by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fourth Sunday of Lent Homily: March 11, 2018
“Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place.” This verse from Second Chronicles describes God’s love for Judah. God warned the people and the priests of Judah “early and often” of their unfaithfulness to Him and the abominations they practiced in His Temple. God lovingly called them back, urged them to stop, and desired them to repent. God seeks to reconcile with them and to put them on the right way. That is God’s nature, to have compassion on his people.
That Old Testament passage mirrors the verse in John’s Gospel today: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” That passage describes God’s nature today, towards us. God loves us. We need redemption. Redemption comes exclusively from God’s Son, Jesus Christ. So therefore, we need Jesus Christ. Why? We need Jesus because Jesus’s Incarnation is united to His Redemption of us. Jesus will redeem us by offering up His Body as a sacrifice. His sacrifice will atone for our sinfulness. Jesus will lift up His Body as a sacrifice on the cross. “Lifted up” means crucifixion.
We need Jesus because Jesus’s direct mission is salvation. The motivation to save us from sin is God’s and Jesus’s love for us. That is why God delivered His Only Son to death. He did it with a view to the salvation of every believer from sin and to bring everyone to an eternal life of happiness with Him in heaven.
Jesus asks us to believe in Him. Mankind makes its own judgement by their attitude toward Him. He who believes, repents, is changed for the better, and incurs no damnation. But he who refuses to believe is already damned because he chooses to make himself an unbeliever in the name, mission, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
We need Jesus because God has made us, and we have made ourselves sinners. This Lent we are urged to destroy what we have made, sin, through repentance and belief in Jesus. By doing that, God can save what He has made: us. Repent from sin and love God’s work in you. How can we do that? By going to confession. The beginning of good works is the confessing of bad works. Salvation is belief in Jesus accompanied by deeds done in God. May we cooperate with the truth and come to the light. That way our works can be seen as done in God. We have been made in Jesus Christ for good works. Salvation is from Jesus and good works are an integral part of the Christian life.
Our disposition must be completely opposite from the people and priests of Judah. Our disposition must be completely opposite from one who does wicked things and hates the light, in order to preserve his sinfulness.
So what must we know? That Jesus Christ is God’s Son and is going to be lifted up on the Cross to atone for our sins and save us. What must we do? Have a right disposition towards God. Good will and a right heart will help us to repent from our sins and welcome Jesus Christ in us. Be open to His Grace and act on His Grace through faith. Continue going to confession, continue prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to strengthen your right disposition towards Jesus. Why should we care? Because the people of Judah in the Old Testament rejected God and incurred His punishment. That is completely opposite what God wanted to do for them. We should care because God cares, that much.
by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Third Sunday of Lent Homily: March 4, 2018:
Jesus Christ gives us a stunning revelation in today’s gospel about the Temple. Jesus loves the Temple. That’s why He kicks out the merchants and money-changers. The stunning revelation for you and me is what Jesus says about the Temple. Jesus says: destroy it and in three days He will raise it up. Jesus is referring to His Own Body as the new Temple. This stunning revelation makes perfect sense if you remember last Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is transfigured as He prays on the mountain. He is glorified. He is changed. In today’s gospel, Jesus purifies the Temple. 40 years later, Roman legions will destroy it. It remains destroyed today. So therefore, the Temple, as a center of worship and sacrifice is destroyed. The Temple, as a site of God’s abiding presence, is destroyed. The Temple, as a visible sign of God’s faithfulness, is destroyed. The Temple, as a visible expression of all three of these major points, is replaced by the Risen Body of Jesus Christ. Today’s gospel reveals to us that Jesus’s body will be transfigured into the new Temple.
This New Temple of Jesus Christ is the center of our worship. It is Church. It is a new worship society that replaces worship in the Temple. Our love, our salvation, our values, our very existence, spiritual and physical, are all grounded in a Person, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Jesus Christ will also be transfigured into His Church. This Church, the only one He established, is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is where Jesus Christ dwells in the midst of His People. Jesus’s Body in the Church centralizes our worship of Him. We offer ourselves to Jesus in this Church. We worship Jesus Christ here in this Church. We become part of His Body in this Church. Coming to this Church to offer ourselves, our love, our fidelity, and our worship to Jesus is very inclusive. We are drawn to this by Jesus Himself. We are drawn to Jesus Christ the Person. We are drawn to Him because of our love for Him. It is Jesus Christ Himself who is the center of our worship. Those who refuse to come here exclude themselves. They, themselves, do something that is very exclusionary. They reject coming here to worship Jesus by their own choice. They say they don’t get anything out of it. They say that they can worship Jesus anywhere. We come here to receive Jesus’s forgiveness of our sins and Jesus’s salvation. We come here to safeguard the purity of our faith in Jesus. The Church can never live together with idolatry of any kind.
St. John also writes in his Gospel that, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14). So Jesus will also transfigure Himself into Eucharist. It is more accurate to say that Jesus transfigures the Bread and the Wine into His Own Body and Blood. Again, in this Church, Jesus Christ is the center of our worship. Jesus Christ is present in this Church. Jesus’s Real Presence is in the Eucharist. He is present in the in-dwelling Spirit of this Church. The Church is the place of God’s presence. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and unity of this Church.
Jesus Christ is greater than the Temple. Jesus Christ supersedes the Temple. So, what should we know? That Jesus Christ is the absolute center of worship here in this Church. We come here to worship Jesus and to be transfigured into likenesses of Him, to offer ourselves to Him, and to be saved by Him. What should we do? Continue our Lenten observances because we know who this Jesus is. Jesus is God’s Son and the New Temple. Continuing our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving brings us to Jesus. Continue to pray, go to Confession, attend Mass, receive Jesus in the Eucharist, become likenesses of Jesus. Why should we care? Because considering all this means that Jesus Christ, in this Church, is everything. That is exactly who Jesus is and who Jesus wants to be for you and for me.
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.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Homily for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (January 21, 2018):
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus Christ says those three powerful sentences to every human being that lives, has lived, and will live. Those sentences are life-changing. Their foundation is Jesus Christ Himself, His Life and presence here on earth, His Redemption, the Salvation He has won for us and offers to us, and the kingship He now exercises in His Messianic Kingdom. We are encouraged to enter into His Kingdom right now, by repentance. So what is repentance? Repentance is the means for us to prepare to enter into the Messianic Kingdom of Jesus. We must repent from sin because that is what Jesus the Messiah offers us salvation from. Jesus is the Messiah who saves us from sin, which separates us from God. Repentance in the New Testament means an uncompromising and faithful change of our attitudes, our actions, our values, our affections. It also means a complete and faithful acceptance of the good news in the gospels that Jesus Christ proclaims. Jesus’s call to repentance that deep continues today in this Church. We know that because Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James, and John and others to be His immediate disciples. Christ’s redeeming mission continues today, after His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It continues in this Church, the one Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to. The successors to His immediate Apostles are accredited teachers of the Gospel to this very day.
Jesus does not leave us orphans. He is present to us to help us repent. Jesus is present in the sacraments this Church offers. Confession and Eucharist are two which particularly help us to repent from sin. Jesus preaches that the very power of God is available to those who open themselves to Him in His Sacraments and exercise His Gospel-way of loving service.
That what the Ninevites did. They turned from their evil ways. When God saw Nineveh’s complete, sincere turning away from sin, God repented from the destruction He promised them. He did not carry it out. Notice the interaction of two words: “turn” and “repent.” When God saw by their actions how they TURNED from their evil way, He REPENTED of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out. If the people turn, Yahweh repents. Those two verbs converge into the repentance spoken of in the New Testament. The sinner turns or bends and changes the course of his or her life, one’s actions, one’s beliefs. The sinner repents by feeling regret for one’s sins and changes his or her mind to reject sinfulness. Jesus compliments the Ninevites for their repentance.
We will not repent by ourselves. We will repent with the grace and the very power of God Himself in the sacraments of this Church. Confession and Eucharist are two very big ones.
Notice that the entire city of Nineveh repents, including the king. The king proclaims a fast and commands that “every man shall turn from his evil way.” Even a powerful king believes God’s message of repentance. That is encouraging to us who are called to build a culture of life in this country. God accompanies us with His Own Power, His Grace, to help us to build the very kingdom He wants to establish. It is a kingdom of holiness, forgiveness, love, mercy, and life. We start by praying. We continue by turning from our sins, we speak up, and we persuade others by speaking out for a better culture to replace the culture of death that supports abortion and physician-assisted suicide. That better culture is the culture of life which includes a man and a woman in love and in marriage. It includes a child or children who are grounded in happiness and stability because they know that their mother and father are faithfully and lovingly married and that life is respected and revered. God will not let one word of ours fall to the ground without effect.
We must repent of our individual sins and our society must repent of its collective sins. The time to speak out for a culture of life is now. The place to speak out for a culture of life is here. May we begin.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 14)
This is the anatomy of a call from God: God calls. We hear. We respond, “Here I am.” And then we run to the one who has called us and say “Here I am. You called me.” This is the heart of today’s reading from First Samuel. God calls Samuel to be a priest and a prophet. Samuel will be such a great prophet and priest that God will not permit any word of Samuel to be without effect. And the Lord was with Samuel. And Samuel was willingly obedient to God. God chooses Samuel for that very reason.
God is calling us too. God certainly calls obedient and willing men and women to serve faithfully as priests, nuns, and laity. Read the first three chapters of the First Book of Samuel. You will see a married couple, especially the woman, pray to have children, especially a first-born son, whom she promises to give to the Lord in the Temple. Her name is Hannah and the baby’s name is Samuel. You will also see that God grants her prayer. Hannah celebrates the birth of her son and she keeps her promise and delivers Samuel to the priest at the Temple. Samuel will be an obedient priest and prophet. God needs him to be exactly that. So the key elements in the story in the first three chapters of First Samuel are a faithful and loving married man and woman, who want to have babies. Another key element is God, to whom this couple, especially Hannah, prays to for that to happen. Those are also key elements that are needed today for God’s call to us to do something that is desperately needed-to build a culture of life in this country to replace the culture of death. We all have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on that. And the first step is our response to God’s call: “Here I am.” Faithful, loving husbands and wives who have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ are staples in a culture of life. Couples are needed to speak up for unborn babies, to stand up against abortion, and to point out a better way, to the sacrament of holy marriage. And we all must open up our hearts to help heal those women who were seduced by abortion’s call and who were ravaged by the procedure. There is another key element that is needed in a culture of life. It is a faithful, holy priesthood. If you read the first three chapters of First Samuel you will see that a faithful, holy priesthood is missing. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were extremely sinful while carrying out the office of the priesthood. Eli reprimanded them, gently. They refused to hear. They continued to sin. And they corrupted the Temple sacrifice, the very instrument needed to atone for sins. Samuel is being called to be a great and holy prophet and priest. If you notice in today’s reading, God ignores Eli, the chief priest. God calls Samuel directly and Samuel responds obediently, three times. God goes directly to Samuel, a mere boy, while the chief priest Eli, who is nearly blind, sleeps. What country does Eli’s condition remind you of today? The key elements needed to build a culture of life and to reverse the culture of death are faithful, holy, loving men and women who marry, and stay married, and who have children, and want to have children. What is also needed is a faithful, holy priesthood, and a faithful, God-fearing, holy, and vibrant church that is a moral bulwark against the scourge of abortion, this one. That is our call, given to us by God through Pope Saint John Paul the Second. It is necessary. It is necessary because God gives to each of us a specific mission. Samuel’s was to be the holy, obedient prophet and priest that Israel so desperately needed. He will anoint Israel’s greatest king, King David. Jesus’s mission was to be the “Lamb of God.” Jesus responded and obeyed. We have salvation available to us because of Him. God works through people, you and me, to build His Kingdom here on earth. A culture of death squelches God’s work before it even begins. And we are destined to succeed in this mission of building a culture of life because God is with us through His Son Jesus Christ. In the gospel, Jesus looks intently, penetratingly at Simon. Jesus tells Simon that “you will be called Cephas-which is translated Peter (rock). Jesus Christ, the Messiah and the Lord changes Simon’s destiny. And Peter became the first pope of this one church that Jesus established to worship Him and to build God’s Kingdom.
The first step to all of this is, of course, prayer. But that’s not enough. We must pray so that we are willing to be changed. May we respond like Samuel and say “Here I am. You called me.”
By: Fr. James Gross
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Pretend that you’re hearing Jesus’ teaching for the very first time as his listeners had. Wouldn’t we have similar questions? Speaking for the Apostles later in the chapter, Simon Peter tells Jesus, “To whom else shall we go? We are convinced that you have the words of everlasting life.” But many other disciples couldn’t bring themselves to make that kind of statement of faith that day. What the Lord told them was simply too radical.
Today’s solemnity helps to shake us out of our complacency and consider what the Holy Eucharist truly means. Three weeks ago, when we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus, I mentioned that, rather than going from one place to another, Jesus made it possible to be everywhere we are. In the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, where two or three gather in his name, our Messiah is among us.
I remember how, when I would visit my grandparents as a young child, Grandma would often say, “You must be hungry!” Feeding us well was a tangible way of showing her love. Now that Christ is at the right hand of the Father, it’s as if He tells His Son, “Give my children something to eat.” Once upon a time, He provided the “daily bread” of manna for the Hebrews’ sojourn in the wilderness. We as a Church celebrate today the miraculous, divine nourishment of Jesus’ Body and Blood.
There’s a lot I could say right now academically about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, such as how we understand substantial change, etc. But this tenet of faith is also a matter of the heart, and that’s where I will direct my focus today. How many people have really come to love encountering Jesus Christ, and have experienced that encounter meaningfully in the Eucharist? What can we do to help people reach that point? Can people truly forsake or despise what they didn’t even know they were missing?
Take the celebration of Holy Mass as an example. Whether it happens to us as children, or for adults who weren’t exposed to the Catholic liturgy growing up, what are the first things we notice? For some it’s the style and sound of the music. For others it’s the language of the Scripture readings and prayers. For still others it’s the idiosyncrasies of the priest’s personality—an unfortunately exaggerated effect in the years following Vatican II. What happens when an external element of the Liturgy annoys us? It puts up a kind of roadblock that will cause some to say, “I don’t like what I’m seeing or hearing,” or “This isn’t what I bargained for,” or “This isn’t for me.” What if our great-grandparents, or the first parishioners here at St. Anthony’s, reacted the same way? How would that impact us?
At the risk of sounding dramatic, in such a case the devil has won a small victory. He’s persuaded people to take their eye off the ball. In sowing that seed of discord, he’s persuaded that person to turn his or her back on God’s gifts. The harvest that follows is the bitter fruit of despair, restlessness, isolation, failed relationships—in short, the boring, well-worn path of sin.
How can we crave the Presence of Christ inside us in Holy Communion as badly as our lungs crave oxygen or our parched mouths crave water unless we taste and see His goodness? How can our hearts ache for Christ unless we experience the difference inside us when we are not in Communion with him? This hunger for Christ of which I am speaking is not a simple feeling one conjures up; it’s a gift we can only receive, a gift he gives so freely and amply.
Christ gave His Church the Eucharist to tangibly bless and sanctify the whole world. When we “do this in memory of” Jesus, what are we actually doing? We are bringing the holiness of God more deeply into the world and causing evil to scatter. We’re dispelling the enemies of Christ in ourselves, in our families, and in the community in which we live. Think of the celebration of the Mass, the offering of Christ’s sacrifice, as one continual global exorcism, applying Jesus’ victory and vanquishing the power of evil.
The Gospels are filled with miracles, and yet it may seem that we are reading about a bygone era. We might argue that no such miracles are apparent in our day-to-day lives, but isn’t it the case that perhaps we don’t see miracles unfold in such a concrete way? For many reasons, Holy Mass is very important to me personally every single day because Jesus gives himself to us so humbly and generously. Will I see a paralyzed person attending Mass suddenly stand up out of their wheelchair and begin to walk? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean there is no miracle taking place through the words of Christ that I am privileged to speak.
In short, if we fail to see that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is miraculous, then we are missing something. If we truly believe what our Church teaches about what happens on this altar, how could we call every mass anything less than miraculous? We receive from Him an outstanding promise in today’s Gospel: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Either what Jesus promised truly takes place, or what we are doing now is absurd.
This treasure that we possess in Holy Communion exhorts us to conduct ourselves accordingly. First of all, have we been forgiven of grave sin by prior confession so as to receive Jesus worthily today? When we attend Sunday Mass, are we dressed more so to do chores or go to the gym? What do we tell the Lord by our choice of attire? At Mass, are we busily chewing gum, or have we left it behind well before we arrive? Does the smartphone have to be on and in our pockets, or could we maybe leave that behind so that we are not tempted to look at it? As we approach in line, do we bow with reverence before we receive? Do those of us who receive the host in our hand make a suitable throne for the King of Kings, with an intention of deep respect? Do we seek to love God and our neighbor more throughout the remainder of this day, knowing that our Savior, whom we receive in Holy Communion, dwells in our hearts? Today let’s declare what a blessing it is to have Jesus abide in our souls and our bodies from week to week our whole lives!