Opposites: Homily for Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Readings for Today

Opposites.  The readings for daily Masses are usually simply sequential.  What that means is that the first reading starts with a book, and the whole book of the bible is divided up into sections read each day.  The same is true of the gospel.  Unless there is a special day, in which case readings are special as well, there is no inherent connection between the first reading and the gospel.  Despite this, there are moments where the readings seem to compliment each other in an interesting way.

Today’s readings do not provide so much a compliment as they do a contrast.  The first reading outlines a way of life that I must say I find tempting.  Power.  Riches.  Security.  These basic values can become illusive idols in our lives.  The gospel stresses the small.  A cup of water given to a disciple.  A concern with holiness more than with success.  A focus on eternal life more so than this life.  The contrasts are dramatic.

The question is clear: In whom do we trust?  Is it in our own efforts, our own strength, in promises that offer guarantees, even though there is no such thing?  Or, do we trust in God, whose gifts are not always as tangible but whose promise to us is much more sure?  This is the powerful question.

Yet, again and again in the gospels, Jesus challenges us to be attentive to the poor, the marginalized, the outcast.  It is not our own earthly security that matters, but our heavenly security resting in God.  It is not about powerful relationships in this life but in the most powerful relationship with God.  Both readings offer a different way to go about life.  Trust in self, or trust in God.  Choose well.

Homily for Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Readings for Today

There is great importance in considering beginnings and endings. Get off to a good start, make a good first impression, these are really important principles. We also have a saying, “All’s well that ends well,” and we know that a lot of mistakes can be made up with a good finish. Early season losses by a baseball team are forgiven if a championship is won. In many ways, beginnings and endings matter. They make a difference.

Isn’t that what we think about when we come to the last day of any year? Many stations have been reviewing the past year. They consider those who have died, the major news stories, those things that stood out over the last year. We also spend time looking ahead as well. What will the new year bring? Will we make a resolution to improve our lives and if so, what will it be? What blessings await us? What will challenge us in this new year?

Maybe the most important awareness of beginnings and endings though, is Jesus Himself. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. The most important aspects of the past year are those areas where we have been blessed not only to have the presence of God in our midst, but also, those times when we recognized that presence of God and cooperated with God.

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Today’s Preaching: September 10, 2014

Readings for Today

Is it enough to be poor? Are you doomed if you are rich? Today’s words of Jesus in the gospel might suggest that. But the “Sermon in the Plain” of Luke (his version of the words in Matthew’s gospel we know as the “Sermon on the Mount”) can only be understood in relationship to the Kingdom of God. And it must be understood in the context of words who are addressed to the disciples who have just been chosen by Jesus.

Who are the poor? For Luke, they are the ones who only have God. So deprived in life they can only rely on God. They are blessed, because their desperate situation has helped them see the Kingdom of God very clearly. The temptations that can come with material possessions from living clearly a life with God’s priorities are not a factor for the poor.

As for the rich, they can be tempted to believe they do not need god since so much comfort is provided them now. At the same time, their lives can be taken over by the concern over material possessions.

We must remember that because these words are addressed to the disciples they could be considered as the first class in discipleship and what it means. Jesus might be making the point that true discipleship does not provide comfort in this world, and if they are primarily seeking this type of material comfort then they are truly to be pitied.
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Homily for Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Readings for Today

Dictionary.com defines a blessing in many ways. It can be a noun, a verb, or an action.  It can be visible or invisible. We can express deep gratitude for a blessing, and we can be happy when we realized that something that did not appear to be good, becomes a blessing in disguise. The word blessing is one of those words in English that conveys a wide variety of meaning.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that today’s first reading in today’s gospel provide two understandings of blessings. In the first reading, we hear the well-known Jewish prayer that is often used as a blessing in Christian worship as well. It is a prayer that seeks protection and happiness for the recipient.

The gospel describes the type of blessing that can be understood as a summation of a variety of good experiences. The shepherds, Mary,and the many other witnesses of the newborn Christ child have many blessings to ponder and treasure in their hearts. The events of the incarnation are simply too much to be understood without significant reflection.

The word January, comes from the Roman God Janus. The word is used to describe this month, is Janus was a two headed God who could look both backwards and forwards. As we stand on the precipice of a new year, we too look forwards and backwards. As Christians, this becomes applied in rather dramatic ways. Since we are still in the season of Christmas, we are reminded that the celebration of the incarnation provides us a chance to look forwards and backwards.

On the one hand, it is clear that we commemorate the coming of our God in time. On the other hand, we know that the incarnation of Christ is not a one-time event. Moreover, we know the Christ remains incarnated, humanity and divinity, forever joined in the Christ. Perhaps this looking forwards and looking backwards is a reminder that we need to be grateful for the actions that occurred in the past, and yet filled with hope for the blessings that await us.