Trying to See Jesus: Homily for Thursday, September 28, 2017

Readings for Today

Today’s gospel in many ways is an initial stage of discipleship.  Herod is trying to figure out just who Jesus is.  Has John the Baptist been raised from the dead? One of the prophets? Herod is curious about Jesus.  This is the same Herod who felt some attraction to the words of Saint John the Baptist. We are told that Herod kept trying to see Jesus.

That may very well provide a goal for today.  Do you keep trying to see Jesus? Maybe you could spend a little time reading the bible.  Or maybe spending some time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Or perhaps it is finding silence, repeating a phrase, or praying a rosary.  Whatever you do, keep trying to see Jesus.

God’s Call: Homily for Sunday, January 15, 2017

Readings for Today

Do you really know that God is calling you specifically?  That you are bound for something great?  Do you really understand that God wants you to fulfill your part in witnessing to God that only is for you, the beloved creation of God?  Often we fail to see that we can be called to great things, and we certainly do not always realize that it is God’s grace that gets us there.  What is it that God is calling you to do?  How is it that God is calling you to be great?  In reading the stories of Isaiah, Saint Paul, and Saint John the Baptist, we can find ourselves inspired by the same God and the same grace that lead them to holiness.

Homily for Saturday, August 29, 2015

Readings for Today

It might seem strange that the first reading today discusses remaining tranquil and to mind one’s own affairs on the day that we celebrate the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. First, tranquil is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about him. Second, it also does not appear to be the case that Saint John the Baptist was one who could mind his own affairs, since it was his challenge to Herod that caused his ultimate death. He was able to take on Pharisees, Herodians, and others to make sure that the knew clearly that to follow Jesus required an absolute choice to live in a particular way. In describing Saint John the Baptist, it is easy to remember there is simply nothing halfway about living the life of faith.

On one level, this is coincidental since the first reading is the reading for today is the continuation of the Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians we have been reading over the past few days. But since they are together, it does raise the question about whether there is a way that Saint John the Baptist could be seen as one who is tranquil. I think there is.

To be sure, first, it must be considered that there is evidence the preaching of Saint John the Baptist had appeal to a wide number of people. Leaving the comfort of the the known to follow this odd preacher out into the desert and to be challenged to reform their lives does, on the one hand, seem to be a challenge. Yet, it happened. What is it that appealed to those who went out into the desert?

This is precisely a version of the question Jesus asks about John. What did you go out to see? Why is it the challenging message of John made such a difference in people’s lives, when it could be seen at the same time as very unsettling? Perhaps what was most appealing to the people was the authenticity that was readily apparent to those who came to hear John speak. Could they have witnessed in John’s life and message the authentic witness that does bring tranquility? Was that the case?

John was no hypocrite. He did not say one thing and do another. He gave his life for the faith, to remain true to the relationship he had with God. As a result, his example grew the faith. He prepared the way for Jesus not just be words, but by living a clear example of total commitment to God, which was to be evidenced in the self-gift of the suffering and death of Jesus.

It can be hard for me to see this as a pathway to tranquility, maybe because I do not allow myself to be challenged enough by God. Maybe I have become too comfortable in my faith. Perhaps what I am reminded about today is that the peace that surpasses understanding can only be found by allowing myself to be upset by God enough to see those things that really matter.

Homily for Monday, May 18, 2015

Readings for Today

In the early Church there was a problem with distinguishing the place and relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, especially when considering the question of baptism. John moved into a baptism that was a sign and symbol of repentance. Yet he baptized Jesus, who was in no need of repentance. There were those who heard John preach and thought he might be the Messiah, the anointed sent be God for the Jewish people. And even today’s first reading shows the confusion between the baptism received by John, and the baptism celebrated by the early Church after the resurrection of Jesus. So just what is the difference?

First, it is important to know that there was a qualitative difference between the two. Those who were baptized by John that we read about today did not know of the Holy Spirit, and it can be presumed, of John’s clarification of his role and that of Jesus.The baptism of John was a concrete sign of the desire to repent and believe in Jesus, who was to come, whose sandal John is not worthy of untying. John even says to Jesus that he should be baptized by Jesus, and not the other way around.

The baptism of John was a necessary preparation for the preaching of Jesus, insofar as it prepared people to know of the mercy of God for those who are willing to repent. It was the outcasts, the marginalized who embraced the preaching of John and his call to repent with great enthusiasm. It is the baptism of Jesus that fully removes sin, and enables us to enter into the deep relationship that leads to eternal life.

When they are baptized in the sacrament, they are transformed. They receive the Spirit, they become deeply aware of God and their relationship with him. Today we see baptism and confirmation in the reading from Paul. Do you ever think of how you are called to be changed because of your baptism and confirmation? Ideally these are moments when we are profoundly committed to the following of Jesus. These are moments when we become deeply aware of our choice to leave everything and follow Jesus wherever he may lead us. Will you follow Jesus?

Homily for Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Readings for Today

It is not unusual for us to hear that a prophet is compelled to speak the word of God. Jeremiah comes to mind as one who said this. And certainly when we read about Stephen’s death, we see that he continues to speak in the face of tremendous opposition, so strong in fact it costs him his life.

There is a whole area of study that is about how to manage change. There are times when the response of Stephen or John the Baptist is one that is best. Sometimes in a crisis, for example, this is all that can be done. At other times it is best to spend time thinking about how to present the message in a way that people are likely to hear.

In the case of Stephen, why did he speak so harshly? I think there are a few reasons. First, remember these actions did not come too long after the death of Jesus. Stephen seems to quickly grasp the fullness of the teaching of Jesus, and perhaps after watching the death of Jesus (or at least hearing about it) he simply concluded this was the most effective way to get the attention to those detractors who not only could not accept Jesus, but also felt compelled to take Stephen’s life.

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Homily for Saturday, December 13, 2014

Readings for Today

Elijah had a rather interesting prophetic career. He had successes  and failures, he felt strongly the presence of God and found him to be distant, and had a life filled with ups and downs. His life was filled with the miraculous, whether it was defeating the numerous prophets of Baal or being taken up into heaven. He wanted to die, and he kept a widow and her son from dying from famine. Over time, his return was associated with the coming of the Messiah. Just as it was a magnificent whirlwind of fire that took up Elijah, so too  his return would be a sign of the whirlwind of God’s Messiah, His Son, would arrive soon.

In many ways, that John the Baptist is identified as Elijah should not come as a surprise. He is steeped in signs from the Old Testament. He goes to the desert (sign of reform and the quest for God), eats locusts (sign of plague) and wild honey (sign of the promised land), has success and is ultimately killed. His preaching not only tills the soil for finding God’s presence in their daily lives, but also prepares their hearts for the coming of Jesus. He knows who he is, and has no delusions of grandeur.

Just as Elijah and John the Baptist were faithful to the call to prepare the way of the Lord, so to0 to we find ourselves with the same message. We are  also charged with pointing out the presence of God wherever we see it. Like John the Baptist, we too are called to be such a witness that others can more clearly see the presence of God in their lives. But if our words are to have meaning, they need to be backed by the power of our actions.

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Homily for Thursday, September 25, 2014

Readings for Today

Just who are you, Jesus? This is Herod’s question today. Is he interested in faith? Is he impressed with the popularity of Jesus? Does he feel threatened by Jesus? What exactly causes Herod to wish to see Jesus?

A careful reading of Luke could suggest that it was little more than curiousity. He hears that Jesus is performing miracles, and Herod becomes curious. But it becomes clear that the curiosity of Herod never becomes anything more.

I have seen this, and I suspect you have too, those times when we become curious about something, but it doesn’t lead to anything deeper. I can be curious about meeting a celebrity, or visiting an historic place, or even seeing a cool piece of technology, without ever really moving beyond curiosity.

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Homily for Saturday, July 5, 2014

Readings for Today

One of the real dangers that some persons of faith can experience in terms of growth in the spiritual life, is to compare those spiritual things that we do against those spiritual things done by others. Sometimes this takes the form of reassuring ourselves that were not that bad because we are not committing such actions as stealing or murder or adultery. At other times it is because we can see great benefit in a particular spiritual discipline in our own life, and we wish to universalize that experience for everyone else. Sometimes we can use this in a condescending way. In other words, we look down upon others when they do not seem to be a serious about their faith as we are.

This last example is what is behind the questions of the disciples of John the Baptist. When John came preaching a new way of life, one of repentance and more austere expression of the faith, people were filled with enthusiasm for this new and challenging way of life. So much so was the excitement for the message of John the Baptist, but there was some confusion about whether or not he himself was the Messiah and not Jesus.

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Homily for Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Readings for Today

Life is so much easier to understand in reverse.  When we are going through a bad time, and there is a good ending, it is much easier to see that after-the-fact. Also, when we look over our past life, we can often see more clearly how the grace of God has been active in our lives. It is because, as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

But unfortunately we don’t live life in reverse. For us, it is important to recognize that the way we live our lives, we are able to receive the grace of God. It becomes important for us to recognize that in becoming more attentive to prayer, we are better able to see where it is that God is leading us.

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Homily for Vigil Mass of Saint John the Baptist, June 23, 2014

Readings for Today

Just how well does God know us?  This evening’s first reading reminds us that God’s knowledge and love of us is long and deep.  “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.”  While these words are addressed to Jeremiah specifically, we can also see them as an important reality in our own lives.  For just as Jeremiah was loved by God from all eternity, so too are we.

Not only that, but today’s first reading reminds us as well, not only does God give us the mission unique to us, but provides us with the grace to be successful in its completion.  It is God who sends.  It is God who gives the task. It is God who commands. It is God who gives us what we need.  “See, I place my words in your mouth!

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