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.
With jesus's baptism, a new era of love, mercy, and forgiveness begins and continues until his second coming
Sunday, January 13th, 2019: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Where we must go, Jesus has already gone before us. Jesus leads “The Way.” And the way for us to enter into Jesus Christ is through the sacrament of baptism. Holy Mother Church teaches wisely that we must be baptized, be born again of water and the Holy Spirit. We must be baptized in Jesus Christ, in His baptism. Jesus Christ was baptized into His own death, which leads to eternal life. That’s why Jesus insists that John the Baptist baptize Him.
John has a big message for those who think he might be the Christ, the anointed one. John says that “one mightier than I is coming”(Luke 3:16). John says his baptism is only in water. It is an outward sign signifying what the person inwardly must express. Jesus’s baptism will be definitive. It will be an act of God bringing salvation and judgement. St. Luke presents John baptizing Jesus last, after all of the people have been baptized. John’s mission climaxes here. Jesus receives the special anointing of the Holy Spirit as the Messiah in this baptism. Immediately, a new era begins. God opens the heavens and visits His people. This is the turning point in human history. God’s great salvation dawns at Jesus Christ’s birth and is achieved at Jesus’s death on the Cross. God gives a new revelation to His people. The Holy Spirit rests on Jesus to reside in Him bodily. The voice from heaven identifies Jesus as God’s Son and chosen one. Jesus is announced as the messianic king whose mission is humble self-sacrifice. God is good and lovingly kind and this is personified in His Own Son, Jesus Christ. If man gives himself totally to Jesus Christ, God will save him from eternal death. God will save him through the washing of regeneration in the waters of baptism. Christian baptism equals regeneration. Man is created anew. Baptism plants a new principal of supernatural life in man’s soul. Man begins to live on a new and higher plane. So in baptism, man is made into a new being. God in His mercy has brought about this change. No deed of man has any part in this new birth. God’s mercy alone saves us. In our rebirth, we have been pardoned and raised up to live a new and higher life. We are baptized into Christ’s death. In our sharing of Christ’s death and resurrection, God has enlivened us by putting a new and Holy Spirit in us, a Spirit which allows us to love and acknowledge God as “Abba”, “Father” and to walk blamelessly in our new lives. Our lives do not end in death. We have in God a hope for eternal life.
All of that happens in our baptism into Jesus Christ’s death and His resurrection. Our sinful selves are plunged into Christ’s death and our new selves rise in Christ’s resurrection.
Baptism is so essential that, in this church, infants and children are baptized. To not baptize a child would deny a child a priceless, essential grace of becoming a child of God. Read Acts 16:15 and verse 33. It does not say that children were baptized but it does say that the (whole) household had been baptized. That is a strong implication that children were baptized in the family household. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that one shall not baptize a child.
So this sacrament of Baptism is important, essential, and life-giving, eternal life-giving. It is so important that Jesus leads the way for each and every one of us. Baptism into His death, baptism into His resurrection, baptism into His eternal life because of His mercy and no merit of ours. How good, gracious, loving, and kind God is.
Homily for the Solemnity of Epiphany, ©, January 6th, 2019:
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. This solemnity outranks the Sunday Mass. This solemnity is equal to Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and Easter. The reason is because foreigners, Gentiles, come to worship the Lord, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. “Epiphany” means “an appearance or manifestation of a divine being.” In this case, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, is manifested to the Magi, who prostrate themselves and worship Him.
Isaiah’s reading prophesies that Jerusalem will be the focal point of all the nations. This vision of a new Zion is universal in the sense that foreigners and their kings will acknowledge and serve the Jews. These foreigners will be welcome in Jerusalem and their offerings will be accepted in the Temple, the place of God’s presence. The people will be transformed. They will be just. Yahweh will be divinely present and will enlighten the city. Remember in Matthew 23:37, Jesus looks over Jerusalem and says “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing”(Matt 23:37). It is Yahweh who makes Zion the recipient of this homage from the Gentiles.
Psalm 72 explains who this king of the Jews is. This king of the Jews rules in Yahweh’s name. This king represents justice and peace to Israel and the world at-large. The king is an extension of Yahweh. The king exercises divine judgment. He upholds vigorously the rights of the oppressed and the poor. It is Jesus Christ who completely fulfills this messianic psalm, not Solomon. This ideal king’s reign of justice and peace is infinite. All kings will worship Him. This king will provide special care to the needy, oppressed, poor, and weak. All tribes and nations will bless His name.
You see in these Old Testament Scriptures the universality of this king and his headquarters in Jerusalem (Zion). That leads to St. Paul’s message to the Ephesian Christian Church. St. Paul writes that the Holy Spirit is active in the apostles and prophets, who are the foundation of this Church. The message that St. Paul and the others share (St. Peter in Acts 10:44-48) is that the Gentiles are co-heirs in the inheritance that God has promised to the Jews. They share it in Jesus Christ. They are part of Jesus Christ’s Body, the Church. This church is Jesus’s Church, founded on the rock of St. Peter and the gates of Hell will not prevail against her. The Gentiles will have the same benefits, same spirit, and the same body. It is the Gentiles who will receive eagerly this message of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Jews will not.
All of this sets the stage for St. Matthew’s gospel reading. The main message is “to do Him homage”(Matt 2:2,8,11). The contrast in doing Jesus homage is the eagerness of the Magi (Gentiles) to do this and King Herod’s outright refusal to worship Jesus. This story of Epiphany is exhilarating and disappointing at the same time. Herod intends to kill the newborn King of the Jews. The Gentiles will accept and worship Him. St. Matthew’s gospel says the Magi “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother”(Matt 2:11). “They prostrated themselves and did Him homage”(Matt 2:11). They worshiped Jesus, joyfully. From there, they offer Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is usually presented as a gift to a king, which Jesus is, the newborn king of the Jews. The frankincense is presented to a deity, in the Christian world and the pagan world too. This child “will be called Son of God”(Lk1:35). The Magi prostrate themselves and “did Him homage”(Matt 2:11). The Magi were aware of the divinity of this child. Their gift of myrrh is for the mortality of this child, this newborn King of the Jews. Myrrh is a narcotic when it is mixed with wine. It is given to treat someone who is wounded. Myrrh is also a deodorant which is applied to a dead body.
All of this comes together in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, who is adopted by St. Joseph, the last in the bloodline of King David. Jesus Christ is priest, prophet, and king. Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. He is a king who will be sacrificed on the Cross to forgive us of our sins. He is crowned in heaven and He is for all of us a savior who are included in His Church, this one. That includes both Jew and Gentile alike. I am saying all of this to remain faithful to the Sacred Scriptures which are part of this Epiphany. To do Him homage is the centerpiece. May we do Him homage eagerly like the Magi did and may we avoid the reaction of King Herod. That way, Jesus will enlighten us just as this ideal king would enlighten Jerusalem. Others will see us enlightened by Jesus when we conform ourselves to Him, crucify our sinful nature on His Cross, and invariably, show Jesus’s light and life in our own.
Jesus was "born of a woman" out of humility and love. the blessed virgin mary became mother of god out of humility and love too
Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God ©, January 1st, 2019:
St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ was born of a woman and born under the law. Today’s readings show us the humility of Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus was born of a woman at the time predetermined by God His Father. So Jesus obeyed God by entering human history as a creature, one of us. He took His Flesh from a woman. Jesus’s complete human nature comes from His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus receives His Flesh, His Blood, His Human Nature, the color of His eyes, His hair, everything, from her whom He called “Mother.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary also obeyed. She said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”(Luke 1:38). The Blessed Virgin Mary said “yes” with humility. She became Jesus’s mother, in accordance with God’s plan for her and God’s plan for our salvation. She is completely human and completely obedient. That’s humility.
What Jesus does and what the Blessed Virgin Mary does are important because of God’s plan of salvation. St. Paul writes that God’s plan of salvation has two objectives. One is to redeem the Jews from the Law and the second objective is to confer divine sonship on all. Jesus humbled Himself even more by submitting Himself to the very Law He was to redeem Jews from. Jesus follows precisely the prescriptions of the Law. Jesus is a firstborn son. As such, God owns Him. Jesus is consecrated to God as a sacrifice.
The Blessed Virgin Mary does not seek exemption from the Law either. She submits and is purified after giving birth to Jesus Christ, even though there was no need for her to do so. Her virginity is completely intact before and after Jesus’s birth.
It is in this humility that both Jesus and His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, are elevated. Jesus is our Savior and King. And the Blessed Virgin Mary is elevated as Mother of God. This exaltation of both is a result of their bowing humbly before God’s almighty hand. They are both exalted to high offices and high titles because they became meek and lowly. They remain that way for us today
god gives us the family to help us live out our christian vocation as his servants and his emissaries
Homily for the Feast Day of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, ©, Dec. 30, 2018:
Holy Mother Church celebrates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on this final Sunday of 2018. The three readings show the values a family must follow and the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ embodies those values well and is an example for us to follow.
The author of the first reading from the Book of Sirach says that a child/children have positive duties to perform for his/her parents. The father is the focus but the duties are towards both the father and mother. The spotlight is on the Fourth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” The author says the motive for the child to perform these positive duties is life. The Lord will give life to the child/children who honor their father and mother. The reward of such honor will be atonement for sins, children, answered prayers, and family harmony. The reward of atonement for sins by honoring one’s father and mother is new. Before this Jewish author wrote this, the only way to atone for sins was by sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. This author also indicates that one must repent of one’s sins at the same time that he/she honors his/or parents. Then, one’s sins are atoned for. Finally, the author counsels children to be kind to their parents because God will consider such kindness as almsgiving and will remember it on the day of judgement.
The psalmist writes a declaration of faith that God will always bless those who are reverent. “Fear of the Lord” means a way of life that places God above everything and everyone. The consequence of following the Lord’s way include a wonderful family life.
St. Paul writes to the Colossians that God’s chosen ones are in Jesus Christ, so therefore, they must “put on” the clothes of Christian virtue. We notice what people wear so St. Paul lists the virtues that should be the dress of Christian life. Love is the highest virtue. It acts as an umbrella which bonds all the other virtues together and perfects them. The individual must be peaceful. The peace of that person has communal effects in the family and in the church. St. Paul writes that thanksgiving to God the Father through Jesus Christ is a way of life. It is eucharist. It is thanksgiving.
Finally, the gospel story of Jesus Christ shows the grace and wisdom with which He is endowed. This story shows Jesus’s destiny and His mission. This story shows flashes in Jesus’s boyhood qualities that will grow and blossom into shining virtues in a superior manner when He is a man. Jesus says His life and His mission transcend the human family. Jesus is going to the Passover. The next time St. Luke goes to the Passover will be during Holy Week, when He lives, dies, and rises from the dead. In the meantime, St. Luke writes that Jesus will return home with the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, and St. Joseph, His (adoptive) Father. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man”(Luke 2:51-52). These two passages are all that we know about Jesus’s life inbetween the age of 12 and when He entered His public ministry at age 30. Jesus best embodies all the qualities and virtues the first three readings admonish us to follow.
this is a day of great joy because of the salvation jesus christ brings us by entering into human life and history
Homily for Christmas Day Mass ©, December 25th, 2018:
This is a very happy day. The readings reflect this. In the first reading the prophet Isaiah says “the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth…your Savior comes!”(Isa 62:11). Isaiah continues: “…Here is His reward with Him, His recompense before Him”(Isa 62:11). He concludes in verse 12: “…They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord,…”(Isa 62:12). These names in verse 12 show the happiness, holiness, and glory of a new Zion.
Psalm 97 indicates that Zion is glad. The writer rejoices in the reign of Yahweh. Yahweh’s kingship overcomes all opposition. Zion welcomes its victorious creator-Lord.
In St. Luke’s Gospel, the shepherds get over their fear. They go in haste to Bethlehem to respond to the news of salvation that the angel has given them. Then, the shepherds tell what they have seen to others. Their hearers are astonished. Those who hear the shepherds’ testimony also glorify and praise God. And the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the ideal recipient of God’s Word, reflects on God’s words and deeds in her heart.
But perhaps what is most important is in St. Paul’s Letter to Titus. St. Paul describes God’s plan of justification, of which Jesus Christ has a critical part. St. Paul writes that God is kind and generous. He has appeared because of His Mercy, not because of our merits. God saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”(Titus 3:5). God has poured out this “through Jesus Christ our Savior”(Titus 3:6). So this Jesus Christ, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem is a savior for us. God poured out generously and abundantly this Holy Spirit “so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life”(Titus 3:7). That’s a lot to be happy about this Christmas Day.
Here is what it means for us: Good theology leads to good morality. God’s grace strengthens us to live virtuous lives. That is why God gives us grace through His Son and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to live virtuous lives. Our merits are ineffective and irrelevant. God’s mercy gives us salvation. Jesus’s sacrificial death brings us salvation. We participate in Jesus’s salvation when we accept and receive the cleansing of new birth and the gift of the Holy Spirit. God gave a spirit of life to Adam’s lifeless, clay body and enlivened him. God enlivens us by putting a new and Holy Spirit in us when we share in Christ’s death and resurrection. This allows us to love and acknowledge God as “Abba,” “Father.” We can walk blamelessly in our new lives. We are not God’s enemies. We are God’s children and even heirs. We have in God a hope for eternal life. So God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has radically changed our lives by entering our lives. Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Mediator. The Holy Spirit which God pours out on us liberally sanctifies us. All of this comes from grace, which results in our sanctification through the Holy Spirit.
This is much more than a process. But that is what St. Paul describes to Titus. And this answers for us the question of why this birth of Jesus Christ is so important. It gives us the opportunity to respond to God’s love and mercy, through which He sent us His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. He did it, and Jesus did it, out of love, for the lowest of the low (shepherds) and the highest of the high, and everyone inbetween. He did it for saints and sinners alike. That is what this is all about this Christmas. This Christmas is all about salvation through our only Savior, Jesus Christ.
February 12, 2017
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