they saw the child with Mary, His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage (worshipped Him).” From the Baptism of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, in Mark, Chapter 1: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” From the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, in John’s Gospel, Chapter 1, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” From last Sunday, in Mark, Chapter 1: “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
So who is this Jesus, who we have permitted to be born into our souls, by grace, at Christmas? He is Jesus who is the Salvation God has prepared in the sight of all peoples. He is this Jesus whom God has sent to be born of a woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law so that we can be God’s adopted sons. He is This Jesus, the Messiah and King of the Jews, whom the three kings worshipped in Bethlehem. He is this Jesus whom God has proclaimed as His Beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased. He is this Jesus, who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and He is This Jesus who brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment and tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel. All of these descriptions distinguish This Jesus from anyone else or anything else that would divert us from Him. This Jesus whom we worship is different. This Jesus, whom we see in Sacred Scripture, is our Messiah and Savior and no one else.
That brings us to today’s readings. In Deuteronomy, Moses says that God will send the Israelites a prophet from your own kin and “to him you shall listen.” Prophet is singular. As such, it is a prophecy about the most eminent of prophets, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “Great Prophet who has risen among us.” That’s how the Israelites describe Jesus after witnessing one of His miracles. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus teaches in the synagogue. It says the people are astonished at His teaching. To be astonished is to be filled with excited wonder at something or someone. They are astonished because Jesus teaches authoritatively. Jesus applies the Mosaic Law in new ways. He has authority to do so. That indicates that This Jesus is divine, the Son of God. “To Him you shall listen.” Jesus does not appeal to the authority or the interpretation of others, like the Scribes and Pharisees did. Jesus proves His authority and His divinity by exorcising a demon from a man. It requires a miracle to do so. Jesus does it. Satan and his demons are powerless against this Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. Even the demon obeys Jesus. This demon has to obey Him. This demon knows who Jesus is: “the Holy One of God.” Yet Jesus says “Quiet. Come out of him.” Why? Because Jesus refuses to permit a demon to testify about Him. Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, is diametrically opposed to Satan, his demons, and sinfulness. He will not have it. Jesus wants us to testify about Him. So from today’s readings, this Jesus, born in a manger and in our hearts, is a prophet, who teaches in a new way and has authority and power to exorcise demons. This Jesus is different from any other person or thing that would proclaim himself Messiah, Savior, and God.
Finally, Psalm 95 invites us to worship Jesus in the Temple, here, in this church, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fargo, North Dakota, on this day. In the form of a church, a new body of worship, we behold Yahweh’s power in building and in ritual. We are secure in Jesus here in this sanctuary, in personal contact with Him. We kneel and worship Yahweh, this Jesus, as Shepherd of Israel and our Good Shepherd. So you are in the right place, worshipping the right Jesus, who saves us at Easter. May we obey His Word. May we do one more thing; accept and consume His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, because Jesus is here, in this sanctuary, in this Church. May we offer ourselves to Him and be transformed by Him, this Jesus, whom the Gospels are revealing to us as we proceed towards Lent and to Jesus’s miraculous events at Easter.
February 12, 2017
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